Pat Buckley (17 March 1948 – 11 July 2011), the man who taught me I had a brain

Patrick Buckley, 17 March 1948 - 11 July 2011

Pat Buckley entered my family’s life many years before I was born, and remained a steady source of good humour and resilience for the quarter century I knew him. It’s always hard to deal with a friend’s death, especially when that friend was such a constant fixture in my family’s life. Us kids grew up seeing Pat and his daughters at least once a week and sharing a lot of memories. We even got to share a house for a while! I never much care for organ playing, because it just doesn’t sound quite right if the organ isn’t played the way Pat always played it. He helped bring music into a lot of people’s lives, and was an accompanist literally hundreds of times for my mom’s singing. I was always impressed by, and will always be inspired by, Pat’s ability to maintain a positive attitude in difficult circumstances. With his stories and his jokes and his music, I’m sure a bit of his attitude rubbed off on a lot of people over the years.

I still remember how some of us kids used to flip upside down onto the old brown couch we had at our house on 41st, so that we’d end up standing on our heads with our feet up against the wall, and Pat joking that it was bad for our brains. I remember like it was yesterday, insisting that I did NOT have a brain! And he kept saying that I did in fact have a brain, and I refused to believe him. It didn’t matter that I had no idea what a brain was, I simply thought I didn’t have one. Pat laughed, and of course he didn’t make us stop goofing around on the couch!

The funniest thing I remember from when we all lived in the same house, was when Pat decided to teach us kids how to make honey when my parents were out. I even remember that I was standing at the north end of the white kitchen table as I made my bowl of honey, just the way he told us to do it. It was years before I realised that the brown sticky product of mixing massive amounts of brown sugar into your bowl of hot porridge is not actually real honey. It sure was tasty though, and wasn’t the last time I made it!

Pat will always be dearly loved and missed by our entire family, to whom he showed so much kindness over the years. While I was in Vancouver this spring, I had the good luck of bumping into Pat in Oakridge Mall, near the White Spot. We had a great chat – I could see a few people seated nearby were listening and I imagined at the time that they wished they could be part of our conversation – and, having said our goodbyes, I walked away with a smile on my face (which is really saying something, as it’s extremely rare to catch me alone in public with a smile on my face). I would really have liked to see Pat again.

4 thoughts on “Pat Buckley (17 March 1948 – 11 July 2011), the man who taught me I had a brain

  1. That’s beautiful Chris. Thank you for sharing those memories! I can’t say I ever remember making honey with him, but I really cherish the memories of hanging out with him, and how much I learned from him. He took me out of school, once. I saw him in the hall, and he walked me to the front desk and told them I wouldn’t be going to the next class but he was taking me for a coffee and I’d be back in an hour or two. They didn’t really know what to say. We had a great chat about life and respect. I miss him dearly.

  2. Great post. I’ve looked up to Pat Buckley for a long time. The centre of his life seemed to be his Christian, Roman Catholic faith, for which he had an amazing gift of expression in his rich, encouraging and uplifting words and in his music. He knew the church was the home of saints and sinners, so he was quite aware that not everything done or said by church people was true, but that didn’t diminish his deep Catholic love of God. Surprisingly, in spite of having “difficult circumstances” himself too numerous to mention his whole life long, his attention was on helping others whether it was working for human rights in the South in his youth or providing musical accompaniment for the Rose Prince pilgrimage on his last weekend; and his cheerfulness sprang out of his faith like water from a natural spring, seemingly endless. It was an honour to have known you, Pat.

  3. Thanks Chris for sharing these moving memories. I do hope they were read at Pat’s funeral. Surely, we have all been blessed by his presence myself included though I only met him very occasionally. Aunty Jo, rscj

  4. A few months ago, I saw Pat at a funeral at St. Monica’s in Richmond. He was at the front on one side with another singer, facing the congregation that was settling into the pews, and Pat was playing and singing some warm-up hymns. I looked up to see he had spotted me and was beaming as he stretched upward to cross both arms back and forth above his head as a sort of giant wave to catch my attention and signal an embracing welcome, and I responded accordingly and could see he was happily taking it in. After Mass, there was a lineup of people wanting to talk to him, and we didn’t get to chat. But we didn’t need to: with no words at all, he had engaged me in a very meaningful way. Few people can involve others in a wordless conversation when the need arises, but it was second nature for Pat.

    There was an incredible Christian/traditional-First-Nations-spirituality service for Pat last night with the Squamish First Nation at St. Paul’s Indian Church in North Vancouver last night and an incredible funeral/interment/feast in the Musqueam First Nation in Vancouver today. St. Paul’s was jammed with about 250 people, and there were a lot more at Musqueam, and we all seemed to feel the same way. Pat had planned it, a unifying happy way to carry on what he did in life.

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