Nurse. Mother. Story weaver. Spiced-apple expert. Born April 9, 1922 in Paisley, Ont.; died Dec. 23, 2016, in Hanover, Ont., of natural causes; at the age of 94.
How does anyone sum up 94 marvellous years of footsteps and travels on this Earth? Wilk Gillin was a mother of five and married for almost 59 years to the love of her life, Ed Gillin. Wilk (a short snappy nickname from her maiden name, Wilkins) perfected the art of getting younger. Family and friends stood in awe, watching this tornado of energy whirling about, and stayed out of her way.
One of Wilk's rituals that never disappeared from her repertoire involved rapping for coffee in the morning. Upon hearing her knuckles on the nightstand, someone (usually one of their five kids) would deliver her favourite mug (remembering to put the cream in first) and listen to her plans for the day. Within minutes, she would be dressed and ready for the world, caffeine coursing through her veins and a smile on her face.
Wilk had many memorable mottoes in life and two of her best include: "Take the tarts when they're being passed," and "People die in bed, so get up and get going."
Mom often reminded others (her children Jan, Kent, Bill, Kathy and Kim especially) that the problems of the world needed to be faced head-on, with both thumbs back. Hitchhikers, she told us, move forward with thumbs out, zipping onto the next adventure. Her most famous and recent escapade involved leaping onto a plane and celebrating her 90th birthday in London, England for a long weekend. And she travelled in style: No black-and-white rings, bracelets, earrings or fashions were too outlandish or too wild for Wilk. She wore it all.
An avid dirt enthusiast, Wilk gardened until the sun went down and the thumbs in her gloves wore out. "Flowers are for the living, not the dead," Mom would say. She delighted in welcoming the first spring daffodils at the Point Clark cottage where she lived. They brought great joy to other people living along Lake Huron's shores. She had regular conversations with a skunk that insisted on living under the sun room. Wilk positively loathed cats. She tolerated visiting family canines but only if they stayed off the horsehair sofa.
Music, theatre, marvelling at birds and entertaining friends consumed her days. From her chair at the end of the dining-room table, and when least expected, Wilk would recite a favourite passage from a poem or offer a monologue from a theatre production she had been involved in.
As a 1944 graduate from Brantford General Hospital's School of Nursing, Wilk upheld the caring, committed and compassionate disposition of the nursing profession to the end of her physical time on Earth. We are sure that she is now sharing her effervescent gusto for another life up on cloud nine, and we have no doubt that the reunion with "her Ed" was met with his hearty and traditional handshake of welcome. Yes, Dad would always shake her hand, although they loved each other dearly.
There will be an abundance of black-and-white clothing and jewellery visible, along with lots of flowers, laughter, songs and stories when we celebrate Wilk's life in April. And rest assured that the next black-and-white chickadee you see twirling around a tree branch is Wilk Gillin. She lives on in beauty and joy in our hearts and minds.
Jan Buley is Wilk's daughter.