Choil Can Leong is my mom’s legal name. When she adopted her Canadian name – I don’t know. Since my mom passed away just 2 years ago (a day after her 84th. birthday), I’ve found that I know shockingly little about my mom and her life. This passport photo of my mom was taken in 1934 when she was sent to China from Canada.

She never spoke of her life as a child, her life as an adolescent, or as an adult – I don’t know of any of the real hardships or joys of her life. I don’t know what her life was like as a child in China. I don’t even know how she felt about the route her life took. Although my mom was Canadian born, her youth was spent in China and she adopted all the Chinese characteristics. “Old Chinese” are extremely private. Children are seen and not heard. EIders are never questioned. Any show of physical affection is rare. I suppose this is one of the reasons my 7 siblings and I know so little about the woman who raised us and took in scores of foster kids and made her home a 2nd home for all of our friends and any distant relatives.

The eldest child in our family knew some of our mom’s history but even that is gone with the passing of the eldest of us “kids” just over a year ago. I know some of the aspects of my Mom’s life but those are only from what I experienced personally as I got older.

Now that she’s gone I realize more and more how sad it is that I know so little of the person I loved most in the world. How could that have happened… that it never even dawned on me years ago that I should be sitting down with her, asking her questions and listening to her stories?

My mom was the absolute ultimate core of our family. She was the one who held the family together. She was what our family was all about. Because of her, we siblings talked to each other on a fairly regular basis, made plans together, spent time together. Parts of all our lives were planned around our mother. Since her passing on July 28, 2002 our family has basically fallen apart. Sisters and brother will occasionally contact each other, but very seldom. We don’t have a common objective anymore. Some of our extended family barely know each other. Some have never met each other – nor do they seem to care.

When our mom passed way, my older sister Jane was absolutely devastated since she was the one family member in Vancouver who dedicated most of her life to our mom during the last several years. I live in Cranbrook, British Columbia and ~ because of distance ~ had limited time with my mom. Even though Jane has a family of her own and works full time, she was always ready to reschedule her days and nights to accommodate whatever our mom needed. You can’t measure one person’s grief against another’s, but if I was asked the question “Who in your family was most devasted by your mom’s passing?” I would say Jane. After our mom passed away, she was completely lost. She didn’t know what to do with herself or with her time. She still doesn’t so she immerses herself in work. About 4 or 5 months after our mother passed away, I wrote this poem for Jane because I thought in some way that it would help her soul.

On the first anniversary of our mother’s passing, she put it in the newspaper “In Memorium” for our mom.

By Sue Bodnaruk


  • As Sue's story conveys, there is so much more she wished you would have shared and learned from her mother. I can't help but share as I enter a bit about Sue, how I felt the strong presence of her mother during our email communications.

    Sue is an administrative assistant in College Relations & Communications in British Columbia.