Island Singers and community members hold carolling event for Mary Buie

Members of the Island Singers and community members sing Christmas carols to lift the spirits of choir member Mary Buie. Photos by Jill Ferguson.

KAGAWONG—Mary Buie, whose Hope’s Path series has provided a first-hand glimpse into the health battlefield that is cancer, was an enthusiastic member of both the Island Singers and Manitoulin Community Choir. This past Christmas season, Ms. Buie was delighted to find herself on the receiving end of a good carolling, as members of the Island Singers and community members gathered outside the house to sing her favourite carols.

“It was fantastic!” said Ms. Buie. “I was sitting by the patio door and there was this beautiful choir singing a lot of Christmas carols. I even had a lyric sheet myself.”

Ms. Buie is now on a steady stream of oxygen, so her participation was not what she would have wished it to be, but still she expressed her delight.

“I was almost a founding member of the Island Singers when it was Dorothy Anstice running the show,” she said. “I got involved in Jane Best’s choir as well. I really loved singing hymns and carols. It is one of the ways we communicate with God.”

Ms. Buie said the choir regaled her for a good 20 to 25 minutes.

“I was always the one who would get carolling going in Kagawong,” she said. “We would go to visit the shut-ins at Christmas time. Now they did it for me, it was so beautiful.”

“This was instigated by her brother Mike Coombs,” said Island Singers director Chris Theijsmeijer. “I just didn’t have time to organize carolling this year. Mike asked if we could do something to help raise Mary’s spirits. We bounced around a bunch of ideas, we thought about a concert, but then we were not sure Mary’s health would be up to that. In the end we decided on the carolling. It was our tradition and Mary used to organize the carolling in Kagawong, so we got the word out, gathered in the parking lot in front of the house where Mary is staying.”

Mr. Theijsmeijer said that the response was huge. “We had people travelling all the way from Little Current and Evansville, and, of course, people in the community who know Mary well. It was quite the evening.”

This tribute to Ms. Buie was poignant. “I will not be here next year,” said Ms. Buie, whose cancer is now progressing quickly and increasingly hampering her quality of life. “We have to be realistic,” she said. “So, the carolling by my friends and neighbours, by the choirs I was a part of for so many years, was so very special to me. It fills your soul.”

As for her favourite Christmas carol, Ms. Buie did not hesitate for a heartbeat. “‘Once in David’s Royal City’,” she said. “It’s because it is so English, I think. The other carol I really like is ‘Good King Wenceslas,’ probably for the same reason,” she laughed. “I have this old scratchy record of Christmas carols and the very first one on the record begins with one choirboy singing the first verse of ‘Once in David’s Royal City.’ It is so beautiful.”

Mary Buie sits by the patio door to join in the singing as friends from across the Island came to carol outside where she is living.