On Friday, the world changed. Toronto artist and activist Will Munro lost his two-year battle with brain cancer.
There’s no two ways about it, Will was brilliant. If you ever question the impact one person can have, reading over the comments on this public Facebook page Dave created, called Honoring the Heart of Will Munro, will remind you how much is possible.
The National Post calls him an “artist and scene impresario,” NOW calls him an “icon,” and Eye Weekly sums it all up like this: “So much of the cultural currency that Toronto has accrued over the past 10 years — a thriving, west-end queer arts scene; the establishment of West Queen West as the city’s new nightlife hub; the mixed gay/straight crowds at local dance parties and the indie-rock/disco fusions that soundtrack so many of them — can be directly attributed to [Munro’s] community-building efforts. Which is why his untimely passing this morning at the age of 35 from cancer represents more than just a sad case of a brilliant young man leaving us far too soon — it’s no understatement to say the city just won’t be the same without him.”
Really, I am heartbroken. I knew Will because in the ’90s I dated his brother Dave, and once family, always family. I knew he had cancer, and I knew it was serious, I knew when he went into the hospital, and I knew he was going to die, but that didn’t make it any easier, for anyone. Will and I were born just two weeks apart, I think about how much I still have left to do with my life and how young 35 is, and how whenever anyone dies I think they were too young. I am sad for the people who will never know Will.
When someone I know and love dies, I think several things:
1. How is it possible for me to just continue on in my day-to-day life as if nothing has happened?
2. I often return to this quote by Jessamyn West: “Every arrival foretells a leave-taking, every birth a death. Yet each death and departure comes to us as a surprise, a sorrow never anticipated. Life is a long series of farewells; only the circumstances should surprise us.”
3. I find it very difficult to use euphemisms for death like “passed away,” and since my dad died in 2008, I have thought about this particular phrase a lot. I know that people struggle with words, and I listened countless people as they tried to express condolences to my mom (“I’m sorry.”) and wondered when my mom eventually settled on “Thank you” as the appropriate response. And I even though I’ve been thinking about it for over a year, I still struggle with words, and remembrance, and sadness. Even now, I’ve been working on this post for days, and words for the things I want to say still elude me.
4. I think about support. When my dad died, Dave, and others, were amazing. Looking back on that helped me understand what might help and how to support Dave. I wish our communities were better at this.
And I remember how amazing, and how terrible, life is – all at the same time.
The photo above is from the National Post, July 6, 1999. The title of the article is “Relying on the cleanliness of strangers; Upset by his mother’s refusal to buy him superhero underwear as a child, Will Munro has built a art form out of recycled Y-fronts. (Thanks to Jeff Miller for posting the caption).
There will be a memorial & party to celebrate Will this Wednesday at Gladstone Hotel,1214 Queen Street West Toronto, ON (416) 531-4635, starting at 8 p.m.