Shirley May

Your life is the story you are leaving behind for others to read. Make every word count.
Pierrette Raymond

February 7, 2015 | | Blogs | Community | Leisure | Two Blue Boots

On January 7th, my mother-in-law passed away. Shirley May will be very much missed by the May/Broger clan. At the funeral visitations, many “Shirley” anecdotes were shared. As we drank tea and ate small sandwiches, many of us had a tale to tell. After all, our lives are composed of a series of stories, connected by time. When we leave this earth, our stories remain. It is our family and our friends who will fondly retell them to future generations. Funerals are sad, but people always recall the funny situations. Laughter brings people together. Humour enfolds us like a hug.

My Shirley Story:

In the spring of 1982, I was attending teachers’ college in Toronto and living in a small dorm room at the corner of Bloor and Spadina. My year of training was almost complete. I was engaged to be married to Darrel. All was good in my world.

But then, I awoke one morning with a crushing pain in my chest. I staggered to the phone and called my mother. I gasped into the phone, “Mom, I’m having a heart attack.” “Come home on the subway,” she suggested. “I’ll meet you at the Islington station and I’ll take you to see a doctor.”

I was dumfounded by her senseless recommendation. How could I possibly make it all the way from Bloor and Spadina to Islington and Eglinton? How would I manage to live that long? I would surely perish en route. I would die a quick and painful death, surrounded by strangers.

Somehow I managed to crawl to the subway station and collapse into a seat. I could feel my arteries slowly constrict. My breathing became shallow. I was rendered helpless – pale and clammy. It was the longest subway ride of my life!

My mother met me and we raced to Etobicoke General Hospital where I was seated in the waiting room with several other people. But it soon became obvious to me that they did not have the kind of life-threatening emergency that I did.

The desk attendant called for a person with a sliver. Next she called for a person with a rash. Meanwhile, I had only minutes to live! What kind of intake system was this? The pain in my chest was continuing to spread through my entire upper torso and my breathing was becoming alarmingly erratic. I could not find my pulse. Cardiac arrest was imminent.

I looked up and there was Shirley (my future mother-in-law) walking toward me, concerned but calm. She was an angel on the horizon.

I watched with trepidation as she went behind the counter and whispered to the staff. I hoped she was using her clout as a long-time emergency room volunteer to explain that her son’s girlfriend was in dire straits. She must have worked her magic because immediately my name was called!

I was so relieved to know she would be by my side. She would surely talk to me while they hooked me up to all those tubes and wires. She would hold my hand while the doctor used a defibrillator to administer electric shock to my weakened heart. I knew she would reassure me that all would be well. (As I recall, my own mom had gone back home by then.)

Approximately ten minutes later, Shirley and I exited the emergency department. I was clutching a sample-sized bottle of liquid antacid to help to alleviate my heartburn. I’d been advised by the doctor to stay away from spicy food for a while.

Shirley and I went out for a cup of tea and that was the end of that.

Our world will be very different without Shirley. We will remember her fondly and we will ensure her stories live on.

About the Author More by Laurie May

Laurie teaches Grade 4 at Island Lake Public School in Orangeville and writes in her spare time. She lives in Mono and looks for the humour in everyday country life. Check out her blog “Two Blue Boots”.



  1. Humor enfolds us like a hug. I love that phrase, it’s so true.

    What a lovely story. I know Mrs. May was well loved and from the stories I’ve heard about her, I can understand why.

    Danielle on Feb 14, 2015 at 10:04 am | Reply

    • Thanks, Danielle. Shirley was very well loved. She always had the time to sit and chat and hear about your day. That is such a rare quality in today’s busy world.

      Laurie May on Feb 15, 2015 at 11:52 am | Reply

  2. Thanks Laurie what a nice storey to share Shirley would have had a laugh over this!
    Thanks Proctor

    Proctor may on Feb 11, 2015 at 6:32 pm | Reply

    • You are welcome, Proctor. I’m sure she remembered that day very well.

      Laurie May on Feb 11, 2015 at 8:14 pm | Reply

  3. Thanks so much Anne. She was very loved by all of the folks at Clearwater Lake. She enjoyed all of the visitors that came to the cottage to say hello and stay awhile.

