, 06.15.2021 01:00 AM

June 15, 2004

Dr. T. Douglas KINSELLA, CM, BA, MD, FACP, FRCPC.

Like some men, and as was the practice in some families, my brothers and I did not hug my father a lot. As we got older in places like Montreal, or Kingston, or Dallas or Calgary, we also did not tell him that we loved him as much as we did. With our artist Mom, there was always a lot of affection, to be sure; but in the case of my Dad, usually all that was exchanged with his four boys was a simple handshake, when it was time for hello or goodbye. It was just the way we did things.

There was, however, much to love about our father, and love him we did. He was, and remains, a giant in our lives – and he was a significant presence, too, for many of the patients whose lives he saved or bettered over the course a half-century of healing. We still cannot believe he is gone, with so little warning.

Thomas Douglas Kinsella was born on February, 15, 1932 in Montreal. His mother was a tiny but formidable force of nature named Mary; his father, a Northern Electric employee named Jimmy, was a stoic man whose parents came over from County Wexford, in Ireland. In their bustling homes, in and around Montreal’s Outremont, our father’s family comprised a younger sister, Juanita, and an older brother, Howard. Also there were assorted uncles – and foster siblings Bea, Ernie, Ellen and Jimmy.

When he was very young, Douglas was beset by rheumatic fever. Through his mother’s ministrations, Douglas beat back the potentially-crippling disease. But he was left with a burning desire to be a doctor.

Following a Jesuitical education at his beloved Loyola High School in Montreal, Douglas enrolled at Loyola College, and also joined the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. It was around that time he met Lorna Emma Cleary, at a Montreal Legion dance in April 1950. She was 17 – a dark-haired, radiant beauty from the North End. He was 18 – and a handsome, aspiring medical student, destined for an officer’s rank and great things.

It was a love like you hear about, sometimes, but which you rarely see. Their love affair was to endure for 55 years – without an abatement in mutual love and respect.

On a hot, sunny day in June 1955, mid-way through his medical studies at McGill, Douglas and Lorna wed at Loyola Chapel. Then, three years after Douglas’ graduation from McGill with an MD, first son Warren was born.

In 1963, second son Kevin came along, while Douglas was a clinical fellow in rheumatism at the Royal Vic. Finally, son Lorne arrived in 1965, a few months before the young family moved to Dallas, Texas, to pursue a research fellowship. In the United States, Douglas’ belief in a liberal, publicly-funded health care system was greatly enhanced. So too his love of a tolerant, diverse Canada.

In 1968, Douglas and his family returned to Canada and an Assistant Professorship in Medicine at Queen’s University in Kingston. More than 35 years later, it was at Kingston General Hospital – in the very place where Douglas saved so many lives – that his own life would come to a painless end in the early hours of June 15, 2004, felled by a fast-moving lung cancer.

Kingston was followed in 1973 by a brief return to Montreal and a professorship at McGill. But an unstable political environment – and the promise of better research in prosperous Alberta – persuaded the family to journey West, to Calgary.

There Lorna and Douglas would happily remain for 25 years, raising three sons – and providing legal guardianship to grandson Troy, who was born in 1982. At the University of Calgary, and at Foothills Hospital, Douglas would achieve distinction for his work in rheumatology, immunology and – later – medical bioethics.

He raised his boys with one rule, which all remember, but none observed as closely as he did: “Love people, and be honest.” His commitment to ethics, and healing – and his love and honesty, perhaps – resulted in him being named a Member of the Order of Canada in 1995.

On the day that the letter arrived, bearing Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc’s vice-regal seal, Douglas came home from work early – an unprecedented occurence – to tell Lorna. It was the first time I can remember seeing him cry.

As I write this, I am in a chair beside my father’s bed in a tiny hospital room in Kingston, Ont.,where he and my mother returned in 2001 to retire. It is night, and he has finally fallen asleep.

My father will die in the next day or so, here in the very place where he saved lives. He has firmly but politely declined offers of special treatment – or even a room with a nicer view of Lake Ontario.

Before he fell asleep, tonight, I asked him if he was ready. “I am ready,” he said. “I am ready.”

When I leave him, tonight, this is what I will say to him, quietly: “We all love you, Daddy. We all love you forever.”

[Warren Kinsella is Douglas Kinsella’s eldest son. His father died two nights later.]

[From Globe’s Lives Lived, June 15, 2004.]

32 Comments

  1. LibVin says:

    My heart is with you, Mr. Kinsella.

