Gail Patricia Caldwell
October 04, 1953 - June 10, 2017
Tuesday, September 05, 2017 2:07 PM
I love you. I adore you. I forgive you
If our relationship, mine with Gail, hers with me, was anything at all, it was what we labelled as intense. We fought as intensely as we loved each other.
In any relationship there will be times of disagreement and conflict. When we left Toronto in '87 we knew that our car and our tent were going to be the only home we would have for at least the next two, three, or four months. We were going to exist in pretty close quarters so I suggested that we learn to fight well. If we didn't, it would be the end of us. So we did. We learned how to fight as a couple. Ultimately, what that meant, was for us to agree on what NOT to fight about when we found we were getting angry and uptight. Those were issues we each considered too serious, too sacred to be thrown up in the heat of argument. We called that "the beltline." So we both agreed that there was no hitting (name-calling, etc) below the belt. We each had a beltline. And we both learned to apologize quickly.
Our first few conflicts though, after we moved in together in Toronto, were "all or nothing" supposed outcomes. In the beginning, if we disagreed vehemently about this or that, well that must mean that we're not supposed to be together, because there's no meeting of the minds, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah. And we believed it momentarily for minutes or even an hour or two, but not really.
Once, at a large indoor mall in Don Mills, Ontario, we were really getting into it about something. I had called Gail and eventually I became so upset that I slammed the phone down. I was at an old style phone kiosk. One that was placed strategically around a big mall, before everyone had electronics plugged into their ears. My slam of the phone, though, was so physical that it pulled the receiver out of the hand of a man on the other side of the six or eight phone setup. Embarassed, I beat a hasty retreat to another kiosk so that I could call her quick and tell about the embarassing thing I just did, and it was really funny and just plain stupid.
Then I got her on the phone again, told her what had happened on my end, and we killed ourselves laughing. Right at that moment, I knew that I loved Gail a whole lot more than I had ever thought. Being upset with each other seemed like a waste of time and energy, so I said, "Look, I'm not going any place that is away from you, so if what I am doing is making you unhappy I will change it, end of story." And I did. I don't remember what I changed. That's how petty it all was.
Later on, after we had settled in Vancouver, our intensity (the kind where we could fight and then let it go) with one another was so second nature that we didn't give it much of a thought. We had a house guest for a few days, back in '88, the daughter of a friend of ours. She was visiting from Scotland.
Our 'go-rounds' with each other were very matter-of-fact for us, and we really didn't give them much credibility in the long run. We continued things as per usual as if we were alone. Our jabbering at one another must have gotten to her because at one point she yelled at us, "Will you two kids shut up! Just shut up! You're driving me crazy!" She was 19. We stopped and we laughed. But that's who we were. We gave little or no weight to disagreements between us of any sort.
Gail had so much class. She was very quick to apologize for things that she said or did. Forgiveness never became an issue for us. To me, to her, it was a forgone conclusion that no matter what happened, no matter what we said or did in upset or anger, we would be forgiven. But we still asked.
This is what initiated the idea for me that "Tomorrow is coming." Nothing is really worth the amount of energy being poured into it, because in the morning, in a more sober and somber light, you will feel differently, and this issue won't be so important. So, if it isn't going to be that important tomorrow, why are we giving it so much tonight? Tommorow is coming. Good to remember in the heat of things.
We gave each other cards or short letters constantly. And if cards weren't readily available a short phone call was made. In letters we described our love and adoration before asking to be forgiven. Flowers for Gail, was a common currency of mine. But not just in asking forgiveness, any reason was reason enough.
It was impossible for either of us to be angry for very long. Neither of us could live with the idea that we had hurt the other, or that the other was angry or upset with us.
Late morning phone calls were another avenue that we used. Getting a mad-on in our house was a very short-lived condition. Try being indignant and adoring at the same time. Think of the reason for your anger, and now think of how much you love and adore them when you are not angry. With this perspective try to hold onto your former state. It's impossible and it shows the pettiness into which we can easily slide.
Gail never held back when it came to saying sorry for whatever reason. Her words and actions to me emphasized how much she loved me. Her cards at birthdays, Christmas, special occasions, or just out of the blue touched me deeply every time she penned a sentiment. She had a knack for choosing a card, for writing a message, that reached into my heart and, very softly, very lovingly, held me close. She always knew how to do that. She certainly had a special way. And I am forever grateful.
We treasured those messages, those notes, those gifts from our heart. We saved them all. Our cards & notes to one another became our constant keepsakes from one year to the next. With rare exception, they have been kept for 35 years.
Now I treasure them all. They are my lifeline, every single one.
