My friend Gil

Remembering – tears and joy

By John Guido

I was also sad because death and loss have become a big part of my life in community, like my heart beating. Each loss is as precious and unique as the person who has died, and each death strips away the noise and bother and reconnects us to what’s important in our lives.

Jean Vanier put it this way, “I can say here in L’Arche, we have become quite frequently friends of death. That can sound strange. But when people die here, we have a big celebration, and we talk about them. We have photos of them. And we laugh and we cry, you know, because even on their deathbeds, we can hold their hands, look into their eyes, and say, I love you.”

In our community chapel, we have photos of the many members who have died over the years, and I see my life reflected back to me: so many stories, so many adventures, yet also countless hours of the unremarkable, of silent presence, of mutual care. Not a day goes by that I’m not reminded of something wicked that Helen did, or something wise that George said, or the way Ian set out his breakfast, or the way Patsy ate hers.

I remember each of their ‘end of life’ journeys, no two the same, yet each bittersweet loss intertwined with some revelation of new life. And I remember the gatherings to share stories, to cry and laugh, then the wakes and the funeral rites where we shared more stories, and more tears and laughter.

We often get things wrong in L’Arche, yet in becoming ‘friends of death’ we have gotten something very right. It’s not just about death, but about love and life. I feel sad when I hear of the death of one of my brothers in L’Arche. Yet when I remember the men and women I have loved and lost, I move beyond sadness to a deeper place of joy and peace than I could have imagined. I am grateful for all of my companions and the community that we are creating on the way.

If there is someone from L’Arche who you remember in a particular way, please share that story with us so that we can publish it. Click here for more information. Email: gil.monami@gmail.com
 

Mon Ami Gil – Clip 8 – Tribute to Aurèle from L'Arche Canada on Vimeo. Thanks to Anne Contant and Frédéric Hodgson of Ensemble Prisme, who graciously provided music for this clip.

____

Project initiator: Gil Frois
Filming: Voices and Colors New Media
Production: Jean Vanier Association
Web series adaptation: L’Arche Canada
Filming and dissemination partners: L’Arche Agapè and Association des Arches du Québec


Sometimes it takes a long time to truly listen to people who express themselves differently, who don’t fulfill roles in society from which they can be heard.
Most documentaries are inspired by exceptional subjects or unusual situations. In this film, the camera follows Gil as he goes about his everyday tasks. He completes each job with the same tireless enthusiasm, never giving up.
These days, everyone is rushing everywhere, always seeking more, never feeling enough. Yet, you seem to be content being just where you are, present to people and the moment, and open to wonder.
Do you have an intellectual disability and dream of being a model? Gil invites you to step onto the stage and participate in our ExpressYourself Contest by posing in front of the camera!
One of Gil’s greatest gifts is his capacity for mutuality in friendships where each helps the other to grow, each brings out the best in the other. When he was young, Gil was fortunate to be accompanied by an extraordinary special educator, François Villemaire, who at the time worked for the “Pavillon du parc”, an establishment that is part of the network of health and social services in Gatineau, Quebec.
Many thanks to everyone who answered our invitation and shared their smile for World Down Syndrome Day. We are now launching a new invitation… to share the stage with Gil. Do you know anyone with an intellectual disability who, perhaps inspired by Gil, would like to be in the spotlight? Write to us at gil.monami@gmail.com.
Why does my heart melt when I see a picture of Gil Frois in my Facebook feed or on larche.ca? I’m either rushing or exhausted, but I jump online to make sure I’m not missing yet another thing… there he is smiling at the camera, or captured at work, or making music. His photo makes me pause and catch my breath.
How can we describe Gil’s music? Innate, intuitive, inspired, free, without reference? Different, for sure!