Editorial – Life Is A Gift – Learn It Before It’s Too Late

In Editorial

(photos are of Lauren Spagnolo (Clinton) with Cobourg Councillor Adam Bureau) and Kate Lennan with Santa Claus taken in December 2023 along with in happier times with animals)

This is a column I wrote just over a week ago, but was updated today (February 1, 2024)

One of my dearest friends hung on until today.

I loved her and I will miss her for the rest of my life.

But this column isn’t just about her.

A double tragedy hit this week and I’m updating the column because yesterday, Wednesday, January 31, 2024 Lauren Spagnolo (Clinton) passed away suddenly.

I’ve known Lauren since high school. A great person and even better friend.

Lauren never held back her feelings and her thoughts. She would tell it like it is. No matter where you were. That is a gift that I wish more people had. But she could do it in a way that wouldn’t offend. Lauren was one of a kind.  A heart of gold.

I took for granted the time I spent with Lauren because I thought there were many more days and years ahead. There wasn’t. And I selfishly say that I wish I had just one “selfie” with her.
The sudden death of anyone comes as a shock. It hits you like nothing else.

Then a million questions come into play with the biggest one being – why?

Honestly, the answers are secondary. You’re friend that you thought you’d grow old/er with is gone.

You didn’t have to see Lauren everyday to know that she was there. Like most close friends.

But from the time the shock hits you – you can’t help but thing of the “what if’s.”

I miss Lauren. I miss her smile.  I miss how she greeted me, her sarcasm and everything in between how she put me in my place.

Another close friend passed away earlier today.

Below is a column written days ago for a friend that my daughter and I had our last chance to talk with.

Cancer robbed her life at the age of 35.

Life is precious. It doesn’t matter what’s in your bank. People who are rich need to know that and people who are striving to be that need to understand that the sun rises and sets no matter what your status is.

Everyone should try as much as they can to enjoy this brief moment we call – time.

————-
How do I describe this day.

Hell

Unbelievable

The worst

Emotions and thoughts are endless.

Not for me, just about life.

At 60 you get to an age to appreciate every single day. I’ve preached that for a few years to my kids who are 21 and 16.

At that age the world was my oyster said Tony Montanna (aka Al Pacino) in Scarface.

And it’s true – at that age, the world is.

Not getting into how the world is changing almost minute by minute over the last few years and not may I say for the better.

But if I could preach, yell, scream to the youth of today, or even those that seem to go through life like it’s endless, just realize you are only here for a moment in time.

Life is precious. It’s about taking chances, but make those chances with careful thoughts.

Wake up each morning and be grateful for what you have – as little as what it may seem – you’re alive.

That in itself is a miracle.

Be grateful on your worst days that you can feel the rain on your lips. That you can feel your socks wet with those shoes you bought with the guarantee that they were waterproof.

Be thankful you can breathe in the happy moments and stop and think in the worst of times you may not enjoy them – but at least you’re blessed to know you can feel the pain.

If I’ve kept you this far – thank you.

This is from a day that I knew would come, but never ever really thought it would if that makes sense.

A very, very dear friend of mine Kate Lennan’s battle with cancer is over. Kate has fought the good fight. Lived each day to it’s fullest. She’s a hero in every sense of the word for battling against this disease for as long as she could. And so are thousands, millions of others around this globe.

But this was Kate, this was my Kate. This is different, even though it isn’t.

My mother passed away from cancer. But it was different. My mom was the bond that kept our family together. The one that worked behind the scenes, that cooked and cleaned. She was a miracle worker. Every single day I miss her. Life isn’t the same without her. Life goes on – but it’s not the same. It never will be. But that journey we call life has to go on. Search for those smiles.

Kate Lennan was someone that many knew in this community and many didn’t.

But at the age of 34 she was diagnosed with cancer while in Mission, British Columbia.

Kate lived her life for one main purpose – the better treatment for animals.

It goes without saying she would have easily laid down her life to save an animal. Any animal as far as I would say. Though I detest cats, they would likely be around the top of her list next to dogs.

She was General Manager of Northumberland Humane Society before she left there for adventures throughout the world. Taking on new roles and responsibilities. Not for herself, but for animals.

Precious, loving animals.

Kate was in perfect health until just over a year ago when she was in BC.

She was diagnosed with cancer.

The big C.

Doctors told her she would have five years – they were wrong. Kate’s journey ended today, February 1, 2024 and it’s only been one year.

Kate came home and it steadily got worse, the news, the outlook – everything.

