Hodge: Friend’s demise proves premature

I admit to a sense of guilt at feeling relief regarding a stranger’s demise.

It is rare (very rare) when I can honestly say I am glad to turf a heart-felt, tear-touched, freshly written column into the computer trash bin just before it is submitted for print.

I gladly did so about two minutes ago and with little time left on my column deadline clock. It is Thursday morning and I can only gleefully chuckle and smile as I scramble for creative thoughts to fill this space after trashing my ready-to-run copy.

The reason for my enthusiasm is simple. I had written a column saying farewell to a long-time friend and inspiration.

When a family member of mine suggested they had heard a few days ago that a friend (I will call him Jack) may have died I was devastated.

Naturally, I checked the newspapers and online the next day but did not find any mention of it.

I checked around again yesterday and still saw nothing, and while I was surprised that I had not seen anything about ‘Jack’ in the news (after all he is fairly well known) I sat down and began to write a tribute to him.

This morning I decided I had better confirm his demise and see if indeed his funeral had already been held. Still, no news coverage.

My wife (wise Tez that she is) suggested I check the obits, so I did.

It turns out to be a case of mistaken identification.

Apparently (and thankfully for my ‘Jack’ and his family) he is still alive. Another fellow with the same name (slightly different spelling of the last name) unfortunately was the victim of life’s draining hour glass.

I admit to a sense of guilt at feeling relief regarding a stranger’s demise. Such a feeling is understandable but still somewhat uncomfortable.

However, I likewise admit great relief in not announcing to the world that a well known friend of mine was dead before they actually are. That sort of thing tends to damage friendships.

Ironically it was less than a month ago that a similar scenario happened involving myself.

Recently a dear friend of mine lost his father named Charlie. When he sent out emails to some of his friends announcing his dad’s demise (simply announced as ‘Charlie’ with no last name) it rattled a couple of folks.

A few common friends briefly thought it was me. One friend of mine actually called my house cautiously and was clearly pleased when I answered.


“Yes, hello?”

“Oh crap, I thought you were dead, but you’re not. I’m so glad.”

“Well, so am I,” I chuckled, set back slightly by the opening to the conversation.

It’s always reassuring to know that one is still alive, even if they feel pretty beat up from too much fun the night before.

As for my buddy Jack, he’s still alive and kicking with probably no idea I missed him.

Speaking of alive and kicking, a very sincere and hearty congratulations is due to long time buddy and Okanagan icon Don Burnett.

A well known Kelowna gardening guru, Capital News gardening columnist and rock drummer, Burnett can now add Black Belt first Dan to his list of accomplishments.

I was honoured to attend his final black belt testing and presentation last Saturday at the Quest Martial Arts Academy.

He has been intensely studying tae kwon do for more than six years and continued to persevere through some difficult challenges in order to get his belt.

Not only did he have to learn all the various techniques that are physically demanding and challenging, he also learned a great amount of the history and philosophy behind it.

Overseeing his years of training and tests has been instructors fourth Dan Chris Rowe and eighth Dan Master Dan Zaleski.

I have had the real honour of being close to Don Burnett since our parents worked together the 1960s. My mom and Don were very close friends and as a kid I worshipped Donny as my hero because he was a rock’n roll drummer.

I have been well aware of how hard Don has worked and how focused he was on achieving this milestone, so I share with his wife Donna, family, and many friends in a hearty congratulations.

I also want to give full cheers to Rose Sexsmith and Glenna Turnbull in acknowledging their recent selection as winners of the Kelowna Civic Awards. Glenna received hers for work in the arts and Rose as woman of the year.

More on both of these angels in a future HodgePodge column.  Well done ladies!