Canada Day 2007: The Memories
Beechwood Cemetery now sports a maple tree for the Miller family. On Canada Day 2007 family and friends gathered at the tree to remember and share stories.
Thank you all for coming today. This is the Miller tree, where David and Sean and Caia and I will be forever joined. It's a maple clump, as you can see -- and the variety is called "flame", so we're looking forward to a glorious show in the autumn.
Today, Sean and I would like to remember both Miller and Caia (for those of you who don't know Miller, don't worry -- you'll see glimpses of Caia), and we'd like to go first, so if we start to cry later you can just push us around to the other side of the tree and carry on without us.
In the summer after grade 11, Caia went to the Shad Valley engineering camp at the University of Waterloo, for a month. She had a great time -- she roomed with a girl who was the second most untidy person there, so that worked out well for everyone. At the end of the month, there was a show for the parents -- and that's why the song "Stand By Me" was included in Caia's service last year -- I will always remember her, standing on a table on stage, with Michael Ross, her long hair swinging, singing "Stand By Me" with her new friends. And some weeks later, some of her new friends came for a reunion weekend at our house -- I remember the living room was wall-to-wall mattresses and sleeping bags. On Sunday, David and I were taking three of Caia's guests to the train station -- and as David drove down Bearbrook Road in his usual Grand Prix style, I heard "click click click" from the back seat as all three teenagers buckled up, and one of them said quietly "I didn't think parents drove like that." Miller loved to drive. And you never had to tell people to fasten their seatbelts.
And here's another Miller story -- it's called the 30-second Rule.
He could find anything in 30 seconds;
And if he failed,
His mad scramble through the house,
Searching in places both likely and ludicrous,
Almost reconciled you to the loss of whatever it was you were looking for.
And I am reminded of Cool Hand Luke:
"Why did you have to say 60 eggs? Why couldn't you say 30?"
But, like Luke, Miller set his own challenges, unaffected by the standards of others,
And then rose to meet them, joyfully.
And one last story --
In the summer of 1992, Miller and Caia and I were all in Cambridge for Sean's graduation, and one day we decided to go punting on the river Cam. Now, we had gone punting on other trips, but always with Miller or Sean doing the honours. This time, Caia decided to take the pole. We started off down the river -- or rather, across it -- as Caia zig-zagged back and forth across the water. Miller gave instructions that to this day I find incomprehensible -- "Push with your feet!" -- she was standing on her feet, for goodness' sake. Sean was kept busy fending us off first one bank, then the other, with the single oar. Caia collected quite a cheering section on the bank. They laughed, we all laughed, when she let the pole fall onto her father's head. She managed to punt us down to a bend in the river, and turn around to head back. Then the inevitable happened -- Caia sat down with a thump, leaving the pole standing upright in the river. We all collapsed in mirth, and the group on the bank broke into applause as Sean paddled us back to fetch the pole. And that, to me, was classic Caia -- totally unafraid to tackle something that she had no reason to think she'd be any good at, and completely unabashed by making a nonsense of it in public. That's something Caia and Sean got from their dad, and it is a quality I greatly admire.
The birthday card I got from Caia last year had a picture of a young boy and girl walking along and inside: "Who would want to count the years? We have so many memories to share."
Three days before the end, Caia said that we'd shared the good times, and that was the important thing. And she added that they'd pretty much all been good times. And she was right.
It's easy to say that she was a very strong person, and a very lovable person. We heard and saw last year how so many of the hospital people that June just came to see her, to see her lovely smile or hear her laugh. It was no surprise to me because I'd seen it ten years before, back when she had her transplant, and she was in pre-op for a few days, and all the nurses in pre-op loved her, and when she was wheeled away to her operation one of the nurses had tied some white surgical tape as a ribbon in her hair. After the operation, when the nurses had a patient who could only speak Chinese, there was Caia, offering in the middle of the night to get a friend on the phone to do translation. When other patients were complaining about response times, and one of the nurses confided to Caia that the scheduling software wasn't as useful as it could be, Caia offered to help rewrite it. And maybe they thought this was just post-operation stress or that she wasn't serious, but we, who know her better, know that she would have done just that.
