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A dying man’s beautiful gesture: concert for Syrian refugees

A Victoria musician suffering from terminal brain cancer will play a fundraising concert Sunday for Syrian refugees.
Michael Moore, guitarist
Michael Moore, who uses the stage name Michael Waters, says he has come to terms with his mortality and is enjoying life. “You could even say I’m ecstatic.”

A Victoria musician suffering from terminal brain cancer will play a fundraising concert Sunday for Syrian refugees.

Michael Moore said he’s far from depressed about his diagnosis, despite the fact doctors give him only a three-to-five per cent chance of being alive two years from now.

“You could even say I’m ecstatic. I’m enjoying myself more than I did one year ago. Or even two years ago,” said the 62-year-old guitarist, who uses the stage name Michael Waters.

Proceeds from Moore’s solo show at Hermann’s Jazz Club will go to the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society’s efforts to assist Syrian immigrants. Society executive director David Lau will introduce the event.

Lau said the money will help reunite a Syrian family in Victoria. Two sisters are studying at the University of Victoria while their mother, brother and sister are still in the Middle East.

Moore’s willingness to help despite having brain cancer is a “beautiful” gesture, Lau said. “I think it’s one of the more generous things I’ve ever heard of in my life.”

The guitarist was told he had an aggressive form of cancer a year ago after complaining of headaches, backaches and nausea. He has an inoperable glioma tumour in his brain.

Doctors at Royal Jubilee Hospital told Moore this form of cancer kills half the sufferers within the first year.

When he received the results of his biopsy, the musician was told it was possible he could die within seven weeks.

“Seven weeks. Yes, I know!” Moore said with a laugh.

He attributes his positive attitude to having come to terms with his mortality early as a young man.

Born in the remote logging village of Winter Harbour on northwest Vancouver Island, Moore has had a variety careers. He was a logger, salmon farmer, day trader, oversaw a garden nursery and worked in computer sales and service. He has been married for 31 years and has three adult children.

In his twenties Moore embarked on a spiritual quest, travelling for a decade throughout Europe, the U.S. and Mexico. As a “barefoot hippie looking for enlightenment” he encountered an 80-year-old man teaching an art class in Paris.

Back then, Moore was struggling with the notion of his own mortality. When the old man asked what he was doing with his life, Moore said: “Preparing to die.” The man replied, “From what? Laughing?”

The exchange proved to be a turning point, resulting in a complete shift in Moore’s attitude toward life and death. He eventually regained his “faith in being human” and began to be accepting of mortality. This way of living, in turn, led to his positive attitude when confronted with his cancer diagnosis.

Moore said in some ways he even looks forward to his death.

“I’ve been preparing for this for 40 years,” he said. “My curiosity is ‘Eyes wide open, into the labyrinth.’ ”

Moore has undergone radiation and chemotherapy treatment. He is taking blood thinners and other medicines, as well as self-medicating with cannabis. This week, he was feeling no ill effects from his condition.

“One of the most comforting aspects is I’ve hardly changed anything in my life. I’ve learned enough to live a good life. Not to be a bulls-----r. Not to be afraid. And I’ve had a fantastic life.”

Sunday’s concert is produced by Beck Peacock, who admires both his friend’s music and giving attitude.

“The guy is a gift,” Peacock said. “I hope he continues to share his genius while he’s still here.”


Concert Info

What: Michael Waters: Syrian Refugee Benefit Concert

Where: Hermann’s Jazz Club

When: Sunday, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. (doors at 6:30 p.m.)

Tickets: $15 to $18 (reservations at

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