The funeral was yesterday, held to my mother’s specifications. I vaguely remember one of the hymns from my childhood; I don’t remember the other two. I suspect they were old school before I was in school. But they fit. The service was beautiful, and we filled the church. I was impressed at all all who showed up, and how many different walks of life they came from. My mother touched a lot of people.
Here’s the remembrance I wrote for the service, which I read to those present:
Those who know me know that, throughout my life, I never called my mother nor my father “Mom” and “Dad”. I always called them by their first names, “Pat” and “Eric”. It shocked my friends the first time I called up to my parents in their company. “Hey, Pat!” They could not fathom how they could possibly get away with such a thing. It took me a little while to realize just how unusual that was.
Because it was something that never came up. Once, when I asked my parents about why they never made me call them Mom and Dad, the best answer I got was that they felt that the only way they could do this is if they called themselves “Mom” and “Dad”, and what unfolded was like something out of a scene from the Beverly Hill Billies. “Ma!” “Yeah, Pa!” “Let’s go visit cousin Ethel!”
It was unusual, though, as I learned when, without really trying, we convinced my daughters to call me Dad and Erin Mom. I’ve even used the phrase “Mom” to refer to my mother-in-law Rosemarie.
Do I regret this? To some extent I do. A small extent. Because the truth is, I didn’t have to refer to my mother as “Mom”. She knew who she was.
She put band-aids on my scrapes and bruises. She comforted me when I cried. She was my cheerleader, and she was my mentor. And if I was in the wrong, she was my nemesis. Though I feel that I learned enough quickly enough that she was never my nemesis for long. She walked me to school. Nagged me to do my homework, and shared in my victories.
And she asked for my advice when she was writing a story that eventually became “The Spiral Maze”. She valued my input as she worked on other tales as well. And she returned the favour, proofreading my stories, catching my typos. Her colleagues at the University of Waterloo called her the best proofreader they’d ever seen, and an editor’s editor, and I was grateful that she lent her skills to my work.
She respected my writing enough that she didn’t refrain from constructive criticism, but she never stood in the way of what I wrote. She offered great advice, and with Erin, helped make my writing better.
She was also a fantastic grandmother to Vivian and Nora as well. She gave so much of her love and her time, knitting for the girls, and trying to teach them how to knit. She read and wrote for Nora, who loved her dragon stories. She read Terry Pratchett to Vivian. They miss her greatly. She knew who she was to them as well, though they reminded her constantly by calling her “Grandma Pat”.
I knew my mother loved me, loved Erin, and loved my daughters. I took great comfort in that feeling. I did not call my mother Mom as much as perhaps I should, but she knew who she was.
I still wish that I’d had more time to let her know that I knew too.
The following obituary will be appearing in today’s edition of the Waterloo Region Record.
The Bow family is sad to announce the death of Patricia Anne Bow, nee Smith, who died peacefully on January 7, at home as she wished. Her battle with pancreatic cancer was brief but difficult.
Pat was a word person to her heart, and some of her own words tell her story: “My family descended from Scottish, Irish, and English pioneers who settled in the Ottawa Valley when it was still mostly uncut forest. Family stories infected me with a fascination for history — but above all I loved the hints of adventure and mystery in those tales.” She was born in Ottawa in the middle of that big family story, with three older siblings and three younger siblings. All six survive her: Gordon (and Madeline), Dorothy (and her late partner Bruce), Deanna (and the late Dieter), Margaret (and Leon), Bette, and Edward.
Chasing her love of history and story, Pat studied history as an undergraduate at Carleton University in Ottawa, then took a graduate degree in library science at the University of Toronto. She wrote: “I love libraries, their richness and generous openness and even their smell.” She loved them so much that she married fellow librarian Eric Bow in 1969.
Settling in the Bow family home in Toronto’s old Chinatown, Eric and Pat had one child, a son, James. Becoming a stay-at-home mother, she raised James into a very fine young man. When James went to university and Eric retired, the family moved to Kitchener-Waterloo. Pat took another degree, this one a diploma in journalism. She worked for the New Hamburg Independent, then joined the University of Waterloo communications office, “where for 12 years I wrote about quantum mechanics and the history of war and peace, and other serious stuff.” She retired in 2011, and “decided to go ahead and write what I love to read: fantasy and speculative fiction.”
Pat’s son James married Erin Noteboom in 1998, and in 2005, Pat became a grandmother, first to Vivian, and then, in 2008, to Nora. She adored them.
The whole Bow family - Eric, James and Erin, Vivian and Nora - survives Pat, who was only 70. We will remember Pat as sister, wife, and mother and grandmother, and as the maker of wonderful things: pie crusts, mittens, stunning quilts. And then of course there are the books: she wrote and published more than 20 novels, full of ghosts and dragons. Best known, perhaps, was The Bone Flute, a finalist for the Silver Birch and Red Cedar Awards. She was a word person but words cannot express how much we will miss her.
Cremation has taken place.
Pat’s family will receive relatives and friends from 10-10:45 am on Saturday, January 14th, 2017 at the Church of the Holy Saviour (33 Allen Street East, Waterloo). A memorial service will follow in the church at 11 am. Interment will take place at Memory Gardens cemetery following the service. A reception will take place in the church hall after the burial.
As expressions of sympathy, donations to the Waterloo- Wellington CCAC,The Canadian Children’s Book Centre or the Church of the Holy Saviour would be appreciated by the family (cards available at the funeral home).
Visit www.henrywalser.com for Pat’s memorial.
