George Ferguson, a late B.C. inventor and United Church minister, was a bounder, a scoundrel and a ne’er-do-well. That’s according to his daughter, who wrote an unusually acerbic obituary of her father in the July 6 edition of the Victoria Times Colonist that has since gone viral.
“Certainly, no one could accuse him of having been a loving son, brother, or father,” wrote Karen Shirley, 53, in her unforgiving but lyrical send-off.
“Was he a small-time con-man with grandiose schemes? Probably.” He was also “a poor man’s rhetorician who beguiled certain women into buying into his promises and dreams.”
Speaking to the Star by phone, she said she amassed the energy to pen her father’s story when she found herself locked out of his apartment because the rent was past due.
Instead of packing up the dead man’s things, she unpacked his life on the page. The writing was unclouded by grief, she says. “He’s left us with all kinds of paper work — I don’t have time to feel anything! . . . It’s just strange when a very powerful person in your life, who you don’t love, dies. That shadow is gone.”
Shirley, a philosophy teacher at Camosun College in Victoria, left the obituary unsigned but was identified by Tom Hawthorn, a veteran obituary writer himself, in a story for Legacy.com.
The assessment of her father’s character has attracted attention online for its wry tone and rare candour. The piece has been making the Twitter rounds since appearing in print, and the web version has dozens of comments.
Despite arriving at a much gentler judgment, it was received with the same astonishment as a now-famous obituary of Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick, written by her children in
2013 and featuring the line, “She is survived by her 6 of 8 children whom she spent her lifetime torturing in every way possible.”
It started me thinking how I would remember my parents. I won’t be writing their obituary as I doubt I will be invited to the funeral but it’s an interesting exercise to think of their legacy and impact on you and the world.
I would have very different experiences with my mom and dad. From all accounts they are great parents and grandparents to my brother and his family. They are loved by the church but at the same time they rejected me when I told them I was molested and sexually assaulted growing up. What else is there to say after that? Probably the harshest thing in that was the line,
It’s just strange when a very powerful person in your life, who you don’t love, dies. That shadow is gone.
I have wondered what it will be like when my parents die. For years I wanted to resolve our relationship so I wouldn’t have to deal with like this but 15 years later and no real contact and as they have gotten older, fiction has replaced fact, I realize that it is never going to get better. Maybe it will be a shadow that has gone.
Jordon says that a person writes their own obituary by the life they live. So while Karen Shirley may have put words to paper, it was George Ferguson who wrote it by how he lived.
We are spending the long weekend at the cabin where we plan to play some badminton, lacrosse, take some photos, do some swimming, have a big fire, and enjoy the beach. Hope your Canada Day is a good one as well, however you are spending it.
It is now accepted that domestic violence in Guyana is widespread, and its perpetrators disregard race and socio-economic circumstances. Reacting to this situation, the law prohibits domestic violence, gives women the right to seek prompt protection, and allows victims to seek protection, occupation, or tenancy orders from a magistrate.
This is all good from a theoretical standpoint. Given the prevailing culture of discrimination against women – from a practical level, domestic violence remains a national crisis, since law enforcement is weak, there is logistical difficulty in monitoring interior communities, and it is not easy getting people involved in campaigns. As such, it is time then to persistently target the traditional Guyanese mind-set.
Research shows that social scientists and feminists refer to male-perpetrator, female-victim violence as gender-based violence, because it evolves from the female’s subordinate social status and the beliefs, norms, and social institutions that support a patriarchal structure.
Simply put, patriarchal societies, of which Guyana is still one, give men power and authority over women. This can be found at individual, group, or institutional levels. If we add religious endorsement, it becomes even worse for women. Religious texts are replete with admonitions for women, contextualising their behaviour to accommodate a patriarchal world.
Another compounding factor is the condition where male power is influenced by personal resources and group membership. Adrienne Rich explicates on a patriarchal continuum where a group of individuals (males) are ascribed power over females because of their sex (male) and the group to which they belong – for example money, family, tribe, and clan.
