Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sarah's Eulogy

Good Afternoon. I’m Mina and this is Liz and we’ve been best friends with Sarah since High School. We are deeply honored that Sarah has asked us to help celebrate her life with all of you. We would like to share some of our favorite memories of our dear friend.

Anyone who knew Sarah, knew she was determined and was never afraid to go after what she wanted. One of our favorite stories is how she got Derek’s attention which would later be referred to as the “Infamous Sweater Incident”. After high school Derek and Sarah both worked at Wal-Mart. She had been sweet on Derek for a few weeks, but wasn’t having much luck. One night she deliberately left her sweater at Wal-Mart knowing Derek’s shift ended later. Because Derek lived close to Sarah’s mom’s house she called him at work when she got home as asked if he could take her sweater home with him and she would come by his house to pick it up. Later that night she walked to his house to get her sweater and Derek invited her in for a drink. Her crafty plan had worked and the rest is history.

Another example of Sarah’s determination was shared with us by her soccer teammate and friend Abby. Abby and Sarah met when they both signed up to play for “Sisters in Soccer” in the summer of 2003. At the time Abby had recently moved from New Zealand to London and didn’t know very many people. Abby was really nervous to sign up as she hadn’t played soccer before and didn’t know anyone at registration. Coincidently Sarah didn’t know anyone either and they decided to put each others name down as the person they wanted to be on the same team with. This meant a lot to Abby because she was a friend before she was a friend and a friend when she didn’t need to be that is the person that Sarah was. The league was really social and they never took themselves too seriously. Abby played back in defense that year with Sarah, whom Abby described as a seasoned veteran- who played since age 3. Sarah had a powerful kick, and Abby always felt part of a force to be reckoned with when lining up beside Sarah to face the other team. Sarah definitely had skill and poise on the soccer field and looked good playing.

During one of the last games Sarah played in the second season, Abby and Sarah’s team was losing pretty badly and for fun they decided to change it up a bit. So for the second half the forward positions played back and the back positions played forward, they had nothing to lose! Well, didn’t Sarah go and score their team’s only goal, to the dismay of the other team who thought they were so much better. Sarah and Abby’s team still lost, but it was a sweet victory to get that one goal that denied the other team a shut out.

Sarah has also always had a sense of adventure! From Junior Kindergarten she was part of the French immersion program and in high school she had the opportunity to take some credits in France over the summer. Sarah and Derek both fell in love with Central America. They backpacked around Mexico for a few months together and later returned for another trip to Guatemala. Sarah brought us back Guatemalan worry dolls, which are supposed to take your worries away. Those dolls have lived in Ecuador with Liz for a year and accompanied Mina to New Zealand, Australia and Thailand. Sarah also spent time in the rainforests of Costa Rica with her mom, drove the Cabot Trail with Liz in Cape Breton, traveled out West with Derek to visit their close friends in B.C., honeymooned in Bermuda as a wedding gift from Sarah’s dad and walked the streets of Greenwich Village in New York City. Sarah’s last travel adventure took her to England to visit an old University roommate Lamia. Sarah explored the sites of London and took fabulous pictures of herself with the like’s of Nelson Mandela, Brad Pitt and George Cloney at Madam Tussauds Wax museum.

Sarah also lived her life with conviction and was very socially conscious. She loved animals, especially her adopted cats Misty and Mojo, Sarah made an effort in her life to eat a vegan diet and not buy leather products. Sarah also had a deep affection for children. She adored her nieces and nephews and dreamed of one day becoming a mother herself. Even when she was too sick to work, Sarah volunteered her time at a hospice and with children’s programs to enrich her life and the lives of others.

During her illness Sarah also became very vocal about patient’s rights. She encouraged other women battling cancer to advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest. There were two women that Sarah worked with who also had been diagnosed with cancer and they instantly connected. It’s was a connection that is very difficult to explain to others who have never been on this particular journey in life. There were three of them in the office who started a club which they appropriately named the “C” Club and they would laugh about it because they certainly did not have people asking to join. They would go out for dinner on occasion and it was an evening out that they each looked forward to. They found a lot of support, humor, comfort and friendship by being together.

Sarah was one of the most resourceful people we have ever met. She could write anyone a resume, find them a job, get them an apartment, decorate it and re-vamp their wardrobe within 2 weeks and for under $100. Sarah planned her entire wedding from scratch using the internet and telephone. She designed a gorgeous wedding on a dime from the food to the decorations. Her mom Pat, was her right hand lady throughout the execution of the day ensuring Sarah’s detailed plans were carried out as she envisioned them. It was a beautiful July day in Derek’s parent’s backyard. The Kaskiw’s put in countless hours of hard work ensuring their home and backyard looked perfect for the wedding. Sarah made a breath- taking bride and everyone there was honored to take part in the celebration of Derek and Sarah’s commitment to each other.

Shortly after she married Derek, Sarah fulfilled another one of her dreams, owning her own home. They moved into a house on Empress and her eye for decoration and sense of style combined with her dad’s carpentry skills turned it into a home that Sarah and Derek are very proud of. Sarah hosted several creative get togethers at their home including a vegan croquet party and last year held a Christmas exchange for 20 of her and Derek’s closest friends.

