Eulogy to my soul-mate sister – Marian Humphreys

To my blog family: As a survivor, I am very aware of how deep loss is, because it invariably shrinks your tiny circle of trusted companions. The loss of Marian to me is the most significant devastating loss I have had in my life. I felt compelled to offer this eulogy at the saddest time in my life, and I’m glad I did.  I felt that I wanted people to see Marian represented in all aspects of her life, rather than just the individual ways others knew her.

 Marian eulogy photo

March 21, 2014

My goodness, Marian’s last morning here on earth has, indeed, broken. Thank you for remembering her with me.

Evelyn Marian Humphreys, known to all of us as Marian, was born in Liverpool, England.  She took every opportunity to mention to folks that that was the home of The Beatles.  She lived there, completing her early life cycles until moving to Canada in November, 1981, at the tender age of 53.  On Friday, March 14th, she left all of us very suddenly and started her final journey to her eternal home where, I believe, she’s now wrapped in the arms of her Heavenly Father, waiting there for us.

Marian was in her 86th year.  She never hid her age and always looked forward to what the next year would bring.  Always, a strong, positive attitude with the courage and fortitude to conquer the next exciting challenge; that’s how Marian lived her life.

As the eldest of two girls, she was the daughter of a homemaker and a police constable.  The family lived in Liverpool, England, but had strong ties to their many North Walian relatives, one of which still lives in Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch (Llanfair PG for short)!  I dare anybody to pronounce this and if you succeed, I’ll give you an extra hug from Marian!  I joined the Humphreys family in June, 1977 and have been blessed by almost 37 years of being in their presence.  Their love and support gave me a sense of family that I had never known.

Marian’s education was disrupted considerably due to the war and she neglected to pass on a school letter informing her parents of the details regarding her new school, High School.  She enrolled, instead, in a typing and shorthand course.  To Marian, this seemed a much more practical route.  Thus, her working life began at the tender age of 14.

Marian spent many hours on the family’s allotment where she gained her basic gardening knowledge and skills from her Dad.  From those early years of weeding etc, her hands created many beautiful flower and vegetable gardens, even in Northern Canada and she found a certain stillness and peace, digging in the soil.  She was an avid knitter and crocheter, using both her hands and a knitting loom to produce beautiful Aran and Fair isle garments, as well as decorative items.  She crocheted several hundred toques that were sent to African orphanages and crocheted blankets and shawls for the comfort of people with terminal illnesses.  In her later years, she learned the art of quilting.

Ultimately, her wonderful hands were put to use, both healing and offering compassion to those in need; the sick, the disabled and the dying.   Strong, gentle hands that soothed and fixed; hands that brought joy and blessings to all whom they touched, everything from removing fish hooks from a dog’s ear to performing minor surgery in the North.  She taught me how to suture wounds and suggested I start on the head of an inebriated person in case the stitch went astray; I had many false starts, but managed to be successful eventually under her tutelage!

Those hands worked very hard in the British fields from the ages of 17 to 18 as she worked on her parents to allow her to do her share for the war effort. When her Dad finally agreed to let her go, she didn’t want to, but in true Marian fashion, her determined streak forced her to take off for those fields, thus she joined the Land Army.  There were thousands of girls who tended to the farms and livestock during WW2 while the men were away and it is only recently that the British Government formally acknowledged and honoured these women with medals.

Many of Marian’s careers were spent in the uniform.  Don’t be fooled by Marian’s early exit from school.  In her lifetime, she took many courses.  She was an advanced police trained driver and studied the mechanics of every vehicle she owned or drove.  The first vehicle she owned was her prize Lambretta scooter and one of the first passengers was her mother who, like Marian, was always game for an adventure.  Marian’s more advanced training took place in the Military where she joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps and in the Liverpool Police Academy, where she pounded  the beat, directed traffic, broke up brothel raids and worked in the office of the CID.   Whatever her work, she never failed the honour the badge bestowed on her.

She took her trainers at their word and on one occasion, while learning the best holds to secure a prisoner, she practiced with another recruit and took hold of the girl’s arm so securely, she broke it!  I’m told that recruit never held it against her.

