Take time in life to honour in death

Carol LaPrairie. A photo that didn't land on my editor's desk

The obituary I wrote on Carol La Prairie made it into this morning’s Globe and Mail and slashed a nasty crease along her face. The sun wasn’t yet up. At -20 it was frigid cold outside my front door; the paper sweated snow. And the cat refused to budge from behind my heels, planning a trip to the litter later and leaving me to clean up. None of this felt easy after bed and then I opened up the paper to find this nasty layout injury to a woman who deserves so much better. The crease, or page fold, lands a slap across her cheeks.

It was nice that the photo was in colour but it was fuzzy and decades old. It didn’t capture Dr. La Prairie’s spirit. She was one of Canada’s leading criminologists and completed excellent research projects on Aboriginal justice while single-handedly raising four children toward their own excellent futures.

The Globe published two pictures of La Prairie. One picture, no crease, depicted her holding hands with her two eldest sons sometime in the early seventies. Nice. Her children added to the richness of her life and certainly to her work schedule and esteemed achievements.

In the other photo, the creased one, she was couched down with her dog, whose name and gender didn’t merit a cut line. So, presumably in-between all the rest, at the end of her day, there was dog-walking and shit-collecting.

I felt terrible about the lousy look and so dashed upstairs to my office, still before sun rise, to apologize to La Prairie’s family, friends, and colleagues. The look of the obituaries aren’t my responsibility, other than to collect pictures and make sure they land on my editor’s desk. I don’t select what goes into the paper or where it ends up on the page. Still, I take most of the responsibility for this error.

You see, I attended Dr. La Prairie’s memorial in Toronto last week and met the two sons depicted in the photograph: Peter and Mark. Both men are fabulously successful and fabulously gay. Mark works for the World Bank in Bhutan. Peter is a lawyer in Vancouver. They had gathered dozens of pictures of their mom and displayed them around the room, offering me to take whatever I liked. And I did. But, busy as life tends to become, I didn’t get around to scanning them and so the paper was left with the less excellent and I feel terrible about this.

Here’s a  cliché I should avoid writing but what the heck: don’t bite the hand that feeds you. That feeds me. Some of my meals, anyway. I don’t want to sound bitter about my colleagues at the paper who painstakingly layout the page and correct my typos. And my clichés. No, I don’t want to do this, because it isn’t fair. Please, reader, don’t misconstrue. I have great respect for these folks and recall having said so in a previous posting. It’s me, it’s me to blame.

There you have it: A confession. A lesson learned. Take time in life to honour in death.


LA PRAIRIE Carol G&M Jan. 17 11

note: the photo above is one that regrettably didn’t land on my editor’s desk.


About Nor

I'm a creative non-fiction writer, with a special interest in memoirs and obituaries--life stories, local histories with flesh & blood anecdotal details. I'm also beginning to create podcasts of people's stories and expanding their audiences. I'm a diarist, an editor, and a political activist. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and spend days tapping keys or staining my fingers in ink.
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