She’s a bit of a mystery to me, I must confess. My only “maybe” memory of her is from way back when I was four or so and we were visiting her as she lay sick and dying from cancer. Grandma Challies was frail and skeletal in her bed but all that interested me at that point were some dolls I sat dressing and redressing.
In her early sixties, she was ready to leave this world, a world that from all accounts presented her with some joy but buckets of hardship and pain.
As a young woman living in Staten Island, New York (I believe?), she was a beautiful nurse whose nurturing, strong spirit was perfect for the job. She caught the eye of many a man I’m sure, including my Canadian grandfather when they met somehow and they fell in love, got married and had four children.
They lived in Montreal, Quebec where my Grandfather was a Chief Justice, a position of affluence in the community. I am told he was a determined man, loving sometimes, but cold and cruel with my grandma much of the time. One of his favorite sayings, which is always recounted as a joke but as any wife can attest to would be anything but funny, was “Beaumie (nickname for my grandma based on her maiden name), it smells like a cheap restaurant in here,” when he came home in the evening and smelled dinner.
The children grew up with Grandma’s looks predominant in their features. Her second child, Nancy, committed suicide in her early twenties, following a nightmarish battle with depression, institutional stays, etc. Nancy’s illegitimate son had been adopted immediately following birth just a few months before her death.
My Grandfather never recovered from his daughter’s death and in the same place and in the same way, committed suicide himself in the early 1970s. He left in his wake a wounded family.
It was not in Grandma’s nature to give up on life. She just kept on going. She had a strong temperament, not equaled, I am told, until my mom came on the scene and showed Grandma she’d met her match! Their only mother-in-law, daughter-in-law spat was when my mom was told by Grandma that she couldn’t give my oldest brother Andrew, then a child, ice cream to which my mom replied, “yes I can!”
Grandma was ready to leave the world as cancer ravaged her body but not because of suicidal tendencies like her husband and daughter. Shortly before her death, after my father “met” Jesus and became a Christian, Grandma found new life in Jesus Christ as well. This is when hope entered into our family and God’s grace poured down on a formally spiritually dead lineage. And so, her death was marked with hope.
A thought for Sunday: