Saturday, May 23, 2015
Michael seems to continue to meet people who in one way or another inspire him with their emotions and life experiences. It looks like it has become the continuing theme of his messages:
"We wake to the alarm. We get dressed and go to have breakfast. Olivier is quite surprised by the generous breakfast. We talk a little more about biking in Canada, all the things we have seen along the way and about Olivier's work. He has been to Afghanistan when he was in the French army, but when he got back there was no support for him. He had to arrange that himself. He quit his job, because he wanted to have a different life. He is clearly emotional. He has lost some good friends over there...
We go back to the room and Olivier starts packing up his things. He is not in hurry, which is fine with me since I am not going anywhere today. I am somewhat disappointed though, because I could have biked today after all. It froze lightly last night and it's still cold, but it's not raining and it didn't snow!
When Olivier is ready to leave he gives me a big hug. It surprises me. He is very grateful but has trouble expressing it because his English is not that good. He says he will keep his promise to help someone along the way and to promote my tour wherever he can. ”I will send you some videos when I am back in France”. I see tears in his eyes and he thanks me again. “You are my angel”, he says. As I watch him leave I think of what is potentially waiting out there for him. His bike is not in the best shape, it is wobbly and the tires are deteriorating...
Once Olivier is gone, I go back inside. The phone rings and I answer: “Hello, this is Brenda,” I hear a lady say. “Can I interview you today?” She is a reporter from the local newspaper who read my email this morning and tracked me through my GPS to the motel. We agree to meet.
It is a nice interview and halfway through it gets a special twist when she tells me that she met Terry Fox personally just outside Wawa. In those days she was a waitress and she had just finished work and she followed him on her bicycle. Terry held a speech at the Townhall. Wawa is the village that contributed the most money per inhabitant to the Marathon of Hope!
When Brenda leaves at 3 o'clock, I get a Skype call from my youngest son. When we finish, I still haven't had any lunch! So I go to Tim Hortons and have a coffee and a doughnut. Delicious! A woman comes in who wears a scarf around her head and I immediately realize she that may have cancer. I wonder if I should speak to her or give her a wristband. But I am hesitant; who am I to just do something like that? Once I'm outside though, I clearly feel that I need to speak to her so I go back in. Her name is Yvonne and she has been diagnosed with cancer three times and has to undergo one more chemo treatment. Today is the first day that she feels better and two of her friends are taking her out for tea and a donut: her first food in days, she says. We talk about her struggle and when I tell her of my battle with sarcoidosis her eyes fill with tears. “Exactly!”, she says. “It's exactly like you say, that is how I experiened it as well.”
It is a remarkable meeting and she insists on giving me $20 to support me. I refuse to accept it but she keeps insisting and I don't want to disappoint her.
When I go to a restaurant to have something to eat I park my bike outside the window where I can see it. It quickly gets reactions from people. The restaurant owner asks if I am going to White River. Yes, I tell her, tomorrow. She urges me to look up a young girl named Samantha who has cancer and is very ill. The people in the area are doing everything to support her and it will do her well. When she tries to find out the girl’s address, the cook in the kitchen tells her that the girl has moved to Winnipeg, where she is being treated for her illness. I will certainly try to contact her to see if she would appreciate my visit.
Initially I felt I could have biked today, but as soon as Olivier left, one thing after another happened. I suppose it was meant to be that way. It seems to fit with all the remarkable experiences I'm having on this journey. Where is it going to stop? To be honest, sometimes it feels strange. I never thought it would go this way. I am truly grateful for the fact that I'm still here. Two years ago I sometimes doubted that. I somehow knew I would be strong enough to survive my illness; but to have the strength to take on this incredibly tough cycling tour and meet all these wonderful and sometimes very emotional people, I had never expected. Despite the fact that I miss my wife and children, I am very pleased and happy that I am allowed to do this and I am grateful for every single moment.
Oh yes, the crow... it is still here but I just can't seem to take a picture of it. Tomorrow is another day, 92 km to White River. My odometer reads 2,000 km!"
Han Schomakers, editor
Translation by Sytske van der Veen