A few months after she died I found a memory card of Caia's, and discovered videos of Ron in a dance competition, which I'd not seen before. But it was so clear that she was doing the filming, from the way she was cheering along, so happy for her friend. The unmistakable Caia-ness of it: you could always rest easier when she was on your side.
This had its less serious moments: I remember how the four of us would gather around the family-room table to do the Sunday Times crossword puzzle, and Mom and Dad would get the answers, but I don't think Caia and I ever outgrew the phase where one of us came up with the answer but needed the other to explain why it was the answer.
It was around that same table that we would sit and play the "Hooked on Classics" tapes, and see how many seconds it would take for Dad to identify the tracks -- never very many. To this day, I can't hear Dvorak's New World Symphony without remembering Dad bounding downstairs and putting it on very loudly early one Saturday morning.
And that cheeriness and unflappableness were so much a part of Dad. I remember him driving me down from Preston to Cambridge when I started university, and the signs were intermittent at best, and there were quite long stretches where they seemed to have abandoned us completely, and I was probably getting increasingly fractious, but he was just so cheerful and unfazed by it all.
There were two poems that Mom and Dad used to recite, one would start with a line and then the other would pick up until they got to the end. They were Wordsworth's The Daffodils and Chesterton's The Donkey. And whoever was speaking as they got close to the last verse of The Donkey, I always remember Dad saying that first line, which utterly denies the apparent life of despair and outlawry painted in the rest of the poem:
Fools! For I also had my hour,
One far fierce hour and sweet.
I can hear now, and will always hear, the explosive joy of Dad saying that word, the delight in life that was mirrored in a video we took of him at his last Christmas, walking around the house in a new leather jacket, delighted with it or with being there with us or both, or in the still picture of him and a bunch of his friends in dinner jackets in and around a Porsche in their undergraduate days at Cambridge. Or him driving like mad up in the Lake District, as I sat in the back and saw the identical joy on his face and the face of his brother Tony sitting beside him.
I remember Caia particularly when I go to concerts and hear great music, and Dad when I feel a strong wind in my face. I am unspeakably lucky to have known both of them.
I remember one day, when Caia must have been less than a year old, she sat in a chair for half an hour, smiling her trademark smile, while we took her picture.
And another time when Sean and Caia were at our place while Miller helped Neville build the garden shed, and Caia misbehaved (imagine) and I made her sit on a stone for a few minutes, and when she was allowed up, she said, "I guess that's the punishment stone" -- and so it was known ever after to our family. For years, if one of the boys misbehaved, we only had to look at them and they would say "I know, I know, the punishment stone" and go to sit there.
And we live not far from the airport, and sometimes planes fly overhead, but the Medi-Vac helicopter always flies over our house, and in our house it is always known as the "Caia copter" (because it took Caia to London for her liver transplant). And we can now identify the Medi-Vac helicopter by sound, and whenever it flies over, someone in the family will always say "Oh, there goes the Caia copter".
Misi also read some emails from her sons and daughters-in-law; in addition to these, we had an email from Darryl and Jen and Owen and Jake, who are living in Baltimore, telling us that they are thinking of us on Canada Day, and sending their love.
Hi June and Sean-
I am sorry to say that Cathy and I will not be able to be in attendance at this weekend's dedication. Dad has forwarded us a picture of the Miller tree and it really is quite lovely. He also promises a full photographic report following the event! We will be sure to visit the tree next time we are in Ottawa, this summer hopefully. Cathy and I chat about Caia quite often and will absolutely be thinking of her on first of July. My memory below is of Dave. Cathy is forwarding a "Classic Caia Inspired Moment" to share with all. Have a wonderful dedication and walk down memory lane. As always, our thoughts are with you.
