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Oliver Schroer dies in Toronto, with grace and dignity

NB Kevin

Oliver was one of us.
He died in Toronto on July 3, succumbing to the leukemia he had lived with for the past year.

He walked the Camino Frances in 2004, performed on his fiddle along the way in churches and other venues, and released his haunting album "Camino" after returning home. He performed his final show in Toronto on June 5, aptly named Oliver's Last Concert on his Tour of the Planet.

Here are links to information about Oli:

We'll miss you, peregrino. Hug the saint for all of us when you see him.
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Time of past OR future Camino
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
Last April, Oliver Schroer sent the following e-mail out to his list:

Hi friends,
I have wanted to write more to all of you about my situation. I sent out an info letter last weekend, but it was a pretty plain letter, and did not include a lot of stuff I feel is important to talk about at
this point, for me and for everybody.

The gist of that first letter was that the doctors have run out of ways to treat my disease, which is particularly aggressive and ornery.
They have thrown every combo of chemotherapy and nasty drugs at my cancer, and in incredibly high doses. The doctors admitted that they were surprised already that the chemotherapy had not actually killed me. It turns out that I am very tough. (My friend Teresa Doyle from PEI says I’m tougher than a boiled owl.) So if there are no treatment options left for me, what they can and intend to do is make me as comfortable as I can be in the time left to me, so that I am not in pain and not suffering in any way.

What I did not talk about in that first letter was how I feel about all of this… I guess I feel that life is not only about quantity. It is about quality as well in a big way. We all have to die some time. None of us will live on this planet forever. I think some people live very intensely and burn very brightly during their time here. I think I am one of those people. A shining star while I am here. So I look at my life as I have lived it, and I feel very satisfied with all I have achieved and gone through. As a musician and artist I have found my voice on my instrument of choice. That is what any artist wants to do. Whether you are a musician or a painter or a dancer or a writer, the bottom line as a creative person is to find that unique voice and express it in your art. I really did invent my own unique way of playing the fiddle, and that is a fantastic, beautiful and frankly, a lucky thing.

I got to record many albums of my music, and to get that music out there, instead of just thinking about it, or planning it. In the process of recording these albums, I had so many great adventures with fellow musicians and travelers along the path. I have gotten to collaborate with some wonderful folks throughout the years. So many of these collaborators have become great friends to me, and that is a source of a lot of satisfaction in my life. Not to mention the myriad of stories that have come out of these adventures. I have truly led a charmed life.

And then, I have had a beautiful bunch of teaching relationships with a lot of students, not only individuals but entire communities of learning musicians. I got to interact with them and to pass on my music in very direct ways. I created a lot of repertoire for these students – for example for the Valley Youth Fiddlers and the Twisted String in Smithers.

My mission was to make music that was going to be seriously fun to play. For myself, I felt that I succeeded, but of course the ultimate test was the players. If they were not playing it, did not like it, then my opinions about the music were going to be pretty meaningless. But play it they did. And with enthusiasm and aplomb. This has been a happy and proud part of my life. I never got to have biological kids. But I did get to pass on my music in important ways to a whole generation of young people. I did get to give something back in that way, and not just make or take.

So between finding my voice on my instrument, and being able to share my music directly with so many, I feel like a very lucky guy. There is also the fact that in life, I like to concentrate on the positive aspects of reality. I don’t like to mope around about things. I strongly suggest to all of you that this is a waaaay better way to go and to be. Look at what you do have, and thank the Creator for that, and enjoy it all to the max. Don’t look at what you don’t have.
Make sure your glass is half full, not half empty. This is a stance you take in life. It is not a random attitude. But with just a little bit of practice, that becomes an attitude you can easily stick to.

Let’s put it this way. If I can think like this in my present position, I would hope that you all can do the same. I would even ask you to do this for me. Take that stance in life for me and from me, and concentrate always on the positive.

So then, this is how things are shaping up for me in my present headspace…. I feel I have burned brightly in life, and lived life very fully. I feel I have achieved a great deal in life. And as I look back on the life I have lived, I am concentrating on all of the positive aspects, on all of
the beauty I have experienced and generated, and getting a lot of satisfaction and pleasure from that thought and reality. And the fact that my life is shorter than it might have been ceases to trouble me very much.

I do want to encourage you, that when you do stuff, and get into projects in life, make sure you have the maximum amount of fun and satisfaction you can have. Don’t settle for just a bit of fun. You might have heard the saying ‘More is less’. Well, that only applies sometimes. Often, more really is more. And when it comes to getting satisfaction from creative projects you are involved with, you can bet that more is more, so grab the moment and make the moment big.

One very amazing thing about my position right now is how I get a clear insight into my own situation at this exact time. What is coming at me is very much eyes wide open and sort of in slow motion.

In the time left to me, I get to contemplate my life, and to ponder about what I would like to do in the time left to me. This is so different from many people’s end. A lot of people die in very random ways, in car crashes for example, suddenly, with no time to plan for anything or even to blink for a minute and ask themselves any important last questions. It is just splat and it’s over. I on the other hand, get all sorts of time to mentally prepare myself for what is happening to me. I can make a wish list of things I want to do in my last days here. Who do I want to spend time with? Are there things I want to finish up? Things I want to see? My end is near, but I have the feeling that it is also not going to happen super quickly. The doctors have a pretty good handle on how things transpire, and I do get the sense that time will not be moving too quickly on me here. Of course I have to be prepared for anything, but I still have time to focus and be myself and live as myself for the time left to me.

I want to finish by saying that I am totally open to communication these days. So if there is anything any of you want to say to me, or to share with me, or to ask me, etc, etc, please go ahead and do that. I cannot read your minds. But I can sure share perspectives and conversation if you get it started.

The very best, from the very edge….


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