My closest friend for 50 years. Gone… and always a part of my Life.
Thank you for being here, today…. for choosing to spend this time in remembering the life of a woman who has touched so many, in some distinctive or memorable way.
Lorna was a vibrant and colourful tapestry woven of many threads.
She was the cherished daughter and only child of Iva and Bill; Buddy’s devoted and long-loyal partner and spouse of 67 years; the unconditionally-loving and generous mother to myself and my brother, Larry; the adoring and totally indulgent grandmother to Nicholas, Matthew, Lisa and Lana; great-grandmother to William and Edward LeBrun-Ellerton and Luciano Dahmani; a compassionate and valued Nurse to those in her care at the Sherbrooke Hospital; and last, but definitely not least, the deeply caring, reliable and trustworthy friend to the many who passed through her life over these 96 years.
Lorna lived her life with open arms and a warm smile. From her deep connection to the human experience, she has left her mark by enhancing the quality of many, many lives. Not one to judge or be dismissive of another, she chose instead to listen and accept the simple truth of who they were, in the magnificence of their imperfection. She firmly believed she was not here to reject others in that imperfection but to do what she could to ease their way… making their lives a little better for having shared it with her.
As her young daughter, I remember so well a constant parade of women… friends of hers who (in those long-ago days when women did not work) rarely had the money to claim the ‘luxuries’ for themselves. With a kitchen scented from a variety of freshly baked goods, they would catch up while sipping tea (or wine) and munching on something delicious and decadent. Without missing a thread of the conversation, Lorna would cut their hair; change its colour and more often than not, add a perm to help them capture that often-lost sense of being beautiful and important and meaningful in their own lives. She also sewed and would make a skirt… or alter a blouse or dress…. for some special occasion for her friends or their children. Where she saw that she could make a difference, she did.
Lorna was not one to complain but would instead, focus on looking for how to make things work… to make things better… rather than seeking someone to blame for the state of her life. When faced with a challenge or disappointment, she would do as she had been taught: she would turn the other cheek….digging a little deeper into herself…. exploring the limits of her compassion a little further…. and open her mind and her curiosity to new ways of considering her world.
Hers was not a life without significant challenges. Long into the night, I would hear arguments that could easily have descended into chaos… but the sound of her voice – firm and clear and direct – would bring closure to what might easily have escalated into a turn down an irreversible path. She was a peacemaker and refused to be cowed by the mindlessness that so often accompanied too much alcohol, too much stress and not enough money, opportunity or freedom to choose.
Never one to betray a confidence, many turned to her and openly shared their pain with her, knowing her very presence to be one that brought a sense of healing and calm… paving the way for them to discover, within themselves, a moment of strength or courage for a different choice or a willingness to forgive and move on.
Each of us, in our own way, knows the gift that Lorna has been to us…. often in our most difficult or challenging times. Long ago, while attending a program together on a method of discovering our own, deeper and unconscious abilities, Lorna discovered that she had a unique ability of being able to intuit the unspoken truths that others carried… of being able to identify an insight or discovery that could become a turning point for a life better lived. She rarely spoke of that and always offered it when it seemed meaningful to do so. My mother may have been trained as a nurse but she was gifted as a healer.
Make no mistake: my mother was no saint! She loved a good party, with lots of friends and wine; lots of singing and dancing to the chorus of ‘Knees Up Mother Brown”! She laughed easily, unapologetically and out loud! Humour was the magic carpet that allowed her to ride through so many tough and hurtful times in her life. She found the irreverent, the outrageous and the ridiculous in those times when her own pain could easily have caused her to retreat and condemn. She loved to love people and would always search out a reason to do so. As for the rest of it? She would simply forget it and move on. I have never known her to hold a grudge, whatever the wounding or insult to her own wellbeing.
Lorna’s parents cherished her. Her mother died much too young when Lorna was a student nurse, at her bedside. Her father lived long and well in her good care.
Her husband trusted and relied on her. Although sometimes knowing her disappointment and irritation, his long life was filled with her caring and steadfast forgiveness of his imperfections.
Her children loved and appreciated her, each becoming the full expression of their own potential because of her willingness to live and let live… and let go.
And her grandchildren got to grow up in the grace of her acceptance and generosity. Her great and irreverent sense of humour, and outrageous sense of fun, figure prominently in so many of their most cherished memories of their time with her.
Lorna left a deep and unforgettable impression on any and all who knew her. She was beautiful, inside and out. Just in being herSelf, she was the invitation… and for many, the permission…. for others to see and reclaim that, in themselves.
But for me, Lorna was all this and much more.
