My cousin Connie died in 1997 due to complications from multiple sclerosis. She was diagnosed in 1979 and struggled courageously with the disease for nearly two decades. Connie was a talented musician and soloist who performed in a professional choir and in musicals. After obtaining a degree from the University of Manitoba she became a teacher. She was married, working at a private girls school in Toronto and had just made plans to begin a master’s degree in history when she found out she had MS.
On Sunday, May 6th some twenty-five of Connie’s family members–cousins, aunts, her Dad, sister and niece, and even a great-niece, participated in the MS Walk in memory of Connie. We raised over $1,500 for the MS Society. I was so glad that for the first time I could join the team because I was no longer living abroad.
My cousin Connie and I were born just nine months apart and she was my first friend.
We played together.
She came to my birthday parties. In this photo Connie is on my right
We sang together. Here we perform carols at Christmas for our grandparents. My sister Kaaren is to Connie’s right and in the front are my cousins Albert, Bernie and Robert.
Connie is right in the middle of a clutch of cousins in front of the Christmas tree, when we are about ten years old. Connie was the eldest of 17 cousins. During her years with MS,when her mobility was compromised and she couldn’t go out much, she used her time to start a family newsletter to keep all of her cousins in touch with each other so we would be aware of what was going on in one another’s lives.
At Connie’s funeral we cousins formed a choir and performed a song called The Great Storm is Over. I was privileged to be asked to give a tribute to Connie during the service. Connie’s parents my Aunt Margaret and Uncle Dave had requested Connie’s memorial service be a time in which we truly celebrated her life so I talked about the many positive ways Connie had influenced me. Felt markers were handed out at the cemetery and we could write messages to Connie on her coffin before they lowered it into the ground. As they did so, a bouquet of balloons was released into the air.
I thought it was appropriate that colorful balloons surrounded Connie’s team when they took our photo at the University of Manitoba’s Max Bell Centre just before the walk began. Along the route I got a chance to walk beside many different members of our family and invariably at some point our conversation included memories of Connie.
I’m so glad Connie’s niece Caryn organized a team for the MS Walk. She deserves a great deal of credit for her initiative and her dedication to her aunt’s memory. I’m already looking forward to next year’s walk. I hope even more family members will join us as we raise money to help end a disease that not only impacted our family in a devastating way, but continues to cause heart-break in thousands of other Canadian families.
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