Marilyn Gear Pilling of Hamilton writes about Gordon Sheppard, whose obituary ran on March 4.
On Monday, July 26, 2004, I picked up Gordon Sheppard's magnum opus, HA!, and began to read. The act changed my life.
When I had read all 865 pages and staggered forth into the world I had left six days before, I was no longer the same person. Though I had never written to an author, I wrote to Gordon. Keep on, he said. A month later, he said he was experiencing a phenomenon he had heard of but never lived: epistolary love. Would I come to Montreal and have dinner with him and his wife?
The address turned out to be a four-storey mansion at Peel and Sherbrooke. A beautiful woman exquisitely gowned in black met me at the door, embraced me, and led me into a huge room. The first thing I saw was a fully-grown, fully-equipped centaur. A few minutes later, I heard purposeful footsteps descend the hardwood stairs. A slight, boyish figure entered the room and came at me arms wide. I was embraced in a hug the strength and length of which I had never experienced.
Thus began one of the most profound and transforming love relationships of my life. Gordon and I would be in almost daily contact for the last 18 months of his life. I would wear a path to Montreal and he would come to my home in Hamilton. I would be given a Peel Street apartment rent-free in which to write, spending evenings at his bedside, where my three books lay beside his water glass. No matter what happened, Gordon's mantra was, "Make art of it."
Gordon Sheppard taught me how to live and how to die. He taught me what courage is. He beamed the sun of his unconditional love into every cell of my body. Our short walk together left me a person of greater faith in self and others, a person with more capacity for love.