UPDATE: The subject of this story died in Edmonton on Sunday, March 14, 2021.
It was the summer of 2014 and I was meeting an old pal, Ed Black, for lunch on Edmonton’s South Side. However, Eddie was running late …
We usually got together once or twice a year. It was our time to catch up on where we were with our lives, the scoop on who got married, who split up, croaked — and the juicy gossip on old schoolmates who’d run off to some faraway land. The usual.
For 10, 20, 30-minutes, I waited. No Eddie. Where was he? I phoned his home. No answer. Hmmm. Did something happen? Was he in an accident?? Is he okay?
Ed never did show and so I ate alone …
It was so uncharacteristic of my former soccer teammate from Campbellton, New Brunswick not to keep his word, even to phone to say he couldn’t make it. It was a complete mystery. Perhaps something urgent had come up. Had he forgotten about our meeting because there was too much on his mind? The possibilities kept ping-ponging in my head.
Unknown to me and to his friends, Eddie’s brain was being attacked by a deadly, slow-moving disease …
When I finally contacted Ed, a few days later, I didn’t bring up that he’d been a no-show. Neither did he, strange enough. It was as though he wasn’t even aware.
Something weird was going on. Clue #1. We rescheduled — but incredibly, the same thing happened! Ed was again a no-show. Wow! What were the chances of that happening? Clue #2. What’s going on here?, I wondered. Did I not get the dates right? Was I losing my mind?
Don’t mean to sound insensitive, but Ed was losing his. The man was facing what health workers would call a ‘degeneration of brain function.’ And it was irreversible; things would only get worse, not better.
Eddie also wasn’t returning my phone calls, and that wasn’t like him either. The man had too much class to deliberately communicate with silence.
I finally reached him on the phone and asked point-blank, “What’s going on with you?” Ed said he was sorry … although his apology came without an explanation. Clue #3.
I let it go and we set yet another date. This time, Ed kept his word. He showed up right on time.
MEET EDDIE …
It was a great get-together! We spent quality time at a family restaurant just up the street from where he lived. Ed and I shared a few jokes [some clean] and reminisced about how cool it was to grow up in the Maritimes.
We were fond of our teenage years in Campbellton, especially playing indoor soccer for the Speed Demons. Ed had been a forward on our second line. He had a hard shot and played with a lot of heart. He was, as they say in the sports world, a tough competitor.
The Speed Demons were the league powerhouse, capturing more than their share of championships. How exciting that was for us kids, holding the league trophy high, our names in the local paper and all that. It was self-esteem building at a most impressionable time in our lives.
It gave us the feeling that little ‘ol Campbellton was a place where everybody was somebody, and we were part of that.
I couldn’t fathom how powerful memories could simply slip away. But, as I was about to discover, sometimes they do, not unlike a computer hard drive being erased …
Ed and I spoke with deep appreciation about the guidance from our coach, local radio announcer Don Hume. At the time, we had no idea that belonging to the Speed Demons would be a glue that would hold us together.
Our luncheon meeting seemed like 20-minutes — but it was much longer, probably close to two hours.
Eddie also played basketball for the Campbellton High School team. Check out this photo:
A HERO IS BORN
This memory from Bill Flann of Fredericton, NB: “I attended Lord Beaverbrook School [Campbellton] from grade 1 to grade 8. Two brothers attended at the same time, Melvin and Gary Dobson. They were a little older than us. Two very different personalities. Melvin was calm and relaxed while Gary had a very short fuse. Gary was a weight-lifter and body builder and he got into a lot of fights, even with his brother.
One day, before school started in the morning, we were all out on the playground. Eddie Black was on his way to school with his books tucked under one arm. All of a sudden, Gary ran out onto the street to challenge him to a fight. Eddie calmly put his books down on the pavement. With three lighting strikes, Gary was laying on the street dazed and confused. Eddie calmly picked up his books and continued on his way to school.
At that moment, I had a new hero. I watched in awe as Eddie continued on his way.”
Let’s move ahead half a century …
Ed had just retired from his job with the purchasing department at the City of Edmonton where he’d been for decades. He worked in an office tower downtown, close to the Law Courts Building where my radio station, 630 CHED, had a small news bureau.
We occasionally ran into each other in the spacious lobby of the courthouse. Ed had a quick wit, sometimes introducing me as, “Have you met my father?”
It was good clean fun and the line always brought smiles.
FADED MEMORIES …
Ed and I spent many hours at his small apartment in the downtown area, near Jasper Avenue and 124th Street. We chatted non-stop at his kitchen table, enjoying — of all things — pop, juice and potato chips and going on about the ‘good old days.’
I’m told that those getting on in age have a tendency to do that.
Ed had moved into his apartment a couple of years earlier after his marriage went south. I could tell he missed his two children [now adults] — and his ex. That’s right. Although the two had their differences, Eddie never put down his former wife, not in front of me anyway. Nice to see the love never ends when relationships do.
It appeared as though Ed had moved into the apartment just days before. Some moving boxes remained stacked, unopened and covered with dust. Only his small kitchen seemed to be set up.
It was never easy to leave Eddie’s place. “I’ve gotta get a move on,” I’d say, getting up off the chair. Ed always pleaded, “Don’t go … you’re in no rush.” My friend wanted company.
