I lost a friend the other day, a friend that everyone in Eeyou Istchee should know about.

Maggie Minister was a loveable lady from Nemaska who underwent a bilateral lung transplant in Montreal last March, and sadly, passed away on October 2.

I was shocked when I heard the news, and as sometimes is the case as a journalist, very sad.

I came to know Maggie when a call came in last year from someone who wanted her story to be told.

When I caught up with her, she was on the waiting list for a new set of lungs and had been living with pulmonary fibrosis for five years.

Her spunk and zest for life was impressive. She was living day-by-day yet she was far more cheerful than I would have been in the same situation.

After a successful operation late last winter, her sister gave me a call to give me the good news.

“I’m feeling pretty good right now,” Nellie Coonishish said at the time. “I’m glad for her that the surgery is done.

“Yesterday (March 7) she spoke to me for the first time. She was able to speak in short sentences and it was the first time she spoke without effort. I told her to relax and stay calm because I didn’t want her to use much energy.”

The family still wasn’t out of the woods yet. A critical “24-hour period” to see if her body rejected the new lungs went smoothly, but not long after, the real problems started.

Everyday living was difficult and Maggie had to carefully watch how she dressed for fear of catching a cold that might turn out to be fatal. A bout of pneumonia, caught during the Old Nemaska Days did in fact prove to be too much for her to overcome.

Despite it all, her spirits were high. We talked on the phone from time to time and I mentioned to her that if she needed anything she should call. She never did. That was the kind of person she was.

Except, of course, on one of the most important days for her and for everyone. The Grand Council elections were heating up and she was scheduled to fly back to Nemaska from Montreal. She called frantically and asked if I could bring a copy of whichever Nation had election coverage in it. She needed to make an important decision and wanted to know more about the candidates.

“I can bring it Wednesday,” I said.

“That’s too late,” she said, “I need it now because I’m leaving to go home.”

So I got in my car and drove over to see her. Her appearance was very different from the last time I had seen her. She looked like she had lost quite a bit of weight, especially in her face. Her voice, because of her new pair of lungs, sounded different as well.

“Thank you very much,” she told me after I handed her the copies of the Nation.

“If you need anything, feel free to call us,” I told her.

“I’ll be okay, and thank you for bringing the magazine down here.”

I told her to take care and I left. That was the last time I saw her.

Maggie Minister was buried on October 6th in Nemaska at the age of 49.