Photo- Linda Seccaspina
Today I looked at the lamp I bought from Bill Bagg when he lived in the Brown house on Mill Street and let out a loud sigh. It was very fitting that my late husband’s photo was under it as they shared the same health struggles for their last few years. They might have been as different as night and day but in the end their pain and frustration was the same.
I’m not going to write about his life and family as you can get all that in the newspaper-but, what I am going to write about is how Bill and I walked through the last days of my late husband’s life. You never argued with Bill ever, especially about three things, well maybe 4: local politics, history, his old dog Tick, and most importantly God.
I could understand his frustrations about his dog being picked up, put to sleep, and sent to the dog food company in Smiths Falls in the 80’s. Yes, everyone knows my frustrations with local politics, so I wasn’t going to question that– but it was the God thing that baffled me. How anyone, especially Bill Bagg, could have such a direct line to God made me scratch my head sometimes, but I never doubted it–ever.
My husband Angelo and Bill both discovered they had colon cancer at the same time and today I feel like I am reliving Angelo’s death over again. When Bill was going through something so was Angelo, and I knew how they felt because if one told me then I knew how the other one was.
There were two differences though: Bill had an operation to remove a tumour and Angelo did not because of a fear from a past experience. Angelo died February 8, 2014 and Bill died on Tuesday night– almost a 3 year span. I knew Bill would have better luck not only because of the operation– but because he seemed to have this one on one with God. Was it because of that large pendant he constantly wore– or was it something I just didn’t know? I remember the first time Bill and I discussed cancer like it was yesterday.
Photo of Bill Bagg–Amanda Todd-Peters and Peggy Powell
*”Pushing the large church doors open at St. James I felt rivers of emotions fill my inner soul. I shouldn’t be here I thought to myself, as I knew I was setting myself up. I sat in one of the pews, stared at the stained glass windows, and tried to hold back my tears. People were going to wonder why I was back in town so soon and I had yet to tell anyone what was really going on. For days I had spoken of family emergencies and real estate deals to those that asked, but I kept the truth inside my heart. I knew he didn’t want the whole world to know his deadly secret, and I respected that.
I glanced through the hymn book and was thankful it wasn’t Sunday. Organ music would be attempting to pull more tears out of me than what I was presently trying to hide. Not wanting anyone to see the distress I was in I kept to myself and looked at no one. I knew the time was coming when I would have to release the inner sadness, but I just didn’t want it to be today.
As people came in they stared at me and I had a feeling some knew my secret but were too kind to ask. Time seemed to move by at a snail’s pace and I kept lowering my head so no one would see my tear-stained face. Taking deep breaths didn’t help and I wanted to sob for a very long time. When I finally pulled myself together it was time to meet and greet. *Bill looked at me point blank and asked why I was back. The world began to spin and I could no longer hold it in and I looked at him and said quietly.
“Ange has stage 4 colon cancer.”
He put his arms around me as I cried and said:
“You’ve come to the right place I’ve got cancer too!”
For months he tried to get Angelo to talk to someone of a higher power but my husband was having none of it. Bill kept saying if he just talked to God his suffering would be lighter. In Ange’s mind he thought going to church wasn’t going to help him anymore than standing in a garage made you a car. Having been raised with a tough religious Italian Mother kind of muddled his thoughts about God, and anyways you didn’t argue with him, just like you didn’t argue with Bill.
But Bill never gave up on Angelo and he kept telling me God was ready to hear his voice. Angelo never did have that talk with God until the last two days he was alive. A former tenant sent a rosary to him and when he saw it he clasped it like it was a piece of gold. I had never in my whole life seen him do something like that. I knew he was scared and felt lost and by clutching that rosary he felt that God knew where he was. One hour before he died he asked for a priest to come to the house — but it never happened.
Was it a little too late? It wasn’t in Bill’s mind and he said, “In God’s eyes, you are never too far gone in any situation.”
I saw Bill at Walmart a few weeks ago and I knew he didn’t have much time left. I recognized the red jacket, the grey hair, and that voice, but nothing else reminded me of him. Hunched over pushing a shopping cart I felt the pain of his every step. A million memories flashed through my mind of how he used to be and no longer was.
