A letter to my family and friends…..
They asked me if I wished to put in a blurb in our local newspaper for my mothers obituary. They wanted $350 to print a name and birthdate and death. To me thats not money spent wisely so right or wrong I declined. They did however say that they provide a website in which I am free to write my own version of what in my own words and opinion a real obituary should look like. Its difficult to surmise a persons life and legacy in simple pen and ink. A life filled with memories (some good and some not so good) some highlights on top of the world and some low moments ( Im sure we all want to forget something in our lives)? I have shared in close to 57 out of the almost 92 of my mothers life. She was born Beverly Joan Freeman. She was born on December 9, 1928. She was born in Hamilton Ontario in beautiful Canada. Her mother was Marjory Seddon and what I knew most of my life her fatherly figure was Harrison B Seymour. Mom always spoke that she was adopted but I questioned her words? It was only recently that I discovered mom had a real father whom Marjory divorced and married Harry ( Gramps I called him). I knew Marjory only up until I was 5 when she passed away. Gramps moved to the USA and re married a yankee Cay or Catherine who liked long cigarettes and gin and tonic. They lived in her home on a golf course in Port Charlotte Florida where both she and gramps rest today. My mother met a man when she was pretty young. His name was John Patrick Gushie ( Gushue when also recently I discovered my fathers ancestors in Newfoundland) I believe Bev and Pat ( everyone called dad) married although there are no documents, photos or any memorabilia. Mom and dad shared a life of average standing and although most of the days in early years are “stories” re told I believe they raised the family in Burlington for the most part. They started out as landlords in a small apartment building on Beverley drive and new street and there the boys John, Michael,Ken, David were living. My youngest sibling David has since passed. I never really knew my siblings as they were significantly older, David was 13 years my senior. John was the oldest almost 20 years my senior. I recently researched my real grandfather and have still some work to do regarding any genealogy connections. My mother never did mention if she knew him or of him. I guess her curiosity or interest isn’t the same as my own? It may have been that she wanted it buried? His name is Claude Robert he was from England and he married my grandmother when my mother was conceived. After Claude and marjory divorced, Marjory and Harry went on to have another daughter which was moms half sister her name was Jane. Mom apparently worked as a dental hygienist and later went into secretarial duties in real estate during my life. My father worked early years at Ford motor company and went on to be one of the first Police Officers in the small town of Burlington where we called home. The early years are simply stories and I am trying my best to recreate moms life here before I came along in 1963. A girl was born to the family and I basically was an only child and spoiled by my parents. The boys moved on got married had children John to Terri Ann and had Melanie and Christine who now my mothers great grandchildren Todd and Meg with Christine and Ronny and Mel with Drew who had Brock and cadence . Michael went to live with my aunt Helen and uncle Charlie in Woodstock Ontario ( another story I truly don’t know the details of)and he married Sandi and again another great grandchild Ryan. Kenneth married loraine and they had Kenny and donna who also went on to have children of their own and David and Ingrid who had David and Tasha and Tasha had her own children. I am missing some info due to the fact that somewhere along the way the family dynamics kind of got amiss. If I could explain the whats and whys to you my mind wouldn’t flee with wonderment some nights. My father led a stressful life he became ill and left us way too young. There isn’t a day goes by something or some memory doesn’t make me miss him and think of him and wish he was here with me again. Dad left in 1987. The growing up years in my own life my mother and father had bought us a nice home in suburbia a house I thought was the Taj Mahal.. We had a pool in the backyard and we visited gramps and Cay every year in Florida. I knew Disney world like I owned part of it. Life was the perfect stage play in my mind. I had no idea of the dark sides that exist inside a family dynamic. I believed that Joan and Walt cleaver were real families and that mine was exemplary too. I guess that secrets are sometimes best left as they are. I know that back in the 20s and 30s that the way others viewed how we lived were subject to expectation and judgment. I know that living a life as you desire wasn’t always possible unless you faced the labelling and rumours that go with small town society. After my father died my mother shared a life with her “ friend” Lois for many years to follow. For most of us it was very confusing and difficult accepting this relationship however it was what it was. If mom was happy and somebody was taking care of her who were we to judge? We all had our busy lives our own jobs and our own families. The sibling unit somehow got distanced and my mother somehow allowed us to all become all but forgotten family members. If I could again explain any reasons why id once again sleep better. I often dreamed of a family reunion. One where I could actually see those christmases like the “Walton” family shared on television. I wondered why it wasn’t possible? I longed for my family, my roots and my heritage ( I still do in fact) but when you get to my age you tend to give up on fairy tales and hope that your own family can somehow stay somewhat sane and intact. I married and divorced and also have my own children twins Mike and Katie now 34 ,mike and Ivett now have my great grandchild Abby. Katie married Greg and have Sean and Lauren and my other daughter Kristen ( Bear) had Chloe and my youngest Jennifer has a steady partner Mat and has decided to follow in my fathers footsteps in policing. I too wish my own children would only know how my life was not the happy ending it could have and should have been. I can only wish