original writing september 2009: Teresa Louise Coles was hereSeptember 10, 2009
On Sept. 20, 2009, it will have been a year since the passing of Teresa Louise Coles. I am grateful to have known her and cannot foresee ever deleting her last lively, eccentric, maternal emails, sent even as she knew she was fading. Terry worked in the fields of social work and film in Winnipeg, but her life was much broader. Filmmaker Ellen Rutter’s eulogy, delivered last year in Winnipeg, is that rare thing: capturing a whole person in a few words. If you don’t know her, you soon will. I thougth it would be a fitting tribute to introduce Terry to a few more people on the anniversary of her passing. Chapeau Terry. We miss you so.
I first met Terry when she worked at the National Film Board of Canada.
She had a messy office and bags. Shoulder bags, one for each shoulder.
And a purse.
One bag was always full of books and magazines, research and file folders, brochures, pamphlets, notepads and diaries.
They contained her curiosities. She was after all the most curious person I have ever met.
She was interested in everything and in everyone.
Everyone has a story and she wanted to know yours.
Everything has value and she wanted to know what that was.
She was highly educated and spent her life researching so she could talk about anything on your mind and had endless thoughts on hers.
Her friend Bev Ann will tell you that Terry was so smart that her ability to convey her thoughts often could not keep up with her mind’s ability to process them. If you had trouble following, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
She was a strongly committed feminist with an active social conscience and would talk about politics, plant propagation, the Tour de France and home renovation sometimes in the same breath.
Maybe that is why men loved her.
She was a sensual woman with longtime lovers but at parties was often stolen away by everyone else’s husbands or lovers for long conversation about sport, music, management strategy. I think they enjoyed her inquisitive nature and willingness to understand their concerns. Of course, she would also tell them she had been a nude model.
She had a book or article on whatever you can imagine. She loved horse racing and mystery novels so she read Dick Francis, who sets his mysteries in the horse world.
She liked to try to build things and her secret love was Formula One racing so she read a book on assembling the perfect Formula One car.
I think she believed she could make one.
She believed one could make anything if they took a course of some sort, so she spent many Saturdays at Home Depot learning to install tile, paint walls or whatever.
Then Terry would convince friends of equal skill to assist in some sort of renovation. Consequently her kitchen cabinets are a bit crooked and the dishwasher is not level and the soap won’t dispense but she tried. She would try anything.
In her purse she carried a bus pass, a library card and often plant seeds and of course coupons.
She took the bus, because it was what we should all be doing, to the library to research purple onions or yellow tomatoes, then use the coupons to order seeds from obscure catalogues and plant her garden each spring.
She would share her garden will all in her life. She had many dinner parties and would cook or bake for her many friends and experiment with any of the thousands of recipes she collected.
She used the dinner parties to bring together all of the interesting people she found. All people who may otherwise not have met. She had an amazing ability to create relationships which became enduring friendships.
Some years ago she convinced three friends to go shopping in Fargo in February. They were all but strangers but turned the shopping into a game called who can buy the best two dollar sweater or fantastic but cheap shoes. I understand that it also had something to do with glow bowling, dancing, Pepsi and cheap wine. Well they have celebrated the tenth anniversary of the adventure and are fantastic friends sitting in the front pews. Family.
Terry’s family is not large. She is close to her father Frank who lives in BC with his wife Joyce and has stayed in touch with her cousins. She has her much loved son Tim who in October will take her to BC to Pender Island and spread her ashes where her mother rests.
A small family so it seems, but look around you today. We are also her family.
She was an aunt to your children and a sister to us all.
We are in the other bag.
Having her friends around her gave her great comfort. She collected and gathered many people and things that made sense to only to her. Terry had stuff. Lots of stuff and I think having her stuff around her also gave her great comfort. Just bargain hunting we all thought but what does one do with 20 bottles of conditioner, 2 dozen Teflon trivets, 500 birthday candles. You have birthday parties of course.
Terry had gifts for everyone at all times. Christmas gifts bought two years in advance, gifts perfect just for you on your 50th birthday when you were only 45. Ever generous, she gave whatever she had. She was still giving to charities when she was so very ill.
There was no going home without a gift from Terry. A coupon, some carrots or candles.
Bags full of stuff.
Bags full of these gifts.
Two weeks ago she gave me some candles and candle sticks, not because I like candles.
Not because I need holders but because I like blue and as it happens candles and she had some blue candles that I might like.
These gifts, Marianne told me, “that it was just Terry giving a little moment of joy”. Her bags were always stuffed with moments of joy.
The moment I met her I wanted to know who she was. This curious woman was the finest gift.
Winnipeg, September 2008