The poet of the rue Fleury has switched off

Photo: Mikaël Theimer
Surrounded by his best friends, Michel Pepin, the poet of the rue Fleury has given up the ghost, shortly after having celebrated his 45 winters.

Michel Pepin, an old bum that the disease — and the poetry — had helped him to repentance, gave up the ghost last November 11, surrounded by his loved ones. In the spring of 2016, The Duty had crossed the road of the poet on two wheels reached a form virulent of multiple sclerosis that the enclosed little by little in his body. Story of the end of life in dignity.

The doctors had given him three years, maybe five to live, at most. But death came sooner than his friends wanted to believe it. Michel Pepin had just lost his right hand, the one that remained for him to do what he loved most : write. He was emaciated, weakened by pneumonia. A few hours before his death, he was not moving. Geneviève Gauthier, and John Foley, a couple of close friends caregivers, have had to negotiate farm for transport to the hospital. “He refused to eat. We asked him if he wanted to at least feed his soul by the words. And he did “yes, yes, yes” with his head “, says John.


The words. It was what could calm the poet of the street, who had just celebrated her 45 winters. Child sexually assaulted, and abandoned by his family, he was a refugee in the books. Fallen into the hell of drugs and prostitution, the man has cheated and abused people, broken their trust, stole drawers. Became the father of a family, he has tried to deal with it as best as he could to his two boys that he loved deeply before being caught by the limits of his body, at the dawn of the thirties. And reconnect with the poetry.


“I would say it took like a second life with the disease,” says Geneviève, in speaking of an experience of salvation. “It was a paradox that had its shadows, and his demons of the past, but who loved deeply his Life with a big V, like two outstretched arms reaching for the stars. “Like others, she had met the man, who is presented as the architect of the tiny its page on Facebook, thanks to the poetry that he sold on Fleury street.


“You are beautiful “

Photo: Mikaël Theimer

Sometimes, without begging a dime, the poet, liked to just install at the entrance of a subway station with a message on a cardboard, two-sided, “You are beautiful” and ” life is more beautiful when he smiles “. This is where Mikaël Theimer, photographer and founder of Portraits of Montreal, has made the acquaintance of one who soon became a friend.


Michel opened the door of his intimacy daily life, that he photographed up close. Their collaboration has resulted in exhibitions of photos and poems in cafes, colleges and at the Monument-National. One of the photos is the same entry at the canadian Museum for human rights in Winnipeg. “I think above all, that he was proud of him. He had the impression of taking revenge on the bad boy that he was, ” emphasizes Mikael.

Photo: Mikaël Theimer
Made from 183 bricks sytromousse, the work “Movements immobile” symbolizes the days of isolation of the poet.

Until recently, it was a wall that held him in life. Having spent the last two winters locked in his home, he had asked friends and artists, young and less young, to create small works of art on one of the 183 bricks sytromousse distributed, symbolizing its days of isolation. “Michel does not want to make a wall that divides, but a wall that unites and brings together,” says Genevieve, describing the intention behind the work Movements still. Each one had to retrieve a brick, and, to a prescribed date, do an activity — running, snowshoeing or skiing — thinking of him. Even if it was symbolically buried, “when he imagined the end of his life, he wanted to be at home,” she continued.


To die at home


It was also that, to die in dignity. “He didn’t want to go into NURSING and live with old. I understand, “said Louise Venne, his spiritual mother, who with her husband has “adopted” Michel through his meetings with him on Fleury street. “The right to live where one wants to live, he has always fought for it, for him and for others with the disease. It does not cost more expensive to provide services in the home. “

Photo: Mikaël Theimer
Michel Pepin has opened the door of his intimacy with Mikaël Theimer, photographer, founder of “Portraits of Montreal”.

For Michel, there was Mr. Cardinal, Loveline, and in the last year, Rony Jean-Baptiste. These are just a few among the hundreds of servants sent by an employment agency to get him to eat, to wash, until the wipe in the toilet. Michel knew that he was vulnerable to him, needing the other, it was one of the beautiful things of life. “I was very cerebral, he has taught me to open my heart,” says Rony Jean-Baptiste, who came to the tribute to the poet on the 23rd of December last. The attendant was the first to be informed of the death. More than one carer at the minimum wage, he had become a friend to Michael and had lost count of the hours he spent. “It is thanks to Rony if Michel was able to stay with him until the end,” emphasises Louise.


But good care was not always self-evident. Some attendants were not trained and sometimes did not speak French very well. In the last year of his life, and it became a battle everyday. Michel had been thinking of even doing a hunger strike. “But he liked eating too much to do that,” laughs his friend John in speaking of the apple pie of Genevieve. “It was like an orgasm for him. “Just like raspberries and blueberries, it tasted eyes closed, and exploded with flavor in his mouth. “When you have lost everything your body, what you have left ? For Michel, it was the taste and the words. “


The end of a poem


Michel Pepin died surrounded by his loved ones and friends — its “gladiators of happiness,” as he called them. His two sons, whom he saw little, are in spite of everything arrived on time at his bedside, finding their father in agony. But anyway, thanks to his collections of poetry autoédités, Michel knew that he was going to continue to live in the hearts of those who remain. “The death of Michel, it is the end of a poem “, a summary Level, to which Michel had been asked to take pictures, ” to the end of his life “. “Of him, I remember a phrase : “We only see well with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes”, adds the photographer, who is also tattooed on one arm a Little Prince, that Michel had done to him to rediscover.


It was the 11th of the 11th, at about 11 o’clock in the evening. The great reaper was not long in coming. In the small bedroom of palliative care, the beam of a neon light cut the darkness. Genevieve took up a book and began to read a passage at random. If the chance exists. It was about the encounter of the author with a bear. Metaphor of a face-to-face with death, where fear gives way to something greater. “[The bear] is a few meters and I am paralyzed to see that my life does not come down to anything other than “here, now”. “And it is at this time that the poet has made his last breath. “I flapped my eyelids over my destiny and, oddly enough, by closing the eyes, it is as if it was open to the inside on another dimension, that which is not seen. “