Remembering Roseann Millin: A jewel in Indra's Net.

Remembrance of Roseann Millin 19 August 1938 - 30 November 2009
by Rev. Diane Rollert

How can I speak about Roseann without beginning with a haiku, that simple Japanese form of poetry she so loved.  This one is from Canadian poet, Alice Frampton:
 
rock throwing
our circles
about to meet

I first met Roseann when I arrived here in 2006.  I’ll never forget her warm welcome and the large bag of inspirational books she handed to me, along with several editions of her TaiJi newsletter.  That was Roseann.  She always had something to share. She would cast stones into the water and they would ripple ever outward.

It wasn’t until the following September that we really talked in depth.  She had offered to plan an All Souls service with me and we sat for a long time over lunch at the Claremont Diner.  That day, Roseann shared with me several stories of the strong connections she had to loved ones as they were far away and dying.  She could feel the moment that they left this earth, as if they were reaching out across time and space to say goodbye.  She knew that she was deeply connected to this world and to the spirit world.  

It was during that conversation that she asked me if I knew about Indra’s Jeweled Net, a metaphor that explains Buddhist thought.  “You see,” Roseann said to me, “Each of us is a jewel in Indra’s Net.” The net is like an infinite web of connections.  At each intersection of the web there is a light-reflecting jewel.  Each jewel at each intersection contains another web, and each jeweled web reflects on the others.  It’s like a hall of mirrors that goes on for infinity.  Everything is interconnected.  If we damage one single strand of one jeweled web, we damage all the others.  But the more compassionate we are, the more we create a ripple effect that reverberates throughout the universe.  

Roseann was a jewel who had consciously and clearly dedicated her life to sending out compassion so that it would reverberate throughout Indra’s Net. That was what made knowing Roseann so amazing.  She did not speak empty words.  She truly lived her life according to her beliefs. 

Roseann’s calm, peaceful presence revealed little about the challenges she had faced in her life.  Born in England in 1938, her earliest memories were of Nazi bombing raids on Newcastle-on-Tyne.  Her mother had gone into labour and Roseann was left in the care of the air-raid warden.  Her mother nearly died, and her newborn brother was temporarily lost in the confusion.  Roseann was sent to an orphanage evacuation home (a truly Dickensian place, she said) where she had no contact with family for six months, until her mother was finally well enough to resume care of her two children.

In 1952, the family immigrated to Canada.  They were the only Scottish family in the district.  They had lived a spartan life in England, so coming to Montreal and living with electricity, indoor plumbing and a telephone were great luxuries.  Roseann and her brother kept themselves amused writing and performing puppet theatre plays.  They got so good that they would perform for birthday parties and other events for pocket money.  Singing was also an important part of her young life -- something that would remain so throughout her life. 

Roseann’s family moved Mexico for a time, a rough period for Roseann since dyslexia made it hard for her to master a new language.  Later she would go on to study at Victoria College and then McGill.  She began working as a counsellor at Dawson College in the 70s and stayed there until the 90s when she was diagnosed with MS.

Her learning disabilities challenged her, yet she figured out strategies that got her through. I remember her telling me that writing was very hard for her, yet I will always think of her as a superb communicator. Health challenged her as well, yet she took her own adversity and she used it to help others.  This is what so inspired me as I got to know her.  She was a teacher to her very last moment. 

I have received so many memories about Roseann and her caring, supportive and loving ways.  She traveled. She sang.  She introduced TaiJi to so many. She was a listener and good counsellor.  She organized a first-ever alternative health care program for doctors at the Royal Victoria this year – an accomplishment that was hard won and for which she was extremely proud.  There are many stories we will have to share as we gather for tea after this service.  But I do want to share a few messages from some especially important people in her life who could not be here today.

The first is from her dearest friends Pat and Robin Hutchinson.  In her last days, Roseann told me that she was dreaming of returning to their house on the water overlooking the Gulf Islands.  Pat and Robin write:

Roseann was a friend of ours since early days (late 50’s) at Victoria College.  We spent many hours together in science classes and endless labs.  We also sang in the college choir with Roseann (who had a lovely, secure alto voice) and enjoyed many happy evenings at her family home.  Roseann and Robin headed off to McGill together in 1961 and I followed a couple of years later after Robin and I were married.  We all lived in the student ghetto in those days and saved our pennies to go to concerts and to treat ourselves to dinners out in Montreal’s unique restaurants.   

