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.



My Heart Breaks for Paris

Evil descended on the City of Light this evening.

There aren’t enough words to describe my horror and heartbreak on what’s transpired in Paris. It’s beyond my comprehension.

I was working on a totally different post, but now, I’ll just leave this here.

Our world is being destroyed by hate. Innocent people are losing parents, children, grandchildren, spouses. The insanity needs to stop.

Bless you, Paris. I’m holding my memories of you in my heart tonight.

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.

Coming Back

It’s been a while since I’ve been here, but today seemed like a good day to come back.

I can’t believe it’s November already. The year has been hard and sad and challenging and heart-breaking and oddly peaceful and even joyful at times.

In January I went to visit my dearest friends Dick and Barbara after not seeing them for two years. And with that visit came the realization that Dick was dying. Although I knew deep down that it was only a matter of time before his ailing heart would give out, I wasn’t prepared for the small, frail, and greatly changed man I found.

I tried to articulate what I felt on Facebook:

“We all fear looking death in the face. We put it off, we make excuses, we hide. Even when it involves people we care for.

Then, a decision is made. We go to be with the friends who need us the most – and it’s not as scary, because you’re there, you’re hugging, even laughing, and you’re back into your usual life with them.

But you’re not. You know it’s different. You know there’s a finish line, somewhere. There are eggshells to walk on, even if you’re trying to remain ‘normal’. There is no normal.

And after I got back home to Vancouver, the reality hit me hard. That’s when I grieved for the man who introduced me to Judaism, who got me even more interested in politics, and who even taught me how to shoot a gun at an indoor range. It was a very sad spring for me.

And then in June, I was called back. An hour and a half after I arrived at the house, I watched Dick slip away, so quietly that for a moment I wasn’t sure he was gone. I told him that things would be OK, and that we’d all be there for Barbara. And I whispered the Shema in his ear – a prayer that is dear to the heart of every Jew. It was the last thing I could do for him.

He was buried on June 26th, his 75th birthday, with a flag-draped casket and military honours and many friends. He would have loved it!

I stayed on, helped out where I could, saw old friends and went to the synagogue where I always felt I belonged. It wasn’t always easy, but I’m happy and grateful I was there. As hard as it was, Barbara and I tackled a ton of challenges head on, got things done and laughed, a lot. I even got her on a Mac, for better or worse! I will treasure every minute I was there, and the deep and abiding friendship I have with a wonderful woman. I hated to leave.

And now I’m back home. It’s time to re-group. This post is the first step. In fact, I’m going to challenge myself to post every day this month as part of #NaBloPoMo something I’ve never done before.

It’s a scary prospect, but it’s a start to let everyone know I’m back. I’ll be showcasing my photography, checking out events in and around Vancouver, sharing my world with you, and ultimately, hopefully, building up enough presence again to help get the paid work I need and deserve. This gal’s not done yet!

Baby steps can lead to walking, then running. I will run, soon.

Wish me luck.


Marking Another Birthday

My husband Dave Kane would have been 68 today. Hard to believe. Two years ago, when he was in St. Paul’s Hospital for heart and kidney failure, I bought him a balloon and attached it to his IV pole. He was embarrassed, but he walked around with that sucker all day:-)

Thought I’d post a pic of him when he looked good. Many people I know never saw him that way…

Happy Birthday dear. You are missed.