Last week, a remarkable Canadian and citizen of the world, Vincent Del
Buono, died on the Niagara peninsula at the age of almost 60. Some of
the details of his life as carried in the Globe and Mail obituaries
can be accessed at www.david-kilgour.com, but they do not do him
The eulogy of his friend, Ian Alexander now of Victoria, given at a
packed funeral service at the St. Thomas Aquinas church at the Newman
Centre, University of Toronto, last Saturday morning is more
revealing. Here are some excerpts:
"Vince touched my life for good – in both senses of the word – as he
touched so many lives – in ways large and small, public and private –
including, I’m sure, the lives of everyone gathered here. Vince was
such a rich, old soul – such a multi-faceted personality – that no
one, not even, I suspect, his nearest and dearest, could know him
fully, in the round.
"Vince was a deeply, if somewhat unconventionally, spiritual person.
His was an ancient, eclectic and inclusive spirituality: transcending
any denomination, doctrine or dogma, yet respecting them all. That
comes across in his selection of the D.H. Lawrence poem excerpted on
your prayer cards. He first came across it when his brother John
died: an event which caused Vince to engage spiritual issues in a new
way, with the help of Father Fred McGee at St. Joseph’s Parish in
Ottawa, where Vince and Jenny were very active at the time. Father
Fred liked to speak of 'the God of Surprise': an idea Vince was much
preoccupied with again in these last days. Vince and Jen didn’t have
a chance to re-read the Lawrence poem together, as they had hoped to
do; so much was cut short by his unexpectedly rapid passing – but it’s
clear, as Jennifer has said, that Vinnie was preparing for this
journey. He knew it was time."
"Vince always knew. He was amazingly intuitive, wasn’t he? He had a
sixth sense, and a third eye. He was in touch with forces few of us
are. He would look at you with that wise, penetrating, yet
compassionate expression, and you felt he was seeing straight into
your very soul. And he always knew the right thing to say.
Consulting Vince for advice felt rather like visiting a cherubic, yet
somewhat enigmatic, sage or oracle.
"There is Vince the Italian immigrant kid, growing up around the St.
Clair Junction neighbourhood in the 50s and 60s – his presidency of
the student council at Oakwood Collegiate a harbinger of things to
come. That immigrant experience shaped him in important ways, as he
revealed when he spoke about it frankly and movingly at the Columbus
Centre some years ago.
"At the other end of his life, there is Vince the Nigerian: one of
relatively few expatriate inductees into the Order of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria, and holder of important traditional Nigerian
titles, as well. The Nigerian experience was central to who Vince
was, in many ways – from the opportunity it gave him to express his
more extroverted side by wearing traditional Nigerian dress, through
the great interest he took in Sharia law, to the very close
identification he felt with the poor and disenfranchised citizens of
that country. Vince considered his time in Nigeria, challenging
though it was, to be the crowning achievement of his life –
professionally, and in some ways personally, as well. Many of us wish
we could have visited Vince and Jenny at their home in Abuja, which
was always open to locals and visitors alike, for frequent impromptu
dinner parties and good old gabfests – open, too, to local artists who
would bring their latest work to show.
"Which in turn reminds us of Vince the family man. All of us knew how
important those Sunday afternoon lunches at his mother’s were to
Vince. And he adored his late father Michael. Mike was his role
model. He admired his integrity and determination. Nobody messed
with Mike. As Nick de Lorenzo can tell you, by the age of 10, Vince
was running the time clock on the construction site. And by 16, he
was wheeling and dealing on orders for materials worth millions of
"As for his own home life . . . well, anyone who saw – or even saw
pictures – of Vince and Jennifer and the cats, joyfully and lovingly
ensconced at any one of their addresses over the years – from Ottawa
and Montreal, to Vancouver and London, from Avenue Road to Abuja, from
Vienna to Virgil – and usually offering bountiful hospitality to a
large group of guests gathered around the table – could see at once
how they quickly made each of those places very much their own
unmistakably distinctive home – and what a strong domestic streak
Vince had, wherever he was.
"Well, I could go on – and so could you – and I’m sure we will, at
other times and in other circumstances. Because Vincent Del Buono is
a permanent part of all our lives. And for that, we are all
profoundly grateful. So I hope you will permit me to say, on your
behalf: “Vincent, notre cher ami, merci – et au revoir.”
I should indicate that Vincent had a major impact on my own family,
including our children. He was an amazing teacher who mentored even
the very young because they could tell he really cared about them and
he was consciously giving them life skills which our children
recognize even today in their 20s and 30s.
By coincidence, my wife Laura and I, returning from the funeral, found
in an email from a family member, which spoke directly to our wounded
hearts. Consider only three points from it:
1-"One day a woman's husband died, and on that clear, cold morning, in
the warmth of their bedroom, the wife was struck with the pain of
learning that sometimes there isn't 'anymore'. No more hugs, no more
special moments to celebrate together, no more phone calls just to
chat, no more 'just one minute'. Sometimes, what we care about the
most gets all used up and goes away, never to return before we can say
good-bye, say 'I love you'."
2-"So while we have it, it's best we love it, care for it, fix it when
it's broken and heal it when it's sick. This is true for
marriage.....And old cars... And children with bad report cards, and
dogs with bad hips, and aging parents and grandparents. We keep them
because they are worth it, because we are worth it."
3-"I was thinking...I could die today, tomorrow or next week, and I
wondered if I had any wounds needing to be healed, friendships that
needed rekindling or three words needing to be said. Let every one of
your friends know you love them.. Even if you think they don't love
you back, you would be amazed at what those three little words and a
smile can do And just in case I'm gone tomorrow. I LOVE YA!"