We at Catholic World Report, along with the Ignatius Press family, are deeply saddened to learn of the death this morning of Will Pemberton.
Will, who is the son-in-law of author and artist Michael O’Brien, passed away after battling stage 4 lymphatic cancer for over a year-and-a-half. He was diagnosed in December 2019.
John Jalsevac, a friend of Will and the Pemberton family, has set up a GoFundMe page for Will’s wife, Mary, and their six young children.
The youngest child, Eleanor, writes Jalsevac, “was born in December 2019, just days before Will’s diagnosis.”
In Will’s last e-mail to me, two weeks before he died, he asked me to do what I could to help ease the way for Mary and the children, who face many difficult days and practical challenges ahead.
As those who know the Pembertons are no doubt aware, the family’s needs right now are very significant.
Four years ago the family took a big risk, leaving their home in Ontario, and moving to two hundred acres of rugged, uncleared land near the coast of Cape Breton, with the dream of starting up a market farm.
The first few years in Cape Breton were dedicated to putting basic infrastructure in place and acquiring a small herd of cattle. Will’s cancer diagnosis came right when the farm was just beginning to turn the corner, and to approach the point of being able to generate income. At that point, everything was put on hold.
Thanks to the generosity of so many friends and family, Will and Mary were able to spend the past year back in Ontario, while Will pursued various avenues to try to heal. However, most of what was raised has been used for living expenses and health care, and anything remaining will be used up by funeral costs.
My understanding is that Will only had a small life insurance policy, which can help pay for basic living expenses for a little while, but with no buffer for other necessary or unexpected expenses.
The Pembertons have always lived in extreme simplicity. The house in which the family is currently living is a small, three bedroom, one bathroom century farmhouse, which is in need of significant repairs.
With six children at home, including a toddler, it is impossible to imagine Mary being able to work right now, while keeping the household running. The difficulties are compounded by the fact that in the rural location where they are located, there is very little available in the way of work.
In one of my last conversations with Will, he said that one of his constant prayers was simply a prayer of trust, placing the future wellbeing of his family in God’s hands.
In June, Michael O’Brien shared with Ignatius Press staff that Will was “very thin and grey with very little energy. He devotes what he has to home-schooling the children, gardening, doing projects with the children.”
The Pemberton and O’Brien families are in our prayers during this difficult time. May God grant Will peace and eternal memory!
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