by Trish Weatherall
She was one of those people who have the ability to reach people; to make them comfortable, to allow them to open up and to be themselves.
The memorial service was standing-room-only as more than 300 people came out to pay their respects to my mother Denise Morgan, who passed away on March 17, 2013 from pancreatic cancer at age 62. There were relatives and close friends, but there were also hundreds of people who had met her only a few times or had been her customer at her Rosalind’s lingerie boutique in Cambridge, Ontario, where she was known as the Bra Lady.
She really didn’t know she was so well-liked. She still saw herself as the shy girl who read novels at parties as a teenager.
So how does a lady who sold undergarments become so beloved?
She cared. She listened. She shared. She laughed. She never judged.
Stools at the front counter of her shop invited her customers to sit and chat awhile. And they did.
She was dedicated to helping women have a positive self-image, whether it was fitting them in the perfect bra size or commiserating with their current stresses.
She donated to and participated in fundraisers for everything from literacy to suicide prevention.
She always showed the world her best, in her business, in her beautiful home, and in her personal style.
She raised three daughters, mostly on her own, and modeled important values: to do your best, always tell the truth, to accept people as they are, that everyone makes mistakes and to forgive, to live for today and if it didn’t work out so well, there is always tomorrow!
“There is no perfect, you do your best and that’s all anyone can expect.”
She was strong. Throughout her own life struggles, hurts and hardships, she rarely cried, kept a positive attitude, and always believed, “It will all work out”.
She was generous. She spoiled us at Christmas and birthdays into adulthood. She helped anyone who needed it, whether it was a place to stay, a little money, or an outfit to borrow for a special occasion.
She was a fun mom and a ‘cool’ mom. She laughed and sang and danced and played games, took us camping and to the beach, went shopping with us, went for walks, and sometimes just hung out. We could talk to her about anything and everything.
As young adults, we could invite mom to a party, because she was fun and easygoing, and our friends felt comfortable and loved her too.
She let us be our own person and accepted us for who we were. And when we changed, she accepted us for who we were then.
We had family vacations at a cottage at Sauble Beach as children and later as adults with our own growing families. She was always a friend to us and to our partners. And she was a wonderful grandmother, who played in creeks and playgrounds, finger-painted, and had sleepovers.
I miss talking to her in difficult times. She listened without actually telling you what to do, but always brought positivity and balance to the conversation. I miss sharing happy news with her. No one can be more excited for you, or prouder of you, than your mother.
I miss our long walks – she loved to walk. It was a hobby, a source of exercise, and a special time for us together. We often met before work in the mornings to walk for an hour, get a good start to the day, and fill each other in on our lives. If it was raining, she would say, “Let’s get out there. We’re not made of sugar!”
We walked the city streets and admired beautiful houses and gardens (taking the hilliest routes because it was “good for the bum”); or we walked through the peaceful acres of Mountview cemetery, stopping to notice how young someone was or a last name recognized. And she especially loved to walk along a beach.
I still walk a lot and think of her when I’m on the trails or the seashore. I hear her voice saying, “Oh honey, this is so beautiful. You are so lucky.” And I appreciate things more because of her.
I miss her sense of humour – she laughed a lot. I miss how she would dance anywhere and sing out loud. I used to roll my eyes, but how I miss that she could turn any phrase into a song. Mention boots and she would start singing Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made for Walkin’; mention sugar and she would sing The Archies’ Candy Girl.
A few days before she died, she was sitting up in a recliner chair at Lisaard House hospice in Cambridge, very weak, very tired, and very medicated, and she had her eyes closed. My sister Krista played one her favourite songs that she sang throughout our lives: Oh, Denise by Randy and the Rainbows. We all sang. She kept her eyes closed, but she got just a touch of a smile, and then she started to rock a little bit and lightly tap her foot to the beat.
It was awesome.
She was so brave and strong through her battle with cancer. She downplayed her pain and tried to stay awake to spend time with us even when she was so tired. We were so proud of her, right to the end.
My sisters and I, my brother-in-law, my mother’s husband, sister and best friend were there for her final breath. Almost 7 years later, the hole she has left in our lives is still huge. But her impact carries on.
On the anniversary of her passing, on her birthday, and on other days throughout the year when I just need to feel connected to her, I dedicate my day to doing activities she would enjoy… a long walk on the beach, some gardening, some reading, and a nap.
I’m still striving to be more like who she was inside.
She had a funny way of telling us that every day was a new opportunity: “Today, we get another kick at the can!”
She touched so many lives, and if there is anything we can learn from her, it’s to have fun, smile and laugh a lot, let things go, love people, and be an optimist.
She truly made the best of her short life, and she kicked that can every single day.