Bidding Farewell to madeline

Madeline Yakimchuk

madeline yakimchuk

Here’s the rule I set myself for writing about madeline yakimchuk who died on Friday, June 9, having chosen MAID in her clear-eyed, madeline way: I am not going to say anything in this piece that I didn’t actually say to madeline in person or that I don’t believe with a high degree of certainty they already knew.

So I can tell you that they were one of the earliest and staunchest supporters of this publication and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that without madeline, the Spectator might have existed, but would not have survived. I set out to make a list of the many ways madeline had helped me and even I was impressed at its length, although I’m pretty sure it’s far from exhaustive.

I only discovered madeline’s preference for they/them pronouns and the lower case spelling of their name recently and I feel the need to note that the first capital “M” below is because”madeline” appears at the beginning of the sentence, not out of any disrespect (and yes, I can hear madeline laughing at me even as I write this):

  • Madeline assisted Michelle Smith with the weekly gardening column, which would begin life as a conversation between the two of them;
  • madeline convinced Dr. Mike Milburn to talk to me for our series on healthy eating and exercise;
  • madeline encouraged Dr. StrangeJob (who may or may not be a relative, they were always vague on the subject) to trust the Spectator with his political satire;
  • madeline used the text-to-voice function on their computer to listen to the Spectator each Wednesday and alert me to typos;
  • madeline tweeted and posted on Facebook each week to announce the publication of the latest edition;
  • madeline cheerfully hassled friends (and the occasional elected representative) to subscribe to the Spectator and support local journalism;
  • madeline gave me news tips;
  • and on days when all I really wanted to do was bang my head off my desk, madeline made me laugh.


By now you are probably all thinking that I’ve turned this farewell to my friend into a tribute to the Spectator but I promise you, that wasn’t my intent; it’s just that madeline believed so strongly in what I was doing there were times I truly think they believed more strongly than I did myself.

The last time I saw madeline, I told them they’d helped me see things differently, but what I didn’t specify was that one of the things they’d helped me see was the purpose of my own publication. (I include that here because I’ve decided it falls squarely under “Things madeline Already Knew.”)

What I’ve realized, reading the many tributes that have poured in for them and particularly from reading their obituary, is that madeline pulled off this same trick for practically everyone in their life who had the sense to listen to what they had to say.

Our friendship, I should add, wasn’t just about the Spectator—we also managed to squeeze in a more traditional (I mean, as traditional as madeline got) friendship that involved actual meetings in person; and serious discussions that somehow ended in laughter; and beverages, both hot and cold; and, one memorable day, kayaking on the Bras d’Or Lake. Frequently, there were vegetables. Always there was advice and encouragement.

The last thing madeline said to me, in fact, was a piece of advice: they told me that memory is a form of time travel and when I miss them, I should just think really hard about a time we’d had together and it would be like seeing them again.

That made sense to me.

So the last thing I said to madeline was that I’d be seeing them soon.