A Sweet Childhood Memory – The Littlest Angel

It’s less than a week before Christmas. I’m not a huge fan of the day (after all, I’ve spent more time in synagogues the past 15 years than anywhere else!), but I do have a childhood ritual that I have re-visited often over the years. And it all has to do with a grumpy little angel.

The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell.

The Littlest Angel

When I was growing up in Montreal in the 1960s, part of what made Christmas so special for me and my two younger sisters was lying in bed on Christmas Eve night and listening to the legendary Paul Reid broadcast The Littlest Angel on CJAD Radio. It was 20 minutes of magic that endures today for me, despite the fact that it’s obviously decades old and a bit dated.

Why does this story of a little angel who’s finding it hard to fit in stick with me? I’m not what you’d call religious, so it’s not that.

It reminds me of happy times. We didn’t have much, my mother was raising the three of us alone, but she always made sure Christmas happened for us.

And Paul Reid’s voice, a voice silenced too young, was unforgettable – gentle, comforting and with a hit of humour.

It’s a treasure. Give it a listen. I’m going to.



A Special Day in November

Sometimes on certain days, events that touch us collide unexpectedly. Today, the 17th of November, is one of those bittersweet, triumphant days.

First, there is the reminder of someone no longer here.

My husband Dave would have been 71 today. That’s young by any standard, but he didn’t live long past his 66th birthday five years ago, when I tied a balloon around his IV pole in the hospital, and he was mortified about that.

His heart condition debilitated him a great deal, so on his birthday I always post a photo of him where he looked healthy and vital. He deserves that.

Photo by Cathy BrowneHappy Birthday dear. We miss you!

November 17th also affects me on another level.

It’s World Prematurity Day, which draws attention to the issues and challenges of premature births around the world. Prematurity is the world’s number one killer of young children – something that shocked me in this day and age.

But today I prefer to focus on the miracles, the triumphs, the joys that come after the early struggles, the sleepless nights in the NICU, the hoping and praying. There are kids who’ve defied the odds, who are living their lives despite limitations and challenges – or perhaps, because of them. There are kids who’ve grown up and are well into adulthood and even middle age.

There are kids like me.

Sixty one years ago, I was born very early, and weighed around two pounds. I was exposed to too much oxygen in the incubator, which thankfully saved my brain and lungs,                                                                                                                                 but destroyed the delicate eye tissues. But I survived, and thrived – due to a mother determined to keep me in ‘normal’ school, supportive teachers and family members, and a love of learning that spurred me on to become the first person in my family to graduate with a B.A.

I’ve had a long career in PR, I’ve become a familiar presence on social media, and I’ve found my passion in photography. Not bad at all, I’d say.

We’re a scrappy lot, we preemies. We’re survivors. And I am happy to celebrate all of you and your families today.

Photo by Cathy Browne

If you are the parent or grandparent of a preemie, or know of a special preemie who deserves to have their story told, head over to the World Prematurity Day Facebook page, where you can share stories and videos about your baby or a baby you love and learn from families around the world. The World Prematurity Day page also features a digital world map where the public can add their story to the interactive map.



Remembrance – and Remembering

Tomorrow, I’ll be joining thousands of Vancouverites in Victory Square for Remembrace Day ceremonies, remembering the sacrifices of brave men and woman through many wars. I’ll be capturing special moments on camera. So today, on Day 10 of my #NaBloPoMo adventure, I’m honouring an uncle I never knew, and also cherishing the memory of another man who meant the world to me.

My uncle, John O’Donnell, lost his life close to the end of WWII at age 23, robbed of a future, and taken from his loving family too soon. Here is the description that I discovered with the photo…

O’DONNELL, Lance Sergeant, JOHN JOSEPH, D/26811, 22nd Armd. Regt., Canadian Grenadier Guards, R.C.A.C. 26 February 1945. Age 23. Son of Frank and Ann O’Donnell, of Montreal, Province of Quebec. Grave Ref. XXII. A. 9. GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, Netherlands.

JohnO'Donnell.MontrealGrenadiers.WWII.diedMarch1945I’ll never forget the effects of war and loss on the family, friends, lovers and of everyone lost in such conflicts. But I always remember someone else on November 11th.

Back in 1969, when I was 15, I lost my grandfather, Frank O’Donnell on Remembrance Day. He was my best friend and I still feel his loss like it was yesterday. He raised eight kids in Montreal’s Pointe St. Charles neighbourhood, lost his son to war and his wife to heart disease far too early. He loved the Canadiens, Labatt 50 and Export A cigarettes. When I was a sickly infant born way too soon, he walked me up and down the hallway, whistling softly.

CAB_49701He never stopped whistling, or caring for me. I learned to say Jesus Murphy because of him! And he was a constant source of love and support to my mother and her three girls through tough times.

He called me Caddy. I adored him. I never stop remembering him.

He was a chemist. He would have liked that Dave was a chemist too.



Love you, Gramp.

I Remember…

On this Remembrance Day, I am remembering my uncle, who never got to see his many nieces and nephews, and never got to have kids of his own. My mother misses him to this day. He died so close to the end of the war…

Thank you, Uncle John. Thank you to all those brave and wonderful men and women who fought and never came home. Thank you to those who served and are serving still. And than you to all the families and friends who love and have loved all these good and honourable people. We must never forget.

O’DONNELL, Lance Sergeant, JOHN JOSEPH, D/26811, 22nd Armd. Regt., Canadian Grenadier Guards, R.C.A.C. 26 February 1945. Age 23. Son of Frank and Ann O’Donnell, of Montreal, Province of Quebec. Grave Ref. XXII. A. 9. GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, Netherlands

I’m also remembering my grandfather Frank, who died on November 11, 1969. He was my best friend. I love him still.

Who are you remembering today?


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