Ed longed to go on about the past but, oddly enough, he didn’t talk much about the future. There were no dreams of retiring to Florida, to a cabin in the woods … or running off to Australia with a hot model. None of that.
Was it a sign of aging … or something more sinister? It’s convenient to give Ed’s medical challenges technical descriptors such as ‘dementia’ and ‘Alzheimer’s Disease.’ Labels aside, the poor fellow was simply forgetting so much, so fast. There was no getting around it. Ed was having serious cognitive issues.
Ed began spending more time with his sister-in-law Muriel whose husband, Ed’s older brother, had passed away at the age of 75 following a long struggle with Alzheimer’s. This wonderful woman — a quick wit in her own right — was far more than a relative. Muriel was a loving caregiver. An angel.
ON THE MOVE …
It wasn’t long before Ed moved to a special care facility smack in the centre of a new, upscale neighbourhood in North Edmonton where he could come and go and have visitors. I was one of many.
The fact that Ed was now living in that ‘special home’ made me want to see him more — take him out for drives, hang out … and pig out at a Mary Brown’s restaurant, that sort of thing.
Here’s a :17 video of Ed in the Edmonton subdivision of Lewis Estates in the west end of Edmonton, where I live. He’s walking Timbit, my half-Yorkshire terrier.
The video was shot on 29 May 2016. To view in better definition, Click ‘SHARE’ [top right], then ‘ORIGINAL’ or ‘MP4.’
[Note: Timbit died suddenly of congestive heart failure on Sunday, 22 April 2018. He was ten.]
Everyone at the care facility loved Ed, especially the female staff he vowed to marry one day. “But I’m married,” they pleaded. “Really? Haven’t you had enough of that guy …?”
On Ed’s wrist was a bulky, watch-like thingy — a GPS tracker. Staff could determine Ed’s whereabouts ‘in real time’ simply by watching a computer screen. Imagine that. And I thought electric typewriters and carbon paper were amazing.
As good as the care was, Ed longed to be back at his old apartment — and I could see why. Some of the ‘residents’ in his new digs were near zombies, right out of it. Sorry, but the politically-correct term isn’t coming to me right now.
My friend was becoming very frustrated …
I felt Ed didn’t belong there and he saw things the same way. He often asked, “Why the fuck am I here? Get me out of this fucking place!”
His new home was like a clean prison with friendly guards who spoke in foreign accents. Staff hawkeyed everyone who came and went. Doors were locked electronically. Surveillance cameras were everywhere — except in the bedrooms and bathrooms, and even that I wasn’t sure about.
I dropped by now and then to take Ed for a drive; sometimes for a meal, other times to my home in the west-end, to a park … or to take my drone for a spin. He enjoyed listening to pop music as we made our way through traffic, rapidly tapping on the dash to the beat of a song that grabbed him.
Ed loved music. With his quick wit, he could’ve been a DJ.
MEETING AN NHL HALL OF FAMER …
I once brought Ed out to meet his hockey idol, Glenn Hall, a long-retired goaltender who played for two decades in the National Hockey League, suiting up for three teams: Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues.
Glenn lived alone on a farm just outside of Edmonton.
The two hit it off. We plunked ourselves down on big leather chairs in Glenn’s living room. The man the hockey world knows as ‘Mr. Goalie’ also treated us to a beer. Ahhh. There’s nothing like a cold brew on a warm summer day.
Ed suddenly pounced to his feet and announced, “Glenn,” looking his way to get his attention, “… this is how you stopped those pucks!” He then jumped around like a jackrabbit on speed, pretending to kick out shots.
It was quite a display. Glenn looked my way, shook his head and smiled. Bet he hadn’t seen a goalie clinic in his living room before.
NHL All-Star Glenn Hall embracing Ed – 2016. Click to enlarge. [Second photo by Author]
I followed Glenn to the kitchen. “My bud has dementia,” I whispered. “I figured that,” he said, adding, “Stan also has dementia …” Stan Mikita had been a star forward with the Black Hawks in the 1960s. Stan and Glenn were more than teammates. Glenn was best man at #21’s wedding.
Oh. This is important. As we made our way down Glenn’s winding, paved driveway, Ed remarked that Mr. Goalie was one of the NHL greats. I agreed. My comment was that we all have greatness in us but most don’t realize it.
OFF TO THE ROCKIES …
On a warm day in June 2016, Ed and I took off to the beautiful [Canadian] Rocky Mountains. Man, that was a fun trip!
We drove here and there, even built a small campfire near the Athabasca River with the snow-capped mountains in the background. The sun was shining bright, the fire crackling … and Ed was at peace.
So was I.
[There are more Rocky Mountain photos at the end of the post …]
FROM BAD TO WORSE …
As Ed’s disease progressed, the peace he so enjoyed in the Rockies was replaced with confusion and anger. His condition worsened. He was then moved to a new location — a new seniors complex in St. Albert, just north of Edmonton.
Here, Eddie shared a locked ward with about two dozen men, all older than him. Hell, Ed was only 68 and there he was, in a damn dementia unit. Like that makes sense …
His neighbours included a helicopter pilot, police officer, engineer, truck driver, and so on. They were white, black and in between. Alzheimer’s Disease does not discriminate.
