Travel is what we see and experience, but it is also much about with whom we share those travel experiences.
Gordon Donald McLean passed away on January 20, and his funeral was yesterday. He was a friend and a man who loved to travel.
And he was a man who it was a joy travelling with.
Gord found great joy in the discoveries of travel. He loved sitting and talking with new and old friends on trips. He never said no to an excursion. He wanted to be with people in the bar, or the dining room, or the entertainment venues.
He always had the most cheerful disposition even when things didn’t go perfectly. On the way to a wine tasting our van had a flat tire, and it was going to take time to get a new van. His attitude helped lift everyone else’s, and made the delay a positive part of the experience.
He and his wife Marcie travelled with us on our last two major cruises, Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina three years ago this month, and our river cruise from Paris to Prague just this past September-October.
But we also travelled many times to Clear Lake to stay with at my sister and brother-in-law’s cottage there at the same time.
Gord was one of those people who you got to like almost immediately. People with whom he worked loved him, others loved and respected him for his volunteerism at Big Brothers and CFGB international projects, and through his many years working with the CGA Association.
Gordon loved his wines and his scotch. I mean he loved good wine and really good scotch. The conversations I listened to with those others who enjoyed the same liquor were as though each new bottle was the discovery of the Holy Grail.
It kind of was, because the value of some of those purchases might equate to finding and selling that religious cup, and the way they discussed the quality of those contents had a fervent quality to it.
I never liked scotch. I tried drinking it in my younger days but it was not a taste I wanted to continue to endure. So whenever they would open a bottle or order in a bar, I was choosing something entirely different.
Until yesterday that is. Marcie chose to honour Gord’s memory and love of scotch, by having everyone toast our departed friend with a shot of some of the finest that Gord loved.
I hadn’t tasted scotch for years. This tasted like nothing I had ordered or purchased before. “This is good” I kept on repeating. Thank you Gord. I will be joining the group toasts with you or without you going forward.
Gord had a tremendous sense of humour. Once while golfing with the guys in Clear Lake, after I’d had a really good nine, something that does not often happen, John and Gord started teasing me about something or other.
I got angry after slicing the next shot in the bush, blaming them for the subsequent bad nine, because they spoiled everything when I was ‘in the zone’.
At the next opportunity when we met, Gord handed me a gift…A golf book called In The Zone. And he used those words on me many times after whenever we got together.
Gordon loved his golf and was good at it, trying to golf in as many of the countries he visited, and he and Marcie visited many.
He was always willing to help cure your swing and was a patient teacher. He just had one bad student.
On the last trip this past fall I sat with Gord at an outdoor restaurant at a port stop in Germany. Gord already knew that his condition was, or at least might be terminal.
It was a quiet open discussion we had. I don’t know how it got started but I will never forget it. Because we shared a lot of feelings about life, our loved ones and the lifestyle we hoped to lead.
We talked about longevity and I will always remember his words when he said, “You have to be careful what you wish for.”
It was clear that while longevity was the goal, but tied to that was how we would be able to live, particularly with bad health.
He loved his family, and he did not want to be seen as a burden or a chore. And he loved his golf and expressed how difficult it would be if he did not have the strength to continue playing this game he loved, in a manner far below his expectations, or not at all.
Gord was an uplifting individual and was an inspiration to so many he met. Just a great attitude with a cheerful smile, and as many noted at the memorial service, with the best head of hair anyone could wish for, especially those of a similar age.
Even during those visits in those last weeks, laying in a bed in Health Sciences Centre, with two other very sick people around him, he still had a good attitude and could take a joke and pass one out.
I have some excellent memories of Gord but two from the hospital. I think I likely played his last game of cribbage with him.
Because he was in pain and on drugs he would be slower in throwing cards into the crib. I said “Take your time Gord, the Jets game doesn’t start until seven”. He just gave me the look.
And on one visit, as a couple of people were leaving, he reached out to shake their hands. Feigning indignity I said “What, I come here every two or three days and you never shake my hand…I’m not coming back.”
Two days later I said goodbye and as I was leaving, he said no, and reached out his hand for me to shake it.
I will miss travelling with him, golfing with him, laughing with him, drinking with him, and seeing him for the very nice man he was through and through.
Safe travels my friend.