My mother passed away earlier this evening.
On November 15, while visiting Toronto, I got a call from my father. I was in the subway at the time, so the call went directly to my voicemail. Picking it up, it was him crying, from the hospital. My mother, who had been dealing with strange blood clots in her legs, had accidentally taken a double dose of her anti-clotting medication and so checked herself into hospital. The nurses and doctors were good natured, saying that she was worrying about nothing. However, she also advised them of a pain she’d been having in her back, and feeling that, this did worry them.
She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that afternoon. We had no idea, and probably wouldn’t have known for a while without this accidental diagnosis. In some ways, this was a blessing, as it gave us time to prepare. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a long time. The pancreatic cancer threw strokes, and my mother’s condition deteriorated rapidly.
We were able to arrange palliative care at home, and so my mother died peacefully, visited by her siblings and her grandchildren. And for that, at least, I’m grateful. Inasmuch as one can be grateful about something like this.
This is a sad time, and it may be for a while. We also have work to do. There will be details about the memorial to come. For now, I just want to say that I miss my mother very much, and to thank everybody who sent their kind thoughts and prayers and support.
Winter is here. But spring will come, eventually.
For the end of the year, this most recent column from The Kitchener Post seems the only thing I really need to say:
The light shines through the dark
By James Bow
SEE MORE articles from this author
In 1992, Queen Elizabeth capped off the 40th anniversary of her coronation with a speech wherein she referred to the previous year as an “Annus Horribilis.” She was reflecting on a bad year of divorces and a press scandal that afflicted many members of the royal family.
For many in my circle, 2016 has 1992 beat. My friends think it was for many different reasons. Some point to the number of celebrity deaths that shocked them this year, from David Bowie and Prince to Leonard Cohen.
Others point to nasty conflicts throughout the world, from the siege and misery of Aleppo to the terror attacks from Berlin to the horrifying Orlando nightclub shooting and the acts of racist vandalism that have been reported in recent weeks.
And don’t get me started on the state of politics right now.
For others, the pain is more personal. Friends and loved ones have gotten sick or passed away. There are empty chairs at Christmas. There is nothing that can be made good out of that.
With all this tragedy, it can feel that the world has become a darker place. However, this year has also seen moments of light. A few lists have appeared on the Internet highlighting some of the positive developments of 2016.
There have been successes in medicine. We are developing a vaccine for Ebola. Child mortality rates are down in the third world, as is the transmission of HIV. The World Health Organization recently announced that there are now no cases of measles anywhere in North and South America.
There have been successes in environmental stewardship. British Columbia moved to protect a large portion of its temperate rainforest. Recently, the United States and Canada agreed to ban drilling and oil exploration in sensitive Arctic waters. Renewable energy like solar and wind is getting cheaper than greenhouse gas-emitting energy.
Scientifically, we got a close look at Pluto for the first time, thanks to New Horizons. We heard the sound of two black holes colliding. We took further steps to better understand the universe around us.
Politically, protesters at the Standing Rock reservation, backed by pressure from around the world, successfully stopped construction of an oil pipeline through their sacred land.
And, after 108 years, the Chicago Cubs finally won another World Series.
For my family, this year will also be remembered for medical triumphs as well as tragedy, and for being another year where grandparents got to love and enjoy the company of their grandchildren.
These moments of light do not erase the dark moments of 2016, but neither do the dark moments erase the moments of light.
Although I’m feeling the tragedy more this year, the truth is that every year is a mix of happiness and sorrow. It comes from opening ourselves up and taking risks. Yes, we can feel pain. But without it we can miss out on love.
Without struggle, we can forget what is worth fighting for.
The next year promises challenges as well as potential triumphs. If we want to make the world a better place we must work hard to do it. Sometimes it feels as though the struggle will never end. But the only sure-fire way to fail is never to try in the first place.
My wish to my readers is that you spend this holiday season in loving company, and that 2017 is full of happy moments as well as things worth fighting for.
This blog has been on hiatus these past three weeks. My mother has been diagnosed with medical issues that I’ve gone into more detail with over on Facebook, and I don’t want to say more here, even though the readership here is probably smaller, and most people reading this have already probably read things on my Facebook timeline. But, suffice it to say, I haven’t had the desire to write anything here. It just didn’t feel right.
In the midst of everything this past month, however, I have been writing. I finished another non-fiction assignment late last week and, more happily, I gave a presentation to high school students at Montcalm Secondary School in London, Ontario. It was the first such presentation I’d given in years, and I was nervous about giving it after so long away. Fortunately, the students were kind, listened attentively, and asked lots of questions. There was a great vibe in the air, and it felt good to talk to them and share my experiences with them. So, thanks again to the teachers and students at Montcalm Secondary School for making me feel so welcome. Hopefully, more such presentations are in my future.
As for my immediate future, I am trying to get back into writing. My columns for the Kitchener Post are continuing, and I have a couple of other projects on the go. Perhaps I’ll be getting back onto my feet as far as this blog is concerned as well. We’ll see as the days go on.
On This Day
- 2014: The Genetic Burden
- 2012: The Absurd Cypher (Quick Sherlock Fan Fiction)
- 2010: The Unchristians, Part 2
- 2009: Jolted, by Arthur Slade, Reviewed
- 2008: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell Reviewed
- 2007: Doctor Who is Back!
- 2006: Battlestar is Back!
- 2004: As Paul Martin Leads From the Right, He Loses From the Left
- 2003: Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here
- 2003: Neat Things