I can’t remember what context I gave to my other post but Elaine is in palliative care at the hospital in SwanRiver. I was really hoping I would be able to see her on this visit. And sometimes the stars align. We went to the hospital yesterday. She isn’t awake that often and she has a lot of difficulty breathing so I knew the chance to interact with her would be a real gift. But we arrived at just the right time. Her daughter Jill was there and graciously let us see her as soon as she was awake.
Her physical state is diminished but she is still the same Elaine that played such a fundamental role in my life and who will always have a special place in my heart. It was such an honour and privilege to be able to talk to her in person. And hug her. I tried to convey how important she had been to me. Elaine is a very humble person though so she would always downplay a message like that 🙂
She and her husband Glen played a big role in my life. They were always so excited to see me. They watched a LOT of slides from my trips. They asked me intelligent questions. They talked to me about the world – and my place in it. They both possess this incredibly rare graciousness and warmth that I can only hope to replicate.
A great relationship should involve at least one or two great stories 🙂 My favourite Elaine story goes back to the 1970’s. My father and Elaine’s husband were both farmers so were in Regina for the Canadian Western Agribition – the big farm show of the year for farmers from that part of the world. The rest of us came along for the big city holiday.
None of them drank much and the women were pretty much teetotalers. I have no idea how we ended up in the Italian restaurant. But my mom and Elaine ordered a carafe of wine along with the food. I think the men might have been at the exhibitions. In any event, that evening they were peripheral. Elaine’s daughter, my sister and I were all teenagers, eager for our lives to be more interesting.
I am pretty sure it was the first time we had seen our mothers a little tipsy. We all wanted to be staying at the Hotel Regina, with the pool we could see across the street from our hotel room. So, to console us, they thought they would take us to the bar. But given that we were underage, that plan didn’t get too far. And it was likely more fun to just all be cooped up in the hotel room. I can’t remember if there was a can-can but “Star of the East” was definitely sung.
Both Elaine and my mom have great voices. And everyone had a great sense of humour. I was too young to be at the New Year’s Eve dance that year… but apparently my dad (who used to be famous for announcing things on stage) told them he was going to get on stage at midnight and announce they were going to sing “Star of the East” so they hid together in the bathroom until the time was safe.
Whether it was all true, it was great cinéma vérité and it was always one of my fondest childhood memories.
A lot of the time I spent with Elaine – and Glen – was less dramatic. But that didn’t mean it was less meaningful to me. I know now how spoiled I was at such a young age to meet someone who taught me so much about hospitality, grace and the beauty of the human spirit.
Elaine is one of those human beings in an elite league of realizing her potential, which the rest of us should aspire to achieve. And she sings a mean “Star of the East” 🙂
p.s. I finished this late last night so was going to post this morning. Just before I posted it I found out Elaine passed away last night. But the legacy of her kindness and compassion will live on.