Rest In Peace, Wayson – The Thing About Wayson Choy

I have read so much about the act of being present. I sought it out in biographies and in documentaries and in fiction. I first heard it whispered in descriptions of sages and religious leaders. The Buddha, for instance, has always been held up as a glowing example of a being who was PRESENT.

But in my life–in my everyday life–I hadn’t really discovered any examples of anyone who seemed to be truly present. Here and now.

Until Wayson.

I won’t say Wayson was a saint. That isn’t what this is about. But the thing about Wayson was that he was present. And when you were in his presence, he treated you like you were in his presence. You had his attention. He was a mentor, a teacher, and a sage. And he was always willing to share himself with those around him. He couldn’t not encourage, teach, share. It wasn’t in him not to. And because of this, all who have met him–even for a brief period of time–feel a great sense of loss today. He was a giving gracious man, and he made you feel as though you mattered.

Do yourself a favour, and pick up Wayson’s memoir on almost dying. It’s a treasure.

I’ve heard a great many Asian Canadians speak of how important Wayson’s works were for them, how his books were the first experience they had had of seeing themselves reflected in fiction. He knew this fact, he knew it fully and completely and he carried it with him, filled with grace about it and knowing the importance of it.

What struck me, and what was important to me, was the way he often introduced himself as a gay man when beginning his speeches. He was a proud gay man. He spoke to me about this, too. He felt the importance of this pride, which was something I never truly understood. To me, pride was just a word thrown around about an event in the gay calendar. Wayson took it to a deeper level. Wayson made it real. He was someone who often talked about being courageous and telling the truth and being honest and being true to yourself. This was part of his being present. He knew the importance of authenticity. In order to exemplify that, he willingly put himself out there to show others what it meant to truly be authentic. He embraced it and allowed others to embrace it in themselves.

The Ontario Writers Conference Family. Wayson threw himself in to our little organization, fully and completely. He made us better.

“When you can tell other peoples’ lives truthfully you are telling it to yourself. You are saying this is who I am. I recognize what is important. Let me tell you about it.” ~ Wayson Choy

You are most like yourself when you are being authentic. Wayson knew this. And he knew how much others thirsted for that authenticity. And he was present enough to gently guide us in that direction. By example, and by humor and sometimes by the use of tough words.



Thank you for sharing your wisdom so freely, Wayson. I’ll not forget your loving kindness. Thank you for helping me to wake up. I love you.

“You are a book, always being written…” ~ Wayson Choy

By Kevin Craig

Author, Poet, Playwright. Author of The Camino Club, Billions of Beautiful Hearts, and Book of Dreams, all from Duet Books, the LGBTQ Young Adult imprint of Chicago Review Press. Other books: Pride Must Be A Place, Half Dead & Fully Broken, Burn Baby Burn Baby, The Reasons, Sebastian's Poet, and Summer on Fire.


  1. A beautiful elegy Kevin. Thank you for putting into words so beautifully some of the gifts of Wayson we were lucky enough to have been present to.

  2. Wayson touched so many lives, and once you’d spent a few moments with him, those moments were life-defining. Thank you, Kevin, for the beautiful and heartfelt words. We will miss him so very much.

  3. Thank you, Kevin. Such a wonderful man. I will miss him. I could hear him in the quotes you picked and loved listening to his voice in your clips. Sending love.

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