This blog post has been months in the making. Even as I sit down to write it, I hesitate, but it will only linger and keep coming into my head, so here it goes.
The last few months have been filled with some very sad losses for us, and for many people at home, and sadly, cancer has been the demon that robbed us of some wonderful spirits.
It was over Christmas that the first loss came. Tim's uncle Joe passed away on Christmas Day, and it took us by surprise. We knew that he had gotten worse since the summer, but if you ever met him, you knew that he was so full of life that it was hard to imagine that he had not won the battle against cancer. Joe and his wife Denise and their three sons live in Ontario, so we only got to see them in the summers. And I honestly have never met a family like Tim's mother's family, as they enjoy each other's company so much, and they are in their glory when they are all together. When I first started visiting with them I would often feel like an intruder as they were all so closely knit. I will never forget the first time Tim was away working and there was a wedding in the family, that I would be attending on my own. The church was not so bad, but as a young bride still finding her place in the family, I remember being so nervous going to the reception. And that was when I first fell in love with Joe. He saw me standing by the hall doors, looking around for someone I knew, when he dragged me onto the dance floor and then proceeded to introduce me to every last family member that I had yet to meet. He made sure I was safely ensconced in conversation with some aunts before he continued to work the room. It was probably something that he never thought twice about, but I thought it was the nicest thing that someone had done for me in a while. The pride he had for his family was the thing that always came through the most in our chats and messages, and I really can't imagine how much they all must miss him. The summers will never be the same at home.
During the same days, Tim's great uncle Bowden became very sick after complications developed after a surgery. And although he was Tim's relative, I had actually gotten to know Bowden better over the years thanks to the fact that during my high school years his daughter, Elaine and I were best friends. If she wasn't at my house, I was at hers. Tim's grandfather, Kenny, and Tim's father, Clifford remind me so much of Bowden, they all have the unbelievable skill of telling great stories, and they are/were all men that if you love them, you always love them, and you do so completely. They are men that people respect, and at times can be very intimidated by. I was terrified of meeting every single one of them, and became their biggest fans almost immediately after doing so. On the night that we got the call that Bowden passed away, we discussed me going home. I wanted to be able to say good-bye, and I wanted to be there out of respect for the family. Bowden's wife, Sadie, has been so kind to me over the years...she knew how hard I took it when my Nanny passed away, and she insisted on making me eat at her house the day after the wake started. She did it out of kindness, but she also did it because she was worried I wasn't eating, lol, they were always so good to me. I have never gone home and not gone to their house, and sat at their table to have tea, and to listen to some of Bowden's stories. I still can't believe he is gone. Some men just never leave your heart, no matter how much time goes by from the last time you saw them.
I don't really remember the first time I met Martin Beaton. It might have been at a work party, as he and Tim both worked at the mill in Port Hawkesbury, or it might have been at the rink, as he seemed to be a permanent fixture there when his boys were playing, and later when his grandson played my son Mitchell would be in the same age division. But it was through our love of politics that we finally became the closest of friends. And it was just 10 days after Bowden passed away that we got the message that Marty had lost his fight with cancer as well. We had just talked to Marty on Christmas Eve, and he was getting out of the hospital for the holidays. So we were shocked at how fast everything happened. He had been talking about the summer, and how he couldn't wait to see the kids when we went home. He and his wife Joan had been so good to our family when we lived in Port Hawkesbury, and we spent many nights doing political things, sharing laughs and a few tears over the years. I really think he was the first man that ignited my love of politics. He too could spin a story and was bad for pulling my leg on more than one occasion. I don't think I ever met anyone who didn't like Martin, and we were lucky enough to be part of his extended family.
All of these deaths made me wish I could spend more time with my own dad, and Clifford, Tim's dad. It made me think of some of the conversations that we have had, and the things we have done, and made me wish that we all lived closer so they could make some memories with my children.
This past week brought the latest blows. Ruby was a woman that I got to know through facebook, but we became such good friends the last year that you would never know we hadn't known each other for years. We exchanged messages on her birthday, and she was always so positive that I didn't realize that she was losing her battle, so it was a shock when I got up on Sunday to hear that she had passed away. Her love for life, friends, and her dear family made her absolutely shine. She was a person that you knew would have a positive comment, or a funny post to brighten your day, and she will be so missed.
Donald "Tiger" MacPhee is the reason that I finally sat down to write. Over the years he had fought different physical battles, but like Joe, he was someone that you thought would just bounce back. I tried to tell my best friend what Donald was like, and it was her that encouraged me to sit and write about him. In our small Harbour community, I was lucky enough to grow up next to the MacPhees. With 12 siblings in the family, there was always someone at Mary and Danny's house, and over the years we would share the fields between our houses, for sledding in the winter, and haymaking in the summer. I would not even wager a guess how many times we walked that worn path over the years. Donald had worked away for many years, but was always home for the big events in life, marriages and funerals, anniversaries, and birthdays. But he finally returned to live in Mabou about six years ago, and when I went home for weddings and visits, he would be parked on his scooter in my dad's garage, and always eager to catch up on all the news of what was happening in our lives. It would be hard to meet a kinder, more wonderful soul than Donald. Many called him Tiger, but I never did, as it never felt like it fit his nature. If anything, he was a total pussycat, and even when you wanted to be mad at him, he would give you that wink and grin, and you would find yourself chuckling right along with him. He was one of those people that you meet that you really can't explain what he is like, just that he was wonderful, and I was lucky enough to have known him.
Another friend is saying her good-byes this week, and so many hearts are breaking with the loss of a beautiful mom, daughter and friend. My thoughts and prayers go out to Bonnie Jean's family, but if I know Bonnie Jean, she would have talked to everyone, and told them not to be sad. She always had a smile on her face, but I know that many tears will be shed in Cape Breton as her loved ones surround her family during this hard time.
Hug the ones you love, and tell them you love them...it won't hurt.