Ken Bovey Part 9: Montreal

June 13th, 2011 was the 20th anniversary of the death of a friend of mine, Ken Bovey.   Ken died at the age of 32 from scleroderma, a rare auto-immune disease.  This is the story of the last 10 months of Ken’s life.  It is a story of how one man prepared for his own death.

I felt as if I’d been hit by a truck, so confused and tired was I from all that had happened with Ken.  Two days after Ken’s death, Nancy called me and asked me to give the eulogy at his funeral on June 18th in Montreal.   I said I would be honoured.

On June 17th, Shelley and I made the drive to Montreal and stayed at Nancy and Chris’s.   Nancy held up well.  She had too much to do hosting friends and family for Ken’s funeral to have time to let go into her grief.

Tuesday 18 June 1991

The morning of Ken’s funeral, June 18th, dawned a beautiful late-spring day.  The funeral was held at St. Andrew’s and St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in downtown Montreal.   The sun shone soothingly through the stained glass windows upon about 60 people, mostly family and friends of Nancy and Chris’s.    After scripture readings and a reflections by the minister, I was invited to deliver the eulogy.

I cannot remember precisely what I said, so drained was I, but it went something like this:

“Being young and idealistic university students, studying political philosophy, Ken and I would often would engage in deep discussions about reality and the meaning of life – for hours.  Often, when I didn’t agree with Ken, I would exclaim, “Bovey, you don’t get it   You just don’t get it! “   Ironically, in the end, he did get it!   He died in peace and in love.   Ken prepared for his death in faith that God would rescue him from his fear.   He was courageous in this regard and he prayed constantly, not for spiritual healing, but for peace.  He died a hero’s death, one that should inspire us all.”

After the prayers in the chapel, we got into the limo and made our slow, sad way along la rue Cotes des Nieges to la cemeterie de Mont Royale.    There, the limo stopped behind the hearse and we got out.   The funeral attendants opened the gate of the hearse and pulled Ken’s casket out.  As they made their way up the slight incline to the open grave, I realized there was nothing else to look forward to in my journey with Ken.

In a moment sudden, in my minds eye, a window appeared and curtains were drawn open.   I looked through this window to what I can only say was a timeless place.   The vexing problems of my own earthly life - even the sorrow of the moment – evaporated instantly.  I was neither afraid nor overwhelmed with joy at this revelation.

I snapped back to the present moment and watched the pallbearers lift Ken’s casket over the grave.  An attendant confidently ran a line of salt up the casket and then diagonally across it in the form of the cross.    When the last of the mourners assembled around the grave, the minister opened his bible and raised his right arm into the air.   With his fingers, he made the a sort of peace sign, but his fingers were together in blessing, as he prayed.  I was overcome with joy when I realized it was the same sign Ken showed me the last time I saw him alive.   “See you, Pat,” indeed!

After the prayers, I looked to my left and finally Nancy crumpled in grief, her sons Geoff and Steve holding her up under her arms.   In my heart, I recognized in Nancy’s sorrow the Virgin Mary broken hearted and weeping at the foot of her son’s cross.  I choked on my own sobs, as I stood there in the sunshine in front of Ken’s grave.

Following the funeral, we walked slowly to the limousine and made our way west to Pointe Claire where the Bovey’s lived.   I told them about Ken’s sign to me in the hospital – the same sign made by the minister.   No one seemed surprised.   At the Bovey’s, Nancy’s friend Anne hosted a small reception for family and friends.  Despite the circumstances, standing there drinking coffee and eating sandwiches, the atmosphere in the home was not somber, but accepting of what had happened.  Somehow, we all shared a sense of wonder about Ken’s life and death.   Indeed, we all knew that everything was okay.

  • http://www.time-space.com.au Bill Jennings

    Beautiful story of friendship Pat. You don’t do things in halves mate!

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