Friday, April 11, 2014

A Wonderful Celebration Of Life For Mom!

This is a very long blog.

The day was bright, sunny and clear and we were all so happy not to have it raining.  We all know that it can really rain in Vancouver!

Eric and I along with Brian and Fran spent the morning getting ready.  Fran had compiled a lovely collection of family pictures for the Chapel and also put together a slide show that would be shown at the Chapel and Kathryn and Gary’s after the service.  The slides were from a huge collection of pictures that were originally slides taken by Norman over the years and then digitized by Ian.  A huge amount of work.  Thanks Ian and Fran!


Doris Brown Spence as a baby.


This is a picture of Eric’s Mom and Dad (Norman and Doris) in front of the church where they were married in Scotland.  They revisited it and this is that picture. 


The funeral service was held  just a block from Kathryn and Gary’s on 6th St. in New Westminster.


This is Eric with Jon, Kathryn and Gary’s oldest son outside the Funeral Chapel.


Mom was born in Stromness, Orkney in Scotland and her wish was to have a piper at her funeral.  This is a friend of Caitlin’s and he did a wonderful job.


This is the only picture that I took inside the chapel.  The five candles were lit by Mom’s five children,  Eric, Ian, Brian, Kathryn and David. 

David delivered the eulogy with humor, dignity and everyone was well informed as to the very full life that Mom had led.

The Eulogy of Doris Brown Tycho (nee Spence)

On May 31,1922, Doris Brown Spence was born in Stromness, Orkney, Scotland, the first of two children to mother Isabel and father Leslie. Just to give you a bit of context, here are a few more events that happened that year.

1. In India, a scrawny little guy by the name of Gandhi was arrested in Bombay for sedition.

2. In the U.K., the BBC was formed and made its first radio broadcast.

3. In Italy, Mussolini marched on Rome and seized power, marking the beginning of Fascism.

Needless to say, Doris lived a very long life and witnessed some of the most radical and innovative ideas and events in social organization, government, economics and technology.

Four short years after her birth, father Leslie moved the family to a farm in Fife, where Mom and her brother George did most of their growing up. Life was hard, but Doris managed to complete her public school studies, and then a teaching diploma at Dundee College, where she graduated in 1942. She then taught primary school for 3 years, at which time she honed her disciplinarian skills. These would soon be utilized in child-rearing experiments.

At the same time, one Flight Lieutenant Norman Ingmar Tycho (a.k.a. Horny Norm the Wireless Tailgunner) was stationed near the town of Leuchars, and the two were destined to meet in 1945, at a dance in St. Andrews Town Hall.

After a whirlwind romance, as was common in those days of uncertainty, Doris Spence married Norman Tycho, on Dec.15, 1945.

Norman remained with the RCAF, flying troops from India back to the U.K. until March of 1946, when he returned to Canada to set up shop for his new bride.

Mom arrived in Halifax on none other than The Queen Mary in July of the same year, then took the longest train ride in the world to Edmonton. After a short trip to Didsbury to meet her cousin Barbara, the young couple went to Dad’s birthplace of Smithers, to live with Doris’s new mother-in-law, Gertrude Tycho.

Not long thereafter, Mom would find herself in a new land, with a new bouncing baby boy, Eric, a husband who was often on the road in his new job, and a Swedish mother-in-law whose English was still a little on the rough side. With Doris’ thick Scottish accent, and Gertrude’s newly acquired English skills, I’d love to have been a fly on the wall and listened in on those conversations.

Gertrude taught Doris to cook, among other things, Swedish cabbage rolls, carefully tied together with pieces of thread. The story of Mom’s first experience with this unfamiliar dish has become folkloric. At the end of the cabbage roll meal, everyone had a little pile of thread on the sides of their plates. Mom, on the other hand, had no such pile. She had consumed every inch of thread served to her.

Norman was soon transferred to the whistle-stop hamlet of Pacific, where they began to set down roots.

“What was I thinkin’?” Mom must have asked herself in her cute Scottish accent, as she and Norm moved into a cabin without running water, and often buried under 10 feet of snow. Life in Canada was no picnic, but Mom soldiered through.

In a couple of years, Norm was transferred to Edmonton, where they bought a house and had two more boys: Ian and Brian. Let the games begin.

