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
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.
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.
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.
once told me that since all planets are formed from interstellar
matter, that it naturally followed that we are all made of star dust.
an effort to deal with the grief and loss that I was feeling, I wrot