When you see an 80 year old woman, pale, bony, weak-voiced, it may be hard to believe that a younger sister always thought her a glamorous figure, beginning from the time she filled the gaps in the household when our mother was in hospital having a baby. Was it Bev who said I want just a sliver of cake, and Dad cut a sliver off the bread board and put it on a plate; or was it Dad who asked for a sliver of cake, and Bev who took him at his word and made us all laugh at the cleverness? She had much in common with our Dad, more than skinniness. They both had tremendous and sustaining faith. Inspiring faith. They both believed in conservation, Dad with his bucket in the tub to catch drips from a cranky tap, Bev putting away dabs of this and dabs of that until they’d been in the fridge so long you couldn’t recognize them. Whenever I save a tea bag for the next cup, I think of Bev. Friends started coming by Oneida Street, including Johnny Borg with Bobby Clark in his Studebaker convertible, boyfriends who brought candy bars for us little kids. Bev getting dressed up for a date, in clothes she’d sewn herself. Bev going off to nursing school in New Jersey. The letters I wrote to her, the distinctive handwriting, with her characteristic abbreviations, on letters that came back. Bob Brophy, how much fun he was. A big football player with big friends. Bob helped us move into Taylor Street, drank beer out of a 16 ounce Pyrex measuring cup. Then the marriage, and one of the few formal Burns family portraits, taken by a Herald News photographer. The reception at the country club. Vogue cigarettes in pastel-coloured paper, with gold filter-tips. Champagne! See what I mean by glamour? On the honeymoon, in Florida, they saw real alligators! When Brian was born and she stayed with us on Taylor Street, Bob brought her milkshakes to fatten her up while she was nursing. The move to Orchard Lane. Bev staying up half the night, with papers on the table, accounts, or text books; getting the kids off to camp, being the camp nurse and neighbourhood nurse, looking cool in summer with her stretchy strapless tops, oil glistening off her freckled shoulders. Being someone we younger kids could count on, a second mother. When I married she gave practical advice such as, if you can only afford hamburgers or hot dogs, go for the hamburger because at least you know what’s in it. That was 1963. She championed nursing as the best way to give babies a good start, and sent me brochures from the La Leche league when I was pregnant with Elisabeth. In fact whenever I fold a napkin carelessly or neglect to use brillo on a stainless steel sink, I think of Bev, and while it’s funny on one hand, it also illustrates how she continues to thread through my daily life. When I visited her October, 2009, ostensibly to help, she stood by my side watching me chop vegetables for soup, teaching me an easier way to peel garlic. She said, when you get to my age, you’ve learned a few things. Even with cancer Bev had more energy than most people, and outlasted me shopping by hours on that October trip, choosing boots - if not glamourous, at least stylish - to match her winter coat. She thrived on half the amount of sleep most people need. Midnight, one, two in the morning? Sure but just a few more stitches would finish off the Halloween costume for a grandchild; and then there’s the new cake recipe she’s been wanting to try on her bridge group. Wouldn’t it be nice to have it done so she could get to mass in the morning? Amazingly, she pursued her university degree and additional training while working and mothering, and received her bachelor’s the same year as Brian. She was fused to her chosen life role as a care giver, yet could laugh at her own heedless enthusiasm, such as the time she took down someone’s yellowed curtains to wash and bleach them, and discovered, too late, that they had never been white to begin with, but the shade called tea-stained. In our talks that October she told me about her constant conversations with God; her acceptance of the inevitable. It was just how it would happen that worried her. She didn’t want it to hurt, the moment of passing, and she craved to know what she was going to be doing in heaven. Though she didn’t want to assume anything, there seemed a good chance she would get there. “But I couldn’t sit around playing the harp all day,” she said. “I suppose I could do laundry.” Her green eyes got big, as they did at such moments. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t kidding. Who knew she would survive double pneumonia in the spring of 2012, be one of the few people to ever be kicked out of hospice. That she would recover to the extent that she could join some of her siblings in Phoenix to celebrate our brother Tim's 65th birthday in July 2011, and make nurses hats for us all to surprise Tim, since he had broken a vertebrae shortly before we were due to arrive. That trip she showed me how you could peel under ripe peaches as you would peel a potato, and offered to sleep on an air mattress on the floor at Brigid's house because she knew I liked a bed to myself. It would be easier, she said, I'm lighter. Then - was it only January of this year- the 80th birthday party arranged by the kids and hosted by Rob. As many people to celebrate her as she had years to celebrate. She was tired after the round of parties for Christmas, all the visitors, but her wish was to avoid doctor's visits for the whole year and had gained some weight. Would she finally get a break from the lymphoma she had been holding off since 1995, using everything from traditional medicine to magnet therapy? As we know, it was not meant to be. But the great thing was, Bev didn't stop being Bev until she lost consciousness. Concerned, even on the morning of her death, about the CNA who had to bend over to wash her; advising Beth on the proper method of removing the iodine the kind hospice nurse had inadvertently dropped on the carpet when she came to administer help earlier, as day was breaking. Hugging her granddaughter-roomie Kerry and saying what were probably her last words, “It's always better in the summer,” a phrase that had special meaning for them, but also expressed the relief Bev felt as death approached quickly, at last.