Dad was on the road a lot, and Mom, who couldn’t drive, was trapped at home. She took it upon herself to learn to drive and managed to get her license without any help from anyone, exemplifying her independent nature and can-do attitude, and also explaining her lack of attention to detail in subsequent years. Signal before making a left turn in rush hour traffic? Absolutely not. Driving 10 miles an hour below the speed limit in the fast lane and/or speeding through school zones. Simply couldn’t get enough of it.

She soon began to make friends, and adapt to Canadian culture, part of which was learning to sit in freezing cold weather on freezing cold bleacher seats to watch men playing a game called Canadian football. Her initiation was complete: she had become an Edmonton Eskimos fan.

As luck would have it, Norm was transferred again, this time to Vancouver in 1957. Mom told me later that she thought she’d died and gone to heaven, living in the CN owned Hotel Vancouver and walking the three boys on sunny spring days along the seawall near English Bay.

Norm bought a house and moved the family to a new subdivision in Burnaby, a town in transition between a rural past and suburban future. There was lots of bush for the boys to play in, as well as farms and … oops, two more kids: Kathryn and David. Kathryn relates the story of when her neighbor Eleanor Ells came over one day to see Mom bawling in the laundry room.

“You’re pregnant again, aren’t you,” Eleanor said knowingly, Mom nodding her head between sobs.

It was at this time that our Swedish grandmother pulled Dad aside and made the historic proclamation:

“You know Norman, there are ways of preventing this.”

The family complete, Mom set about keeping the entire fiasco from pulling apart at the seams. This included housecleaning to the standards of a notoriously meticulous husband. In today’s vernacular, I believe it's called O.C.D.

There was grocery shopping, cooking and laundry of military proportions. On top of this, there was church, social events, baseball, cubs, brownies, hockey, school functions, homework, picnics, Sunday drives, summer vacations to Calgary to visit the Callies: life was hectic to say the least. And despite the occasional moments of despair, usually set off by something one of us kids or Dad did, Mom did her job admirably, never complaining about her life, and for the most part always being positive and upbeat. Under similar circumstances, I think many of us would have been taken away by men in white suits and placed in a softly-lit, padded room.

As the years passed, the kids began to grow up and leave: First Eric, then Ian, then Brian, then Kathryn, then me. All of us except Eric, mind you, missed the place so much that we came back for stints. I believe it was in 1985 that Dad employed the expertise of a locksmith to help alleviate the problem.

There was peace in the Tycho household, and Dad’s dream of having no kids was finally realized. The peace was short-lived, however, as a slough of grandkids started to appear like weeds: first Krista, then Gordon, then Erika, Jason, Jon, Spencer, Caitlin, Emily and Sean. Doris took the expanding family in stride and loved looking after her progeny. Norm? Not so much.

It was at this time that Mom began to find the time to develop interests that had been put on the back burner for so many years in order to fulfill her maternal duties. We all think of Doris as a mother, grandmother, aunt or cousin, but she was so much more. She began to pursue many of her passions: painting, dancing, gardening, travel.

She had always been involved in church sponsored charity work, but even after she stopped attending, she continued to do Meals on Wheels and entertain the old folks at Carleton hospital. She had a bit of show-girl in her and loved to sing and entertain.

She picked up her long-abandoned brushes and began to paint again in the 1970s, and quickly advanced to the point where her instructor suggested that she should start showing her work professionally. Her modesty prohibited this, of course, and she dismissed the advice as exaggerated praise.

Through Scottish Country dancing, her social life blossomed, and there were always parties and social events, some of which carried on late into the morning hours. Her and Dad’s stamina was admirable. Annoying, you might say, if you were in bed trying to get some sleep. Seniors, these days!

She read voraciously, everything from history, to psychology, to health, to travel, to the classics, to trashy novels. She could often be seen cooking dinner with a novel on the go at the same time. If she wanted to know something, she would simply go to the library and look it up.

Another passion was travel, and with more time and money, this became possible. She visited Scotland numerous times, at first with Dad, and later with the assistance of Ian and Linda. She and Dad drove all over the continent, as far north as Terrace, as far east as Nova Scotia, and as far south as Arizona. She loved the desert, and the canyons of the American Southwest. Brian and Frances, and Kathryn and Gary took her to Mexico, where Mom acquired a taste for Marguerites. There is a story about Mom inadvertently sucking back a few triples and…actually, the story has been censored to protect the guilty.

