Faces in the Crowd – Jill’s Joyful Journey

Posted on September 15, 2016 under Faces in the Crowd with 3 comments


Jill Leanne Brymer –  1976-2016

Jill Brymer had a mind of her own.

According to her parents, Jill was lovable from the day she was born and it became evident early on that she had an independent streak. And she definitely wasn’t shy! From an early age, she was eager to try things and she embraced challenges. From clothing to food, Jill knew what she liked and what she didn’t. She was neither a “girlie girl” nor a tomboy. She would go rabbit hunting with Blair or go cutting brush with her father, Ken.

 She was Jill. Unique Jill.

She enjoyed going to school and she was surrounded by warmth and friendship. Pity help the person who said something untoward about Jill. Two of her passions were sports and music … especially dancing. She played t-ball and she curled and she was manager of the GMHS basketball team.

As well as participating in sports, she was a rabid fan; especially when her siblings were competing against each other in curling. While not trying to show favoritism, she realized that sisters stay together, so she rooted for Shauna!

Her mother, Frances, fastidiously curled Jill’s hair every day before Jill went to school. And as sure as the sun rises in the east, Jill would immediately go into the washroom at school upon arrival, wet a comb, and remove the curls. One evening there was an event at the school. Frances curled Jill’s hair and off they went. Several teachers commented on how good she looked in curls, having never seen them in all the years that Jill had attended school!

Upon graduation, she embarked on the next part of her journey by attending Guysborough Options for Adaptive Living Society (GOALS). Jill attended GOALS for 18 years. According to administrator Donna Cook, “Jill will be remembered for her love of hockey and dance, as well as her strength of character and wonderful sense of humour.”

While she enjoyed the programming at the centre, she really hit her stride when she took on work placements. She was a fixture at the local schools for years. From all accounts, it was Jill’s job to keep the staff in line at the school. “Jill loved to be part of our day and would always have something to say to set us in the right direction,” reminisced former principal, Paul Long. “The gift that Jill brought to our school was that everyone became a better person, from our youngest students to the veteran teachers. She showed us that people with special needs and abilities can and should participate fully in the workplace.  She helped us develop a respect and sense of appreciation for everyone.”

Jill’s bedrock was her faith. Nothing was more important than attending Mass and when she became an altar server, the stakes were even higher. Nothing would keep her from fulfilling her commitment to St. Ann’s Church. She felt a sense of duty and responsibility and often filled in when other servers didn’t show up. She had a special bond with Rev. Ray Huntley. “Jill’s deep faith in God, and the care and dignity with which she performed her role as a Minister of the Altar, touched the hearts, strengthened the faith, nourished the souls and lifted the spirits of all who participated in any Mass where Jill was present,” remembers Father Ray.

Family meant everything to Jill, especially Ken’s mother, Hazel who lived on the same property for many years. Hazel would sit by her window waiting for the bus to drop off Jill at 3:00. Jill would retrieve “Gram’s” mail and head up the lane for a slice of fresh homemade bread or some other treat. Jill often spent the weekend with her. They were inseparable. Shortly before she passed away, Jill awoke from her sleep one day and said, “I miss Gram.”

Jill loved participating in the Special Olympics. She could run like the wind and could execute the shot put with the best of them. But what she enjoyed most was the camaraderie, especially the closing dance where it would be all but impossible to get Jill off the dance floor!

It seems that she had an eye for good looking men. Whenever she encountered a fellow who caught her eye, she would casually look at his hands and say, “No ring on that finger!”

Her sister, Shauna, points out that Jill was the real deal. “She was truly genuine … there was nothing fake about her. What you saw was what you got. It was amazing how many people knew her. She was like a local celebrity.”  And once Jill met you, she never forgot you, your name or your birthday or anniversary. Her recall of dates was legendary.

Life can be cruel, and at the age of 25 Jill was diagnosed with both liver and celiac diseases.  Jill was stoic about the news, although it forced her to change some of her eating habits. She always hoped and prayed for a liver transplant. Over the last 5-6 years her decline was progressive, and on August 19th this year she succumbed to her illnesses.

According to Paul Long, “If you were a teacher and you attended Mass at St. Ann’s, you were definitely in Jill’s good books. I had the great pleasure of working with her each day and sitting with her in church on Sunday morning, so my place was on page one.” KC, a fellow teacher from a neighboring community, routinely poked fun at Paul as he attempted to share Paul’s lofty status as a “page one-er”. When he would kid Paul, Jill would pipe up, “You’re not from St. Ann’s, so back off buddy.” According to Long, “At her graveside, the skies opened up and we all got a good soaking. I said to KC that she was getting one last shot at you and we’re all paying for it.”

“She didn’t let her disability define her, “says Shauna. “ She was determined to make her life her own, and in doing so, taught us that you never know what you can accomplish if you don’t try. At a young age I realized that Jill was special.  As our lives progressed I saw that it was not her limitations that made her extraordinary, but how she embraced life, her courage and determination, and who she chose to become.”

Although it won’t be the same now at GOALS, the school and St. Ann’s, Jill’s absence will be felt most intensely at home.  Jill’s exemplary life is to your credit, Ken and Frances; you left nothing undone.

“Up, up the long delirious burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,

where never lark, or even eagle, flew;

and, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

the high untrespassed sanctity of space,

put out my hand and touched the face of God.”

High Flight – John Gillespie Magee, Jr.


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