It was 1:00 a.m. Monday in Taiwan. I was lying on my back, all spread out on my extra-large bed on the eighth Floor of the Howard Plaza Hotel in Taipei. It’s my usual ‘wake-up time’ at home, when I start my daily long work routine. But I wasn’t ‘back home’, so I was in two minds as to whether to get out of bed. My Master’s Voice told me: ‘Get up — and find something to do!’ my Other Voice told me: ‘Just take it easy – for a change!’
I was caught in the middle. Not that I had nothing to do. It was one day after I’d joined hundreds of other colleagues from around the world observing and reporting on Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections — and there was much to write about. But, for some reason, my Other Voice kept telling me to just lie there – and cool out.
I took over my mind and told myself this was my last day in Taipei before heading to the airport for that 14-hour EVA airline flight to New York and JetBlue flight and then the final four-hour flight to Vieux Fort. Nineteen hours non-stop, one-transit flying ahead of me, I lay there, just lazing away.
I actually spent an entire hour on my back, just watching the ceiling, all lights on and TV off, thinking of what I could have been doing, wondering whether I shouldn’t just start packing – and wondering what the hell I was doing there, doing nothing.
At 2:00a.m. one of my cell phones rang. It was a ‘WhatsApp’ call from home. I wasn’t surprised, as Taiwan is 12 hours ahead, so it was still Sunday afternoon in Saint Lucia. And when I saw who was calling, I wasn’t surprised either. We’d been talking every day since I left home.
My reliable informant normally keeps me abreast while abroad – and with more than just all I should know that’s happening in my absence. Our conversations are usually quite long, so I concluded that’s why my Other Voice had won that earlier battle for my mind and soul’s attention.
But I really wasn’t ready for that particular piece of news. Not at all!
My friend started off with her scoop: “I just read online that Brian Mc Donald just died in Soufriere…”
My blood turned. I got a chill. I asked: “Brian who?”
She replied – a little more loudly, just in case I hadn’t heard: “Brian Mc Donald, the RSL sports reporter…”
I choked. She heard me clear my throat and asked: “What happen?”
I asked her to hold on, went to the bath, washed my face, grabbed a bottle of water – named ‘H20’, by the way – and lay back down on my back. Taking up my i-Phone again, I then went on to explain why I had so suddenly stopped being all ears.
“Brian is my cousin,” I said, much to her surprise. “He and I are blood cousins. He’s my second cousin. One of my uncles was his mother’s father – his grandfather…”
My friend was more shocked than I. She was a fan of his, but – like everybody else – “never knew there was any connection.”
The little family storyteller in me took over. I told her how long his family has been living “at the back of the Morne” — the only place I knew his mother ‘Elvirine’ (my first cousin) and his father (Mister Peter) ever lived. They raised the children I knew (Cleus, Thomas and Hilary, Gertrude, Beatrice and Brian’ by whip and love, each growing-up to make mum and dad proud.
I then went on to explain how much grief Brian’s family has been going through these past few years. First, his mother died. Then his father. Then Gertrude. And now him… It was like a rate of one per year. Three times I’d shared their collective family grief — and now I must again.
Already in grief, I recalled (to my friend) attending those three funerals, two ‘Up the Morne’ and one in ‘The Cathedral’. Brian was at all three — and as I lay there thinking of how he’d just died, I couldn’t help but come to the popular normal foolish human conclusion that ‘life is a bitch!’
Brian and I didn’t meet or speak often. But every time we met it was the same: a verbal jab here, a bob-and-weave there and a brief chat spar before we moved on.
A sport he was through and through, but Brian played no sport with sports. He was more than just a sports reporter. He excelled in how he told each story about every aspect of his game — and not only in every field of play, but more so in how he delivered that message, whether through live commentary or through his daily reports.
I’m the most illiterate being among humans when it comes to sports. All I know are results. But I’d listen to Brian from time to time, if only through my journalistic earlobes. He was flawless. You had to understand his story. It wasn’t just about scores and rules of play, technicalities and technical aspects of any game. It was always about what happened – who did it, why, where and how. And, like me too, he always saw the funny side of a very serious matter.
After what seemed like I’d run through everything I knew about Brian with my good friend who broke the bad news, another two friends called from back. And they too were surprised we were connected.
A day later (Monday afternoon Taiwan time, Sunday night Saint Lucia time), while surfing the ‘Net on the flight down (Yes, airplane-mode Wi-Fi is the new normal when flying high these days!) I saw some of the words being said, written and posted about Brian. And again, I was suckered into that other normal foolish human conclusion that ‘People only remember you when you die!’
I know that all that’s been said and written and posted about Brian will shine for now — and wither away in the near thereafter. Some will remember him, but most will definitely become unintended victims of ‘The Nine-Day Syndrome’: memory being forgotten after being daily overtaken by event after event in the fast lane of life today.
I suspect that other doyen of Brian’s craft, ‘Reds’ Pereira, felt the same when he humbly suggested that the sporting bodies Brian served so well do find a way to create a permanent honour in his name and memory. After all, like us all, ‘Reds’ too has seen more than his fair share of the so many who come and go, unseen in life but lauded in death, only to become rarely recalled footnotes when memory fails to fail.
The tributes to Brian will continue to flow – and deservingly flow, even if only for now.
My only wish, for now too, is that Brian’s more-than-two-decades of doing what he did best will have sufficiently moved at least one of his countless listeners to want to try his or her best to be as good at what he did as he was – and to let Brian’s legacy make them want to take their own to those many more miles he’d have taken his, had his heart not just stopped beating just like that!