It’s crazy that someone who used to be part of your life is no longer here– and he gave me so much to remember him by. The trouble is you think you have time and you don’t, as Angelo finally realized those last few days. If you look up to the sky today and hear a rumble just smile as you know God now has his hands full. Bill is probably directing heavenly traffic along with Angelo. It has now become one hell of a heaven and as Bill would say:
“God Bless Ya!”
“Bill had a deep love of God but his God was not the one in stained glass windows. He saw God as omnipresent, in everything and everywhere. We argued constantly about theology but when I listened closely I usually found we were saying the same thing. We just loved to argue with each other! He had a heart as big as the moon and I will miss him terribly. Requiem in peace Bill, until we meet again.”—The Rev’d. Canon David Andrew but as we know him our beloved Father D.
- *From my book Cancer Calls Collect– Bill was referred to as a woman in the book as I did not want to name names in such a personal recount.
The first time I met Bill Bagg was in the Carleton Place Library at a Carleton Place Historical meeting. Was it 1981 or 1982? Anyways, he recognized me as he was a writer with the Ottawa Journal and was quite familiar with my eclectic Ottawa store.
He came over to me and said,
“You didn’t move here did you?
“You know they are going to run you out of town when they find out right?”
And with that he let out of one of his big “from the belly laughs” and looked at me and said,
“God Love Ya” and proceeded to tell anyone who would listen what “a den of sin” I ran in Ottawa.
And so was my first encounter with Bill Bagg
BAGG, Carden William– By Carden Bagg
A legend in his own mind, Bill Bagg of Carleton Place died on April 25th, 2017. Born in Barrie, ON on the Ides of March in 1945 while his father was fighting in WWII, Carden William Bagg grew up with his sister Gini in Cornwall. His parents, Alec and Judy fought often and with an intensity that fuelled Bill’s fiery love of family. After settling in Ottawa as a young man, Bill travelled to the Arctic, worked as a surveyor, sold insurance, and was a country manager for the Ottawa Journal. Early on, he developed a love of antiques and Canadiana and was a proud founder of the Bytown Bottle Club. He met Kathleen at a party while on a date with another girl. They married, had four children, built a cottage on Carson Lake and moved to Carleton Place where they began Mill House Antiques. In spite of a divorce and several long-term partners, Kathleen was “the love of his life,” something he never let her forget. Bill remained in Carleton Place and became part of the fabric of the town. He knew its history and would expound upon it at will. He proudly served on town council and was a fixture at St. James Anglican Church. His reputation as an antique dealer reached well beyond Lanark County, in part due to his unforgettably crammed shop Mississippi Gorge Antiques as well as the years he spent Sundays at his booth at the Stittsville Flea Market. More than that, he left an impression on every person he met. He was a story-teller at heart and somehow drew out personal histories from even the most reticent bystanders. Larger than life, charming, quick-witted, quirky, sentimental, loyal, outspoken, Bill was a showman who loved fully and freely and lived to make people smile. His greatest pride were his children Kelly (Martin), Shannon (Jim), Carden (Rachelle), and Victoria (Ryan) and his greatest joy were his grandchildren Alex, Andrew, Simon, Grace, Eve, James, Virginia, Marianne, Gail, Cecilia, Annie, Greta, Nate, and Sammy. He was a friend to many souls over the years and a father figure to Michael and Brian. Bill spent his final days surrounded by his family, exactly where he would want to be, across from the nurses’ station at the Carleton Place Hospital, just a few blocks away from his house. Thank you, in particular, to Dr. Maria, Lindsey, Pam, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Rebecca for the outstanding care of our father. He often talked about what we should do when he got on the spaceship. We’ll do just that. Tha-a-a-nks for the memories, Dad. Thank you very mu-u-u-ch.
Friends and family are welcome to celebrate Bill in the hall at St. James Anglican Church (225 Edmund Street, Carleton Place) on Monday, May 1st from 5-7pm. A funeral service will be held at 7:00pm.