When I heard the news of Myrtle’s accident, I was not prepared to have such a unique fixture in my life taken. And so, when I caught wind that Myrtle had been struck by a car and was in critical condition in the hospital, her absence along my daily route was painfully pronounced.
Myrtle was one of the first people I met upon moving to Toronto over two years ago and she remained one of my most consistent (and unconventional) friendships. “Good morning, Myrtle” I would say as I arrived at the Campaign Life Coalition office each morning where she would be cleaning (or fussing about, really) the kitchen, a job she held for as long as CLC has been at its current address on Bond Street. “What’s so good about it?” she’d say with a twinkle in her eye and a hint of resentment in her voice.
She is best remembered for her lengthy (and very audible) soliloquies which often solicited raised eyebrows and much confusion for visitors to the CLC office. Not to mention the absurd little dances that would accompany them, which I always thought was done for effect. I remember one year the summer interns and I kept a running log of topics she’d discuss on her own, often with her trademark broom and dustpan in hand.
At first, I was convinced she hated me. But I was intrigued and determined to get to know this mysteriously nimble elderly woman in a dew rag. And she would have it no other way. She enjoyed making people work for her affection.
As a Jamaican immigrant, Myrtle’s disposition and her weary eyes spoke of a suffering that she had long given up on articulating. But try she did, and I always looked forward to our encounters at CLC or at St. Michael’s Cathedral each day. Many of our talks would be focused on injustices and judgments she had faced in her life at the unknowing hands of others. Inevitably, the conversation would end with her saying “only God knows me” or some similar dismissive comment. The topic was clearly dead when she uttered these words and there was no sense digging for anything else.
Myrtle, I was told, had been part of the pro-life landscape in Toronto for years. I would always see her hovering in the back pews at church pretending not to see me or anyone else she might have known. She would say that she liked the background but her desire to be known by her friends was stronger than her desire to be a wallflower.
The thing about Myrtle is that if you looked, you could see and appreciate that she was always humbling serving God through the pro-life movement, cleaning CLC’s third-floor offices and praying for the cause – for the babies and those in pro-life ministry. Cleaning toilets, emptying trashcans and mopping the floor might not seem like much, but for her, that was the service she was called to.
When I heard of her death, I immediately thought of her place in eternity. Well, I thought, she is finally in a place of consolation, dancing with all of His small ones. It is only when some of our life’s colour leaves that we realize its brilliance. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.
Myrtle Maylor died on Feb. 3, at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto days after being struck by a car. Her funeral, attended by at least 120 people, many friends and colleagues from the pro-life movement, was on Feb 9. Myrtle will be dearly missed and fondly remembered by CLC Toronto staff, past and present.
Jenna Murphy, an associate producer at Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, was formerly Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes’ executive assistant.