One of their longest trips was to the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. It is believed that the 40 hours required to get there and back shaved two years off Dad’s life, but mom said it was well worth it. She didn’t actually say that, but I could see it in her eyes.

Chiyoko and I loved taking Dad and her on trips to the Okanagan, where she just loved to sit by the water, nibble on a cracker or cookie and enjoy a cup of her beloved tea or a glass of wine.

She loved beaches, and at first sight of water, she would flip off her shoes and walk barefoot in the pebbles or sand. She told me it was good for you because you had so many nerve endings in your feet that were connected to other areas of your body and that by stimulating them, you could improve your general health. Oh, and it felt so good. Again, she was ahead of the curve.

She had bird feeders and baths, and loved to sit, eating her toast and marmalade, drinking her tea at the kitchen table, and watching the birds bathing, feeding and grooming. Every now and again, in mid-conversation she would jump up and bolt outside, shouting and scaring the baJesus out of any cat who would dare to stalk her beloved birds.

Her passion for gardening deepened as her free time increased. She planted all kinds of flowering plants, as well as herbs and vegetables. You could see her out in the garden, cursing the pests for attacking her cherished plants. George Bush had his war on drugs. Mom had her war on slugs.

I remember her talking to her plants, and even playing music for them. She insisted this made them feel better about themselves, and they in turn would reward her with robust stems, radiant colours and unsurpassed foliage.

I once broke one of her tomato plants with an errant football pass, inadvertently opening the gates of hell from which all manner of demonic forces emerged. Mom was patient to a point, but beyond that point, all bets were off.

Eric tells the story of when he, Mom and Ian were in the kitchen one time and Ian made some disparaging remark about Dad. Mom immediately body-slammed Ian to the floor and gave him a thorough thrashing. While Ian was dragging himself away from the carnage, unsure of what had just happened, Eric was pleasantly surprised not to have been on the receiving end for a change. I think the message was loud and clear: do not disrespect your father in her presence.

Brian and Mom would go at it from time to time, Brian often leaving just ahead of a slamming door, his dinner still steaming on the table. But hours later, the idealist and the pragmatist would reconvene, and all was forgiven.

We were often told that Mom had been the runner-up in a beauty contest in the Scottish village of Balmullo, but at times like the one just mentioned, we were convinced that she had actually been the runner-up in some barbaric, no holds barred, last woman standing, Scottish freestyle fighting tournament—runner-up only because she had been disqualified for eye-gouging. Pound for pound, she was probably the toughest member of the Protestant faith.

She had grown up on a farm and loved animals, but alas, Dad was allergic to fur. We were never given clinical evidence of these allergies, but the household rule was, no furry pets. So we were stuck with a pretty but less than engaging bird named Tweetie. But this was about to change.

While Eric was out doing his paper route he befriended a neighbour’s brown, black and white border collie named Lassie. The dog would jump the fence and follow Eric, and it wasn’t long before Eric was bringing Lassie home and feeding it scraps. Mom soon joined in, and the “no furry animals” decree was being contested. Eventually Lassie’s owner, having no kids and seeing the mutual love between the dog and Eric, decided to give Lassie to Eric. The dog reminded Mom of her childhood dog Thora, and this nostalgia combined with her sense of how much Eric wanted the dog inspired her to go to war with the allergy-ridden ogre known to us as Dad. Mom won, of course, and we had a new member in the family.

Doris was a multi-faceted woman who would occasionally throw us kids curves. She could be shy and reserved, and at other times chatty and gregarious. She could seem stoic at times, and at others delicate and fragile. She could be generous, and then frustratingly frugal. When you expected sympathy, you might get a scolding. When you expected those gates of hell to open, she would understand, and forgive. When you expected her to cry, she would make light of the situation, and when you thought something was funny, she wouldn’t. She found it difficult to express her love in words, and chose deeds instead. We have all been taken aback by her directness, and deeply moved by her compassion.

Brian and Kathryn tell the story of faking illnesses, and Mom, seeing through the charade, would sometimes feign sympathy, and pamper them with special privileges on the couch, let them watch TV, and give them treats. She knew that even kids need a mental health day once in a while.

Frances tells the story of sitting down with Mom one time and voicing her concerns about marrying Brian. Fran expected Mom to defend her son and extol his virtues.

“Maybe you shouldn’t marry him,” was Mom’s reply, and she wasn’t being facetious. Most of us who knew Mom have similar stories of Mom’s candidness.

