Parting Words From a Friend

by Liz Jansen

Terry returned to spirit form on October 15, 2015, two months after his diagnosis. Those of us who knew him are better off for having shared a portion of our earthly journey with him. We feel profound loss and sadness, yet the same time, there’s love and gratitude for a life well-lived. Ride in Peace my friend. You are missed Terry. 

Last week I visited a friend and mostly listened. Soon he will leave this physical plane and there were many words wanting to be heard.

Terry is my friend and colleague in the motorcycle training program at Humber College. In April at age 56, he retired from the Toronto Transit Commission, full of dreams and health. Although he taught a lot in spring and early summer, we didn’t get an opportunity to teach together this season as I was healing from a fractured ankle.

Animated, he described this year’s friends’ May dragon-slaying ride to Deal’s Gap, twisting, cavorting, and advancing on their motorcycles as the dragon flicked his tail. They were the victors, returning with tall tales and indelible memories.

Terry Fast Parting words

In late July, he returned to the Mennonite enclave of Steinbach, Manitoba where his father grew up. Terry and I shared a start in life in a similar heritage, and later the transition away from it. Unfortunately, the hope of seeing an ill relative before she passed, meant a plane ticket instead of a 4,000km/3,200 mile loop around Lake Superior on his motorcycle.

My stomach barely stayed with me as in great detail, he described the ‘ride of a lifetime’ in his cousin Mike’s stunt plane. “There’s nothing like a hammerhead stall and rolling out inverted at +3G force,” he exclaimed.

A persistent, gnawing pain in his right side sent him to the doctor in August. Terry was diagnosed with Cholangiocarcinoma, a rare form of bile duct/liver cancer. Inoperable. Untreatable. Aggressive.

We sat outside facing the backyard, his pride and joy, the result of years of painstaking planning and care. The lush garden he’d created around the stream and waterfall feeding the koi pond offered serenity and an oasis for the soul, sealing off external interference.

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I sat there in my riding gear and listened to the words of a man who knows he’s dying and is ready ‘when the call comes’.

He loved teaching students to ride motorcycles, and he was very good at it. But what touched him most were the stories, especially from the women, about why they were learning to ride—because someone had told them they couldn’t, or they had survived an abusive relationship and were rebuilding their confidence, or they were pushing their comfort zone to see what they could do.

To aid in the transformation that comes with learning to ride was deeply fulfilling for Terry.

He’s actively and directly changed the course of lives in other ways.

Terry’s lifetime love of dogs led him to serve with the St. John Ambulance Provincial Therapy Dog Program. Joining in 1995 with his first Therapy Dog Jenny, he was trained by program founders Jim and Doreen Newel. Between 2002 and 2007, with Lucas as his Canine Partner, Terry served as Provincial Coordinator, traveling across Ontario assisting local Coordinators establish programs in their communities. These front line volunteers would take their dogs to any facility where the love of a dog could be used to comfort the elderly, sick children, or those with learning disabilities.545608_10151258505765351_1518528970_n

Terry talked about the value of the Restorative Justice (RJ) Program he volunteered in for years. An alternative to the court system for young offenders, the RJ volunteer, investigating officer, offender and a family member or support person work through a methodical process together. The results are dramatic for everyone involved. And they’re sustainable, changing individuals, families, and neighborhoods. Last fall he helped train another 20 volunteers to fill the growing need in his community.

He didn’t pick this disease or foresee his life evolving like this, cutting short the plans he and his wife Sherry had for retirement. Yet he accepts it. “I’ve done a lot and I’m thankful for that. I don’t regret what I didn’t have.”

Since learning to ride as a teenager, he’s put a lot of miles on his bike touring the Pacific coast, the southwest, and numerous trips to Deal’s Gap and area. The best trip was last year, when to his surprise and delight Sherry joined him for the first time.

Frightening experiences in her youth had turned her away from motorcycles, but she was ready to try again with Terry. She flew to Halifax to meet him for a wonderful 10-day trip around Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. Both are grateful they got this time together.

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Now they’re sharing another journey, a section of road they had no intention of visiting for many years—one that revolves around care, hospice, and how Sherry will continue after Terry’s gone. Like what to do with his motorcycle. Bikes have been an important part of his life and he wants as many of them at his service as possible.

Sherry supported an unsteady Terry while we walked out to my bike, although he insisted on bending over to pick up and hand me the side stand puck I’d forgotten to retrieve before I got on.

Contrary to his weakening physical health Terry’s strength is absolutely amazing. To have an evening with him, hear his wisdom, and share memories was an incredible gift.

Thank you Terry. Godspeed, my friend.

Photos: Courtesy of Terry Fast


 

On September 20, 2015, a group of Humber College Motorcycle Instructors paid a surprise visit to Terry at his home (with full approval from Sherry). John Kerns put together this lovely remembrance of that day, a day of celebrating close friendship and a life well lived.

 

Posted in Liz's Stories, Personal Growth Tagged with: , ,
32 comments on “Parting Words From a Friend
  1. Bruno Giorgi says:

    Thank you Liz.

    Bruno

    • lizjansen says:

      You’re welcome Bruno. Liz.