I believe her most cherished studies came when she achieved her State Registered Nurse, State Certified Midwife, Health Visitor, known as Public Health Nurse here, District Nurse and School Nurse.  As well, Marian  made it her business to take courses in the care of Premature Babies and Theatre courses, the latter, not to perform on stage but, rather, to work in the operating room.  All these and more, she did to advance her professional skills.  Any topic that she didn’t understand or had some reservations with, she took courses to increase her comfort level in them.  Marian was an avid reader, always keeping up with the latest health trends in order that she achieve optimum health for herself and to guide others who often came to her for advice.  She was never too proud to try any new device or treatment that could possibly make her life easier.

Marian loved to travel and had a true sense of adventure.  In her younger days, she was an avid rambler and hiker and she and Audrey went on Holiday Fellowship treks with groups of like-minded people.  Marian and Audrey also enjoyed boating holidays on the Yorkshire and North Wales canals.  In later years, she and I travelled to many cities and to most continents.  During our travels, Marian was often my eyes; for instance, on safari in Kenya and Tanzania, she’d spot a cheetah or a lion, I’d grip the palm order, she’d turn my head to get the perfect angle to capture the animal and I’d click the camera; We made one great photographer between us and have some fantastic footage to prove it!

Our lives together in Canada’s North were some of the toughest and rewarding years we shared.  Twelve nurses were chosen from over two thousand applicants and leading the pack was a tenacious, mid-fifties lady with all the idealism of a teenager.   We left Liverpool after a rousing send-off from Audrey and her husband, Len, on November 10, 1981, for what was to be an adventurous two year contract.  Our first destination was Split Lake, Manitoba.  We arrived there at 6 p.m., the doorbell rang at 6:15 p.m. and never stopped ringing for two years.  The so-called two year contract turned out to be nine years.  We had to flip a coin to see which one of us would be the nurse in charge and, as Marian used to say, she lost and became my senior.  That was definitely the correct choice and she handled me with the same professionalism she did with all the other staff.  We ran our own clinics, took our own x-rays where we learned the various techniques from our housekeeper, we ran our own pharmacy, did simple lab work, created our own seniors and maternal and child health programs, applied plaster casts, sutured wounds, delivered many babies, did home visits and treated a myriad of emergencies while on skidoos, float planes and air ambulances.  Our local low-tech ambulance, a sleigh attached to a skidoo with a large painted red cross on the side, came to the rescue of many.  Baptism by fire doesn’t cover our northern adventures, but the honour and privilege bestowed on us serving Canada’s Native and Inuit populations was both humbling and a cherished gift we spoke of for the rest of Marian’s life.  Our little dog, Penny, was very much a part of our Northern story and she remained with us for 17 ½ years.

Marian loved our dogs Penny, Spirit and latterly, Daisy, who she only knew for one month before she passed away.

For the past 15 years, our life on Coulson Court has been sheer joy and contentment.  In the beginning, Marian and I “were the social committee for two years.”  From those humble beginnings, we are now a flourishing community with a sense of fellowship and caring that is surpassed by none.  Marian loved our home and the activities we all shared with our neighbours.  Whether it was breaking bread at a pot luck, dining out, her painting group, our annual Garage Sale and BBQ or the many and varied outings, she felt part of a very special group of people.  I can’t thank you all enough for your compassion and love towards me these last few days.

The other dear family to Marian and I was our St. Paul’s church family.  Over the years, she has been very active both in front and behind the scenes.  Every project I worked on, Marian was the voice of reason behind it.  To our church family as well, my heart-felt thanks for your presence, kindness and love shown to Audrey and myself over this past week.

Marian was my guide, my strength, my eyes, my mentor, my level-headedness and my purpose for being.  One does not need the title of RN to nurse another.  Some thought it was a burden for me to nurse Marian.  In actual fact, it was my honour and privilege to do so.  The gift of love and service which Marian bestowed on others is the theme of this whole celebration of her life.  By her actions, I’m encouraging you to jump on this train and pass it forward.

Please continue to pray for Audrey and myself as we try to adjust to another new normal, one without our beloved sister, Marian.

Pave the way for us and rest in peace until we’re together once more.

