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Wednesday, March 01, 2006


How the birthday party went

About 25-30 people were able to attend: Mary Lee’s brother Doug Coombs; Sylvia Furlong; Martin Levin; Avrum Fenson; ballet “girls” Laura, Sylvie, Sheryl, Leslie, Heidi, Tatiana, Lili, Aretta, Roland, and Mary’s daughter Michelle; IPSA/Reuters colleagues (and friends!) Nancy Woodman, Steve Chapman, Peter and Julia Wooster, Maria Nunes, Brian Oliver, Randy Chinn, Tony de Lucovich, Martin Fraser, and me (Rohan Jayasekera) and wife Yvonne; at least one other person I didn’t know and didn’t end up speaking with; and anyone I’ve forgotten to list (additions and corrections appreciated to 1@sympatico.ca so that I can fill in who’s missing; thanks to Avrum for a couple of names).

Laura made the cake, a sinfully rich yet light (yes, that is apparently possible) and delicious chocolate thing that Mary Lee had requested. Unfortunately Mary Lee herself was not able to have any as she can no longer properly swallow food.

Mary Lee was awake for a while (though apparently not able to open her eyes) but very uncomfortable and nobody was able to figure out for sure what the problem was: when asked whether she was in pain, for instance, she said no. She may simply have been thirsty: Laura moistened her mouth and that seemed to help. But she was still in some distress, and a nurse gave her a sedative after which she fell asleep – or something like sleep. I can’t always tell when drugs are involved. Also, she had been coughing, but not able to cough very well, so the staff got the irritating stuff out of her throat. After they were finished, various people sat with her and held her hand and spoke to her. Nobody knew whether she was listening, but then sounds get processed even during sleep.

I had assembled a slide show of photos contributed by Laura Rust, Nancy Woodman and Catherine Fitzsimmons, but since Mary Lee was unable to watch it I had it running on my laptop in the lounge, where we were based while small groups visited with Mary Lee in her room. You can see the dozen or so photos by going to www.flickr.com and typing “Mary Lee Coombs” (with or without the quotation marks) into the “Find a photo of...” box. Also, you can add your own photos by joining flickr (it’s free) and uploading photos and marking them public and tagging them with the tag MaryLeeCoombs. If you’re new to flickr it may take a bit of time for them to approve your photos as appropriate for public viewing, and you’ll also need to upload more than two or three photos in total (i.e. not necessarily just of Mary Lee) for them to take that look.

When the last people left, Mary Lee seemed to be sleeping soundly.

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