    • Andy Hertel says:

      Thank Liz, thanks Terry.

      It is amazing when we look back and collaborate our experiences into a single reflection, we realize that we have done some interesting, exciting and memorable things. Terry and my wife Christine chatted quite extensively one day for hours and Terry just happened to mention that he once met the Queen! How many people can say that?

      Terry truly is a great spirit and a wonderful guy that I like to call my friend.

  2. Penny says:

    Beautifully written Liz. Blessings to your friend and his family.

  3. Bruce Brown says:

    That was a beautiful tribute to your friend, Liz. He is obviously a man possessed of great dignity and grace. To borrow from the old Irish blessing, may the road rise up to meet him. May the wind always be at his back. May the sun shine warm upon his face, and rains fall soft upon his fields. Until you meet again, may God hold him in the palm of His hand.
    Kindest regards,
    Bruce

  4. What a wonderful post, Liz. Tears welled up as I read this beautiful story about your friend, his wife and journey.I felt the peace,the love and total serenity. To live a life that is full and die with no regrets. What more could one want…or need. Thanks for your writing. And thanks for being there. See you soon, my friend!
    Joan

    • lizjansen says:

      He’s taught me a lot Joan. There are many special people in our midst if we slow down long enough to appreciate them. Terry’s one of a kind. The best kind. Liz.

  5. Mike Valenti says:

    Liz, thank you so much for visiting and writing. You have encapsulated so much about Terry in such few paragraphs. He is one of a kind.
    God Bless him and Sherry.
    Mike

  6. Sam Valenzano says:

    Beautiful! Absolutely Beautiful! Well done Liz!

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share this story with everyone.

    Terry is an amazing man!! In all the years we taught together at Humber his modesty would not let him share all the incredible things he has done for others.

    Truly inspiring! Thank you Terry!

    Sammy V

  7. Godfried says:

    Thank you Liz for sharing such a fascinating account of our admirable friend.
    Forever grateful to have known and worked with you Terry.
    /Godfried

  8. Tessa says:

    Thank you Liz for sharing. What a wonderfully-written tribute. It brought tears to my eyes. God bless and keep Terry.

    Tessa

  9. Barbara Wynd says:

    He is so fulfilled that we already know he will rest in peace. Sorry for Sherry and for your loss of a friend. But he is not lost, he is just somewhere else.
    I heard today on CBC by an author the words, that we live on in stories, pictures and music. But for some that is not enough, they look for more.
    Thanks for sharing, Liz! Did I tell you today that I love you and am happy to be your friend? Hugs.

  10. Thank you Liz. The grace and beauty of your friendship shines through every word. Blessings…

  11. Mark Faulkner says:

    Thanks Liz. George and I went to visit with Terry a couple of days later. It was early evening and we would have had our visit in that beautiful backyard, but it was raining. As always, you’ve demonstrated your extraordinary ability to capture and share the thoughts, emotions and memories we have. This time, you’ve done it in such a way that people that don’t even know Terry will feel like they miss him already.

    • lizjansen says:

      Thanks Mark. It’s difficult to describe but you and George will understand what a gift Terry gave us by sharing his time and thoughts with us. We are so fortunate to have him in our lives.
      Liz

  12. Karen Tavener says:

    Thank you Liz. Such a beautiful article that has truly captured the essence of this incredible man. I have always described Terry as a “gentle man” and your article captures it perfectly. At Humber there have been good instructors, there have been great instructors and there have been exceptional instructors. Terry definitely falls in the latter category. His passion for teaching combined with his genuine interest in people make him one of the very best. In our thoughts and prayers.

    • lizjansen says:

      Thanks Karen. I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. We are very fortunate to have Terry in our midst. As are so many students who’ve benefited from not only his teaching but his compassion.
      Liz

  13. Thank you for reminding each of us how precious the human experience truly is

  14. Ellie Burtt says:

    Hello Liz. Beautiful words for a beautiful person. We only found out this past weekend about Terry being sick no amount of words to express the feelings right now. My heart is freely over flowing with emotion for Terry and Sherry. I met Terry in 1999 when I joined the commission. His friendly manner and disposition drew me to him right away. He called me Ellie girl right from the start. When my husband and I were going through the beginnings of a rough time and eventually separation and divorce Terry would sit with me and just listen never judged. After I moved into my own house he stopped in for tea we sat for a long time and we talked well he listened lol. In the early hours of the next day he sat at his computer and wrote an email to me. I carry a printed copy of that email with me still it’s crinkled from being opened and closed over the years. When I’m feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders I open it up and read it out loud to myself and it always brings me to a higher place in my life and tears in my eyes. I am forever grateful to know a wonderful human being as you Terry. Love you my friend. Peace

    • lizjansen says:

      Thank you for expressing such personal memories Ellie. Those of us whose lives have shared paths with Terry have much to be grateful for.
      Liz

  15. Mary McGee says:

    So sorry to hear of the imminent death of your friend. He sounds like a great guy, and is leaving this earth with grace, many friendships, and the knowledge of the good he has done with his time here.
    When the time comes May He Rest In Peace.

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