A dragonfly tale of love stronger than death

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, February 12, 2003

Not long ago, I was in the middle of a call on Coffee Trader's wall-mounted public phone when I glanced absentmindedly across the stairs to the serving counter where Olivia Scott was loading the dishwasher. The ever-pleasant 25-year-old was wearing around her neck what looked like a filigreed silver cross. Intrigued, I finished my call, went over to the counter and said:

"Olivia, I was noticing your cross and wondered if there's a special story associated with it."

"Hi Warren. It's not a cross," she said as she held out the pendant to me. "See, it's a dragonfly, and yes, it has a very special story. It's a gift that reminds me of Danny." If I joined her on her coffee break, she said, she'd tell me all about it.

A while later, I sat entranced as she filled my cup with her tale of love stronger than death.

It was the mid-1990s when Olivia set her sights on Danny Scott, an Alberta foothills farm boy. "He had a special heart," she reminisced, "not a jock, but sensitive."

Danny's biggest dream in life was to fall in love, she'd heard, and her dream was for Danny to fall in love with her. On their first date – an outdoor dance in a nearby town – the DJ played The Dance. It seemed a good omen when Garth Brooks sang of "the dance we shared 'neath the stars above."

The two were soon inseparable. "We loved to work and dance and play together," Olivia said.

Nor did they forget Danny's father's love for dragonflies, a beautiful winged creature that Danny and Olivia also admired.

Danny's father and mother, Dale and Candy Scott, work land along the Little Red Deer River west of Didsbury. Dale thinks of dragonflies as his friends because of their voracious appetite for mosquitoes. When Danny and Olivia were on a trip to the west coast once, they came across a blue and green stained glass dragonfly wind chime and bought it as a gift for Dale.

A wedding date was set for June 26, 1999. But Danny grew quite ill and weak. Childhood leukemia, in remission for 15 years, had recurred with a vengeance. The wedding was postponed for a few days. (Just as well, Olivia recalled, because on June 26 Danny was so sick he passed out in her arms.)

On July 1 the two were finally married in an intimate ceremony on the Scott farm beside the sparkling waters of the Little Red, near what the family call the "Enchanted Forest," a gravel pit and grove of trees.

What should have been some of the happiest days of the newlyweds' lives were soon hijacked by Danny's quickly deteriorating health. Trips back and forth to the doctor, naturopath and hospital were devouring their time together. Moments for cuddling grew so scarce that, at one point while Danny was in a palliative care facility, Olivia had to keep track of the nurse's rounds just to slip under the sheets with Danny.

On August 31, at home on the farm, Danny's condition took an unexpected turn for the worse. He developed severe internal bleeding. Dale and Candy rushed him once more to the doctor's, but en route Danny died in Olivia's arms.

The memorial service was held beside the river where just two months earlier the young couple were wed. Since Danny and Olivia had collected rocks as a hobby, Olivia, Candy and Dale strolled through the Enchanted Forest searching for a few in preparation for the service. As they scanned the ground, Candy spotted one with a large iridescent dragonfly perched on it, its wings spread wide. Dale reached down and picked up the rock.

"The dragonfly walked forward on the rock till it was stroking Dale's finger," Olivia said. "It walked onto his finger, flew off, and landed on my left shoulder. I looked at it. It cocked its head.

"I said, 'Hi, Honey' – I just knew it was Danny. The dragonfly just stayed there, wouldn't fly away. Then I said, 'We're okay; it's alright for you to go now.' Then it flew away.

"He'd come to say 'I'm okay.'"

Speaking at the memorial service, Olivia quoted from the same Garth Brooks song that played when they first fell in love: "I'm glad I didn't know the way it all would end . . . I could have missed the pain But I'd of had to miss the dance."

© 2003 Warren Harbeck

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