Dave, Uncle, Miller, or Mr. Miller
I must have been 6 or 7 years old during one of the great family Christmas celebrations at the Miller house. If memory serves, Dave (and of course Sean!) were passing the legendary, much anticipated, and often over-consumed "Miller Appetizers" - cocktail sausages, shrimp, pate/cheese ball and crackers, bacon wrapped smoked oysters, scallops and water chestnuts. Dave made his way around the room with his platter of hors d'oeuvres, nimbly negotiating toys, presents, brandy alexanders, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and children as only a seasoned Miller hors d'oeuvre "passer" can. I had heard Dave referred to as "Dave" and "Miller" repeatedly throughout the morning. He made his way toward me, offering me a memory (tasty food, of course), and in a moment of youthful confusion and uncertainty....and after a long awkward pause.....I answered, "No thanks, Mr. Miller". Out came a huge burst of laughter from Dave and surrounding family members, and he answered quite sincerely, "Dave is just fine!". I must have turned six shades of red, but from that day forward I knew exactly how to refer to all Aunts and Uncles of Laushway affiliation - Rose, Bill, Ed, Barb, Susan, Randy, Lilian, Julia, Kitty, Streak, Bill, Ray, Dave and June - and for that I would like to thank Mr. Miller.
How Caia Helped Me Start My Day!
I was driving to work one morning, sipping a coffee and listening to the radio. It was a beautiful day outside - the sun was radiant. It wasn't long after the beautiful service honoring Caia - the thoughts, memories, and music shared were all fresh in my mind. Then over the radio I heard "Don't You Forget About Me" - a song that had been played at Caia's honoring. I laughed to myself remembering how it was shared with us all that Caia liked the song because it was easy to remember the lyrics (the song is full of la la la la's). I found myself singing along - not a stretch for me. When the chorus of la la la la's started, I was in full tune-belting-out mode. All of a sudden something caught my attention. I looked to my left and noticed two people in the car next to me ... VERY amused - laughing at my solo. I could have been embarrassed - BUT ... I wasn't. I waved and continued to sing. The way I look at it - Caia made me, and the two people in the car next to me, smile - how good is that.
My update to this story - I have heard this song a number of times driving to and from work. Every time I sing, and every time I think of Caia, and every time I smile. And - if I'm going to tell the truth here....I actually look to see if people are watching - hoping they are, hoping that they smile too!
Hi June and Sean,
I wanted to send you this email yesterday but was having trouble writing it because I kept getting teary-eyed remembering Caia and Dave.
I don't think that I've ever told you this before and likely Caia never mentioned because it was such a small thing. When I was struggling at Waterloo, feeling homesick and lost (both at school and in my classes!) I was so happy to catch a glimpse of Caia in the hallways or on campus. We didn't really ever spend too much time together at school, but I do remember feeling the comfort of knowing that she was nearby.
We miss everything about Dave and Caia.
We will be thinking of all of you this weekend.
D'Arcy, Jenna, Emily and Gavin
I just wanted to send you a little note letting you know that we have been thinking of you yesterday and for this entire weekend.† We know that it must be difficult for you and Sean but we are sending big hugs and lots of support.
We wish we could be there for the dedication of the tree in honour of Caia and David but we are there in spirit and will go and see the tree next time we are in Ottawa.
Jennifer Batley spoke next, and read some remarks from her mother Rose-Marie:
In no particular order, here are a few memories of Caia and Dave that I often recall for whoever would know what reason:
- Her smiling face in the window of Avenue du Parc -- she always waved to us if she did not accompany us to the corner. She was a gracious hostess, magazines, bed ready, and towels out -- so inviting that I always felt welcome. She seemed at ease with us there -- she could follow her regime (I know it was more complicated than she made it look) and participate with us as much as possible.
- My last visit to A du P -- I can scarcely believe it was only a year and a bit ago. She went shopping with us, ate with us -- in and out -- and never complained about anything. She really was a role model for being a trooper. She was interested in our purchases and in Misi getting back whatever she forgot at the store down the street -- I canít even remember. When we were putting on our faces, she made a comment about the mascara telling Misi directly she could not use mine (hee hee). And she also made a comment about my eyebrow pencil work that I recall every day when I use it -- "Wow, what a difference"! †Now that could have been good or bad but I choose to think it was a compliment and carry on. Mrs No Eyebrows since the radioactive iodine treatment!
- When I arrived at the hospital on June 22 in the evening last year, I can still see her smiling face and hands rising and saying "Oh, you came!" Later she told me she had been going to call me to ask me to come. She had not. I was sorry that she had not but I was so delighted that she was glad to see me. And her efforts to get me out of there before the parade on Saturday. And the milkshake that the bar down the street made for her and for which the bar next door to it provided paper cups. And it was hotter than somewhat. I am not sure she enjoyed the milkshake as much as the thought of a milkshake and it really does not matter.
