Patrick Gradson - In Memoriam
On November 26th, 2004 our friend and colleague Patrick Gradson lost a brief but courageous battle with cancer. He was one of the founding members of the Calgary Ki Society - since 1976. He currently held a 2nd Dan Shin Shin Toistu Aikido and was an Assistant Lecturer with Ki Society. Gradson Sensei had almost 30 years experience in Aikido. He taught in both the adult and children's programs for the Calgary Ki Society. He frequently trained with Calvin Tabata Sensei with the Northwest Ki Federation in Portland Oregon. He traveled to Hawaii to train with Seichi Tabata Sensei and attended the official opening of the World Headquarters in Japan.
Patrick was a accomplished carpenter who, along with Mike Koper, developed the Calgary Ki Society's Edmonton Trail Dojo. He handmade the unique Dojo sign that hung outside of our old space and is a feature inside our new Dojo. Anyone who has visited his home or seen his work in the community can attest to his creative carpentry skills. His work lives on in our new Dojo as Mike used his ideas and the material from the old Dojo in the new space.
Anyone who has trained long enough with the Calgary Ki Society has had some memorable moments, and some of those moments have become firmly etched into the minds of anyone who has ever heard about them. The stories have taken on a legend-like quality, and they are recalled and retold countless times, often with much laughter. Here are some of Patrick's Moments in CKS History...
When Patrick was taking his Shodan Aikido test he was asked to perform taigi 13. He confidently completed 5 arts and thought that he was done. However, as we all know, there are six arts in most taigis. Tabata Sensei asked him to do Yokomemuchi Kokyunage Kirikaeshi. Patrick thought that request, searched his memory, then calmly turned to Tabata Sensei and said Sensei there is no such art.
Patrick liked to have get togethers at his home in Inglewood. He was proud of his fire pit and liked to roast things. He had a large gathering in the late 80s in the winter where he rented a spit and roasted a whole pig. It was the only time I have been served pig brain pate! Kathryn assures me that it is something that wont happen again.
When Pat was a young man he had a propensity to do Ukemi over fences and hedges; the only thing was he often didnt know what was on the other side. Conan & Eden used to tease him about the time he jumped out of his slowly moving truck near his house and ran right into a telephone pole.
Angevine Sensei recalls an especially memorable trip down to Portland. He and Patrick were driving down in Patrick's old truck, which had seen better days. On that particular trip, the truck broke down, and they spent several hours and a large sum of money trying to get it running again. Well they succeeded, and got back on the road with lots of time to make it to Portland. Only, just as they hit the middle of the Columbia River Gorge, in the middle of the night, the truck seized up. They got out of the truck, lifted the hood, and looked at a whole lot of darkness. They had to do something, so they searched their pockets, and between the two of them, came up with a pocket knife and a single match. They had one chance to find the problem and fix it. So they lit the match, peered at the engine, and with no hesitation, cut the belt to the air conditioning. After that, the truck ran just fine - they made it Portland and back with no more troubles.
On that same trip, they decided to stop near a park for a few hours sleep. Sensei and Sue Snow slept in the truck, but Patrick decided it was too nice a night to sleep inside, so he found a nice piece of grass, kicked off his shoes and stretched out. The night passed uneventfully, until about six o'clock in the morning. At that time, Angevine Sensei poked his head over the edge of the window, called to Sue in the back seat, and together they watched as sprinkler heads popped up. Until that moment, Patrick had been sound asleep in the grass, but as the first drops began to fly, he came wide awake, leaped up and ran to the truck. When he got there, he was remarkably dry. There was only one problem - his shoes were still lying there in the grass, happily collecting water as Patrick stood beside the truck in his sock feet. Patrick had to dash back to get his shoes, and by the time he got back to the truck for the second time, he was considerably wetter than he had been. Of course, Sensei and Sue did nothing but laugh through the entire episode.
