Oliver Smith’s Short Shift

Posted on July 11, 2019 under Storytelling with 2 comments

Oliver getting a few lessons in table hockey from great-grandfather, George

“The time you won your town the race,

We chaired you through the market place,

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder- high.

 

Today, the road all runners come,

Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.

 

To an Athlete Dying Young. A.E. Housman

Young people are supposed to outlive their parents, their grandparents, and their great -grandparents. Oliver Smith’s life was grounded just at the stage of life when it was due to take flight. He fought the valiant fight with Ewings Sarcoma but sadly succumbed to this deadly childhood cancer the day after his twelfth birthday.

Terry Fox suffered from a similar cancer called osteosarcoma and he eventually died in 1981 while crossing Canada. He was raising awareness and money for cancer research. Terry Fox died young and has never been forgotten. Oliver died one day before the anniversary of Terry Fox’s death. Ollie Bots, the fundraising project that Oliver and his family started, will endure. Money raised from Ollie Bots goes towards research for Ewings Sarcoma and also supports local families affected by paediatric cancer.

It comes as little surprise that Oliver was athletic and that his passion was hockey. It was part of his DNA. His great- grandfather, George, spent much of his life in cold hockey rinks following the exploits of Oliver’s grandfather, Alex, and his brothers. Oliver’s dad, Bryan, an avid hockey player himself, has taken up the torch and spends countless hours coaching and working on skating skills with local hockey players.

Oliver faced this dreaded disease is a quiet, determined way. He didn’t complain about his lot in life even when pain short circuited his budding hockey career.

The first few chapters of Oliver’s life have been written. He played hockey until he couldn’t and then lived it vicariously through his hockey team and his beloved St.F.X. X-Men hockey squad. He got to meet members of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who maintained contact with the family throughout Oliver’s final days.

Brad Peddle, the coach of the St.F.X. hockey team, spoke glowingly of Oliver. “It’s hard to put into words what Oliver meant to our group this year. This was a tough season in many ways with more adversity than most years, but Oliver inspired the group to get to another level. His spirit and smile through a much tougher battle he was enduring was both motivating and inspiring. Throughout the playoffs I was serving a 10- game suspension, meaning I could not go near the team before games. He stepped in and did the starting lineup every game, doing a remarkable job in a pressure packed time of year. Not many adults could do that, let alone a 12 –year-old boy. I firmly believe he is the sole reason our team went as far as it did and won a Bronze medal at the National Championship. After a terrible loss in the semi-final, crushing our gold medal goals, Oliver was the only reason our team stayed on track and got right back up to play and win the bronze the next day. Seeing Oliver being the first to go up and get his medal on the ice is something none of us will ever forget.”

How can anything good come from the death of a child? Death is mysterious enough when it involves someone who has led a long, productive life. But trying to rationalize, let alone explain the death of one so young and with so much promise is almost unfathomable. There are no words that will comfort his grieving family and the community that loved him.

Hockey is a game played in short shifts. This is when a player is competing at maximum capacity. Oliver didn’t get to play the whole game but his short shift was one played with passion. He lived the best kind of life he could in the time he was given.

Oliver was nurtured and cared for by generations of competent and caring women. Many of them were nurses, including his mother, Shauna. Love was the best medicine they dispensed to Oliver throughout his life, especially in the third period. His sisters, Megan and Emma ,were rocks. They honoured their brother the best way they could by continuing to pursue academic and athletic excellence during his illness.

But Oliver’s story is not over. His legacy started to build with Ollie Bots and it appears that this fundraising project will assist many families in the days and years to come.

 Oliver Smith lived a shortened life but one that was impactful. Those relatives who died before him would be justifiably proud of this exceptional young man.

Those left to mourn will continue to honour his life.

There are many chapters remaining in Oliver’s story. They just haven’t been written yet.

“Now you will not swell the route,

Of lads that wore their honours out,

Runners whom renown outran,

And the name died before the man.”

 

 

 

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Comments

2 Responses to Oliver Smith’s Short Shift

  1. Mary MacPherson says:

    What’s Leonard going to do today? Make me cry, make me laugh, make me think. Always a good read. Thank you, Leonard. Mary

  2. Shelley says:

    Very moving and emotional. Thank you Len.

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