As the only child in a family that spent a great deal of time moving around Ontario, my mother was always having to make new friends at school. But wherever she went, the one constant in her life, were her animal friends. Whether they were her own dogs, or a stray cat she had found wandering down the street, animals seemed moved to approach and trust her in a way that was uncanny. With a gentle soothing voice, she could calm even the fiercest dog, knowing instinctively that the dog's behaviour was brought on by fear or by cruelty at the hands of an abusive owner.
My mother was a very intelligent woman. She skipped a grade once in elementary school and again in high school. An honours student, she was fluent in French, wrote poetry, and sung with the voice of an angel. Mom was also very practical around the house. She could repair a broken washing machine, fix a car that wouldn't start, make her own clothes and she understood computers.
But above all else, she had reserves of infinite love and patience for all creatures, great and small.
As the oldest, of six children (five of whom were boys), I was especially close to Mom. It will come as no surprise, that someone in our family was always bringing home "just one more" critter. No animal or bird was ever turned away from our home. As a registered nurse, Mom taught me how to care for injured or sick animals, and that they only fought back when they were frightened or hurt.
In her twilight years, as I watched her battle cancer, I also learned that death is inevitable and should not to be feared -- but instead it is a reminder that tomorrow is never promised to any of us, and that each day should be lived to its' fullest.
From my father, and from working with livestock on our farm in Ireland, I learned to ride a horse, and to appreciate and understand that every living thing is an important part of nature. And most important of all, I learned that humans are a part of nature, and not apart from nature. He also taught us that often human beings can't get along with anyone, even ourselves.
Some of the most valuable lessons in life I learned were from my Mom, and I have tried in turn to pass them along to my children. I can't describe the wonderful feeling of watching her hold my son, Pierce, in her arms. Mom died before Élan was born, but I know in my heart that she is watching over all of us.
When she passed away in 1992, after a long illness, I was devastated. I had lost my mother and my best friend. She was not a person who made headlines, or won awards. Simply put, she was the finest human being I have ever known.
Mom once told me that since all planets are formed from interstellar matter, that it naturally followed that we are all made of star dust.
In an effort to deal with the grief and loss that I was feeling, I wrote a poem which gave me a great deal of comfort. I hope that it might bring comfort to others who have lost someone very close to them:
As I stand alone in a windswept park,
My gaze travels from the well kept lawn beneath my feet,
To the stars above,
Knowing that you are free to soar the heavens once more,
Streaking through the night sky,
Bathed in a rainbow of colours,
Roaming forever among those endless twinkling points of light,
And in the silence that follows,
Which at times threatens to deafen us,
We must always remember that your spirit is not gone from us,
You live on in our hearts forever ....
Love, Michael, Pierce, Élan and Lise.