Mike Koper trained and worked with Pat for many years; here are Mike's comments about Pat:
I have had the opportunity to work on many things with Patrick over the years I have known him. These things still come up from time to time. They remind me of how things are connected. Do good in secret was one of his favorite Ki sayings if he had one. One thing Pat said to me (a thousand times or more) Do things right. You never know how things are going to be used so respect yourself and others and do your best. On the job site, he was always getting me to do things that I thought were useless or trivial. If I protested, he would tell me to stop whining and just do it. "If you do good in secret it will always come back to you somehow". At first, I wondered what the heck he was talking about (a common occurrence), but we would be working along on some project and get to a difficult part for which there is no obvious solution and something would always show up. He called it the little elves. It was as if the exact thing that we needed was put right in our hands.
Putting together the new dojo was like this. We used Pat's tools and the direction he set from the other dojo to build the new one. For me it was just like he was there. We would get to a tough spot and poof. There were the little elves again helping us get things done.
I went over to the old dojo one day to take the sign down. The old place had been dismantled and mostly moved. The feeling in there was almost empty but there was still something there. "If you work at something, you put you Ki into it so make sure it is Plus." The attention that we had put in to clean things up properly made it not feel so empty and it was easier for me to leave a place that we had put so much into.
Another one is the sign that he made for the dojo. This sign is a work of art. It reminds me of everything that Pat made. I cleaned it up and put a new coat of varnish on it and I can tell you that the attention to detail and the amount of work that went into the design and building of it are amazing to say the least. To glance at it , it seems simple but as in many things he built, the more you look at it , the more you see. Most people would never even see what is there but as Pat said, the right ones will. Somewhere down the line, the right person will see and appreciate the work you have done.
Well Pat, I see the work that you put in our friendship and I appreciate it more than you could know. I truly miss you.
By the time my daughter Lauren was a year and a half old, she knew who Patrick was. She loves to go over to the Gradson playground and go crazy. She knew that Patrick was her friend and that she could trust him. She knew that Patrick had a pet turtle named Isaac who loved to swim in the sink and burped after he ate.
What more do you need to know?
Memories of Patrick GradsonCompiled by Randall A. C. Birks
I am deeply saddened by your news of Patrick's passing. We shared the journey for so many years, and now our fellow traveler is gone. I recall so vividly his sweet and gentle toughness, his large heart and his hard head. In many ways a man larger than life.
I was ready. I was dressed for a busy day. I wore my best work pants, baggy painter pants with holes all over. I wore a ball cap and "Ak- Jack" shirt but the best part of the outfit I had worn was my old yellowish-orange "workie boots" from a distant age that I had to dust off for the occasion. I wore my version of City road worker chic. I was ready.
I surveyed the area wondering and imagining what great things we were going to do to really spruce up this space, our home. I waited for about 20 minutes and then finally a big blue truck pulled up at the front of the house. Patrick stepped out and looked around the space and lifted his hand toward me. "Good morning" he said. Patrick walked over, very slowly, to where I was standing. "Right" he said, "If you want to change right away we can get started. You will really want to wear another pair of boots as well. I haven't seen boots like those in about 30 years and they are no good." I blinked a couple of times gave my head a slight shake and went into the house to get some other clothes on and better shoes. The first day of our renovation had started.
When I came back outside, Patrick was surveying the whole yard. "Okay I know what we are going to do". And then he proceeded in going on for about 20 minutes listing off all the things he wanted to do. I was dumbfounded and I had missed about half of what he had said. Then he stopped talking abruptly came over to me and pulled my hands out of my pockets and very softly put them at my side without saying a word. Then he went on talking with me about what we were going to do. At some point during this conversation I had let my hands ride up my sides and they were now propped on my hips with my elbows splayed out. Patrick stopped talking again and gently pulled my hands off my hips and laid them down my side. We continued talking. At yet another point in our conversation I had crossed my arms across my chest and this time Patrick stopped talking, uncrossed my arms brought them down to my side and started shaking them lightly. "Now that is better" he said. "This way I want to feel you are receptive to our plans. Otherwise I think you are being defensive and not open to new ideas." Now I was just confused and I thought, out of my element. Patrick remained silent again and proceeded to face me about two feet away. He smiled his slightly gap toothed but friendly, wide smile and looked me dead in the eyes, still smiling. I just stood there. He came over to me, corrected my posture, arranged my feet, shifted my weight forward on my toes, shook my arms by my side and motioned me to smile. Meanwhile some time had passed and several of my neighbours passed by us, no doubt wondering what two men were doing standing in front of the house just staring at each other. "There, much better" he said as I finally smiled and our day and our project truly had started.
