Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Remembrance Day thoughts

This Remembrance Day is especially poignant for our family. On Sunday our good friend Tracey Firth passed away unexpectedly, and we are still a bit shaken by the suddenness of it. Years ago I played with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the first female piper in the history of the regiment. It was an unhappy experience and I left after only a year, but just as I was leaving, Tracey was going in, as the second female piper. And while I didn't know her at the time, I remember thinking "Poor girl!" and hoping she had a better experience than I did.

Some years later, she and my husband were both in the Halton Police Services Pipes and Drums together, and I got to know her better. When my husband became Pipe Major of St. Andrews Pipes and Drums, Tracey followed and became his Pipe Sergeant, and that's when I really got to know her. She was often in our home, sitting at the dining table with her practice chanter or playing with the dogs. On my birthday she took me to the Elora Gorge and to a tea house, we went antiquing, and she spent the whole day doing things to make me happy. No friend has ever done that for me before.

Tracey was an intense person who gave of herself fully and threw herself wholeheartedly into everything she did. She was deeply committed to her work. She and I both started learning to knit at the same time, but while I'm still turning out square dishrags, she took off with it and could do socks and sweaters. She made beautiful quilts. She could pipe circles around me, and she especially enjoyed challenging herself to keep up with the fleet-fingered youth in the band. She didn't let herself slack off, but she was wonderfully good at making other people feel relaxed. I enjoyed sitting by the woodstove in her home and just crocheting and yacking or reading and just being comfy.

I have a small keychain she gave me that says "Sisters" on it, which I use as a Christmas tree ornament. That word sums up how I feel about her, and I count myself lucky for having gotten to have her in my life, even if it wasn't for long enough. I like to think her beloved Ghillie was first in line to greet her. Forget harps -- heaven will be filled with bagpipes.

Today the band plays to commemorate Remembrance Day for the Legion, and Tracey's file will be left empty. But our hearts will be full because of her.

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