Cornelia Dragland 1955 - 2019

[Cornelia Dragland]
Cornelia at the Alhambra Palace Hotel
Grenada, Spain - August 2011

Cornelia Ingrid Dragland, 63, after a brave four and a half year battle with ALS, passed peacefully at home in her sleep on February 3rd, 2019. She was a devoted wife, mother, friend, and animal lover. She is survived by her husband, Vaughn Dragland, step-son Michael, daughters Amanda and Fallon, and grandchildren Athena, Avery, Elias, and Roan. A celebration of her life was held on February 9th, 3pm, at the Turner & Porter Butler Chapel, 4933 Dundas Street West in Toronto.

Cornelia was a special kind of person, truly beautiful inside and out. An old soul with unwearied youthfulness. With eyes that belied a fierce intelligence, she was never shy about being quick to laughter.

She took great joy being a mother and wife, loved her family, and dear dog Toby. She cared very deeply for her many friends, people and animals alike, generously giving her time and attention to anyone who sought it.

She always believed in living life fully, and revelled in the wonder and beauty of the world. She never took for granted a gorgeous sunset, nor the last decadent bite of chocolate cake. She found something to love in everyone and each new moment, and was never shy to share it.

She brought magic wherever she went, and we are forever grateful.

Donations to the ALS Society of Canada are appreciated in her memory: www.als.ca

Fallon's Eulogy

One thing that was important to my Mom was that she be remembered for who she was, before the disease. That everyone held memories of her close to their hearts.

I'll always remember our afternoon stroller trips to McDonald's play place, stopping for Fish & Chips on the way and waiting for the video store to open. I'll remember all the times I should have taken your advice, and instead of calling me out on it you'd just give me that look.

I should have thanked you so much more for all those mornings you literally flew me across the school field to get to school on time, or every school assignment you helped with. Your compassion and sense of justice taught me from a very young age to love all and to be kind.

You were popular among all our friends, from summer picnic lunches to field trip leader. Birthday parties were always a hit, and you could outrun almost anyone in a 3-legged race. Xmas mornings were nothing short of spectacular, and our family New Years tradition of Chinese food and board games were many of the best nights.

Your zest for adventure and free spirit rubbed off on me and I loved our conversations of where to travel next. You taught me so much, so much that I didn't and couldn't understand until becoming a mother myself. I promise to teach my boys the same things you taught me. I promise to give them a similar childhood to the amazing one you gave us - full of love, traditions, and memories.

I'm so sorry for everything the disease slowly took from you, you will always be the bright beautiful amazing free spirited woman I would call first for everything.

Thank you for the memories that I will always keep.

Mandi's Eulogy

Thank you so much everyone for being here to celebrate the life of my dear mother, Cornelia Dragland. I know she would be overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support of all those congregated in this room, but anyone who knew her would hardly be surprised, I don't think. She meant a lot to so many people.

I would like to take some time to tell you a few tidbits about my mother and her life, some things that you may know, and some things you may not. There was so much to her, too much to write succinctly in a eulogy, but I will give some highlights.

My mother came from a broken home, and a complicated, at times abusive, childhood. Many, many people who endure such hard beginnings often perpetuate the cycle of abuse, either to themselves, people around them, or both in their lives. My mother, amazingly, did the opposite. My mother ensured that my stepbrother, my sister, and I, had full, happy childhoods, and she always said she loved to live through us vicariously, having missed out on so much herself. She was welcoming and kind to almost everyone she knew, and forgiving to a fault, but at the same time, iron-willed, independant, and full of self-assuredness and self-love. It is truly remarkable she turned into the woman she did.

Her whole life she was extremely athletic, and during High School, almost became a short-distance Olympic runner for Canada, were it not for an unfortunate knee injury.

She was very much a free spirit, and at 14, (I believe you already heard), she hitch-hiked to Woodstock.

Speaking of Woodstock, she loved music! She had one of the most enviable vinyl record collections you've ever seen, and then later on supplemented it with hundreds of CD's. All organized alphabetically. We made frequent weekly trips to the record store, and there was never a moment in my home where my mother wasn't playing music, and was usually dancing and singing along, too. That is the one disparaging thing I'll say about my mom: she was tone deaf and could not hold a note. But she sang with such gusto that it never really mattered. She loved the classics, of course: The Beatles, Led Zepplin, The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blues, but also the oldies, like Ella Fitzgerald and Bill Withers. She also listened to electronica like Enigma, more niche bands like the Electric Prunes, and was always on the lookout for new stuff, too. I remember one ill-fated summer in 1999 she discovered Eiffel 65's "Im Blue", and played it over, and over, and over again - much to our household's chagrin.

She also loved movies. She loved going to the movies. She also had a similarly enviable and well-catalogued DVD collection. She loved watching certain well-acted scenes from movies over and over again, marveling at the mastery of their craft. Famous movie catchphrases became the private in-language of our home, with phrases like "You talkin' to me?!" and "E.T. phone home" and resounding "WHOO-AH!" (From "Scent of a Woman") being heard constantly.

