by Dina Desveaux, March 31, 2011
It’s taken me a little longer than most, but I think I’ve finally figured something out. That’s also why I listen to your show, Stuart. Listening to the letters on the Story Exchange or to your stories about Dave and Morley does something to my soul. And when the old soul stirs, well, you just never know what might come out of that. . .
Life’s been a tad stressful this past year, Stuart, so it’s a joy in times like these to listen to the music on your show and to those stories you tell, but last Friday night I witnessed the kind of soul-stirring that makes the heart sing with as much gusto as Matt Anderson did on one of your last shows down East.
In fact, it was the kind of night that made me want to scream out the motto of Dave's store, but I’ll get to that later.
First, I’d like to give you some background to what it is that made me want to scream like a banshee. You see, Stuart, last August, my family buried our beloved Mom, Thérèse and I’ve attached the obituary I wrote for her WHICH IS NOTHING EVEN REMOTELY CLOSE TO A SIDE NOTE because she truly was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.
So far this is sounding fairly commonplace – after all, we all lose parents, right?
And besides, I promised you a story about my heart singing, so I’ll fast forward to two months later. The phone rings. It was a crisp October Sunday morning - the kind of morning when an early frost shines like diamonds on maple trees that themselves look like they’re decked out in red organza dresses and ready for the ball – in other words, the kind of morning one never forgets. It was my brother Paul on the phone asking if I could please head over to the VG hospital to sit with my (then) 32-year old niece, Renée? Well, my first thought was that something had gone wrong with her pregnancy – Renée was about 5 months pregnant for her second child.
No, it wasn’t the pregnancy, but a tumour—larger than the baby—that had to be removed. But that emergency surgery would precipitate contractions and so the baby would have to come out first…
That was in October, Stuart, and I’m writing this letter to you as the crocus and the lily-of-the-valley are peeking at us here in Halifax. April’s just around the corner.
On Friday, my husband and I made the five-hour drive, or four-hour drive depending on which one of us is driving, to my hometown of Chéticamp, located on the most beautiful island in the world, which in case you didn’t know is called Cape Breton (no bias here whatsoever, Stuart, if you don’t believe me just ask Morley).
We were heading there to attend a benefit dance for my niece Renée and her family who are now in Toronto where she is undergoing treatments for a rare type of cancer following her recovery from three surgeries, including the first one, the C-section that delivered an early, but healthy baby boy Isaiah Marcus Boyd - 3 lbs 4 oz & 16" long.
But here’s the thing, Stuart: Renée didn’t grow up in Chéticamp, or even in Cape Breton for that matter. Her parents moved there when my brother retired whereupon Renée spent one year completing her grade twelve and then moved away. But, the people in Chéticamp are so generous, they wanted to help this struggling family in any way they could.
I’d like to remind you that there are less than four thousand people who live there, probably way less than that at this time of year when you count all those snowbirds who haven’t flown back yet.
The evening started with a steady stream of musicians walking in dropping their instruments by the stage. I wonder if anyone counted. But, I’m thinking there were between twenty and thirty guitars sitting in front of the stage at one point.
Just to give you an idea of some of the folks that turned up: Colin Grant, Mabel Chisholm, Clarence Deveau, Brian Doyle, Groupe Lelièvre, Glen Bourgeois and many more including a young man all the way from Aix-en-Provence, France who’d just landed in Chéticamp the day before, heard the story of my niece and thought he’d bring his guitar in case the family needed musical back-up – this last part could indicate there may be more to the age-old debate between nature and nurture, Stuart –do you think it’s possible there’s something in the air down there?
More than $13,000.00 in cash was raised for Renee & her family, not to mention all the volunteer hours by organizers, musicians (backed by an AMAZING sound technician), meat-pie makers and deliverers, and money tabulators. That’s right Stuart, a village on what MoneySense Magazine confirmed again last week was a have-not island.
While I was driving back to Halifax, I kept thinking of a quote I once read by Robert Fulghum. It goes something like this:
“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge,
That myth is more potent than history.
I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts,
That hope always triumphs over experience,
That laughter is the only cure for grief,
And I believe that love is stronger than death.”
And so, in closing Stuart, I’d like to raise my glass with heartfelt gratitude to each and every person, whether from Chéticamp, or Sydney, or all the other parts of Cape Breton and the world who give of themselves so generously:
Long live the motto of the Vinyl Café: "We May Not Be Big, But We're Small".
(from Chéticamp, now living in Halifax)
PS Did I mention my niece Renée is a fan of yours? She had your book in the hospital to lift her spirits:)