that they can stay close and help me create that Walton family ideals I dream about. Mom lived the last part of her years with Lois until Lois also passed a few years ago and mom became very lonely and sad. I used to tell her that if you place all your eggs in one basket and someone steals the basket what are you left with>? Lois was moms basket. The grandchildren she never knew didn’t visit. The children she gave life to were distant and I’m sure her heart lived with many secrets and regrets. The loneliness became a part of her existence and although I stayed faithful by her side I too had a life of my own to live. I was a single mother who was responsible for the rearing of my own children. Life was busy or held onto moments of regret and distanced themselves ( again unknown to me?) I always “made time” for my mother. I called her when I woke up when I finished a job during the day and at dinner and bedtime “each and every single day”. I delivered groceries, brought McDonald big breakfasts( her favourite with small coffee 4x4 yikes!!! ) I made shortbread that required forever to make it just right as grandma Mark made. I took her for the hair appt. weekly or I enlisted my children to help gram. She was very good to my children and helped me immensely in my struggles as a single mom. It is in my opinion my mother had much inner pain and sadness yet always found time to cut out a paper clipping to share with me to ease my broken heart…again. She wasn’t someone to seek advice from as I believe her own scarred and shattered dreams didn’t allow her to be any authority. Mom never was sick a day in her life. She lived alone after Lois passing continued to enjoy her beloved blue jays and maple leafs on tv. Continued to make pounds and pounds of grandmas recipe for famous Scottish shortbread. In the end mom went to hospital for a faint spell and ended up falling while in their care and never walked again. She went into long term care and I became the parent in her life. Its the circle of life I suppose. Moms give us life and in the end we look after theirs. The dementia set in but it wasn’t constant. Let me please tell you about this disease…. If you’ve ever watched “ The Notebook” ( I Mean haven’t we all?) the sadness it reveals when someone loses a lifetime through the loss of memories of people they love, places they cherish and things they have spent a lifetime achieving let me please say this….. Dementia can also be a positive. For a person who’s days consist of sitting in long term care ; days, weeks, months seem endless when you have lost your will to live and the ability to rationalize your existence. When you know that the end is near or that theres nothing in life to work towards. No goals are left as you’ve accomplished everything life has to offer you. Dementia somehow can be a saviour. If you forget where you are, where you’ve been and what happens next everything in life becomes less complicated and less disappointing. When I ponder how we all are born how we always look forward to the wonderments of childhood such as Christmas and holidays. How when we grow up and every monumental year that passes brings us another milestone and another adventure to look forward to such as driving your first car or having your first taste of wine? How we wish upon stars for that special person to come into our lives and share in the next phase of our existence. How we have the white dress and celebrate finding our soulmate. How we work and plan education and careers based on financial gains to be able to survive in the crazy world how we strive for material gain and wealth for our family to be in future. How we are blessed with the next generation to go on to carry our history, our legacy and we watch in wonderment how they assimilate our likeness and that of our parents. How we work and grow and plan and dream and buy and go on vacations and then…..we end up at the same destination. I have to ask myself some days why? I have to take heed in how I’ve sat back like a spectator watching the life of someone else. I have to question if what we are taught to do and expect and follow is the right path in life? I have to sit back now and re think how I myself are robotically following this same patterning life as everyone has and everyone before that. I think that this spectating has made me realize that there has to be more to life than this? There has to be another way to portray life and act out the scenes in the journey differently isn’t there? Does the ending always finish on the same note? She knew me right up until the last day. She joked about times of the past people she had in her life and memories she still held vividly. If theres anything you can learn from a 92 year at the end of life is that the path may be bumpy ,it may be smooth, but one way or another we end up the same way at the same place. Live each and every day to the fullest. The past is exactly that…the past. Why waste beautiful days, moments, memories with people you shared a bump with along the road? Its easier to end life knowing you did your best gave all you could and can lay your head to rest knowing that! I know my mother wished she was surrounded by all those who’s life she touched in some small way in her 92 years. I know my head will rest easily. Those countless visits the flowers I sent ( mom loved her garden) the pictures I pasted in her room of her g great grandchildren and the facetime calls every other day because of this pandemic !! All the candy I delivered ( she loved sweets and chocolate) the convincing I did to have the kids “ make time” were all part of my life. I will miss being “needed.” I will miss making someones life better. I will miss talking to the person who gave me life who without her so many lives I listed above wouldn’t exist. I will miss having someone who’s ears must have fallen off listening to my heartbreaks in life and dilemmas. I will miss making shortbread the way gram used to do it. I WILL MISS MY MOTHER!! The only constant thing I have had in my life for 57 years. Everyone please take heed…..No matter what …your mom loves you! !!!!No matter how bad things are , no matter how evil you are , no matter how many mistakes you make , your mother loves you!! Now I too will know how holding another empty space in my heart will feel.
