Heaven just got a whole lot livelier.
One of the Earth’s finest human beings, Rae Banner, died Sunday. If anyone ever had a spot reserved for them in the ‘Big Reward,’ then she is it.
Pretty lofty stuff, I know, and certainly the sort of compliment she would protest and chortle at, however, not an overstatement from my perspective.
Rae Banner (born Mildred Atkinson) was my aunt—yet she was much, much more.
The mother of four wonderful kids and best friend and loving partner to her (pre-deceased) husband Charlie Banner, Rae was the epitome of kindness and comfort.
A fun-loving, witty, and truly remarkable woman, Rae made friends with every person she met.
From her birthplace in Penticton to her longtime home in Vernon, her legion of admirers was massive.
I am not aware of one person who did not like Rae Banner.
Active in her community especially with her choir group, Rae also loved golf, cards and her garden.
She also owned an amazing talent for seeing right through people. A gift I am sure she was not always pleased to possess since she genuinely liked folks. Rae was my rock, especially after my mom died.
Next to my dear mom, no one was there for me like Rae, without question.
She was my special kin member who always believed, had my back, supported my dreams, suffered my sorrows, and celebrated my victories.
Selfishly stated, I have lost my long-time champion.
Mom and Rae were inseparable sisters for good reason.
Both of them could talk the ear off a cob of corn.
In fact, the only person I know who could possibly talk more than my mother was perhaps Rae. When my mother got on the telephone with her only (thank goodness) sister, my father could have gone fishing and never been missed—seasons could come and go; food could mould or rot.
It was beyond the rest of the related families how two people could possibly talk together for so long, so often and not tire of it, but they did.
When they were not talking they were laughing.
I will always remember my Auntie Rae for her rosy cheeks, bright eyes and joyful laugh.
Heaven had better get plenty of earplugs because Mom and Rae are back together.
The start of the National Hockey League playoff season dictates it’s time for my annual, fun filled, spell-binding, ridiculously cheap, highly eventful, chalked with chuckles, hockey ritual known as Stupid Playoff Predictions by Charlie.
This is when and where I make outrageous predictions about who will rise and fall in the upcoming battle-royal for the Stanley Cup.
Readers get to extend the agony of this dissertation by ripping or cutting out this list of predictions and sticking it (ahem) on a fridge or similar location for later reference.
As the playoffs progress (and my suggestions look sillier and sillier), you and your friends can laugh at me, draw funny mustaches on my mug shot, and all the other sorts of things that grown men do when it comes to hockey pools and sportsmanship.
Laughing and reacting to my prediction list can be considered as a form of a participation sport.
With NHL parity between the 30 clubs at an all-time best, there are no clear cut winners in any of the eight match ups between the 16 qualifying teams.
Literally, any club can win all the marbles this year. That’s wonderful for hockey fans and hell for the odds makers in Vegas.
So, here is my NHL playoffs prophecy.
In the Western Conference, Vancouver will defeat Calgary in seven games, St. Louis over Minnesota in six, Nashville over Chicago in seven and Anaheim over Winnipeg in seven.
In the East, it will be Montreal over a spirited Ottawa in six, Tampa destroying Detroit in five, New York Rangers taking Pittsburgh in six, and the Islanders edging Washington in six.
The second round will see Vancouver defeat Anaheim in six and St. Louis edge Nashville in seven.
In the Western final, St. Louis will take Vancouver in six.
Second round in the East will see Tampa defeat Montreal in six and Rangers edge Islanders in seven.
In the Eastern final Rangers will survive Tampa in seven.
Finally, St. Louis will edge battered and weary Rangers in five for the cup.
New York Rangers defenceman Keith Yandle or St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko will win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs MVP.
So there you are and for goodness sake—don’t risk a penny on any of these predictions.