Ed and I continued to meet. We often went for drives [and for ice-cream at Costco, nearby] … even though his new residence had more rigid procedures in place. For example, Ed now had to be signed in and out. Staff also wanted to know who I was, my cell number, where I was taking him … and when we’d be back.
As friendly and professional as the staff was, Ed still did not like his new home. When we returned from an outing, pulling up in the parking lot, he always popped the same question: “Who are we visiting?” And I said, “No one, Ed. This is your home now …”
Eddie pleaded for me to drive him to his apartment downtown. Sadly, that wasn’t happening of course.
Whenever I left his 4th floor-unit, Ed trailed behind to the keyed-entry door, always pleading to leave with me. It was heartbreaking to hear the electronic ‘click’ sound of the heavy door closing, glance over my shoulder and see Ed standing there. You have no idea.
Ed may have been losing his mind, but not his feelings.
The modern complex had everything one could ask for … dedicated staff, nourishing meals, a clean room, nice view, terrific facilities, movies, and bus trips. To top it off, old friends and family members dropped in to see ‘residents’ from time to time.
I believe Eddie got far more visitors than most.
He spoke highly of a young, pretty woman who came to see him — and he showed me her photograph. “Christ,” I said, “Ed, that’s your daughter!”
Eddie also vowed to marry the woman who faithfully came to visit him every Thursday. That was his former wife. “She still loves you,” I remarked. Ed’s response: “What’s her name? …”
One day I asked Eddie, “Do you know my name?” “Zeke!” he quickly announced in an attempt to throw me off because, truth is, he wasn’t sure who I was. Sometimes he knew my name. But often he didn’t. The guy was faking it.
Ed was good at hiding the fact he had cognitive issues. It’s my guess many Alzheimer’s patients play that game, at least in the beginning. If I ever end up like that, I’ll probably do that as well.
On most days, Eddie remembered who I was … with a little help. “Hello,” I’d say, with a handshake. “Byron here.” “BYRON CHRISTOPHER!” he shouted to let me know he hadn’t forgotten.
“And how is Donnie Hume?,” Eddie added, “… I haven’t seen him in a while.” Ed always brought up our coach’s name. “Does he still work at the Post Office?” Don retired decades ago.
THE SPEED DEMONS
A special book with more than 200 photographs paid tribute to the Speed Demon Soccer Club and Ed had a copy of it on a table in his room, right beside a window.
The hard-cover publication [colourized for this photo] was always on display.
We sometimes sat on the edge of his bed slowly going through the Speed Demon book, page after page.
“That’s Allan,” Ed said, pointing to a black and white photo of his younger brother who’d left Campbellton and settled in Ontario. “He came to see me the other day.”
“Ed,” I countered, “Allan died years ago …”
“What’s this fellow’s name?” I asked, pointing to someone standing alongside Ed in a high school graduation photo from Campbellton. I could see the wheels were slowly turning in Ed’s head. “Let me think,” he said, “hang on … hang on” … [buying time]. He began to go through the alphabet. “‘A’ … ‘B’ … BRIAN!“
Eddie was quick to remember players who’d scored a pile of goals for us. Brian, Art, Ray and Bob were some of the players that come to mind. All forwards, of course.
The feisty forward on our second line began naming just about every player in those old team photos. But as time went on, Ed knew fewer and fewer of them … until his old teammates had transformed into strangers without names.
While in Ed’s unit at the senior centre, I occasionally pulled out my cell phone and made calls to some former teammates. They were tickled to hear his voice. Those phone calls became a memorial lifeline, if you will, to what had been a very special time in Ed’s life.
“I want to know something,” he’d say to whoever was on the other end. To get their attention, Ed would deliberately pause. “… Are you naked??”
As the months passed, I could see that Ed’s memory was getting worse, just like they said it would.
“Here’s a picture of goaltender Glenn Hall,” I said, pointing to an autographed photo on top of Ed’s dresser. “Where’d you get that?” I queried. “I was just talking to him the other day … he wanted some tips on how to play goal.” Not true, of course. Glenn, who hung up his skates in the early 1970s, turned 87 in November 2018.
Ed had been a valuable soccer team player. You won’t find his name among the top scorers … but when it came to team leadership, Eddie was our unofficial captain. He kept everyone loose. Rough up a smaller player and expect to get implanted on the boards on the next shift. That was Eddie. He stood up for his mates.
Ed stood up in life, period.
I recall how dismayed he was that some City of Edmonton contracts were — in his view — not quite above board. He couldn’t get over that politics were at play. Dementia or not, Ed and ‘monkey-business’ were just not compatible. Not playing by the rules wasn’t the way Eddie was brought up.
In this day and age when people are trained like rats to adore the system and ‘play the game,’ Ed didn’t. He remained a rebel hero who hadn’t sold out. Ya gotta like that.