Lynn and Daisy, Ottawa, ON

Here is Llanfair, Wales:

Llanfair shop


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Happy Birthday to Me

Happy Birthday to Me

Today I am 70 years old and I’ve been a survivor for all those years.  I’m entering a new decade in my life and when I woke up this morning, all sorts of memories came to the fore.  I’m sitting in a holiday suite in central Florida and I’m writing about some of the things that have brought me to this day.  Sounds rather self-centred but it’s not; I’m just thinking of all kinds of events and people who have made me the woman I am today; some are just facts, lists of things, mostly devoid of much of the emotion that they once held years ago, but they’re all part of the package that is Lynn Williams today, threads that are all loosely entwined into bundles that, together, make up the whole that is me.

I will not analyze them but will note that they must have held some significance because they’re still hanging around all these decades later.  Having read over what I’ve written, I’ve come to the conclusion that I really don’t need to rehash these memories any more.  They’re in my consciousness and there they will remain, but it has dawned on me that I absolutely don’t need to revisit them again. I will indulge my survivor brain to dwell on them one last time, simply out of respect for the survivor in me. It feels good that they no longer have any kind of a hold on me but for my record, here they are.

1.        Childhood Memories

These were generally very scary and sad, but one or two bring a warm feeling to me.  No little girl or boy should ever have these memories in their arsenal, but they are a part of me so I honour them for what they are and I’m glad they are now stowed away far from my present life:

a.  punishments, beatings, demeaning words, deprivation, unwanted, unloved, tormented, shame, ugliness, dirty, handicapped, untouchable, fear and panic, weak, stupid, not pretty, fat slob, unlikable, etc. etc.

b.  when it was recess, we fantasized about holding the duty teacher’s hand and when the teacher was really popular, it was even more precious if she took your hand; I got to hold Miss Hall’s hand sometimes, but she was far from the most popular teacher; in fact, she was probably the most ridiculed because she had a club foot so nobody else really wanted to hold her hand anyway, but I did and I probably felt she needed someone to like her just like I needed someone to like me, so our hands were a perfect fit,

c.   profound depression and sadness,

d.  we once had a family outing, the only one I can remember, and it was to Granby Zoo; it ended like all events ended for me, with slaps, punches and shouting nasty words at me for being a bad girl for something or other,

e.  on hot summer days, we sometimes went to Elmhurst Dairy for an ice cream cone; the lines were long but the anticipation of the cold, smooth, creamy flavour slipping down our throats was worth the wait,

f.   humour, always the mask that got me through,

g.  Hope, my beautiful baby daughter, who I only knew for about half an hour before she was murdered, (I’m acknowledging her in this phase of my life because this is where she first emerged, although I only remembered her, initially, much later on),

h.  a sweet, tiny blue bird in the garden which came right into my hand; mummy came up to me and asked if I liked it and I said yes; with that, she stamped on it until it couldn’t chirp or flap its wings anymore,

i.   my pets,

j.   Ralph, a skinny, short boy holding the hand of a fat, taller girl that was me,

k.  Christmases with my aunt and uncle, but these were often tense for me because I had to hide my anxiety so I wouldn’t get punished for some word or action I might say or do to upset my mother,

l.   a school talent show where I recited a poem which started something like this; “I ain’t ‘ascared’ of snakes or toads or….” I didn’t win, but the saddest thing was that all my mother felt was shame that, yet again, I wasn’t good enough for anything,

m.  volunteering at all kinds of things; at this young age, I was probably looking for praise for a job done well; I was never the best, but I tried so hard to please,

n.   I learned to ride a bicycle despite the family’s indifference to this feat, but I was proud of myself,

o.   the ever-present letter from the eye doctor which I had to present to every teacher, every year; it declared my short-sightedness, my curse and my downfall to everything in life, and my need to sit at the front of the classroom, just to see the teacher although I could never see the blackboard, thus, everything had to be committed to memory,

p.   May Casey, a wonderful Irish lady who loved me dearly as my nanny and who was with me always until the day she died; funny enough, I always accepted her love without ever telling her of the horrors I was living when she wasn’t around.

