Who is Marsha Forest?
MARSHA SNYDERMAN FOREST
1942 – 2000
Marsha Forest was a remarkable leader, advocate and champion of inclusion for all. She passed on, June 2, 2000 after a 12 year battle with cancer. She continued to work and teach until weeks before her untimely death.
Because of her impact internationally, the Board of the Centre for Integrated Education and Community decided to change their name to The Marsha Forest Centre.
Marsha’s Spirit Moves On
This is the original ‘e-mail’ notice sent by Jack
on Saturday, June 3, 2000
When there is no easy way to ‘break the news’, straight truth is the best.
Marsha passed away at 11:30 PM on Friday, June 2, 2000 in her bed at home. She had slipped into a coma less than 24 hours earlier and passed in peace. She joins Father Pat, Shafik, Herb, Raniera, Maria, Bryce – and many more. The spirit of Inclusion is strong – and now requires one less air ticket to distribute support to all of you.
Many people have been concerned that we haven’t been writing much this last little while. Truthfully, it was partly because we have been out ‘doing things’, and partly because I was subconsciously afraid that if we either ‘made’ or announced any plans, it would upset our rather delicate balance with improving health.
On the weekend, our nearly two month reprieve with better health ended. The roller coaster surprised us with another plummet dive. Breathing problems have been constant, but until the weekend, Marsha was caning about, climbing stairs, walking in parks, going to a few movies, cooking a bit – generally returning to a modified full life. Thursday night we were at a Billy Connelly Show at Massey Hall. Friday night, we were guests at the OACL (Ontario Association of Community Living) annual event where we were presently with a stunning statue honouring us with their first Lifetime Achievement Award. Saturday we had Dim Sum downtown, and took in a movie. Saturday night, a persistent little cough would not stop. Sunday, there wasn’t enough ‘air’ to walk, so we ‘wheeled’ on the waterfront for two hours with Sheldon. Then things began to deteriorate physically.
We had a parade of doctors on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Caring, sympathetic, open to listening, we were well treated. But after three days of ‘looking’, the ‘western medical’ system offered no further helpful interventions. Not only did we not want to consider more chemo, it was the consensus that there was no point. Radiation does not work when there is water in the lungs; the water absorbs the radiation. Even the very temporary physical draining of the lung cavity water by needle (aspirating) was considered too invasive and risky.
Yesterday afternoon (Thursday), after returning from the Cancer clinic appointment, Marsha was both physically and emotionally exhausted. We carried her upstairs to bed. She collapsed and went to sleep. She slept the night through.
This morning (Friday) I let her sleep, and when a nurse friend, Betty Currie from Winnipeg arrived for a visit, we decided to wake her and give her a bath. We were unable to wake her. She had slipped into a comfortable coma during the night, and was sleeping comfortably.
Neil arrived and managed our front steps – his first mountain since his triple bi-pass. Dave, Cathy, Barbara, Sandra, Rudy, Victoria, Rose and others arrived throughout the day and spent time in uninterupted chats with Marsha. Dr. Pariser came, and our Palliative care nurse, Samantha. It was serene, peaceful, and gently dignified.
Betty and I were about to give Marsha another back rub at 11:30 when we noticed a visible shift in her breathing. And then it stopped.
Marsha was wearing her father’s Tallith (prayer shawl) on her shoulder – and her teddy bear tucked under arm. I was holding her hand.
Our immediate plans are simple.
Marsha will be cremated quickly and without a public ceremony as she directed.
We will be remembering her, ‘sitting shiva’ at our house this week, and friends are welcome to drop in and share their favourite stories, or remember Marsha where ever you are in any way you feel appropriate.
At a time to be determined, there will be a Memorial Service to honour and acknowledge Marsha’s unique contribution and capacity to share.
[We held a unique celebration of Marsha’s life at the Great Hall, Hart House, University of Toronto on Saturday Oct. 7, 2000]