Saturday, April 28, 2012


My apologies to Anne Hopf. I made myself cry, writing this. It still had to be written.  Please forgive me.

You won't hear me use the word 'evil' very often. It's a loaded word, a nasty word; intractable. People of sound mind do not do anything they consider to be "evil', even if we might think so. Their "evil" acts, upon closer inspection, arise out of a narrow view of the world and an overemphasis on the self. And as for people who are not of sound mind, is their "evil" really their fault? The law says no, and so does anyone concerned with higher outcomes than simple revenge.

Which is not to say I do not believe in evil: I do. I just reserve the label for perversions to which no other word could apply.

Like cancer.

Cancer is evil.  It's evil because it is the backwards of what it is to live. (And if you spell 'live' backwards...)
Life is mindful growth. Cancer, in its mindless growth, attacks, breaks down, consumes, destroys, kills. Stealthy at first, cancer grows bolder and more brazen, robbing its victim of strength, dignity, mind, and eventually life.  We've spent billions of dollars trying to eradicate it, to no avail.

Cancer is especially evil, to my mind, because it has chosen to attack a good -- no, a great -- man. A man of substance, a man of might. My father-in-law.

You've heard the expression "a man of uncommon strength"? That's NOT John Hopf. A whole regiment of men of uncommon strength would look at John Hopf and say, now THERE goes a man of uncommon strength.

Words can not do this man justice; mine will not take his measure. Yet I feel the need to describe him to you. He's a master carpenter, able to visualize a thing of beauty and endurance and then bring that thing into being. He's a tiller of the soil, having grown some truly enormous pumpkins and sunflowers that have won awards.  He has spent a lifetime in construction: perhaps his greatest achievement in this realm is the renovation of a Stratford, Ontario church into this, an internationally renowned restaurant. He's also been the longtime caretaker of a cemetery. (His wife is a tax accountant: together, they are the unstoppable team of Death and Taxes.)

These are all things John Hopf has done, which should give a clue as to who he is. But he is more than what he has done. He is a devoted husband to Anne, a loving father to Jim and Eva, a grandfather to baby Alexa. He is a firm but fair man without prejudice, a man who loves life, a man who -- until the evil came -- embodied life. The very model of a life worth living.

And like Life he so embodies, this man's resilience is without parallel. I could describe the injuries he has shrugged off -- just one of which has left him physically unable to shrug -- and you wouldn't believe me. I could tell you about how he laughed in the face of his cancer, telling everyone he was going to glow in the dark, and continuing to work around the house while his insides were under attack on multiple fronts. Underneath that boundless strength, a gentleness, an innate goodness that makes his cancer all the more evil. I could tell you...and I could tell you...and eventually I couldn't tell you, because words will not do this man justice.

While that cancer may think it will have the last laugh, the truth is it won't, can't. Because in a very real sense, John Hopf is just as immortal as I always believed him to be. His body will suffer and die; he will live on in his lineage, in memory, in the minds of the many who knew and loved him. Tales are told of men like him. They have been since time out of mind. He will join that gloried pantheon soon now...but he will never leave us.

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