Every Single Day is Special

It’s December 19th.

For years, this has been one of the most difficult days of the entire year.  Last year it got even harder.

On December 19, 1999, my friend, Patricia Fry Anderson (who became my sister-in-law when I married her younger brother), was killed in a car accident on the way home from watching her sons play hockey.  She went to the game because she had spent the previous years so focused on becoming a nurse practitioner, that she missed many of the boys’ hockey games.  So even though the van was in the shop, and there weren’t enough seat belts in the front seat of the truck, all four people in the family crowded into the front seat to go just a few miles down the road to the Mindemoya Arena.  On the way home, they were in a horrible accident.  Patricia died at the scene.  Her husband and two sons were critically injured.

2013 12 19 Patricia
Pat Anderson with her husband, Ian, and my nephews, Ryan and Erik. From the book “Game Wardens”.

My husband (her brother) was the Provincial Lead for the Ontario Public Service Peer Support Program at the time.  Whenever there was a critical incident involving an employee of specific ministries, my husband was called to send out a peer support team to the family.  I was beside him on December 19, 1999 when the dispatcher called our house.  How could she have known that the person she was calling was the brother of the victim?

Patricia was a very special person whose life was cut far too short.

She had just accepted a position with the  First Nations on Manitoulin Island as the primary health care worker.  She believed so strongly in promoting health, but at the same time she worked tirelessly to be an exceptional mother, a gardener, and master cook.  She was all about quality of life, and every day was full of activity – gathering berries, gardening, picking flowers, catching fish.  She lived.  Every single day.

2013 12 19 Carrot Salad

Patricia was “aunt Pat” to my children. She loved them like her own, and they knew it.

We still miss her desperately, and I wonder how much good she would have done on this earth had she survived that night*.

Last year, early in the morning of December 19, we received the call we were dreading.  Our 2013 12 19 Lesley and Darrendear friend Lesley was calling to say that her husband, our nephew, 52-year-old Darren Smith, had succumbed to ALS after a 2-year battle with this horrible, horrible disease.

Darren was a true leader in the Metro Toronto Police Force.  He was incredibly knowledgeable about learning, and a pioneer in e-learning in the province.  I have written about him here.

Darren was a “go big or go home” kind of person.  Everything he took on, he did with full out effort and an eye for excellence.  There was no half effort for Darren, ever.

Even while ALS took away his ability to breathe, to write, to feed himself, to drive, to walk, to sit, to sleep, he kept on, reminding us that life is precious.  Reminding us that we don’t have a minute to waste.

At Darren’s funeral, we were treated to a video that he had made when he was still able to speak, a message to all of us to remember to treasure life and love, and to live large.  Each member of the family received a personalized cookbook, written by Darren as he struggled with his health.2013 12 19 Darren rib sauce

Whenever I have a “bad day”, I think about Darren and Patricia, because at least I am having a day.  

I often think about all of the good they could have done if their lives had not been cut short.  Sometimes I feel like I need to do the good of three people to make up for the loss of these exceptional people.

2013 12 19 Darren front of cookbook
Opening page in “Smith’s Kitchen Sink”, by F. Darren Smith.

But what I do know is that life is far too short to waste a second of it.  Why wait to stand up for what is right?  Why wait for “the right time”?

We have no idea how long we are here for.  Every single day is special.

Make the most of it.



Featured Image: Bridal Veil Falls, Kagawong, shared by http://www.flickr.com/photos/13613374@N00/3899561215/


  • Name: (Wanda) Patricia FRY
  • Given Name: (Wanda) Patricia
  • Surname: FRY
  • Sex: F
  • Birth: 4 Sep 1953 in Campbellford, Ontario, Canada
  • Death: 19 Dec 1999
  • Burial: 19 Feb 2000 Kagawong Cedars Cemetery, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada
  • Change Date: 21 Jul 2013 at 12:34
  • Note:

