Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Good Story Has Ended

Back in the day, when I was the Library Director at the Houston Public Library, it fell on me to facilitate the book club. To be honest, most of the titles that were chosen were not to my taste at all. But every now and then I would be introduced to an author and a story that were nothing short of amazing. One such incidence led me to Richard Wagamese's Ragged Company, the story of a group of homeless people who win the lottery.

I was enthralled!

The story possessed that wonderful mixture of humour and sorrow in thought-provoking prose that touched a tender part of me. Any story that can make me cry or laugh out loud, that can draw me in and make me care about the characters, is likely to find its way onto my book shelf as a permanent part of my precious collection. I rarely buy fiction to keep, but Ragged Company holds a special place in my heart and on my shelf.

I knew nothing about the author. Richard Wagamese was a name printed on the cover of the book and nothing more. I knew nothing of his heritage or his life; I only knew that he wrote a damn good story and I wanted more.

His name came up in library circles and I soon learned that he was Canadian and lived in Kamloops, BC. I was never successful in getting him to visit HPL to do a reading and I never met him in person, but he continued to be a part of my life through his books. In my heart he was a friend, a soul who helped me see different perspectives and who taught me, through his example, what forgiveness really means.

On March 10, 2017 Richard Wagamese died at his home in Kamploops. He was 61 years old. I do not know the circumstances of his death. I do know that upon hearing of his demise, I felt deep sadness over the loss. What I have to hold onto, though, are his stories. I have not read all of his books, but knowing they are still there and that I can still connect to his beautiful mind any time gives me comfort. We can still be friends.

Richard Wagamese lived an interesting life. As a child he was taken from his parents and put into the foster system. His life there was not a happy one and he ran away many times, looking, I suppose, for something to fill the emptiness he must have been experiencing. From the time he was taken from his family as a toddler, 21 years passed before he saw them again. It was a long journey to healing as he traversed the dark halls of alcohol abuse and homelessness and learned how to come to terms with all that had happened to him. Richard Wagamese found his salvation in the written word. A journalist, a novelist and a teller of stories, Richard Wagamese was Story.

The world has shifted a little for me now. It is different without this incredible man's spirit to bring more stories to life. Perhaps the stories he did write are enough. Perhaps he had told all the stories he came here to tell. For sure, the stories he left us with are treasures to be kept. And I will keep them in the vault of my heart.

Rest in Power! You are missed. 

You can find his books here: Richard Wagamese. 

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