Ten…Fifteen…Twenty.. It is unclear how many times I have started this first post since my dear friend, wife and partner for over 50 years rode off this earth on her last ride. Cathy had a severe stroke on September 1 leaving her with right sided paralysis, inability to swallow or ever live outside of an institution. She died one week later with the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) team at her side. It was the end of an incredible journey.
Cathy and I first met in 1967 and were married in July 1971. I’m not sure if it happened on our first date or maybe the day we were married but I think of my life with this fireball as a ride on a Tandem Bike. She bounded onto the front seat and grabbed the handlebars. I happily sat on the back seat and often provided much of the power as she wheeled us from one adventure to another. Her curiosity was insatiable, her ideas endless, her enthusiasm contagious, her smile legendary, her laugh infectious and her volunteer spirit unstoppable. She shepherded our early life around the world to New Zealand and then with two children in tow we moved around Western Canada and in 1982 settled in Saskatoon. So many adventures, so much fun, so many wonderful memories. Who else would have suggested we head to Moscow in February 2018 to attend a Winter Cycling Conference. Here we are with about 3000 other cyclists taking over the main Moscow street running up and around St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin.
Who else would take me on a trip to see the major cycling centres of Europe, ride much of the Trans Canada Trail, head out on VIA rail and cross this great country many times. Who else would dream of a way to bring both of our families together and ‘make stuff’ at an annual ‘Quiltfest’. Thank you my dear Cathy for a life well lived and steering our bike so tirelessly and faithfully.
Here is some of the story of how Cathy spent her last days on earth.
Granddaughter Olive with Cathy in emergency shortly after the ambulance ride.
The shock, horror and Covid induced cruelty of leaving my beloved wife alone in a hospital bed faded once we were able to bring her home to a palliative bed. She rapidly gained awareness and was able to interact verbally with ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and eventually could put 2-3 words together.
We placed the bed by an outside window where friends and family were able to come and pay their respects to this amazing woman.
Grandson Hamish spending time with Gramma. You can see her smile here as she enjoys Hamish and also her glasses. It was quite a struggle to understand what she wanted until my daughter Sarah figured out she was asking us to find her glasses. The moment we put them on her face we heard an audible ‘Ahhhh’.
Events over the next two days have transformed much of my understanding of how one can approach death. Cathy led our whole family and many in our community on a journey of how to die with dignity, grace, humour and strength.
Cathy’s name was synonymous with community engagement, bringing people together, having fun, a friendly smile, a huge promoter of young people, a genuine interest in anyone she met and of course a cyclist extraordinaire. Within two days of her stroke, Hillary Gough, a city counsellor and Cathy’s friend, along with other community members began organizing a bike ride in her honour. As word grew this event attracted over 300 people who were to ride by her window on Monday morning (September 7th). Cathy was able to understand what was happening and she was overjoyed at the idea. By Sunday (September 6th) the day before the ride she was able to communicate with our family that she had lived a good life and wanted to die at 12:00 after the bike ride. This triggered a flurry of activity, involving many phone calls, the eventual visit by the MAID team and an ultimate decision to provide a MAID procedure on Tuesday, September 8th at 10:00. Throughout this whole week Cathy had no food or water, as she could not swallow, and yet was able to maintain a sense of humour and good will. She knew she was going to die and was clear and fearless in her desire to end her life under her terms. I continue to be inspired by her strength, her complete acceptance of impending death, her determination to remain positive and her clear sense of purpose on this final voyage with her family by her side. Cathy is the only person I know who has been present at her own funeral, for indeed the community bike ride was the best funeral one could provide for this fireball of a woman.
This short video will give you a taste of the last bike ride she was involved with.
May you ride with the Angels my darling.
Your adoring husband, Trent