HOW MANY OF US CAN CLAIM THAT KIND OF IMPACT?
If we didn’t use the word “extraordinary” at every turn, it would be a perfect word to describe the actions of both Anita Cenerini and Audrey Parker.
Cenerini, 56, of Winnipeg, lost her soldier son to suicide in 2004. Parker, 57, from Halifax, lost her life to metastatic breast cancer in a widely publicized medically assisted death last week.
Each of them, in acting bravely and publicly, has changed the national conversation around a pivotal and painful social issue. How many of us can claim that kind of impact?
Cenerini is this year’s Silver Cross Mother, a moving title bestowed by the Canadian Legion that means she will place a wreath at the National
Anita Cenerini and Audrey Parker, in acting bravely and publicly, have changed the national conversation around a pivotal and painful social issue, writes Judith Timson.
War Memorial in Ottawa on Remembrance Day.
What makes her honour significant is that she will be the first mother of a soldier who died by suicide to hold the title.
Her son, Pte. Thomas Welch, hanged himself at the army base at Petawawa, Ont., less than three months after returning from service in Afghanistan. He was 22. MORE ON AUDREY PARKER AT THESTAR.COM/HALIFAX
Cenerini fought for years to have her son’s death reclassified as a military death. It finally was in 2017.
She said in a statement: “We can no longer allow fear and ignorance to deny these soldiers the honour they deserve in their deaths, and the dignity and respect for the families left to mourn.” You can bet she will use her yearlong position to reinforce that point. Bravo to the Legion for giving her the opportunity to do so.
In Halifax, on the same day Cenerini was announced as a Silver Cross Mother, Parker was getting ready to die. She had been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2016, which had now spread to her bones. She had been approved for a medically assisted death.
There was just one problem. Parker would have liked to hang on at least until Christmas but she was worried that because the cancer had begun to invade the lining of her brain, she might not be able to give the legally required latestage consent. And so she went public with her decision to end her life before she was quite ready to do so, hoping it would spur policy-makers to change the requirement for late-stage consent in her category.
This Friday Audrey Parker will be celebrated at a service in Halifax. Before she died, she invited everyone to come, and petition their member of parliament to change the law. THESTAR.COM/OPINIONS
ORDINARY WOMEN, EXTRAORDINARY ACTS