Dan Walz M.C. & Celebrant Dan tells another touching story about Mom and her mothering and love of Michelle & Leah. Dan: I’d now like to introduce Stacey Wowchuk who is going to read a letter written by a fried of Kathy’s, Helen AbenReynen, who upon hearing of Kathy’s death immediately called and talked to Gene.
Stacey Wowchuk Reads a Letter from Helen AbenReynen When I heard of Kathy’s death I told Gene the story of how Kathy and I met around the story of dolls and her Inuit doll created by Ayowna Emiktowt. Gene asked me to share this story with you. ~ ~ ~ Kathy Walz shares one chapter in a story of love spreading forth from the Canadian Arctic inside a prayer for the healing of relationships – a breathing artwork created with the women and youth of the Kivalliq in Nunavut. It is a work of love. [Stacey adds a comment along the lines that there is something about Northern Canada that is love and stays with you forever.] Here is how Kathy Walz’s soul touched the heart of the child within an artist, me, Helen AbenReynen and the artists of 2007 Kivalliq Inuit Doll Festival Exhibition and Story-telling Traditions. I moved to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut after graduating from Simon Fraser University as a visual artist. My work was deeply personal and imbedded within faith and works meditating on a mantra of “teach only love” focusing on the healing of relationships.
Stacey Wowchuk Reads a Letter from Helen AbenReynen When I moved to Rankin Inlet, I continued this prayer and meditation. As I walked around town in one of my darkest prayers, the word “dolls” sounded and rang clear. It was how we would connect spiritually and artistically. I brought this word to the women artists and asked if they would like to create an exhibition of dolls and show it in the south. They said yes and began with the hope of bringing mothers and daughters together. I went south and began a labour of love that still continues to grow. The Burnaby Art Gallery said yes for a touring exhibition. When I returned, the women said “show us the $.” And that started me in a tailspin… We were now a group of women coming together. The Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre became the place of refuge and support from which I could write grants.
Stacey Wowchuk Reads a Letter from Helen AbenReynen We were successful in receiving $40K from Economic Development for a one week workshop that brought in two women from each of the seven Kivalliq communities. The doll you see here was created by Ayowna at that first workshop… where Ayowna spoke of why the doll’s face was indistinct. She did not want anyone to laugh or ridicule it or the Inuit. She was so respectful and honoured her race, culture and beliefs. She wanted the person who saw it or purchased it to respect and value the doll and the Inuit as she did. I traveled to the other communities and met Ayowna in her hometown of Coral Harbour. Word was getting out that I was the “doll” lady. Soon after, it was during the census taking of 2006, that Kathy caught wind of me and was insistent that I show her some dolls the women were sending for 2007 K.I.D.F.E.S.T and subsequent touring exhibition. Nothing I could say would discourage her. I was overwhelmed with this “growing responsibility” and cross I was bearing for the work, women and “doll project”. The secret was out … I had the dolls and Kathy wouldn’t give up. I succumbed to her bright eyes, smile and pleasant and heartfelt desire to see the dolls. I agreed to show her a couple. Now I knew the dolls entering my home were special and filled with the spirit of dignity, love and respect … but I had no idea of the impact they would have on another. Kathy soon showed me the spirit of a doll and the strength in the heart of a woman. I will never forget that afternoon with Kathy sitting on my living room floor delighting in the first few dolls I showed her. Then I went into the ”Crawl Space Gallery” as it was nicknamed later, and crawled out with Ayowna’s doll.
Stacey Wowchuk Reads a Letter from Helen AbenReynen As we unwrapped Ayowna’s doll, Kathy began to cry freely. She sat on my living room floor for twenty minutes crying. Tears of love, of joy, of pain, of sadness and sorrow, and happiness. She shed them all. I sat there with her … and when Kathy was finished, we crawled into the “crawl space gallery” where I showed her many, many more dolls sent by the 40+ women from the seven communities. We sat in the crawl space and chatted as girls and women do, sharing our hopes and dreams and telling stories. Many were of her love for the Inuit and people she met in the Arctic. She also shared a story of her work with dolls and children and a special acrylic doll house she had constructed called “The Secrets House” … a safe place where children could tell their secrets that people told them they had to keep. We chatted for hours and sealed a friendship that will last forever.
Stacey Wowchuk Reads a Letter from Helen AbenReynen But that’s not where Kathy’s story ends. She wouldn’t leave until I promised to call the artist. She wanted to buy Ayowna’s doll. Now you must understand that I was creating a work of art that was grounded in faith and was about love. It wasn’t about “selling” or becoming a retailer. That wasn’t me. I was bounded to this work in a spiritual way through prayer and committed to teaching only love. The work was about the “heart” and “soul” of the people… it was about connecting with the heart … and becoming more than the sale of a doll. I told Kathy so … she still wanted me to talk to the artist and kept at me until I promised. The $ was not an issue. Through Kathy’s support, persistence, perseverance and genuine caring, she pierced her way through my walls and fears. I called Ayowna … together we came up with a price … and then added some more as a donation to the PKFC and called it $1000.00. Ayowna would receive “southern price” for her work. I was still hoping Kathy would say no. BUT SHE DIDN”T!!!
