The world is a slightly darker place, after Darlene Porter passed away on November 21 at 7:16 PM. She was at peace when she died after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.
No matter what role she played in her life (sister, mother, baba, colleague, cooking instructor, crafter, gardener), she poured all of her heart and mind into everything she did and created genuine bonds with those around her. Everyone recognized Darlene’s compassion and intelligence. Her smile could light up a room. She lived life with purpose and was always striving to be a better person. She never judged anyone and lived by a motto of “Be Nice, Be Necessary, Be True.”
Darlene was born on April 9, 1958 and grew up on a farm near Sandy Lake, Manitoba with her older brother Glenn and her younger sisters Laverne, Sheila, and Sheryl. Her childhood was a busy mix of chores and school – feeding the animals and milking the cows before school, growing vegetables in the garden, and preserving the harvest for the winter. When her dad sent her out to weed the fields, she would stamp down a circle in the wheat field to create a quiet hideaway to read for a few hours – a rare moment of solitude and leisure time. When Darlene raised her own kids she made sure they had time to relax and be kids.
From her childhood friend Sher:
“You are like a Sister to me ….We spent many times together as we were growing up…The water fights that Glenn would start outside and end in the house…The mad dash to your bedroom so your Mom and Dad would not catch us still up upon their return from visiting…and we both hit the bed so hard that we broke it with a thunderous bang that your Mom and Dad heard as they entered the house…Yep that was a little awkward.“
Following in her dad’s and brother’s footsteps, Darlene was a proud Aggie at the University of Manitoba. She loved attending university in the big city. She studied crop genetics and did a Masters in Agriculture on an NSERC scholarship. But after a crop failure destroyed her final years’ work and she found herself in a serious relationship, she left academia to take on new challenges and never looked back.
From her roommate Bev:
“You were always happiest in the kitchen. No other University student was ever treated to all the culinary delights that I enjoyed. Imagine coming home from classes to a ‘flaming rack of lamb’! So many great memories – studying (thanks for helping me with calculus), partying and driving home on weekends.”
Darlene met her soulmate one fateful night at the Sandy Lake bar on a break from university. At the other end of the bar, Ken noticed her radiant smile. Encouraged by her unabashed staring all evening, he worked up enough courage to walk over and talk to her. Little did he know that she had lost her glasses and only saw blurry shapes around her. But fate works in mysterious ways and that initial spark quickly turned into a love story.
In what might come as a shock to those who knew Darlene as a mother, she never thought she would have kids. But her relationship with Ken brought 1-year old Kerry into her life and a crash course on motherhood. She was a quick learner but always thought Kerry was two steps ahead of her. A few years later she had a son (Christopher) and daughter (Kelsey).
Like most things Darlene did in life, she committed herself to being the best parent she could be. She formed a collective with the stay at home moms in the neighbourhood and shared tips on raising kids from her favourite author Barbara Coloroso. She raised her kids to be independent and compassionate. She taught them about gardening, cooking, and environmental sustainability. At 12 years old, her children were responsible for cooking meals for the family. At 16, they were responsible for their own laundry.
From neighbour Deb:
“You taught me and the neighborhood about unconditional love and how supporting each other makes everything so much better. The Y neighbors get together, the laughter, the food we all shared. You taught everyone how to cook with tofu. I still don’t like it even though I pretended I did. My bad lol.”
Once all of her kids were in school, Darlene went back to work full-time in the auto insurance industry. In 16 years at Manitoba Public Insurance she went from answering support calls to managing Regulatory Affairs. She was recognized by her peers for her hard work but also for the projects she took on like founding a Toastmasters club, raising funds for United Way, and sharing her love of cooking and healthy food with her coworkers.
After Darlene retired, she moved full-time to her dream project with Ken at the Ponderosa. On a wooded acreage close to where she grew up, Ken and Darlene built an off-the-grid oasis where they could practice sustainable development, walk in the woods with their dog Hanna, grow a bounty of vegetables in Darlene’s huge garden, meditate, and do yoga. Over the years, they welcomed dozens of Workaways from around the world to help them on the property and learn vegan cooking from Darlene.
Darlene was proud to be Baba to five spirited grandchildren. She loved spending time with them, playing games, teaching them to cook, and spoiling them without having to worry about parenting anymore. More than anyone, they will miss her love and guidance the most.
Darlene went on many trips with Ken, but her favourite was the vegan cruise they went on in 2019. After the cruise, they visited Disneyworld and Marry Poppins asked her, “How are you?” She answered, “I’m practically perfect in every way.” But to Ken, she was absolutely perfect in every way.
Darlene has always been a spiritual person, and 8 years ago she found a calling in the Sant Mat movement under Master Baljit Singh. Much like her strong conviction about veganism and plant-based diets, you would never hear Darlene preaching her beliefs to others. But she lived her life true to her beliefs and led by example for those around her. According to Sant Mat, she will be reincarnated and her soul will transmigrate into a new body. So this is not the end for her but the start of a new journey.
We may not have Darlene to help guide us through this dark winter, but we have her memories. She would want us to support each other, care for everyone around us, and always be kind. A celebration of life will be scheduled once COVID-19 is a distant memory. In lieu of flowers, please give someone you love a hug today.
Cross-posted on my mom’s terrific blog – Ponderosa Porters.