Roseann filled the role of aunt with our first child, Joan.  The many children’s books she gave Joan have been handed down and read to Joan’s daughters.  Roseann was godmother to our son Christopher.  Several years ago, when Christopher (by now a published prize-winning poet) spent a summer in Montreal, Roseann walked him from one end of the city to the other sharing all her special places with him.  He found her to be a kindred spirit.

We so enjoyed her visits back to the west coast and we will fondly remember Roseann sitting in a chair by the window, looking out over the sea with a cup of tea in one hand and patting Sidney the cat with the other.  She has left so many warm memories of a gentle, loving friend.

Roseann faced many difficulties and setbacks throughout her life, but always faced them with courage, grace, and an indomitable sense of humour. She appreciated beauty and shared her delight to the fullest with all who knew her.

We will miss Roseann. She was a bright and shining spirit. 

From Rev. Peter Boullata
Roseann was a counsellor at Dawson College when I was a student there. She had started a Tai Chi club for students, and after [a first] workshop, I began dropping into the club, and then attended faithfully. Roseann was such a gentle teacher and guide. I credit her with putting me on the spiritual path, by introducing me to insight meditation. 
I think she was on the peripheries of the UCM at the time of the 1987 fire. She kind of came out of the woodwork. She and I made a huge backdrop for the worship space in Channing Hall, after we [had to move our Sunday services] there--a silver foil flaming chalice where the flame was a phoenix, with red, orange, and yellow feathers/flames dancing around it. 

Roseann exemplified the Taoist spirit of acceptance and flow, a very grounded and centred person. Even when she felt strongly about something, she never lost that sense of accepting what was and being with whatever was happening. 
 
From Chung Liang Al Huang, the TaiJi master who Roseann was responsible for bringing to the West:
Roseann has been a long time Living Tao Tai Ji friend, faithful and deeply connected with us consistently for so long. It is difficult for me to think of her not with us any more in person. But, as always, once we learn to transcend this immediate sense of loss and sadness, the joy of knowing her and wanting to celebrate her LIFE begins.

***
Two years ago, Roseann came to tell me that her health was failing and that she did not know how long she would live.  She had made a courageous and personal choice not to pursue traditional treatment for a cancer that was growing in her stomach.  She was nearing 70 and she was on her own.  She didn’t want to be a burden on her friends.  I remember that year, and how frail she had become.  I know many of us thought she would surely waste away then.  But she rallied, and she had two good years of life.  

In her last days she told me that she hadn’t had an easy life, but she had had a good life.
“I feel so surrounded by love.” She was surrounded by love, and there are so many people to thank here. Roseann had a goal of staying home as long as she possibly could.  It took a huge team to make that happen, from dear friends Caroline and Elaine, who looked after the medical and material matters in her life, Lisette who helped to shepherd her spirit into the next realm, neighbours Jill and Bourke who got her up in the morning and put her to bed at night, members of the caring network of this church who took turns calling Roseann each day to make sure she was okay, helpers and companions Jill and Jordie who gave emotional and practical support, her complimentary health team Michelle, Veronique, and all the others whose names I am sure I am missing.  It took so many people, and each act of compassion will continue to reverberate across Indra’s web.

A few days before Roseann died, I asked her what message she wanted to leave for all of us.  “Just love,” she said. “Only love.  That’s what it is all about. Love.”

Memories of Roseann Millin shared by members of our congregation
 (five years after she had passed away in late November 2009):
 
 Trudy Blumstein: "Is there anyone who didn't love Roseann? She was always 
 kind and generous with her time. When I was animator for a Parkinson's 
 support group at one of the CLSCs, I told her that the group wanted to 
 have a regular exercise program that responded to the different energy 
 levels and movement issues they experienced. She immediately got into 
 high gear, and after attending one group session, she put together a Tai 
 Chi session which she worked into a chair exercise routine that everyone 
 could manage. She also brought cookies and humour with her every single 
 time. Now I treasure a Dreamtime tapestry that she brought me from 
 Australia—it hangs over my desk and it is lively and a bit mystical in 
 its spiralling and reminds me of her appreciation of the infinite 
 patterns life gives us. Yep—she is missed."
 
