Smile because it happened

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Marching onwards through the fog – more than just a simple, quirky motivational message to Patrick Monaghan; they are words he fully embraced, embodied, and lived his life by.

The charismatic, long-time host of CanoeFM’s weekly Buckslide Blues Cruise show, which aired on Tuesday nights, passed away peacefully at his home July 25. He was 64.

Monaghan had known for some time that the end was coming. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2019, he eventually learned the disease he was fighting, which later spread to his lungs, was terminal. Rather than allowing that news to consume him, and wallow in self-pity, Patrick used it to keep pushing himself forward. He was never afraid to talk about his journey, or his eventual destination. But he also wasn’t going to let that ruin the ride, so to speak.

I first met Monaghan in the spring of 2021. He was one of the first people I interviewed in-person in Haliburton, coming out of the second wave of COVID-19 shutdowns. Going in, I was aware of his illness, but wasn’t sure how I was going to bring it up.

We were due to chat about his lengthy tenure on Canoe’s airwaves, and what he considered to be the culmination of five years of work after receiving the award for best Jazz and Blues Programming from the National Campus and Community Radio Association a couple of months earlier.

He took the pressure off right away by saying, with his trademark smile, that his cancer diagnosis had helped him appreciate his successes. He told how, when sitting through gruelling chemo treatments, he’d pass the time by thinking intently about his next interview – the questions he’d ask, how he’d ask them, what he thought his subject might say.

As someone who has conducted well over 1,000 interviews in my time, the one with Patrick still stands out. He had a way of making you feel comfortable, even in potentially uncomfortable situations.

I remember asking him to recall his favourite interview. Expecting to hear a story about an encounter with a Blues megastar, Patrick surprised me when he said, “this one. Right now.” I chuckled, but he was adamant. “I make an effort not to live in the past – every new experience is a gift,” he said.

That was a big teaching moment for me. I left with a bit of a different perspective than when I’d sat down.

Patrick loved his ‘job’ on the radio. He was a true pro and just had a way with people. That’s been the one constant I’ve heard over the past week while talking to those who knew him best. I didn’t have the chance to reconnect before he passed or tell him how much our interview had helped me. I wish I’d taken the time to do so while I could.

Monaghan’s legacy will live on in Haliburton – through the Buckslide Blues Cruise, which station manager, Roxanne Casey, has confirmed will live on, and through his efforts with organizations like the Highlands Buckslide Blues Society.

Dr. Seuss wrote the famous quote, “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I’ll always think of Pat, now, when I hear that.