I have often described the PEI Cancer Treatment Centre as simultaneously one of the saddest and happiest places on earth: when the sound of the “my treatment’s done and I’m cancer-free” bell rings out, there is no greater wave of joy to be felt flowing through the halls; but it is also a place of heart-wrenching conversations and great suffering, and you can see this chiseled into the faces of people in the waiting room, both those living with cancer and those supporting them.
In the last four years that I’ve been accompanying Catherine to treatments and doctors visits there, Tom Rath seemed ever-present; Tom, undergoing treatment for his own cancer, never had anything but a smile on his face, though, and we always took a minute to chat when we ran into each other. I’d known Tom from his days as a bed & breakfast operator in Murray Harbour, when he was active on the Tourism Industry Association of PEI, and had lost touch with him for many years once he stepped away from that; it was nice to make his acquaintance again, despite the circumstances.
Tom died on Sunday; the Eastern Graphic has a lovely description of his life, and his contributions to his communities, many of which I didn’t know about (I also had no idea he was another one of the seeming multitudes of Islanders born in Hamilton, Ontario).
I will miss my chats with Tom, and my heart goes out to his wife Frances.