Betty Fox died today. Her spirit was as strong as her son Terry's. Her drive just as fierce. Foisted into the spotlight when Terry's Marathon of Hope gained national attention and enthusiastic support, Betty and the rest of the family supported his dream. When Terry had to stop his run because his cancer had returned with a vengence and died not so long after he was airlifted home, the family rallied the rest of the country to embrace the dream of raising money for cancer research.
Betty took the reins of her son's dream. 30 years later, after touring the country and taking his message beyond our borders, after starting the Terry Fox run which happens every September in most communities from east to west, Betty Fox raised hundreds of millions of dollars. On her son's behalf.
Anything I've read about her, she was described as a feisty shoot-from-the-hip woman. Emotional too. I liked that about her. She was not afraid of letting the tears fall when she spoke of her son to a classroom full of kids, or to a boardroom full of suits. The Foundation that became the backbone of the tremendously successful fundraising was her venue. Her determination to ensure the Fox family retained control of the direction and mission of it is well known. She knew what she wanted........ to keep Terry's spirit, and his dream of eradicating cancer moving forward. With integrity. With very specific parameters on what the Foundation supported. She was a hands-on hard working dedicated Mother who adopted her son's dream with her whole heart and soul. The acorn didn't fall too far from the maternal tree.
I never met Betty Fox, though it never sounded like it would be a difficult thing to do. The woman was everywhere promoting the Terry Fox runs and the other fundraising events. But, I honestly felt like I knew her. We all did. When she walked onto the Opening Ceremonies stage at the Vancouver Olympics carrying the corner of the Olympic flag along with a wonderfully eclectic group of distinguished Canucks, it was simply joyful. She looked marvellous.... her famous white hair, her big smile, her natural-ness shone through to all that watched the ceremonies. I think it was the last time I saw her in the media until recently when they announced that she was very ill.
This woman deserves unbridled recognition. Her own spirit represents the intensity of love and devotion all parents feel for their children. The success of the Terry Fox foundation belongs to her unrelenting efforts. It was her lifework, when she decided 30 years ago to turn her grief into productive energy. We all know, however, she would've traded it all for the gift of having her son alive and well and by her side. Of course.
Like Terry, Betty will continue to be a role model for every Canadian. She shared herself and her family with the rest of us. By so doing, her presence on the landscape and her generosity transformed our individual pursuits. Never give up. Do what is right. Find that cure. Live and love fully.
So, how can a nation honour her with the respect she has earned a thousand times over? What gift can we give? Formal recognition on Parliament Hill is a start. Important too. But given her earthy unpretentious nature, what is needed it our embrace of Betty's lifework. It is up to us to take it on....... to ensure that the good fight continues, to keep the internal flame of her spirit lit. And since we all have felt like she was a friend of us all......... this will come naturally. Just like the love of our children.
May she know peace without mourning. God bless her.
Betty and Rolly Fox carrying the torch during the Paralympic Games.