24 September 2007


One year ago today my friend Ryan Taylor took a bus from Toronto to Niagara Falls and ended his life. His body was not identified for several days, on the New York side of the river. Missing person reports caused intense distress and confusion. Ryan would never have intended to add such extra anguish to family and friends. In solitary preparation, he had tied up a number of professional loose ends. He had completed and returned the updates for his courses at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. He spent time to sort his papers for sending to an local archive. He timed his leave when the first television season of Ancestors in the Attic was wrapped. For all I know, he may have done the same tidying up in his job as a librarian. Ryan liked things tidy.

Suspicions of alternate scenarios die hard when people are shocked. Those are the people who knew him as the bigger than life, commanding but charming presence ... the speaker who could captivate an audience, patiently explain family history to a library patron, share tea and cake or cocktails and appetizers with friends of all ages. So many friends. So much talent. He never failed to amuse with his encyclopaedic knowledge and humour. Then it was easy to induce and share his irresistible laughter. Those were the good times. He needed and loved them. In lonely times, which he couldn’t share, he was diminished and finally defeated.

Endogenous depression is very, very difficult for the afflicted person to admit, express, describe or share ... close to impossible. This is not the same as exogenous depression which results from a drastic “life event,” usually a one-time happening. Endogenous means recurring or chronic bouts of debilitating mental suffering that has physical as well as mental effects. 

Chronic depressives are almost helpless to fight the unpredictable biochemical change that plunges them into a bottomless black pool of deep anxiety, self-recrimination, self-loathing, panic attacks, agoraphobia and/or suicidal thoughts, not to mention shame at their inability to control it. Medication works for the fortunate few. Medication often means years of monitored experimentation to find something that works. And often a hard, discouraging journey in itself.

My dear friend. How we wish we could have eliminated your pain. You would have loved the last joke we never got to share. Your everlovin’ buddy, Brenda Harriman.

19 September 2007

Plus ca change ...

As the plodder moves on through book revision, finishing one chapter at a time, it is this writer's fate to learn that some source or reference has changed, something new has been added, something old was replaced. A non-fiction 'textbook' must be as up-to-date as possible. Imagine that, when the world of genealogy has embraced the Internet with mucho gusto. The seductive, sly and slightly neurotic Internet.

Keeping track of URLs is bad enough. But whoa, it's back
yet again to rewrite even less happy news. The Archives of Ontario has stopped its photocopying service in the Reading Room, replacing it with order forms for service and longer waits. Even more serious, Library and Archives Canada has made drastic reductions in its open hours and service ... after their publicly announced commitment earlier this year to the ideals of family history. Quite the catch-22. By channelling their efforts into more electronic resources, LAC shortchanges all the researchers who need their on-site material.

And my carefully revised section on adoption may be defenestrated. Ontario's long-planned new legislation to open formerly sealed records was finally implemented this month. Just days later a Superior Court judge struck it down as unconstitutional.

I'm at the mercy of these people, whoever they are. And sadder for it.