Family, Life & Living, Memories

all souls and the grandfather i never knew

420909 Grandpa and Gran
My grandfather Edward Eustace and my grandmother Mary Margaret Kell Eustace circa 1942

Flashback November 5, 2015: To mark all saints and all souls days 2015, I went to a remembrance celebration at the Unitarian Universalist church in the village. I told Mom about it as I did her nails the next day.

“I went to a nice church service yesterday Mom,” I began.

“You did?” It was more of a confirmation than a question. “That was nice eh?”

“Yeah,” I said. “It was all about remembering people who had passed on. People who had died. It was kind of like a funeral, except for a whole lot of people, not just one.”

“Oh geez,” she said. Death can be a little disconcerting. Talk of funerals may not be so cheery.

“Yeah, but it was nice.”

“Was it somebody th th th th th th th th th th…that I knew?” she said, and then, before I had time to answer, her intuitive clairvoyance kicked in: “No I didn’t know them. I don’t think I knew them.”

“You’re right, Mom,” I said. “I didn’t know any of them. None of them. But that didn’t matter. People talked about the people who were important to them. They talked about fathers, husbands, mothers, grandmothers.” I held her right hand in mine, and applied bright pink polish to her nails as I described what had gone on. “Some talked about strangers. Some talked about children. One lady told the story of a young friend who had been killed with her husband and two children in a car accident. They were so young she said. Everyone who spoke told the stories of different people they loved and appreciated.”

“Oh dear.” Mom sounded a little worried

“I was going to get up and talk about Gran.” At the mention of Gran, she quickly grew more calm.

“Oh that was nice eh?” She said.

“But in the end I didn’t. I’m not sure why I didn’t, but I didn’t,” I mused. “I thought about her though.” I looked up from Mom’s hands and into her eyes as I spoke.

“Poor gran, usually they had them all… They had them… All… Da da da da da da da da da da da da da da da da da…” The cook came in with the tea trolley.

“I’ll fix our tea in a minute, Stacy,” I said to the cook.

“You’re in mid-paint,” she chuckled.

“I am.” I smiled back. I had brought a couple of boxes of apples the day before; Stacy had used them to make apple crisp and applesauce. She’d saved a little of the sauce for me in Mason jar. Mom and I used to make jam, basil beans and dill pickles together in late summer; we preserved them in Mason jars.

“The only thing I put in with the apples is a bit of water, some sugar, and some cinnamon–so the applesauce is pretty clean,” she said.

“Thanks,” I said.

I turned back to the manicure and my storytelling as Stacy left the drawing room. “I remember the way Gran always used to say ‘Oh hi Sue!’ whenever I called, as if she were surprised to hear my voice. We used to have these long conversations about life and death and all of that and I remember her telling me that her husband–your father–never saw her naked.”

“Oh dear. Oh dear. That was awful. Poor soul.” I laughed, but I could see Mom was little uncomfortable, maybe at the thought of her mother being naked.

“I wondered how she ever got pregnant,” I said with a grin and tease in my voice. Mom looked at me. She must have died a thousand deaths when she told me about “the birds and the bees.”

“Oh I don’t know, she had la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la…” Then as clear, sharp and bright as the North Star she said, “She loved my Dad! She just loved my Dad.”

“Yeah she did,” I agreed. Grandpa had died when I was less than two. But I’d heard so many stories for such a long time that I knew she spoke the truth even though I had no recollection of seeing my grandparents together.

“So so so so so so he was he was a ka ka ka — he was her darling.”

“Yeah he was.” Something cracked inside me.

“So he wanted that one very much so,” she said.

“Yeah, he did,” I whispered.

“He liked her. Oh yeah. Very much so. But then he went to ga ga ga ga he got very close to her.”

“Yes. Yes he did. That was nice eh Mom?”

“Yeah. That was nice.” I fell quiet for a moment or two. My tears dropped between her fingers as I tried to paint her nails in a blur.

“So he always looked at her best. Best of some,” Mom said.

“Yup,” I squeaked out. “It was good that they found each other eh Mom?”


“I feel a bit sad Mom.”

“For Gran you mean?”

“No, Gran’s okay now.”

“Gran’s okay now is right.”

“She’s with your father.”

“Yeah she’s with Daddy now. He would la la la la la la look look look look well with her.” He would look after her is what she meant.

“Yes he would Mom.”

I choked a little, and then blew gently on her fingertips to help them dry.


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Challenges & Solutions, Family, Life & Living, Love, Memories

some things are meant to be

Destiny in the palm of my hand 2
Destiny is tattooed in the palm of my hand…

On January 1, 2005, my ex-husband and I officially separated. I still feel sad about that.

We married on January 9, 1993, after having lived together for about seven years. He’s a great guy, and I was crazy about him. We were a partnership for almost 20 years in total, most of it amazing. We laughed, cried and partied. We traveled the world. We shared joys and sorrows. We created an abundant life full of interesting people, rewarding work, and intimate moments. We danced often. We rarely fought.

In January 2003, I suggested we renew our vows to mark our tenth wedding anniversary. I was as in love with him then as I had been on the frosty day we married a decade earlier. “Nah,” he said. “What for?” Over the next two years our marriage crumbled for reasons neither of us understood. I asked him to go for counselling with me. He declined.

I couldn’t fix whatever was wrong with us by myself. Had he acceded to my requests, I believe we would still be together. But he didn’t, and we’re not. When we split up, people were shocked because we were such a “great couple.” I was shocked too, and devastated. But splitting up, agonizing though it was, freed me to do things I never would have done had he and I stayed together – among them was caring in a special way for Mom.

From the time we moved overseas in 1993, my ex and I spent four to six weeks each summer with Mom at her home in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. We could do that because of the extended holidays afforded by his work, and the fact that I had my own business. After he and I separated in 2005, I returned to Canada to be with Mom for four to six weeks at Christmas in addition to the time I spent each summer. Essentially, I lived with her for a quarter of the year for the next six years. I couldn’t have done that had I still been married.

In 2011, I returned to Canada for good to care for Mom 24/7.  On November 16, 2012, Mom was placed in a nursing home. I saw her virtually every day after that until she died on Wednesday, August 17, 2016. I was free to choose to remain close to her because I had no other attachments or commitments. I was by her side, holding her hand, when she drew her last breath. None of that would have been possible if I had still been married.

The decade-long journey as Mom’s care partner was a tortuous, joyful, and painful roller coaster of emotions, challenges, loss, and healing none of which I would have experienced had my marriage not ended. I think about that a lot. I wonder about destiny, the Chinese characters for which are tattooed on the palm of my right hand; I had that done in the summer of 2004, six months before my marriage ended.

I’ve decided some things are meant to be. Others are not. Paradoxically, I believe some things are worth fighting for. Others, not so much. I also know from experience it can be devilishly hard to distinguish between the two.

Other times it’s as crisp and clear as a fall morning or a mid-winter night.