She was, and always will be, my closest, longest and most cherished friend. For more than 50 years, we stood by each other’s side. As much as we cared for each other, we each also knew the sharp edge of our distinct and differing perspectives… as if often the reality when two strong women choose to share the same world. Still, we knew that we had each other’s back. In sad or difficult times, we each knew we could lean on the other and that the inner strength absent in that moment would be supplied by the other until we could once again, reclaim our own.
To have been her daughter offered me the opportunity to learn to choose grace in those moments of my own inevitable uncertainty and personal failings. To have been her friend offered me the comfort of knowing that through it all, I was never alone.
My mother and friend always encouraged me to trust myself…. to know my own strength and be willing to stand in it. Encouraged me to recognize my own truth and live from it…. no matter how unappealing or painful it might be….but preferably, to keep it to myself so that I would not be hurtful to another. I loved and respected her, even when we did not see eye-to-eye. This mutually open recognition and acceptance of our differences, made it possible for us to be close for many, many years.
Everything that is good and kind about me, in my connections with others, came from her. I watched her and, over time, found that her respect, integrity and generosity of Spirit with others had taken root in me. In my own challenging moments, I discovered a degree of patience and acceptance and compassion for myself and others that I did not know I had…. planted there, so long ago, by my Mom. In those moments when a program room would be filled with the penetrating tension of secrets and fear, humour would bubble up from some hidden wellspring inside myself… and I would remember the source of that from those times of my own fear, with my Mom. The gifts she has left me live on in my having shared them with so many others. Now, they too, carry a little bit of her, out into their worlds.
Over time, she began to fade. Still of strong body, little by little, her mind began to leave her. I know it is not what she had anticipated for herself nor what she would have chosen…. and still, she knew and accepted the inevitable. Courageous to the end, she did not let it linger to become my problem. She chose instead to claim it and attend to it, while she was still able. She was not willing to become a burden to the people she loved.
Lorna’s life was rich and full and overflowing with people who loved her back… people who were there for her, every single day of her life. She knew that love in the tone of a voice or the touch of a hand. With distance becoming a challenge, those caring moments were extended to her through those with whom she shared every day of her life, for the past nine years.
I knew my mother well and I know there are many she would want to thank, personally, for being there for her. So, on behalf of Lorna:
Thank you, to the professional and caring staff and volunteers of the Wales Home (Cleveland, Quebec) and the New Orchard Lodge (Ottawa, Ontario). For the past nine years, these have been her homes and places where she found safety, companionship, freedom of movement and the dignity of allowing for her to make choices, every single day.
Thank you, to Allen Goodfellow and his family. After my Dad died, Lorna found great comfort and happiness in Allen’s good company. Always the gentleman, he became the companion that my Mom needed to, once again, find happiness and live out her days in a meaningful way. His memory stayed with her for the rest of her life.
Thank you, to nieces Laurel Berrigan and Wendy Morrison – for giving generously of their time and good company…. always the reminder to her of her long and deeply caring connection with Hazel and Kay. Some friendships grow into the bonds of sisters – and these, can never be broken.
Thank you, to our dearest of friends, Sheila Winter Wallace for always being there to do what was required. With a background in nursing, she tended to Buddy on many occasions in his medical challenges, bringing great comfort to Lorna in knowing he was well cared for. Sheila took care of Lorna during her recovery from hip surgery; and offered humour, companionship and masterful massage in helping her cope with the stress of many, many years of attending to a spouse with advancing dementia. Thank you, Sheila, for being so willing to make those very long trips with me over these many years, to visit and spend time with her. It was not always easy – and it was always greatly valued and appreciated.
And a very special thank you to her grandsons, Nick and Matt, who were always there. Gramma moved to Manotick so that she could watch you grow up. For almost 20 years before moving away from Ottawa, she was a part of your daily lives. You laughed with her; shared meals with her; shopped with her; chauffeured and escorted her to physiotherapy, doctor and dental appointments. (She loved that!) You took your lead from her, making sure that she got to live her life, her way…. which, from time to time, even included sex-ed for a woman still curious about what she might have missed! And perhaps, more than anything else, you patiently stood with her as she struggled to remain who she knew herself to be. Your Gramma recognized and appreciated your deep caring, respect and generosity of Spirit.
As a young woman, my Mom taught Sunday School to the much younger children in her parish. She had a favourite psalm that she would often recite to me when I was growing up. Only much later did I come to realize, that she only did so when she herself, was in need of comfort. I know that now, Lorna is in the very good hands she trusted all her life. Let me end by sharing a small excerpt with you :
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
— Psalm 23:1-6
My family and I thank you for visiting here, today. Your interest in her life is appreciated.