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Terminal cancer patient Tamara Gignac, with daughter Bronwyn, husband Heath McCoy and son Finn, wanted to see The Little Prince. Fate intervened.

Life is fragile and fleeting. A rose is ephemeral. One morning a flower will appear in the grass and by night it will have faded peacefully away – as we learn from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's 1943 classic, The Little Prince.

This is a lesson Tamara Gignac, who called the story a masterpiece, knew well.

Just before Mother's Day, the Calgary journalist published a devastating essay. The long-time Calgary Herald reporter, diagnosed less than a year ago with stage-four metastatic colon cancer, was not fighting for her life – she knew that battle was lost – but fighting to live as long as she could to have as much time as possible with her children, aged seven and four. In March, she was told she could die within four to six months.

"The knowledge that I will leave Bronwyn and Finn behind at such young ages leaves me in a well of despair," she wrote in the Swerve essay, published May 8.

Among the details she shared in that harrowing piece was that she and her daughter had recently snuggled in bed together and read The Little Prince.

"A musical version of the story is set to debut at Theatre Calgary in January 2016," she wrote. "Will I be alive to see it with her? That is my intention."

The day the essay was published, the British duo who are adapting the story, Nicholas Lloyd Webber and James D. Reid, were in Vancouver to begin auditions. As they stood outside their hotel waiting for a cab, Theatre Calgary artistic director Dennis Garnhum read the piece to them.

"I came out and I said, 'Hi; I'd like to set the tone for today. I'd like to read you something,'" recalls Mr. Garnhum, who is directing the show. "Their eyes popped out.

"To think that in the middle of this woman's cancer struggles her thoughts were with us, and how we were a reason for living," Mr. Garnhum continued. "It felt very generous of her to include us in her dreams."

That day, Theatre Calgary couriered a letter to Ms. Gignac, inviting her and her family to opening night in January. (The show is being called a world premiere; it's significantly expanded and overhauled from an earlier version written by Mr. Lloyd Webber and Mr. Reid that premiered in Belfast in 2011.)

That evening, the creative team gathered for dinner on Granville Island (I happened to be with them, to interview them about the play) and stepped outside the restaurant to call her.

"We read the article this morning," Mr. Lloyd Webber said to Ms. Gignac. "And the first thing we said was, of course, can we get you guys 'round to see the show? And, failing that, we also have another idea, which was we thought maybe we might be able to pop 'round with a guitar and a keyboard and maybe sing some of the songs from the show ourselves to you if you fancy that as well."

The phone was passed from Mr. Garnhum to Mr. Lloyd Webber to Mr. Reid, all of whom were moved by Ms. Gignac's optimism and strength.

"My most enduring memory of the call was her good spirit," wrote Mr. Reid from his home in London this week. "At no point did it sound like someone with a terminal illness. There was a fighting spirit and as far as she was concerned she was going to be there on opening night."

But Ms. Gignac was a flower whose thorns could not protect her, and all the stars have been darkened. On May 29, exactly three weeks after that call, Ms. Gignac died. She was 41.

The team behind The Little Prince was gutted.

"She was so alive," says Mr. Garnhum, who became emotional during an interview this week. "The heartbreaking thing was we were all convinced she was going to live for opening. Literally talking to her I thought: Glad we've done that and we will see her at opening."

Mr. Lloyd Webber and Mr. Reid, who live in Britain, were never able to play for Ms. Gignac at her Calgary home – they thought they had more time – and while she will not be there on opening night (her family will be, the team hopes), her spirit is going to live on in this production. Her words have had a real impact.

"She has brought it right home for me that what we do matters and what we believe in matters. So that, in her time of need, she was thinking about these beautiful stories," Mr. Garnhum says. "It's an extraordinary gift she has given this production of The Little Prince."

"On my part, and I'm sure Nick's," Mr. Reid wrote, "I only hope we do it justice for Tamara's sake."