Even though Ed’s memory was going, his heart was strong — especially for causes and ‘doing the right thing.’ He once asked what I was up to. “I’m working on a story on Bobby Steeves.” Steeves is the mentally-challenged man in Campbellton who was tormented without mercy over the years … because he was simple and gay. “That’s bullshit how people treated him,” retorted Ed. What jerks …”
I’d been warned that those suffering from Alzheimer’s could easily become — how does one put this tastefully? — sexually aroused. Sure enough. Ed and I were in his 4th floor unit at the senior’s complex, looking out the window, when he spotted two young women on the sidewalk below. “See those girls?” he asked. Without waiting for an answer, he went on to say that one girl was crazy over him — and that they’d gone on a few dates.
It was all BS, of course. But not to Eddie.
“Ed,” I remarked, “you’re a worse pervert than me!” I was joking. Okay, maybe half-joking.
I went along with his tall tales. We all did. It was the right thing to do.
Ed often apologized for not remembering things. “I think I’m losing my mind,” he once said. The only retort I could think of was, “I hope not. If that happens you’ll be appointed to the Canadian Senate.”
DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMER’S
Is there a difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s? The experts say there is … dementia is an umbrella term for a set of symptoms including impaired thinking and memory. According to the website alzheimers.net, it’s often used to describe the cognitive decline of aging.
This is how some in the medical community see it: When someone is diagnosed with dementia, they’re being diagnosed with a set of symptoms. It’s like when someone has a sore throat. Their throat is sore — but it’s not known what’s causing the problem. It could be a number of things: allergies, strep throat, or a common cold. Similarly, when someone has dementia they’re experiencing symptoms without knowing the actual problem.
It’s believed that Alzheimer’s Disease causes as many as 50 to 70% of all dementia cases. A big difference between the two is that Alzheimer’s is not reversible. It is degenerative and — so far — there’s no cure.
Notes around Ed’s unit at the senior’s centre in St. Albert remind him of his son’s name, the names of his daughter and his grandchildren. Spread out on a table are photographs from camping trips, ski trips, sky-diving … and his treasured book on the soccer club in Campbellton.
Assembled by family members, it’s a poignant collection of souvenirs and signs of the rich life he lived.
I spotted something in Ed’s room that wasn’t so pleasant — a hole about knee-level punched in the drywall. “What the hell happened here?” I asked, pointing to the foot-size puncture.
“Don’t know how that got there,” he replied, very matter of fact. I don’t think Eddie was bullshitting. He had no short-term memory. Zip. He didn’t know who had visited him yesterday … but could recall details of a soccer game half a century ago.
It’s now at a point where Eddie doesn’t remember me at all …
When I visited him on Sunday evening, December 3, 2017, he didn’t even look my way when I walked into the dining hall. My old friend was having dinner [‘supper’ to Maritimers] at a table with three men.
Another sign that something wasn’t right with Ed was that he wore two baseball caps, one on top of the other.
I waited 20 minutes, then joined Eddie at his table, pulling up a chair and tapping his left shoulder. “How are things, Ed?”
“Want to head down to your room when you’ve finished eating?” “No.” A retired police officer, sitting to Ed’s right, interjected, “How do you know this man, Ed?” Again, no response. Some might describe Ed’s behaviour as catatonic-like; he was certainly not engaged that day.
I explained to the ex-cop that Eddie and I grew up in a small town in northern New Brunswick …
I punched Ed’s shoulder a second time. “Don Hume says hello.” Eddie finally spoke. “Who’s he?” Wow. Clue #300.
Thirty minutes later, I was leaving … walking down the hallway that led to the locked door. This time Eddie did not follow. I glanced back and he was still sitting with his friends. He seemed to be off in another world, and I guess he was.
About a week later, I went around to see Ed again. He seemed a bit more ‘with it’ … but still not engaged. We plunked ourselves down in big chairs in a visitor’s room at the end of the hall. We chatted for half an hour or so.
“How are you feeling, Ed?” “Stupid,” he replied. And I replied, “You’re not stupid, buddy. Your memory is slipping — but it’s not your fault. You’re doing the best you can.” I reminded Eddie that more people loved him than he’ll ever know.
Ed said nothing. He may have been trying to let that sink in, I really couldn’t tell.
“Do you know my name?” I asked. Ed looked out the window, waited a couple of seconds, then simply said, “No.”
More silence. The chairs were comfortable; the topic not so much …
“Do you remember the town where you were born?” “No — and it’s for a reason,” he said, sitting up straight to make a point. “Some people went this way,” he said, motioning with his hands, “and some people went that way …”
I could see that Ed was uneasy, but how could he not be? His memory was being deleted by a slow-moving disease … and there wasn’t a darn thing anybody could do about it.
“Do you know what I do for a living?” I asked. “No.” “I’m a journalist. I report the news and write stories …” “Wow,” he said. Suddenly I had Eddie’s attention. “I’ve just done a blog story on you, Ed.” He looked my way and smiled. “That’s nice. Thank you …”
You may wonder why I continue to visit Ed when he doesn’t know who I am. It’s because I know who he is.
In time, Ed will forget me, his family and everyone he’s ever known. I’m told he will eventually forget how to do basic, essential things such as swallowing. His body will start shutting down, like curtains drawn at a theatre.
I’ll then get a phone call from a family member who’ll tell me that my dear friend is safely on the Other Side. That’s when Ed’s memory will return and, I’m told, he’ll be more alive than any of us.
There’s a happy ending to this story after all.