The project began in early Spring and lasted well into the late Fall. In that time I had accumulated many stories and had learned a great many things, not the least of which was a better idea of what I was capable of and what was truly possible if you shook off conventional thinking. These things I learned from Patrick. From the first day I worked with him to the very last time I saw him I was always conscious of making certain my hands were not in my pockets but rather were relaxed and by my sides. Patrick was unlike anyone I had ever met and I could not ever imagine meeting anyone like him again. He was so many things. He was talented, disciplined, eclectic and so much more. He was someone very special and I will miss him dearly.
My most vivid memory of Patrick was back in 1994 or 1995 when I arrived at Calgary airport for a week of training with the Calgary Ki Society and to test for one of my brown belts.
I was met at the airport by Patrick in his big blue van. I must admit, I mounted the van with some trepidation. Not just because there was nowhere to sit, but I did not know Patrick well and was a little bit nervous to say the least!
We arrived at his home and I was shown to my room, which I shared with 1 parrot, some tortoises or turtles, about 17 cats, a dog, 1 or two budgies and some goldfish. I had a restless nights sleep, and woke up with at least 1 cat buried in my sleeping bag.
I went downstairs to the sound of Patrick cooking breakfast. I was in my vegetarian phase at the time and had visions of fresh fruit, granola and a reasonably healthy breakfast. I was met with last nights leftovers, chicken and soggy french fries refried and served with a smile. I took one look at this and turned several shades of green. Not wanting to insult my host I gingerly picked up my fork. Patrick smiled and spoke quietly, "enjoy what you eat today, you never know if you will have anything to eat tomorrow." With this one softly spoken and simple statement Patrick caused a paradigm shift as I realized this truth and proceeded to eat a delicious breakfast.
When coffee was served, it came with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream and solved a puzzle. I now knew why every spoon Patrick owned was bent. Frozen vanilla ice cream is pretty tough to dig into first thing in the morning!!
The week of training commenced with a few odd jobs that needed to be done. Patrick taught me how to relax and cut with the bokken one night in his backyard. He had me chop a huge pile of logs into firewood while he sat in front of the fire, gazing at the stars, sucking on a cold one!! I had no choice but to relax. To this day I'm not sure if the smile on his face was because he had me chopping logs half the night while he sat back and drank beer, or because he could see me applying his lessons and starting to demonstrate some promise as a budding student of Ki Aikido!!
I spent a wonderful week training and living with Patrick and when it was time to leave I realized what a warm, tender, wise old soul he was. In one week he became like a Father to me and had a profound impact on my life that still ripples through all that I do.
I had the opportunity of training in Portland for a week about a year later. Patrick duly volunteered us to spend our days on the roof of the dojo scraping off the moss!! Boy it was hot up there and I swear I scraped off most of the moss!!! But it took my mind off the board test and got me so tired I had to relax. I'm sure he was softening me up as I was his uke for his Nidan test!!
One of my fondest memories was at the 30th anniversary in Calgary. I remember saying goodbye to him when it was time to leave the picnic in the park. We looked at each other and there were tears in his eyes. My sense was these were tears of joy. He had guided me through the years, advised me, nurtured me and now he was seeing me start to blossom into an instructor. I always felt that the greatest honour I could give to Patrick was to be the best student and instructor I could be. This was my way of saying thank you.
