By Nick Ruiter, Spiritual Care
Only once in over a year of visits did Lila Brown indicate, with a
motion of her hand, that she was going downhill. She wanted me to
recognize it. The wordless gesture took only a sliver of our time.
Otherwise, Lila talked, talked, and talked!
A long-time math teacher at Richview and Thistletown Collegiates,
Lila Brown was a storyteller. From her bed at Central Park Lodge she
wore down the ears of our volunteers Liz Corneil and Sally Orr. Former
students dropped in to visit. Lila used speech and expression to draw
wonderfully vivid and opinionated portraits of people she'd known.
" I'm curious Lila," I said one day. "Why you and mathematics?"
Lila smiled "My father told me he was totally against it. But I
wasn't going to just go to one of those jobs held open for women.
Besides, I liked mathematics!"
Lila lived life as a single professional woman, attracting students,
colleagues and friends with wit and dedication. She had a special way of
connecting with her students. One day a student asked if he could park
his motorcycle outside her portable classroom. "Yes," Lila said. "On
condition you give me a ride when the course is finished."
The day arrived. The student brought an extra helmet. "What, no leather jacket and gloves for me?" Lila remarked.
"But Miss Brown," protested the student, "I thought we'd do a circle in the parking lot."
Hours later, teacher and student returned to the school after motorcycling the countryside to Georgetown and back.
Lila lived on her own terms and she died on her own terms. Lila
herself contacted The Dorothy Ley Hospice in July 2001 while still
living alone in her apartment when she decided that she could use some
help caring for her dog, shopping and other tasks. In fact, she spent
the last year of her life in bed - by choice. It was her way of exerting
some control over living in an institution.
Not keen on fitting into the staff's routines, she would at times
refuse to eat. "Lila, that's amazing," I would say to her. "Other people
would be unable to resist a tray of food in front of them yet here you
are, touching it only if you feel like it."
It was only toward the last month of her life that, growing tired, Lila turned the tables and asked me to tell her a story.
Lila and her stories are fondly remembered by former students, hospice volunteers and staff.