Sunday, 11 January 2015

Jacqueline (Jackie) Elizabeth Cyrus - Feisty Fighter Extraordinaire

Our Jackie died peacefully on Sunday, December 14, 2014 at the Jewish General Hospital. Once an adult, she was treated there for sickle cell anemia. Visitation and funeral for Jackie were held at our little church, St. CHL on de Lorimier in Rosemont.

I have permission from Jackie's family to write about her. She was a character! Feisty. courageous. Determined to get what she wanted. Refused to have her photo taken - or teased us that she didn't like it - so to get a good photo of Jackie, we had to be sneaky.

Jackie was baptized at the Church of the Ascension on Park Avenue, and then attended St. Cuthbert's Church in Park Ex. In 1991 or thereabouts, when St Cuthbert's also closed, she came with her parents to St. Hilda's. I arrived in February 1995 at the same time St. Luke's, Rosemont closed and we became St. CHL. A family of weird and wonderful people from many different backgrounds, churches, countries ... Jackie was 26 at the time.

As tasks and ministries gradually became shared beyond members of the original church, Jackie joined the altar guild. She lit the candles, assisted with setting and clearing the altar, and - being tall - always put the hymn numbers up with great care. It was reported that once when she was in hospital she said, "I hope the people doing the hymn numbers are putting them up straight!" 

Jackie suffered a great deal from sickle cell anemia, was often in excruciating pain, but unless hospitalized, she got herself to church by bus, metro, bus every Sunday. Always early, when asked where her parents were, she replied, "They're too slow!" She'd left them in the dust.

Four nieces and  nephews added joy to Jackie's life, and since she was usually home she helped provide care for them. At the funeral, Thalia told a story: when the children were naughty, Jackie would say, "I'll tell your Daddy and he'll punish you." But she never told.

On February 9, 2012, Jackie was found unconscious on her bed by her parents. 911 was called, she was rushed to the JGH and then taken to Notre Dame Hospital for surgery on a large bleed in her brain. Hope was minimal that she would survive the surgery, and if she did she might not regain consciousness or live a life in which she could actively participate.

Jackie was a fighter. She came through the surgery and bit by bit regained some strength, though remained paralyzed on her right side. Hospital led eventually to a residence. Once she had adapted transport, she was able to  join us at church a number of times to the delight of all. 

During Jackie's healing, her voice was still unclear, her mind fuzzy - we weren't sure of the extent of recovery that might be possible. During one visit, I asked her what hymn she'd like us to sing.  She said, "Your favourite." Ummm... I have a few favourites. We could see the wheels turning during a long pause while she processed what she was trying to get out. Then she said, "414." Astonished we were! 414 is in fact a favourite hymn - God of the sparrow, God of the whale - and my very favourite part is the last verse: 

God of the ages
god near at hand
God of the loving heart
How do your children say Joy?
How do your children say Home?

So many levels of home. A lifetime of living in the mystery of 'home.'

In the end, something failed. Jackie still fought, but it became apparent that no treatments were working. Several days before her death, she told her parents and me through the oxygen mask that she wanted to go home and was very clear that the home wasn't her heavenly home, but "638 Ball" repeated 3 times to be sure we got it. Going home was impossible. But she did go home - another home.

Jackie had come home in herself - accepted who she was and that her life in this world was ending. She loved and was loved deeply.  

She had a twinkle in her eye, and a wry sense of humour. She knew how to tease. She spoke her mind. "Ohhh yes!!" she'd say (implication: "that's exactly what I meant and I'm not changing my mind!") 

Jackie's body was laid out in a light-coloured and unvarnished birch coffin at our little church the afternoon before her funeral. Special markers enabled everyone who wished, especially the four children, to draw images and write words directly on the coffin - an extremely moving opportunity for the children to begin to process death, grief, what Jackie had meant to them - to participate in the experience of loss and sorrow we were all sharing. 

We also placed papers on the table in the hall, asking people to write words or thoughts following the letters of the alphabet. Children and adults participated. A taste of the wonder of Jackie Cyrus.

Jackie - it was a privilege to know you. You touched so many lives and made us better, more courageous people. May you rest in peace and rise in glory.

We love you, Jackie - forever and always.

Some words to describe Jackie…
Please remember, she wasn’t perfect. Jackie was human and real. J

Awesome, amazing, altar guild
Bright, beautiful
Cherished, calm
Determined to get what she wants, devoted
Early, always early, excited for special occasions
Feisty, fighter, fun, faithful, firecracker, fantastic, family
Generous, great, good
Helpful, honest, happy, human
Independent, impish, interesting
Just being Jackie, jolie
Loving, lovely, lit the candles at church
Member, magnificent
Nice, nutty
Always Put out the hymn numbers, pretty
Quick-witted, quiet
Remarkably strong
Strong, stubborn, she was my daughter, and I loved her very much. But she died. Sweet, strong-minded, special
Thankful for what she had, thoughtful, terrific
Unique individual, ummpphh, understanding
Good Volunteer
Wise, wonderful
x-tremely private
Young – always looked young

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