- I heard that a baby was shot. And that the oldest killed was 82. And so we’ve all been shot by hatred. And all who love mourn with you El Paso and Dayton.
Listen to Glenn’s poem, “How to Say,” set to music by Jeff Enns and sung by Jennifer Enns-Modolo, with Loren Shalanko at the piano:
How to say
(May 24, 2009)
The way to say “I love you” to someone
is to say “I love you” to that person
This has come to my attention
“I love you” means “I love you”
to the person
for whom you feel that love
Various gestures and clipped phrases
say “I love you”
As lovely as a home-cooked casserole
or cheque for some needed money
or gift certificate for an indulgence
and is loving, nurturing, caring
It is not the same as saying
“I love you”
it is not
“Love ya”’ or “You’re my girl”
or “You’re the best wife, mother, daughter”
or some Hallmark equivalent
nice and perhaps true
But it is not the same as saying
“I love you”
Do not mistake a gesture for the
declaration of love
nor heavy sentiment for its
Do not misjudge the brevity
of our existence
in missing the opportunity to say
“I love you”
Nor misjudge the simplicity of the
with empty blathering, over-repetition
Do not wait until your voice has dried
and your sunken eyes
mournfully cry “I love you”
Do not wait until your deathbed
or someone else’s
Do not give expression to love
in the heat of passion
nor as an act of contrition
Like any real gift, give expression
freely, under no duress,
with no sense of obligation
or awkward burden
Tell all those that you love
that you love them
not just your spouse, your lover,
Tell them now or certainly soon
Say to each person that you truly love,
where your mutual love
is a bond beyond
the nature of an ordinary relationship,
“I love you”
For the only way to do this
The only way to say “I love you” to someone
is to say “I love you”
Glenn Peirson walked boldly and compassionately in this world, blazing new pathways, dreaming new dreams into being, and main- taining beautiful relationships. The complications of cancer treat- ment suddenly claimed him in November, 2009, after a three year heroic battle. His deepest devotion was to his God and his family: his exceptional soul-mate, Dr. Mary Peirson; his twelve year old daughter, Theodora; and his nine year old son, Henry.
Glenn was born in Kingston, Ontario, and raised in Guelph. He was a scholar, athlete, musician, spiritual giant, poet, gardener and great lover of the Land of Narnia. Before he completed secondary school, he was admitted on scholarship to the University of Guelph. During this time he was tenor soloist at Metropolitan United Church in Toronto. He received research grants, in particular, an NSERC grant in brain laterality and music. He was the Winegard Gold-Medalist at his convocation.
Glenn went immediately from his studies to McMaster Medical School in Hamilton, Ontario. In the entire period of medical school and residency, he sang with the celebrated Tafelmusik Baroque Or- chestra’s Chamber Choir, Toronto. Glenn also created practicums that took him to Moose Factory and further north, to Kapsowar in Kenya, and to St. Oswald’s Hospice in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England. It was in his residency at McMaster that he met and fell in love with Mary Beingessner, who had studied medicine at the University of Toronto. They married in 1991, in their final year of residency and while Glenn was Chief Resident. In 1992, they spent two months in Malaysia, running a preventative medicine research project they had designed.
Glenn and Mary moved to Guelph in 1994. Mary established her career in public health medicine. Glenn worked as a palliative care physician, a community health centre physician and, in 1999, estab- lished a private practice in Cambridge, near Guelph. He was also the Addictions physician at Stonehenge Therapeutic Community. He maximized a life-style that included time for his highly cher- ished home-life, his music, his faith and finally his writing. He was a founding member of Tactus Vocal Ensemble, and a wine and spa writer for North American Inns magazine.
Finding and encouraging artistic gifts in children was a great joy for Glenn. His children have participated abundantly in the Guelph Youth Singers, Operetta Camp, the Kiwanis Festival and the South- ern Ontario Suzuki Institute’s summer program at Laurier Univer- sity. He was a vital member of Dublin Street United Church in Guelph, relishing it as a spiritual community for his family and as a place of spiritual growth and healing for all who attended. Our friend Evelyn once said, “Dublin Church is the platform for the ar- ticulation of Glenn’s soul.”
Glenn’s spirit continues to be strong. As he said, with a gentle touch, to every patient at the end of an appointment: “Be well.”
Poetry is the only way to touch upon the experience of cancer. It is also the only way to find the beauty in the beastliness. And for me, it was the only way to express my grief and allow healing into my life. Grief is a many-layered thing. It unfolds and refolds away from and over itself multitudinous times and in varying manifestations. To say that grief will fade away is misleading. To say that it will ameliorate and become an acceptable part of the griever’s psyche is a truth… as long as the griever intentionally grieves. Because grief begins with the diagnosis and because so much of my experience of watching a loved one suffer was beyond words, I set out on my intentional grief journey through writing.
cancerwords is a record of Glenn Peirson’s three year battle with a rare sinus cancer. Glenn, diagnosed at stage 4, did his elegant utmost to stay here for his wife and children, the joys of his life. As mother of this remarkable man for all seasons, I was seized by a need to write poetry and take photos on my prayer-walks. These two disciplines became my prayer forms. For me, they reached through the madness to a silence where pain is transformed into resilience. And I was sustained. And I was enabled to be what Glenn, Mary, Theodora and Henry needed me to be.
It is my hope that this book will speak to others, particularly parents. For when the death-order is violated by an intruder, it is almost too much for a parent to bear. I learned that I could survive what I had always said I couldn’t. I learned that I will never cease to be wondrously proud of and inexplicably connected to my son in whatever dimension he happens to be. And I learned that artistry, which resides, I believe, in the imagination, is the soul of healing.
There is a way for everyone. This is mine.
To suggest that Glenn Peirson was indefatigable would be an enormous understatement, for he retained his trademark sense of wry humour to the end of his days. “Please understand,” he wrote a few months prior to his death, “the tall, hooded fellow with the black robe and boney fingers and long sickle isn’t hanging around me. He might be in the other room, but I would just as soon find him and throw him out of the house head first . . . ” And again, just nine weeks prior to his death, he ended a note to family and friends with this marvellous perspective on life and living: “Until we next communicate, we wish you the same revelry in life’s many unsplendoured and often-overlooked day-to-day jewels.”One of Glenn Peirson’s many friends is Howard Dyck, a noted Canadian conductor and former CBC Radio host. He wrote of his accomplished friend: “He was a rare one, was Glenn, a perfect blend of saint, clown, philosopher, pixie, artist, scholar. All of us who were privileged to know him are immeasurably richer for having walked with him.” I am Keats as you are is Glenn Peirson’s parting gift.