Inevitability of Death references


"...Terry's gift is forever green
It got me up, back on the scene."

Long believed by fans, but now in doubt, to be a reference to Terry Fox; the young man who set out to fight cancer and ended up redefining courage.

Yet, a letter in the August 20, 2016 Stittsville Central, has thrown that theory for a loop. Thanks to Mike Twittey for steering me in this direction. According to Leslie Mckay, "Terry" was the name of a lung donor. Her father, Bill McKay, was the recipient of those lungs and was close with Gord and his wife Laura. Bill traveled with the band, and according to his daughter, was practically an honourary member. Sadly, he passed away in 1993. His funeral is believed to be the inspiration for Greasy Jungle.

Bill McKay

But ya know what? Here's Terry Fox's story anyway for those international visitors who may not yet know it. Feel free to click on past knowing that it's the anonymous "Terry" who is likely mentioned here:

Fox was a young British Columbian athlete, who in 1977, was diagnosed with malignant osteosarcoma in his right knee. In March of that year, his right leg was amputated six inches above the knee in order to stop the disease from spreading. The night before the surgery, Terry was given a magazine which featured an article about a one legged runner. Terry said that he dreamed of running that night, but had not yet realized how prescient that vision would become.  

With a prosthetic leg, Terry resumed his athletic pursuits, playing on Canada's national wheelchair basketball team and even running the 27 km "Prince George to Boston Marathon." Although he was last to finish the race, many of the other runners waited for him at the finish, some crying as he crossed the line. As Terry returned to the hospital for re-hab and subsequent cancer tests, he was inspired by young children he kept seeing in the cancer ward. When he realized that some of them would never get out, and that some of the familiar faces he'd seen had already disappeared, he resolved to do something about it. After running for 101 straight days, resting only on Christmas, Terry decided that he'd run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. At first, all were opposed. Was he crazy? Ford of Canada offered to support Terry with a van for what they thought would be a few short weeks. The Canadian Cancer Society wished him well but didn't think much of the run itself. Others had tried, and all had quit amongst pain, homesickness, frustrating anonymity and low financial support. What would make Terry any different?

On April 12, 1980, Terry, 21 at the time, dipped his leg into the Atlantic ocean and began to run. There to see him off were a few skeptical members of the media, the Mayor of St John's, and a handful of curious onlookers.  His goal of raising one dollar for every Canadian (24 million) was still noble, but distant. Terry endured poor weather, angry drivers (one who dangerously ran him off the road) a growing media horde and the incredible challenge of running a marathon a day, every day, for 143 days... on one leg. He called his journey, the "Marathon of Hope."    

Despite his now vaunted, and well deserved reputation, Terry was human, and at times: no angel. His determination and stubbornness caused him to lash out at reporters, especially if they questioned his motives, pleaded with him to stop, or worse: commented that he was more 'hopping' than running. Terry made it very clear, sometimes frustratingly so, that not a single cent raised would go towards anything but cancer research. He turned down endorsement deals, and made sure that he only ran in plain grey shorts that were free of all logos. He defied critics who said it would be physically impossible for him to carry on. He ignored doctors who said he should stop. He often described to reporters, in great detail, the two running steps he'd take with his real leg, and the one long step he'd take with his prosthetic to ensure that he wasn't walking or hopping, but in fact running across Canada.

It is this detail, "across Canada," that is the most inspiring and telling fact of Terry's journey. While he did become famous as the run wore on, Terry was largely unknown and even ignored during the early part of his cross country marathon. When the run would end each day, often in the middle of nowhere, sometimes in the middle of the night, Terry, his younger brother Darrell and his best-friend Doug, would drive the van back to the nearest motel for the night. That is if a motel had offered to put them up.

Given that only the three young men were present at the finishing point, Terry could have picked any spot along the route to use as a starting point for the next morning. Someone looking to cut corners certainly would have. Terry Fox did not. He would pile rocks in a visible mound at the side of the highway where he stopped. Each morning, from behind the pile, he'd begin to run again. When people stopped him in their driveways offering food, drink and donations, Terry would run to the end of their driveways, speak with them, and then back-track to the edge of the lane before bounding off. Terry wanted to be sure that when people donated to a "cross-Canada" run, that's exactly what they were getting. He was singularly resolved to run across every single foot of Canada's massive land mass. No shortcuts, no half measures: all heart, literally all the way.

On September 1, 1980, Terry was forced to stop running outside Thunder Bay, Ontario. It was discovered that a pain in his chest, at first thought to be part of the usual daily discomfort of the run, was in fact caused by cancer that had spread to his lungs. Terry vowed to do all he could to return to the marathon as quickly as possible. He had run 5,352 km's, or 3,339 miles, more than half the way across Canada. Being very religious, Terry had accepted God's will. "I'm not a dreamer, but I do believe in miracles. I have to." He wrote in his diary: "I'm not going to lose, even if I die."

Terry's journey had gripped Canadians throughout the summer of 1980. He was often the nightly lead on national newscasts, newspapers updated his daily progress, and towns and villages eagerly awaited his arrival. Thousands crowded into Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto to see him arrive, and hear him speak. When his run ended tragically on the 1st, Terry had not met his fund raising goal. On September 9, the CTV network hosted a national telethon and raised $10 million for Terry's cause. On September 18, Terry was awarded Canada's highest honour, the Order of Canada near his hospital in Port Coquitlam, B.C. He was the youngest ever to receive the award to date, and the only honouree to ever receive it away from Rideau Hall in Ottawa. By February of 1981, Terry's Marathon of Hope had raised $24.17 million dollars. More than one dollar for every Canadian.

In June of 1981, one month before his 23rd birthday, Terry died peacefully in Port Coquitlam. Canada observed a day of mourning, and constructed a stone fountain in front of Rideau Hall to honour Terry. The official Terry Fox memorial sits across from Parliament Hill:

A monument to the Marathon of Hope stands in Thunder Bay:

Streets, parks, buildings, mountains and bodies of water carry Terry's name and legacy from coast to coast to coast. A stretch of the Trans-Canada highway was renamed "The Terry Fox Courage Highway." In 1999, the Dominion Institute of Canada conducted an extensive cross-Canada survey to find the "Greatest Canadian Hero" in time for the millennium, Terry was the overwhelming winner.    

Shortly before his death, Terry had agreed to allow Canadian hotel magnate Isadore Sharp to organize an annual run to raise money for cancer research in his name. Today, the 10km Terry Fox Run takes place in countries all over the world, from Canada, to India, to the United Arab Emirates. After an extremely successful 36th edition, the run has raised over $750 million worldwide: more than 37 times Terry's original goal. Terry's gift is forever green.

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