Remembering a wonderful woman … Dawn McCourt

While thinking of stories and memories of mom, I wanted to revisit the eulogy I wrote celebrating her life:


Since mom’s diagnosis and passing I have heard from so many people of what an honest, down to earth, genuine and caring person mom was. She was warm, sweet and loyal. Mom was an artisan with many crafts. I grew up knowing her to be a seamstress, as we grew older her interests expanded to include painting and more. She was a night owl who spent many an hour after the rest of us were in bed working on her art. Of course, when else could she get a few minutes to herself?


… Click here to read more …


November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month!

Leaning into Sharp Points – 50BookPledge – Book 11

Leaning into Sharp Points ~ Dr. Stan Goldberg

practical guidance and nurturing support for caregivers

This is a response that is long overdue. Not because I read the book long ago and didn’t write it, but because I received a complimentary copy from the author to read and review back in March. It’s not a difficult read from the standpoint of its writing, nor is it overly long, I simply had to put it down a couple of times because the topics being covered were more difficult for me to read than I’d anticipated at the time. From a grieving perspective, I simply wasn’t where I thought I was yet as I began reading.


I did not have an opportunity to research what it is to be a caregiver before my role as a participant in my mother’s care had come and gone. Her time requiring our care was ultimately short and left no time to consider what it might even mean for those us who cared for her.


Dr. Goldberg has a lot of experience in a multitude of ways with the topics of hospice and caregiving. He has written a book for caregivers that addressed the caregiver’s role and what they need to know from a personal perspective. It’s written such that as a caregiver of a loved one I can know what to expect and have some inkling of how I might handle specific situations as they arise. He approaches the topic with care and concern. His sensitivity for the intimacy of this relationship comes through clearly.


While I found the book especially relevant for those providing long term care of a terminally or chronically ill loved one, pieces of it were relevant even in the short caregiving relationship I had with my mom. What I found might be especially useful for caregivers is the practical information provided. Such as a short description of what active dieing looks like, or how to approach problems with memory or changes in personality, such that the impact on how we provide care to our loved ones can be as positive as possible.


I would happily recommend Leaning Into Sharp Points to anyone faced with the decision to care for their loved one. I hope it can bring the kind of guidance and support that Dr. Goldberg intends by it during one of the most challenging times that may ever be faced.


Payten’s Cuts for Cancer

You would be so proud of Payten, mom.

We had such a wonderful day and she is so excited to be raising funds to support the Look Good Feel Better campaign. We’re going to work on thank you notes for donors next week.

Payten exceeded her goal and well ahead of time, so we headed to the salon for a spa day. I worried a little that she’d be upset when her pony tail was gone, but she was so brave and excited! We arrived at the salon and Payten was anxious to tell everyone there that her plan was, to get a “pixie cut” like our cousin Brittany and donate her hair to Tamara Wig in her Nanny’s honour.

Payten told Ian Marc, the owner of the salon, (and our hairdresser Rachel’s dad) what she planned. It turned out that his client was also cutting off a long ponytail with the intention of donating it, but hadn’t decided where to. She gave her ponytail to Payten to include with her own donation. Payten loved that.

Mom you should have seen her beaming when that ponytail came off and as her new style took shape. She couldn’t wipe the grin off of her face and loves her new “do” so much!

She brought a photograph (the one of all of us at Disney) to show people who her Nanny was. Payten had Rachel and another hairdresser near tears seeing how sincerely happy this little eight year old was to do something to help, in her Nanny’s honour.

Payten asked me photograph the event step by step. I’ll include the series here. She also gave me permission to include a copy of her letter that she is including with her hair donation. Her funds raised are up over $600 in just several weeks.

Your sweet girl has done us all proud mom!

From PaytensCutForCancer

14 March 2012

Hi my name is Payten Muise and I just donated my hair, for Tamara Wig and when I was getting it cut, someone was also donating there hair. So instead of sending it herself she gave it to me to send to you. I am 8 years old and I live in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. I have one sister, my beautiful mom, my handsome dad, my step dad and my step mom. And the reason I am donating my hair is because when my Nanny was sick my mom gave me the idea of helping people with cancer like my Nanny. So if you can accept the extra ponytail that is great! Thank you!