She loved to play classic board-games with us, like Clue, and in the early days of computer games, she was undefeated at all of the iterations of Commander Keen in our household.

[Cornelia Dragland]
Cornelia, swimming with dolphins
Blue Lagoon, The Bahamas - November 2015

My mother never went to college or university. Despite her straight A's in school, offers of partial scholarships, and her part-time job at a cafe, there wasn't enough money. She told me she would have studied to become a Marine Biologist, because of her love for dolphins, and the unexplored mysteries of the ocean.

But not just dolphins, she loved all animals - and they loved her back! We had many pets growing up - several cats, rabbits, a bird, a guinea pig, and finally, her long-time dream, a dog, and she was all of their favourite person, without contest.

However, her true passion, and the most rewarding job of all, she said, was being a mother. She became a full time stay-at-home mom when I was very young. And she loved her children completely - of that there is no doubt. She was my best friend, my mentor, my confidant ... my own personal cheering squad. She supported my brother, my sister, and I in our every endeavour. And later on, when we got our dog, Toby, she trained and raised him with a similar dedication.

She also loved being an important part of her community, fundraising for the Heart and Stroke foundation every year, and always helping out or supporting neighbours and friends, should they need her.

Even though she never attended post-secondary education, she always had a thirst for learning and knowledge. She would teach my sister and I lessons supplemental to our schoolwork, things she said she wanted to "fill in the gaps" for, like world geography, history, grammar, spelling, and art, among some of them. She taught it all to us with such an enthusiasm that she made learning seem fun. And later on, when my siblings and I attended post-secondary school, she would love to hear re-caps of our lessons and studies, because she found it interesting.

She and my father had a long marriage of almost 38 years, and they showed me what it meant to truly love someone, to commit to someone, and work things out, even when times are hard. They showed me what it meant to care for someone you loved, in both health and in sickness, like when my father had his stroke, and my mother helped in his recovery, or more recently during my mother's final days, where my father was her primary caregiver, and spared no effort to make sure she was comfortable and had all her needs fulfilled.

I remember their marriage always being one of much affection, laughter, and cooperation, and for that I am forever grateful to them, for setting such a great example for me.

I have been angry for a very long time. Ever since I found out about my mother's ALS diagnosis. I was angry for all the things I had always subconsciously looked forward to and counted on being taken away from me, like my mother and I growing into old ladies together, cackling over coffee, or my child or children getting to know the unbridled doting of their grandmother. All the memories I wouldn''t get to make. It didn''t seem fair. The universe didn't make sense. I couldn't believe that such a remarkable woman, such a source of solace and comfort, for not just me, but countless others, would be taken so soon, so early. That something so awful could happen to someone who so deserves back all the good in the world that she puts into it.

But I have come to terms with the fact that that is more often than not the nature of things: like Robert Frost prolifically wrote: "Nature's first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf's a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf." My mother was one of the most beautiful souls I have ever known, and just like a rainbow, or a sunset, or a rare flower that blooms only once every seven years, her time with us was radiant but brief.

My mother loved lilies. She loved planting them all over the garden near the pond in our backyard growing up. Incidentally, if you search for information about the Giant Himalayan Lily, arguably the most beautiful lily of all, you will find that: "Massive white-and-purple trumpet-shaped flowers appear from the 10-foot-tall plant after about seven years. When not in bloom, the lily is a mass of glossy heart-shaped green leaves. The parent plant dies after flowering but leaves behind several smaller bulbs." So, to end this all on a hopeful note, which she would want, similarly to the Giant Himalayan Lily, my mother left behind much of herself: her lessons of love and unpretending kindness in her children, her family, and her friends, and from those humble bulbs that she seeded in all who knew her, her soul will always be in bloom.

Vaughn's Eulogy

I have been struggling to come up with the proper things to say for Cornelia. She deserves the greatest eulogy ever, but I''m sorry — this will be short. My sense of loss is too much. My words are just so inadequate…

I just want to say that after dealing with ALS for many years, she passed peacefully in her sleep at home. It''s a blessing that her ordeal is over.

I met Cornelia on May 3rd, 1978. I was only planning to be in Toronto for a week, but we met during that week and (as Mick Jagger says), "Wild Horses couldn't drag me away". That week turned into more than 40 years. It was my great pleasure and honor to share most of my life with this wonderful woman.

She was my conscience, my memory, my soul mate, and my confidant. She always challenged me to think right and do right. She was always all about what is good and true. She made me a better person.

Some of her favourite things were: her daughters, her dog Toby, her flower garden, Sudoku and crossword puzzles, pinot noir, dark chocolate, old movies, the ocean (there be dolphins there), sunsets, and travel to exotic places.

Although not religious, Cornelia was a very spiritual person. If there is a heaven she is surely there now (with Toby).

Goodbye my sweet precious love. You will be forever in my heart and haunting my dreams. I am still madly in love with you after forty years together!

Hello from 2008!

I was born in Toronto, where I live with my husband Vaughn Dragland and our daughters Amanda and Fallon. This is a photo of me with my wonderful dog, Toby.

[Cornelia Dragland]
Cornelia with Toby (Christmas 2008)