Marshall/Macfarlane Family Decemeber 2008
A year ago, I came home to Canada to get ready for my wedding and to celebrate Christmas with my family for the first time in seven years. A year later, I have returned home to say good-bye to my beloved grandmother, who passed away on November 9th, 2009. She was ninety five years old.
This is for her.
When I think of my grandmother, I will always remember her laughing. She radiated joy and happiness. She loved life, she loved her family, and she loved making those around her happy. I think the majority of people who met Grandma loved her right away. It’s hard not to love her. Last year, I watched my husband’s family meet her for the first time. John’s Mom sat right down beside her and within minutes, they were talking, laughing and holding each other’s hands like old friends. That’s Grandma. She made everyone around her feel at ease and loved. She touched our lives in so many different ways; the common thread connecting all those memories together is her love for us.
Grandma always took the time to listen, she never thought what we were doing was silly, especially when we were children, and believe me, all three of the Marshall kids had some very silly moments. She was giving. We always received a gift whenever we saw her, books and bookmarks, jewelry, pretty postcards, stationary sets, she loved to give. I know that giving these small gifts gave her as much pleasure as it did to those of us receiving them.
Grandma always reminded us to follow our dreams. I like to think that this is because she lived her life exactly the way she wanted to. She had the courage and conviction to follow her own dreams. It takes guts to move away from your homeland, yet Grandma made it look easy. As patriotic as they come, she was proud to be an American, but also proud of her Canadian roots. Grandma meshed her two worlds and two families together with an effortless grace that still astounds me to this day.
Here is a story that you won’t know, but it has everything to do with what you see here today on MSW. I would like to share it with you, because it is something that still means a lot to me twenty years later, and in many ways it defines who I am today.
Grandma and Bumpa gave me my first diary when I was seven. It was a white, leather-bound journal with blue embossed writing on the front. It came with an old-fashioned lock and key, and I loved the thought of having my very own personal space meant for no one’s eyes but my own. That journal held the secrets to my childhood and set me well on the path to writing for life. At first, I simply recorded boring details that included a daily weather update, what I wore each day or what I was studying in school. I remember that quite a few of my entries simply started and ended with, “It was a good day.”
Later my journal entries contained details about my friends and the boys I liked, high school dramas, and first kisses. Every time I saw Grandma, she asked me if I was still writing in my journal and I would tell her that I would never stop. Eventually, I would write short stories and I would give them to her to read. She would go over each one, telling me how to make it better, which characters needed to be developed, how I could improve on the setting. She told me to write, write, WRITE! Over time, I realized what a gift she had given me. Today, I make a living as a writer and editor and I like to think that Grandma had a lot to do with how I live my life today. I know she would be proud to see the stacks of handwritten journals in our basement.
Grandma and My Several Worlds
My Several Worlds was named after our favorite book. This blog, in many ways, represents my relationship with my grandmother. The author, Pearl S. Buck, was one of our favorite authors. Grandma and I were fiends about her books, trading out-of-print editions back and forth right up until my last visit home in December 2008. My Several Worlds certainly would not be what it is today without my grandmother’s influence.
When Grandma learned that I was moving to China in 2003, she insisted on finding me a copy of Buck’s autobiography, My Several Worlds, which related the author’s tales of her childhood and travels in China. Written in the 1930s, the book was long out-of-print and Grandma searched high and low in second hand bookstores throughout Ottawa before laying a worn, dog-eared copy of that book in my hands a few days before I left to go overseas. I still have that book – it is one of my prized possessions, not only because it represents my own journey, but mainly because it was a gift from her. Likewise, a bookmark from her favorite bookstore is also in my possession almost seven years after she gave it to me. Every time I crack a book open, I am reminded of her. These gifts may not sound like much to you, but to me they represent years of endless book swapping, chatting about our favorite tales and new authors we couldn’t live without, and wonderful moments spent with someone I adored – Grandma Louise.
Grandma began writing her memoirs in the early 90s and she kept writing up until the last day. These memoirs represent 20 years of dedication and hard work, written not with the intent of publishing, but to record her extraordinary life for herself and for the people she loved. This legacy that she has left behind, these books containing the details of the most precious moments of her life, recorded by her own hand are books of LIFE. The magnitude of her project still astounds me, and I only wish that she had been able to complete them. The moments that meant the most to her she has left behind for us to remember her by. They are treasure, just as she is and always will be.
I will never forget her, and I only hope that I will live to be as loved and admired as much as I loved and admired her.