Death of a Family Man

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Sand and shells from Scott’s beloved Saint-Martin Island in the Caribbean were displayed at his Celebration of Life this afternoon in Senneville near Montreal.

Scott is dead. He didn’t even turn 65. No whining about the pain that must have plagued him in the end, no lamenting about what fate had demanded of him. „Courageously and peacefully“ he died, Liane texted us at dawn. Courageous and peaceful. That’s exactly what my friend Scott Ashford was during his lifetime.

Scott was never one of those to put the blame on others. He, who at a young age flew adventurous helicopter missions with the Canadian Air Force, endured his fate as one who had already known where his place was.

Soon that place would have been in the country, somewhere in the nearby Ottawa Valley.img_0891 (1) That was his dream. The land had been bought, the house had been ordered. Their home in Hudson had become too big for him and Liane. The girls – Katina, Cristal and Tiffany – were grown up. The grillmaster was looking forward to evenings at the barbecue.

Every year, after our return from Mallorca, we met for dinner. But this time it was different. We sat at a lovely Italian restaurant in Lachine, along the banks of the mighty St.Lawrence River. But this time Scott wasn’t the Scott we knew. He had no appetite, he talked little. „I’ll be all right,“ he said. Nothing was all right.

After dinner, he insisted on telling us his story. He took us to the Pointe-St.-Charles neighbourhood of Montreal, showed us his school, his church, his birthplace. You could call it a premonition.

When we visited him three weeks ago in the clinic, this wonderful soul of man wasn’t worrying about himself and his illness. He mainly talked about his wife, Liane, and their children.

The last true Family Man I know.

img_0867I remember my 50th birthday – exactly 20 years ago – where we celebrated with a few dozen people in the middle of the Canadian winter in a maple sugar shack somewhere in the Canadian bush. We all have experienced those moments after eating together. Everyone is full, pretty much everything has been said and most of us had already more than enough to drink. Actually one could think now slowly of going home.

But then this Teddy bear of a man stands up, wine glass in hand, and begins to talk … and talk … and talk. He spoke softly about the day we suddenly appeared as the new neighbours. “The Germans” from the big city – what should he think of them? His three girls were roughly the same age as our son, Cassian. Would they understand each other? Yes, they got on well right away.

When Scott had finished his little speech, one after another in the crowd stood, offered some anecdotes and toasted yours truly, the celebrant.

We lived house to house for a quarter of a century. He, the old hare [fox?], we the German Canadian greenhorns. When in autumn the leaves of the red maple trees gathered knee-high on our property and we could barely manage to dispose of the sea of crispy fall colour without someone’s help, Scott was there. He sat on his small tractor and ploughed through the leafy mountains with his mulcher – often a tall drink in his hand.

His neighbourly help, which soon grew into a friendship, knew no bounds. Whether in the house, in the garden or in front of the computer, Scott knew his stuff.

When, many years ago, after shooting a documentary film in Canada, I was sitting at a TV editing station near Düsseldorf, Germany, and noticed with horror that we were missing the background music, Scott sat for one whole night at my computer in Hudson to send the missing sounds to Germany via snail transmission with an analog 56-K modem.

For me, Scott Ashford was the epitome of the good Canadian: He didn’t complain, always found the time when he was needed. And he was often needed. For years, the risk manager of an IT company, he jetted around the world as an expert. Once he told me that he had accumulated so many airline miles that he and Liane would be able to spend the rest of their lives on bonus flights. But that didn’t work out, either.

When Scott lost his job because of outsourcing, he didn’t retire to his snail shell and sulk. He acted. Instead of pin stripes, he was now wearing working clothes and started servicing swimming pools. He cleaned the pools for the people in the village, repaired the pumps and found out what chemistry had to be in the water to get the right pH value.

When he was already clearly marked by cancer in the late autumn of last year, he was still chugging to his pool customers with his pickup truck. After all, he had promised them to make their swimming pools properly winterproof.

For his own swimming pool in Hudson, there was simply not enough time. The Family Man was simply too busy, and cancer can be a demanding master. Scott became weaker and weaker. But he never complained. In the early hours of January 15, 2019, he left this world, a world diminished by his passing. R.I.P. Scott Ashford.

THANKS to Doug Sweet who helped me with the English version of the original blogpost.

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