Painted rock discovered in Scotland a special reminder for grieving sister – Newfoundland & Labrador

Barry Cole’s happiest moments, according to his sister, were listening to The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie, donning his chef’s apron and losing himself for hours in the creativity of painting.

Cole picked up his rock-painting hobby in 2016, when he went into rehab for alcohol addiction. 

‘When I opened the picture and saw his handwriting… that was monumental to me.’
– Lisa Butler

His sister, Lisa Butler, believes the  painting and poetry were part of the rehabilitation program. It led to profound changes.

“I finally looked at him, and I thought I saw peace,” she said.

“It seemed like he was just really content, and it brought him to a place that I never thought I would see him go.”

Lisa Butler and Barry Cole at Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John’s. (Submitted by Lisa Butler)

From his passion was born NL Rocks, a Facebook page with a small following, where he would share his paintings: a Chevrolet logo, an owl and a moon, a tribute to the Boston Bruins.

The page was created just three months before Cole was diagnosed with a fast-moving glioblastoma — the very same type of brain cancer that killed his favourite singer.

A few weeks after that, Butler sat by in a hospital room and watched the life leave her brother’s body. He died Nov. 26, 2016, at the age of 50.

Lisa Butler poses with a rock that Barry Cole painted in recognition of Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip song Grace, too. Both Barry Cole and Gord Downie were diagnosed with the same type of brain cancer. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Cole’s memory was renewed this month, when a group of children from a correctional school in Scotland somehow found a hidden, painted rock with directions to his Facebook page.

“It was overwhelming, because it was almost like he was speaking to us from beyond the grave,”  Butler said. “Even though he had nothing direct to say to us, he touched somebody else.” 

‘I can’t consult with him, but in my heart, I do.’
– Lisa Butler

Butler was alerted to the discovery by a Facebook message onto Cole’s NL Rocks page. She immediately contacted her sister and mother to let them know.

“When I opened the picture and saw his handwriting, I mean, that was monumental to me.”

Barry Cole, centre, at a craft fair at Cobb’s Pond in Gander in August. The photo was taken a few weeks before he was admitted to hospital. Lisa Butler says this photo captures how she wants to remember her brother. (Submitted by Lisa Butler)

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