It was a year ago yesterday that the Toronto Maple Leafs’ diehard fan — Trevor (T-Man) Lewis — went early to his grave, and it is therefore almost fitting that a lockout has virtually ensured no NHL hockey will be played in the first full season since his passing.
“With Trevor gone, it would have been impossible to watch the Leafs play this year anyway,” his mother said, “With no hockey, it’s as if the Leafs and the league are mourning him too. At least that’s what I tell myself.”
Each day, without failure, Sandra Lewis dons her Maple Leaf jersey and makes the short trip to Pine Hills Cemetery to visit her son’s grave — even if only for a minute to two. “It gives me comfort,” she said. “It makes me feel better.”
Last Saturday at 10:25 a.m. — one year to the day and to the minute that Trevor Lewis died at the age of 19, a memorial service was held at his graveside, with some 50 people in attendance, with everyone wearing a Maple Leaf jersey.
Because he was a fighter, as in a fighter for life over an odds-on early death, Trevor Lewis was buried last year in the Leaf jersey of another fighter, Tie Domi. It was either Domi or Alexander Mogilny, but it was the player with the biggest heart who ultimately got the nod.
When his casket was wheeled down the aisle of Scarborough’s Bendale Bible Chapel, it was draped in blue-and-white Maple Leaf banner, and the pallbearers walking alongside were all wearing Maple Leaf jerseys, as was the pastor who delivered the eulogy.
“It is what he would have wanted,” his mother said back then. “Trevor was the truest of true Maple Leaf fans, and a true fighter as well.”
What other word but “fighter” could be used to describe a young man who was born with a major heart defect, had life-saving surgery at birth, then a heart transplant at the age of six, and a second heart transplant at the age of 16?
Trevor Lewis was admitted to Toronto General Hospital last November complaining of stomach discomfort — something that was not uncommon considering the amount of medication he took to fight off both infection and rejection. But it quickly went from bad to worse. His heart went into temporary arrest that first evening and then, in the early hours of the next day, a second attack took his life.
Back in 1995, there was a front-page picture of an 11-year-old Trevor Lewis throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game honouring the memory of famed New York Yankee slugger Mickey Mantle, once the recipient of a liver transplant. “Over 25,000 organ donor cards were handed out that night,” said his mother, a home-based accountant. “If one of those cards saved a life, then Trevor’s was well-served.
“Not a day has gone by that we have not thanked the families who donated the two hearts that kept our son alive for son long, and gave us so much to be thankful for. Not a day,” she said. “Not a day.”
Trevor Lewis’ tombstone was not finished until late in the summer. And, as tombstones go, it stands alone.
“I wanted something as unique as my son,” said his mother.
It is, in essence, a shrine to her son and a shrine to the Leafs. It stands next to a small tree wrapped in blue-and-white plastic flowers. The tiny garden in front of the tombstone is chock-a-block with memorabilia of Trevor, and memorabilia of the Leafs he so dearly loved to follow. And it did not come cheaply.
“It will be three years before it is paid off,” Sandra Lewis said. “But it will be well worth it.”
After months of therapy following a serious leg injury, her husband, Terry, is finally back to work driving buses for the TTC, which helps to ease the financial pressure that comes when the death of a child puts the world on hold.
“That helps,” she said. “It also helps us to know that Trevor’s struggle and Trevor’s death convinced so many people to sign organ donor cards. Friends. Friends of friends. And then strangers,” she said. “There have been so many, in fact, that I’ve lost count. But think of the lives that will be saved.”
By Mark Bonokoski
The Toronto Sun, Friday November 19, 2004, Page 30