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Barbara Leona Smith: 1936-2007


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On Sunday June 3rd at 12:25 am, my mother passed away from complications of lung cancer. We will never know exactly what led to her death. Was it the bowel blockage caused by narcotics use (even though the doctors were pretty sure they'd gotten that cleaned out)? Was it chemotherapy, which had an impact on her kidneys and led to their failure? Was it the cancer leapfrogging ahead of us and attacking more of her body's systems?

What I do know is that she lived the way she wanted to live -- independently -- almost to the end. She spent one week in hospital while they tried to get her pain under control (with only partial success) before being transferred to Riverview Health Centre's palliative care ward, where she quickly lapsed into a coma and died almost exactly a week later, passing away peacefully between one breath and the next. It was how she wanted to die, in the place where she wanted to be at the end. Insofar as anyone can be satisfied with the outcome of a situation like this, I am content.

It was much, much sooner than any of us had anticipated. She had just gotten a "six months or less" diagnosis from her oncologist about three weeks previously. We thought we had more time... it was a terrible shock. The irony of it is, we were planning to get together on May 24th to put together her obituary and go over parts of the family history that she wanted us to know and remember. She went into hospital on May 21st, and was soon so doped up with pain medication that any such conversation would have been impossible.

We are immensely grateful to the staff at Riverview,


who were nothing short of amazing in keeping my mother pain-free and providing support and comfort to us during her dying process. They even sent out a bereavement package afterwards, inviting us to take part in grief seminars if we desire to do so.

I'd also like to thank all the kind people here at LCCC for your words of support and advice. I did not post here often, but I always came away from reading your responses feeling better about a bad situation. You have my thanks and best wishes for the future.

This is my mother's obituary.


May 17th 1936 - June 3rd 2007

Peacefully, after a valiant battle with lung cancer, at the Riverview Health Centre. Barbara, also known as “Lee”, was known and loved by many for her skills as a library technician and as a teacher. She established three school libraries in Winnipeg and ran several more before retiring in 2000.

Barbara loved music, gardening, and animals, and faced her diagnosis of cancer with great courage. She is survived by her daughter Laurie and son-in-law George as well as by her beloved cat Mina, and by many friends and former students whose lives she touched. No one who met Barbara could forget her intelligence, willpower, and kindness.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Winnipeg Humane Society in Barbara Smith’s memory and in her name, toward purchasing a plaque in her honour. Please call 982-2041 for more information.

Our sincere thanks to the staff at the Riverview palliative ward for their excellent and compassionate care.

An informal afternoon of memories will be held at the Thomas Sill Auditorium at Riverview Health Centre, on Wednesday June 20th, from 2:30-4:30 pm.

“In the arms of the Goddess, from death to rebirth, you shall go forth.”

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You have my deepest condolences on your mother's death. Your peace is a great inspiration and I wish for you continued strength and peace in knowing that you did all you could to make your mother's journey through this diease easier.



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Wow--establishing those libraries was very cool!

I wonder if your mom was like mine--wanted as much control as possible? My mom was alert and in no pain when she signed her hospice papers, and then died at home peacefully less than one week later. I think women who know their own minds may have some say over their final moments.

Your mom sounds like an incredible woman. They are the ones who leave such enermous gaps in our lives when they are gone.

Please take care of yourself in the upcoming days and weeks.


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My deepest condolences on the loss of your mom. I know it was just not enough time as this happened so fast. The only solice I can give you is at least it was not a long drawn out painful passing.

Keep those beautiful memories of your beloved mom alive in your heart an there she will live on through all her loved ones.


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