October 30, 1951 - December 27, 2022
And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love. (William Blake)
In the early morning hours on Tuesday, December 27, under the soft glow of a single candle and the light of a thousand shining blue stars our dear mom, Vickie Cammack, slipped peacefully out of this world and across the threshold from the comfort of her cherished home.
To put into words the incredible life she lived and the profound impact she had on many feels like an impossible task. We admired her so. First, of course, for being our mom but also because she met every single day with purpose, willpower, courage, and strength, and always with a tremendous amount of love. Even in the face of the heartbreaking diagnosis that would eventually take her from us.
Mom was born on October 30, 1951, in Toronto. However, it was Vancouver that became her true home after her parents, the late Eunice and Gord Cammack moved the family across the country in 1957 and settled in Kitsilano. So began her deep love for the Pacific Northwest and its hearty, reliable evergreen trees.
Our mom was fearless and loved to travel. She took her first trip across the country alone by bus at the tender age of 8. Most of us would find it hard to imagine someone so young taking a journey of this nature, but a very determined and chatty little blonde girl was more than up for the challenge.
After she graduated from SFU in 1978, our mom made her way to Europe on a year-long trip that would eventually lead her even further abroad to Iran, Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Nepal. Her natural curiosity and reverence for diverse cultures and languages were gifts she passed on to her son Joel and daughter Lina.
Mom lived in Quebec city for a time, where she learned to speak French from the Grey Nuns, a language she loved and would continue to speak and practice long after she moved back to BC and put down her roots in South Surrey. We were all often left in awe at the depths of her vocabulary and her ability to jump back into it with such ease.
Our mom was a wonderful cook. She loved food and her dinners were legendary. Everyone was welcome at Vickie's table. It was there her caring blossomed. She was a hostess extraordinaire offering family, friends and newcomers alike delicious food, meaningful conversation, warmth and conviviality. Her hospitality and knack for exquisite dishes inspired Lina's career as a successful chef. Joel embodies his mother's generosity and commitment to the well-being of others in his career as a physiotherapist
Mom's home life and work life seemed to blend together.
She believed that natural caring was the hidden force that holds society together. That it was in our nature to take care of each other. She often reminded us that every day, everywhere, just about everyone is taking care of a loved one, friend, colleague, neighbour, or stranger. She was determined to make these charged moments of caring visible because they are so often misunderstood, ignored and unrecognized by the professional care system.
These insights emerged from her life's work with disabled people and their families where she witnessed the devastating impact social isolation had on them. She co-founded with her husband Al, Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN), which focuses on securing a good life for disabled people particularly after their parents die. Started in Vancouver, PLAN has since spread to more than 40 locations around the world.
Her success at nurturing social networks eventually led to the Vancouver Foundation's groundbreaking report on isolation and loneliness which awakened the rest of Canada to an emerging societal challenge. She accelerated the creation of networks of care through Tyze, her trailblazing social network startup. This led to two speaking engagements at 10 Downing Street, and convinced Petro-Canada to create the CareMaker's Foundation.
Vickie was a fearless and disciplined social innovator long before the concept became popular. In addition to Tyze and PLAN, she was the founding Executive Director of the Family Support Institute, led a curriculum overhaul at Douglas College, founded the PLAN Institute for Caring Citizenship and chaired Ethelo Democracy. She was also the author of multiple books and articles and an inspiring mentor to many.
She received numerous awards including the Order of Canada, the Meritorious Service Medal of Canada, the British Columbia Community Achievement Award, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal, and was named, not surprisingly, one of Canada's Top 100 Most Powerful Women.
Mom was a truth-teller. She approached life with an open heart and mind. Her love for Lina, Joel, stepdaughters Catherine, Liz and Theressa and her grandson Anderson was boundless. Our family vacations remain a priceless memory. There was an equally special place in her heart for her nephews and their children. Her love was unconditional, embracing us despite our imperfections and trusting we would accept hers.
She and her soulmate Al lived an inspired partnership over their many years together. They were partners in both work and life and described their love as a gift that was bestowed on them before the world began. A love so strong that could only be broken by the one challenge they couldn't resolve: at some point, one of them would have to leave their world before the other.
Our mom had many passions: yoga, gardening, music, dancing, cycling, walking, and reading. She especially loved trees. They were a manifestation of her favourite expression, to keep one hand rooted in the soil, the other stretching toward the stars. Particularly the sparkling blue ones.
Her loss is heartbreaking but we find comfort in knowing that our dear mother tree now graces the mystical cosmos she embraced. And that here on earth her energetic life force will continue to sustain life now and forever.
We are grateful for the kindness of family, friends and neighbours and the caring of nurses and doctors, especially our South Surrey/White Rock palliative team.
You can honour Vickie's memory by spreading your beams of love far and wide. Or making a donation to Callanish who nurtured our mom's spirit after her terminal diagnosis. Or to her dear friends at PLAN.
To send flowers to the family of Margaret 'Vickie' Cammack, please visit Tribute Store.