A father’s poignant memorial of his daughter.
Shirley McCallum was a shy, unassuming little girl who loved horses; from her first pony to her first competition, Shirley lived to ride. One of her hometown’s biggest equestrian events was the Selkirk Common Riding, a 13-mile ride that was Shirley’s all-time favorite event—and one she was determined never to miss. Shirley’s high school years were the same as any other teen, filled with friends, dances and, of course, boys. At 18-years-old, she accepted a job at a riding center that came complete with an apartment. On her own, working and living full-time with her beloved horses, Shirley had it all. However, a few short years later, her life changed forever when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. McCallum writes of his daughter’s battle with cancer as seen through his eyes and in a way only a father could, paying witness to the slow deterioration of his young daughter and homage to her courage and stanch determination to soldier on, for herself, her family and her new husband, despite the pain and oft-debilitating side effects of her treatments. McCallum writes with a straightforward, open honesty, unafraid to bare the fears or the tears that he and his wife shared through such an incredibly difficult time. Though the years would be sprinkled with moments of laughter and happiness, his words carry with them the uneasy acceptance of the ultimate conclusion, even as he continued to pray for a miracle. Shirley’s last moments were peaceful, and McCallum eloquently describes his daughter being cradled by her mother: “The arms that held her as she came into the world were holding her as she left.”
Shirley McCallum’s story is an ode to the memory of a vivacious young woman and an open letter of sympathy and support for others who may be going through a similar, life-altering experience.