Here’s a short video clip of Ed on a pedestrian bridge over the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton. The man sure likes to whistle — and he loves to dance. This was taken on June 15, 2016, when Ed was living in his first group home, the one in North Edmonton.
To view the clip in high definition, click on ‘SHARE’ [top right], then click on either ORIGINAL or MP4. Wait for it to load. It runs 18 seconds.
Here’s a reflective tune from country singer Allan Jackson … ‘The Older I Get’ … [available on iTunes]. Runs 3:50.
June 2016. Ed in Edmonton’s River Valley. Nothing beats the sound of a crackling fire. Click to enlarge. [Photo by Author]
Saturday, May 19, 2018 …
It was late Saturday afternoon, May 19, 2018 and Ed and I sat on a couch in the dining room of his retirement complex, watching television. On TV was a recorded program, part of the pre-game show for an NHL Stanley Cup playoff game between Washington and Tampa Bay.
All the other men were eating. But Ed chose not to, and it appeared he had been doing that for a while. The man had lost considerable weight since our previous meeting. I don’t think he weighed more than 100 pounds.
Eddie did not have a lot to say. His eyes never left the television, partly because it was an awkward moment I guess. Ed was with someone he no longer knew. It was as though a stranger had sat down beside him on the bus.
I didn’t test my old friend by asking if he knew who I was. When our eyes met, I knew the answer. Asking would only be problematic.
Ed did comment, however, on all the goals that were being scored — as though they’d just happened. What we were watching was a recorded feature about a player who’d scored a number of goals over a period of many games. Ed hadn’t picked up on that, not that it was big deal.
I went along with his excitement of seeing a player score so many goals in just minutes. “Look, he’s done it again!”
After we small-talked for 10 minutes or so, I was on my way. I bid Ed farewell and we shook hands. His handshake was still firm. So that hadn’t changed.
I promised Ed I’d see him again. He looked my way and said, “Thank you.” He was losing his facilities, but not his manners.
Saturday, July 7, 2018 …
Ed sat alone in a chair against the far wall of the dining room, his eyes glued to a wall-mounted TV. He was taking in a Hollywood action flick.
I pulled up a chair and sat down next to him. Ed glanced my way for all of half a second, said nothing, then returned to the movie.
We watched the show together without saying a word. After ten minutes or so, I broke the silence. “What have you been up to?” “Fuck all,” he said, “… fuck all.” Ed’s eyes never left the television.
“Get out much?” I interrupted. “Yes, I do. All the time,” he said without looking my way, “I go to the other side of that wall,” pointing to the wall that splits the dining room in half. I knew then and there where this was going …
“Don Hume says hello,” I added. Ed responded, “Don Humes … Don Humes …” as though he was trying to place his old soccer coach, and I’m sure he was. In an attempt to cover for a complete memory loss, he added, “Don should be coming by … where has he been?”
I informed Ed that Don Hume — who lives several thousands of miles away in New Brunswick — was ‘busy.’ That seemed to satisfy him.
I gave Eddie a New Brunswick calendar — a new 2019 calendar — still wrapped in cellophane. He wasted no time puncturing the wrapping to check out the beautiful images. The photo he studied most intently was that of a lighthouse not far from his home in Campbellton.
Ed remained quiet.
We got back to watching the movie … with Ed shaking his head every now and then — in frustration. “I told him not to do that!” he shouted, pointing to gunman who’d just blown away two or three people, maybe 20. Typical Hollywood BS. My old friend was not only watching a movie, he was involved, captivated. Like a child.
There were four other men in the room, but only one I recognized; I recalled joking with him a month or so earlier. This time there was no joking, no smiles. The man looked right through me, as though spellbound, and said not a word.
“Remember me?” I asked. He slowly shook his head. The blank look on his face screamed ‘no.’ In the time I’d been away, the gentleman had really gone downhill.
After 45 minutes, I bid Ed farewell, assured him that I’d be back but he was too wrapped up in his movie to pay any mind. And so I walked down the long hall to the locked door.
Oh. There were three newcomers in the dining room. [One sported a T-shirt that read, “Just My Luck.”] It meant that at least three ‘residents’ have left the ward since my last visit. Chances are they’re now in a hospice or a grave somewhere.
And so it goes.
[Video courtesy of John Bourque]
It was Sunday afternoon, 30 December 2018 — a cold day with drifting snow — when I dropped in to see Ed.
The visit was a huge disappointment. Ed has digressed to the point where he now does not know anyone, not even his own children. Hell, he doesn’t know who he is.
I walked into Ed’s room to see him standing by the window. I said, “Hi Ed.” He turned, mumbled something and walked past me and out into the hallway.
I’d arrived with a custom-made street sign to honour the man, which I put on the wall near his television.
I found my friend in the dining room, walked up to him and said, “So long, Ed, I’m leaving” and extended my hand for a handshake. Ed did as well, but it wasn’t for a handshake. His fingers touched my hand, then he pulled his hand back and turned away.
Ed Black died on Sunday, March 14, 2021, in a nursing home in South Edmonton, not far from where we once met for coffee. He was 72.
About a week or so earlier, Ed struggled to breathe and began receiving ‘end of life care’ — which meant extra pain killers, etc. He took his final breath with his daughter Erin by his side.
