JIM BUTTON,
TELLING TALES.

RIP Riggsy et al.

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Back in the 80's I lived a large life. Well, not large in the sense I had money or things, instead I lived one of those lives where each day was an adventure. It was the height of my craziness, Hunter S Thomson meets Peter Pan kinda days. And one of the key players in this era was a gentleman named Jeff Riggs. 

Jeff was one of those characters that seemed to create his own chaos. He was as kind a soul as you would ever know, he was always looking for a deal or a shortcut and he always seemed to come out on the wrong end of the play. But somehow it never ever really bothered him as he always had another adventure up his sleeve. 

Jeff worked for the University of Guelph, on many occasions he took me into the bowels of the campus and we always seemed to find trouble at the end of the tunnel. He loved nothing more than sticking it to the 'man' and fighting the system. He wasn't an anarchist per se, but he certainly didn't trust government, banks and other institutions, certainly didn't trust the internet and technology and was always trying to find ways to circumnavigate the 'system'.

My need for chaos and adventure was always satiated when I was doing something with Riggsy. He had a way of creating something out of nothing. Especially at that time of my life, I had just graduated from University and was working as a welder in a freezer factory as well as weekends as a white water guide. I was living adventure day to day and guys like Riggsy were able to fill it quickly...just head over to his house and voila something was bound to happen.

And speaking of his house, damn, nothing like it. He bought a house and then started adding rooms everywhere you could think of. He rented every corner out to a student. The house and it's never ending hallway of extensions was forever changing and forever active. The most epic of moments in my mind being the time he hosted a beach party. And to give you a sense of his scale this beach party was like no other. He lined his basement and filled it with sand and water. Actually he put sand everywhere. Blow up palm trees, hot lamps and tons of rum filled the house. The party was ridiculous and sand remained for the rest of the year....it was impossible to get rid of. Things like this just happened around or because of Riggsy.

He was a central part of the lives of many of my longest serving friends and he will be missed.

Two days ago Riggsy passed away from Cancer. I spoke to him in the Queensway Carleton hospital in Ottawa about three weeks ago. We talked about our journeys, we talked about the past and we talked about the present. He made me laugh, I did the same back for him and I smiled every time he laughed out loud. It was a very loving conversation but in the background of the call we both knew things were bleak for Riggsy. But that didn't stop him from defying the system. He was a smoker his whole life and he was not going to be deterred from having a smoke even though the hospital banned it from any part of their property. So what does Riggsy do? He rolls his wheelchair out to the parking lot and has a smoke and a smile while looking at the stars. Inside he's saying 'try and stop me!" 

That was my last conversation with him. Defiant to the end and laughing all the way through it. 

Riggsy is the third friend I have lost to cancer since I started my own journey. I've lost Lois and David to cancer each one dealing with it in a different way. 

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Lois was dealing with her cancer for about four years and was as courageous, positive and powerful all the way through the journey. She was a calculating, methodical individual with a heart as big as the city and she channeled that energy for over four years.

 Photo by Heather Saitz for Avenue Magazine

Photo by Heather Saitz for Avenue Magazine

Davids adventure with cancer was quick, from finding out to his passing was less than a year but he rode that final year out in the most beautiful and magical way. In his journey he recorded a farewell video that was as beautiful and powerful as anything you will ever see. VIDEO

Each time someone passes it affects me. First of all I am sad that they are no longer in my life and it forces me to reflect on the impact my passing will have on my family and friends. It also has the habit of putting my journey into perspective and allows me to appreciate each day a little bit more. But at the same time it knocks me off my own path a bit. It puts questions in your mind, those deep dark questions that challenge the path of positivity that you have been so careful to manifest and cultivate.

Fortunately all those that have passed have been characters that I respect and love. Each facing life and death in their own manner, mostly with a positive attitude. Each teaching me a different lesson. And I know it's my responsibility to learn from them and to carry on their positive approach to living each day with bright eyes and an active mind. 

Thanks for the lessons friends. Your energy is with me and I respect each of your journeys for what they were. It's up to me to take my own path but I know I have you carrying me on your proverbial backs.

I miss you all and Riggsy I am now planning a trip to Guelph and will assemble the rest of the Hunter S Thomson Peter Pans and raise a beer in your honour. 

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