- I have several little cards from Caia that I have saved from the past few years. They are mostly cheery little thank you messages, some as big as 4 x 5 and some as small as 2 x 2. Caia was so thoughtful -- as are all the Millers. Plus her jewellery that you have given me -- thanks so much.
- I recall a ride around Misiís neighbourhood in my little blue, sadly stolen now, Del Sol just before they told him he could no longer drive -- at least I think it was before that? He drove like stick and played with the windows up and down, now standard in a Pony probably. (Do they still make Ponys?)
- I recall a ride in Montreal to Expo í67 to see the fireworks -- good thing I was short and could see little from the back seat.
- I will always remember the privilege of having time with Dave when he was at home and I was on leave. Even though he was so ill, he always welcomed me and made me a part of the action. I wish I had had the smarts to talk with him then about my problems but it seemed so insignificant at the time compared to what he was facing.
- I remember Daveís lending us his camera when we went to China and France. We had no such spiffy camera and it was so easy to use. I also recall his being so tired that he could not look at the pictures when we returned. We came back early from Australia/New Zealand because we were concerned we would not see him again if we stayed there.
- I remember he liked instant coffee -- seemed odd for an English person.
- I remember when I first met Dave and the first Christmas -- he gave me false eyelashes and I wore them to the New Yearís party in Peterborough. What an impact -- they had never seen the beat of that before -- or probably since. Hee hee.
I am not sure yet whether we will be here in town on Sunday but if we are, we will be at Beechwood at 9:30 am. If not, you know I will always be thinking of both Caia and Dave on Canada Day. Sort of like most other days.
[We don't have printed texts for any other remarks, but here follows our memories of what was said. Please send corrections or additions to sean at seanmiller dot ca.]
Stu Reid: I remember watching The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy at Caia's house -- and she really got into bad Vogon poetry. She decided to try to write even worse verse -- and she succeeded. She wrote some of the worst poetry I have ever read. So, I'm sorry to say, whenever I read really bad poetry, I think of Caia.
Stephen Teather: I met Caia in grade one, at Glen Ogilvie -- she sat behind me, and got me into a lot of trouble that year, because you weren't supposed to turn around and talk to the girls. And my first sleepover was that summer, in a tent in Caia's back yard. The next year I went to a different school, but we would see each other a couple of times a year, on a soccer field or at a public speaking competition. And then we met again in grade nine at Gloucester High School, and it was as though there had been no interruption in our friendship.
Jennifer Pederson-Dahl: The thing I remember most about Caia was that she made you believe in yourself because she believed in you so strongly. I remember playing with our band, Tongues and Bones, and I was always so glad to see Caia in the audience -- her face would be lit up with confidence in me, and I would feed off that and it would make my performance stronger and better. (This was followed by compliments on the Tongues and Bones CD, "Juicy Juicy Juicy Juicy Juice Juice Juice", from other Gloucester High School friends, and recollections of who still had their Tongues and Bones t-shirts. June reported that Caia was lamenting last summer that because she didnít know more about music when she was in high school, she didnít understand then just how good Jenís music was. )
Mike Cooper: I remember biking with Caia, and you always had to watch out for small animals. One time we were biking on a 4-lane highway with cars whizzing by, and an animal ran into the road, and Caia abandoned her bike, and stopped the cars and shepherded the animal across safely. And I remember sitting in a ditch for half an hour, waiting to see if a groundhog was going to wake up.
(This was followed by the story of Caia on a group bike ride: they were followed for quite a long way by a dog -- so, of course, Caia was afraid that the dog would not find its way home. She turned back and led the dog home and delivered it to its owners. Then she tried to rejoin her group, but couldn't find them and did not know the route, and ended up, hours later, phoning home to be collected from nobody-knows-where. You can imagine how much she liked knocking on a strange door and asking to use the phone! Mike Cooper swears that they searched for her for hours, but June Miller isn't absolutely sure...)
Roopa Ganapathy: Whenever I wear this necklace (which belonged to Caia), I think of Caia -- and I wear it a lot. The thing that was so special for me about Caia was that she was always so interested in other people. She had so many important things going on in her own life, but she wanted to hear about me. And she was a big part of my daughter Uma's life -- Caia was at my baby shower, and I know she wasn't feeling very well, but she helped to decorate and organize things. And she was at my house when we brought Uma home -- and we have pictures of her smiling down into Uma's face -- and I will always treasure that.