    Obituary, uncited
    Wanda Patricia Anderson
    In loving memory of Wanda Patricia Anderson, September 4, 1953-December 19, 1999
    Pat Anderson a resident of Kagawong, died on Sunday, December 19, 1999 at the age of 46 years.
    Pat was born in Campbellford, daughter of the late Fred and Maudie (Hay) Fry. She worked in many capacities as a registered nurse and was known far and wide for her love and dedication to her profession and the people she worked with, both colleagues and patients. She spent countless hours in her job, working and learning for the benefit of health care. Her contributions to her profession will improve the quality of care for people not only on the Island, but in the health field throughout the province. Although Pat was very involved in her work, she took time to enjoy hobbies such as gardening, and growing flowers and plants, and she loved to cook for family and friends. One of her greatest joys was spending time with family and friends at their cottage on Cockburn Island. Pat was a loving and caring wife, mother, sister and friend. Many wonderful times and memories will be shared by family and friends, and the many people whose lives she touched.
    Dearly loved wife and best friend of Ian Anderson. Proud, loving and loved mother of Ryan and Erik. Dear sister of Jim Fry and his wife Donna of Minden; Connie Richardson (husband Ross, predeceased) of Port Hope; Sharon Soenen (husband Luke, predeceased) of Port Hope and Bonnie Lee Preston of Belleville. Also survived by nieces and nephews Kyle, Kira, Darren, Dale, Steven, Tracy, Scott and Leanne and many aunts, uncles and cousins.
    The funeral service and celebration of Pat’s life will be conducted at the M’Chigeeng First Nation Complex on Saturday, February 19, 2000 at 1:00 p.m. with Reverend Iain Macdonald officiating. Spring interment in Kagawong Cedars Cemetery. In remembrance, bursaries are being established and may be arranged through the Culgin Funeral Home.

    Pat Anderson Cherished by all
    By Toby Clarke
    Manitoulin-The life of Patricia Anderson was remembered and celebrated on Saturday, February 19, 2000 at the M’Chigeeng First Nation Complex.
    Pat Anderson was born on September 4, 1953 in Campbellford, Ontario. She joined her husband Ian, a Conservation Officer with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources on Manitoulin in 1974. She began her career here as a Regisered Nurse at the Manitoulin Health Centre in Little Current and soon thereafter took on the responsibility of Evening Supervisor. When Pat was there, you just knew things were going to go better, said Dr. Jack Bailey.
    After 17 years working at the hospital, Mrs. Anderosn left that position in 1991 to broaden her nursing experience. As a visiting nurse for Home Care for aobut seven years, she entered the life of seniors. “Never in my 93 years can I say that I have met a couple, or a person, as kind as Pat,” says Don Lanktree. “She was wonderful, kind and compassionate,” adds Jean Lanktree. The couple clearly appreciated the care Mrs. Anderson took in both her work and in them personality.
    “She treasured her contracts with so many patients over the years and often said that she had learned so much just by listening particularly to the elderly,” explains husband Ian Anderson.
    Patricia was so special to so many. She had such a gift of making everyone she came into contact with, feel good about themselves. Her smile was sincere and endless and her patience for others equally so.
    Pat Anderson’s home and garden was a constant source of quality time. Preparing fine meals and entertaining friends were another cherished interest. The family cottage on Cockburn Island was a special retreat” Heaven on Earth.
    With the full support of her family, Mrs. Anderson decided to pursue her education in the Health field while still working. She balanced the demands of earning her degree in nursing while maintaining her trademark devotion to her on-going nursing career, family and friends. Then came her personal triumph. Pat Anderson graduated with Highest Academic standing from Laurentian University in November 1999 as a Nurse Practitioner.
    It was the realization of this dream that gave Patricia her wings. She was like a butterfly unfolding.
    In as much as this career pinnacle gave Pat Anderson joy and personal satisfaction, her family was clearly the jewel she cherished most. It seems impossible to mention the boys without someone adding how proud she was of them. Pat was just about the epitome of a mother. She brought her sons to young adulthood with solid values in place.
    It is clear, upon reflecting on the life of Pat Anderson that Quality of Life what she gave each day to every encounter, every task, every relationship and every dream was heartfelt and genuine. Pat Anderson was truly blessed in the life she chose to lead.
    Pat Anderson died on December 19, 1999 in an automobile accident. Her husband and sons are physically mending from injuries sustained in the same accident.
    In remembrance, bursaries have been established for the Manitoulin student Aid Fund, for a student becoming a nurse, or the Pat Anderson Memorial Fund at Laurentian University school of Nursing for a student becoming a nurse Practitioner, and may be arranged through the Culgin Funeral Home.
    The late Pat Anderson BScN, NP proudly displays her name plate indicating her successful completion last fall of the Bachelor of Science program in Nursing and her Nurse Practitioner’s program.

    Memoriam, Manitoulin Expositor, December 18, 2002
    ANDERSON–In memory of Pat Anderson, December 19, 1999. “A truly remarkable human being who exemplified what we all should strive to be.”

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