The Fate of the MonStorr

It was the 2015 Hot Docs film festival this past week and after an unrelenting schedule of screenings I took a break to attend a food tour of East Chinatown hosted by Bites & Sights TO.  I was leaving the Bell Lightbox theatre on King and needed to meet the tour group at Broadview and Gerrard so I hopped the King streetcar eastbound to ferry me up.  The streetcar diverted at Parliament street for a few blocks taking me past the old location for the Animation House, a venerable institution founded by Bob Fortier which was at the time on the forefront of animation technology in Canada.

Many years ago when I was still in university I got my first job in the business working for a production company called TDF.  I was one of a pair of receptionists and shared my duties with a beautiful girl about my age named Monika Storr.  Monika loved to work making miniature characters out of modelling clay and had a dream of doing stop motion animation.  She was worried that she had no formal design education but she eventually swallowed her fears and found herself a job at the Animation House and was on her way to living her dream.

I have not thought of Monika in many years and on an impulse I googled her. I fully expected to get a Facebook or Linkedin hit and was not at all surprised to see an IMDB page listing her animation credits.   I was less prepared to find her obituary.  Monika died this year after a six month battle with cancer.  She left behind a husband and two children.  She was fifty one years old.

I know that life is a series of cycles.  There is a point in time where everyone you know pairs off and gets married.  Then everyone has their first child.  Then they have their second child, or get divorced or both.  There are first houses, first teeth, first careers.  Usually there is a bit of a lull then the next set of cycles begin – first when everyone’s parents begin to sicken.  And then the stage that I seem to be on the cusp of; when your peers starting getting the nasty illnesses that seemed so remote when we were young.

I don’t like it.  After a lifetime of near perfect health I am ill equipped to handle the concept of the inevitable fade to black.  For me trying to understand it is like trying to grab handfuls of water.  Elusive and frustrating.  I am angered by the fact that the attacks seem random.  You can be a nutritionist yoga instructor who does triathlons on the weekend and your chances of being hit by something ugly seem as likely as what might befall the chain smoking bar weed who lives in the trailer next door.  Are you a parent?  Doesn’t matter.  Have you dedicated your life to good deeds?  Doesn’t matter.  It would be tempting to chuck it all and abandon my clean living lifestyle because it is pretty clear the Reaper comes for us all.  Then I calm myself and try to remember that I am here, now.  And my friends and family are here, now.  And if illness befalls them I will be on their team and the reverse is also true.  So I need to keep a clear head, keep myself in the kind of health that makes my living moments better and appreciate the time I have with the people that I love.

I’m sorry I lost touch with Monika but I am glad she had the courage to follow her dreams.  I hope the brief life she had was a happy and fulfilling one.  I doff my hat to her, and will endeavour to use this experience to love the life I live.

RIP Monika Storr (August 29, 1964 – March 29, 2015)


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