 Sandra Hunt: "Roseann has come to my mind frequently these past months, 
 as I took a few Japanese exercise books and Japanese and Chinese 
 dictionaries collected from her library on my October trip to Japan and 
 China. Holding them and using them brought up imagined scenes of how and 
 why she might have bought and used them.
 "She was an enthusiastic exponent of Reiki practice and of yoga—and 
 there too I have a book of hers, on the history of yoga. When I first 
 met her in the post-fire Channing Hall days, she had an amazing quantity 
 of long, beautifully braided hair. I recall she also put together a 
 monthly newsletter with haiku poetry and observations.
 "I remember her enthusiasm for our service choir. She sent me 
 information for the CBC's annual Choral Competition, a sweetly 
 supportive gesture. As Patricia pointed out, we wear her necklaces of 
 stars when we're singing songs about the wonder of creation, or the 
 ineffable universe, and I think of her. She emanated an atmosphere of 
 kindness and generosity and optimism.
 "I appreciate that her photo is on the memorial bulletin board for us 
 to greet in passing. Such congregants are our church's treasures."
 
 Patricia Philip: "I have so many warm memories of Roseann, particularly 
 with respect to Parts in Peace, our church choir.
 "She provided us with numerous initiatives and helpful aids for our 
 rehearsals, accessories (such as gold star necklaces) for our Sunday 
 performances, and generous assistance to those of us who needed a little 
 extra help with reading music.
 "Her sense of humour, dedication to all that she embraced, and high 
 standards were part and parcel of the great lady she was.
 "I also worked with Roseann at the Learning Associates of Montreal, an 
 organization that focuses on diagnosis and tutoring of clients (mostly 
 young students) with learning disabilities. She prepared the most 
 amazing tutoring sessions for each of her students, ensuring that each 
 one received the highest level of tailor-made materials suited to their 
 learning challenges.
 "In the last few months of her life, I was also part of Roseann's 
 network of friends and colleagues who tried to give her the independence 
 and quality of life that she wanted as she faced imminent death. She 
 organized her days in ways that few of us would ever be able to fully 
 appreciate. It was, after all, her life, and one that she was going to 
 manage right to the end. And that she did.
 "We miss Roseann but know that her spirit lives on for so many of us in 
 the UCM community."
 
 (Reverend) Charles Eddis: "Roseann was a great help to the congregation 
 shortly after the fire in 1987, a trauma to all of us in the 
 congregation at the time. She seated a large number of us in a big 
 circle of chairs, and said a few words to set the process off. Then, for 
 over an hour, we went around the circle, each person holding a talisman 
 just once, in turn, so that each of us once spoke our feelings about the 
 fire. No one else spoke or interrupted. When we had gone around the 
 circle once, as I recall, we sat quietly for a few moments and then all 
 left. Roseann said nothing in conclusion. We had all heard each other."
 
 Denis Barsalo: "I met Roseann while singing with Brian Brice in the 
 Carmina Choir. We had a lot of laughs. I also interacted with her quite 
 a bit when I was the chair of congregational programs and she was 
 running a regular tai chi class. She was always so calm and charming; 
 always a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her lips."

 (Reverend) Diane Rollert: "My dream is to have a labyrinth constructed 
 outside on the church grounds dedicated in her memory. That was one of 
 Roseann’s dreams that she and Aurel shared for years."
 
 And to end, a song that Roseann and Louise Halperin sang together: Walt 
 Kelly's lyrics, to the tune of "Deck the Halls."  (Louise sang this at Roseann's
  memorial).
 
      Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
      Walla-walla wash, and Kalamazoo.
      Nora's freezing on the trolley,
      Swaller-dollar-cauliflower, alligaroo.
 
      Don't we know archaic barrel?
      Lullaby, lily boy, Loozyville Lou.
      Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
      Boola boola Pensacola Hullabaloo!