By Taryn Grant
People left their seats to dance and sing along to a live performance of “Mustang Sally” while servers waited in the next room, poised with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries.
This was not your typical funeral.
Audrey Parker wanted her friends and family to be uplifted by the ceremony and so she planned every detail with that aim before she died on Nov. 1.
“She planned it and she knew that when we walked out of here today we would remember that life is supposed to be a celebration. This is a celebration of life, not just Audrey’s but all of ours,” said her friend Nancy Regan, the master of ceremonies.
Several hundred people gathered at Pier 21 on Friday afternoon to commemorate Parker, the 57-year-old Halifax woman who chose to die with medical assistance as she faced a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Many of the speakers mentioned how popular Parker was, with a large and adoring group of friends and a close-knit family who made up much of the crowd. But the ceremony was also open to the public, who came to know Parker in the final months of her life as she advocated for change in Canada’s assisted dying legislation.
Parker left two legacies: one for the people who knew her and were inspired by her exuberant kindness and another for those in the public who were spurred to take a closer look at a complex law.
“I’m gonna get a little political now, because I want to talk about Aud’s legacy,” said her friend Kimberley King, the last of seven speakers at Friday’s ceremony.
“Audrey knew that she wanted to be a spark, but she never imagined she’d be a national advocate,” King said.
Parker was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2016 and as her illness progressed she experienced excruciating pain from tumours in her bones. She was approved by a doctor for medical assistance in dying (MAID), but as it stands, the law stipulates that patients must give late-stage consent.
It’s a safeguard that’s meant to protect people in a vulnerable state — such as when their physical health and mental faculties may be failing — but Parker said that in her circumstance, all it did was cut her life even shorter.
“I really wish that we had her this Christmas,” said her stepdaughter, Lucie MacMaster, after reflecting at Friday’s ceremony on past holidays they’d shared.
“But here we are,” she added.
Parker chose Nov. 1 for her final day because she knew that she would still be able to give the necessary late-stage consent. The cancer has recently spread to the lining of her brain, and she worried that if she waited much longer, the opportunity would be lost.
Before she died, Parker called on Ottawa to amend MAID so that people like her could give advance consent for their own death. It could not be amended in time for her, but she asked the public to keep pushing for the change.
“She did her part, and now it’s our turn. In Audrey’s honour and memory, I ask you to continue to support her movement. We have an opportunity to amend a federal law so that people who are invoking MAID don’t need double consent and therefore don’t need to die early like our Audrey did,” said King.
The political response to Parker’s plea has been mixed.
Local MLA Darren Fisher has said he’d like to see the legislation go “a little bit further,” but Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould disagreed, telling reporters the day after Parker’s death that there were no plans to change the two-year-old law.
Parker’s friend Robert Zed announced on Friday that there will soon be a permanent memorial for Parker in Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park. A steel bench is to be installed on Monday, facing out toward the water on Sailors Memorial Way.
Complete Article ↪HERE↩!