I last trained with Patrick in Portland in May 2004. He was not well then and I suspected something more serious was going on. In his brave, yet stubborn way, Patrick never let on how much pain he must have been in. He made sure I stayed focused and was always there with a word of advice or praise at the right moment.
In closing I leave you with classic Patrick. It was the end of my week in Calgary and we were heading out to the blue van for the airport. The rear sliding door had broken and we were attempting to fix it. Patrick paused, turned to me and said, "You can do two things in life, make money or build character." We both turned and looked at the beat up, old blue van, Patrick grinned and said, "I'm building character." We cried laughing all the way to the airport. That's how I remember the sweet, gentle and generous man, Patrick Gradson.
He was a very special man. One whose time had come, but in passing through this temporary sojourn we call life he truly was the butterfly that flappped it's wing in China and caused a tidal wave in America!!
I am both happy and sad. I feel I have lost a Father, yet knowing life is eternal and knowing he has returned home, am certain we will meet again on the shores of the Universe, and this comforts me.
To me he is proof that to change the world we must live our life according to our belief and quietly practice what we teach. This is the most profound teaching and influences those around us as powerfully as an earthquake!!
In Portland last May I was training with the kids. I took a young girl who was afraid to roll and had very little confidence. I threw her a number of times with ki and had her doing ukemi in the air and landing softly. Patrick was watching. As I walked off the mat after class, he came up to me and with that smile in his eyes said, " you haven't lost your touch." Those words lifted me to a new level of inspiration. That was how he inspired confidence. That was how he guided the development and creation of the universe.
I just wanted to share a memory about Patrick.
I learned many important things at the dojo in Calgary and much of that is due to Gradson Sensei. I will share one particular event that is still clear in my mind. One night when Gradson Sensei and I were training together, I began to get quite frustrated with a ki exercise. Gradson Sensei was trying to patiently lead me through the exercise but I finally lost it and said, "I can't figure it out!" Then he stopped me and said, "stop trying to figure it out and try to understand". The exercise came easily after that.
His words are as effective in everyday life as they were in the dojo. I think they say that we need to be humble enough to realize that we can't conquer and figure everything out with definite accuracy. The best we can do is hope for a deeper understanding. At least that's my interpretation. I thank Gradson Sensei for that - just one of many important lessons.
I have many memories of Patrick. He helped me in my film projects, he taught me a great deal about carpentry, Ki, but ultimately shared a great friendship. I will remember him most by the fire side where we would talk and play music until the wee hours of the night.
Quite a few years ago I saw something he had written. His handwriting was neat and precise, but it was more than that. It used letter forms from a time decades ago when penmanship was an art, and he wrote those letters as they were designed to be written, using an ink pen with a nib rather than a sharp point. Writing this way was no accident. It is clear that Patrick realized that this old way was best, and took great care to preserve it and maintain it not only for his life, but for everyone who would read his words. This is but one example of the way he took the time to get things right. You no doubt can think of others.
I would be pleased to contribute a memory ... feel free to use any of the following as you see fit:
"I remember first coming to the Calgary Ki Society Dojo in 1986 with my oldest son, then about 11 years old. We were on a search for a martial art we could practise together. I remember clearly how Patrick greeted us and welcomed us not only to observe the class but also to participate. By the time that evening was finished, we knew we didn't have to look any farther.
The welcome Patrick extended that first evening was something I felt consistently throughout my training, and saw him extend time and again to others like me. Sometimes his support took the form of challenging people, when that was necessary, so that we would reach deeper inside ourselves to bring out our best. I found much personal inspiration from the way Patrick taught and related to others. I appreciate very much his strong and compassionate example of what it means to extend Ki. A particular memory stands out in this regard.
