I bumped into him years ago. I was scheduled to do a live interview at CTV London, and he was working with a client on a commercial shoot on the far side of the rather large back studio. He was a sales executive for the TV station, and as we amiably chatted in the few minutes before both my hit and his shoot, we realized we were both originally from Montreal, and we had enough shared geographic history to fill an afternoon.
I remember that day as if it was yesterday, not because of anything he said, but because of how he said it. He had a kind voice, a kind face, and a kind manner. He effortlessly mixed the business of getting a client to air with the business of connecting with a stranger. He put everyone around him at ease, and he always made you look forward to your next meeting.
Fortunately for me, that happened often. I crossed his path a number of times over the next few years, and finally last year I got to work with him full-time when I joined Bell Media's London team. He never forgot our Montreal connection, and he never forgot that first chat in the studio.
We lost Chris today. And in a workplace where colleagues are more like family than anywhere I've ever worked, the news was understandably devastating.
Aside from trying to get stuff done on a day when every fibre of my being was simply unable to focus on getting stuff done, I found myself thinking about how the universe works, and how fate allowed me to survive my own brush with mortality, but did not spare him. I can't answer the why, and I can't speak to what's fair and what is not. Who defines that ridiculous word, anyway?
But I can remember the kindness of a man who just yesterday I idly chatted with in the halls, who managed to turn a dark studio so long ago into a little slice of faraway home, with someone he had just met. In the end, how we're remembered will be based on how we've treated those around us, and in that context, I know Chris will be remembered well. I only hope I'm good enough to apply those simple lessons of kindness to those around me.
Thank you, Chris, for helping the rest of us figure out what really matters. May your memory always be a blessing.
Visitation and funeral details for Chris Cleaver are available here.