Celebrating Sondra “Sunny” Baileys

Celebrate A Life Stories

Celebrating Sondra “Sunny” Baileys

This December 8 marks 24 years since my brother, my sisters, and I said goodbye to our mother Sondra Estelle Katzen Baileys. Everyone called her “Sunny”. It was a nickname she lived up to in every way. Sunny had an effervescent smile that lit up stages, dance floors, and living rooms. She had a magnetic sparkle in her eyes that drew you in. She had an uncanny way of making people feel special and cared for. Sunny loved family. She loved her friends. She loved people and community. That was my mom. 

She had a stack of Harry Belafonte, Nat King Cole, and Frank Sinatra records and she listened to them endlessly. So did everyone else in our house. We had no choice. She adored musicals and would burst into song without a hint of self-consciousness. 

Sunny loved to dance. She danced anywhere and anytime. When a favourite tune came on, Mom would light up and burst into dance. We had to be careful, or she would yank you in to be the Fred Astaire to her Ginger Rogers. I must admit, even as an awkward teenager, I secretly welcomed the chance to practice my clumsy dance turns with her so I could impress the girls at the next school dance. Sunny would beam with delight as I turned her. 

Sunny loved people. She was as generous with her time as she was with food. All who sat at her kitchen table also got mom’s compassionate ear and heartfelt questions. Sunny had a way of making everyone feel they mattered. To her they did matter. Throughout high school and university, my friends often invited themselves to our house. They knew a heaping plate of spaghetti and Sunny’s sympathetic ear could be found. Years later, when I ran into some of those old high school and university friends, they confided that Sunny was their “second mom”. 

It was a lifetime ago and yet it feels like only yesterday. Three weeks before Christmas, my brother, sister, stepfather, and I surrounded Sunny on that cold and dark afternoon. Her breath was shallow. Her sparkling eyes concealed by eyelids that struggled to open. I remember kneeling on the floor with my siblings and holding Mom’s thin hands. I wanted to hold onto those hands and never let them go.

Sunny loved to laugh. Sunny loved to dance. Sunny loved to sing. She was idealistic and forgiving to a fault. Her greatest joy was to sit at the dinner table surrounded by family and friends sharing a meal. She knew we were all a part of something remarkable called life. 

That was my mom. That was our mother. That was Sunny.

From Sunny’s son Steven Baileys