When asked to describe his father, Warren recalled he always tried to ‘lighten the mood’ with jokes and pranks. “He was either making you laugh,” he says, “or you were wanting to throttle him.” “While at times he was a complete goofball,” he adds, “his moral compass remained pretty strong.”
“He was certainly unique.”
Will there be a memorial service for Ed? Yes — but that’s on hold, again because of COVID. The plan is to rent a pub and have friends drop in to reminisce about the King of Wit and Pranks.
In his final days and months, Eddie didn’t have as many visitors — because of the COVID 19 restrictions. I’m sad to say I never got around to see my old friend at his last residence. I was told I likely wouldn’t be allowed in, so I stayed away. I regret not trying just the same.
Three days after his death, Ed’s remains were cremated.
There was a special homecoming for Ed Black in late September 2021. His ex, Judy, and their two children, Warren and Erin, made the climb up 1,000-foot high Sugarloaf Mountain at the southern edge of Campbellton ….
You’ve made me smile, then you made me cry …
Such a sad but fitting tribute to your friend Ed.
Thanks for this – I remember Eddie from my school days.
The ending is so sad, to be honest with you. Alzheimer is a very terrible disease, I’ve witnessed this with my Dad.
It sure would be a blessing if the medical society finds a cure for it.
Hi Karen, the Medical MAFIA is NOT interested in any cures! There is no $$$ in health but lotsa $$$ in the sickness industry! I KNOW the cures, and I LIVE the cures! I’m 68 and have NOT been sick a day since 1986, the year I went to a VEGETARIAN diet. (Now vegan).
I’m also an ATHLETE, who played hockey 40ish years. I still skate on my roller-blades, but I quit organized hockey, because I will NOT relate to, or accept the BOORISH behaviour of most players.
These care ‘homes’ are where the brain dead flesh-eating ZOMBIES take their parents to DIE! (a slow death) PERIOD. I came on here to find Byron to share the CURE with him, but it’s most likely a WASTE of my time! I’LL just say this and leave….’ALL DISEASE IS TOXICITY’. A lifetime of ingesting TORMENTED then SLAUGHTERED animals is about as TOXIC as it gets! I’m NOT from this DUMBension, so I keep to myself.
I started practicing ‘social distancing’ about 30 years ago to prevent the STUPID19 virus.
Hi, Russ Hook; I do agree with your comment about the Medical Mafia, especially after what we all have witnessed during the past 2 years . . . washing hands and social distancing goes a long ways in looking after our health and well-being.
I definitely do NOT agree with the lockdowns; the mandating of those deadly vaccines that their trying to force onto everyone. My gut feelings raised flags constantly after about 3 weeks or so; after we were asked to “flattened the curve for 2 weeks” way back in April 2020, if my memory is correct !
Being active is a good plan too, to keep fit. Your choice on the food issues is no doubt a good plan too, but I do like food – in a sensible variety – I normally eat more fish than meat, and to me – that’s okay too.
Ed was a good friend, always wondered where he went!!
I graduated with Eddie at CHS, we were in the same class from Grades 10 – 12.
So, so sad.
You are a wordsmith of the highesr caliber … thank you for this story, so many memories, and realities.
Eddie will always be remembered by anyone’s path he crossed.
Sad story but still a lovely one — thanks for caring about your friends!
My heart is crushed, this must be so hard on you Byron. Love your writing. Thank you. Love the ending.
I will never forget Ed … he was a special friend. He comes to mind anytime we talk about the good old days growing up in Campbelltown.
Thanks for such a nice article. You brought a tear to my eye.
Oh, Byron … such a heart-rending story about Eddie (that was what we called him in high school).
There but for the grace of God, go any one of the class of ’67! And more of us sooner than later. It is wonderful the way you keep in touch with so many of us … you will have to be the last to go so you can finish all our life stories.
Hope you have a meaningful, joyous and Merry Christmas, Byron, and get to see you soon. Cheers, Old Friend.
Sent from my iPad
Life is not fair! We, unfortunately, are at an age where our bodies are breaking down.
This is quite a tribute to Ed. I know he would get a kick out of it; at the same time, it shows your compassion and friendship qualities. Good article — as usual.
My, Byron, what a well-written story but truly sad. It brought back so many memories as I grew up with Elaine, Ta and Alley.
It was my second home and Elaine was one of my best friends. I kept in contact with Elaine until she passed away.
Thanks for writing this article. A sad but beautiful tribute to Ed.
Byron, this is a remarkable story. As well as your other stories.
Thanks for sharing and keep up the great work. God Bless!
This is a sad and touching story. We went through a very similar scenario before my mother-in-law died. Her dementia was brought on by Parkinson’s.
Your story is a lovely tribute to an old and valued friend.
Thank you Byron for a beautifully-written, poignant story of enduring friendship.
My mom had Alzheimer’s and you have captured the essence of the disease very well.
Spent a lot of time with Ta and he was the most mischievous of all my friends. You had to be pretty sharp or he would slip one by you.
Thanks for this.
My husband also has dementia. It has been at least 5 years. We are both from Dalhousie but since 1975 we have been living in Moncton.
I cried too! Damn, I hate when that happens.
God Bless you, Byron. No, wait … he already has!
