June Callwood on The Hour

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I was first introduced to this woman over the radio, CBC Radio One, to be exact. Several days ago I was on the road running errands, and was listening to the CBC as I normally do when news of her passing, due to cancer, and an excerpt of her very last interview caught my attention. She was June Callwood, a famous Canadian author and activist, and the interviewer was George Stroumboulopoulos of CBC television's The Hour. I really was moved after listening to their interview on the radio; some of June's thoughts weaved their way in and out of my mind as I completed my errands, and came back to me when I returned home. So, I found the video version of this interview at YouTube and have posted it here because I'm really interested in your reactions to it.

In their conversation June and George touch on the nature of death, on preparing for it, and what lies next. Their interaction is so touching and involves issues so personal that I almost feel I'm eavesdropping on a private conversation between close friends. Watch the sensitivity in his eyes, and watch her eyes as well; I find that certain aspects of a person's soul just can't help but be revealed in their eyes as they consider human mortality.

Neither June nor George seem to have any religious beliefs beyond that postmodern ideal of subjective, personal 'spirituality', as far as I can tell, which makes the conversation all the more interesting to me. I honestly have to say, death isn't something I've thought to discuss with too many people, but it might be more interesting and less morbid than it seems.

June believes in 'dust to dust', and seems ready to move on. She speaks of planning for her death, and her 'to do lists' as she gets ready for it; she seems to have an enviable amount of humour left in her, especially for someone who is very aware of standing on death's doorstep. What really touched me was their conversation about her relationship with her husband of many decades, of the tenderness and special intimacy that enters marriage in the later years, of the priceless value of sticking to a marriage through thick and thin, and of having each other's well being at heart all the while. "Who's going to take care of him?" she wonders, thinking of her husband once she has passed away - it seems to have broken her heart, and it breaks mine as well. At the same time I wonder, why aren't more Christian marriages like hers?

"There's nothing next," she whispers thoughtfully, "and that's alright" she says, when George asks her about the afterlife. This really caught me off guard, actually. Asked whether she believes in God she responds, "I believe in kindness." I think back to C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, (my recollection of which has become lamentably foggy since reading it 12 years ago), and wonder how anyone can believe in goodness, in conscience, and in right and wrong without taking that next logical step (in my mind, anyway) to finding the source of these things. I wonder what would lead someone to the conclusion that kindness will 'save the world'. Does the world really need saving if no God exists and everything is relative? What motivated her, as an agnostic or atheist, to spread kindness, love, and charity as far and wide throughout society as she possibly could? If she had met Jesus in person here on earth would she have recognized this - now personified - Kindness of which she spoke? ...And why did she evade his question about choosing not to have a funeral?