By SAM HEFFER
It’s 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 24, and the sun is shining on the waves as they meet the beach at the foot of Silverbirch Avenue. It’s breezy, about 16C. The water temperature is 15C.
These stats matter to the group of about 25 people who are gathering to go for a dip in the lake. Many of us have never met each other before, but we already have a meaningful connection and shared inspiration through 85-year-old Christopher Hope.
Sadly, Chris passed away earlier this summer. He went for a dip in the ocean near West Vancouver, and never returned.
His friend Carlos invited everyone to meet on the beach this morning to celebrate Chris.
The first time the two men met, Chris said, “I am the happiest person alive, because this moment is the happiest moment of my life.”
For Carlos, this is the essence of Chris. And now we will dip where Carlos and other friends went into the lake year round. Thank you, Carlos!
Chris inspired all of us directly, or indirectly, to embrace his Morning Dip routine.
He was a familiar figure walking the short distance from his home on Silverbirch Avenue to the lake in every kind of weather imaginable. He wore his navy blue bathrobe, sometimes a bathing cap, and his water shoes.
Friends of Chris’ from the Toronto Windsurfing Club introduced him to the idea of going into the lake every day, in every season. Chris added this practice to his long list of activities and accomplishments. These include scuba-diving, mountain climbing in South America, summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, trekking to Everest Base Camp, and taking up snowboarding – because it looked like fun!
Chris’ two daughters also joined us on the beach on Sunday morning, and explained that their dad “… liked to do things. He always had an interest in new things. He liked to understand how things worked … He did the research.” The word they felt best summed up their dad was “Curiosity.”
In conversations with friends, Chris would say, “Happiness is the recognition of being alive, of being sentient …You’ve got a wonderful world around you; a totally amazing place! … There’s nothing better than being right here, right now!!”
And yes, Chris would say this even as he stood in his swimsuit in the icy waters of Lake Ontario in the middle of a snowstorm.
We stood in a circle on the beach, and shared our thoughts about Chris before heading into the lake together this Sunday morning, and Carlos expressed the gratitude we all felt: “Chris didn’t try to teach me anything. I feel like his life was the teaching. All those beautiful memories about him — they’re in my heart. And now I’m grateful that we’re all together, and this is a beautiful memory … I appreciate every one.”
“Well,” another friend spoke up, “I know one thing, that Chris was a stickler for getting in at exactly 7:40 a.m. He waited for nobody. We’re at 7:39! It’s time to go in.”
Amid cheers and much joie de vivre, we joined hands and went into the lake. Thank you, Chris.