September 11, 2008

The give and take

pipes|drums isn’t my job, but I do strive for professionalism. One of the hardest things about it, though, is reporting on the news of the death of a friend. Inevitably, as we get older, that sort of close-to-home news will become increasingly common.

Yesterday was a rough day for the piping world, and especially for Ontario. I think that almost everyone who knew Scott MacAulay and Willie Connell would have been aware of their illnesses and that the odds of long-term survival were not good. In that sense, we were dreading but anticipating the bad news, but it hit nonetheless hard.

After ensuring that relatives are aware of the news, the 10 minutes that it takes to write the news story are for me something of an emotionless blur. I try to be professional, and distance myself from my personal upset and focus on the task at hand. But after the news is published, I’m immediately hit with sadness and reflection. It sinks in, but the sorrow starts to give way to appreciation when mutual friends start chiming in by phone and e-mail about fun times and fond memories.

That’s what yesterday was like after I heard of Scott’s passing. I cycled home from work as usual through the bustle of downtown Toronto traffic only to be punched again with the news of Willie Connell’s death. And the draining process of matter-of-fact reporting giving way to reflection started all over again.

I take solace in the fact that pipes|drums has become a focal point for the world’s pipers and drummers. That people can and do share their memories  of and tributes to those who have left us is a comfort, and it’s the dialogue aspect of the online magazine that I personally like the most. I know that Scott was a big fan of the magazine, and loved to monitor the lively debate. I also know that Willie was often at odds with some (if not most!) of the magazine’s non-old-school opinions, but I know that he, too, followed the discussions closely.

These two people gave a lot to me, and I am glad that, in whatever small way, I was able to provide something for them in return.


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