Thursday, 29 April 2010

Nathan's Birthday

Today was Nathan's birthday. His first without his Mom and it was hard for all of us in our own way. Dad and Nadalene went and picked up a cake for Nathan tonight and the three of them came to my house. Josephine was still up so she was quite glad to help her Uncle Nate blow out the four candles we could find and Domenic woke up for the events.

It was harder than I thought it might be. It was hard to not think of our missing link and life of the party. We sat around and had tea and did manage to have a few laughs but I guess it was just hard to not miss our Mom tonight and I know it was another hard night for my Dad. I hope she was there with us. I think I felt her presence. I know I felt it through our love for her transcending to our love for one another.

We are looking forward to tomorrow night. Nathan will be hosting a party for himself. In anticipating the change and loss of his Mom, he will be making changes in being the one throwing the party this time. As such, we move on.

Happy Birthday Nathan! We love you.

Monday, 12 April 2010

What Wouldn't We Do?

The days without my Mom seem to get harder and harder. For a while, it was easier not to think of her as gone, or even not to think of her. She was becoming a figment of my imagination and that was easier to live with. Now, reality continues to sink deeply in my chest, and at times, it steals my breath. At times, I feel like choking. At other times, I feel the bats in my stomach dance. After they are done, the loneliness settles in. It is the loneliness you feel when you are surrounded by people, even those close to you. This must be one of the hardest things, to lose your Mom. To lose one so full of love and hope for us. To lose someone who shares in our life and keeps us together. To lose someone so full of life and magic. We are all so heartbroken. Someone had written to me that the loss of a mother is one of life's greatest sorrows. One of the first we will not be able to share with her.

As I watched my Mom take her last breath, I could feel my spirit jump to my chest to try and get out, to try and stop her from leaving. Then, I felt a coolness rush passed me. I am happy I was there with her but it haunts me still and I am sure it always will. It is the hardest thing I have ever had to bear witness. She was gone and she still looked so beautiful. We were listening to music at the time from my uncle's computer. I remember he had it set to a random order. The song 'I Believe in Angels' by ABBA played three times in the half hour after her death. I tried to take comfort in that perhaps my Mom or my Grandma were trying to reassure us. It was typical of their style.

I thought I would feel my Mom's presence all around me and that I would talk to her and I would be ok. I was simply disillusioned. I felt nothing but the heaviness of her leaving and our loss. The thought of never being able to see her again, talk to her, hold her hand or kiss her cheek is too much for me to wrap my head around and process. We were close and spent much time together. For this, I am so fortunate but I am still greedy and want more. How does one ever get over the loss of a mother? What I wouldn't do to have her back here with us.

My poor Dad is at such a loss without her. He tells us that even though they have been together for 35 years, it was not enough. He tells us that they were just beginning. He would give away all his earthly possesions to have her back. He needs to know that he will be with her again.

Someone asked me if there were any signs that she was around. There are times when it seems Domenic is looking at something that we can not see, times when he is looking at the ceiling with wonder. I always hope that she is there calling to her grandson and making him smile.

We did have one magical moment that I keep re-living and that I would like to share with you. We were finishing supper and Josephine was outside the kitchen window dancing on the deck. She was increasingly becoming excited and laughing in a way that she always reserved for my Mom. She started to yell and laugh at the 'air' with her back to us. Then she looked at us, turned around and slapped her knees and continued to talk to the 'air' with her back to us. She laughed and squealed with delight. She turned to us again, put her face up to the glass real tight (something she's never done or seen us do) and then turned around again and talked and laughed to the 'air' as she would do with her Grandma. This went on for at least another 5 minutes and it was great to see her that way again. It was definitely the Josephine only her Grandma could bring out. A week later, I asked her if she ever sees Grandma. She said, 'I dream to her." Then she said, 'bestest star in the sky' (something I have never said to her...although I wish I did. It sounded like something my Mom would have said). I sure hope she sees her. I can take some comfort in that.

