Ernie Sievewright and his wife Kay chose doctor assisted death in January. His story will remain with me forever. (Citizen file)

Column: Ernie’s story remains in my heart

Ernie made Bill C-14 into something profoundly human.

Putting together the year in review is always and interesting experience.

It involves going back and scanning through every edition we’ve put out since January. For starters, the stack looks pretty intimidating. How have we produced this much out of our little newsroom in a mere 12 months?

It’s also interesting to look at it again as history (though recent, of course) from the vantage point of months afterwards. Looking at it from this historical perspective, there are always some instances where I would have done something differently in terms of what made the front page and what got shorter shrift. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that it was impossible in the moment to realize that an item would blow up, or on the other side, end up largely irrelevant.

When I do this year-end perusal, I’m always impressed, too, with the quality of work by the reporters we’re lucky to have here on staff. It never fails, I always rediscover photos and stories that jump off the page and remind me why I got into the local news business.

In 2017 this was particularly true of a story we did all the way back in January. A month or so beforehand I got a phone call from a gentleman named Ernie Sievewright from Crofton. He had, he said, a story we might be interested in. I get many phone calls that begin in this fashion. Some yield gold and some…do not. Ernie’s story, though, this one was truly special and I immediately got reporter Robert Barron in the loop, even though we couldn’t do anything with it for at least several weeks, at Ernie’s request.

You see, Ernie and his wife Kay were struggling through the bureaucracy so that they could have a doctor assist them in dying, under Canada’s new assisted dying rules. Both suffered from debilitating ailments that had robbed them of quality of life. But Ernie also wanted their story to be public. It is important, he told me, that people understand what the new legislation means to real people such as him and Kay, and its limitations (the two were not allowed to go together).

Ernie made Bill C-14 into something profoundly human. It’s not something just for discussion in far-off Ottawa in the House of Commons (though there is certainly still discussion that needs to happen — it remains entirely inadequate for those with degenerative conditions, for example). It is a conversation for right here and for everywhere else, too.

His is a story I will never forget. Goodbye Ernie.

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