Bits and Bites of Everyday Life

 

I have a feeling there’s one more star in the sky ...

True North Perspective

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.

 
  Arline, with Brian and Dale, circa 1952.

Once more, I’ve had to face loss! This time, my beloved sister-in-law and special soul sister, Arline, passed away on July 2nd. She had been battling ovarian cancer since 2010. For a while, after aggressive surgery and grueling chemotherapy sessions, it looked as if the cancer was in remission but it reared its ugly head again.

 
The last time I spoke to Arline, she warned me she would not recover. Like Brian when he battled lung cancer, she preferred being home in familiar surroundings to being in the hospital. Arrangements were made so she could have proper care at home. She passed away in the afternoon of that second day of July. I had called on Canada Day to wish her well and hear her voice once again but my call went unanswered and I suspected then she was back in the hospital.
 
Arline Georginia Sinclair was born in November of 1942. The second child of George and Elizabeth Sinclair, she grew up near Prince George, British Columbia, in the Mud River Valley. Brian, my late husband, was born two years later. Times were hard for everyone during those years. As WW II raged on, families had to deal with food rations and shortages of all kinds. They lived on a small farm with no electricity, central heating or plumbing. During the cold season, George worked as an experienced trapper to supplement the family income.
 
Tracking the Cougar

By Arline Sinclair-Boyd

Special to True North Perspective, originally published in our edition of June 18, 2010.

"It's time the two of you spent a day with your father, doing something he enjoys."

That was my no nonsense mother talking as she settled the heavy canner on top of the hot wood stove. She was canning garden tomatoes and we were supposed to be helping. But like normal 1950's teens, we were getting on her nerves with our chatter and nonsense.

"Boring" replied my younger brother, Brian, as he hefted another bucket of garden tomatoes onto the table. Earlier he had slicked his hair back with Bryl cream and thought he looked cool, even with the garden soil clinging to his clothes.

"I haven't got time", I muttered, pouring boiling water over another bowl of the ripe red fruit. My job was blanching the tomatoes, slipping off the skins and then squishing them into jars. I looked hopefully at the telephone, waiting for my best friend to call. Swimming was on our agenda. Not, for heaven's sake, spending a whole day with dad.

But we didn't argue or try to negotiate. She was of the straightforward, plain speaking generation of women who lived through the hard years of the depression and the war. And she knew best, so she said.

I remember that long ago September day we spent with dad. At the time, it seemed a long drive from where we lived in Prince George to the White Mud Rapids. Dad wasn't much of a talker so I watched the passing trees, some already draped in glorious autumn colours.

Once dad's cherished boat was in the water, he held it steady as we climbed in, first Brian and then me. The little outboard motor sputtered as he pushed off from shore. With skill, the little boat was angled through the currents to the other-side of the wide Nechako River, and once there, we climbed to the top of a long ridge. Dad carried his rifle as it was deer hunting season. He also had the makings for bush tea and I had the bag of cookies my mother handed as she waved goodbye.

First we admired the far off view and then walked quietly through the pine trees looking for deer tracks in the sandy loam. Later on, we sat around the red hot embers, drank our tea and listened to dad talk about the region's history. His parents had been early pioneers, and with boyish enthusiasm, dad had explored these untouched forests. Fascinated, we listened to his captivating adventures. Then it was time to slide down the steep bank to the water's edge. Before crossing the river, Dad fished for awhile, hoping for a few river trout for that night's supper. He showed us how to make a long cast and let the current carry the lure into a deep pool where fish liked to rest.

In looking back, my mother was right, as she so often was. This day spent with dad was quite wonderful. You could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice.

This past September I started another trip, this one longer. A journey with ovarian cancer. After surgery and during the long months of gruelling chemotherapy, I often thought about this day, and wished I could spend another at the top of the ridge, drinking bush tea with my dad and brother.

 

Arline and Brian were avid readers, a welcome pastime for children who had to help out with all kinds of chores and didn’t have television at home for entertainment. As a young woman, Arline went on to marry and have three children of her own. When her marriage collapsed, she was left to raise them on her own. Being a single parent with very little means was quite a challenge but Arline was a caring and responsible mother. Brian admired her coping skills; she really “made do” with little more than the bare basics.

 
Returning to Prince George, she met Patrick Boyd. They married and moved to Vancouver where life was good. Arline was a fine cook, a wonderful gardener, a gifted home decorator. As the children got older, Arline and Pat enjoyed traveling, one of their favourite destinations being Costa Rica. It wasn’t long after meeting Brian that I had the opportunity to meet Arline. I loved her instantly! She was a sensitive and compassionate person, energetic and wise, hard-working and resourceful. She expressed herself freely and joyously while being a good listener at the same time. Brian called her “his gushy sister”. She marveled at everything and made it known to all. We could talk non-stop and always laughed a lot. She became my most precious soul sister! We soon established a correspondence that would last through the years and become an integral and important part of our lives.
 
When Brian was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in 2003, she immediately jumped on a plane and came to visit. It meant the world to Brian, and me. Brian was a very private person and Arline was someone he could confide in.
 
