My dear friend Mary died yesterday. She had a MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) appointment and now she is gone.
I met Mary at a Callanish retreat three years ago. Magnetic is the best word to describe Mary.
She was a social justice activist and a community organizer. She had striking blue eyes, an eloquent tongue and a soft heart. She was fierce and direct, but also immensely kind.
I was drawn to Mary right away at the cancer retreat. I hung onto her every word when she spoke. I was fortunate we kept in touch afterwards. I’d take her long phone calls when I was out walking. I can remember where I was when she told me specific things. I was strolling on the university campus when she told me that I had privilege and it was my responsibility to use my platform for good. I was sitting in my car when she told me what a good mom I was. I tried to dismiss her, but she insisted that I hear her compliment. She was generous with her words and actions.
Mary lent my communications company her expertise as the patient partner on the Queering Cancer project. She provided great insight for the researchers to create a safe space for LBGTQ2+ people who have cancer. She wrote the first story that was published on the site.
In July 2019, I was lucky to visit Mary for a week, right before her cancer came roaring back. I encouraged her to write and she encouraged me to rabble-rouse. We were a good pair.
We took the ferry over to a quiet island to have milkshakes at the local diner and a picnic at the beach. One night we mistakenly watched a movie about a mom dying of cancer and bawled our eyes out together. We volunteered making meals for an event at the local First Nations. She took me to a climate change talk at the library. We hiked along the bluffs to gaze out over the ocean.
We packed a lot into that week. We had coffee at the local café with a friend who also had a child with Down syndrome. Mary revelled in introducing people. Her blue eyes shone even brighter when she connected people together.
My husband and son Aaron joined me on my visit to drive me home. Mary embraced Aaron like his long-lost Aunty. We went to a local festival and she offered to hang out with Aaron so Mike and I could have an adult drink in the beer tent. When I left Aaron and Mary, they were sitting close together like two chums, chatting and giggling. Aaron’s Down syndrome didn’t phase Mary one bit. She openly embraced all kind souls on this earth.
Mary's MAiD appointment was booked for mid-March. On March 19, when my phone rang and Mary’s name came up on the screen, I thought it was a friend calling to tell me she was gone.
Instead, it was Mary on the other end of the line. “I’m not dead yet!” she said cheerily as a form of introduction, with her trademark Mary humour. She had postponed her appointment a month until a family member could be with her.
We had a hearty long chat. I asked her if she was afraid of dying. She said no. She encouraged me to keep fighting in my health advocacy work, but cautioned me to pause to find the humour and joy too.
She told me: “Love is the way.” In my last email from her on Sunday, she reiterated: “Love is your superpower.” It would do us all good to heed her wisdom. In the end, it only comes down to love.
Mary’s MAiD appointment was rescheduled to April 13. It is strange to know the exact day someone is going to die. One positive thing is that Mary and I had a chance to say we loved each other before she left this Earth. There is no shock but there is time for reflection.
I went for a walk with Aaron yesterday morning to the Terry Fox statue in our neighbourhood. We always pass to say hello to Terry, but that day I stopped a little longer. Mary was there with us.
Later, my husband and I were at the dog beach with our puppy. A young magnificent bald eagle soared close to us. It was a sight to see.
I wanted to text Mary to tell her I saw the eagle, but I couldn’t because she was gone. Later, I looked up the symbolism of an eagle flying overhead. Throughout different cultures, it means new beginnings, resilience and stamina.
I trust that Mary has found her new beginning. Thank you, Mary for welcoming me into the circle of people who love you. Rest in Power my dear friend.