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Gospel: Mark 4: 35-41.
Life often throws storms and gales our way. We’ve all gone through them, some more than others. And Grandmaman, in her last few years weathered many as she gradually lost her sight, and her hearing, and her strength and ultimately even her ability to get up from bed. And yet she always drew great strength from her family and from her faith.
Her faith was not something that she would talk to others about often. For her it was deeply personal and I think she was almost shy about it in a way. But I know it was very strong. Her rosary and prayers were always important to her and when she was alone she’d often like to pray. Long ago she stopped watching TV. She couldn’t see it and she couldn’t hear it anymore. The one exception was her Sunday mass. We kept a TV with cable service in her room just for that one show per week. She never missed it. And she looked forward to receiving communion which Sally or myself would bring her every Sunday. I’m sure she is very happy to see family and friends gathered here for this very traditional Catholic Vigil service. As her body and way of life slowly began to deteriorate, I think it was her faith that there was always going to be something more at the end of it all that kept her going.
But more important than that was the fact that she herself, in her very being, embodied the love of her creator and was a channel of that love for everyone she touched. As Eric and Jane and Sally were growing up, Grandmaman was always the one that their friends would reach out to when they needed help or someone to talk to. She was like a magnet for people that way. And she was that way to the very end. Even in her last days as the pain grew more intense and she was more or less confined to her bed, and required almost constant care she still radiated out a love and sweetness that all her caregivers would comment on. One told us “I just wanted to hug her”. Her favorite hymn was Amazing Grace – and that is what she was filled with and what she shared so generously with others. We’ll play it tomorrow at the mass. And I played it quietly for her on the harmonica at her bedside in her last hours. Sally figures that was probably the moment when she decided she had hung on long enough.
And of course her family meant everything to her. She was pretty
well unconscious her last couple of days, but just as she drew her last
breath she opened her eyes and tried to say something but couldn’t
quite get it out. We figure it must have been the same thing she would
always say at the end of a visit. ‘Thank you for coming’. That’s
just the kind of person she was.
Dcn. Bill Radigan
Madeleine at 2011 Family Reunion
Gospel: John 14:1-6 (In my Father’s house there are many rooms…)
Last week, when it became clear that Madeleine, or Grandmaman as most
of us knew her, was entering her final few days, the nursing home was amazing.
They pulled out all the stops to make sure that she, and the family around
her, were comfortable. They moved her to a private room with a lovely view,
and lots of space for family. But even more importantly, they surrounded
her with love, checking on her frequently to make sure she was comfortable,
even something as simple as combing her hair which she loved. And
they’d bring in snacks, and coffee, and meals for the family so that they
could remain by her side.
I remember not too long ago pushing Grandmaman in her wheelchair passed a large birdcage in the foyer of a building with three beautiful canaries in it. I stopped to point it out to her. She couldn’t really see the birds but she could hear them. But her reaction was not what I expected. It kind of upset her. She said those birds didn’t belong in a cage. They were meant to be free.
At the time I didn’t really recognize the relevance it had for her. But now it seems obvious. As the years took their toll on Grandmaman and she gradually lost most of her faculties I think she felt the same way about herself as she did about those birds. And while her spirit never wavered - she remained the strong loving caring person she always was - her body had become a kind of prison, confining her from fully being herself and doing the things she so wanted to do. Three weeks ago when Sally returned home from her hip surgery, Grandmaman, who at that point was already very weak and in the final stages of her decline, told me that if she was feeling better tomorrow she would come home to help take care of Sally. That’s just the kind of person she was.
So today, though we all miss her dearly, we should not be sad for her sake. We should be filled with joy that she has finally returned home, to that special room, that Jesus himself has prepared for her, where she will forever be bathed in the same peace and love that she herself channeled to others.
Let us thank God for the gift that she has been to us. And let us thank Him for opening up that door for her, for setting her free, that she might finally fly off to be with Him forever.
Deacon. Bill Radigan
June 29,2015 Family Photos
I of course knew Madeleine had been in declining health for some time - normal for those whose strong health carries them to the impressive 96 yrs enjoyed by Madeleine.
The death of Madeleine marks the end of one generation of descendants in the family.
John Henry & Clara Jane Douglas had 5 children: Donald (Uncle Don), William (my father), Elizabeth (my Aunt Bess), (Aunt) Helen, (Uncle) Ross.
