I wrote about the loss of Jamie Burnett, a therapeutic clown at Holland Bloorview who died in December. I want to write about something he left with me.
I visited Jamie twice in hospital. The first time I felt somewhat awkward because of the magnitude of what he and his family were going through. I wanted to visit because I wanted him to know the difference he made in our family’s life when Ben was an inpatient. But I didn’t want to be intrusive or disturb.
Jamie was tired during our meeting. I quickly saw the difference between his overly exuberant clown character ‘Ricky’ and the flesh and blood Jamie who was living with a brain tumour.
The one thing he wanted to hear about was Holland Bloorview. He wanted news on innovative things we were doing and he wanted to know how everyone was. He commented on how much he liked the foundation’s new fundraising campaign: No Limits. And we learned that Ben was going to the same high school he once attended.
At the end, he said something that will always stay with me.
“Keep coming back!”
In those words he let me know that it was okay that I came and he appreciated it. But more than that, I felt he was conveying a message about life. ‘Keep coming back’ was about continuing to show up, even during the most painful times. It was about courage when you can’t change a situation. It was about keeping that clown magic moving – from clown to child and child to clown – not letting it drop. It was the words I imagine he and his partner Dr. Flap heard (or saw in the eyes of children) so many times: Keep coming back.