An Open Letter to David Hewlett

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dear Mr. Hewlett,

I’m writing to you in the hopes that you’ll read this and learn a bit about the great woman who was my mother and a big fan of yours. Helen died recently at the much-too-young age of 59. In April she found out she had pancreatic cancer; less than 5 months later, she passed away.

If you don’t read this, that’s okay, I guess, because it’s also a part of my grieving process. I think you’ll be touched by it, but at the same time, it’s helping me deal with the loss.

My mother as your fan

Every movie you were in, she wanted to see. She didn’t get a chance to before she went. I had wanted to buy her A Dog’s Breakfast for Christmas; I think she would have really liked it. I think Cube would have given her a bit of claustrophobia, but didn’t it do that for everyone?

She loved Atlantis. I think your performance was a big part of that. Joe Flanigan and Paul McGillion may also have had something to do with that. The episodes she watched of SG-1 were mostly the ones with McKay in them, because of you. Maybe she saw a bit of me in McKay, as I’m definitely a geek, and I’ve been known to have arrogant moments.

She was so excited to get the season 5 DVDs recently, but she never got to watch any of it. I think my dad is the one most saddened by that fact. They watched all of Atlantis together, sharing in the joy of watching an entertaining show. There were lots of shows they enjoyed together, and wont have the chance to anymore.

McKay, I felt, made Atlantis. I’m a big fan too, and have probably seen many more of the movies you’ve been in than she did. I’m sad she didn’t get to see more, since I’ve always enjoyed your performances.

There are other aspects of her involvement with fandom, and if you’re interested I can tell you about them directly. This letter is mostly about the other parts of her life.

My mother as a great woman

There are no monuments erected in her honour. There never are for the everyday heroes. But I think she would have felt a little uncomfortable if there had been. Her biggest failing was that she often under-sold herself. She was a great woman, and with more self-esteem she would have seen it, I think.

From a young age she instilled in me a love of reading. She’d read to me every night from any number of books. The Hobbit, the Chronicles of Narnia, E. B. White’s books, anything she thought I would enjoy. I started going through her collection of sci-fi and fantasy books before I left elementary school; big, thick volumes of Anne McCaffrey and Stephen King. While I liked watching shows like Reading Rainbow, I didn’t need them to boost my love of reading.

Literacy was an important skill to her. She volunteered at local schools, helping kids who had trouble reading. I’m sure her love of reading helped those kids along more than anything else. Her patience no doubt also played a role, but I think if an educator shows great enthusiasm for the subject, the student will pick it up at least a bit.

She was part of a women’s group in her area. I believe she was the youngest there, and many of the women didn’t drive because of their age. Along with another woman, she would drive those who couldn’t to and from their meetings or outings.

Her support kept me going through some of the hardest times of my life. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be here writing this. It might be that others wouldn’t have managed to pull through if she hadn’t been here either.

She was generous and caring, and helped those she could. She always looked out for the underdog, knowing that it was a hard place to be. The popular and successful deserve support as well, but it’s always the downtrodden who are elevated more by a helping hand.

I owe my creativity, intelligence and curiosity to her. She bought our first computer when I was quite young, and without it and her support, I never would have taken a degree in computer science. Without her I would have never had a minor in linguistics to go with it. I wouldn’t have the breadth of knowledge I do, or the desire to expand it. I know she was proud of me, and I hope that she knew how big a role she had in helping me to where I am now.

She’s had one funeral service already, shortly after she passed. There are another two scheduled in the next two months. Three services might be unusual, but I think she deserved the extra recognition and the opportunity for as many as possible to celebrate her life. She was a wonderful woman, full of life and compassion. I’ll never forget her, and while there’s no monument out there in her honour, there’ll always be the one in my heart.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, I appreciate it.


James Dessart


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