Joan Pitcher - 1933-2012

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My mother, Joan Pitcher, passed away quietly last night (Dec 19, 2012) at 11PM EST.

Her final wishes were that she be cremated with no ceremony, and her ashes scattered at the cottage she loved so much. I will have a memorial gathering for her at my home in the spring of the new year, before I complete her request.

Thank you all for the sympathy and support you have shown her and me these last weeks and months; we both are grateful for your kindness and friendship.

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The recent events that ended with my mother's passing started in the summer, when my mother started battling what she thought was a bad chest cold. It lasted a month or so, and culminated with her being admitted to Barrie's Royal Victoria Hospital in early September. The doctors fussed about her, treated her with antibiotics, and (as far as I am aware) never came to a definitive conclusion as to what the problem was. They suspected either TB or cancer, but could detect neither in her lungs.

No sooner had she been discharged from the hospital (late September), then my brother Bob was admitted to it. He has been of poor health the last couple of years, and finally admitted that he needed help. The doctors couldn't do much for him this time; his alcoholism had compromised his liver, and he passed away on October 13.

I stayed with Mom for a week at that point, handling Bob's funeral arrangements, getting her to and from doctors appointments, and generally helping her grieve for the loss of her younger son.

Terry and I had scheduled a cruise vacation for November (a transatlantic crossing that would take a little over 2 weeks), and I asked mom to "house sit" for me while we were away. She spent the first week feeling progressively more ill, and finally returned to Barrie to have herself admitted to Royal Victoria Hospital with severe breathing problems. We were well on our cruise, and a day out of the last port, headed for Miami, when I received a message telling me that Mom had been admitted to the hospital in Barrie. As there was no way to speed my return at that time, and I just kept daily contact with Mom and the hospital through my aunt Josie. When I finally returned home, I immediately went to Barrie, and have spent the last month attending to my mother in the hospital ICU daily, and managing her affairs as required.

A week ago, Terry and I met with Mom's doctors for the bad news. They told us that she wasn't going to recover from the respiratory problem that got her into the hospital, she has an inoperable, difficult-to-treat abdominal & liver cancer that would claim her life within a couple of months even with aggressive chemotherapy, and she has a digestive problem (severely aggravated by the side-effects of the cancer) that was preventing her from taking food other than through intravenous. In other words, the doctors have no cure or hope for her.

The next day, the ICU doctor discussed situation and alternatives with my mother, and she reluctantly accepted the bad news. The doctor asked, and Mom decided, on how they were to proceed.

On Tuesday morning, the doctors drained several litres of fluid from my mothers abdomen (fluid that was a byproduct of the cancer, and causing some of her respiratory and digestive problems), and removed her from the respirator. Over the rest of the day, Mom had many visitors from both the Bertrand and the Pitcher families, along with the constant companionship of close friends Terri & Steve, and visits from old friends Carolina, and Don & Jean.

Mom slept fitfully, Tuesday night, and finally requested some sedation in the early morning. During Wednesday, more family and friends visited, as mom slowly descended. Finally, at 11PM, she quietly passed, with the love and support of her closest friends around her.

Mom asked to be cremated, and her ashes scattered at the cottage on Kimball Lake.

Over the last week or so, I have gone through many of her personal papers. Today, in her box of personal correspondence, I found a poem written by Penny Thacker and published in the local North York newspaper in 1973. Penny was one of our cottage neighbours, and she and her husband and 4 children built their cottage just down from ours, in 1967 or 1968.

A Postcard

Please come,
I have to show you everything;
the trees, green, incredible,
hide-and-go-seek thick;
the children, helter-skelter,
laughing, splashing,
the lake, sun splintered,
cool between your thighs,
underneath cold,
and afterwards, the rocks
flat and hot against your belly.
Please hurry, my love,
I have to show you.

This is how my mother remembered the cottage. This is one of the many reasons that she loved it so much.