The world seemed to stop on Gabriola when Jeff left this life.
I knew it was coming, but it still blindsided me. It was so difficult sitting in my neat little world out at Mussel Beach, knowing that my friend was going downhill. I waited daily for those words from Jeff, “Good Morning Gabriola”.
As long as I saw those words, all was still good, there was still hope, and Holy shit, this didn’t just happen, did it?
Seeing old friends, reminiscing, shedding tears, and yet, calling it a celebration. He deserved to be celebrated. It’s amazing to see all the lives he touched, all the directions he influenced and all the love he shared, Jeff Molloy.
I don’t have a lot of current stories. My time with Jeff was, although he still plays a big part in my life, started in 1977 when we were young. At that time I seemed to be directionless, whereas he had this grounded, focus like a border collie who has a flock to corral.
I had heard about this Jeff Molloy from friends in Guildwood, Scarborough; Peter, Bill, Dave, Gord, Julian…
“You have to meet Jeff, you guys would be great…” (Was it that they thought that we’d be great friends? Or that I needed help?)
One night over at Pete’s, I decide to leave because it had been a long day of smoking weed and I wasn’t able to talk anymore (a tell tale sign for me that the days done) and as I stood on Pete’s back doorstep at 1am, along came this incredible groovy guy with long blond hair, suede leather jacket with fringes, a backpack and guitar hanging off his back. I mean, how cliche cool is that? Pete let out a loud “Holy Shit”, jumped out, hugged him and said, “Mark, this is Jeff”.
“Mmmnphhhey” I said, in my Intelligent fog. We sat up most of the night and managed to actually connect. At least I think so because we started hangin….
Lots of stories started building after that – stories of downtown Toronto record shopping, musical exploration, frisbee football, concerts, walking through the magical forest. Stories of youth, stories of a group of kids with no responsibilities and who had an urge to shake things up. Question and challenge everything. I was not necessarily one to challenge, that’s where Jeff came in.
So as I mingled with the crowd that assembled for Jeff’s celebration, it became clear that stories of record shopping, or what and where the magical forest is, made peoples eyes glaze over and covertly look around for someone with something more contemporary.
I totally understand. The Jeff that I see in peoples eyes, the artist, the teacher, the social guide, is bigger than life, at least I think so. He’s a professor, standing up in front of hundreds of fellow artists and intellectuals, describing his art, his views and beliefs. He’s had numerous, high profile art shows, he’s been interviewed on CBC. He’s a politician, an honest one, laying the truth out whether you like it or not. He’s a family man, father, brother and papa, to his close and talented family.
So confident. For years I was amazed at his ability to grab the bull by the horns and go with it.
And then I hear Jeff’s voice…”Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, man”.
“What the hell do you mean by that??”
“Work it out dude”.
And I know. Always teaching, challenging you to use your own brain, and heart.
So I have to tell you about the whirlwind weekend. My family, Danielle, Jenna and Jazzy (Kyle unfortunately couldn’t make it) were all included with the extended family and close friends in a large house on Gabriola. A lot of us were from Toronto and the Guildwood/Scarborough area, so we yakked about old haunts, old friends and old times. On the first night, we had the opportunity to see Jeff all splendid in his custom made Jack Pine coffin. We had mementos and messages that we placed in the coffin for Jeff to have. People who had been with him in the final days said he looked quite good, I on the other hand thought he looked a little under the weather…..but it was still Jeff.
I’ll tell you this right now, the whole weekend seem to revolve around food, candy (thanks Isabel), weed, and more food. We didn’t have any schedule down around meals, but it seemed like we were always eating. Those of you who know Jeff, know that he was a gargantuan weed smoker (thanks for the term Chris, it suits him) and looking back at our youth, we were all huge weed smokers, so it seemed fitting to carry on that tradition.
On the morning of Jeff’s celebration, we all headed to the cemetery on Gabriola. Clad in our ‘Jack Pine’ uniform of red and black check mackinaws, shirts, scarves (courtesy of Jeff’s sister Joanne) and even a pair of red and black check socks (classy Marshal!) We watched as Jeff was laid to rest in his handcrafted pine box on this beautiful hillside overlooking the ocean and a crest of Garry Oak trees. Jeff’s character in art, Jack Pine, would have been proud. I was surprised to learn of the legal hoops the family had to jump through to have him buried not only in a ‘custom’ casket, but also without being embalmed. Oh how Jeff would have challenged that….
It was a beautiful service with song, speeches and heartfelt tears and thanks.
Then we moved to the public celebration where Jeff and Kathryn’s kids Jules, Gavin and Kate sang their favourite Papa songs and more speeches were made for the hundreds of attendees. A bittersweet gathering.
And finally and more private, a fireside gathering of close friends and family. We were all knackered by then and some lasted till the wee hours, while others (myself included) retired at a reasonable hour.
I can’t thank the family and friends enough for the time and effort spent in making the celebration not only happen, but go over flawlessly! …and to Margi and Chris for the use of their home and tireless (or so it seemed) efforts.
Kathryn, Laurie, Jules (and Chloe), Gavin (and Megan), Kate (and Dan), Marshal (and Donna), Joanne (and Leonard), Peter, Isabel, and all the kids; Lily, Ivy, Luca, Arlo, and Nellie Rose, you are fantastic friends and all part of a beautiful family. Thank you so much for including us, we are so grateful!
And to Jeff, thank you for being there, for the reality checks and support. I’ll be calling on you again my friend!