  2. Wendy Camp says:

    When you look up into the evening sky tonight you will find a star that sparkles more brightly than all the rest.

    That star is yours. That star contains the spirit of your father.

    That star sparkles more brightly than all the others because it is using its energy to pass on to you and to your children the compassion, the courage, the conviction, the truthfulness and, best of all, the stories of your father, which, in the end, are all we have to leave.

    A shining example of what a life can be.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  3. Catherine says:

    You share your eyes, with your father.

    Parents have an enormous task to guide our young.

    It sounds like you were blessed with two special folks.

  4. Jeff Larsen says:

    A grand man.

  5. Raymond says:

    Powerful eulogy. Makes one appreciate aging parents all the more.

  6. Aurelia says:

    Thinking of you and your family today.

  7. allegra fortissima says:

    I found this beautiful poem many years ago written on a memorial page – it hasn’t left my mind ever since:

    Do not stand at my grave and weep
    I am not there, I do not sleep
    I am in a thousand winds that blow
    I am in the softly falling snow
    I am in the gentle showers of rain
    I am in the fields of ripening grain
    I am in the morning hush
    I am in the graceful rush
    Of beautiful birds in circling flight
    I am in the starshine of the night
    I am in the flowers that bloom
    I am in a quiet room
    I am in the birds that sing
    I am in each lovely thing
    Do not stand at my grave and cry
    I am not there, I do not die

    • Tired of it All says:

      Although I’ve seen this before, like Warren’s beautiful commemoration, it always catches me up. Thank for sharing.

  8. Patrick Deberg says:

    Fare thee well Warren on this of all days. Such a loss leaves scars. You are a tribute to what yuor father stood for !
    Keep fighting the good fight.

  9. By far the finest remarks I have ever read on your blog…..perhaps on any blog I have read.
    While details are different,the feelings that come through are the same as I feel for my father………a simple man who served in WW2 and then farmed for the rest of his life.
    He too,taught me to always be honest and truthfull.I have tried to be….as I know you have.
    The part about us having to love everyone…….well,lets just say we probably try.
    Thank you for today’s read………carry on.

  10. Eric says:

    Can you please elaborate on your father’s time in the RCAC? I also served, 1993-2008.

  11. Lipman says:

    WK:

    I’ve read your website for a few years now, and this heartwrending tribute to your beloved dad is just as powerful each time you post it. Best to you and yours on this tough day.

    My late grandfather’s favorite Gershwin song helps me through these times.

    “In time the Rockies may crumble,
    Gibraltar may tumble,
    There’re only made of clay,
    But our love is here to stay.”

    DL

  12. Lipman says:

    heartrending (sp). The no delete function!

  13. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    I’m very sorry for your loss. Heroic deaths are never easy (been there with my own father on December 25, 2006) but heroic lives are both a tribute and a struggle. Like your parents’ lives, yours is heroic in pursuit of a just case. Please go out there and continue to reach for the light. Canada needs more of that, to be sure.

  14. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Sorry, that should read just cause.

  15. Michael Behiels says:

    I can fully understand and appreciate how you feel, Warren.

    I lost my father at the ripe old age of eighteen when I was thousands of miles away from home attending University.

    After over four long and, at times, arduous decades, his image and spirit are ever present in my mind. And, his short but valuable mentoring remains at the centre of my core values.

    Your father’s spirit and influence will linger on for a couple of generations.

    Sincerely,

    Michael Behiels

    Michael Behiels

  16. AmandaM says:

    It’s taken me a few days to respond to this incredibly moving tribute to your father; I also lost my father too soon (Feb. 7, 1999, he had just turned 50, and had been so courageous through a decade-long battle with cancer) and for some reason, the last two weeks have been acute in how much I miss my dad. My dad, Richard, wasn’t a public man, nor particularly accomplished in his career, but he was a hero to many. My dad was a committed Boy Scout leader and tireless fundraiser; he inserted himself into positions where his quiet strength and deeply held convictions would be most useful. He was a father to so many of my friends and those of my brothers. My dad faced extraordinary challenges and always exceeded anyone’s expectations. He was a country boy from Leamington who met and married a vivacious society girl (also from Montreal – my mother is a force to be reckoned with!), and who gained the acceptance of his family-in-law when he switched from a lifelong habit of drinking coffee with cream and sugar to black from age 21 on because my mother’s parents didn’t want to waste cream and sugar on a long-haired, hockey-playing country boy whom they thought was a passing fancy for my mother. With an oldest son, a headstrong daughter, and a severely disabled youngest son, my dad made his family his priority. My brothers and I never wanted for time from dad, and he never forgot to kiss all of us at the breakfast table as he was on his way to work in the mornings. When I gave birth to my son when I was 18, my dad was my coach and many people say that his only grandson put the light back into his eyes, and made him soldier on for longer than anyone expected. My son had 3 1/2 years with my dad, and with many hours of family videotapes, my son knows who gave him his first hockey stick, who picked him up and held him in the night, and who gave him more love than any little boy could ever know.