The Calgary Ki Society had decided to organize a weekend camp and invite people from other Ki Societies all over the Pacific Northwest. Naturally, this required a great deal from the Calgary members to make sure the camp ran smoothly, in addition to participating in it ourselves. Along with many others, I volunteered to come early and help with the set-up. When I arrived, the scene was pandemonium - people setting up mats, carrying supplies, and so forth. Wanting to get myself usefully involved, and having no experience of an Aikido camp, I approached Patrick, thinking he would know how things were organized and where I could most usefully pitch in. "How can I help?" I asked. His answer: "Extend Ki." Such a gift, then and many times in my life since.
While I have not continued my martial arts training, I have
certainly needed to address challenges throughout my work and personal life.
I have often drawn on the teachings of Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido, and more particularly
on my memory of Patrick's example as a wise practitioner and person."
I first met Pat when I moved to Calgary in 1979. At the time I had finished a year at clown school in Mexico. The house I moved into was a few doors away from Pat's, just far enough for an easy unicycle ride.
That's how we met, me riding by his back yard on the unicycle, and Pat calling out to stop and talk. Over back yard fires he introduced me to the idea of "ki", and I of course ended up at the dojo for a number of years. We talked about many things over time, and although we lost track of each other when I moved away and began touring theatre shows, I'll always remember Pat's friendly face and witty remarks. He was a good man, the kind the world needs. God bless you Pat.
I heard that Pat died on November 25th, like many of you it has taken me a few weeks to digest this news. Pat was like my father and over the 26 years that I knew him, he helped in so many ways that I could never repay him for his kindness and the kindness that his family has shown me.
In November I was able to see him for the last time, I was glad that I had the chance to say how I felt about him. I was sorry that I could not do more for him during that time. I am going to miss him very much.
I first met Patrick at the dojo in December of 2002, at one of the first classes I attended. It wasn't long before he became one of the people I most looked forward to seeing at class. He was always so positive, so upbeat, so patient with the fumblings and uncertainty of a new student.
He was firm but gentle in his teaching, sincere with praise when it was deserved. He never let me get away with a half hearted attempt at anything, never let the fact that I was new be an excuse, never let my feeling of being intimidated by his black belt and hakama get in the way of my learning. Rather, he would take a moment to look into my eyes, find something within me that I didn't know was there, and bring it to the surface. And when I finally got it right, there was always that crooked smile, that sparkle in his eyes, and that half whispered, half shouted "Yes!" of encouragement. On the rare occasion that I managed to surprise him in some way - passing a test the first time, or getting an art right and really throwing him, the grin was bigger, and the sparkle in his eye had a hint of pride behind it. It didn't take long for the awe and intimidation I initially felt to turn into respect and love, and those feelings only grew as I spent more time with Patrick.
I only ever saw Patrick at the dojo, but some of the most important lessons I've ever learned were on the mat, from him: Keep your head up and your eyes level. Face every challenge head on - it won't go away just because you refuse to acknowledge it. Go into every situation believing that you can do it - you might just surprise yourself and everybody else. Look inside yourself to find the strength that you know is there. He didn't actually say any of this, except to repeatedly tell me to keep my head up, but he had a way of looking at you that made his meaning perfectly clear, and a way of making his lessons become firmly ingrained. He challenged me in so many ways - on the mat, yes, but he also had a way of making me look at myself and the way I look at and face the world. He also believed in me in a way that few people have, and he made me believe in myself.
It is hard to believe that Patrick is gone. We had too short a time with him. There is still so much that I need to learn from him. But for those of us who knew and loved him, I know he will always be with us. That grin and those sparkling eyes were too bright to ever fade from our memories, the echo of that "yes" too loud to ever be silenced. As a man and mentor, he was one in a million. I will miss Patrick deeply, and I will cherish his memory. And, yes, I will keep my head up.
