06.15.2012 01:00 AM

June 15

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.]

13 Comments

  1. JamesHalifax says:

    A lovely tribute, Warren.

    I lost my dad in 2005, and it was like yesterday.

  2. Jordan says:

    I don’t you usually think people look alike but you look just like your dad.

  3. WesternGrit says:

    Great tribute Warren. Very fitting for father’s day too… I’m going to give my Dad a bid hug and tell him I love him.

  4. SUSAN MACISAAC says:

    It is a beautiful tribute to a much loved dad.

    This is the first year without my dad, I miss him like you miss yours. Heart breaking but a constant reminder to be like them because they were the best of the best.

  5. Sir Kinsella, Amazing and touching eulogy, what a great and inspiring father! Lest we forget out Dads alive or passed, this Sunday.

  6. AmandaM says:

    I love reading this each year as much as I feel your heartbreak. I think of your dad often after you told me about his work in rheumatology.

    Feb 7 is my June 15. We do our best to live up to what we know they would want from us, but it’s so much harder without them here.

  7. Marc-Andre Chiasson says:

    I’ve read this every year and every year it brings a tear to my eye. One of the nicest and most heartfelt eulogies I’ve ever seen. Thanks for sharing once again Warren. Always follow your father’s principles of love, honesty and respect, and you’ll never go wrong. Courage mon ami.

  8. kenn2 says:

    Nice tribute. Lost my Dad last September, after a rough 14 months of illness, so this is the first Father’s day without him.

  9. Rob W says:

    Beautiful Warren.

  10. Mark says:

    Warren: It is always good to read a tribute to a dad such as yours. Mine would be nearly the same, except the love affair would be 50 years, the locations would be Britain, Hong Kong, Toronto, Montreal and Victoria, and it would be a very short-lived cancer that would claim my dad, Keith, in 2001. They will always live on in our lives.

  11. patrick Deberg says:

    Reading this is almost too much to bear……….

  12. Alex Cameron says:

    Warren, you’ve done a wonderful job at a time when words are difficult to find.
    Warm regards to you and your family.

  13. Thanks for this, Warren….my dad had a very different life arc from yours, but the loss is the same. You write from where it counts

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