Please allow me to share an excerpt from someone I hold as a dear and talented soul…something to think about.
Many years ago, I was traveling through Pennsylvania with a friend who had experienced several childhood traumas. She had built an impenetrable wall around herself - never allowing her pain to show and never acknowledging any weakness. I suppose it was her way of feeling safe even though the strategy only added to her sorrow.
It was wintertime when we made our trip and a snowstorm had blown across the state a few days earlier. The plows had created huge snow banks on either side of the highway which made us feel like we were driving through a tunnel with no exits. I was in the passenger seat and my friend was driving. As the car began warming up, she decided to slip her arms out of her winter coat with one hand on the steering wheel. I didn’t think it was a good idea because we were zipping down the interstate at 70 mph. I remember saying, “I wouldn’t do that...” - just as my friend lost control of her car.
The little Honda Civic began careening toward the snow bank on the left side of the highway so my friend yanked the steering wheel too sharply to the right without braking. Predictably, the car raced towards the snow bank on the opposite side of the road. This craziness repeated itself over and over. The car zoomed to the left, then zoomed to the right, then zoomed to the left again and the other vehicles on the highway decided to give my companion all the room she needed. It’s a scary thing to be sitting in an out-of-control car - especially when the driver has forgotten about the brakes. Finally, my friend let go of the steering wheel, threw her hands in the air and said, “It’s not working! It’s not working!”
The car careened one last time across the highway and slammed into the right snow bank, spun around until it was facing oncoming traffic, flipped onto its side and then slowly fell back on its wheels. There was a brief moment of silence as we realized we were both going to live and then I asked, “Would you like me to drive now?” For the next five hours I drove a car that worked perfectly despite the dents on the roof, hood, sides and back. Basically, every body panel on that Civic had a snow bank pushed into it but ...the engine and brakes were working fine.
Sometimes we make mistakes and our lives spin out of control. By the time we think to put on the brakes, it’s often too late. But after it’s over and the damage is done, we have an opportunity to reflect on what happened. An emotionally intelligent person will do that. A deeply wounded person often won’t.
I felt sorry for my friend. She had been through hell as a child and as a result, had a terribly fragile sense of self. It always seemed impossible for her to face her pain, her inadequacies or her failures. When she screamed, “It’s not working! It’s not working!” she was blaming the car for her own inexperience and this was the way she conducted all of her affairs. It’s been many years since I’ve seen her. The last time we spoke, she was deflecting attention away from her mistakes and hurting anyone who asked her to be real.
Sometimes the most obvious truths are the most difficult to grasp - not because they are complicated, but because they are painful. Carl Jung once wrote, “That which I most need to find will be found where I least want to look.”
I have great respect for people who have made a mistake and afterwards, demonstrated the kind of courage and humility that asks, “Why did I do this? What do I need to learn? Asking such questions is like a leap of faith. The more wounded we are, the greater the leap and the greater the need for courage.
But what if someone is in so much pain or is so frightened by difficult truths that self-examination (and healing) seem impossible? Could love make courage possible? After all, inadequacies and weaknesses aren’t the only things that define a wounded person. Being lovable doesn’t require perfection. When we are loved, it’s not because we are perfect. It’s because we have been created for intimacy ...and there’s this thing called ‘grace.’
Grace is offered to us because we are more than a jumble of imperfections. There is something precious and priceless about us despite our flaws. Some people have a difficult time believing this but I’m convinced that if any of us is put under enough pressure, we will break. No one is invincible. Every one of us fails and everyone of us needs grace.
Forgiving ourselves, loving ourselves, understanding ourselves - these are things that happen when we begin to plumb the depths of God’s grace. It takes courage to examine our weaknesses but if our examination is accompanied by an understanding of the deep love that God has for us, it becomes a liberating exercise because it leads us to the realization that grace isn’t passive. We are adored by One who pursues us like a lover and offers us redemption.
One of my friends recently posted the following message:
“Shame says, ‘Because I am flawed, I am unacceptable.’ Grace says, ‘Although I am flawed, I am cherished.’”