UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Time to live it up

Dying with dignity — and lots of parties

By Carolyn Pogue

Our friend Patricia Brownlee is preparing for a journey into death. I’m paying close attention, because I realized soon after her diagnosis that I have much to learn from her. For example, Pat says a dying person ought to party as often as she can.

“I’m energized around people,” she explains. Soon after she understood that she was on her way, she and her husband, Paul Armstrong, threw a party. It began with communion. They invited my husband, Bill, to lead it; he in turn asked them to serve the bread and wine. Afterwards, we told stories and enjoyed music and feasting. That was four months and several parties (and drum circles) ago.

Pat gave up her computer service business 20 years ago in order to devote her life to activism. The Council of Canadians, Friends of Medicare, Women in Black, Art of Peace Camp and Calgary Association of Retired People, as well as political leaders, the United and Unitarian churches, and organizations supporting Aboriginal rights and interfaith work have all benefited from her wit, wisdom and work. 

I’m not Pat’s only student. Professor and activist Ronnie Joy Leah met her some decades ago at the Lone Fighters camp defending the Oldman River in southern Alberta. She says, “Pat is teaching me about the preciousness of life, the importance of family and friends, knowing that your life has made — continues to make — a difference. I think about leaving the planet more compassionate, just, beautiful and caring. I honour Pat’s courage to be fully present in the face of her own mortality; to be aware of our limited time on the planet and find joy in little things. I think about living as if each day might be my last.”

I asked Pat how she had arrived, at age 71, with this level of acceptance, joie de vivre and humour. She told me, “Most of us live unrealistically in a death-defying and death-denying culture.” But closing our eyes to mortality does little to build a compassionate society and often means energy is spent denying the natural cycle of life. Pat has taken time to learn from First Nations elders and leading thinkers. For example, she read all of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s groundbreaking books about grieving, including the 1969 classic On Death and Dying. Pat’s philosophy is accepting that dying happens to everyone, and living every day deeply.

When Pat dies, her ashes will be spread in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in the Rockies. She says, “The site is Mount Indefatigable, which I once climbed with my husband.” Indefatigable pretty much describes her life. The Energizer Bunny has nothing on her. In fact, when I visited her last week, she sent me home with a bowl of her pasta and meatballs. And she was making soup for a friend who had a bad cough.

As well as learning from Pat, I’m donating blood at Canadian Blood Services for her. And throwing a party, of course.

In the next blog, I’ll let you know how the party went and write more about how Pat arrived at this moment in her life better prepared than many.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.


June 2017


by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart


March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image