Stacey Wowchuk Reads a Letter from Helen AbenReynen And in that moment, I began becoming the woman and artist I am today. Kathy’s love of life, the Inuit, her doll, and people inspired me to continue despite the obstacles, challenges, fears and emotions that would come. Kathy helped me understand when to set boundaries, when to be flexible, and most of all listen with my all my senses. Her support in that one moment, where she trusted and believed in me, was all I needed at times when I really wanted to quit the doll project. I could see her at my door, I could see her on the living room floor, I could hear her laughter in the crawl space, I could see her eyes twinkle in our kitchen, I could see her waiting for the return of her then touring doll as I spoke with the women and families of the Lethbridge Textile Surface Design Guild who purchased eleven dolls, displayed them and then donated them to the Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre where they would always be there for the children and Inuit of the Kivalliq. I can see Kathy smiling now knowing that she loved well and was loved and who she was mattered. I can see Kathy smiling now knowing that she loved well and was loved and who she was mattered.
Stacey Wowchuk Reads a Letter from Helen AbenReynen Kathy helped me believe and stand in myself, Realize that together we can, Never give up. There is beauty in all. And above all there’s joy in keeping promises, loving and letting go. I love her with all my heart. Qujannamiik Kathy ᖁᔭᓐᓇᒦᒃ
Dan Walz M.C. & Celebrant [Dan: Says something like, “What a beautiful story and I can tell you, as I am sure you know, Kathy was not one who cried often, so the impact of the doll was profound.”] I’d now like to introduce Kathy’s daughter Leah who is going to pay her tribute to her Mom. Leah…
Leah Walz Daughter Over the years I have given a lot of presentations, and I often prefer to tell a story which I feel captures some of the essential themes and ideas that I want to cover, and includes “typical” quotes or events. But with Mom, I thought: “certainly no one story can do her justice.” I will try nonetheless.
Leah Walz Daughter It was December of 2004, and I was home for the holidays after a pretty devastating (and unexpected) breakup with the man I had been living with for the previous three years. Some retail therapy was in order, so mom and I proceeded to go on a what-not-to-where-style search for a whole new wardrobe. Amongst the more mundane purchases were a few special items: 1) a gorgeous pair of red high-healed “break-up” boots, which, despite my reluctance – and assertions that I had nowhere to wear them – mom talked me into buying. 2) A sequined gold and white “naked” tank-top, which, despite my reluctance – and assertions that I had nowhere to wear it – Mom talked me into buying. 3) Two pairs of dark grey-blue jeans, which, despite my reluctance – and assertion that I didn’t need BOTH pairs – Mom talked me into buying (do we see a pattern?)
Leah Walz Daughter She was on a mission to rebuild my self-esteem, and together we joked that the silver lining to the ugly ending of this relationship was that I looked GREAT!! (I hadn’t been able to eat much of anything for weeks and had dropped a dress-size or two.) A week or so later, decked out in one of my new outfits, my dear friend Stacey (whom you just heard from) and I – to my mom’s delight – crashed the Christmas party of an old friend from high-school. There I met a man that I now affectionately refer to as “The rebound guy.” He has since been replaced by a truly wonderful life-partner, but as far as rebound guys go, he was perfect, and exactly what I needed at the time. My mom understood this.
Leah Walz Daughter A few days later, my plans with the rebound guy were threatened by a classically brutal Winnipeg blizzard. As our family sat around the kitchen table having dinner, Dad was adamant, “You are not going, you are not driving downtown to see this boy, you can see him another day.” Against all reason – and in a fit of “Leah Logic” (as my Mom liked to call it) – I was equally adamant that I was going and that it would be fine because we lived on a main street that had already been plowed, as did the rebound guy. With perfect hindsight, I can now see that this was crazy-thinking. Mom was relatively quiet …
Leah Walz Daughter After much back and forth, and some frustrated tears on my part, mom decided: “ok, grab a bottle of wine from our supply and I’ll drive you to the mall. You can take the bus from there.” She knew how much I needed to go, and she was determined to help me to get there. So we hop in her car (she did not yet have her beloved Hyundai SUV!) and back out of the garage … and halfway down the drive-way we are totally and completely stuck. She turns to me, with no annoyance in her voice, and says – “Oh shoot, now your Dad’s going to be able to say ‘I told you so!’ ” But knowing that Dad is in the basement, so will not see our plight, Mom and I trudge back up the driveway, grab a couple of shovels and proceed to try to dig the car out – keep in mind this is in a full-on, howling, 2-feet-of-snow-expected, BLIZZARD!
