'As real as it gets': Dying B.C. man says goodbye at his 'living wake'
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Sunday, September 17, 2017 5:00PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 18, 2017 5:15PM EDT
A dying B.C. man said goodbye to his friends and family at his own "living wake" on Saturday afternoon. Old friends and family, some he hasn’t seen in 25 years, gathered at a casual New Westminster, B.C. pub for face-to-face goodbyes. For Chris Walters, having a “living wake” just makes sense.
“I like to be the centre of attention,” he joked to CTV Vancouver before the event. “I really like to get people together. That’s my big thing in life.”
Walters was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer last November. It’s a battle he knows he can’t win.
“My first oncologist, basically his first words to me were, ‘We’re not beating this.’ He didn’t say hi to me. He didn’t get to know me,” Walters said.
He fought through seven rounds of chemotherapy in spite of the bleak outlook before moving on to naturopathic options and a healthy diet. None of it worked.
He eloped with his wife Jana Buhlmann in December on board a small ferry that takes people up and down False Creek in Vancouver.
Buhlmann lovingly describes Walters as one of the most joyous people she’s ever met. Saying goodbye to their friends like this is a fitting departure for her new husband, she said.
Her goal is to make sure he is as comfortable as possible while it happens.
“Today is his day,” Buhlmann said. “He gets to see everyone and everyone gets to see him and have this time.”
Walters’ fight has not been an easy one. At one point he thought he was going to die of chemotherapy-related symptoms rather than the disease. He stopped chemo treatments in March, and said he has no regrets about the decisions that will guide the rest of his life.
Part of the wake involves giving away some of Walters’ belongings. His high school-aged cousin will get his prized guitar. Zipping up the case is just one on a long list of things he is getting ready to do for the last time.
“I’m at real peace with where I’m going. I’ve had a lot of time to absorb this,” Walters said. “I’m at a real good point in life where there are some good closure points with my son, with my wife, with how things are going.”
He said while it’s unfortunate that his illness is the reason his family and friends are getting together, he also wonders if there is something to be learned about the importance of making time to do so more often.
“We go on with these busy lives and hear rumours and stories and understand things through a Facebook post. But this is as real as it gets.”
With a report from CTV Vancouver