“One day I am going to thank you. I don’t know for what right now, but I know it will be significant.” I heard myself speak those words to a complete stranger. Who was more shocked – the stranger or me?
I walked away feeling ridiculous.
“What did you say to that guy?” asked the employee who also lunched at the Cook House, the only dining room in Cassiar, a small, now defunct, mining town in Northern BC. It was the summer of 1986.
“Omigod. I just embarrassed myself and him, too. His whole table will think I’m nuts.”
“Who is he? He’s definitely not from around here.” Leslie said.
“Don’t ask me! Let’s just drop it, okay?” Employees need confidence that management consists of trustworthy and rational individuals.
“Okay, but you certainly shocked the hell out him! You shoulda seen the surprised look on his face. Come on…what did you say?”
“Leslie, once in a while, I get an overwhelming sense of knowing. Usually I put the lid on it. But today, it just popped out. I’d like to just forget it. Let him think I’m some weirdo. He won’t be around for long anyway – he obviously doesn’t work for the Mine.”
After months of avoiding the handsome stranger, a situation arose that needed some wise reshaping and direction. The one person who had the information I needed was this same man, Sefo. I had to put my pride in cold storage and approach him.
In our discussion as I gathered courage to ask for his assistance, I discovered Sefo had been raised in an culture of wisdom steeped with spiritual backbone. Although he came to Canada from Rotuma, a tiny island 400 miles north of Fiji, the South-sea island environment did not prevent him from adapting comfortably to our Canadian customs, terrain and weather. For example, his phenomenal sense of direction out-performed most men on the exploration crews penetrating wilderness areas in search of ore.
I knew this man had the leadership skills that would win and maintain my respect.
Though Sefo is reticent to mention he is the son of a Rotuman chief, it’s my opinion that his ancestry brings an innate regal bearing. His presence commands notice as he doles out respect and patience with easy leadership and authentic concern.
Sefo and I bonded immediately. Over the next four months we created our base that has carried through twenty five years of deep friendship in spite of consistently living in separate locations. Our Canadian island homes are not far apart, but our visits in person have been sporadic. Our work lives demanded travel, often in opposite directions, and any down time was given to the demands of our personal lives. Weekly telephone chats, often containing hilarity, kept us up-to-date.
As a husband and father, Sefo has been devoted to his family continuing the traditions of the Rotuman culture. His wife, Betty, has nursed at their local hospital since coming to Canada. Two beautiful daughters and one handsome son have grown into young adults who Canada proudly holds as its own. All three siblings, dire individuals, are intelligent, well-mannered and hard-working. I am awed by the respect these three hold for their mom and dad. Their son and oldest daughter have presented Sefo and Betty with two incredibly beautiful grandchildren. Sefo says with a grin, “My people were left in the oven for the perfect length of time.”
For twenty five years, I have had the privilege of sharing life experiences with Sefo at a depth and to a degree that many don’t experience with family members. Because I live alone, when people hear of Sefo’s impact on my life, they immediately concede that we are meant to be together. That sort of comment could be a challenge to our friendship. It suggests that our lives are not complete. The best response I can give is that the love we share in friendship is exactly the way it is meant to be. It is not fed by sexual desire. It does not contain the pot holes of daily living. Its freshness nourishes our souls. Neither of us want to tamper with a richness that could be minimized by definition.
Has my embarrassing prediction come true? Beyond a doubt. Sefo said early on, “Call me. I’ll be there.” The nature of my calls have radically changed, yet he lives this radical commitment.
We’ve just had another couple of years of phone conversations. We decided it was time again for a nose-to-nose chat. We planned a visit in Nanaimo:
Thank you, Sefo, for your friendship.
Please give me another 25 years to say ‘thanks’ properly.
I’m so glad I was with you in Nanaimo on Wednesday.
Who knew that the man who was always there for you
would have died as we visited?
The news came.
I saw your tears.
It tore at your heart.
It wrung mine