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Archive for the ‘Patricia Louise Williams’ Category

Three and a half months after my spouse died, I found myself attending another memorial service for her. Officially, that wasn’t what the Trish’s Stash Sale was about, but in practice that’s what it was, particularly for me.

Trish had many virtues, but tidiness was never one of them. When she died, she left three decades’ worth of craft supplies in our townhouse. Crochet, cross-stitch, hardanger, blackwork, ribbon embroidery, weaving, knitting – you name it, and at one time or other Trish had practiced it. With the help of her friend Lin, Lin’s husband, and Trish’s sister Marion, I hauled nearly a hundred boxes and bags out of the townhouse,divided into rough categories. Then, the Coquitlam Needlearts Guild (to which Trish had belonged for many years) started sorting it, and eventually decreed the sale to make sure that as much as possible of Trish’s craft supplies found someone who could use it.

I was asked to contribute a picture of Trish, and a picture of our parrots with the caption, “We Contributed the Seeds!” (apparently, some Guild members with poor closeup vision had worried during the sorting that the seeds were an insect infestation). I also provided frame art cards for some forty of those who helped with the sale, and a box full of Trish’s trademark origami ornaments to give out as further mementos.

When I arrived at the Scout Hall in Blue Mountain Park in Coquitlam today, I was prepared to help with setup. As the technical owner of the craft supplies, I felt a certain obligation – similar, I joked, to that of Doctor Frankenstein to his monster. But, despite the fact that it was barely 8AM (on a Saturday!), most of the work was already done.

I knew that some of the supplies had been already claimed by the volunteers for their unpaid efforts. Other things were being held back for Guild members to counter the increasing rarity of craft stores in greater Vancouver. Even so, Lin had told me yesterday that she was worried that what remained would never fit into the hall.

Fortunately, her concern was unwarranted. With an efficiency I can admire but never hope to match, the Guild had gone beyond my crude sorting to bag and price everything, and arrange it on tables. Working alone, I doubt I could have done the job in less that a couple of years – although, as the day wore on, that estimate expanded slowly to ten years. The effort was both extraordinary and unexpected.

I set up just inside the door, and found a stool to perch on. I was given a blue ribbon to wear to mark me as a volunteer – or “a friend of Trish,” as the organizer put it. By 8:40, the volunteers had turned into customers, and the first part of the sale began. It was for Guild members only, at half the price the general public would be charged.

I quickly settled down to a morning of urging ornaments and copies of the program from Trish’s memorial service to anyone who passed by my table. Often, people stopped to express their condolences. At times, I walked through the sale, remembering some of the items for sale, and sternly resisting the urge to buy anything back. More than once, a kind word or hug sent me stumbling outside until I could master the tears that were never far away.

At lunch, I wandered down to Austin Avenue for a sandwich, and returned with a dozen donuts. Almost all the volunteers bemoaned the calories, but most took at least half a donut.

In the afternoon, Trish’s sister Marion arrived, and so did their friend Nancy, who had visited Trish during her last stay in the hospital. The afternoon continued much as before.

As expected, the slowest sellers were the magazines, even though they had priced to sell. But the reference books, patterns, yarn, buttons, beards and fabric squares all sold between 50-70% of what was on the tables. But by 3:30, people had stopped coming, so takedown began with the same efficiency as setup.

At the last moment, a woman took all the miniatures magazines. That still leaves all sorts of charities doing baby clothes for poor mothers, quilts for women’s shelters or fire victims, and school craft programs to benefit in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, although expenses still have to be calculated, $2000 seems to have been raised for the Mature Student Award at the Freda Diesing School, which Trish and I founded in 2009.

Trish had wanted to make sure that her craft supplies went to those who could use them, and the Mature Student Award was something she was proud to have helped create. For these reasons, the sale felt like a last gesture of respect to Trish from some of her closest friends.

I’d like to thank them for that, and for their kind words about Trish and their kind treatment of me. Although I was left emotionally exhausted, so far as I’m concerned, I couldn’t have too many days like today while I actively mourn for her. Short of her still being alive and healthy, seeing good done in her name was the best thing that could have happened for me.

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The text for my partner’s memorial service, held 23 July, 2010:

(A memorial service is supposed to be a serious occasion. And, of course, it is. However, in re­membering Trish’s life, it is impossible for me to omit her own quips. I hope that no one will be of­fended by my inclusion of these quips, and instead look at them as a reminder of her personality).