(At this point, Mike Cooper asked if Caia had been invited or if Roopa thought that she had the house staked out. He told the story of the day Nicolas was born, just after the birth -- Mike and Julie were taking an hour or two for themselves before calling their parents to come to see the baby, when all of a sudden Caia appeared, so she met Nicolas before his grandparents did.)
Mel Clement: I came late to this group, I missed the high school and university days, and to an outsider this group of friends can be pretty intimidating. And what I valued about Caia was that she never treated me like an appendage of Ron's. She always talked to me directly, not through Ron. For instance, when I got braces she emailed me that very day, to ask me how it was going.
And last summer when I started taking driving lessons, she phoned me, and she was so excited, and she kept saying "It's so terrifying -- the first time you do anything, it will be so terrifying -- merging for the first time will be so terrifying -- it's great!)
(And Mike Cooper piped up (are we seeing a trend here?) to say that he remembered when Caia was practising her driving with her dad. At that time, you could get onto the Queensway at Montreal Road and right off again -- and Caia had been merging onto the Queensway and off again, around the loop, for half an hour -- and she was total frazzled -- she looked as though she had been in a tumble-dryer for half an hour.)
Somehow we got onto the story of a trip that Caia and Ron and Maia and Craig made to Toronto one weekend in Craig's car -- and June was not entirely convinced that this was a good idea, but of course she let Caia go. And Sunday, the phone calls started coming from Caia -- Craig's car was tired, so they stopped for an hour or so to let it rest -- then they had to stop for a longer rest -- and finally, Craig's car died altogether near Napanee -- and Caia phoned to see if someone could come to get them. So off her dad went, in our old Volvo wagon, because our newer car wasn't big enough to hold everyone -- and truth to tell, June had not much more faith in the Volvo than in Craig's car -- but they all arrived home safe and happy, with no one saying "I told you so". Caia was like her dad, in her joyful and positive approach to life.
Ben Hall: Everyone says that Caia never complained -- but I can't agree completely. When we first took dance lessons together, and we were supposed to end up facing each other, if Caia happened to end up at a slant, I would say "What are you doing over there?" and Caia would say "You're the lead, you're supposed to put me where I belong." So maybe she didn't complain, but she always made her point.
Once on a long car trip, she commented on the sky -- the masses of clouds -- and said that it looked so artificial: "If someone painted that, nobody would think it was realistic". So whenever I look at a complicated sky, I think of Caia.
Caia and my sister came to my first karate exam. While there can be loud applause for the younger children at these events, the Japanese custom of restraint means that for the adults there is quiet polite applause, if that. My turn came and I finished first in a group of four. And I think Caia must have prompted my sister, because they both stood up and cheered wildly. The judge turned to me and said, "Do you know these people?" And I didn't disown them.
Kirsten Nelson: There is one incident I'd like to tell you about. Last year I was doing some work writing educational materials for a non-profit organization. And there was an awful lot of work to do -- and I talked to Caia, and she kept saying "It's not possible -- you just can't do that much work" and I said "Well, I'll do what I can". And Caia came to Toronto on the train, and worked with me solidly for a week to ten days, to make sure that I got it done. And she didn't want me even to tell the non-profit group that I had help. But in fact, they asked me to confirm the spelling of Caia's name, and her name is included with mine in one of the texts. And that's just the kind of person she was -- she always wanted to help her friends.
Mike Douglas: I always enjoy hearing the stories of Caia's childhood and high school and university days, since I wasn't there during those times.
I worked with Caia in Harrisburg in 1998-1999, and really got to know her there, being part of a group who worked and socialized together day-to-day. Caia introduced a select group of us to The Stand, and The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and volleyball after work, and got us playing board games and card games. These things were all pursued quite casually, but as time went on I realized that we were being brought into Caia's world.
