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It is Margaret You Mourn For

By Michelle Martin
Published August 10, 2012

My mother put the phone to my grandmother's ear, the evening before the night she died. She was tired and sedated against the pain wrought by a cancer-ridden body. On the weekend before, the kids, Stephen, and I had been back and forth to Ian Anderson House hospice, in two different shifts, so as not to overcrowd her room along with the others who wished to see and talk to her one more time.

When Wednesday came, she was going fast. So, on the phone, I said my last words to Grammy, and told her I loved her.

Growing up, I hadn't thought of her name as particularly beautiful but classed it as old-fashioned, along with the names of many of our older aunts, or the ladies of the Catholic Women's League and the Legion Hall.

Adulthood came. The birth of our third child, a girl, brought the echo of a poem studied long ago, and I realized what a lovely, lyrical name it is:

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

"Margaret" gave voice to everything that was wonderful about my grandmother, and it was clear our newest little one needed to be baptized with the same.

The Margaret I grew up with was sharp-tongued, opinionated, used colourful expressions liberally, and was very funny. She worked in the Pictou shipyards during the war.

Well-read, with some refined tastes, she sat us down in front of her television to watch a broadcast of Swan Lake, as well as classic movies like The Thirty Nine Steps, bedtimes be damned. She didn't like to be interrupted by phone calls when the hockey game was on.

Once she let my cousin and me, on a whim, make what we thought would be wonderful perfume - turning her picnic table into a mess of rose petals from her bushes and mason jars full of water, sitting in the sun and getting a little funky, not smelling at all like we intended it to smell. But she didn't care about a mess if it was an interesting one.

She was never called "Maggie," always "Margaret." Just as our hockey-loving daughter is always "Margaret" to us.

We will bury her next week. Meanwhile, I think I've got some empty mason jars in the corner cupboard. Time to let the younger kids make an interesting mess of some kind, before the last one grows up, and I am old myself.

...Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

-- Spring and Fall, Gerard Manley Hopkins

Michelle Martin lives in Hamilton. The opinions she expresses in Raise the Hammer are her own.

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By LOL (registered) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 23:02:19

my sincere condolences. Losing a loved one is never easy. A wonderful loved one like your grandmother makes it even more traumatic. Hold the memories close and dear to your heart.

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