Mar 19, 2018
Shirley Muriel Smith passed away peacefully on Monday morning, March 19, 2018. She was 78 years old.
Shirley was born in 1939 at Milton, Nova Scotia and moved west to Port Alberni on her honeymoon in 1958.
Predeceased by her husband Ronald Allan Smith, she is survived by her two children Roland and William; two grandchildren Deidre and Meagan; her sister Barbara and brother Walter.
Shirley lived a very fulfilling and vibrant life. She was blessed with many talents, some of which included joining the Glee Club in school, and later singing in the Milton Quartet, an accomplished cake decorator, an amazing creator with arts and crafts, enjoyed travelling, spending valuable time with her grandchildren, and was a member of the West Coast Hospital Auxiliary. She was frequently heard saying “so much to see and so little time to do it in”. She worked at City Hall, Alberni Pulp and Paper and Vancouver Island Stevedoring, all in Port Alberni.
When Shirley was in her early 70’s she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As the disease slowly took over her health, piece by piece her lifelong skills and memories were erased. She lost the ability to perform basic skills, carry on a conversation, remember friends, and eventually, she didn’t recognize her family. The disease reduced her to a mere shell of the vibrant person and life she previously led. While Shirley may have forgotten, she shouldn’t be forgotten.
Robbed of her lifelong memories, Shirley’s long goodbye found her sitting quietly in Echo Village, forgotten by people she loved during her life, and now at a time when she needed them the most, didn’t have time to see her.
Like so many people living in health care facilities, each individual story of why they are now living in these facilities provides each of us a teaching moment. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s Disease finds a prejudice to remember people for who they were, not who they evolved into, especially if the circumstances make us uncomfortable. If we love someone, that means we love them for who they are, where they are, and for what they are. Shirley’s life didn’t end because she went into a facility. It just changed due to circumstances beyond her control and her life’s story took an unexpected turn. It certainly wasn’t her choice to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. However, this was the life she was meant to live and this was her road.
So, the last chapter of her life played out differently than what we would have chosen, that’s all. We must all be mindful not to feed off our fears and see folks suffering from Alzheimer’s negatively. Life teaches us that when there is darkness, there is always light. Supporting those who suffer from Alzheimer’s provides each of us the opportunity to bring out the best in our humanity, and this is our moment to lean into the light and shine. Our message to those who have loved ones afflicted with Alzheimer’s is to find the courage to step into that space with intent and purpose to be the light for the patient in need. Shirley had all of her memories erased, but she always responded positively to the most basic of all human needs. Validation. Do you see me, and do I matter?
Our gratitude and sincere thanks to the incredible staff at Echo Village for their continuous loving care for our mother, Shirley. The exceptional kindness of the staff did not go unrecognized by us.
Cremation and interment has taken place. There will be no service and a private family gathering will be held at a later date. The family requests in lieu of flowers, that donations be made to the Alzheimer’s Association in Shirley’s name.
Shirley will be remembered for the wonderful woman she was.
This is where we leave you……………..sail off into the beautiful sunset Shirley.