Payten Muise

Before                                                                  After


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Raising funds & donating hair in loving memory of Nanny – my 8 yr old

*Please visit her Giving Page to make a donation

At eight and ten years my children are extraordinarily compassionate for their ages.

Our household has supported a lot of campaigns at their wish. When the fundraising info is distributed at school they take the issues at heart very seriously. We have and continue to participate in raising funds for Terry Fox Foundation, UNICEF, and the food banks. They have completely jumped on my bandwagon with Team Diabetes in their Auntie’s honor. And now, my youngest has another campaign that she is very passionate about.

For more than two years she has been growing her hair to donate for a wig for someone who has cancer. When her Nanny passed away two months ago she became all the more determined that she do so. Her hair is long enough for the donation and so she has decided to use this opportunity to raise funds for an organization that helps women with cancer.

Her Nanny did not live long enough after her diagnosis to benefit from such a great organization, but Payten believes they do wonderful things for those going through such difficult times. She has arranged with the Look Good Feel Better campaign (CCTFA Foundation) to fundraise on their behalf in my mom Dawn McCourt‘s memory. You can learn more about them at their webpage.

Payten’s hair will be donated to Tamara Wig, another campaign of the CCTFA Foundation, after she meets her minimum goal of $500.

I think she is capable of raising much more, and I hope you’ll help me show her!

Please visit her Giving Page to make a donation, and please share this message with as many people as you can. Help my 8-year-old fulfill her dream in her Nanny’s memory!


Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter @ceilidhontherun, email me at ceilidho at ceilidhontherun dot com, or use my contact form!

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What would mom say? And a small #12er update

I thought about mom so much today. And yet, I felt I had very little time to think of her at all.

I screwed up my baking and knew mom would have a good laugh with me about it. Reminding me that I usually prove to her that I did not get my baking skills from her. That it was likely just a hiccup in an otherwise wonderful talent.

There is so much happening that I wish I could talk with her about, from challenges with family, to my plans to get back into a good state of health. I’d love to share all the little details of the business I am considering, to hear her thoughts of what I could do to make it my own.

I want her to walk through the door with her exaggerated exclamations at all of the progress we’ve made in settling into our new home. She’d ask after my 12in12 challenge, and how my quest for greater joy in the big picture of life is going. She’d offer me encouragement at my set-backs and bad pain days, and she’d share with me how she feels/felt the same way sometimes. Mom would find the little celebrations, like how I’ve managed to walk everyday (yippee, today is day 25!), and she’d wonder at how fortunate it is that we bought that treadmill.

Mom would remind me, as if I might have forgotten, of what a good man I have found in Ian. How she knows he only wishes for my happiness, and that I only have to ask and he’ll do everything in his power for me. She’d point out all of the things she’s noticed about how he’s taking care of me, of us, of our family. She’d share again her happiness at our marriage and assure me that she was there with me cheering us on.

She just couldn’t hold on any longer.

She’d be saddened at how some things have unfolded since her passing. But she’d assure me that one can only do so much, and that I have to take care of myself, so that I can take care of those precious not-so-little-anymore girlies. She’d remind me that she’s here in all the wonder of life around us. She’s watching over and keeping an eye on dad out there all by himself.

Mom would ask after the books I am reading, and whether I’m still enjoying the book club. She’d ask after my friends. She’d tell me how much she’s enjoyed my photo projects and the annual family photo calendar I created and gave them again. Mom would have so much to say and ask of me, while as always sharing very little about herself.

The one thing she’d tell me of herself is how much she’s aware of my heartache and that she wishes she could take it away for me. She’d tell me that she remembers how hard it was when she too lost her mom far too young. When she’d had to comfort her children who’d lost their Nanny too soon, and look out for her dad on behalf of everyone, including her mom. She’d want me to be comforted in knowing that she eventually grew to accept her loss, and that I too would come to live on in her absence – finding joy in all of the little things and even more in all of the big things.