Sarah is undeniably a wonderful friend. At work when a co-worker was going through a tough time Sarah could tell something was wrong. One day she casually walked by her co-workers desk and put a stick-it note on her computer, and continued on her way without saying a word. Her co-worker looked at the piece of paper to see a big happy face and note saying "I thought you might need a smile today". Well it worked. When she went to thank Sarah for cheering her up, Sarah told her to keep it with her as a sign that would always be there. From that day on, her co-worker knew that she could always count on Sarah to cheer her up ... simply with one of her big radiant smiles.

She talked us through lost jobs, break-ups, family drama and very bad hair-cuts. Sarah always took the time to make important occasions special. She was always the one who remembered our birthdays. Each year she would call us to remind us when the other ones was. Not a year went by that we didn’t receive a card. Last year for my Birthday Sarah arranged for the 3 of us to get glamed up with Mac Makeovers and go out for dinner. None of us wears too much make-up so we asked the Mac girls to take it easy on us. Our Mac Makeovers lasted a total of 5 minutes each. Sarah came out looking fantastic, but unfortunately and Mina and I looked like someone had taken a marker and drawn on our faces. Sarah was so excited and she loved it so much that we didn’t have the heart to tell her we didn’t like it. On the way to the restaurant Mina and I took turns secretly whipping the make-up off hoping she wouldn’t notice. By the time we got to the restaurant we had wiped most of it off and Sarah was not to please. Regardless it was a wonderful and memorable day. The three of us always had a great time together whether we were having a tea, a drink on her deck or out on the town. She was a true friend.

If you could get Sarah out she was so much fun to be around. She always claimed to hate dancing, but after a few drinks she was the 1st person on the dance floor and the last to leave. We obtained a little more evidence of this from Sarah’s long term friend Amy.
When Sarah was younger it was a long time tradition that her mom would take her and Amy to the Western fair. When the year came that they were able to go alone they also went to their first out door concert which was Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway” tour. They began watching the concert in the bleachers’ until Sarah decided she wanted to get closer, so they jumped the wall and went closer to the stage. Not long after that it began to pour rain. Sarah started to dance in the mud then Amy joined in and they danced like that for the rest of the concert. By the end of it they were soaked from the rain and covered in mud.
Another adventure that Sarah and Amy was the year she first got her license and some how Sarah convinced her mother to lend us her Blue Mazda to go camping. The trip should haven taken them an hour, but ended up taking them 2 and half hours. When they arrived it was not what they were expecting. It was a camp ground that was literally in the middle of a corn field, run by biker’s who had a carefree philosophy like hippies. But, they made the most of it by dancing to live bands playing in the campground until 5:00 in the morning.

It is not Liz and my intention to focus on the cancer, but we think it is important to recognize what Sarah’s journey has taught us over these last 3 years. From Sarah we learned a great deal about strength. People would always ask Sarah “How do you deal with it?” and her reply would always be the same: “You just do”. Her ability to be strong for not only herself, but also for her family and friends was a true testament to her inner strength. She made it so easy for all of us. If anything Sarah has taught us that everyone is strong and that you can face things you never thought possible. To doubt that you could face anything considering what she went through would be an injustice to her struggle against cancer. We owe it to ourselves more to know that we can get through almost anything.

Courage, like strength, Sarah had an abundance of. The courage to be weak, to be sad, to be happy, to be at peace and to find humor in even the most devastating of situations. A true test of courage is fighting a battle you know you may lose, but Sarah never wavered from her goal to live.

We learned about what friendship really means, that it is the little things, the big things, it’s about sticking with it even if you’re scared and sticking it out with someone you love because there is more going on than yourself.

We learned the importance of letting people in, and letting people let you in even if it is uncomfortable or a little disarming. It is so worth it.

Finally we learned the true meaning of devotion and unconditional true love. If anyone in this room has ever doubted that true love exists, it does in its purest form with Sarah and Derek.

We would like to thank Pat, John, and Bryan for loving Sarah so much. Pat we have cherished the time we’ve spent getting to know you over the past few months.
Derek your love for Sarah is truly an amazing blessing. Sarah was able to draw from your strength and courage. You were her hero as much as she was yours.

Finally we would like to thank Sarah for giving us the greatest gift of friendship. We simply love you and you will be greatly missed…


Love you Sarah xoxoxoxoxoxoxxo

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sarah Toller

February 7, 1977 - June 12, 2007

Sarah passed peacefully this morning with her mom and I by her side.
Now she rests, her love still radiating everywhere.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

June 2

Thanks for all the comments, I have read them and they are very touching.
Sarah's still fighting hard and has had miraculous periods of clarity, we've both said a lot of meaningful things to one another and for this I'm very grateful. Along with these moments of clarity are increasing episodes of delusion, confusion and hallucinations. These have become more prevalent over the last week. Its hard to see, handle and defuse. The disease in the brain is progressing but hopefully these symptoms will slow down since the latest flurry. She still assures me she's content and when resting is peaceful. The moments of clarity since the whole brain radiation will always be special, her(our) social worker says she's one of the special very few who are so strong and can regain so much function. To all her good friends, I've told her about of all your messages and e-mails, She knows she's loved and misses all. Most of the blog comments have also been read by Sarah, Thanks for all the support.
I'm really glad everyone understands how special Sarah is, I've truly never experienced such love, power and determination and her beauty remains, what a sight she is.