Monday, December 24, 2012

Dear Sean

It's me. Carol. Your friend of 35 years.

It's been really hard, but I'm just starting to accept your passing away on December 4.
You had a massive heart attack. Your dad had to do CPR on you. Do you remember?  I don't get it -- you swam and ran every day. You ate bird seed, lots of fruits and veg. We talked in November and you told me how good you felt. You told me about a new project in the works. You ran some new jokes by me. We talked about your set at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival. Business as usual.

I now know that at any moment, business can get unusual. Fast.

I'm gonna miss your baritone voice over the phone. "Hello Carol, it's SEAN ....HHHHmmmmpppphhh."

We never became sweethearts, but we were, you know? Sweethearts without all the yucky sex stuff. Innocent love, love that a man and woman who make each other laugh know. You were always in my heart, even 35 years later as I turned 50 in my little apartment in Toronto, where I have lived for almost half my life. Montreal though is home, is where we laughed and riffed and started doing comedy at Ernie Butler's Comedy Nest on Bishop Street.

Where your legend began.

And now I'm typing out this dumb letter, this stupid letter to you, where ever you are. I vacillate between rage and sadness and despair. Why did you go?

At first I was pissed off at god. At your funeral, I looked up at Jesus on the cross and thought -- you loser... Why do we worship you? Why did you rip Sean away from his family?

I came very close to going on a bender. I've been sober for 11 years.
It's only weeks later that I have it figured out in my mind.

God didn't let you die, Sean.

God created you. Gave you a touch of divinity, a comedic soul. You were so gifted. Your jokes are some of the most quoted among comedians. God is love, and you expressed that love through your being. I remember you once told me you wanted written on your tombstone "He Made People Laugh".  You did, Sean. Did you ever.

No, God didn't kill you.
Death did.

Sean, remember that poem we had to read in high school? (that is, when you went to class)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

There are some things I remember from high school. Death, thou shalt die, not Sean.

John Donne wrote that sonnet in the 17th century. Here's my concise 21st century version:

Death, go fuck yourself
You steal children from their schools, a bullet to the head and body over and over. Sickness and decay and rot.
Get over yourself
I no longer glorify you, I grew up
And feel the sun in my bones
Death, go fuck yourself
Whether you sneak or skulk or settle in for a long visit
You go
But my friends on the other side don't

God is what creates love.  And as difficult, as gut wrenching as it is, I choose to believe, I HAVE to believe, that one day we will be delivered. What is the alternative? Something that doesn't make us laugh.

So Merry Christmas Sean. We will be planning a tribute show in Toronto for you, with proceeds going to the SPCA. And even though I have done one of your jokes in a gallows humour kind of way "Oh yeah, Sean Keane died. About a week ago... It's only now I can laugh about it" , I still can't laugh. That will come, when we do the tribute and play your old prank phone calls.

You Made People Laugh.
Your true and noble epitaph.