Distance didn’t matter to us! Across the miles, we kept in touch by email and by phone, exchanging gifts on special occasions or for no reason at all except to express love and caring. She was extremely supportive and understood the stress, the pain and the sorrow we had to deal with on a day to day basis. When Brian died in February 2004, she was there for me, commiserating and encouraging me to go on as this is what Brian would want. That September, she invited me to visit them in Victoria’s beautiful Oak Bay. For me, it was a highly emotional journey and a very uplifting one at the same time. She had organized a trip to Tofino we would always remember. On a windy and rainy day, we took a boat tour to the hot springs on the Pacific Sea Star with Captain Cheryl at the helm. Gigantic waves came crashing all around us and tossed the boat up and down. At one point, Cheryl asked if we had seen “The Perfect Storm”. We all thought, “Oh my God! Is this what we are in for?” Fortunately, Cheryl assured us that she had the best record in the company and could deal with heavy seas… She was amazing! Arline and I never forgot that trip and often referred to it when we were tossed about on life’s rough seas. When we returned to Victoria, we visited many wonderful places. I was very happy to visit Emily Carr’s home and later painted a stylized totem in her unique style.
 
In 2008, it was Arline’s turn to visit me. I planned a visit to Kleinburg where the McMichael Canadian Art Museum was supposedly featuring a Bateman show that we both wanted to see. My friends, Mary-Lou and Ron joined us as we also planned to visit our dear friend, Harry who lived in Richmond Hill. As it turned out, the exhibition had been featured the year before but had never been changed on the website. We weren’t the only ones who had been misled! But instead of getting mad, we laughed and made the most of our visit. Harry was pleased to see us and being a talented musician, he gave an impromptu jazz concert at his home. Coming back, we drove up Highway 7 and Arline marveled at the magnificent beauty of our eastern region. Again, we often reminisced on those wonderful days spent together during her week-long stay. On the last leg of her trip, we visited the Canadian Arts Museum in Hull and finished the day on the Byward Market, with dinner at the Mezzanotte.
 
Arline loved life and valued her family and friends. She was a keen and sensitive observer of nature and human beings, a born philosopher and humanist who cared about people’s sufferings and gladly celebrated the individual triumphs, big and small. She encouraged me as I published two more novels and became a columnist. Her caring ways transpired in her writing. I, in turn, encouraged her to write in earnest. This is how “Tracking the Cougar… The Sinclair Family Memoirs” came about. The book is a wonderful testimonial to the courage and resilience of her family’s pioneering roots. The book is dedicated to her grandchildren: Nicholas, Christie, Georgia, Zoe and Ava.
 
Yes, a new star shines bright tonight, its brightness and warmth lighting our night and soothing our soul. I hope Brian was there to greet her!
 
Arline, you will be missed but never forgotten! May you rest in peace!
 
P.S. In her memory, I would like to offer a lovely piece written by Arline and featured in True North Perspective on June 18th, 2010. Hope you enjoy it!
 
Blessings!

Comments

Dear Alberte,

My sincere condolence with the passing of some one so dear to you, indeed, yet another sparkling star in the sky!

Your article was wonderful to read, and  have  compassion for your pain. 

Wishing you strenght, and knowing you, you will also find peace.

 

Love

Yohanna

Dear Alberte,

Michael and I read your article this morning and extend our most sincere condolences on the passing of your sister-in-law, and good friend, Arline.  Michael lost his baby sister to ovarian cancer last year; our hearts go out to you and Arline’s family; it is a terrible disease that must be vanquished.  My brother -in-law is now terminally ill with an aggressive form of bladder cancer...yes I do suppose it is 2 out of 5 Canadians that have cancer at some point.  We contribute yearly to the Cancer campaign and hope many of your readers do also.

Angela

I am sorry to hear of your loss.  You provided an interesting and compassionate description of Arline's life plus the effect she had on others.  She sounds like a survivor and lover of life, no matter what was placed in her path. 

Thank you for sharing this personal note.

So sorry to hear of your recent loss of a dear friend & relative. Your article was so well worded and this is a wonderful tribute of Arline's life. Its very obvious to see how important a friend you had in her. All those memories never to be forvotten by you. Hope you will be gentle with yourself in the next few months to get thru the initial grieving stages. Thanks for sharing this story with us Alberte.

Dear Flo,

Thank you so much for your sympathy and understanding! Losing a loved one who has been very close to your heart is difficult. I have been blessed with the warmest and most receptive reaction to this article. Obviously, people saw the wonderful, supportive woman I called my soul sister. I will treasure Arline's memory and now that she has joined the spirit world, I will ask for her guidance.

I leave you with this quote: "Good friends are like angels, you don't have to see them to know they are there".

Hello Alberte,

Thank you for writing about our mother.  She always spoke of you fondly and cherished your times together.  It's always interesting to read another's view point of someone close and provides new insight.  I'm sure she would approve.

Julie Kay

Dear Julie, my sincere condolences!

What a wonderful surprise to discover your comment! Your mother was a very special lady and I will cherish her memory for ever. Thank you for writing to TNP! Take care!

it was a great article i feel sorry for the loss of you dear one recieve my condolence too.

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