Research also shows that there are three primary reasons women or wives are believed to “deserve” and often receive beatings: sexual jealousy as a result of real or suspected adultery; failure to treat her so-called “superiors” (husband or male members of the house) with what they perceive as respect; and her apparent non-compliance towards a husband’s notion of “privilege” as absolute ruler of the household.
All three categories involve the notion of exerting control over a woman’s sexuality, her performance of what is referred to as wifely duties, and even her life. In most traditional societies, a wife’s adultery and a female family member’s premarital sexual activities are viewed as the most serious violations of codes of male and family honour, which merit the most severe penalties that frequently include death.
In these settings, it is the male members of a female’s family who must control her behaviour. Further, if punishment, especially death, is called for as a means of erasing shame and restoring honour, it will be the males in the female’s biological family who must administer the punishment.
The double standard that usually exists with regard to how male and female behaviours are viewed and what the consequences are is glaringly obvious. Take the Jordan case, where a young woman was killed by her father because she had accepted the advances of her lover. The lover was not perceived as guilty, because the woman had accepted his advances. The father was sentenced to only six days in prison for the murder of his daughter.
I never saw the violence growing up but as a Guyanese girl, it was made clear that I had less value then my older brother. This was confirmed growing up by them encouraging an ex-boyfriend who had threatened me with violence and a gun to keep pursuing me. Later on it was made very clear that their focus as a family was directed to my brother. It was made clear to me that my role as a women was to “please” men.
Of course we later became part of a very patriarchal church that reinforced many of those same beliefs that women were inferior and there for the benefit of the men.
Luckily I dated and them married Jordon who was raised by strong single mother who taught the opposite and he has always treated me with respect but has stopped me when I revert to my default mode of being subservient. Actually that has been a gift that has been given to me from most women that I know and that is that I have value.
Of course that leads to some major conflict when my parents who have grown up in a culture that does not value women now has a daughter that has been raised in a culture that does (or at least has a much higher value on women than Guyana does).
It saddens me but I feel that the main reason that I don’t have a relationship with my mom and dad is that I have abandoned the role of serving the men in the family. When I stopped doing that, I was of no use to them and haven’t talked in many, many years.
Mark graduated from Grade 8 tonight. Not a huge accomplishment but an accomplishment nonetheless. Jordon, Oliver, and I were all at Westmount School to celebrate with him. After the ceremony, we are heading back home to chill out, order in some food and give him his gifts. Jordon and I got him a nice knife while Oliver got him a cool watch.
Leave a comment in the comments before Sunday evening on his blog and you could win this Ford barstool, a Ford hat, and a retro Ford sign.
Yeah, it is pretty cool.
Oliver turned six today and as you can imagine, super excited. We got him a Marvel Avengers Lego game for his Nintendo DS, a Super Soaker, a Nerf Gun (that shoots a lot of Nerf darts all at once), some more Nerf darts (this could be a bad decision on our part) as well as an old Fuji J10 digital camera of ours (and the cutest camera case you have ever seen). I also replaced his favourite mug that has the number “5” on it with a mug that has a number “6” on it.
Ever since we gave Mark his Pentax camera for his birthday, Oliver has loved to go out with us taking video with his small video camera but with he is often disappointed that he can’t take any pictures with it. Well now he can. It should be fun. Since he loves to see his photos online, we set up a Flickr account for him.
He is really careful with electronics and while it’s no big loss if he breaks the camera, I don’t think he will. We had given him a cheap Vivitar camera that he loved but the problem was with no memory card, it was a pain to be downloading photos. With a 4gb card in this camera, he will be able to photograph things until he is tired of it. The memory card will hold 4000 photos which is more than his battery can power. The other good news is that it has the same battery as my compact Fuji so only one charger to take on trips.
So today I am baking up some cupcakes for his class and then getting ready for a nice hamburger dinner. Then we are meeting Jerry & Gloria Reimer for ice cream at Homestead Ice Cream. On July 1st, the day were able to take Oliver home, the first stop we made was at the Reimers so they are appropriate people to celebrate with tonight.