    [email protected] on Feb 11, 2015 at 6:26 pm | Reply

  4. What a great story and so like Shirley. She was truly a compassionate and lovely LADY. She is sorely missed by all who knew her. Love to all the family.

    Anne Schmidt from Newmarket on Feb 11, 2015 at 4:01 pm | Reply

  5. What a great blog! By retelling life’s stories, it’s of value to remember that life has no beginning, and life has no end….life is made up of what falls in between those two points and how those actions impact the rest of the world forever. I apologize, I did not know Shirley, but you have painted a most wonderful picture of her caring nature – along with a little of your “Gee” humour, of course! 🙂

    Troy Gee from Leamington on Feb 10, 2015 at 9:19 am | Reply

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, Troy. You are so right about how our actions are able to have such great impact. Our time on this earth is short. My goal is to laugh as much as possible.

      Laurie May on Feb 10, 2015 at 11:34 am | Reply

  6. Perhaps your mom never told you this but before she became a teacher, she was a doctor! Her specialty was psychiatry of teachers. She pursued both professions at the same time for decades.
    Your mother-in-law seemed like a lovely woman who had a lot of compassion. Your mom on the other hand would be a good candidate for a reality show called, “Keep Calm and Carry On”
    Thanks for another good read Laurie.

    Kris from etobicoke on Feb 10, 2015 at 7:14 am | Reply

    • Thanks, Kris. Yes–you know my Mother well. Perhaps we should get her to write a book on the subject. And–yes, Shirley was very kind and caring. 🙂

      Laurie May on Feb 10, 2015 at 11:28 am | Reply

  7. Great post!

    Betsy from NSW on Feb 10, 2015 at 5:21 am | Reply

    • Thanks Betsy! Shirley always thought you were pretty special—and so do I.

      Laurie May on Feb 10, 2015 at 11:24 am | Reply

  8. Great story. Shierly was an amazing person and will be missed. It’s true that when loosing someone new old memories can surface.

    Ryan from Sydney on Feb 10, 2015 at 5:13 am | Reply

    • Ryan–I love that phrase–“new old memories”. It is always interesting to me how we can recall a pleasant memory that we had thought we’d forgotten. It’s like finding a treasure.

      Laurie May on Feb 10, 2015 at 11:24 am | Reply

  9. What a nice tribute to Shirley. Thanks, for referencing the fact that the treatment recommended by the hospital was a bottle of antacid…….this gave creditability to your Mother’s love and talent for diagnosis. DAD

    Dad on Feb 9, 2015 at 10:20 pm | Reply

    • Yes–Mothers have a way of always being right, don’t they?

      Laurie May on Feb 10, 2015 at 11:18 am | Reply

  10. I’m pleased that you think so highly of your mother-in -law as she was a real LADY!
    Your Mum, the one who left you at that hospital.

    Norma Gee on Feb 9, 2015 at 10:14 pm | Reply

    • Well, I can at least thank you for driving me to the hospital. You must have suspected that my condition wasn’t fatal. How did you know????

      Laurie May on Feb 10, 2015 at 11:15 am | Reply

  11. Knowing Shirley May as my Grandmother, this story sums her up well. Always willing to go out of her way to help and make sure her family is safe. (And maybe having fun in the process).

    Thanks for sharing!

    Codey from Toronto on Feb 9, 2015 at 6:41 pm | Reply

    • Yes, Codey–Grandma loved to have fun. Her motto was: “If you are staying out of trouble, you aren’t having fun”.

      [email protected] on Feb 11, 2015 at 6:49 pm | Reply

  12. Thanks so much for sharing this Shirley Storey!!

    darrel May on Feb 9, 2015 at 10:36 am | Reply

    • This story was just one of many! 🙂

      Laurie May on Feb 9, 2015 at 9:11 pm | Reply

  13. Once again you hit all the right notes, Laurie…a touching memory with a dash of humour. And we like it when you’re spicey!!

    Ann Skwarek from Collingwood on Feb 8, 2015 at 6:12 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for reading, Ann. She was a neat lady.

      Laurie May on Feb 9, 2015 at 9:07 pm | Reply

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