Mom would remind me that she’ll be here with me/us in every new dawn.

And for that, I thank you, mom.

12 in 12 – Month 1 – Day 2

30 minute walk complete.

Weather was really awful, and I had no idea what time to expect my children to be dropped off by their dad, so I opted to use the treadmill to get my walk in anyway in the morning. After reading more from Steve Kamb about barefoot running on Nerd Fitness I decided to try barefoot walking. I could definitely feel a difference in my stride, etc. Otherwise, I came off unscathed. Perhaps I’ll try again sometime.

People ask when I have a regular fitness routine how I fit it all in. Having a treadmill certainly helps. I actually don’t mind walking on the treadmill … because I can read! Try doing that safely outdoors! (I’ll admit to listening to audiobooks when walking/running sometimes though). I’m reading a light read right now: “Knit the Season” by Kate Jacobs. It’s book three of a series I quite enjoy about a bunch of women with intertwined lives and friendships.

Somehow every escape story I have turned to since mom’s passing has had something in it about a mother (or other parent) dieing, and frequently of cancer. This is no exception, which I’d forgotten, however that actually happened in a previous book. Now people are getting on with things. Hopefully that’s me/us too.

So that helped to get the walk done, thanks to a little prodding from my hubby.

The rest of the day was spent finishing putting Christmas away, researching online, and shopping with my girlies.

Tomorrow? Who knows, but there will be a 30 min. walk in there somewhere!

How are your new year’s resolutions or 2012 commitments coming?

Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter @ceilidhontherun, email me at ceilidho at ceilidhontherun dot com, or use my contact form!

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Finding our new normal

The grieving process has so many aspects to it. We grieve the loss of our loved one. We grieve the loss of our future as we envisioned it. We grieve the loss of our daily normal life as we knew it.

For those of us directly effected by that normal daily life it can be the most challenging, emotional, exhausting part of grief.

When my ex-husband and I split up 6 years ago this was most definitely true for me and our girlies.

When we lost my 59 year old grandmother suddenly to liver disease 25 years ago, this was certainly true for my grandfather.

Since losing my 59 year old mother after a short illness with cancer 4 weeks ago, this is absolutely true for my father.

Nothing prepares us for the grief or loss in such circumstances. It is raw. It is ever present. It comes in waves. And it overcomes us.

There are no tried and true answers. There is no remedy for grief. Time is the ultimate healer. Yet, I do try to assist this process along.

Holidays and special occasions bring with them added intensity to feelings. Some of our traditions and rituals bring great comfort with the wash of happy memories that come with them. Others bring an unanticipated painful flood of raw grief.

It’s not possible to stop the hurting, nor is it healthy to try to do so. However, I have found that creating new memories and traditions that will be associated with them have brought comfort. The things that I have found most challenging to face, I tried to change in some way. Letting someone new take it on, or doing it in a new way, and creating a joyful association with the new rituals that will continue with our new normal.

The firsts are always the toughest. This will be our first Christmas without my mom. We will all be gathered in my home, which became the new tradition after my girlies and I moved back to Nova Scotia. Every Christmas that I have them home with me, we host and the girls get to sleep in their own beds before waking up to the spoils of Santa’s mid-night visit. Christmases without my children are very different, and intentionally so.

This year I will prepare mom’s Christmas brunch on the eve. We’ve asked my grandfather to provide a soup for Christmas Eve that he hasn’t cooked for us since he remarried. Mom won’t be here to overfill the stockings with her little extras that could fill a stocking each on their own. I decided to take care of everyone’s stockings myself rather than try to recruit help when no one is in the spirit. And this year my sister, dad & I will prepare the feast without mom’s singing to keep us inspired.

There are gifts under the tree from mom. These will be emotional and special in her all-to-obvious absence. It’s also far too reminiscent of a Christmas long ago, when the three of us kids unwrapped some very special knits that mom’s mom had completed, right down to the wrappings before she became ill herself.