Thinking back to those years, I find myself remembering a handful of specific stories, but mostly the little things, like the way Caia's hair flew out in all directions as she quickly spun her head to check her blind spot while driving. I realize now that she must have gained some of her driving enthusiasm from her father. I do recall a particular game of "20 Questions" we played in a car full of people driving to Baltimore one time, when it took the entire hour and a half just to play one time! Caia was frustrated by how slowly we were going, endlessly arguing over whether a particular question was one of our "official" questions, and by the end I think we were all starting to enjoy provoking her!
Tony Miller. Here's an email from the Australian branch of the Miller family; Tony is Dave's brother and Caia's uncle:
Hi Sean & June,
Thanks for keeping us in the loop, we think it was a wonderful idea to plant a maple tree, maybe one day we'll get to see it in full living colour.
I would like to add a couple of things about Dave; whilst his driving has been mentioned, his love of aircraft was another example of his unbounded enthusiasm. Whilst I am constantly reminded of him when commercial aircraft fly overhead, a recent trip to a New Zealand air show caused the memories to come flooding back.
When the family was living in the UK in the 50s, Dave was studying Aeronautical Engineering in Bristol, splitting his time between Cambridge and Bristol. When he came home to Birmingham, I swear the family was aware of every aircraft that flew over the house. Wherever he was in the house, Dave would go racing out to the back garden to get a view of his 'prey'. Bounding down the stairs two at a time from his room, he'd race out the back door, staring skywards, and we'd hear him - "Wow! a Vulcan", or "Gee! a Victor" or "Great - a Vampire!'' - or Canberra, Meteor, etc. (all state of the art RAF warplanes at the time), plus of course all the regular commercial airplanes that flew overhead. He could identify them all.
The joy he displayed going to the local air show at West Bromwich, where all these exciting machines were on display, was almost tangible.
He obtained his private pilot's licence in the UK - even though he used to get airsick whilst taking lessons! Such a minor annoyance, certainly nothing to hold Dave back.
And an example of Dave's dry(?) sense of humour: In the late 60s Dave, June and I went to the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport. It was a hot and humid day, and just after the race ended, the skies opened up and we had a huge thunderstorm. Of course no-one was prepared for this, so the crowds were walking back on the racetrack towards the exit, all absolutely soaking and the huge raindrops rebounding off the tarmac. A guy ran past and Dave called out "Hey watch out - you splashed me!" Maybe you had to be there, but we all collapsed in mirth, we were so wet anyway.
And he kept this sense of humour to the end. Eva remembers when we were staying with June & Dave in Ottawa, late on in Dave's illness, and she and he were attempting to cross a very busy road. Eva was very hesitant, but Dave strode forward regardless, saying to her "This isn't the way I'm going to die!"
He was a very generous soul, and changed the whole course of my life by giving me a return ticket to Canada for my 21st birthday. I visited Dave and June in Montreal, and vowed to return to live in Canada after I qualified. I emigrated to Montreal in 1967, and again Dave & June's generosity allowed me to spend the summer visiting Expo in Montreal before commencing work. I will forever be indebted to him.
Unfortunately, distance prevented Eva & I from getting to know Caia well. It's wonderful to get these glimpses of her personality through other peoples' memories. We hope others get as much pleasure reading these snippets as we do reading theirs.
Tony & Eva
Kate Bennett. Here's part of an email from the English branch of the Miller family; Kate is Dave's sister and Caia's aunt:
We feel like Tony & Eva that because of living so far away we did not know Caia well but from all the other peoples reminiscences we realise she had the same enthusiasm for life as David did & they are a great loss to us all.
One holiday I particularly remember was when David & Tony came over to England to visit Mum & Dad and the five of us went on a nostalgic trip round areas of England that we had grown up in, gone to school & started work etc and had a very happy childhood. David drove us round Birmingham and Derby and all the lovely Derbyshire countryside where we now live. One day we went to Dovedale which has the river running through the valley & Thorpe Cloud - a nice climb for David & Tony whilst Mum & Dad & I had a walk alongside the river. Then when they came down again we were off in the car, David driving again, at a quite a respectable speed when we suddenly came to a ford, not very deep but obviously enough to slow us down a little, when we were half way across the ford another car came flying past us [not very often anything passed David] spraying the car with water. We couldn't believe it & it caused great hilarity.
Thanks to Neville for the photographs, and thanks to everyone who came and shared their memories with us.