Her smile was so Big and Genuine

Carrie Alyman


My friend Shirley,

I first met Shirley in the dog park walking our dogs.  I always enjoyed our easy long conversations while we appreciated nature and the opportunity to play with and watch our dogs enjoy their freedom. Often with camera in hand Shirley would take beautiful pictures of our dog Gypsy and the world around us.  Being the generous and thoughtful person she was she would often send these pictures to me.

As our relationship developed Shirley would introduce me to other dog parks, her home, more of her life and now the pictures would include our baby girl. Eventually a second daughter graced our lives and Shirley's gift of putting her lovely pictures to music would become among our most treasured gifts. Eventually she did a photo session with all of my parents' children and grandchildren. The pictures were made into a photo book to give to my parents. It was one of my most favourite gifts to have ever given them. Shirley's photos will always have a presence in our home.

Shirley's creativity spilled over into many other avenues in her life and I enjoyed learning more about this side of her. I even felt like I was learning something (or at least hoping to) just by looking at all the photos she would post on her site and by watching and listening to her ideas on how she would decorate, create her cards, make jewellry or the many other artistic projects she would take on. I remember thinking how neat it was to see her get so excited about a certain type of bead she had found and ordered and how anxious she was to get making some necklaces. A beautiful necklace in a cute little bag was left in my mailbox one day. Shirley was always so generous with her time, effort and gifts.

I am so thankful that Shirley finally started to believe in how truly talented she was.  Not just her camera savy-ness but as so many others have recognized, her unique ability to see the beauty around us in our everyday lives. By starting to believe what many of us were telling her about her talent I was hoping Shirley could start to understand how much she was actually giving to others through her talents.

Shirley also had a great drive to keep active and fit. I appreciated the enthusiasm she had for the many things she got involved in. She inspired me to haul my lazy butt out of bed in the early hours of the morning for some pretty hard core bike rides. It was a feat to get me out of bed at that hour but an even bigger feat to keep up with her as I drafted behind her around the city.   

Shirley talents were a big part of her. Even more memorable for me is the part of her that was so honest and forthcoming about herself and her life both before and after her illness. I so respected her willingness to be open-minded about things, to say it like it was and to call herself on her own shortcomings when she would make a realization about such things.

Given all the challenges that came with her illness I was truly inspired by how she navigated through all of it. Honest with her fears and sadness but remarkably resilient both physically and mentally. She was so appreciative of Dan and her close friends. She would tell me these relationships were the most important thing to her. I was moved by her efforts to give and focus on others at a time when she was struggling with so much. A picture I took of Shirley while in rehab will always stick in my mind.  Her smile was so big and genuine. Moments later she blew a kiss for a second pic. She was busting with love. I wanted to add those photos here but they turned out too dark.

Shirley, I am sad you are gone. I miss you in my life. I am very thankful for the time we did have. You are a precious soul.

Love Carrie