Memorial Service: June Miller
Caia would be very pleased to see you all gathered here on Canada Day -- she was a passionate Canadian, who believed that we live in the best country in the world, and that Ottawa was a great place to be on Canada Day. It must be said, though, that she had come to love Montreal more. Last Saturday was a difficult day for Caia, but as she lay in her hospital bed she listened to the sounds of Montreal through the open windows -- the St. Jean-Baptiste Day parade was on, and we could hear people singing and the distant roar of the Formula 1 cars doing their qualifying laps.... and she kept saying "Montreal is the best city in the world".
My heart is so full, it's difficult to find the words to describe to you how special our darling girl was. She was strong and brave -- I have watched her undergo a bone biopsy, in which they grind into the bone, not once but 3 different times, without a whimper, and then smile and thank the doctor when it was over. Caia was full of grace -- no one left her hospital room without a smile and a thank you. She was clever and very funny. And as her friend Kirsten remarked not long ago, she was never self-absorbed; in the midst of some very serious stuff going on in her own life, she was always interested in what was going on in yours, and concerned. She was talking to Ben about a week ago, and I heard her scolding him gently, asking if Sobia really liked running, or if she might prefer something like dancing, and that way too, you know, she would get to keep her joints.
Others will talk to you today about Caia -- mostly what I want to do is thank people, and we have so many people to thank, firstly my family -- my aunts Lilian & Julia & Kitty, who have loved and supported all of us all our lives; my beloved brother and sisters, and their spouses, who loved Caia as if she were their own; Sean and Caia's cousins, with whom they shared bonds of love and respect, forged while dodging Rose-Marie's parsnip patties and squash souffles at Christmas dinners; and the little guys, Niall & Nolan, Emily and Gavin, Owen and our newest little one Jacob, who are a constant reminder of the beauty and joy of life.
I'd like to thank all of our friends and neighbours for their love and support -- and in particular my next door neighbours, the Hornes, Bill and Danni, who looked after our house for days or weeks or months whenever I made a dash to Montreal. And Caia's friends have been exceptional -- Ron and Mel beat a path to Montreal; Mike and Kirsten came for long lazy weekends; friends came to visit from Ottawa and North Bay, from Toronto and Kitchener, from Florida and Pennsylvania... if wealth were measured by the quality of your friendships, Caia would be in the Fortune 500. Sean and I would like to thank Mike and Kirsten, Ben, and Ron and Mel for help with photographs, and Kirsten and Ron and Mel for help with the music for today.
I need some time now to thank Caia's doctors, and indeed all the hospital staff who looked after her in L'Hôpital St Luc in Montreal. Dr. Marleau was her primary doctor, her hepatologist, and he was a tireless champion for Caia, always trying to create a scenario in which he could give her a new liver. We met all of the hepatology team over the last 2 years, and the one who sat with us at Caia's bedside on that last dark day said simply, "We love her -- the whole team loves her." Dr. Nutini was her oncologist, and her haematologist, and it was she who arranged for Caia to have the blood-enhancing injections that kept her on her feet for the last 2 years. And it was Dr. Nutini, clever and kind and fearless, who walked into Caia's room on Monday morning and said "You've had a hard time, Caia -- do you want to stop all this?" And Caia did. She signed on to her laptop one last time, to order flowers to be delivered for the staff -- doctors, nurses, orderlies, all who cared for her -- who were so good to her. We heard the woman in the next bed say on the phone one day "The staff here are so good, so loving -- the girl in the next bed, they coddle her like a baby". And it's true, they did. She laughed with the preposees who came to bathe her, and had interesting conversations with the guy who cleaned the floors about Quebec demography -- Quebec's birth rate is declining, you know -- he doesn't know what the young people in Quebec are up to. The person who brought around the ice-water used to come in at the end of her shift, just to see Caia's smile. The nutritionist came to see her at least twice a week, and sent up salmon fillets and chicken breasts to tempt her to eat -- she was just plain spoiled. We will always be grateful for the loving care Caia received.
And we are forever grateful to that unknown family who, 10 years ago in April, at the time of their great loss, found the strength and generosity to donate their loved one's liver -- and I wish they could know that it went to a young woman of exceptional courage and generosity.
Since that time ten years ago, Caia has worked in the U.K., in Pennsylvania and Tennessee -- she moved to Montreal, took courses at the University of Montreal, perfected her French, and discovered a new passion -- demography, people and numbers, what a perfect fit for Caia -- and began to work towards a master's degree. She carted her volleyball net all over the world, went to dance camps all over the continent, appeared in a hip-hop show, began drawing cartoons, played a bit of poker, was maid of honour at Mike and Kirsten's wedding in March of this year, made some wonderful new friends, and kept her old friendships alive. Caia once said to me "I've ridden a camel (1), and I've told a New York cabbie to follow that cab -- what more could I want?" Well, we all know that there was a lot more that she could want, and did want, from life -- but Caia played the hand she was dealt, better than anyone I've known -- with courage and humour, with intelligence and grace, and absolutely no self-pity. I have learned as much from Caia as I ever taught her.
Sean and I will miss her so -- we'll miss her laugh, the laugh that could fill a room, any room -- her belle sourire, her kindness and her smarts -- oh yes, her smarts, we've missed them already. It was a privilege to be her mother and her brother. She will be with us always.