At first glance I didn't believe that it was possible to gain a meaningful relationship with someone whom I'd never met nor would ever meet in a world where we were connected only by computers. But by chance that is exactly what happened via the cyber technology of the Woodcarving Illustrated Message Board when one of our most prolific woodcarving posters from Ontario, Canada known by the name of "tucker1931" decided to go public with his battle with cancer. (That's a picture of Cliff and his wife Vikky to the left)
Cliff was one of those amazing posters who somehow found the time to compliment just about every carving that was posted. Most folks can't find that kind of time or are only there to elaborate on their own niche branch of carving, like myself, but Cliff was all over the place. Some of my fondest memories were in the "Off Topic" room where I enjoyed seeing the pictures of some monster carp that he enjoyed catching and sharing the stories with all of us across the continent and the globe. You could just feel that this was the kind of man that you'd want for a grandfather if you were a kid. He always shared such a zeal for living that was contagious... even at the age of 78!
Cliff also posted some of the most beautifully carved spoons that I've ever seen right up to the time of his passing and it was obvious that he wasn't going to let no dreaded disease get the best of his living life to it's fullest. I was amazed at how an impending death didn't seem to phase him and that he was only interested in what he could do "today". That concept about how to face life's ultimate challenge so courageously and honestly really touched me in a powerful way. To the right is a picture of just a few of the magnificent spoons that Cliff carved and shared with our community. His drive to produce such wonderful spoons greatly inspired me and many others to go on a spoon carving frenzy ourselves. I now think of Cliff every day when I use the cherry wood coffee scooper that he inspired me to carve.
Most people would have a hard time just facing their impending death much less talking openly and honestly about it. Cliff and I had several very "wordy" public conversations on his situation since my own father had died from cancer years earlier. These conversations weren't easy for me but they made me a stronger person as Cliff's amazing courage was a lesson in life that I will never forget. Cliff openly discussed his situation because it was his hope that other men would be screened for prostate cancer and a lot of men went in for a first-time screening because of his words. Cliff also continued posting threads on the amazing carvings that he was producing until his lack of energy finally confined him to a bed. For me, therein lies the real story of Cliff's character and the legacy that he leaves behind for his wife, children, and friends.
Cliff's last post on the message board was in mid-July but his daughter Janis continued to keep us informed with regular updates until early in September when Cliff slipped away from us. I will miss looking for his words and his carvings on the message board but he will not be forgotten... even by those of us who never personally met him. That cherry coffee scooper that he inspired me to carve will let his memory live on in my heart forever.
(I will shortly be posting pictures of a totem pole "angel" that I carved and mailed to Cliff right after I learned of his illness back in the springtime. I would have added it here but thought that Cliff deserved his own space.)
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