Thank you for sharing the story of your friend, so sad.
Like always, well-written and good memories of the past.
As we all age, this story, unfortunately, is very familiar. Just change the name.
Sometimes I think there are things worse than death. The scourge of Alzheimer’s is one.
That’s sad about Ed. I remember him well.
Thanks for this article on our good friend, Ed.
Ta and I used to hang out at Bill (his brother), and Muriel’s place on Roseberry Street.
My dad suffered from Alzheimers and it’s very painful for those who are close, to watch the deteriorating affects of this disease.
I feel for Ta, think of him often and what he’s going through.
Thank you for calling me during one of your visits with Ta, so he and I could talk about our past.
This story is a marvelous gift for humankind.
Not only is it shared on social media, but even the ensuing sharing of the story between friends and family brings love to your friend, Ed, and to you for writing it … and to all those who tenderly repeat it. It is a story of love.
Thank you for this.
A very touching story and at Ed’s age, very sad.
My mom was in the early stages when we lost her before that horrible Godless-insult to humanity had set in.
At least she got to enjoy most of her grandkids and great-grandkids. But a lot of people don’t … and with all our technology [and more research] we should be able to beat Alzheimer’s.
We could fund the research with some of the billions of dollars our governments squander annually.
Oh my gosh Byron, thanks so much for doing this article, the story was heartbreaking because you and the family suffer more than he does, or at least it is what they lead us to believe.
My Mom had it and for 4 years, we watched as she faded away … cancer actually took her life, but Alzheimers took her away.
I don’t remember Ed, but for those of you who do, it hurts and hurts deeply … I will pray for him and for all his friends.
It is the unknown that is the hardest to deal with, I would ask myself does Mom think we don’t love her, when we had to place her in a good care center in Campbellton, when we leave her, and turn back and see her look at us, is she afraid, oh the questions, the hurting and wondering.
It is the worst of diseases and still no cure … hugs to all who face this same dilemma.
This is so sad as I knew Eddie very well.
We often wonder where people are and try to think of them as we remember them in high school …
Thank you. I especially appreciated the nugget, “It’s because I know who he is.”
It has been scientifically proven that there is a link between aluminum toxicity and Alzheimers. Most people are unaware (and the government would like it to stay that way) about the nano-particles of aluminum that are sprayed everyday in our skies without our consent. It is known as geoengineering.
For people who are experiencing symptoms of dementia, research common ways of absorbing aluminum other than geoengineering (so you can prevent adding to the toxicity levels in your brain) and research how to detoxify your body of aluminum. It can be done!!!
A very well written story about our good old Speed Demon friend.
Time and memories go by very fast. I have the Speed Demon book in my bedroom. If I am down a little, I pick it up to bring back all my childhood memories and friends.
The best years of my young life … Don and all the boys.
You spoke of Ed beautifully. Captured his humor, compassion and the love of life he has. Still.
I now know Ed through your sensitive rendition of his journey to another place.
Thanks for yet another soulful insight.
What a beautiful summary you gave, although sad.
You have a heart of gold.
I’m glad you are Eddie’s friend, visiting with him and taking him on outings.
There are new meds now to quiet down the progress of it.
Thank you for taking him on those lovely outings.
You are unique, Byron, as is your writing style – stark, yet subtle, touching. Thank you.
You are still the Defender, the big guy behind us, looking out for his teammates and protecting the ‘tender.
Thanks for that as well.
I enjoyed your article on Eddie. It was very interesting.
I am the bus driver where Eddie lives. We met one day at the reception desk.
What a truly incredible friend you are putting this story/tribute together.
Ed has always been larger than life — a kind,warm, loving, comical and welcoming person that you can’t help but like and you have captured so much of him in your article.
My favourite memories of Ed involve his keen wit and sense of humour. You could always expect the unexpected to come out of his mouth — in a humorous way of course!
My Bro in law Cory (Ed’s nephew) sent me the link to your powerful and touching piece.
Ed’s struggle with memory loss and how it has affected him and those family and friends around him really hits home in your writing.
I learned much about Ed’s past I never knew before; the Speed Demon Soccer Club and the people Ed knew in his younger days, Ed’s friends, mentors, and heroes.
It’s sad from my perspective to hear about Ed’s condition not seeing Ed for many years, I can imagine how hard it must be for immediate family and good friends as yourself.
I remember visiting Ed in Edmonton with my wife Deb, decades ago. Ed was the sharpest tack in the drawer — and funny. You also had to watch out for the next comic stunt he would pull just to get a rise out of everyone. So many stories 🙂
When I first heard Ed was showing signs of dementia I thought it sad for him and family. I couldn’t help but think, here’s a guy who had kissed the blarney stone, very intelligent and a quick wit. Yet I wondered if something like dementia would hit myself or family member … a scary thought.
Here’s hoping medical science comes up with a solution to this debilitating disease that so many have suffered and still suffer from.
As your writing explains; this disease affects the people around the victims of dementia in a profound way.
To watch helplessly as someone close deteriorates mentally is sad, frustrating and painful.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories Byron.
Thinking of Ed’s family.
Aww I’ll miss you Uncle Ed ❤️
I love my uncle so much, and it’s been absolutely heartwrenching to see him deteriorate so fast.
