Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tribute to Teresa

Last Monday, my cousin and dear friend Teresa passed away.  She collapsed near the end of her daily early morning run and couldn’t be resuscitated.  All week, I – along with everyone who knew her - have been struggling to comprehend how someone so vibrant and full of life could be gone just like that.  I know it happens all the time, but it shouldn’t have happened to Teresa. She was the life of the party, the centre of attention, a presence in every room she entered, and always had something funny to say about everything.  She was a wife and mother to three beautiful children.  My heart aches for them and I feel so sad for the huge hole she has left in their lives and many others.  I know that my loss is nothing compared to that of her husband, kids and family, but I’m devastated at losing such a close cousin-friend (I never know whether to call her my cousin or my friend, so I sometimes combine them).  A lot of you knew her, but for those you didn’t, here’s the story of our cousin-friendship.

I was born five months before Teresa and it always pleased her greatly that she was younger than me.  When we were little, Teresa lived about 20 minutes away (which was far when you live in the country), so I didn’t see her as often as I would have liked.  When she was 13, her father passed away suddenly and shortly afterward, she and her family moved closer to us.  I was so happy when she started going to my school in grade 8, and we became very close.  She lived just over three miles away and we would bike or drive our dirt bikes to each other’s houses.  We spent so much time together - driving around in her old green pickup truck, going to the Morris Super Variety store for slurpees and to rent movies, watching satellite TV in her basement, camping at Falcon Lake with her sisters, hanging out at school, going to the city together, and lots of other things I can’t mention here.  We’ve shared a lifetime of inside jokes and experiences that no one else would find as funny or as interesting as we do.

After high school, Teresa and I stayed close.  We were each other’s maids of honour, and we hung out a lot with two other cousins and their spouses.  We all went camping at Falcon Lake every summer and had so many great times.  When Dale and I moved away for five years, she sent many letters and her and Anthony came to visit us a couple of times when we lived in Toronto.  The day we moved back to Winnipeg shortly after Chloe was born, she and Anthony helped us move into our new place.  It was the first time Teresa met baby Chloe and the baby gift she gave us was a doll: Chloe’s beloved Sophie, who still sleeps in her bed to this day.

All of us looking awesome in Toronto in 1996

Ever since we moved back, we’ve seen each other regularly. When our kids were little, we’d get together during the day for play dates and swimming lessons and lunch.  We’d also get together as families on weekends and she was always the leader, the planner, and the organizer.  She booked our annual fall weekends in Grand Forks two years in advance.  She organized our summer weekends at the yurts, Canada Day festivities, birthday celebrations, and dinners out.  She loved to entertain and was an amazing hostess who made you feel welcome from the second the front door opened.  We all loved going there; she made us fancy drinks, delicious appetizers and amazing main courses, but it was dessert I looked forward to the most.  I was never disappointed.  She tried new recipes, which turned out every time.  (She laughed at me because I’m an unadventurous cook and almost every time they came over here, we’d have fajitas.)   

One of the things I’ll miss most about Teresa is her sense of humour.  She was irreverent, sarcastic and had the quickest wit of anyone I’ve ever met.  She could find something funny in every situation.  She loved laughing.  She loved funny people.  She loved funny TV shows.  Every time we got together, I knew my face would be sore from laughing so much.  Her and Dale loved to tease each other; they would often disagree about things and they each always KNEW they were right.  She brought out the funny in others – I was definitely funnier when she was around (or at least I thought I was!).  The world feels less bright and less fun without her in it.
Teresa loved being the first to wear a new fashion, download a new song, try a new trendy restaurant or see a movie on opening day.  She was beautiful and rocked big earrings, a black leather jacket and her aviators.  She had style and the confidence to pull it off.  She had determination and passion; she got up early almost every single morning even in the dark dead of winter to go for a run, followed by an online workout (or maybe she did the workout first, and then the run?).  She ran a half marathon many years ago, long before it became popular.
She was a hard worker and involved in so many things.  She was creative, she loved efficiency, and people who said yes.  For my 40th birthday party, she made Dale lists of what he needed to do to prepare.  It was a long, detailed list, with everything from renting dishes to making sure there was a big rug on the floor by the front door for people to put their shoes on.  She baked the cakes and brought food and flowers and helped make it a great party.  She baked my birthday cake almost every year and always gave me fabulous presents.  In my heightened awareness this week, I’ve realized she’s given me a lot of things that I use all the time: my purse, jewellery, dishes, and the painting in the dining room, just to name a few.  One of the things she gave me this Christmas was a book called “Girlfriends Guide” with all kind of different personal topics in it.  When she gave it to me, she said, “I don’t know why I got this for you; we talk about everything in there already.”  I’ll miss those talks so much.

