Sunday, October 30, 2011

Joyce Mary Haythornthwaite

October 31 is always a sad day for me because it's the day my mom died in 1996. She had been declining for weeks in Ottawa and I had cut back my studies at Concordia in Montreal so that I would only need to be there one day a week but it was on one of those days that my aunt called to rush me back.

My aunt met me at the hospital entrance and told me I was too late to see my mom alive. I can still visualize the doctors walking around the entrance in skeleton costumes and other gruesome Halloween disguises. The next few days, however, are a blur. (My girlfriend at the time got very angry at me for neglecting her and perhaps I did but I have no recollection.) The next event I remember was the cremation and reception several days later. And that reception defined one of the wonderful things about my mother.

The first group of friends to arrive were members of the National Capital Runners' Association. My mom had been an avid runner, often winning medals in her "Little Old Ladies" category and quietly pinning them up in her den. She (and my father) had won the NCRA Phidippides Award for their years of editing the NCRA newsletter, as well as organizing many races and events.

Next came members of the Bells Corners Arts League. Mom was a prolific artist in an embroidery medium called Trianglepoint that forced - and enabled - development of geometric patterns from equilateral triangles of wool. She had mastered the production technique quickly (although pictures took a long time to complete) but she was always experimenting with and challenging the constraints of those triangular matrices. Once or twice she organized the BCAL summer arts sale and one other year one of her Trianglepoints won the Best in Show award. (She also sold a lot of pictures.)

Finally came members of the Cityview Nepean Horticultural Society. They had (I think) Spring, Summer and Fall garden judging contests and she was famous for winning, and thus being ineligible for the next year's contest, and then winning it again. (Mom earned a certificate in horticulture from Guelph University too.) Mom was often elected to the CNHS board and contributed to beautification of the community through both her gardening and her organization skills.

The amazing thing at the reception was than almost no members of any of these groups had known how busy Mom had been with all the others. They all thought she worked tirelessly for their own group. And that's what she had done.

That way she helped people is one of the things I miss about her and one of the things I have tried to learn from her.