Some things are just that – unbelievable.

Kate has lived more than some do in a lifetime with her adventures.

She’s done more “good” than most of us could ever hope for.

This isn’t putting her on a pedestal – it’s a fact.

It’s not a pity parade – it’s the truth.

When I heard that my friend, my dear sweet friend only had a few days left or less, it takes the wind out of you.

Kate and I became friends in roughly 2010 when she was general manager. Things didn’t go well at first. And she has never let me live it down.

My son was attending C.R. Gummow and loved nature and wildlife.

A bird hit a window at CR Gummow where my son attended and I joked about it with her one the phone. She was on speaker and when she told me that nothing could be done for the bird I made a wisecrack. She’s never let’s it go.In fact today, Saturday, January 27, 2024 when my daughter and I sat with her at her home with her family for the final time, I apologized once again. Kate was still Kate – “that was a dick move” she said.

I haven’t shared this story with very many people, but just after Cobourg Police Constable Chris Garrett was murdered in May 2004, my wife and I found out his son Ben was into movies. We went to Oshawa to get him a gift certificate for them. My wife at the time told me to look at the name tag on the person serving us. His name was Garrett.

Now I know this isn’t the only Garrett in the universe, but it brought it home to me. I walked away in tears. Thinking, and I don’t know why, but thinking that Chris knew what was going on. He was watching over. I know Garrett isn’t a common name, and I realize there are other people with that name, but to this day I don’t recall meeting anyone named Garrett.

Yesterday (Friday, January 26, 2024) there was almost a similar a similar experience.

Kate’s close friend “Bam” or David Bamford updated me that Kate was in the hospital on Friday and things weren’t looking good.

People who know Kate and her battle knew the end was near, but that word “end” is just to final.

I was at Gage’s Creek in Port Hope taking photos of birds and the shoreline on Lake Ontario.

Walking back to the car I noticed another car beside mine. Thinking nothing of it. Then I heard a woman from the car say something. She was an elderly woman and spoke softly. When I turned to her she was crying and asked me if my name was Dave.

I said no. And asked her if she was ok as she clearly wasn’t. The woman was clearly distraught and upset. She said her son’s name was Dave and he died just days ago. I said how sorry I was and we had a nice, but brief conversation.

She said her and her son used to come down all the time and just sit there in the parking lot of Gage’s Creek. He used to always wear a black hoody and jeans like I was wearing with the hood up over my head. I didn’t want to bother her too much and left. Changed lenses again and carried on. That’s when I thought of Kate and sent her a message. But I also wondered how the woman’s son passed. About 45-minutes later I walked back to the car and she was still there. Now reading a book. I asked her, not to be impolite, but how her son died. She said he had brain cancer for eight years. I said how sorry I was and started to tear up. And I told her how I believe sometimes thing happen for a reason and told her about Kate. How after I spoke to her the first time I reached out to Kate and how Bam replied with the update she was in the hospital.

The woman and I spoke for awhile. She worked at Independent in Port Hope but moved to Peterborough to be where her son lived. But the two would still drive down to Gages just to sit. It was a spot they both loved. Today was her first time back there and it was very hard for her.

At the end of the conversation she said she would be thinking of Kate and I told her I would also be thinking of her son.

Later in the evening as Dad and I went for a walk as we usually do when the weather is appropriate.

On this night, given the day, we stopped into Kelly’s.

There was a small crowd inside, listening to a guitarist, who was amazing.

At 86-years-old I love going for walks with my father and we stop in for one, or in my case two.

A few people came up to talk to me, but more so for dad.

One of those people was Kelly Medhurst Goody.

My father knew Kelly’s dad as they both were firefighters and worked together for decades. It was great to see Kelly and be able to talk with her. Dad enjoyed himself as well talking about the “old” days. The best way I can put it, Kelly works with people like Kate who are ending life’s journey.

It was a blessing to see Kelly. I praised her up and down and left to right for the work she does for those in need.

It was great to see her and I appreciate the time she spent with us and feel bad for taking her time away from her friends.

It was a “full circle” day.

I tried, but I could never bring myself to say “goodbye” to Kate.

Of all the things I’ve covered, it’s just to hard to comprehend.

This column, is not only to praise my friends, but I want people to appreciate life. Every, single minute of every day.

Have fun, take chances, but please, please appreciate the life you’ve been given. Do what you can to reach for whatever stars are out there.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to be a success. Find success wherever life takes you.

But please, be grateful for what life has to offer. I promise there is always those who wish they could be in your shoes

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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