Yet, it will be the first Christmas in six years that dad will have all of his children under the same roof as he. The first ever that all of his children and grandchildren will be. It will be the first that we are all together with my grandfather (mom’s dad) and wife, and my uncle (mom’s brother), just like the many Christmases after we lost Nanny.

Family drawing together to guide one another through a difficult and bittersweet time. Drawing upon the children for the joyful spirit that most of us aren’t naturally inclined to this year, we’ll make it so for the girlies.

A celebration of the life of Dawn McCourt

Everyone who knew my mom knew that she was … the type of person that makes an impact on people, things and places.  As my cousin Nick wrote to mom: “Everywhere you go, people end up loving you.  That’s one heck of a personality you have.  Anyone who knows you is lucky to have met you.”

Since mom’s diagnosis and passing I have heard from so many people of what an honest, down to earth, genuine and caring person mom was. She was warm, sweet and loyal. Mom was an artisan with many crafts. I grew up knowing her to be a seamstress, as we grew older her interests expanded to include painting and more. She was a night owl who spent many an hour after the rest of us were in bed working on her art. Of course, when else could she get a few minutes to herself?

She would never call herself a great cook, although most of us would argue otherwise. Most of her “concoctions”, as she called them, were very tasty! However, she was once awarded a shellacked cold mini pizza for all of the wonderful meals provided by mom when dad and his co-worker arrived home late for dinner and were often presented with cold pizza.

Mom especially never claimed to be a baker. As many know, mom joked about making burnt offerings. Once when asked to provide for a community event she even cut the charcoal bottoms off of her biscuits and sent just the tops because there was no time to bake more! Perhaps they were destined for a Seinfeld episode. In our house we joked that we knew cookies were made by mom, by turning them over. And mom often claimed her cookies were intended for dunking in tea!

Mom made friends everywhere, and touched people in ways that only she could. Even as cancer overcame Mom’s body her beautiful, radiant spirit shone through. She was someone who found the good in every person and situation. She lived with no regrets, and appreciated everything her life had provided her. After being diagnosed and learning her prognosis, mom told us that she had lived a great life, that she is happy with everything – she had no “bucket list”, so to speak. That which she had wished for, had already come to be.

Always living up to her name, Mom was a vibrant life force with a sunny smile. We will always remember her in every new dawn, however our family all know that mom could count on her fingers the number of times she actually woke early enough to see the sunrise! Sunsets were more her thing.

Mom loved to laugh, her laugh was infectious, she laughed hard and she laughed well. She brought the healing of laughter to those around her. When mom and her friends got together it was not unusual to find them in tears, laughing so hard they could barely catch their breathe.

Mom was born in Clinton, ON in 1952. When mom & dad were teens both of their airforce families lived in Whitehorse. Mom was 14 and her best friend was the sister of dad’s best friend, Jerry. Mom had such a crush on dad that she and Janice went banging on windows while my then 16-year-old father babysat! Both families moved on to new postings and after dad joined the R.C.M.P. he was stationed in Halifax. Jerry gave him Uncle Alan’s number to catch up with the Smith family who then lived in Dartmouth. The rest is history, or so I’ve been told. However I’ve since learned a little more about how Mom became a “mountie’s wife”.

When dad was being transferred again he decided he couldn’t let mom get away. After just two short months of dating dad proposed to my then eighteen-year-old mother. The midnight mass on Christmas Eve had finished and he proposed in the pouring rain in the church parking lot of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Mom always called our family a bunch of gypsies. Two air force brats turned Mountie family, moving from place to place she always saw her life as an adventure. How many other careers paid you to see the countryside and learn so much about your nation along the way?

She loved to travel, often with family and friends joining her. Family road trips crossing the country in a van & camper or trailer, vacations to far away places likeHawaiion an anniversary, Japan to see my brother’s home, or painting workshops with friends.

