It was a Sunday, a beautiful Sunday. My girlfriend and I had just arrived at her family’s farm and were looking forward to a brief reprieve away from the brashness of city life. Her father owned a stretch of land that carved itself into the rolling dunes of the Alberta landscape. It was a little over an hour away from the city, so, it was quiet, peaceful. Juxtaposed from what we were used to with living in the downtown. I remember the sun had just transposed itself into a brilliant orange as it began its slothful descent. It was nearing dinner time, but the patio looked too tempting to us all, so we did away with the traditional and opted for a liquid repast instead. We all sat around the patio table and conversed lightly with one another, swapping the occasional joke for a chuckle or two. It was in noticing that our beverages were running low that I offered to head inside and procure some more ‘dinner’ for us all. I excused myself from the table and went inside.
Upon entering the gloriously air-conditioned house with the task of getting more drinks for everyone, my phone clamored to life within my pocket. Startled by its sudden burst of life, I reached in and withdrew the hand-held device. Now looking at the screen, my brow contorted with a level of perplexity at what was emanating from it. It was displaying the number to the base, the military base back in Edmonton. I was confused because I had released from the army two days prior, and now they were calling me?! Under the weight of obfuscation, I answered the beckoning call. I pressed the phone to my ear and greeted whomever may be on the other end of the line. It turned out to be one of my former commanding officers. They were informing me that I was to return to the base ASAP for a unit briefing. Confusion now saturating my spoken word, I informed the C.O. (commanding officer) that I was no longer in the army, and that I had my release papers signed two days prior. There was a brief pause of unspoken word before the voice slid into my ear from the other end of the phone telling me to ‘disregard’ their last, meaning not to worry about coming into the base and forget what they had said. Without even saying goodbye, the line went dead.
This unnerved me because it felt as though the C.O. was using an outdated call-list to bring everyone back to the unit for an important briefing; and that meant something had happened – something bad…
I felt this way because the only other times that this type of command was given to those within the unit, was when one of us had been killed. This is what happened when Boomer died, and it is what happened when Starker was killed, and now it was happening again. The only difference was that I was no longer a soldier and thus uninvited from the gathering. My stomach began to churn with an unease that was not to be settled quickly.
Having released so recently I knew plenty of medics still back at the unit as well as those currently deployed. I in turn picked up my phone and began calling one of my friends who was still serving, Julian, was his name. The phone crooned its familiar ring a couple of times in my ear, but eventually it gave way to the sound of Julian’s voice. He greeted me with a tone that personified how my stomach was feeling.
“Julian, buddy, what the fuck is going on?!”
“Henny, I dunno yet, man. They just called everyone back in, I was golfing.”
“Shit! Bro, as soon as you know… please?!”
“Of course, brother. Fuck, of course!”
And with that, we hung-up. I placed my phone down on the island counter and stared at the phone, wishing for it to come to life with news of what had happened. It only took a few minutes for a call back, but I managed to live and worry a lifetime in those moments. By this time everyone from outside had noticed my prolonged absence and made their way inside.
“Matty?” My girlfriend’s euphonic voice traveled from the doorway to my ears. It caused me to spin my head while simultaneously picking up my now lively phone. I now had an audience peering at me as I began to learn the shattering news of what had happened. On the other end of the line was Julian; his voice stammered through a couple of failed sentences. But, eventually he was able to string together a coherent revelation of agony for me and to me…
“Henny, I’m really sorry man – it’s Colin. Colin is dead! Wilmot’s gone.”
There was now a brief and unspoken silence between both Julian and myself. I was no longer confused, I was crushed and still crumbling. I felt my knees buckle and vibrate as if to have been beams hit by a hammer. I am not even sure if I said goodbye to Julian before releasing the phone from my ear. All I recall was placing the phone down on the counter and taking a moment while unwittingly ignoring the inquisitive calls from my girlfriend and her family. Eventually my head sluggishly canted towards them, they had not moved from the doorway. I felt my eyes begin to burn as my brain informed them of what had happened to our dear friend. To our brother. A tenuous wall of tears now sat along the lower lids of my reddening eyes. Though I had spoken not a word, they all knew something awful had happened.
“Matty? …” My girlfriend’s voice sauntered in once more. It was no longer euphonic, it was muffled by a haze that had now enveloped my everything. My mind suddenly started sprinting into the future; it thought of all the newscasts that would soon boast a small picture with the likeness of my now fallen brother, informing the world that Canada had lost another one in a land far from home. The country would see a picture and read a headline, whereas I would see my friend. My dear, dear friend. Colin…
The haze broke when my girlfriend, who was now standing right beside me, started woefully tugging on my arm.
“Matty, talk to me, what is it? What happened?”
“I – I – “Words failed me, just as they had done to Julian. I choked on a few more vowels before revealing the heinous news. The words fell from my lips beneath the heft of what I was saying. Just as my words began to fall, so did my tears. Words spoken through grieving hiccups, I told them, “Colin – Colin’s dead. Colin’s dead!” This was followed by a silent audience and a wailing man. I was that man. There was a physical pain attached to my skin with each exhaled cry. I was rapidly devolving into a wounded child.
Never in a million years did I think that Colin would be killed. A man with the heart of a fucking lion belongs on this world. And he was a man with the heart of a lion, make no mistake! He practically begged for the opportunity to deploy! A once a day trip into the C.O.’s office to state his case of worthiness. He pleaded for the mission. There was no fear nor hesitation within him, only determination and grit!
Like many soldiers, Colin was made up of different elements. There was the eclectically funny goofball that we all knew and loved, followed by the consummate professional dedicated to his craft of medicine. There was also the stoic learner and the humble teacher. A man of discipline, both with regards to military structure and the world of martial arts. Colin was basically an action hero with a ‘PG’ rating that flirted with ‘R’ when needed. I have often said that when I get a dog, I will name it, Wilmutt, in Colin’s honour. He was loyal and kind to an unmatched degree. He was philosophical too, often times he would seek me out in order to provide me with comfort and advice towards my poisonous and failing relationship with Anna. In the years that have since passed, I have on many occasion, craved those talks between he and I. There was even a night this past year when I found myself speaking into the ether in hopes that he could tell me what to do in dealing with my mother’s suicide. I called out to Colin and not God, because I do not believe in God. But, I do whole-heartedly believe in Colin and his ability to make bad things better. Because that’s what he did. And he did so with effortless ease. On that Sunday, that bloody Sunday, the world lost one of its best! He was one of the best men that I have ever known. And I am humbled in the honour of having called him, friend. Brother. God, I miss him…
This July 6th will mark ten years since that Sunday. Ten years… I close my eyes and I can still feel myself standing in that kitchen beside the island. Prying eyes crawling all over me. I can even hear a single tear that fell from my cheek and land to the counter below. One single drop, silent to everyone but me. To me, it blasted like a fucking shotgun! Ten years… feels like ten minutes.
Colin was a hero and warrior in every sense of the word. It has been said that he was even telling the infantry how to save him after he had gotten hit. A stoic professional in the field of medicine. A humble teacher, even in death…
I miss you, Colin. You are my brother. I wear your name on a band around my wrist. Colin William Wilmot; immortalized in steel and story. A man to become myth, and a myth to become legend. Because you are legendary, brother.
On July 6th, I will tell whomever I encounter about you. On that day, in spite of a decade, you will live! You will become alive in the minds of others! This I swear to you.
I love you, brother. Not a day goes by…