Tender and fierce.
That's how Sandi Cox (right), former chief nurse executive at Holland Bloorview, was remembered today at a celebration of her life.
I imagine most staff and families here have their own very personal stories of the ways in which Sandi embodied strength and vulnerability.
I remember seeing Sandi in the old cafeteria at the MacMillan site when I first lost my hair to alopecia 10 years ago. She had lived and thrived with scars from a gas explosion she was burned in years earlier and I wanted to know how I could get to a point of not hating my head -- which made me feel exposed and vulnerable.
I was fine with other people's differences. Just not my own!
I sat down beside Sandi and I sobbed.
I don't remember what we talked about, or what advice she gave me, but Sandi was my role model: if Sandi could look and feel beautiful with scars, I could do the same without hair.
Sandi had amazing energy. One day we were working on a mini-documentary called A Day in the Life of Bloorview. It focused on our youngest inpatients with the most complex challenges. Sandi came to life when asked to explain the holistic nature of our hospital program. She conveyed the wonder and value of each child's life and how staff and volunteers worked with families to make their days rich. Sandi exuded Holland Bloorview's vision of possibility. You couldn't be around Sandi and not feel like you were floating on ideas and opportunities.
It was months after I developed alopecia that Sandi came to tell me she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember the big hug we gave each other. Somehow Sandi managed to continue working while going through her treatment. I'll never forget the day she popped by to show me the meticulous handiwork of the surgeon who had sewn up her incision so precisely. She was so proud.
Sandi was unstoppable. No matter what life threw at her, she always found a way around. That's where the fierce, determined and creative part of her personality came in.
I knew that Sandi's cancer had come back, but a part of me expected that she was invincible.
At the service, the minister spoke of Sandi's inner light, which never dimmed.
I shook the hand of one of her sons. "Your mom was my role model," I said.
He smiled. "She was quite a woman," he said.
I drove back to the hospital. It was raining. Rihanna's Diamonds in the Sky came on. Yes, I thought: "Shine bright like a diamond." I cranked it up and thought of Sandi.