Me, Teresa & Lorie in December
I know I’m making her sound too good to be true.  Like everyone else, she had her imperfections.  She had strong opinions about a lot of things and rarely admitted she was wrong (she’d say that’s because she never was).  She took charge of things even when you didn’t necessarily want her to.  But I loved her and always knew she cared about me, so I didn’t mind.  She was the glue in our circle of friends, and my stomach hurts at the thought of carrying on without her. 
I wish I’d called her last weekend.  I wish I’d brought her a frappucino as I drove through Rosenort two Fridays ago.  I wish I had told her I’d recently started using the running app that she’d been ranting and raving about for years.  I really, really wish we’d gone to Cuba with her & Anthony and Doug & Lorie in March.  Most of all, I really wish I could tell her all of this in person.  She’s impacted my life in more ways than I even realize, and I know part of her will always be with me.  Keep her family in your prayers, hug your own family, and do your best to live with no regrets.

Here’s the link to Teresa’s full obituary.

(Comments are very welcome.  Because of spam comments, I changed the settings - you can still comment anonymously without a Google ID, but your comment won't appear instantly because I need to approve it first to filter out the junk.)


Daniel said...

Beautiful, Ellen.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ellen. I am so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute to your cousin-friend. Shalom, dear friend.


Anonymous said...

I was grinning ear to ear reading this, until I got to the end. Your regrets. Such small things to regret and yet it's those damn small things that mean so much.

It's hard not to have regrets when someone we love dies, but if we didn't, we'd never know just how important the small things in life really are. "Enjoy the little things in life for one day you will look back and realise they were the big things."

My regret is never having met Teresa. I am so glad you wrote this and linked us to her obituary. Teresa was an amazing person and she will truly live on in the hearts of those who knew and loved her. And she has inspired those who did not have the privilege of calling her "friend" to live life for the now, and in the fullest way possible.

Thank you, Ellen.

Thank you, Teresa.



Anonymous said...

I've been waiting for this post-to read your tribute to Teresa. Well written-great images of special person.
-Cousin Carolyn

Anonymous said...

Very well written Ellen. I guess I'll have to step it up a notch or two!! Next time you text me a question ill do more research. I was reading Sio's comment and while scrolling down I saw the bottom where it said:

Thank you, Teresa


I didn't see Sio till I scrolled down farther.

Anonymous said...

Ohhh Ellen. What a beautiful Tribute to my sister Teresa. It's like your heart was speaking the words. I find it so comforting to hear about your friendship, and I am so thankful she had you as a friend. Teresa loved you soooo much!
ps. Ellen also wrote Teresa's beautiful Obituary! What a Gift to us.-thank-you Ellen.

Anonymous said...

Good Job Ell,
You truely have a gift with words, you did such a great job both today and with the obit! I have been reminded also, to try to live with fewer regrets!

Julie said...

Perfect tribute, Ellen, and obituary, too. (I wondered if you'd written it.) I watched the funeral online this week; I wasn't going to, but I'm glad I did, because it truly did celebrate Teresa's life. She sparkled.
Keeping her family & you in thoughts & prayers.

joan said...

Oh Ellen, what a beautiful tribute....my heart is so heavy for you...love you.