2.            Teenage Memories

These were very hard years for most kids, but especially for me because I never could live up to anybody’s standards, not even my own.  I worked hard in school but I really didn’t have much to show for all my efforts.  I was the eldest of three daughters, although my siblings were step sisters so, in my mind, that explained why they were smarter and prettier than I; I was anything but a role model for them.  I was the failure, the mistake.

a.   every Saturday night rolled into the next for years and years and as I watched my sisters go out on dates, wearing pretty dresses and bursting with the expectations of young love, I dreamed that one day my turn might come, but it didn’t,

b.   my Sweet Sixteen birthday was held in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel; that was the day I took my mother around the tables and started to introduce her to all my guests and couldn’t remember any of their names!  Most didn’t help me out either, but the wrath of my mother fell on me as I, yet again, embarrassed her with my forgetfulness; I still have one of my birthday gifts though, it’s my passport holder which, ironically, held the document that ultimately lead to my freedom from the bondage of my family,

c.   depression and sadness, the friends I’ve had for years,

d.   humour, always the mask that got me through,

e.   stacking shelves in a drug store and being on the cash where I was told to watch out for the kids who may be stealing candies which were laid out on all four sides of the square space I stood in; that was my first job and I took it very seriously,

f.    a shopping trip downtown with my mother; I don’t know what we were shopping for, but what I do remember is that my mother spotted an old friend whose daughter was a model in California; they embraced, exchanged a few pleasantries and then the woman asked about me; she thought she saw me there but my mother had told me to run and hide somewhere so I was huddled amongst the coats because my mother was so ashamed of what I looked like; when their backs were turned, I ran out of the store and ran all the way home, sobbing my eyes out and wishing I looked like the princess that lady’s daughter looked like,

g.   pets, particularly Toni, my Boston Terrier,

h.   High School graduation; I have no idea who my date was, but it must have been one of the very few I had during those painful years and as was the custom in those days, people held breakfast parties after the dance so my mother put on one in our house because she knew I wasn’t invited to one anywhere else; that way she could boast to her friends that I did go to a breakfast, albeit the one she prepared; all I remember about that is there were twins from my class who attended, one was called Sandra and the other, I think, was called Ann; they were both pretty and clever and are probably doting grandmas today,

i.    volunteering, always wanting to do good things and please people; I was never the best, but sometimes I got some praise,

j.    Miss Keen, my long-enduring tutor for many, many years and the only person on the planet who saw any potential in me; we remained friends until she died and hers was the first funeral I ever attended; may she RIP,

k.   my mother, rushing off to see the Dean of the second-rate university, as she saw it, begging him to let her flawed daughter into the Arts program so she could say her child was in university; her expectation was that I wouldn’t make the grade on my own recognisance so, yet again, she felt she had to be my advocate to get into these hallowed halls of learning,

l.    my desperate desire to get into a school of nursing to fulfill my dreams and my constant rejections from every school of nursing I applied to, just because I didn’t have high school math on my records; my excuse for being miserable in university and for not getting the grades I should have, was what I told myself and anybody else who would listen over and over again, was that I’d be going into nursing next semester and didn’t need these classes anyway.

3.      Young Womanhood Memories

These years held hope for me and a longing to emerge from the cocoon and become the butterfly I longed to be; I was not a pretty butterfly, but I thought there was potential for me out there in the big wide world and in my more optimistic moments, I allowed myself to believe I could be a source for good.

a.  university graduation; I made it despite my mother, others and even myself,

b.  Rabbi Bloomstone, who patiently helped me understand Judaism, without persuasion, but who, I firmly believe, knew that in my heart, I was a follower of Jesus Christ,

c.  CUSO, (Canadian University Service Overseas) the organization that first gave me a reason to use my passport and choose freedom from all my oppressors and perpetrators, CUSO, the organization that transported me from Hell to eventual Heaven, the organization that put me through a rigorous, intense interview process, which I achieved on my own, and which, at the end of it, brought me to a piece of paradise called Biafra,

d.  Biafra, Nigeria, where the streets were definitely not paved with gold, where real poverty surrounded me, where I had a houseboy, (about aged 50!) who tended to my every need such as drawing my ‘evening bath’ which was a zinc tub that he filled with hot water and where I stood beside it cleaning off the African dust of the day,

e.  the blind children, offspring of leprous mothers, who were my joy every day; we gathered in an open square schoolroom in the bush, a schoolroom which stood beneath a corrugated tin roof and half mud walls; they were hungry for any knowledge I imparted,

f.   Blessing, a young student from my teaching days at the Pacelli School for the Blind in Lagos, a girl who felt my arms, because she couldn’t see them, but commented on how soft my skin was compared to that of the African flesh,

