Toronto

Olivia Wise – a 16 year old champion

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I just supported Tribute Page.  The attached link takes you to a page that spotlights a strong teenager who never let her brain cancer diagnosis bring her down.

Olivia Wise was diagnosed with cancer in 2012.  She and her parents knew that this diagnosis could be a death sentence and even though she fought against the cancer, she never gave in to its antics.

When this young woman received the news that there were no more treatments available to her, she recorded a cover of Katy Perry’s song, “Roar” and on the same day, in that same recording studio in September of this year, she sang a song that she wrote at the age of 11 called, “Simple Girl.”  Both songs are amazing in their import – especially if you consider the fact that Olivia had to struggle for each breath needed to complete each song.  Both songs can be purchased on ITunes at 99 cents each.

The goal of recording “Roar” was that she wanted her family and friends to be left with her voice, singing a song that depicted who she was.  She chose not to be identified as the cancer that ravaged her body.  Olivia wanted people to remember her as a tiger, a fighter, and a champion.  She wanted her loved ones to hear her roar long after she left this earth.

Olivia Wise died Monday, November 25, 2013.

Roar on, Olivia.

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My Veterans Day Hero

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My father, on the right, with his brother, Armand.
My father, on the right, with his brother, Armand, beside him.

My father, Don Patrick Desonier, born March 12, 1918 in Toronto, Canada is my Veterans Day hero.  He was still living in Toronto when World War II broke out in the late 1930’s.  A young man of approximately 21 years of age, my dad voluntarily signed up for the Canadian Army and served in the artillery division as a Second Lieutenant or – because the Canadian Army spoke both English and French – Sous-lieutenant.

My father was bi-lingual because his father was French Canadian – a descendant of French settlers in Canada.  The correct spelling of our last name was Desaulniers, but when my parents and us three kids settled in the United States, my parents grew weary of the mispronunciation – and misspelling – of our surname, so in the 1950’s, mom and dad had our surname legally changed to its current spelling.

When my father died on October 13, 2007, many of his effects were distributed to my brother and sister, and me.  I have some amazing black and white photos from WWII as well as a couple German handguns – both of which are locked in a wall-safe in our house.  A couple years before my father died from complications of Alzheimer’s, he and I had a brief, but eye-opening discussion about his war service.

My father fought in France, Germany, and England and saw it all – I know this because I asked him.  Our conversation went something like this:

“Dad, I have to assume that because you were in the artillery and served in several WWII hotspots, you were called upon to kill those who were designated as the enemy – right?”

“Yes, Irene.  No one wants to take someone’s life, but when it’s a question of the enemy taking a bullet or you and your buddies, you choose the former.”

“So dad, you saw your buddies get severely injured and even killed – didn’t you?”

“Yes – that’s the way it is on the battlefield.”

I looked at my father, tears in my eyes, and for the first time in my life, I said, “Thank you for your service, dad.  I appreciate all that you did to defend what was right during World War II.”

His response – and I paraphrase: “It’s just something you do, Irene, because it needs to be done.  No one likes war, but thus far no war has ever ended on its own.  Unfortunately wars don’t just peter out.”

Those of us Baby Boomers who have parents that fought in the earlier wars may not have considered what they endured before they started a family and got on with the rest of their lives.  I hadn’t, but I’m grateful that in my late 40’s, I asked dad about his military service, and I thanked him for it.

My hero and I taking a stroll in 2006.
My hero and I taking a stroll in 2006.

Monday, August 13th was a beautiful day.

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Why?  Because at least 150 people attended my sister-in-law’s memorial service, held after she passed from complications associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

I know that the count of 150 is nothing compared to a stadium full of football, baseball, or soccer fans.  But this 150 people showed up on Monday, the beginning of most people’s work-week, to honor my brother and his stepchildren, and memorialize a woman who impacted their world greatly.

How the day unfolded.  Individual after individual arrived: some driving south from British Columbia, Canada, one person even flying in from Toronto, Canada, and numerous people driving north from California and Oregon state.  At first it looked like those who set up the venue with numerous chairs had overcompensated in their attendance projections.  That was not to be the case.  By 2 pm, the scheduled start of the memorial service, additional chairs had to be set up.   By 2:15 pm, some of us, most notably my brother, were sweating – not just because it was very hot on that particular Seattle, Washington day, but because the Officiant for the service had not arrived – and never did.  But that’s not important.

Time for Plan B.  I joined my brother outside just after 2 pm and I suggested that since the Officiant had not yet arrived, it was probably time to figure out Plan B.  All the immediate family members sprung into action and the parts that would have been attended to by the Officiant were superbly handled by other family members.  Even my brother – who had NOT planned on saying a word during the structured part of the service – walked to the front of the room and spoke beautifully about his wife’s journey to finally reach “home.”

Home is not just a structure with four walls.  Quite a few times during my sister-in-law’s illness, she told my brother that she just wanted to go home.  Now for those who aren’t familiar with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, oftentimes “home” means comfort, freedom, peace.  That was the case with my brother’s spouse.  She died on the American holiday, July 4th, also known as Independence Day.  That day was her Independence Day, when she could finally flee to comfort, freedom, and peace, with a body – and mind – untethered by any restrictions.

Many blessings to my sister-in-law, my wonderful brother/spouse caregiver, Don, and all of the surviving family members.  Monday, August 13th was truly a Celebration of Life and Liberty.