Sunday, July 23, 2017 1:02 PM
Gail's Memorial Service - Victory Memorial Chapel
The following is a link to Gail's Obituary page of Victory Memorial web site. Unfortunately you will have to copy and paste this into your browser. Dignity Memorial has reworked their site and the direct link no longer works.
The recording you see here was cut short by approx. 15 minutes, leaving out the eulogy by Sifu Laurens Lee, the slideshow that I had created, and the final exit song, "Making a noise in this world" by Robbie Robertson, one of Gail's favourites.
A copy of Sifu's eulogy is below, as is one from Phoebe Chow. My slideshow is presented with other videos on the MEDIA page here.
Sunday, July 23, 2017 12:29 PM
At times Gail's hair was so long, so thick, so beautiful that it became more than just long red hair. It became a mane. Something like what you would see on a beautiful lion, or on a horse. The striking beauty of these animals is in their mane.
Gail's hair was her signature. And she loved it. Finding her in a crowd was relatively easy. Either I listened for her characteristic laugh, or I scanned the room for her hair.
it was particularly upsetting to Gail when she began losing her hair. She felt like her identity was being taken away. There were many tears. It broke my heart as well.
Friday, July 14, 2017 7:28 PM
A Prophetic Dream
This is a record of a dream from someone who knew Gail but wanted to remain anonymous. It is particularly meaningful to me because Gail & a few other women were among the first non-aboriginals to participate in a Healing Circle workshop series at the Native Friendship Centre on Hastings Street in Vancouver. At the time she was working for Providence Healthcare. First Nations spiritual teachings were a very important part of Gail's life. Thank you for sharing this.
"In the dream I was coming to visit Gail, which was odd as both in the dream and in my thoughts I knew she had passed. When I arrived at your house I knocked on the door but there was no answer and the door was ajar so I decided to walk in. As I approached Gail’s room, I knew she wouldn’t be there and I looked in to see the empty bed. Then I heard your voice in the distance asking “who’s there?” I felt I shouldn’t be there and quickly headed to the front door."
"Once I was outside I was drawn to the backyard. I was hearing some music and felt I needed to investigate further. When I got to the backyard there was what seemed to be a First Nations Ceremony taking place to honour Gail. It was being held on a ship or a platform. I recall having to climb a set of stairs and that I was being invited (by a First Nations female who was standing at the top of the stairs) to be witness to the ceremony. There was music and song playing and then Gail appeared standing in a entranceway. She was wearing a ceremonial dress, and then a Female Elder presented her with the dolphin name. "
"That is mostly what I can remember from the dream. The one final thing is the music, some of which was chanting also. In the chant I kept hearing “Murphy is a (and then a bit garbled) call girl or it could have been tall girl or perhaps Caldwell. Anyway I thought I would tell you that also just in case the name Murphy has some meaning for you. "
Sunday, July 09, 2017 4:08 PM
Empathy was Gail's calling card
Gail had it in spades. It was how she was able to work at the toronto Distress Centre, and then progress to their Survivor Support program, for those left behind after suicide.
Gail related quickly and easily to anyone in emotional pain of any description. She could put her intended activities on hold instantly if she suspected someone needed to be listened to, or attended to. There were many times that she would make herself late for something because her heart and mind were needed somewhere.
Empathy, the ability to vicariously experience what another is feeling, cannot be taught, and is often confused with sympathy, with compassion.To bypass your own emotions, to place yourself accurately in another's shoes, and to not allow it to overwhelm you, is the mark of an empthetic person. And it is rare.
Gail had this down to a fine art. It endeared her to many people. She could tell how life was turning out for the one she was with at any time. She never cut anyone short, who was opening up to her. There were many times that I waited an extra long time for her to come out of the office only to be told of getting a call or a drop-in from someone going through a tough time.
Reiki sessions were often given out to some of these people. I trusted gail's judgement implicitly; never questioned her reasoning, her motives. I knew that when Gail believed that she could help someone she did just that. It was in her nature. She never let a cry for help, even if not completely verbalised, go unanswered.
Monday, July 03, 2017 11:14 AM
Eulogy by Phoebe Chow - from the Memorial Service
Gail is my long term friend in the Tai Chi group. We know each other for over 16 years. There were about four to five years’ time we lived in the same neighbourhood. So, we practiced Tai Chi in the park in the summer. We also carpooled to the class every week. On our way to the class and back home, we shared different things, Tai Chi, work, family... What I remember most, however, is her manual transmission car. Since I drive automatics, it is interesting to see her busily shifting the gear stick. Every time she started the car after a complete stop, the sound made me feel like I am sitting in a racing car.