g.   Freddie, my Freddie, who loved me so deeply and accepted me for who I was without even being able to see me; my husband for only a very short time and my husband in a totally non-traditional way but, never-the-less, my husband for whom I was able to express a love so deep and tender that it has never been repeated to this very day; never has there been a man that I could allow into my life who held my heart and soul as Freddie did and, in some peculiar way, still does,

h.    St. Thomas’ Hospital, London, England, a very prestigious place that didn’t care if I had high school math on my record and accepted me for my potential, a place from where I graduated as an SRN, a State Registered Nurse as we’re called in England, a descendant from Florence Nightingale’s first group of nursing students; Nightingales all, as we were called, after our founder,  Florence Nightingale,

i.     the receipt of my midwifery badge from The Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion indicating I could call myself an SCM, a State Certified Midwife as we’re called in the UK; The Simpson, home of the renowned Maggie Myles, the mother of midwifery, where we all studied hard to learn the gospel according to Maggie, tried never to fail an exam and to scoot out, after our year of study, (not my favourite place in the world)

j.     Garston clinic in Liverpool, England, where I met Marian, my ‘sister and soul-mate’ and the rest, as they say, is history,

k.    Joyce Lyle, my patient guide and mentor to the New Testament who gently taught me the ways of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ; I had a voracious appetite for all things Christian and, at last, was able to speak my longing aloud, comfortably with one of God’s angels here on earth; thank you Joyce,

l.     depression and sadness, the friends I’ve had for years,

m.   humour, always the mask that got me through,

n.    the receipt of my HV certificate; I became a Health Visitor and a Health Visitor Tutor from the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester respectively,

o.     Holy Trinity Anglican Church and the Rev. Bob Metcalf, the place that captured my Christian heart and the man who made it all possible through his teachings about the church, about Jesus Christ and about becoming a Christian,

p.      Baptism and Confirmation, the two acts of faith that sealed my Christian life forever; Christianity, the backbone of my being; the Passion, the Cross, the Resurrection and the Promise of Eternal Life, what more could I ever want,

q.      travel and the meeting and sharing with fellow sojourners along the way.

4.          The  So-Called Working Year Memories

I have always loved to work and I’ve been fortunate enough to choose the jobs I wanted. Work acted as a mask for me, covering up for the relative lack of any ‘social life’ and my work was always very meaningful to me and, as it eventually dawned on me, meaningful to others, too. I always played the part of the advocate for the marginalized, the disabled, the poor and the needy, maybe because I have always felt close to those folk, maybe because that role elevated me somehow.  As I’m still working, I guess this is the present phase of my existence.

Jobs I have known:

a.     The Montreal School for the Blind, Montreal, Canada
b.     Summer Camps, Canada
c.     The Douglas Hospital for the Mentally Ill, Montreal, Canada
d.     The School for the Blind, Biafra, West Africa
e.     The Pacelli School for the Blind, Nigeria, West Africa
f.      St. Thomas Hospital, London, England
g.     Leeds Royal Infirmary, Leeds, England
h.     The Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion, Edinburgh, Scotland
i.      Liverpool Area Health Authority, Liverpool, England
j.      Medical Services/Human Resources, Canada.

      a. Split Lake, Manitoba,
      b.  New Ayansh, British Columbia
      c.  Fort Simpson, NWT
      d.  Holman Island
      e.  Cat Lake, Ontario

k.     Income Security Programs, Ottawa, Ontario
l.     Investors Group, Ottawa, Ontario

5.       Special people and Memories

Marian, with whom I shared too many work experiences to note, but without whom, none would have been as rewarding and enriching as they were, not to mention, sometimes exasperating and frustrating,

Elizabeth and my seven or eight years of gruelling counselling, those years when I came face to face with me and where I eventually arose from the depths of despair to the radiance of new light and life,

Depression and sadness, the comforters rather than friends that I’ve had for years, but they are appearing less and less as I get older,

Humour, always the mask that got me through, but needed less and less these days as a cover and enjoyed more and more for the release that humour offers all of us, I laugh less, but more fully and robustly, when something is truly amusing,

My beloved pets, namely Penny and Spirit, my two adorable Papillions,

My friends, who continue to bless me with their love and loyalty and without whom, life would be unbearable,

My daughter Hope, who only lived on this earth for less than the blink of an eye, but who becomes more real and more tangible with my every breath; had she been allowed to live, I would have been so proud of her accomplishments and mostly, would have enjoyed just being her mother and basking in the shadows of her very being.

