Friday, May 13, 2016

Jean-Pierre's Last Train Ride

"There is a season for everything under the Heavens" says the Ecclesiaste...

Jean-Pierre Veilleux left us this morning after a short and fierce fight against cancer. He was well-known among railfans in Eastern Canada and, I'm prt wrong obably noin saying that he was a great gentleman and that he befriended all of us whatever our age or background.

"There is a time to speak..."

Railfanning or discussing with him was always a special moment as he could be dead serious and at the same time find his way in the weirdest conversation possible with witty remarks. His particular sense of humour was much appreciated and many of his colorful expressions passed down into regular speech among local railfans. There's not a single evening at the club without someone uttering "Toé, j't'aimais bien" or "Une autre de même pis on ferme".

My last railfan trip with Jean-Pierre was about two or three years ago when we followed the brand new Massif de Charlevoix touristic train in Charlevoix. Back then his health was already uncertain and it was evident he made everything possible to make sure the trip would be a success. Indeed, it was...

"There is a time to build..."

Jean-Pierre was a living encyclopedia and when we started building the layout, he was a key person in providing factual information about Limoilou and Murray Bay Subdivision. He gave us access to archives (both personal and Groupe TRAQ) without condition. His sharp memories from the 50s and 60s, when he was just a kid, were instrumental in understanding the operation pattern, motive power and commodities moved over rail. His vivid stories about CPR trains running in Quebec City Downtown, the Prince Edward Rounhouse, QRL&PCo station at Carré Parent and CNR C-Liners pulling freight consists in Limoilou Yard will stay engraved in my mind as if they were mines. Without him, many aspects of the layout would be lifeless.

"There is a time to mourn..."

When I visited him at the hospital last Wednesday with Louis-Marie, it was no secret between him and us it would be the last time we would spend together. While he was only a shadow of himself physically, his mind was sharp as ever and he made sure to make this moment a significant one for us and him. Truth to be told, you couldn't separate Jean-Pierre's deacon vocation even in the end... He seems to have been a spiritual force to everybody who witnessed him in his last moment...  Rarely you have the occasion to discuss life and death with a person having a deep and genuine spirituality like Jean-Pierre. While he knew how to put a smile on our faces that evening, it was nevertheless heart wrenching when he explained that the one departing was also a mourner, even if he was prepared and ready for the next ride...

"There is a time to laugh..."

And while there's a time for everything, I can't stop thinking this time, Jean-Pierre took a one-way ticket for the last train to an unknown destination... and knowing him, he is traveling first class in a classic Ocean Limited stainless sleeper car, gently smiling gently as he used and enjoying this new road he never travelled before...

It will soon be the time for us to wave our hands for a last time while the train leaves the station.

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