Now that things are settled, we are hoping to go back and enjoy the comments from so many of you that have helped us through this painful experience. Your love and kind words leave us speechless and less alone. We had wanted to ask anyone who had written something about our Mom (Wife, Sister and Friend) on their blogs to send us a link so we may go back and read the posts. Also, some of her blog friends have so kindly set up another blog titled This blog will be a site for people to leave comments and then the posts will be put into a book. Thank you Laurel and KJ for doing this, it's just incredible. I know this takes time so if you get a chance, it would be so appreciated.

Love to all of you,

*Art work by Faith Evans-Sills

Thursday, 8 April 2010


One of my aunt's suggested I share with you my Mom's eulogy. It is written by her dear friend Heidi, who has written so eloquently about her.

I stand before you today, heartbroken. I am humbled by the great honor bestowed on me by Renee to stand here and talk about the life of my amazing friend, your wife, your mother, your sister, your aunt and your friend.

Renee grew up in a loving home where she was taught how to love unconditionally, and this was how she lived her life.

When Renee was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, over four years ago, her doctors told her that her life expectancy was not long. Her battle began. And she fought, with courage, with dignity, with strength beyond comprehension. Her battle became our battle. Those first couple of years were devastating, as would be expected. And then in February of 2008, Renee’s blog “Circling My Head” was born. In her first entry, she said, “I have grieved for the life I thought I would have and I have lived in the shadow land. BUT NOW! I have returned and have chosen to be happy, to care and to love. My reasons:
· I have a brilliant husband whom I respect;
· I have two beautiful and amazingly supportive daughters who have become exactly what I wished for;
· I have a wonderful son whose compassion and joyful spirit brings such everyday pleasure into my daily life; and I am so proud of him.
· And then as time passed, she was blessed with two beautiful grandchildren.

“Circling my Head” became a place for Renee to express her thoughts, fears, hopes and feelings, meant to be a legacy for her family. But it flourished and became so much more. Her beautiful writings became a masterpiece - She was an amazing artist.

I will quote Renee many times, because I could never find the words to say things in such an eloquent and profound way.

You and Renee shared a love story that spanned over 35 years. Renee loved and admired you and said you were better than anyone she could have ever hoped for in her dreams. She believed that your kindness, patience, and genuine understanding made her kinder, more patient, and more understanding.
Renee’s love for you grew with each year that passed. Many people go through life and never find that kind of love. You and Renee had it for over 35 years, and although it wasn’t long enough, you were blessed to have had her as your partner. It wasn’t long enough for her either.
Nothing in the world would ever match the love Renee had for her children.

Of Angelique, Renee said
· You are my heart walking outside of my body.
· You are my first experience of endless love
· You taught me more than I could ever have taught you.
· You and Don gave me two of the most incredible human beings ever, sweet Josephine and darling Domenic.

Angelique thank you for the privilege.

Of Nadalene, Renee said:
· Nadelene, you are my awakening.
· I am so proud of your accomplishments and of the woman you have become.
· You are an incredible individual.
· You are married to a wonderful man, Charlton, and I love him so much.

Nadalene, thank you for the privilege.

Of Nathan, she said:
· Nathan, you are my closing act on motherhood.
· I am so proud of you. I love the sound of you being referred to as “Mr. Khan”.
· In her words: “As sure as sunbeams dance in dust filled corners, I know that any child Nathan teaches will be a very lucky child indeed”
· As a man, you are an amazing individual.

Nathan, thank you for the privilege.

Renee was overjoyed with her two grandchildren. She took nothing for granted; she knew how lucky she was to have Josephine and Domenic in her life.

When Josephine, was born, she became Renee’s new lease on life. She was the best medicine. Although she didn’t take the cancer away, she reminded Renee that she was still alive. Renee adored that sweet child and cherished every moment she got to spend with her.

When Domenic was born, Renee said that he was a “gift” to her and she said that she loved him unconditionally and beyond eternity. She said that he gave her more pleasure in one day than she had in years of living.

What a privilege for Renee to have had Josephine and Domenic in her life.
And if Renee didn’t already have so much love in her life, there were all of you, her family.