So, Happy Birthday to me.  My birthday was never a day that brought me any joy because I knew I was never wanted and had no value.  In fact, at best, I used to say it was the day that Parliament reconvened after the Christmas break.  Today, I celebrate my birthday; I know now that I am entitled to it and that special things can happen to me on this day.  Most of all, I know how very blessed I am in my unique relationship with Marian, with true friendships that abound in my life, with each day given to me and, if ever there’s a resolution to be made at the dawn of a new year, it’s to not waste a moment on this planet but rather, to make my mark on this earth, to make the reason for my being count and to delight in the things that have meaning to me and to others.


January 15, 2014

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Post-Christmas Message


Hello All,

We’re at the dawn of a new year and for some of us, these past few weeks have been a difficult period to navigate through.  But, you made it; that’s because you’re a survivor!  Maybe you can plan for Christmas 2014 with a different mindset.

I, personally, love the Christmas season, but I’m not keen on the commercialization of the holiday.  As a Christian, starting from Advent One, I get very excited as the feelings of Hope and Expectation increase with each passing day until finally, we reach that crescendo on Christmas morning when the promise of renewal and second chances are there, given freely, for each of us, again.

Hope is the greatest gift I can receive and maybe, you, too, can look back and see Christmas from this angle.  The gift of Hope and that feeling of Expectation and Renewal are far better and longer-lasting than a new dress or purse, the newest electronic toy, a new negligee, some slippers or, perhaps, even a great book or the promise of a future holiday.  The thought of sitting around a festive table with people who were sure to sting you with some demeaning comment or who would send you on yet another guilt trip, is something you probably fought within yourself or tried to wiggle out of.  Don’t get me wrong, I love turkey and all the trimmings, but if I had to get them by sitting in a tense atmosphere, wondering if my gifts would be good enough or whether my past abuse would make me feel like a second class guest, I’d be happier sharing a sandwich with somebody who is a positive light in my life.  The food and the presents run a very distant second to a relaxed, accepting atmosphere with a close friend.  Relationships are key in our lives and without these, nothing else matters.

Tension and triggers from the past are like the devil who’s there to taunt you, yet again.  You don’t need these barriers in your life anymore.  Send those destructive parts of your personality deep into the basement of your being.  Nowadays, you’re bigger and stronger than they ever were.  The new You can pull out the coping mechanisms and strike down those old tapes which used to run your life.  It’s a new year and a new dawning and as you enter 2014, start to create your own, unique traditions.  I’m always chasing deadlines and this year I just plum ran out of time.  My cards were not sent out so they could arrive before Christmas but rather, they were sent out and arrived during the Christmas season which, for Christians, ends on January 6th.  I was heading for a much needed break shortly after Christmas day with my sister, so decided that I could buy her something at our holiday destination.  Guess what, the sky didn’t fall in and I had a very blessed holiday.  Late or not, Love was behind my every belated move and, for me, that made the difference in my feeling OK with my decisions and with the world.

For the many of you who are not Christians, as well as those of you who are, I’m betting you can easily identify with the above sentiments. Give yourselves permission to live your lives in whatever fashion feels comfortable for you.  Surround yourselves, at every holiday and celebration, with comfortable objects and people, with the gifts of Hope and Expectation, knowing that you deserve these just because you are that beautiful, emergent woman.

How were your holidays?  What challenges lie ahead for you?  As always, thanks for sharing your stories.


January 2014

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Little pup who believed

To All Survivors,

 When I watched this video, it brought home to me that we, as a group of people, are very tough on ourselves.  We are our own worst critics and sometimes we need such a story to help us believe that we are very special people and worthy of being in this world.  Watch Daisy’s story; identify with this most precious creature and take a page out of her book.  I Believe in each of you and I’m doing the best to Believe in myself; please join me in these sentiments.  (I needed the Kleenex.  You might want a box close at hand!)