Leah Walz Daughter “ Leah”, she says after a bit of shoveling, “I’m sorry, I don’t think this is going to happen, but let’s at least try to get the car back into the garage”. A few minutes later, shovels in hand, we hear a low rumble above the sounds of blowing snow – it’s the bus! I look at mom, she looks at me, and without a second thought she says… “GO!”. I grab my bag, the bottle of wine, and laughing at the hilarity of it all, I RUN after that bus… and I’m on my way. I later learn that Mom (and Dad, once he noticed) spent the next couple hours shoveling our driveway to get her car back in the garage – yet when I tried to apologize for the fact that I’d been a selfish a-hole, she would not accept it. “ You have nothing to apologize for – it took about 10 minutes of shoveling to get the car back in the garage, then I just figured that we’d have to shovel eventually, so why not now?” That was my mom.
Leah Walz Daughter Sometimes I lose perspective on how amazing she was, because she was the only mom I ever had. Strong, selfless, compassionate and kind, she had an understated wit and hyper-developed sense of empathy. She was certainly no-nonsense and never pollyana-ish, but she was also fiercely optimistic. Whenever I worried about finishing a presentation, a project, or even my thesis, she said simply “you’ll get it done – you just work better under pressure.” (FYI, I wrote what I am saying now this morning, after stressing out for days that I had no idea what I was going to say. She was right again.). And whenever I worried more broadly about what I was doing with my life, she was always reassuring without being condescending: “ everything will work out – it always does.”
Leah Walz Daughter They say that people die as they live, and that is certainly true of my mom. Those who met her for the first time after her cancer diagnosis saw how special she was. Never one for self-pity, everyone was impressed by my mom’s strength and inventiveness (for getting around the house once she could no longer walk, or SIT, for example), touched by her kindness, and amused by her dark humour. “ You know the best thing about having terminal cancer?” she said, popping a jujube in her mouth, “ you can eat whatever you want!”
Leah Walz Daughter Taking care of my mom these past few months was, as they say, “the toughest job I ever loved.” There were many painful moments, but there was also a lot of joy and laughter. We always had a special relationship; she was my mom but also my dearest friend. But she was also a role model for the kind of woman that I hope to become, and the bravest and most caring person I’ve ever known. In a quiet moment, mom told me that she was not afraid of dying, but that it hurt her to think about how hard it would be for those she left behind. She was a role model for the kind of woman that I hope to become, and the bravest and most caring person I’ve ever known.
Leah Walz Daughter I had all this time, alone with her, to tell her how much she meant to me – yet so much went unsaid. “ I love you, Mom,” I said to her on the phone from Montreal the night before she died (she had insisted I go home for a few days, because I needed a break), “and I’ll see you tomorrow.” Those were my last words to her. I wasn’t ready to say good-bye – and I just wasn’t ready – but I also know that that day would never have come. Mom, I’m sorry that you will not be here to see the tulips you planted, or to have that cup of coffee on the deck. You were the only Mom I ever had, and you were amazing. You were always there for me. Always. And there are no words to describe how much I will miss you.
Musical Interlude Roger Whittaker – Momma Mary Tell me how did you feel when the angel came into the garden? How did you feel? How did you feel? When he said "if you're afraid I beg your pardon, but you're the one to bear god's son." Tell me how did you feel (how did you feel) how did you feel (how did you feel) Oh Momma, Momma Mary, we wish you joy, we wish you joy. Oh Momma, Momma Mary, your little boy, your little boy Soon to be our saviour. [Michelle & Leah sing along] Tell me how did you feel on the final day How did you feel? How did you feel? When you arrived in Bethlehem to hear them say "No food no table, save in the stable" Tell me how did you feel (how did you feel) how did you feel (how did you feel) Oh Momma, Momma Mary, we wish you joy, we wish you joy. Oh Momma, Momma Mary, your little boy, your little boy Soon to be our saviour. [Michelle & Leah sing along, Michelle replacing Momma Mary with Momma Kathy] Tell me how did you feel when the wise men came to see him? How did it feel? How did it feel? When shepherds and kings with precious things adored him it had begun, here was the one. Tell me how did you feel (how did you feel) how did you feel (how did you feel) Click to Watch/Listen on YouTube
Musical Interlude Roger Whittaker - Momma Mary Oh Momma, Momma [Kathy], we wish you joy, we wish you joy. Oh Momma, Momma [Kathy], your little boy, your little boy Soon to be our saviour. [Michelle & Leah sing along]