Memorial Service: Ron Butler
Happy Canada Day! Caia loved Canada Day. Canada Day was one of her favourite holidays. She loved this country and she loved getting all her friends together on that day for some volleyball and fireworks appreciation, and so I'm sure she'd be delighted to see so many of the people that she cared about gathered together on this day.
Caia made close friends wherever she went. There are people here today that were friends with Caia in elementary school. There are people here that were friends with her in high school. There are friends she made at university and friends from her time with Netron. There are swing dancers and hip hop dancers, teachers, and colleagues.
Which is pretty amazing actually, because Caia was picky; she was choosey about her friends. Caia had so many talents, and interests and raw abilities. She was just so smart and insightful and wise. You really only had to know her for five minutes to see that she stood out, that her personality came through stronger than the average person. And if you were going to be Caia's friend you had to have at least some of what she had. And now I can look out at you and I can see Caia reflected in you, because she chose you.
Caia was my best friend for over twenty years. I first met Caia in 1986 when I moved to Ottawa (half way through grade 9), and we hit it off right away. We were friends throughout high school, and we were friends through university. I actually applied to Math at Waterloo and was accepted, but Caia said to me that she was going into Systems Engineering and that maybe I'd like that better than math, and so I switched. We were in the same class, and for half of our time at Waterloo we lived in the same house. And after we graduated we continued our friendship right to this day.
Caia had a huge influence on me. Some of it was of a more trivial nature. For example, Caia taught me about fashion sense. She taught me that, even for a teenager growing up in the 80s, it was not good fashion sense to wear t-shirts with dumb slogans and pants hemmed at the ankles. I had a gray t-shirt, two sizes too small, with the slogan "Beer: It Isn't Just For Breakfast Anymore". I was a really bad dresser when I met Caia. Okay, so maybe it wasn't so trivial. Just recently Caia gave me this book (produce book), so I guess she felt there was still some Carson Kressley work to be done with me. Shopping became one of the many activities Caia and I really enjoyed doing together.
But Caia influenced me in more meaningful ways. Caia had strong opinions on a lot of subjects, and not the least on civil liberty. She was very outspoken against racism and sexism. You couldn't get away with fireman or mailman around Caia. Firefighter and postal worker are the correct terms. She even gave me a book (produce book) to help me out. She was often labelled a feminist, but Caia preferred the term Equalist. In fact, she is the first person I ever heard use the word, and as far as I'm concerned Caia invented it.
I remember one particular physics class back in grade 12. I won't mention the teacher by name, but this teacher asked the class some physics-related question. Someone answered the question and the teacher asked "How did you figure that out? Was it woman's intuition?" Complete silence in the classroom. Every head turned to look at Caia. Fireworks were certainly expected. Because by grade 12 Caia had time to influence me and a lot of other people. Anyway it was absolutely priceless to see the grin on the teacher's face slowly melt away to be replaced by a look of surprise, and maybe even a little fear. I'm sure it was a twilight zone moment for him. "The other class laughed..." he stammered. Caia didn't react at all. I'm sure she was seething inside, but she maintained her composure. In this particular instance Caia didn't need to say a word. Everyone in the class knew that the teacher had said something wrong, and I'm sure a good many of them knew why too. Mission accomplished.
She tried to fix my terrible spelling, but I think she gave that up as a lost cause. It constantly infuriated her that I didn't own a dictionary. She would be at my house and, quite frequently actually, she would feel the need to look something up. "Where is your dictionary?" she would ask. Sheepishly I'd say, "Um, I've got a computer... we could look...." My voice would trail off because of the withering stare coming at me. "I'm buying you a dictionary." she would usually say at these times. I never got one though, because apparently getting the right dictionary is a complicated business, and, in fact, Caia owned several and she never could pick just one to be my first dictionary. Apparently, that's important.
I know Caia cared about me very much. One January I had the flu. It was a pretty bad bout of the flu, but it was just the flu. I was also very busy and stressed about work, but who isn't? I was living in Ottawa and Caia was working for Netron in the UK. And Caia flew back for the weekend so that she could bake some lasagna that I could keep in the freezer so that I'd have easy-to-prepare food. It wasn't a four-day long weekend, it was just a two-day weekend.
Caia had a very distinctive laugh. And Caia laughed a lot. There was one time I went to a movie, and coincidentally Caia was at the same movie. And shortly into the movie I heard The Laugh and I knew she was in the theatre somewhere. Honestly there was more than one occasion when we were out someplace and got separated, and I could find Caia by listening for her laugh. And you know that eventually she would laugh.
We would talk about everything. I still remember one conversation. It was way back in 86 or 87. It was about 4 in the morning and we had been talking on the phone all night long. That was something we did a lot back then. And I was surprised that Caia claimed to have no fear of death. None whatsoever. And I was then and still am now, terrified of dying. And Caia never could understand my position, and I could never understand hers. And honestly, I was skeptical then that Caia understood what she was talking about, and that, maybe a million years in the future when she had to confront such a thing, she would come around to my point of view, too. But I should never have doubted her. Sadly I know now that she really did have no fear.
I will remember Caia every time I:
[When you watch the fireworks tonight, think of Caia.]
[Finally, whenever you're feeling that things aren't going right, just think of Caia, and I can guarantee that things will look better.]