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Loss of a pet

Loss is one of those loaded words that has multiple meanings, anything from trivial to catastrophic;  however, for survivors of sexual abuse and all that goes along with it, losses can often be incredibly weighty.  For example, losing one’s keys is a nuisance, misplacing a book is annoying, losing one’s credit cards is certainly a cause for concern, loss of a job is traumatic and often impacts on others as well as oneself and loss of a loved one, for anybody, is probably one of the most difficult things for any human being to endure.  For survivors, the feelings that accompany these losses can be more heightened than for those in the general population.  For me, when I experience a significant loss, sometimes some of the old tapes emerge. Loss of a pet may feel similar to losing a family member or friend.  That pet may actually be their “family,” the only living thing that can be trusted, the only living being to whom a survivor can safely share deep, raw emotions with.

There are no guarantees in this life and that certainly is true for when death arrives.  But we learn, somewhere in our growth and development, that relationships matter and it’s hard to live when we lose another soul in our lives.  For me, that constant has been dogs.  I love them and would trust them implicitly with every aspect of my life.  Over the years, I have derived much pleasure, comfort, humour and sadness from my pets, sadness only in the sense of when I lose them.  Each time one of my furry friends goes to his or her “doggy heaven,” the period of grieving is agonizing.  Each time their little souls soar towards that place in the next world, a piece of my heart goes with them. My sense of loss is profound and my grief feels unbearable.  For me, the pain runs through my very core and in the midst of it, life after my friend’s death is so murky, so dark, so excruciating.  These are the feelings I’ve experienced in the last two weeks.

We lost our dear little dog Spirit, an adorable papillon, who left us on August 2, 2013.  The silence in the house is deafening, the tiny patter of claws on the hardwood is nowhere to be heard and his sweet, loving face is nowhere to be seen.  We also lost him far too early which added salt to the wound.  But, we human beings also loathe watching our loved ones suffer.  Spirit was not living or enjoying his usual life and much as he tried so hard not to upset us with his illness, he was losing stamina and his zest for life.  On the day before his death, Spirit was visibly uncomfortable, although the vet reckoned he was not in pain. He let us know, in a myriad of ways, that he couldn’t go on any longer and, finally, Spirit gave us permission to say good-bye.

Like very ill children who help us, the living, through this transition, our pets do the same.  Our hearts and our minds play a huge tug of war with each other, but because our love is so deep for them, we know we need to let them go.  If you believe, as I do, you will meet up with them sometime in the future.  That’s the hook that keeps me going and if you are now, or have ever experienced the loss of a pet, hang on to that thought.  Allow yourself to grieve.  It takes as long as it takes; there’s no right or wrong way to mourn.  Tune out to those who say “he’s only a dog or a cat,” or “he’s just an animal;” let the child in you cling to one of his/her toys or blankets, don’t be afraid to cry and speak to your pet if that helps.  Just be authentic to your feelings.

“Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains un-awakened.


To All Our Friends & Family


May 24, 2004 – August 2, 2013

It is with such sad, broken hearts that we write to you about the passing of our special boy, our little papillon, Spirit.  Our little guy was just over 9 years old but, since March of this year, he had been struggling to beat the ravages of a splenic tumour and he fought bravely for these past 4 ½ months.  Each time the mass bled he lost some ground, but he never wanted us to know how badly he felt.  He kept up with all his usual behaviours except eating.  He was never one to eat much anyway, but in the end, even his adored cheese had to be rejected.

We will never forget his friendship, fun-loving spirit, his cheekiness, his perkiness, his loyalty, his extreme intelligence and, above all, his unconditional love and devotion to us, his two “old-Lady” girlfriends.  Believe it or not, we already miss his barking!

To you who have not experienced this, we are so glad for you.  To those who have known the love and devotion of an animal, we need say nothing else.  To you who have never had a pet, we strongly encourage you to get one; they are the joys and blessings you’ve deprived yourselves of so far. 

With our love,

Marian & Lynn

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Links to helpful web sites

1.  This organization was created by Mariska Hargitay who plays Olivia on the popular TV show called Law and Order Special Victims Unit.  She has taken the essence of the show, which is based on stories of rape and violence against women (occasionally the victim is a male),and is using her star-power for good in the real world.

2.  This organization does 4-5 day retreats if requested.

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Forbidden Grief

Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion
by Theresa Burke.

Chapter Twelve is entitled “Sexual Abuse and Abortion.”

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