I miss Ed. He’s here physically but otherwise gone. It’s a brutal disease and it literally steals people away from themselves and from those they love.
I recently spent time visiting him. His [ex] came and trimmed and cut his beard and hair. She amazes me how she still takes time out for him. He was happy to see her and smiled the whole time.
Thank you for being so kind to Ed. He always treated me so good and was an amazing uncle, one I grew to love so much.
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This was a beautifully written, heart-wrenching tribute to your good friend. After I read it, I just sat here speechless with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.
And I didn’t even know Ed — but he was a good friend of my brother John Bourque who was telling me recently about his last visit with Ed when he took the picture you ended your article with.
It brought back memories of our mom who also developed dementia in her later years and of our stepfather Ken who was so devoted and cared for her so tenderly until the end.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights and empathy once again in this fine article.
This is a beautiful tale of trying to make sense of what is happening to our old friend, Ed Black.
When we were having a personal experience watching Ed declining, it ripped our guts out and made us cry. Now I realize this was a beautiful healing for you and I in silence.
Thank you for allowing me to experience this with you, my friend.
I will always remember Ed, the Shadow Man.
Amid all the service and sales correspondence I regularly receive, I almost deleted the email “Losing your mind.” Then I remembered Byron Christopher. Yes, Ed’s friend who had written such a wonderful tribute to my wife’s uncle.
At first I thought it was the last news — Ed was gone — and then I quietly thought of how sadly ironic my thought was.
I quickly read the latest update and could only empathize with Byron; Ed had lost another part of himself.
Ed Black had an effect on people. He stuck out as a leader and a guy who enjoyed life, who for a while played life as though he owned it.
Life can be great but it can be just as cruel. Life has no favourites.
For moments when I contemplate life, this is one of them, Byron.
Thanks for the update on Ed … and yourself. Take care and all the best.
What a great friend you are. This made me cry. It’s so sad.
I’m Muriel’s (Moosie) cousin. Ta’s brother, Bill, built a cottage in Pokemouche, New Brunswick, where my family lived. Ta and Allie would come and help. They were so much fun. Such great memories.
Thank you for being a true friend.
Such a sad story by the best friend he could ever have.
It reminded me of an experience I had. I was with Larry sitting by his bed in emergency. Next to us was an elderly lady who had broken her arm. Her two daughters came to visit and kept reminding her of their names and correcting her when she mixed them up. They insisted she have a purple cast because it had always been her fav. color.
As they were leaving, the doctor took them aside and suggested they not constantly correct her. If she mixed them up, what did it matter and it frustrated her. They left once she had the purple cast on her arm.
As I was leaving, I stopped and told her what a pretty cast she had, even though I don’t like purple. She said thank you.
Thanks again for being there for Eddie. I read your blog again and it brought back so many fond memories of our youth, building strong bonds with our fellow teammates, and learning so much from Donnie Hume [coach] and our meetings in the church basement. Knowledge learned, that we carried with us to become successful thriving adults, parents, and now, grandparents and retirees.
Please keep the posts coming my way; I really enjoy your writing style, which also reminds me of your quick wit while we were growing up together “on the hill.”
I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what it feels like to have in one way lose him twice.
I have fond memories of who I called ‘Ta’ when he visited Pokemouche with his brothers Bill and Allie (excuse the spelling) when Bill and Moosie were building their cottage. Good memories. May he Rest In Peace.
I would occasionally cross paths with you as I went to visit Ed and take him out. He would also sometimes tell me about your visits, in the beginning when his memory was better.
Your determination to support your friend touched my life forever. Thank you for making me a better person and for bringing joy to Ed.
Ed will be forever missed and his enthusiasm always felt when I go walking at the Lois Hole Park, a favourite place for us to go and count the ducks.
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Thank you for this amazing story!
I am fortunate to have spent many campfires and family dinners with this man. I was Ed’s nephew through marriage, and I have very fond memories of him! I would constantly say to my friends “You have to meet my uncle Ed! He is one of a kind!”
My fondest memories of Ed are building campfires at Pigeon Lake, Alberta. I can still smell the sweet scent of Ed’s pipe tobacco. The odd time he would let us (his son and I) taste some of it. LOL. My Mom had some words to say about that … but he would de-escalate the situation before it ever became a problem. Smooth talker, he was.
One of my favourite parts of your article is when Ed would introduce you to people as “Hey, have you met my father?” Hahahaha. He would also publicly embarrass my siblings and I any chance he got.
One time, was during the Women’s World Cup in Edmonton, I believe in 2000. I am from a small town in Alberta, Rocky Mountain House, so coming up to the city was an exciting time. After the soccer game, we had to take a city bus to our parking spot, and when we got on the well-packed bus and started to move, Ed yelled out “HEY, Bus Driver!! Can you slow down a bit? This is my nephew’s first time on a city bus, and he is a little scared.” Let’s just say my face turned very red, even though I didn’t want to admit it.
The last time I saw Ed was at his old downtown apartment building while I attended the U of A, probably 11 years ago. My brother and I sat around his table and talked for a couple hours. We had a lot to catch up on and it was a very good visit.
Thank you again for writing this, and more importantly, thank you for being such a good friend to Ed!