Myrna Jean Burnfield, nee Waugh
March 18, 1938 - October 20, 2012
On October 20th around 5pm I received the phone call that I have been equally expecting and dreading. My mom finally lost her battle to Alzheimer's. I love my mom dearly but I really lost her 5 years ago as the disease took her mind. I was surprised at my reaction to her death. I had said my good-byes and was at peace, or at least I thought I was.
I did not sleep that night, by 6am I was at the airport waiting to fly "home". It was hard leaving Sean and Robbie but it had to be done. I did sleep for a couple of hours on the plane. As I got closer to Toronto the tears kept coming and coming.
Mom's funeral was held on October 23rd.
Here is the talk that I gave at the funeral. There were slight changes made but overall this is what was said:
Good afternoon. Today I want to share some of my memories of my mom.
Everyone knew of my mom's addiction to Diet Pepsi, in her car there were always at least 2 cases of pop. Sometimes though, when my mom would go to bring in a new case she would find it empty. Us kids, the grand-kids, maybe even the neighbours had taken some.
Barb's daughter Angie said the other night that Aunt Myrna was her favourite Aunt and as mom hated to be called "Aunt Myrna" Angie made sure to call her "Aunt Myrna" every chance she got. Mom also hated being called "Mrs Burnfield" or "Sister Burnfield", it was always Myrna.
When mom still smoked she was in Utah visiting Edith, Nate and the kids. It was winter and there was someone visiting Edith. Kira and Josh put on their coats and boots. When questioned why, the simply stated they were going outside to have a smoke with Nana. That was when mom stopped smoking.
About 10 years ago I was talking to mom and she mentioned that she did not like Joel calling her Nana. He was too old to still be calling her Nana, she probably would have liked Joel to call her Myrna but I told her that she was always going to be Nana to her grand kids and great-grand kids.
When I had Robbie Mom came out to to Edmonton to help me. She told me that everyone was asking if Robbie was her grandson or great-grandson. I understood the question since it had been 10 years [edited: oops, my mistake, got Moranda's age wrong] since her last grandchild had been born.
Mom loved having her back scratched. I know that I could get almost anything I wanted from her if I scratched her back first. Borrow her car or money, just scratch her back first and it was mine. At times she would have you use a hair brush gently on her back.
I am pretty sure that Grace and Valerie are still traumatized by mom's use of hairbrushes. I know that I am. Mom would brush our hair by starting at the top and pulling hard not stopping for any tangles but ripping your hair out in the process. Maybe that is why all of us girls had short hair when we were young.
Just before I was married I was looking at my adoption certificate as it was with my birth certificate and saw the date of finalization. I quickly called my mom and asked her if she knew my adoption had been finalized on her birthday. She said "yes" and that I was the best birthday present she ever had. So being that I can be a brat and as the baby of the family I claim that I was her favourite! Although I don't think mom would ever admit to having a favourite. She loved all of us and were proud of all of us.
No matter how many grandchildren mom had she was excited for each new baby. Mom actually did not like babies, she preferred toddlers and preschoolers when they were able to do "something". That seemed to change when my son Robbie and Joel's son Benjamin were born, both were preemies and tiny. With Robbie she spent most of the time she was visiting me holding Robbie and watching him. I know she spent a bunch of time doing the same with Benjamin.
Mom was always coming out with things that would make you think twice and most likely laugh. The past few days I have heard mom called: a sweet spirit, generous, loving, giving and funny. That is how I hope we will all remember mom. The wonderful woman she was before the Alzheimer's took her mind.
As proud as mom was of all us kids and grand kids we are proud that she was our mom and Nana. We will miss her but she lives on in all of us.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Things that I meant to include but forgot in my grief:
- one day I found a secret stash in my mom's closet, what was the stash? Math text books! Mom liked working her way through math problems! Maybe that is why I decided to major in math...
- mom had what seemed like thousands of blankets on her waterbed. No matter how hard I tried I could never sort out her blankets to make her bed properly.
- when I finished my degree my family went together and bought me a beautiful watch to commemorate the day. Mom took me to get the watch engraved, she suggested that we engrave "at last". Ok, it did take me 6 years to finish my degree but still...
- On the first anniversary of Edith's death mom and I spent the day together. First we went to the Toronto Temple grounds. While walking around we both found benches and sat and had a little bit of private time to remember my sister. I sat praying that mom would feel Edith's spirit. She did, mom told me that she felt Edith along with her mom (Maria Waugh). After we left the temple grounds we went to the grave sites of our relatives that were buried in Oshawa. Every year I tried to call mom on June 30th to see how she was doing. Mom always said that I was the only one the remembered, I don't believe that but maybe I was the only one to actually ask mom how she was doing.
- One day when Jesse and Camielle were about 18 months old they were having a fight over "my nana". They kept going back and forth with "my nana, no my nana". Being a brat I simply said "no, my mommy". I am not sure who gave me the dirtier look, mom or the kids. And no, it did not stop the two from arguing whose Nana mom was.
- After dad died my family moved back to spend time with mom before the Alzheimer's got too bad. Living so far away we did not realize how things had already progressed. When we would take mom for a few hours or a day to give Grace a break my husband termed it "Nana-sitting". It broke my heart realizing that the mom I remembered was no longer.
- When mom went to the Temple for the first time she wanted to me to go with her, she said that she did not trust Grace or Valerie, see I was the favourite. I was unable to go but mom wore my Temple dress, it was too big but luckily the style made it ok.
- If I had the chance I would like to ask mom if she purposely died on Mike's birthday. I have often heard Mike, Glenn and my husband Sean say that they had the best mother-in-law. Maybe she was just making sure that Mike remembered her.
- When I called to tell mom that I was pregnant I called her "Nana". Mom's response was "what do you want Cassie". When I said that it was me she asked why I was calling her Nana and not Mom. Mom was so happy for me that I was finally getting to have a baby of my own.
Family Portrait, 1971 or 72
Grandpa Waugh, Aunt Viola, Uncle Walter, Mom and their kids, 1973?
(I'm the cute one in the very front)
Mom and I, around 1974
Mom and her daughters, 1978-80?
Pictures of Mom and Robbie
Meeting Robbie for the first time at the Edmonton Airport, July 2005
At Jer's house, August 2006
Most of the family (missing Mark's family), August 2006
Just before returning to Edmonton, August 2006
February 2007, in Newcastle