It is humbling to be here in this room with so many people whose lives were touched by Taylor.
I am honoured to have been asked by Emily to speak today about Taylor, about the incredible life she lived and the truly amazing person that she was.
I have found, these days, that when I think about Taylor, cliches just seem to want to fall out of my mouth. When I was preparing to speak, I initially tried to avoid phrases like "she followed her dreams and lived life to its fullest," and "she is an inspiration to us all," along with "you couldn't ask for a better friend," and "we considered her a part of our family." I shied away from those words because we've all heard them so many times before that I didn't want them to seem without meaning.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that those phrases, that can seem so overused, are all so apt where our dear Taylor is concerned; and so in the end I couldn't help myself.
It's true that Taylor Mitchell was a dreamer, and someone who followed her dreams her whole life. In the past few years, her dreams included rodeo-riding, living closer to nature, and becoming a rock star. More recently, she dreamt of making an amazing record and taking off down the road, solo, to live life and meet people and make music, following in the footsteps of many great musicians and adventurers before her.
Her determination to make things happen for herself was both awe-inspiring and somewhat vexing to those of us who lived with her and wanted to protect her. But in the end, no matter what our concerns were, she was always so self-assured in what she aimed for, and insisted so level-headedly that she knew what she was doing, that we would all gather round and do whatever we could to help her to soar.
It's true that Taylor was an inspiration to everyone who knew her. Her young guitar and vocal students worshipped her, and she would tell me of their achievements - a new song learned, a new lyric written - with as much pride as if they had been her own.
During the making of Taylor's record, I had a conversation with Lynn Miles late one night in which we both admitted that we'd like to be more like Taylor when we grew up.
And it's true that you couldn't ask for a better friend. I can't tell you the number of times my days filled with joy upon Taylor's arrival. She cared for my daughter, Lila, with love and laughter and patience and an incredible capacity for goofiness.
She and Lila sang that Stan Rogers song about the Northwest Passage every time they did the map of Canada puzzle on our living room floor.
When Lila was a baby and my husband Michael was out of town, Taylor came over and played with Lila on the bathmat so I could take a much-needed shower.
For my birthday this year, she helped Michael plan the most amazing surprise party you could imagine.
Many's the time she and I would go out shopping or for coffee while Lila slept in her stroller, and I used to joke that when people asked what she did with her weekend she'd have to say, "You know that 35-year-old woman I babysit?"
And it's true that we considered her a part of our family. The last time we saw her, Taylor and Lila went on one of their "adventure walks" through High Park, and she taught Lila to sing "you take the high road and I'll take the low, and I'll be in Scotland afore ye."
We said our goodbyes with many hugs and kisses, and she left our house practically vibrating with excitement about the OCFF and her tour.
The last words my daughter said to her were, "good luck Tay Tay! I love you!"
Taylor was woven so tightly into the fabric of my family's day to day life that I don't think we would know how to go on without her, if it weren't for the example she has set for us. She packed her life full, always dreaming, always inspired, always singing and writing and planning and making things happen.
I have no doubt that she is still out there somewhere, still soaring to great heights, and that her wish for all of us would be that we do the same.
The summer Taylor turned 18, just after finishing her record, she borrowed a copy of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" from Michael and I. It became a source of inspiration for her, and was the subject of many conversations between us. I'd like to close with a quote from that book:
"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."
Here's to you, Taylor!
Delivered by Annie McDonald-Johnston at Taylor's Memorial Service.