Randall A.C. Birks
There have been some unusual things about his passing. Patrick went into the hospital just a day before the last full moon. The day I went in to see him to help him prepare his will I found him sitting in a chair by the window. I was surprised because I had heard that he was in a very bad way and bedridden. Patrick was very still - just breathing calmly and gazing softly at the Western sky as it slowly brightened from the sunrise. He said good morning, using my full first name - a somewhat formal, courtly thing he always did. He then said, "There's a full moon tonight." It made me pause because he had essentially been either unconscious or completely incapacitated by pain and drugs for at least four days. There were no calendars to be seen. I don't know how he could have known. I then told him, as I sat down beside him, that there was a full lunar eclipse that night. He paused. For two or three breaths (which could be a very long interval with Patrick ) he looked ahead out the window in silence. Without looking at me he gave a small nod and simply said "Yes". It was as if he'd made a decision or received an answer that he'd been looking for. We went on to discuss some things, in an infinitely calm way, that became his final wishes.
On Thursday, November 25th when his wife Kathryn called me to tell me it was near the end, I went over to see him and sit with him. In reality I don't believe what was really Patrick was there anymore. I sat there in the bedroom nonetheless. I stayed a long time yet it will never have been long enough. Later, at 12:45 in the morning on November 26th, his daughter Eden called me to tell me that Patrick died a few minutes before, at 12:30. Patrick died on the next day that had a full moon.
Since then I've talked with some of his friends and we've shared impressions. There are a few things that have come up constantly. His wife, children and friends all thought that he would go on the full moon even though none of us spoke that thought to each other until after he passed - much to our mutual surprise. Perhaps the most profound one is that we all think that, in some way, Patrick knew what was coming. There is some proof. In the last year of his life he worked on his masterpiece - his home. He worked right up to just a couple of days before he was rushed to the hospital and he actually completely finished it. That was something that he always said was his lifelong project. We all thought that he would be around for another thirty years; berating, pushing, correcting and teaching us with his "Patrick-isms". No one thought that he would go at such a young age. Yet, he has left a universal impression that he was showing us the correct way to do even this, the greatest feat that we all must undertake. He did it without complaint. He did it with a firm position about how it should be done and what was expected of those around him. Even with all he was going through Patrick always was more concerned for those around him that he cared about. Patrick had tremendous dignity, strength and grace. He truly extended Ki and showed us all how to become one with the universe.
I will always remember the final lesson that Patrick imparted to all those that attended the last directors meeting that he for Calgary Ki Society. Patrick meant these words not just for the students but for all of the instructors as well: "If we are given the time, we should use it well." - Patrick Gradson, October 4, 2004
From the Gradson Family
Following are the comments that Kathryn Martin (Pat's wife) wrote to the Dojo before his death and after. She wanted to send thank you cards to everyone but she was convinced to send one thank you card to the Dojo with the promise that we would pass her comments on:
Thank you card sent before:
What you do truly makes a difference. (Pre-printed on the card)
"Thank you so much for your generous gift. All of us were
truly overwhelmed by the support that the Calgary Ki Society is offering. Pat's
spirits continue to be high and the strength he draws from his Ki training
is apparent. The money will be used exclusively for his care & comfort
as this journey continues.
Thank you again,
Kathryn, Patrick, Conan & Eden"
Thank you card sent after:
Hope you know how much your special thoughtfulness is appreciated. (Pre-printed on the card)
"The members of the Calgary Ki Society have been so incredibly
supportive throughout Patrick's illness & subsequent death. You were there
no matter what we needed or when we needed it. Over the years I have not always
been understanding of Pat's involvement but my opinion has certainly been
changed. You are an amazing group of people who use Ki principles to better
other peoples' lives while enhancing your own. Thank you again.
Kathryn, Conan & Eden"
Thank you card sent after the Remembrance for Patrick on June 11, 2005:
"Thank you again for all of your support over the past
months. We will always treasure the scrap books & music that you so thoughfully
compiled for all of us. The memorial was very important for Conan & Eden
and it re-enforced that we are not alone with this loss. Your generousity and
support has been truely amazing.
Kathryn, Eden Grabrial & Conan"