    My dad never knew that I went to University as a single mother, graduated, and carried on his commitment to making lives a bit better than before. My dad hasn’t seen my son grow up into a happy, healthy, empathetic, and strong young man. My dad hasn’t seen my disabled brother climb tall mountains. The only and best thing we can do, I think, is carry on our fathers’ legacies, and rely on their words and actions as guidance for our own lives, and to honour our dads by living the best lives we can and giving our kids what our fathers gave us.

    This has me in tears, Warren. It doesn’t get easier, does it; it just gets different. We never stop missing our dads.

  17. Bill Templeman says:

    Thanks Warren, My dad died in 1980 on May 5, yet a day doesn’t go by when I don’t catch his words coming out of my mouth. You? Not a conscious thing, but a natural rhythm, like the tides. Thanks for posting this note each June; keeping the day in your memory honours not only your dad, but all our lost parents. We remember, and they touch us still….

  18. Matt says:

    Holy smokes you look like your Dad.

    Sadly warren, I now know how it feels to lose a father.

    Just lost my Dad in January this year.

    Had a back ache end of November and just thought he pulled a muscle getting the cottage ready for winter. Went to his doctor, got the once over, complete blood tests, back Xray, everything ok. It got worse over the next few weeks going from an ache to pain, had to take him to the hospital Christmas day.

    Blood tests that were normal Nov 28th now completely out of whack. Kidneys only working 35% Found out December 29th he had stage 4 lung cancer that had spread to his liver and lymph nodes in his chest neck and throat. Adenocarcinoma. Nothing they could do. He died January 14th at 3:00am. Two months shy of his 66th.

    He had to have been feeling more pain than he was letting on. Doctor’s figure it had been working on him for 12 to 18 months.

    Readers, ESPECIALLY MEN, if you’re felling something ain’t right, don’t put it off thinking/hoping it will go away on it’s own. Get your ass to the doctor.

    Sunday will be my first fathers day without him. This is really going to suck. Looking through some of his stuff……… he kept every fathers day card my brother and I gave him since I was 3. I’m 40 now.

  19. Marlene Anderson says:

    A beautiful tribute to your father. He would be immensely touched. I know I am.

  20. Kevin says:

    Always amoving piece. Thanks for sharing, and God bless.

  21. Tired of it All says:

    Warren, per everyone else, thank you for sharing. I hope you take some time alone or with all of yours and reflect back on all those cherished moments.

  22. Montréalaise says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your dad.

  23. MississaugaPeter says:

    Like myself, fortunate to have such a great dad, when so many do not.

    Warren, most dads would be happy to just get a fraction of the love and respect from their children that you have for yours.

  24. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    This heart felt tribute shines ever brighter with each passing year. I would argue it’s your best work — none of your writing strikes me as more personal or more loving. Those who have not yet found your innermost core, get a fine and passionate glimpse of it in this post.

  25. Maps Onburt says:

    I’m very sorry for your impending loss Warren but take some comfort that it is clear from this picture that a good part of him will live on in you.

  26. Whiskey Morewood says:

    A beautiful tribute to a remarkable man.

    Thank you for (re)sharing.

  27. Nicola Timmerman says:

    Ah the Great Generation. My father too was one of those who went overseas and served in Bomber Command. I am glad hebis not here to see what Canada has become under non Transparent Trudeau. #TrudeauPublishVaccineContrats.

  28. david says:

    Warren.

    Monsters by James Blunt.

    If you’ve already heard this song by James then ignore.
    James thought he was going to lose his dad.
    He then wrote and recorded the bravest, most powerful and emotional song ever about how he felt and then sang it straight to his dad then walked out of the room.

    The song breaks everyone who hears it.
    It did me but I needed to hear it and am glad I did.
    YMMV
    You’ve been warned.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTFbGcnl0po

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