Uncle Don & Aunt Millie had 3 sons: Eric, Paul & Evan, with (the original) Eric with his ‘Wings’ as the navigator of the RCAF plane shot down in the Mediterranean, off Sicily on Aug 17, 1943 when he was 32 and unmarried. Paul & Madeleine then named their first child Eric after Paul’s lost elder brother, Eric. As my father, William, maintained very close relations with his Ontario family, even from his location in the then far-away Saskatchewan, his oldest son, my brother Albert, also named 1 of his sons ’Eric’.
By a curious coincidence, I just finished spending the June 20-21 weekend in Alberta at a family gathering which was attended by this Eric Douglas and his wife Linda who now live near Victoria BC. Most of their lives were spent in the metropolis of Weyburn, Sask. This ‘western’ Eric Douglas is 5 years younger than the ‘Ontario’ Eric Douglas.
William Wallace Douglas, the second son of John Henry & Clara Jane, and his wife Clara Maud (Shaw) Douglas had 5 sons: Albert (Chrissie), Don (Evelyn), Jack (Fran), Elmer (Yvonne) & me (divorced from Virginia). With the death of the last of my brothers Don in 2005; of his wife Evelyn much earlier; the death of Chrissie Aug, 2013; and of Yvonne very recently, Jan 30, 2015, all of William & Clara’s children are now dead except for me, and all their daughters-in-law are dead except for Frances (Third) Douglas in Campbellford, now 94 yrs old and in impressively good health. I was talking with Fran just a week ago.
The third son of Uncle Don & Aunt Millie, Evan Douglas & his wife Betts, the parents of Peter, Mary & David, died some yrs ago.
The fourth child of John Henry & Clara Jane, Aunt Helen and her distinguished engineer husband, Carl West, had just one child, Mary Douglas, who never married & did not live to the ripe old age of so many of the family. And everyone knows that the fifth child of John Henry & Clara Jane, my uncle Ross, the lawyer who had the marvelous idea of creating the original ‘Douglas Family History’, married late & died childless.
The death of Madeleine (Landry) Douglas leaves only one grandchild of John Henry & Clara Jane Douglas, me currently age 88, and one grandchild’s spouse, Fran Douglas currently age 94. Fran and I are left holding the family flag!!!
Concerning Madeleine Landry Douglas, I have very fond memories of her from when I moved to Montréal in 1958, at which time Madeleine & Paul had been living here for some time, with their 3 kids - Eric, Jane & Sally. While I was a total stranger to Montréal, Madeleine & Paul, well established here, were very generous and very helpful in providing a warm welcome in their home in Lachine, later in Town of Mt Royal.
So much for reminiscing about family history!!
On this past wkend I was in the Eastern Townships for biking in the area around Cowansville-Mystic-Stansbridge, a region known to Eric, Jane & Sally, especially to Eric who once had a business in Sawyerville, near Sherbrooke. Thus I only this morning read the email from Peter, with the attached email from David with news of the death of Madeleine. The funeral gathering of family in Peterborough will be taking place at this moment.
My condolences to Eric, Jane & Sally for their mother, and to Peter, Mary & David concerning their Aunt Madeleine.
Of the grandchildren/spouses of John Henry & Clara Jane Douglas, there now remains only 1 grandchild, (me) and one spouse of a grandchild, Fran Douglas. The departure now of Madeleine (Landry) Douglas, b. 1919-01-12, d, 2015-06-25, and of the very recent death of Bill/Will Thompson, b. 1923-10-28, d. 2014-11-30, husband of Doris (Douglas) Hays, were the last 2 spouses of children of Donald & Millie Douglas and of my aunt Bess & uncle Charlie Hays (another distinguished engineer before Peter & I, my nephew Bruce & my grandson, Roby Douglas, followed this same path).
I’m sorry to have not had the chance to attend the family reunion today in Peterborough.
Before the rest of us fade away into the great blue yonder it would be great if maybe this fall, after folks have returned from their summer travels here & there, at some location of some descendant of the Ontario Douglas-Barton-Thompson families, it would be great if there could be a family gathering while those of us remaining can still remember (vaguely) the links which connect our families.
We could raise:
- a toast to Madeleine (Landry) Douglas,
- a toast to Bill/Will & Doris Thompson &
- a toast to the still very much present Fran Douglas.
With this hope, I send my very warm greetings to all,