Thursday, November 17, 2016

Remembering Grammie

On Saturday, November 12 we lost my precious Grammie. If you know me, you know how incredibly special this woman was to me.

I was honoured to be asked to write the obituary and give the eulogy at the funeral. Until I can compose myself to share my personal reflections here, I wanted to share what I wrote earlier this week.

Good afternoon. For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Janice, one of Olga’s granddaughters. I’m honoured to have been asked to share with you today – a glimpse of who my Grammie was and why she was loved by so many.

She was born in Manchester England in 1927 and grew up during the war. During those uncertain days, the children were shipped out to the countryside to keep them safe. Grammie and her sister Vera stayed together but were separated from the rest of the family for 11 months.

She returned to Manchester and became a young milk maid. It was at the end of her run one day that she happened to meet a dashing Canadian soldier at a bus stop. She happened to mention where she worked and was surprised to find him waiting for her the next day. The rest, as they say, is history. My history. Our history.

Grandad and Grammie were married in 1946 and soon came to Canada to start their new life. After living a brief time in Moncton with the Murrays, they headed west to Ontario and eventually settled in Corunna. I know we’ve all heard the stories many times – they lived in a four room garage while Grandad built their house. Times were tough – he even re-used nails having to straighten them first. They had to use an outside toilet and pumped water from a well. Quite an adjustment for this young wife and mom.

I often have thought about how it would feel to be 19 and leave everything you knew behind you and set sail for a brand new life. Of course, this was before the days of email and skype to make communication easy. Information was shared by sitting down to write a letter – only to have the contents read many days later! Imagine! I know being a new wife and mom, I have lots of questions for and advice to ask my mom and call her daily! For Grammie, a trans-continental phone call was reserved for only the rarest occasions.

She certainly had determination. She raised a brood of five boys and a girl, went on to have 19 grandchildren and 31 great grandchildren. Her family was her pride and joy. Any chance she got, she would tell you about the exponential growth of the Murray family and would often follow that up with “and there ain’t an ugly one in the bunch”. She was so incredibly proud of each and every one of us – in our own way.

When chatting with some of my cousins this weekend, this was certainly a theme that came up. We each felt encouraged and loved by the way that she loved us individually. She kept tabs on what you were up to and would be sure to ask about it. Whether it was about your soccer team, your job, your kids or your car! She would pick up on what you were good at and compliment you with a “you’re so clever”.

Sometimes people don’t seize the opportunity to tell loved ones just what they mean to them. And perhaps that is the case. But I can assure you that through our many visits – in person or on the phone, I heard about each of you – how much she loved you and how proud she was of you.

As her only daughter, Grammie shared a special relationship with my mom. On many occasions, she would look at me and ask “What would I do without Ellen?” Indeed! I can’t imagine growing up in that Murray house full of boys! They shared a lot of tender moments as well as laughs over the years. Grammie recognized my mom’s big heart and her need to help others and always commented that she deserved to have a break. She was so grateful for the countless ways you helped her in the later years Mom.

Grammie thought a lot of Uncle Cliff. She was proud of his accomplishments when he moved to Toronto and started his life there. She was so grateful for the way Cliff and Penny have cared for Melvin and would often comment how loving and giving you are.

Uncle Doug was pretty special in Grammie’s eyes. I think she loved that he had inherited Grandad’s knack for “MacGyvering” anything. She enjoyed many lovely meals with you and Carmelle, tucked in by the woodstove. I know she missed you so much when you moved to Nova Scotia but was so happy that you were fulfilling your dream.

I remember hearing a number of times how Uncle Russ was such a beautiful baby. He had such lovely curls. And, you still have those lovely curls! I know she would enjoy your trips to Tim Horton’s when you would ride your bike down from Sarnia. Grammie kept me updated on all of your latest adventures and was so pleased with your growing family and the many musical talents of your kids and grandkids.

Having Uncle Dave close by in Corunna for so many years was a blessing to Grammie. She always enjoyed your visits and could count on you to take care of her tech support – hooking up the TV, figuring out the remote, etc. Grammie enjoyed the many family events that she was included in over the years and cherished your quiet and faithful support.

And Uncle Mel. I know there is a special place for the baby of the family and you had that place of honour in this family. Grammie always shared with me about what you were up to and enjoyed your regular phone calls. She was so pleased to see you cutting lawns, clearing snow and going on trips!

She cherished each of us and never missed sending a card on our birthdays. And that’s a heck of a lot of birthdays to keep track of!

