September 29, 2013


My friend Gord Strandlund passed away last Sunday, September 22, 2013. You will remember Gord's name from my book about hiking the West Coast Trail since he was my partner on that life-altering adventure. I had the privilege of offering one of the tributes at his Celebration of Life Service yesterday afternoon.
I've written a few similar blogs before but this one is different. I've been delaying its writing until after yesterday's service and frankly, I don't really know how long it will take to create and then publish. If I offer a speaking or writing piece for public consumption, it is always my hope that you will walk away with something of value - a tip, an idea, perhaps some inspiration or hope. I hope you will indulge my need to talk about a true friend.
Gord grew up in Calgary and had a love of country music, archeology, sports, and the outdoors. He loved to fly fish and play golf. He was one of the original "Young Canadians," from Calgary Stampede grandstand show fame. He was an excellent singer and guitar player who also loved to dance. In many ways he was my polar opposite but in the most important ways - my best friend.
Our wives became friends over 20 years ago and insisted that the "boys" join them for dinner one night.
  • You never know when you are going to meet your next best friend
One thing led to another and Gord and I were soon enjoying the golf course, armchair management of the Calgary Flames, stories about our misspent youth, and love of family. We fell into an easy routine of meeting most afternoons for coffee and soon realized that we shared a tolerance for sales positions, childhood dreams unfulfilled, and a spirituality that was defined better through the natural world than that of conventional religions.
One day the idea of hiking the West Coast Trail was tossed on the coffee shop table and before long we were planning what became a life altering and life affirming experience. An experience that we would continue to share and talk about right up until the 10th anniversary of its completion and the last time I would ever see Gord.
  • Always leave people with a smile on their face and yours
Gord loved his wife, 2 daughters and 4 grandchildren above all else and what better testament is there to a man's life than that? He was one of the few people on this earth that I could share inner feelings with and trust that they would not be held in judgement and that the vulnerability would never be used against me. I did my best to return that favor and uphold his trust.
  • When a person shows you who they really are, believe them
The last few years of Gord's life were consumed by Alzheimer's Disease but through it all he was always a positive force and insisted on doing his best to make a difference to other sufferers by using his story to help raise funds for research. With the leadership of his wife Brenda, they raised over 85,000.00 for Alzheimer's research.
Gord had a complicated relationship with bears. He loved receiving replicas as gifts but always feared meeting one in the wild. He conquered that fear when he had to confront  a big black bear on the last day of hiking the West Coast Trail.
  • We never know when something that we do will inspire someone else
On the day he died, my wife and I visited his wife and when we returned home, I checked my email to find a letter from a recent reader of THE WEST COAST TRAIL: One Step at a Time. This reader specifically mentioned the bear incident and how it inspired her to confront her own fears. Gord made a difference in the lives of his family, friends and complete strangers.
I will miss Gord's infectious smile and constant willingness to help. Most of us have many acquaintances but few true friends. Perhaps that is the way it should be because then we can accept the incredible value of real friendship. Thanks Gord.
Happy trails my friend

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