Announces 2016 Scholarship Winner Announces 2016 Scholarship Winner is proud to announce that Alyson Skidmore is the winner of $500 scholarship from in 2016.

Alyson Skidmore is studying Chemical Engineering as a first year student at the University of Waterloo. When she is not studying or working, she loves reading, swimming, skating, playing the piano, and exploring new places. She has a passion for discovering beauty in small things, and hopes to someday travel the world. She loves seeing where life takes her as she embarks on each new chapter of her life. Whether it be in an engineering career, through writing stories such as this one, or simply being involved in her community - she strives to seize new opportunities to make a positive impact both on those around her, and the world.

We thank Alyson for participating in our scholarship contest and wish her success in her education and pursuing her dreams!

Please enjoy reading the essay by Alyson Skidmore entitled, ‘Waiting for What?’.

Waiting for What?

Sitting in the parlour working on my knitting I heard the knock on the kitchen door. Curious as to who might be looking for me at 3 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon, I set my half-finished afghan on the armrest and made my way across the room. Opening the old white-washed door, I looked down to see a young girl of about five standing before me clutching something to her chest, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“Now what have we here?” I asked, surprised.

 The tears just kept coming, so I stepped aside, making room for her to enter. She plopped herself on a kitchen chair and gently laid her bundle on the table.

It was a bird. And the bird was dead.

Mind you, I just varnished that table a week ago, and never imagined a dead animal finding its way onto the freshly shined surface! Alarmed, I looked to the child for an explanation.

 “I found it on the r-roadside just past the corner,” she wept. “It was twitching and calling out for h-help! So I put her in my pocket, but she s-stopped moving as I was passing your house. I d-don’t want her to d-d-die!” she managed to sputter before bursting into another passionate bout of snot-covered tears.

“Now, now,” I patted her back tenderly, knowing all too well what loss feels like. “Let me get you a cup of tea. Milk and sugar?”

Moments later, her little hands clutching the sides of the flowered mug, I explained there was nothing we could do for her bird-friend, who thankfully was now no longer suffering. When her tears were exhausted, I assured her that together we would give it a proper burial under the old oak tree in the backyard.

As we set about digging the grave, I got to thinking about the creature’s final minutes: unbearable pain, clutched tightly to the dirty dress of an innocent child, exhausted from the fight for life. What do you suppose it was thinking – if birds think at all? Did it simply give in, knowing the end was inevitable? Or did it fight for every last breath? I suppose the final destination was the same, regardless; here in the shade of this peaceful old oak.

My Thomas and I shared a love that had transcended the ages even though we always did have our differences. He never could understand my idea of death – that when it’s your time to go, it’s time to go.  No heroic medical procedures to prolong the shadow of life. Thomas, however, believed life was a fight, and to give in would be selfish - to admit defeat. “Think of the others!” he would always insist.

At times, I tried to see things from his perspective. Yes, he would be leaving behind a lot – our 8 kids, 13 grandchildren and a brand-new great-grandbaby.  But when Thomas was dying, it was difficult to ignore the fact that there was an awful lot of pain being brought into my big, love-filled family. I saw the anxious looks, the aching hearts, and the fearful eyes. I felt my own helpless agony, as I held his hand praying that God would soon take him. But I couldn’t argue with his wishes - he had always been the fighter and he fought until his last breath.

Our children struggle, just like he did, to see things my way. I suppose that’s the way we raised them though, so it’s only natural that they all have that fighting nature. They tell me that the world needs me; that they need me. They say I wouldn’t be doing anyone any favours by leaving them behind, and maybe that’s true. But to me, the truth is that if I couldn’t spend all day in the garden, go to my Thursday night bingo or lost my ability to do the things that truly make me happy, why would I want to stick around? I live my life one day at a time, and it’s these small pleasures that make it worthwhile. My family may tell me now that they need me around, but I’ve seen what it does to loved ones sitting in a stark hospital room day after day, week after week, waiting for – for what? For the patient to slip into a coma, lose touch with reality, or be unable to recognize her own grandchildren?  I couldn’t ask that of my dear ones.

There’s all this talk nowadays about palliative care and euthanasia. I don’t know much, but I just think that if it’s time for me to go, no one should deny me that right. I view each day as a gift, but with 84 years and 8 kids under my belt, I think I’ve done my part. After all, Mark Twain did say that, “A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” Of course, I know not everyone agrees with me, not even my own husband. But thank goodness he loved me anyway!

Now, watching out the kitchen window as the little girl bounds down the steps, her soiled yellow sundress flying out behind her, I count my blessings that I’m still in good enough shape to handle a little taste of adventure. My thoughts wander back to the little bird, and I say a prayer of thanksgiving that its final breath was within the comfort of loving arms.

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