It is with mixed emotions that I write this blog, informing you that my wife Elizabeth died in the early morning hours of Monday, April 29th.
For all her loyal readers who have shared parts of the journey with her, this will come as no shock. Her health had declined significantly in the past month and as she wrote so vividly on Saturday, April 27th what was happening to her, I don’t need to repeat it again. The end, when it came, was quick. Her autonomic system failed and her heart gave out.
I am happy that despite how she was feeling, we had a good final day. Cheryl and I visited with her, she taught us about what she had learned the previous day in a documentary. She found a song that she and I could sing so we sang it multiple times. She shared that she loved us and thanked us for all that we have done for her.
In her final blog she mentioned how she regretted not being able to post Sakuracon pictures. Here are a few that I wanted to share with you. Cheryl and I are both so glad that Elizabeth was able to go this year. The prep was hard on Elizabeth, she got a manicure and got her hair done. She commented how she felt beautiful again, or as beautiful as one can be when swollen with edema.
Friday was the busiest day for us at the convention. In the morning there was a kimono workshop. Beth had brought her yukata along so that the women there could help her dress. I also joined in the fun and tried on a kimono, too.
After the kimono workshop we went to the foam sword fighting event. She REALLLLY wanted to participate and thought she could clear the floor with her epee expertise. All the places were filled so she couldn’t participate in the competition itself. But the manager of the con made arrangements with the organizer that if there was time left over that Beth would be able to bout with someone. Beth had already picked out her someone – the blade runner.
Luck was in her favour and there was time for her. They agreed to two short bouts – the first one with Beth using NDY and the second with Beth standing. The first, Beth won and it was quite a site to see. She was zipping around in NDY and he was running around on his blades.
The second bout Beth didn’t win. It ended when she made a lunge and couldn’t come back out of it.
She fell on the floor and hurt her hand and one side of her body. At the time she didn’t mention the pain because she was so pumped from getting to be an athlete again.
We went back to the hotel that afternoon for a short nap before the masquerade ball. Last year we were all too exhausted to go, despite best intentions. We were determined that this year we would make it. Beth really wanted to dance with me again. Over the years she mentioned how she’d love to see me in a tux. I found a tuxedo shirt and did my best to make her wish come true. It took so much effort for Beth to get out of bed that evening, but we made it to the ball in time for the last dance, to which we waltzed. A great memory for me.
Saturday we spent mostly in the exhibition hall. Beth found the dentist from previous conventions who made custom fangs. She got a pair made and showed them off that afternoon.
Sakuracon came at a great physical cost to Beth, but one she was willing to pay for a chance to experience life. I have often thought and have heard others tell me that she was larger than life. It was an apt description because she was always doing grand things. Who else can say they were listed in the community paper as one of the best things about their city? Here are just a few examples…
Screw Bronze – Elizabeth published 1240 blogs. There are several more that she partially completed but didn’t have the energy to finish. Earlier this year she reached the milestone of 1 million views.
The Postcard Project – What started off as a cool idea to send postcards to a few readers on our Japan trip turned into an outreach project touching hundreds of people’s lives. We estimate she wrote approximately 6,600 postcards, sending to every continent except Antarctica. Anyone who was lonely, sick or just wanted a piece of fun mail could ask and they would receive one or many postcards at no cost to them. Many recipients aided the project by sending blank postcards from where they lived, others sent stickers or donated to the cause. Huge thanks go out to Jane and Michael in particular and to Cheryl who footed the bill for the majority of the postage over the years. Elizabeth, Cheryl and I worked through many nights making each postcard with love and good wishes.
Zed – How many people have dreamed of writing a novel and never get past the first 20 pages? Or are so daunted they don’t even try? That didn’t stop Elizabeth. Zed was published in 2006 and received high praise. If you want to read it and don’t have your own copy, I have a few copies which I can let go at cost.
Travel – In our nearly twenty years together we spent a lot of time travelling. We visited nearly every American state. She has travelled across Canada by rail, we both travelled to Churchill, Manitoba in the far north of Canada. We lived in Wales for seven years and while there visited the following European countries: Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, Turkey and Greece. We also spent a month in Thailand. In recent years, she tried not to let her disease prevent her from travelling. In 2008 we went to Japan for nearly 3 weeks and in 2009 we went to Hawaii. Both were lifelong dreams for Beth. In 2010 we did a road trip down to San Diego. The past couple of years we stuck closer to home, but still made shorter trips around BC and Washington state. One highlight was watching the salmon jumping which gave her great encouragement. She took thousands of photos – a self-proclaimed camera whore.
Athletics – Beth always enjoyed running. In her late teens she ran the Los Angeles Marathon, trained for the Commonwealth Games in 1994, and ran various 10km races with me. She took up epee fencing in 2006 and by early 2007 was competing in the Canadian National fencing competition. Shortly after the nationals her disease made itself known. She then went on to boxing in her wheelchair, rock climbing with just her arms, sailing, badminton, wheelchair racing and in the last year focused on walking despite having 180+ heart rates and neuropathy in her legs. She participated in 5 Terry Fox runs. Terry Fox was a huge inspiration for Beth.
Advocacy – Beth hated lying, hypocrisy and injustice. Locally, she confronted VIHA, Beacon Community Services, doctors, specialists, the Times Colonist 10km race organizers, local politicians, Assistant Deputy Ministers and the Public Service Agency just to name a few. At the global level she wrote for the BBC website’s Ouch blog about disability issues. Several of those posts were subsequently published by various care-giving organizations around the world. Screw Bronze was peppered with advocacy in women’s athletics, GLBT rights and rights for those living with disabilities.
She was a remarkable person and I am honoured that she loved me and that I could share the best part of her life with her.
I have had several people ask whether they could send flowers/cards/donate to charity. Please don’t send flowers (I’ll be off visiting my family for a week or two). Cards for me and/or Cheryl can be sent to PO Box 2560, Port Angeles, WA 98362. If you want to make a donation to honour Elizabeth’s memory, you could donate to the Terry Fox foundation (either directly through their website or via the paypal link on Girl’s Gotta Fly). Over the years a number of people have suggested a book be compiled based on her blog entries. If this is something you would like to see happen, you could donate to that through Girl’s Gotta Fly. Please make sure you mark it as such so that I know whether the donation is for the Terry Fox Foundation or for the book.
One final note... please feel free to leave a comment here. As this was Elizabeth's blog, no future posts will be added here. I will update Girl's Gotta Fly with arrangements/memorials, etc.
12 hours ago