13 Year Old Angel
JHD is a monster disease but Phoebe did not let the disease define who she was. Phoebe loved animals, including stuffies, but especially horses and seemed to have an incredible connection with them. She connected easily with people, even those she only met briefly or even not at all. She had a beautiful spirit that was so kind-hearted and yet mischievous at the same time. She loved to hug and so many people had the pleasure of feeling how great her hugs were.
She was always a great traveler and enjoyed her many trips to River John to see her family there and her road trips through the Black Hills and the Rockies. She travelled to the Black Hills of South Dakota to see wild mustangs, and her Mom and Richard will always have those incredible memories. She flew to England with her Dad and spent an amazing three weeks with her family there where she went on a safari, enjoyed an outdoor play, horseback riding and loved the sting rays at the aquarium. She spent time in Alberta attending Stampede, visiting several ranches, and enjoying time with her family there. Our visit to the see the Gypsy Vanners was incredible, where we had a bbq with the loving Hickey family and ended up on a float in a parade in Rimbey. At the Guhle Thoroughbred Ranch, she stole the heart of Mayday Maria; a normally standoffish horse who spent a half hour communing with Phoebe. That event will be ingrained in her Mom’s heart forever. She visited BC where she camped, whale watched and was enthralled with the baby goats thinking her wheelchair was something to eat and Phoebe was a rock to climb on. She flew to Give Kids The World Village to spend a week exploring Disney and what an incredible memory for all of us to see her so engaged and smiling at Anna and Elsa when she met them. She also got to see the HRP horses at their Stables.
We always referred to Phoebe as being on a journey, and we are so proud to say that she was never alone on that journey. The MacDonald family provided immense support that was a source of inspiration as a model of unselfish community assistance. A special thank you to the people of the Eastern Shore who helped us navigate the many hurdles in our journey and to our friends at Big Al’s and the surrounding communities who rallied together to support Phoebe.
A special mention for her friends at her beloved school Porter’s Lake Elementary, she adored each and every one of you as you continued to surround her with love and support throughout her decline. The teachers and staff at PLES were a huge part of Phoebe’s life and we will never forget you for all you did for her. The care and support provided by the entire team at the IWK was exquisite. A special thank you to the nurses and doctors in PMU, MSNU and ICU. We are so very fortunate to have such an incredible facility in our province for our children. Joe, Ellen, Elaine, Stacie, Shauna, Jordon and Katherine, each of you will always have a special place in our hearts for the incredible support you have provided Phoebe, and to her Mom and Dad through what was singularly the hardest journey anyone should ever have to make with their child. Thank you to the RCMP and EMTs of Musquodoboit Harbour and to Heather, Vickie, Michelle and Brittany from continuing care and our private LPN, April. To Marcy, Susan, Michelle and all the many homecare workers at Northwood we thank you for everything you did to help Phoebe feel more comfortable. To our dear friends Brenda and Laura, and Nannie and Grandolf, thank you for always being there.
There was a Celebrations of Life for Phoebe. People brought a rock of any kind for Phoebe’s cairn, so Phoebe may rest surrounded by the love of those who knew her. April 21, 2006-July 9, 2019.
During Phoebe’s illness I found out about Assateague Island. Located off the coast of Maryland / Delaware it’s a refuge for wild horses. Imagine Sable Island with a causeway. I had thought that one day I would take Phoebe on a road trip to see the wild horses of Assateague. Alas, JHD had other plans. Her decline was too fast and her care too much.
In honour of my sweet girl, in March on my own road trip back home from Myrtle Beach with my parents, Phoebe’s adoring Grandolf and Nannie, we detoured and went to Assateague. It was flat, sandy, boggy and everything I imagine that Sable Island is.
My heart ached as I grabbed the little vial of ashes I brought with me. We were one of the only cars there. It was cold and windy and it looked like deep sand. I asked Mom and Dad to stay in the car. I wanted to go alone. I got out of the car and the wind was bitter. I waved to Mom and Dad. Then turned back to the sea and the task at hand. The sandy footing was soft and although I didn’t see any horses there were many signs that they had recently been there. The wind whipped my hair back behind me and I leaned forward into it and forged ahead along the path over the sand berm. The view was incredible even with the cold wind and overcast skies. I looked along the beach and it was empty of anyone else except for a couple cuddled together for warmth a few hundred feet north of me.
I started talking to my girl imagining my words carrying to her through the wind as it whistled by my ears. I turned south and walked near the waters edge. The waves crashed into the shore line and I had an inkling of how hard it must be for the horses who lived there, with little to no food, shelter or fresh water in sight. I picked up a small rock … a white shell … a seagull feather.
I turned back towards land and saw a wooden marker and headed that way. I continued my running commentary to Phoebe as I approached and found a perfect spot to leave her ashes. I gathered up some of the sand into a little pile and poked a hole into it. I poured the precious ashes into it and covered it over and placed the little treasures I had found around and on top of it. I said goodbye and told her to take care of the horses on the island. As I left, I looked down and found a tiny white downy feather. I imagine it was there when I knelt down but of course I want to believe that it was Phoebe leaving a sign. After all, it was windy and something so light should have surely been blown away immediately and not stay lying at my feet. We always said white feathers meant an Angel was nearby. Maybe she was. I’d like to think that.
Not far from that spot as I headed back to Mom and Dad waiting in the parking lot I found a purple shell. It’s just a piece of what I believe is a mussel shell. But it’s so very purple. Several shades of purple, from pale to deep. And it’s so smooth as if it’s been worn down by the ocean and rocks for many years. I picked it up and slid it into my pocket. My hand reached inside and I realized how soft it was and the shape perfect for your finger to run back and forth over it. Purple was one of Phoebe’s favourite colours, so it meant more because of that.
I wiped my tears and went back to the car. We drove a bit further into the park and saw our first real signs of the horses close up. There were two mares and a young filly. She was a handful. We all imagined Phoebe laughing at the “Rod Stewart” hair. Her mom was trying to eat and she kept pulling the grass from her mouth. It was so sweet and so funny. I got a couple of photos of her with her mom. But missed the best one with all of her hay in mom’s mouth and the little monster stealing it from her lol. She rears up at mom in one then mom is correcting her in the next one. Little unruly teenager! We’ve all see them – haha. I hope that Phoebe found her and is watching over her. She was especially cute and precocious like my bee was. As we headed back to the main road we found one lone mare trodding along the roadside and we got a video of her too. She looked like she’d had enough and was headed for the causeway. Phoebe would have loved every single minute of it. I miss her so very much. I thought on this, her first Angelversary, I would share this adventure I lived for her.