Gail has a strong character, but she is also humble and thoughtful of others. For a number of times we practiced Tai Chi together to prepare for demonstration. She reminded me, “Phoebe, correct me if I am doing wrong.” She then tried again and again to make the movements perfect.
Once in a while I am in charge of the class at the Roundhouse Community Centre when Sifu is away. Gail was always the first one come to me, “Phoebe, just let me know when you need help. Tell me what you want me to do.” Only a few words she gave me a great support and encouragement.
At Roundhouse, Gail and I also take turn in leading the stretching exercise. Last year when she couldn’t attend the class regularly, I did her part as well. Once she was able to come back to the class, she always said, “Phoebe, I’ll let you take a break!” Even during her difficult time, she cared about others and took her responsibility seriously.
Practicing Tai Chi puts emphasis on calmness, gentleness, a humble character, as well as a perseverance attitude in practice. Gail, in your life I can find you have demonstrated many great characteristics of Tai Chi. We’ll deeply miss you!
Sunday, July 02, 2017 8:52 PM
Gail's smile, during May and June, is the most painful to recall. It was in everything she did. When her voice was taken, and she could not swallow, she still had her smile.
The smile when tasting a fresh Iced Cap from Tim Hortons.
The smile while watching "Blue Jays in 30", "Masterchef", or "Dancing with The Stars".
The smile of holding the tv remote.
The smile for those coming to visit, when she first mouthed her words, and then wrote them out, saying what she could not.
Those smiles that I witnessed while she lost weight daily, while she could barely do anything for herself, even unable to work the remote, while she did her best to keep upbeat in front of me; these are the images that haunt me. These are the images of a river tears. These are the mortal wounds of grief.
Sunday, July 02, 2017 8:49 PM
Photos of Gail
If anyone would like a print of any of the photos of Gail, either from the slideshow or the gallery here, plaese let me know. I would be happy to print a copy for you.
Saturday, July 01, 2017 11:51 AM
We love and miss you, Gail by Laurens Lee
(This is the eulogy that was given at the Memorial Service, but may have been unfortunately clipped at the end. With apologies to those who missed it & to Sifu Laurens)
On behalf of the Kam To Tai Chi Chuan Association, I’m here today to honour and express our respect and love for our beloved member, Gail.
I first met Gail 20 years ago, when she joined our Tai Chi class at the Roundhouse Community Centre. From the first class, she was an enthusiastic student. While many students come and take the class for the health benefits or just something to do, Gail also wanted an intellectual and philosophical understanding of Tai Chi Chuan. She soon became one of my senior students, and helped assist me with the junior students. Her patience and friendly smile helped newer students relax and made her a good mentor.
Something that our group may have taken for granted, and perhaps that you didn’t know, is that Gail was a bit of a celebrity in Vancouver’s Chinese Community. Gail was a regular participant in our public demonstrations. Ten years ago, she joined me in filming an instructional Tai Chi program for Fairchild TV, Canada’s Chinese TV station. Gail was proud to be a part of it, even though she didn’t understand most of what was going on, since it was filmed in Chinese. The program is broadcast across Canada and still running. It is mostly watched by people she didn’t know, or so she thought. She told me that a Chinese neighbor once said to her, “I did tai chi with you this morning.” Gail found this a special way to share her love of tai chi with others, like she spent time with people through the TV. Gail did a lot to promote tai chi and our community.
After Gail was diagnosed with lung cancer, we were all worried and anxious for her. During her treatments, she came to class whenever she felt better. She would even jump in and help out as much as she could. We were all inspired by her courage and confidence.
I want to close with a few words for Gail from all of us. Gail, good bye. We’ve lost a great member and our lovely sister. In our hearts, we will keep and remember your smile, your laughter, your caring nature, and your passion. We love and miss you.
Saturday, July 01, 2017 1:33 AM
Gail's sense of humour
Gail's humour was as infectious as her laugh. She found things to laugh about in almost every situation.
The times that got to me the quickest were if in the midst of a verbal free-for-all she would start laughing at something almost completely different from whatever self-important point I was arguing for.
For instance, in the midst of a charged up verbal exchange, she might begin laughing, and with the comment, "You should see your face!!!" She would then ridiculously mimic my face, or what she thought I was doing, or saying, and then she would kill herself laughing while continuing to mimic me, which would make her laugh even harder. In the end she would be slightly wheezing for lack of air since she was laughing so hard.
Now it is impossible to maintain a mad-on, when the person you're mad at is in stiches on the floor wiping tears from their eyes. It cannot be done. You have to join in.
That was Gail.