Kristen Maither, who knew what seemed like everybody in the Chateauguay Valley, passed away of cancer on December 9.
Born and raised in the Chateauguay Valley, the community was a point of pride for Kristen Maither. Whether she knew it or not while she was alive, she herself was a point of pride for the community.
It was without a doubt a smile the same calibre as Kristen’s that inspired the saying: “Let your smile change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile.” Though she battled health problems for most of her life until she passed away from cancer on December 9th, she was always wearing a bright big smile on her face. If you gauged her health based on her spirits alone, you’d never have known she was sick. Her radiant smile and infectious optimism made her a beacon of light inspiring everyone she knew. In the words of her brother, Brandon Maither: “She might not have been physically strong enough to throw off a load of hay, but by damn she could lift the world with her spirit.”
A celebration of Kristen Maither’s life took place on Sunday, December 13th, at the Huntingdon Legion. The receiving line stretched through the parking lot for the duration of the ceremony with a wait, at times, of easily 45 minutes to get inside. The afternoon was very much in line with what Kristen would have wanted. There was a slideshow playing just as you walked in the door with pictures of Kristen surrounded by her family and friends. It was as though the smile she was sporting in each picture was whispering to attendees the words that she had shared in life: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Some family members and friends wore the trademark headbands that Kristen always wore, while others paid tribute to her love of country by wearing their cowboy boots. Kristen was passionate about country music and so the soundtrack of the afternoon was a compilation of country hits. Local band, Back to Basics, also played a set. As they took the stage, they explained how they had been planning to play for Kristen in person that day, but since they didn’t get the chance, they were playing for her there instead. Kristen had an unparalleled enthusiasm for their music that earned her the title of honorary member of the band. The Legion walls were lined with posters of pictures of Kristen as well as some favourite social media posts of hers that ranged from profound words of wisdom to lighthearted humour—A perfect reflection of the kind of person she was. One such quote was “I have decided to be happy because it is good for my health.” The weight of such a statement multiplied exponentially with her death.
Kristen was very active on social media and on the day she passed away Facebook was inundated with posts of people sharing their pictures and memories of the bright shining blonde that had brought light into their lives, whether they had met her once or whether they had known her their entire lives. Lexis Beattie suggested that the day be anointed “Kristen Maither Day.”
Numerous people remarked that Kristen knew what seemed like everybody in the Chateauguay Valley. Judging from the outpouring of support and sharing of memories, the accuracy of that statement is probably not too far from the fact. Ian Richardson remarked: “I have no doubt that every part of this world she touched, she left in better shape than she found it.” That impact was far from relegated to the Chateauguay Valley.
Kristen graduated from the radio broadcasting program at Algonquin College. Not surprisingly, many of her former teachers and peers backed up Richardson’s statement. During her studies, Kristen did an internship at 89.9 KIC Country based in Khanawake. At the time, she worked with well-known Montreal radio personality Ted Bird. In a recently written blog post he stated: “Kristen Maither was sweet as sugar and tough as nails. She smiled through pain and exuded humility and gratitude in the most adverse circumstances. It was a privilege to know her.” Kristen was also a long-time fan and listener of Wild Country 96.5. Upon hearing the news of her passing, they posted on Facebook: “Kristen might have lost her battle, but she will forever remain in our hearts.”
In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made in her memory to Franklin Elementary School or the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Kristen was an avid volunteer at Franklin Elementary: she helped out in the library and earlier this year, she and Community Learning Centre stagière, Amber Maither formed a craft club for the students. One of their projects was Christmas crafts, which were sold and proceeds donated to the Children’s hospital. Kristen referred to it proudly as ‘Crafting for a Cause’ and ‘Kids Helping Kids.’ Last year, after watching the Franklin Elementary students’ Christmas concert, Kristen was high-fiving the kids and congratulating them all on a job well done. If she could have been around to see this year’s concert (which took place this past Thursday and Friday), she would surely have been doing the exact same thing. Teacher, Tamara Stevenson, says that when she explained to the students about Kristen’s death, the discussion centered on the metaphor of light: The smile and positivity Kristen exuded was a source of light. Stevenson explains, “As I spoke to the children in our community circle it was as if I could feel Kristen’s presence encouraging me to speak of light, which can help us feel secure and know there is hope. Kristen was all about hope!” A Christmas tree has been set up at the school in Kristen’s honour. The students have been busy placing “caught-doing-good” ornaments on the tree. The idea originated to “honour Kristen and remind us of all the kindness and goodness she always showed and that we could continue to show,” Stevenson explains. Kristen’s presence as an inspiring source of light and spreading kindness may have started out metaphorically, however the literal representation of it was solidified in her last days: The weather during Kristen’s last days was dreary and full of scattered showers. The day she died, the clouds broke and the sun shone as bright as Kristen’s smile used to.
This article written by Katie Martin and originally published in The Gleaner on December 21st, 2015.