By: Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
Lying in bed at St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital in Kingston, my brother-in-law Cary Dark was still engaging, despite the labourious breathing he was undergoing and the heartbreaking coughing spells.
He tapped into his cellphone, looked up 17 lessons by Stephen King on the internet and sent it to my email address without me asking for it all. He was that generous with his time, even though he was on his last legs, suffering from cancer.
What astounded me that day Jan. 23 was that he proclaimed me a White Buffalo. I was taken aback. He knew that I was writer and had written a number of baseball books, one of them about the fall of the 1994 Expos and baseball in general that sad year.
With less than perfect hearing since birth, I leaned in to comprehend what he was saying. He talked about me knowing about the downfall of baseball, its rise and the sustained future of the sport. That’s how he arrived at the White Buffalo label.
When I went back home, I emailed him again to say that it was great that my wife Sherry and I were able to see him. Again, I queried him about the White Buffalo label. He emailed back within a few days, repeating what he said from his bed.
“White buffaloes are rarely seen freaks of nature, the ghosts of a rumour but fact none the less,’’ he wrote in eloquent, mystical prose. “These spirits find themselves on the cusp of real change, caught in an equips of the watershed leading to the downfall of the sport. The ultimate rise and sustained future continually shows itself as history revealed, the new, hard, clever bits coming from mistakes refusing to pass.’’
Cary wasn’t a baseball fan per se in the truest sense, but he knew enough to understand what was going on. Before we left him on the 23rd, he told my wife Sherry that if I acted up, that she should take a stick and poke me in the ribs.
“That will do it,’’ Cary said of that stick. He also encouraged us to go and see Star Wars and we did. His brothers wanted to rent a theatre in Kingston so that he could see Star Wars. Cary told his siblings that he couldn’t do it because he didn’t want to interrupt the movie with his frequent bouts of coughing.
“May the force be with you,’’ Cary said in his last email to me.
Cary loved many things in life but none he cherished more than his partner of 32 years, my sister Margo.
“Cary bucked the Over-25 trend by actually figuring out new technologies. Early wins included programming the remote and surviving dial-up,’’ one of his brothers said in his death notice. “And then, there was his music. Cary was a font of knowledge about the newest sounds in every genre.
“Friends and family will always treasure the fantastic playlists he put together. He also loved collaborating with his musician friends writing lyrics and melodies resulting in the occasional new song.’’
Cary was a career federal civil servant, working out of Ottawa for the Foreign Affairs department, an undertaking stemming from his love of travel that was ingrained early on in life when he was born into an Air Force family.
His father Courtney and mother Sheila took their family to bases in both Canada and Europe. In fact, he pursued a career with the Canadian Foreign Service, which took him to Europe, Asia and Latin America, building lasting friendships at every port of call. He especially loved London and Rome. It was a career that Margo shared, too. She was posted abroad many times.
“Cary will be remembered for his profound interest in and knowledge of a wide range of subjects. He loved to engage in challenging discussion and debate with friends and family and delighted in playing the devil's advocate to keep discussions lively,’’ the death notice said, quite aptly.
Devil’s adovocate? That’s for sure. When Cary was enthused about a topic, there was no escaping him until you knew everything he knew or he had made his point. His rhetoric made a lasting impression.
“Cary’s desire to engage in discourse was matched only by his lifelong passion for the arts: he painted, sculpted and was a voracious reader,’’ the death notice said. “Cary came to love gardening while he and Margo lived in Ottawa. After retiring, he turned his attention to designing the beautiful country home where he and Margo lived upon moving to the Kingston area.’’
That house is truly a work of art. I’ve seen it many times. It was at this spectacular rural property nestled on a body of water in Hartington about 25 km. north of Kingston that Cary's imprints and green thumb of imagination flourished. There were close to 10 bird-feeders set up. He pretty much designed the house and all over it, you can see some of his art work and the paintings of his brother Shayne, with whom he was attached strongly.
“You could always count on Cary for dry wit, a wicked sense of humour and a positive approach to life. His optimism never left him, even as he dealt with the reality of an illness that, in the end, bested him. It was with incredible dignity and composure that he left us; he never allowed his illness to prevent him from engaging, fully and genuinely, in current topics right to the end,’’ the death notice continued.
On Feb. 8, Cary’s lungs failed and he went downhill swiftly from there. When my wife and I drove from Pickering and reached the hospital on Feb. 11 at 10:45 a.m., his eyes were closed and he was engaged in heavy breathing. Exactly two hours later, the breathing stopped and a wonderful human being was gone.
Cary had been diagnosed in the spring of 2014 around the time he and Margo went to Scotland on a holiday. His cancer was similar to what Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray is fighting. Besides Margo, Cary leaves his brothers Brett, Shayne and Randall and many family members and friends on both sides.
Donations in Cary’s memory may be made to New Leaf Link, a non-profit organization that deals with adults with developmental disabilities. The charity brings tangible benefits with immediate positive impact on the lives of those truly in need.
A celebration of Cary’s life is scheduled for March 12. He would have turned 68 on March 5. Gone way too soon.