My most constant companion

I didn’t realize or anticipate Terry Fox having such an influence on my Canadian bike ride crossing. Of course, I had heard of him. The whole country of Canada knows his name. When I was a kid, I use to participate and raise money for the Terry Fox Run for Cancer.

For those not familiar with Terry Fox. Terry is probably one of the most beloved and known Canadians there has ever been. On April 12, 1980, with one leg having been amputated due to cancer, he embarked on an east to west cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. His run was cut short on September 1 after 5,373 kilometres just outside Thunder Bay, Ontario because the cancer was back and in his lungs. On June 28, 1981, a month before his 23rd birthday Terry passed.

I was always aware that St John’s Newfoundland was Terry’s starting point and it only made sense to visit his monument. I guess I just did not anticipate the emotions of standing before his larger than life statue. The moment was actually rather emotional given my own journey to this point. And considering that it was November 12, 2019 and I was about to start a 50,000 kilometer bike ride into a Canadian winter. I could not permit myself to take a selfie at Terry’s statue. I had not earned the right.

6,550 kilometers and 7 months later on June 18th I would find myself standing before Terry’s memorial in Thunder Bay. Prior to this moment I felt I only had one other major milestone. Pedalling 4,900 kilometers on March 19th on the first day of Spring. I had survived the winter. Visiting Terry’s memorial in Thunder Bay would be my second major milestone of this bike ride and this time I did take my selfies at Terry’s monument.

On my social media post someone commented about Terry’s memorial in Victoria on Vancouver Island. I had no idea about that memorial but the second that I had heard about that memorial I realized my Canadian crossing would come to an end at that memorial. Terry Fox memorial to Terry Fox memorial.

During my time in Vancouver, I would also visit the Terry Fox Plaza outside BC Place (Home of the CFL BC Lions). During my time in Vancouver an old friend from more than 25 years ago completely surprised me with a Facebook message. Graeme had been following my ride from the beginning and saw that I was in Vancouver. Many, many years earlier Graeme had moved his family out to Coquitlam (30 kilometers outside Vancouver).

Coquitlam is right beside Port Coquitlam where Terry had spent much of his life growing up and was now where is body has been laid to rest. On September 15 Graeme took me out visit Terry’s grave site. The cemetery was about as unassuming and plain a cemetery had I ever seen. It was such a surreal experience to be standing before both his and his parents’ grave sites (on either side of Terry). Images of Terry engraved with each parent and his own engraving on his own stone. All three stone flat and ground level. Nothing fancy or to suggested here lies one of Canada’s most beloved heroes.

All three of their stones were caked in old grass clippings created by a lawnmowers spray of wet grass. It was quite a moment to have made my way across Canada the way I did and have all the experiences that I had and to find myself wiping off and cleaning Terry Fox’s and his parent grave stones.

On October 17th eleven months after my journey started, I would find myself in Victoria BC looking up at the final Terry Fox memorial. Pedalling 12,340 km’s between his St Johns memorial and his Victoria memorial. It was a pretty amazing feeling to have crossed a country as large and as proud as Canada especially the way I did it and to find myself standing before this larger than life statue of a man. Few accomplishments will ever compare in a life time.

Every once in a while someone says that I have gift for writing. www.safariarie.ca

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