Some of my favourite memories of my mom, Caroline, are of those of us adventuring together in nature. During my teens we spent many a summer camping at the Haliburton Fish and Wildlife Reserve, on the south eastern tip of Algonquin Park.
The first week of our vacation in the forest by ourselves, foraging like real ‘pioneering women’, we thought. Playing Scrabble by firelight, we would try to be brave when we heard a noise in the woods. The following week Mom’s friends would join us with their guitars, folk songs and canoes, and the fun would continue. We’d come home smelling of campfire and earth. I loved every minute of it.
Mom planted the seeds of love for our natural world in my life, and was incredibly proud when I came to work for Wildlands League in 2007. She taught me a lot on those trips; lessons that went well beyond being safe in wilderness. Campfire cooking and the wonders of one-pot meals over a fire; how to summon courage when all you’ve got is yourself, your tools and your knowledge; how to forage and shelter; and most importantly, how to plan for all possible outcomes. That my daughter and I are doing so well in this Covid-19 pandemic is in no small part due to my mother’s wisdom. But that’s a story for another day.
When I broke my leg severely in 2011, I became housebound and reliant on others for several months. Mom was there to take care of us. Ever the teacher, she took the opportunity to drill home that, as a single mom, I needed a will to protect my interests and those of my daughter. “You never know what is around the corner,” she would caution.
Mom battled a debilitating chronic breathing condition, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD, for more than 15 years. She extended her life well beyond what her family could have imagined. Death was no foreign subject, rather, inevitable and we had a few frank discussions about wishes; ways she wanted to leave her legacy with whatever little bit she had left.
I was sad to find Mom had not followed her own advice. On April 2, 2019, my brother helped execute a simple death-bed will, to appoint an executor and guardian of her estate, without any of her legacy wishes honoured. Two days later, my mother passed away after a short battle with cancer, leaving behind a large family of nature lovers.
When I returned to work and to a new role in Development for Wildlands League, I discovered I had a new passion for making sure an individual’s final wishes are expressed in an end of life document, thanks to mom. What’s more, I’ve made a gift to Wildlands League in my own will, because I want to secure the future of my daughter’s grandchildren and all those who follow them. I want to know they will be able to benefit from the beauty of nature, camp with their families and have clean air and fresh water, thanks to the work that we will continue far into the future.
I’m so proud of the important work that I am a part of here at Wildlands League, to protect the natural world. My mother’s love fuels my work for nature each day.
Thank you, Mom. For planting the seeds of loving nature, sowing joy in wilderness, serenity in the forest, rejuvenation in water and grounding in the soil beneath my feet.