Sunday, August 26, 2012

In Loving Memory - Christopher John Cornwall

Christopher John Cornwall 
August 31, 1949 - August 18, 2012 
(photo taken 1960s)

I didn't post last Sunday. It's been a hellish couple of weeks. My eldest brother, Chris, passed away in the wee hours of Saturday morning on August 18. This week, I devote this space to my brother, a kind, gentle man with an incredible mind, a quick wit and a passion for the arts. He was a wonderful big brother and a true friend.

Thirty years ago, Chris and I sat on either side of my mother's hospital bed as she took her last breaths. In these final moments, though her body was emaciated by ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and her speech was severely compromised, she spoke. I believed she was saying, "Hold me up. Hold me up." Chris believed she was saying, "Love. Love." Who knows for sure. Both could be true. I felt she wanted us to hold her up in her bed; she was not the type of person to take death lying down. Perhaps what Chris thought she was saying was also true and she wanted to walk towards pure love. Chris and I were there together for this. We have always tried to have each other's backs - before that difficult time, during and after.

He was the best big brother I could ever have hoped for and I cannot recall an instance, not for a moment, when he said or did anything unkind or hurtful. He was the most kind, gentle and loving man I have ever known. When my youngest brother and I were little, I am 13 years Chris's junior, he took us to Centre Island in Toronto and arranged to take us up in a small plane to tour over the city!

He taught me to dance, gave me records form his DJ days in the 1970s and took me to see ABBA, Springsteen, Duran Duran and Blondie. He invited me and many friends to his perfect Vancouver Pride Parade viewing location year after year, but most of all, above all else, he loved me absolutely and unconditionally. He accepted me exactly as I am without question, no matter how I erred or failed, no matter if I was by his side or not.

God knows I wish I had made the time and resources to see him in these last two years. I didn't. There are reasons, circumstances, but the fact remains that I didn't. I pray he can forgive me my physical absence and that he knew, that he knows now, he was never far from my mind and never out of my heart. He will never be gone from my heart. My greatest inheritance from my brother is the example of his life - his kindness, his beautiful, gentle heart and his grace. He was the purest definition of a gentleman.

I love you Chris - my beautiful, perfect brother. You have been and always will be my angel.

With only good memories of our time together in this life, from your loving sister, or as you called me, "mia sorella", Gillian.

-Gillian Cornwall, August 26, 2012.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Oil Pastel on Paper
by Gillian Cornwall

This week I have chosen to post an older piece, one I re-read to myself this morning because I needed to reflect on lessons and relearn them, to remind myself that all is well. Last night I took the time to look at the stars because the Perseid meteor shower was on high. It was the first time I had simply sat and looked at the stars in a ridiculously long time. This simple act reminded me of the magnificence found in stillness, in being alive and at peace with oneself. Here is what I have to offer you this week. I hope you enjoy reading it:

Autonomy. Decision-making. Clarity. Choice. Listening. Understanding. These are my practices today. Chaos swirls around me and through me and I am aware but I do not fear it. There are systems in place but I select from them to suit my functionality, my path, without allowing them to rule my decision-making.

I remember that I always have choice and, often, the power to wait before sharing and engaging in a choice. Sometimes, time creates a space previously unseen and, where possible, it is best to wait. Additionally, I am learning to question assumptions, my own and those of others.

The energy exists as a precious gift and it is up to us how we shape it, utilize it and exchange it in its perfect relentlessness ...and I don't mean to insinuate that energy is pushy, rather that it is constant - no more, no less. It is changeable in form but not in quantity. Energy is perfect. We are energy; thus, we are perfect.

-Gillian Cornwall, May 2, 2011.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Joy and Paul

Me -1982 - Feel free to laugh out loud now.

We're human. Sometimes we get scared; we run.

This is my story. It's no more nor less than your own. The telling of the story is the lesson and the legacy. Share yours with me as I share mine with you. Let this not be a place where fear steals our voices. Let this not be a place from which we run.

This past weekend I had a visit; we met up on Salt Spring Island in the Gulf Islands between Victoria and Vancouver. This was a neutral territory of sorts as the visit was from my college roommate and her husband. He was her boyfriend when we were in college. While she and Paul have wandered through my heart and mind considerably over the years and, as life would have it, across my TV screen, we had not been in each other's physical presence for 30 years.

I had recently written and posted a piece here that I had dedicated to Joy as she was the first person to whom I came out at the tender age of 18. I wrote about this experience with her as her kindness and love at the time gave me strength, hope and courage.

So flash forward thirty years to me getting off the ferry at Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island and walking up to meet Joy at Patterson's General Store while Paul looked for a place for the car. I knew it was her from quite a distance by the way she stood and by her smile. It's elements such as our smiles by which people will remember us. When Joy smiles, her extraordinary eyes spark - even at great distance you can see it. Her eyes are the colour of the atmosphere between the realms of earth and space.

What I'm trying to say is, it was unmistakably her. Every cell of me recognized her without doubt or question and I felt connected and happy in that moment. A missing piece was found and placed in my heart. I have lived here on the west coast in the present - always in the present -which is good but something was missing. Most people only known me here, in fact, all that I actually see and with whom I share my time, have no connection to young Gillian, teen Gillian. The people here were not there when my mother went into care with ALS when I was 18, they did not see my struggle with ambiguous sexual orientation, full-time college and three part-time jobs. They weren't there then, plain and simple. This visit gave me the opportunity to share our past, our stories of who we were then - just kids in many ways.

Joy and Paul represent a home of sorts, a knowing of what I was, who I was, and who I am now. Only they have a true comprehension of the path I have walked and they give that path a truth and a history through their seeing, their acknowledgement.

When I first found out from Joy that she and Paul were coming, I was excited for they have lived and reported as journalists all over the world and I knew they would have an endless number of incredible and fascinating stories to tell. I would listen and they would talk. This is what I envisioned. I believed I had accomplished nothing by comparison (ah, evil comparison). It wasn't until they asked, "So what have you been up to in the last thirty years?", that I realized the incredible, beautiful, extraordinary and, at times, exceedingly painful and difficult path I have walked between then and now. Key words in my description included: agoraphobic, homeless, farmer, stand-up comic, jazz singer, surfer, die-hard romantic, lover and teacher. This is, by far, the abridged version.

It wasn't until I saw where I was when I shared the apartment with Joy at Yonge and Lawrence in Toronto and where I stand now, that I realized what an amazing and full path I have walked and how I have shaped and re-shaped my personal map to get to be the person I am today, standing where I am standing, taking a breathe and reviewing the landscape before continuing.

I am hugely grateful to re-attach myself to a healthy part of my past, beyond words in love with Joy and Paul for sharing this opportunity and so excited to maintain my newly restored friendship with them.

When I was younger, I ran from my past wholesale; a part of my childhood was terrifying and painful; however, now I can look back and reach out to those I loved then and ensure they know what a positive influence they have had on the woman I have become, ensure they know they are a part of me and, thus, a part of everything in this perfect universe.

Joy and Paul, you exist in my every fiber. When you look at me and smile, I am a mirror holding myself up to you to see the perfect wonder of your own selves. Thank you now and always for the perfect gift of your love and friendship.

-Gillian Cornwall, August 3, 2012.