Patricia Louise McKinnon Williams was known by many names through her life, including Louie, Pat, and, in medieval recreationist circles, Morag Nic Fhingon. But she preferred to be known through most of her busy life as Trish. The last name she was less careful about, since nobody except strangers ever used it – and even most of them were calling her Trish after the first ten minutes.

Trish was the youngest of the six children of Francis and Doris McKinnon of Cloverdale in Surrey. The age gap between them was so wide that the eldest had left home before she was old enough for school. It was only in middle age that she got to know most of her sib­lings, although she was always close to her sister Marion Crook.

She attended the Cloverdale Catholic School and the Convent of the Sacred Heart, experiences that made her what she called a “recovering Catholic,” meaning one who no longer considered herself Catholic, but would fulminate against the misbehaviour of priests or the pope’s pro­clamations. Later, she attended school in Switzerland, where she ob­tained a knowledge of French that she later claimed was just good enough for her to read Asterix and Obelix books in the original.

Returning home, Trish studied drama at Douglas College, then trans­ferred to Simon Fraser University. At the drop-in center, she met David “Corky” Williams, whom she married in 1977.

A year later, Corky died of an epileptic seizure. A month after he died, Trish attended an SFU Medieval Club meeting, where we met and started dating. Afterwards, she would inevitably tell people that she had picked me up in a bar. Her mother tried to encourage her to find a law­yer or doctor to marry, but within months it was too late – we had already decided to marry.

Delaying only until Trish found work in the SFU Accounts Payable Department, we married on May 17, 1980. We honeymooned briefly at my parent’s cabin at Whistler, driving there in a car loaned by her brother Ron, and the journey was much delayed by us pulling over every five or ten miles to open another wedding present.

In our early life together, much of Trish’s interest was in various medieval groups and science fiction conventions, where we became friends with a number of writers. However, Trish – who was always proud of her charter Greenpeace membership card – soon found her political conscience awakening. Together, we served several years on the executive committee of the Burnaby North NDP, and for a nearly a dec­ade Trish was active in her union local, serving as Treasurer for several years, and for a month as Acting President.

Later, Trish was to become involved in countless other groups: The Coquitlam Needleart Guild, The New Westminster Historical Society, the Pacific Rose Society, and, of course, her anonymous Monday night stitchery group are only the ones that come immediately to mind. She also became known in local exotic bird circles, as we quickly established a reputation for people who could take on Nanday conures, one of the noisiest and most demanding of parrot species. Eventually, our living room housed four: Ningabuble, his mate Sophy, their sons Rambunctious and Jabberwock and, later – after Jabberwock died – a rescue bird called Beaudin.

Just about the time we were thinking of having children, our lives changed drastically when a routine gall bladder operation in 1995 resulted in Trish spending most of the summer going in and out of hospital. She continued getting sicker, and, in the next fifteen years, was in hospital at least twenty times. In 2000, she had to quit to work. However, it took another three years before she was diagnosed and obtained her pen­sion: She had carcinoid syndrome, a rare cancer-like condition untreatable by chemotherapy or radiation.

In the last five years, her healthy and activities declined steadily. Even so, she managed to assist her sister Margaret Pedersen with the care of their widowed mother, and (when travel became impossible), to be­come an avid collector of Northwest Coast art. Her medical support team, all of whom inevitably became personal friends, remember her for her determination and cheerfulness as her condition left her prematurely aged.

By 2010, Trish had survived so many illnesses and operations that we assumed she had years left to come. But she caught pneumonia at New Years, and five courses of antibiotics were not enough to cure it. In June, she spent three weeks in the hospital, and returned home on oxy­gen for a week. Her nephew David Crook and his family visited her twice at home, the first time worrying about her condition, and the second time reassured that she would pull through.

But two days later, her condition worsened, and I took her to hospital in the early hours of the morning. She died at 2:55PM, surrounded by me and her sisters Margaret and Marion, and her brother Ron.

Right up to the end, Trish kept her determination to fight and her good nature, reassuring those around her and making friends while in hospital. For thirty years, she was not only my spouse, but also my best friend and an example to me – and everyone else. I miss her more than I can say, and I am sure that I am not the only one. – Bruce Byfield


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