We all remember the Merry Murray Christmas. Grammie loved getting everyone together once a year to celebrate Christmas. Uncle Dave recalls going to Kreskie’s with Grammie to do the Christmas shopping and stopping for lunch at the snack counter. He had the inside track of what the older kids were getting for Christmas, but somehow Grammie always managed to have a surprise under the tree for him on Christmas morning.

Uncle Cliff remembers the Christmas chaos that happened each year – after the Christmas Eve service. Grandad would wait to get a deal on the tree and they’d put it up on the 24th. Grammie would be madly wrapping gifts for all the kids and putting the turkey in the oven to cook over night.

When reminiscing about Grammie, there were a number of things that came up that took you back to childhood years. Some of our favourites included:

•    The smell of the woodstove
•    The sound of the clock above the sideboard
•    Putting pennies on the railway track
•    Grandad’s rocking chair
•    Sleepovers with cookies & milk
•    Vacation Bible school
•    The crayon drawer
•    Her spoon collection
•    The plates hung on the wall
•    Getting Avon samples
•    Her hand-knitted mitts, sweaters, ….even Barbie doll clothes!

Another thing we all seem to remember is her pie. She was famous for her pies and Grandad was famous for volunteering her to make them for events at the Moore Museum! It was always a treat when you walked in the door and the smell of fresh pie greeted you. She has passed this skill on to many of her children and grandchildren!

Speaking of the Moore Museum, who remembers the countless events we all attended there? I know it was near and dear to Grandad’s heart, but Grammie continued the tradition. I loved attending the Victorian Tea with her on the May long weekend.

I am so blessed to have many years of treasured memories with my Grammie. I know that my life’s circumstances allowed me this opportunity. For many years we would talk about how I was still single and how she just couldn’t understand why I hadn’t met a “nice young man”. She even joked that there needed to be a war so myself and a couple of other single cousins could find a husband. And as much as I wanted the next chapter of my life to begin, I look back and see what a blessing it was. I was able to invest in my relationship with Grammie in a way that I could not now that I have a husband and family.

One such opportunity was in 2006. It was declared the “year of the war bride” and a big reunion was happening at Pier 21 in Halifax. I had the privilege of attending with Grammie & Mom. What an amazing experience to see hundreds of ladies transported back in time as they reminisced with each other and danced to the songs of the era. I know that Grammie was so pleased to have done that trip and talked about it many times over the past 10 years. I know I will hold onto that memory dearly.

While chatting with my cousins this weekend, another theme that seemed to emerge was Grammie’s tea. Of course, being British, she loved a good cup of tea. But heaven help you if you made it the wrong way! I recall getting a scolding when Josh & I were visiting and I made some tea. I was never a big tea drinker, but when Grammie made it, it just seemed to taste better. And she always had cookies to go with it. Usually Peak Freens. We all loved Grammie’s tea and have a variety of memories of her favourite go-to meal when she had us over. From a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, cold cuts or spaghetti. Food has a way of uniting people.

Grammie had a wonderful sense of humour and we laughed a lot. One of my favourite stories involves this little card here. She has told this story countless times over the years and it only seems appropriate to share it here today.

We were at my sister Connie’s birthday party at a place called “My Mother’s House”. It was an old victorian home that had been converted into a restaurant. We both needed to use the washroom and realized the lock was broken. She agreed to “stand on guard for me” as I put it and I would return the favour. So, she dutifully stood by the door while I used the facilities and then it was her turn. Unfortunately, I got distracted talking to someone and forgot to watch the door. Wouldn’t you know it, someone walked in on Grammie. I was horrified! So upset, in fact, I made this little card to apologize. It’s in the shape of a toilet and says “Sorry”. Grammie was tickled pink with this card and it had a place of honour in her china cabinet for many years. She would often remind me that each time she heard “O Canada” and they came to the line about standing on guard, she thought of me. In fact, when we attended The Nutcracker – they played O Canada before the performance. Grammie and I both had a chuckle as we looked at each other during that point in the song.

I was so pleased to share with her when I met Devin. She was one of the first people to know about him and was excited to meet Devin. She wanted to ensure she had proper notice of when we would visit, so she could put some make up on! Grammie was so accepting of both Devin and his son Cody – welcoming them into the fold.
She made it a goal to attend our wedding, and there were a few times when I wondered if that would be a reality but I am so grateful that she could be there to share in our special day.

These are some of my stories of Grammie, but I know we each have our own memories that we will tuck away in a safe place and savour them for years to come.

As we say good bye to Grammie, we know she is in a better place and reunited with Grandad once again. We are left with an abundance of memories to carry with us and are grateful to have had this wonderful lady as the matriarch of our family.

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you today.

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