Shooting the Messenger
Till Death Do Us Part
In the spring of 2015, before that desperate letter to McKenna and later Freeland, I drove Lucette to her job on Parliament Hill for the last time; her chronic lung condition now made it impossible for her to work as a Parliamentary interpreter. Her doctor told her there was only so much time left and to do what she always wanted to do before it was too late. One thing she loved was to travel and meet new people. One evening, we talked about regrets. She had few, I had many—one being that losing my job and having to start over meant she had not travelled as much as she would have liked, something that was no longer possible.
At the worst of times and even as her world was closing in, she never complained about our life together, and that night was no different. She placed one hand on top of mine, looked at me with those soft blue eyes, and said, "Don't be sad; that doesn't matter. What matters is that during my life with you, I have always felt loved. What more could a woman ask for?"
In 2015, there was no going back to computer consulting to make up for the lost income; the fast-moving technology had passed me by. At 65, I was too old to start over and my Lucette needed me home to look after her. That doesn’t matter; I blame the government for what happened, but I also blame myself. I should have given up when it became evident, when my Lucette, in her discerning way, stated the obvious on Canada Day of 2013: that nobody cared what I wrote or that I had been fired unjustly.
I should have given up in 2010 when money began to run out and it became clear that there would be no takers for a layman’s guide to the Koran that not only contained the entire text, but was more than four times its length at 332,392 words because of the historical context I provided. Instead, I spent the next two years separating Pain, Pleasure and Prejudice into six books thinking that by making its content more accessible, I would gain an audience; then I kept on writing another six books, not counting this one, always thinking the next one was going to be the charm.
Lucette would breathe her last in a retirement home that accepted short-term residents. At her request, I had ordered smoked salmon on bagel and cream cheese for lunch and her favourite wine as accompaniment. It was a few minutes before the nurse who would get her ready for what came next to make her appearance when she raised her glass and said: "I would like to propose a toast." What she wanted us to toast caught all of us by surprise. It was not what you would have expected from someone whose existence, as was her wish, would shortly come to an end.
We all raised our glass and she said: "À la vie!”(To life!).
“To life” is what the books we wrote together on Islam are very much about, including Remembering Uzza our last collaboration. Half joking, I said she could not leave me until we had completed the first full draft. Two days after it became clear to her that that milestone had been reached, she called the number that was given to her when she was approved for assisted dying and said she was ready. She declined her ordained cousin’s offer to give her the last rites. On Friday, July 5, 2019 at two in the afternoon, we said our last goodbye. I will never get over the serenity with which she crossed over into, what is for those who value empirical truths above all, the great unknown.
Without my beloved’s knowledge, intellectual honesty and the human warmth and understanding she brought to our relationship, there would have been no Pain, Pleasure and Prejudice, the foundation for everything that came after. In this cowering new age where an honest appraisal of a religious text or of the man who revealed its content to mankind is a death-defying act, I did not acknowledge her contribution until the end was in sight.
Lucette would not get to spend her final days and hours where she had hoped, our cherished home having been reduced to a pile of rubble months earlier by the developer who bought the property we had to sell. Sorry I let you down, sweetheart.