Accidental Activist


Hamilton's activist community lost a dear friend last month.

By Ben Bull
Published November 08, 2006

Last week I had one of those 'rewind' moments in life. My six-year-old daughter Annie came into my room dressed in her older sister's Communion outfit.

I was flummoxed. She looked beautiful in the little frock, but something was definitely not right about the apparition that stood before me.

"That dress...?" I mumbled, as my life flashed before my eyes. "It fits!"

I realized that my eldest daughter, Emily, was six when she'd put on the same dress - seven years before. How did this happen? I wondered. Where did it all go?

I flashed back to Emily's first communion. It was 1999, at St John the Baptist church, King Street East in Hamilton. Happy times. A new house, a good job, a growing family.

So what happened in between?

As I tumbled back into the moment and fastened the buttons for Annie, I realised that I'd wished a lot of my life away. Like those scenes on Click, that movie with Adam Sandler, where he fast forwards the boring parts of his life, I'd been switching off so many times: those long days at work, the snail's pace commutes, the terrible two tantrums of Annie, Jack and Molly, those endless re-runs of Changing Rooms, What Not To Wear, and Buy Me. It felt like my whole life was a blur.

To some extent I suppose, this is to be expected. If we're honest, I'm sure we can all agree that there are many aspects of our lives that are tedious, stressful, and repetitive.

Myself, I'm a born worrier. I have to stop reading the paper from time to time because I find the news - AKA the real world ? just too stressful to deal with.

So why am I prattling on about this now? Well, Hamilton's activist community lost a dear friend last month and it put me in a thoughtful mood.

The last time I saw Betty Blashill she was taking the Dundas Studio Tour, walking up my street in a happy mood and smiling as usual. She was full of life.

I had met Betty only a couple of times before, usually in the comings and goings of Lynda Lukasik's 2003 municipal campaign, which she ran. I recall Betty's "Thank you" speech to the campaign team, just minutes after it was confirmed that Lynda was not going to win.

She had some kind words for Lynda, reflected on her optimism and hopefulness for Hamilton, and started to cry. I wondered what it was about such people that made them care so much and try so hard.

Today, as I try to connect the dots on my own life and freeze frame every precious moment, I have to remind myself to keep my world in perspective and be grateful for the people around me.

Because life is short and, sure, while the challenges we face are huge, and the injustices in the world absurd, we have to remember to smile, do what we can to make a difference. Most importantly, we need to savour the moments with the ones we love before they grow up and are gone.

It will be Annie's first communion next Spring. I plan to enjoy every moment.

Raise The Hammer remembers Betty Blashill, a wonderful and caring Hamiltonian. We send our sympathies and best wishes to her husband, Don McLean, and all her family.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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