Renee was the 8th child born on March 28th, 1956 in The Pas, Manitoba to a family which would eventually become 13.
Adorable, with enormous blue eyes, she was nicknamed “Lover” by her dad at a very young age, because he thought her to be a peace maker.

If you asked Renee she would tell you that she was her dad’s favorite, her mom’s favorite and of course she was the favorite of all of her siblings. She often ended that statement by saying “Well, really, who else is there”

The last words Renee’s Dad spoke to her before he passed away: “Lover, I’m glad that I’m dying before you. I will make a place for you and your Mom in Heaven.” And indeed that is exactly what he did. We all know that he had prepared a place for Sheldon when he arrived and so he, along with Sheldon and then Daisy, were there with open arms to welcome Renee into eternal life. We can find some comfort in that.

Renee had an unbelievable relationship with her siblings. And each of you know how much she loved you and how important you were in her life; each in your own unique way.

As I began to write this eulogy, I asked each of Renee’s siblings to provide me with one word that they felt best described Renee. This turned out to be an almost impossible task, because how do you pick one word to describe someone so real, wise, devoted, intellectual, assured, kind hearted, charismatic, passionate, spiritual, determined, unforgettable, magical, hilariously funny, an all around beautiful person.

Renee shared a particularly strong bond with her sister Jacquie. Of Jacquie, she said “we have lived and loved and grown attached to each other for over 53 years. We are such an intimate part of each other. Sheldon will be very pleased to have his Auntie Renee parked on that bench beside him and his grandparents in heaven. Jacquie, you and Renee are still and will be forever “Together Strong”.

And then there were her friendships. Renee was one of the most loyal people I have ever met. Since we became friends in elementary school, our friendship has been unwavering. Renee always made me feel like I was part of her family as did the entire Ste. Marie clan. She was a wonderful listener and was always so interested in what was going on in my life. She was my biggest cheerleader. We shared so many experiences together throughout our childhood, adolescence, and adult life. We survived those wild and crazy teen years, were young mothers at the same time, we became neighbors, our kids played together. And here it is, 43 years later.

One of the things I enjoyed most about Renee was her sense of humor. When Nadalene was getting married, Renee planned to wear a wig for the occasion. I believe it was the first time she ever wore a wig since losing her hair. As part of the wedding ceremony, Renee and Charlton’s mom were to light candles at the alter. Renee and I had many discussions about this. She confided in me that she was terrified her head would catch on fire when lighting her candle. So she assigned me a very import role in the ceremony. When her head caught on fire, it was my job to run up to the alter, rip the wig of her head and extinguish the fire. We had many good laughs while we plotted our strategy. Thankfully, my services weren’t required.

Renee, thank you for the privilege.

One of Renee’s favorite pastimes was reading, of course always accompanied by a good cup of tea. Over the years, she read thousands of books. And through that, her wisdom grew to amazing heights.
Her blog became a passion for her and her world grew enormously. Renee created a beautiful piece of art, having found the perfect venue to share her innermost self. One comment that I found to be such a beautiful description of Renee’s writing abilities came from someone who said, “Sweet Renee - how you takes pieces of your soul and arrange them all together to pierce through directly to our hearts, is beyond me.”
During the two year span that Renee blogged, she posted over 600 times. And she had followers. And the followers. Grew and grew. Her site was viewed over 21,000 times and the feedback she received grew, initially a few a day to the entry on March 9th, when Angelique wrote about her Mom’s passing. More than 200 replies were received. Replies from around the world, from people who had never met her, yet knew her intimately and loved her.

Renee helped many other cancer patients to understand the disease. She made it real while at the same time making it more bearable. for them. She lost many “new friends” over the last four years to cancer, and each one devastated her.
Isn’t it amazing how that little blue eyed girl born in The Pas, changed this world in such a remarkable way. The beauty that was Renee will transcend forever.

The birds have stopped circling renee’s head
They have been replaced by white doves of peace
Blue skies ahead
And not a bat in sight

Renee believed in life everafter
World without end

Rest in Peace Renee

It has truly been our privilege.