One thing that I think we can all attest to is that she rarely whined or complained about her life, which was not an easy one by any stretch. She took on all challenges and did the best she could, and in those all too rare moments of free time and recreational activities, she had fun and laughed like a schoolgirl.

Our house became a hub of social activity, with dinners, and parties, our friends always welcome. Well, most of them anyway. Despite her unofficial title of “The Duchess” she was inclusive and welcomed any of those who down on their luck, and could always find enough time, space and resources to help out those in need. Just ask those who know her well.

Although Mom was tough on daughters-in-law in the early years, she mellowed as the years passed. Frances speaks of her as the best mother-in-law a woman could have. As does Ian’s wife Linda, and my wife Chiyoko. Mom embraced Chiyoko, a new arrival in Canada without the language skills and cultural understanding to make the transition easy. Mom immediately took Chiyoko under her wing and helped her through the difficult adjustment.

Mom’s acceptance and guidance of their little Chiyoko has won the Sato family’s utmost respect, in a country where respect is not easily earned, but forever, once proven deserved. They’ve asked me to express this to you all, and to express their deepest condolences.

This is, to the best of my recollection anyway, the Doris Tycho that most of us knew. But, as we all know, time passes, and people’s roles change.

As Dad ailed, Mom was selfless in her efforts to make him as comfortable as she could, and he gave her a reason for getting up in the morning: that being that he couldn’t feed himself. We often joked that if Mom died before Dad, he would either have to find a new wife within a week, or starve to death. During this time, as Dad’s interest in life and living waned, Mom remained vital, engaged and engaging, right up until Dad’s death in 2006.

After Dad passed, we all noticed a gradual change in Mom. She became less interested in doing things unfamiliar, she began to forget things, and people, and without someone to care for, she wasn’t cooking or eating properly. A few remarkably creative automotive maneuvers abruptly ended her driving career.

Her life of total independence was coming to an end.

We moved her from her townhouse in Surrey, where she was living alone, to an assisted living apartment closer to Kathryn’s, and although Mom seemed happy enough, she began to lose her sharpness. She would get confused, and we all had to get used to her frequent statement, “I’ve never been here before”, or “I’ve never gone this way before,” even though we knew full well that she had, in some cases, dozens of times. She began developing coping skills: little phrases that were general enough to almost be appropriate and reasonable, but her ability to grasp subtleties and nuances was in decline.

It wasn’t easy for us to watch this once quick-witted, articulate, robust, capable woman in decline, but she was clearly coming full circle in her life. She suffered a stroke last year, and lost the ability to walk or speak, becoming seemingly child-like in her perceptions and attitudes. Things like cards, and balloons, and bright colours, and clapping of hands and cupcakes became the entertainment and highlights of her long days in a full care facility. But throughout this transition, she remained cheerful, and appreciative, her eyes lighting up when we came.

Kathryn, Mom’s only daughter and perhaps closest friend, was always there for her, doing the lion’s share of the mundane, menial work required: a real trooper, just like her mother.

When that call came to come to the home, we rushed to see her, and yes, as they had told us, she seemed unresponsive. We were told that she could pass in a matter of days, so we all said what we had to say, and when we leaned down to give her a kiss, to our surprise, she puckered her lips. It made us wonder how much she actually understood, in her “unresponsive” state.

She had hung in there long enough for us to see her, and say what we needed to, and she seemed at ease with our expressions of love, and our goodbyes.

Doris Tycho died peacefully a few hours later, on March 22, 2014. She lived with dignity and grace in life, and died in the same way. As I said in the obituary, she was a rare woman of innumerable gifts, uncompromising integrity, deep compassion, boundless generosity and a lovely sense of humour. And she will be sorely missed by so many. Goodbye Mom. Thank you, from all of us.


Following  David’s eulogy grand daughter Caitlin gave her perspective of her grand parents….Doris and Norman.  She was eloquent, funny and very touching.  Great job Caitlin.

There was tea, coffee, sandwiches and baking for family and friends after the service in the room next to the chapel. 


When I spotted this face I knew exactly who it was!  This is Eleanor who lived across from Doris when she and Norman lived on Manor Street in Burnaby.  An old friend and still just the same.  Full of “piss and vinegar!”  At 85, still a lovely vibrant woman and funny as heck!  She also has a very good memory of the past when the Tycho family was young.  IMG_0036

Cousin Rosemary, John and wife Heather (Rosemary and Heather are sister’s) chat with Eleanor. 