Ever the diplomat, Mom chose her words carefully, yet wished to always express her thoughts, feelings and opinions to those around her. Just ask Dana’s high school boyfriends about mom’s hotseat! I assure you the only friend of mine who ever sat there did so because of his connection with my little sister’s boyfriend! 😉 Mom never wanted to use any offensive language, and had her own words to make certain references like: “tooting” and “pain in the derriere”. But we’ll always cherish memories of her greeting us with her smile and a “hi, sweet girl!”

Even when singing to her grandchildren she tried to keep things equal. My Nanny sang a song to us as babies called Dolly Dimples, each verse with a different nickname for her beloved grandchild. Mom sung the Dolly Dimples verse to Nanny’s little girl, and Lizzy Lucy to Grampy’s.

Nanny always had time for her girlies, providing her ever-flowing encouragement, just as she did for everyone she came to know. She loved having her grandchildren around her, and especially having time with them on their own. Nanny & Grampy took Breanna & Payten camping, cared for them when I needed support of my own and had an annual routine of taking them to celebrate Canada Day at the Balcam Centre. She was always so anxious to see her girls upon returning from Florida after a long winter away.

Mom was always the communicator in the family and every year she wrote a long newsy “Holiday letter” (the Christmas letter, rarely did make it into the mail on time). She often spoke for both she and dad, for which dad was always so grateful. Mom would occasionally feign the need to use the washroom just as the phone would ring at home in order to force dad to pick up and talk once in a while.

Always very determined, mom has shared with us many times, stories about her 50 mile walk in Whitehorse when she was the first girl in at 13, after a grueling walk in her army boots! Her determination to live and love life shone through even during her final days. Just as in good health mom, found joy in the simple things of companionship, love, laughter, sunrises and sunsets, and the incredible surroundings of the home she and Dad created on MacLeod’s Cove.

Mom put aside her personal comfort to provide for the needs of everyone she cared about. Even while she was sick recently she dropped everything to attend to me when a migraine hit suddenly. When I called mom we could have a twenty minute conversation (and how often was it ever just a twenty minute conversation?) and I might not get the chance to ask a single question about her – when I did, she’d tell me about dad.

When mom walked in the door of our place she never failed to notice the changes that made our new house more like home. Mom always made me feel special, loved and good. Good at what I did, good at parenting my children, good at being her daughter. My mother taught me so much about living a real, genuine life. Enjoying and appreciating what I have, and that I always had her undieing love and support. She taught me to cherish my family first and foremost.

On behalf of mom and the rest of my family I want to thank the Health unit at the Sheet Harbour hospital for their wonderful support, as well as the community of Port Dufferin and Sheet Harbour who have provided countless meals, words of support and encouragement and more during a very difficult period. The depth with which Mom has touched so many lives is evident in the number of those present today, in the cards, emails and supportive gestures offered by so many. She was loved and respected by so many more than could have ever been imagined.

DO right now. That which is most important.

Have you ever thought about what you want from life? Have you ever REALLY thought about it?

What is MOST important to you. If you had to make sacrifices in your life dreams, what could you absolutely NOT miss?

Since my loved one was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I’ve found that my priorities have become all the more clear to me. What have I identified as being the MOST important? Family.

I’ll bet if you took a real hard look at your own, you’d say the same.

Why is that even when we KNOW our greatest priorities, we rarely treat them as such?

How many of us are guilty of letting life get in the way?

Remember that old saying? “Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?… When it comes to relationships of any value to you, it’s more like: “never put off until tomorrow what you value today…”

I’ve been completing some projects that are really important, but just hadn’t gotten done. Have been making some decisions that were being put off and most importantly, have been putting the most important people and activities to the top of my priority list. It is so unfortunate that it takes the circumstances of a loved ones’ sudden terminal illness to wake up. Don’t let that be you.

Do today, right now, what is important. Don’t put off the things that you most value in life.

Tell your loved ones how much you care about them. Give hugs. Talk about the important stuff. Most of all make the time to have no regrets.

Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter @ceilidhontherun, email me at ceilidho at ceilidhontherun dot com, or use my contact form!

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