Grandma Challies



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:

“The battle is lost or won in the secret places of the will before God, never first in the external world. . . . Every now and again, not often, but sometimes, God brings us to a point of climax. That is the Great Divide in the life; from that point we either go towards a more and more dilatory and useless type of Christian life, or we become more and more ablaze for the glory of God – [Our] Utmost for His Highest.”

~Oswald Chambers

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6 Responses to Grandma Challies

  1. bchallies says:

    Isn’t it amazing that you will one day see Grandma face to face? Good post!

  2. gamullet says:

    Dad had much more a position of influence than of affluence. Had he remained a lawyer he would have been making, as a principal in a Montreal Law firm, a six figure income in the 1970s. He traded prestige of position for monetary reward. Trudeau, with his typical couth, said of him to my mother, “Your husband made a better judge than a lawyer”. Your grandfather was not only a judge but a jurist. He had a masters degree from the Sorbonne in Paris and an honorary doctorate from McGill University where he also taught all the while carrying out a full schedule as a judge. When he was diagnosed with arterial sclerosis he was associate chief justice of the Superior Court of Quebec with full responsibility over all the judges who presided in the court in Montreal. I have not seen it myself, but there is a protrait of him hanging in the new court house in Montreal.

  3. Grace says:

    I can’t wait to see her face to face considering I am apparently a lot like her. I would love to meet the one person in the family I resemble:)

  4. Neo says:

    Rose - She sounds like she was a very strong woman. I’m sure she’s watching over you from heaven.Peace & Hugs,- Neo

  5. Lesley Swan says:

    Hello Susanna,My name is Lesley Swan and it looks like we’re related. I was trying to create a family tree for my daughter and although I can go back as far as my great grandfather & your great great grandfather, I am missing some information. Your great grandmother Agnes and my grandfather Russell were brother and sister. And my father George Swan & your grandfather George Challies (I guess they weren’t too creative with names back then) were first cousins. Anyway, after George and Beaumie died and then cousin Ethel, all contact was lost because the 4 Swan children and the 4 Challies children never kept in touch (too big an age difference?). We know that Nancy died, but what became of George, John and Peggy we never knew. Would you consider supplying me with birth dates, marriages, children, etc. so that I can fill in the rest of the family tree to date? Thanks for any help you can give. My e-mail address is : theshieling@sympatico.ca Lesley

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