I didn’t take a lot of pictures here and we were now off to Kathryn and Gary’s where the family would continue to gather. 

I did miss getting a picture of Jurgen and Shirley Dahlie who are old friends from Smither’s, B.C. where Norman and his brother Eric were born and raised.  Jurgen and Shirley are now in their nineties and living in Langley.  When Eric asked Jurgen if someone was picking him up he said " Oh no, I’m still driving!” 


We are now back at Kathryn and Gary’s where the family will visit and enjoy each other’s company. 

This blog is mainly for the family who know who they are!  For the rest of you….Doris and Norman had five children Eric (Kathy), Ian (Linda), Brian (Frances), Kathryn (Gary) and David (Chiyoko.) Norman had one brother Eric and his son is Norman John (Sheri.)  Grandchildren present are Gordon and Jason (Ian),  Jonathan,Spencer,Caitlin & Emily (Kathryn), Sean (David.)  Heather and Rosemary are second cousins on Doris’ side.  Kirsten is Norman John’s daughter.  Great grand children were also present. 


Heather and husband John enjoy a pint and a glass of wine.  It has been longer than we can remember since we’ve seen them. 


Sheri, Norman John and daughter Kirsten. 


Jason…Ian’s son.  Handsome guy!  Eric pinched his belly and Jason’s said “ Hey, I’ve lost weight!”   You must show no weakness in the Tycho family or they will be on you like a cat on a mouse!


David & Chiyoko’s son Sean. 


Ian’s oldest son Gordon.  Another handsome guy!


Brother David needs to quench his thirst!


This stunning arrangement was from the Sato family in Japan….Chiyoko’s parents.

IMG_0051 Spencer (Kathryn & Gary’s son) and Lindsay, his fianc√©.


I’m not sure what Eric is describing but it looks important!


Deli trays and snacks in the kitchen.IMG_0056

Chatting on the back deck. IMG_0057

Grandpa Gary holds Aubrey the newest addition to Jon and Brittney’s family. IMG_0060

Linda, Gordon, Jason, Jon and Ian.IMG_0061


Whatever Jason is saying I don’t think his wife Deb is believing any of it!IMG_0064

Ian, Spencer and Linda.IMG_0065


A lovely room for the family to gather and chat.


Chiyoko was telling me stories and she is funny as heck!  But….she wouldn’t pose and just hammed it up.  P.S. she makes the best sushi ever!


Eric and Lori, Eleanor’s daughter say bye.  When Lori was a little girl Eric used to make faces at her out the window of his house and she was always scared.  Mom told her that Eric was “mental” and not to worry so she was fine after that!  Funny old stories. IMG_0072

Ian is happy to see the lady that used to live across the street!  Good memories except for …..IMG_0074

“ I did not call the cops when you had a party when your parents weren’t home!”  It was another lady up the street…IMG_0075

I don’t believe you!IMG_0076

You believe me don’t you!IMG_0077

Daughter Lori just laughs!IMG_0078

Bye to all the Tycho “kids”, Kathryn too!IMG_0079

Brittney, with Aubrey and Jon.


Uncle Spencer and Payton look so much alike so Spencer thought they should share….Payton didn’t think so.


They were even wearing the same shirt except Payton’s was horizontal and Spencer’s was vertical.  Turn Payton sideways and they are the same. 


Grandma Kathryn gives Payton a hug and a lift while Gary, Eleanor, Frances and Lori look on!   Lots of fun!IMG_0090

A two year old is a lot of fun!  IMG_0091

Chiyoko, Sheri and Kirsten!IMG_0104

Kathryn finally had time to eat.  We had a lovely meal with Lasagna from Kathryn, Chili from David and salad from Brian.  We just kept eating!


Sean, Ian, Chiyoko and Jason.


The night was coming to a close and Jason said “ Auntie Kathy there aren’t any pictures of you!”  So….here I am with Gordon and Chiyoko.

The evening was over and we’d all shared memories and reconnected with family that we’d not seen for years and years. 

Mom would have been proud of her children today and really enjoyed the party!  When I looked at the photos and the slideshow I, along with everyone else could see a life well and fully lived.  You can’t ask for more than that!

1 comment:

Contessa said...

What a lovely tribute to an obviously special lady.