Penny, the Orca and the Nurse Tree... Nature’s Way.


I am the oldest girl from a family of eight children. Penny was nine years younger than me and fifth in line of decent. She lived in Glasgow, our hometown. I was living in Vancouver, Canada.

She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 45. She had two young boys and a life partner of 12 years who adored her. She had a great job as a psychologist; work she loved. She was a lovely person, full of fun and life. How could this happen to her. We were all stunned and in shock dealing as best we could with this terrible news.

She was given a full ‘whipple’ surgery. They laser burned the cancer until it was gone—a new technique at the time. She managed to get to 48 years of age when it metastasised throughout her body. She didn’t have long and was told to get her affairs in order. Penny prepared to die.

She passed on May 25 at 7:00 a.m. It was a Sunday morning. I am still heart broken at her loss now ten years later.

In October that same year, my husband Peter turned 60 and the promised vacation to Hawaii finally materialised. We arrived in Kauai, a beautiful, tranquil, peaceful haven. I was still grieving Penny. One morning we went to a new sandy beach cove for a walk. When we got back to the car something caught my eye on the ground. I bent down to pick it up. It was a penny with a bite out of it. My first thought was ‘Penny with a piece missing’ then ‘missing Penny’ and my heart fluttered. I put it safely in my purse and I still have it.

That afternoon we walked to the local beach. There was a big commotion going on, lots of people and news media. I asked a lady what was happening. She told me a four-year-old orca had beached itself and was still alive on the sand, but too far to get back into the water. They were trying to save it. As time went by they discovered that a school of sharks, swimming off shore, were waiting for the orca to swim back out. On inspection of the young orca, they found tears in his fins and bite marks all over his body. He had obviously been attacked previously and decided to beach himself. His torn fins meant he couldn’t swim or protect himself. Word of mouth said that he had been the bait to lure the sharks away from his pod and the baby orcas.. He knew for sure he would die but his death would save the rest of his family. He was finally euthanized and taken to a spiritual burial ground on the Island.

The Nurse Tree is a tree that never bares leaves or fruit. It is not very pretty. Its main purpose is to feed all the young saplings. It only uses what sustenance it needs to perform its duty… nurturing and giving life to the young.

This short story helped me find a connection with Penny and the natural way of life.

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