Daisy

My dear Grandma, Daisy Letitia Devine passed away on Monday at the age of 98.

She led quite the life. Here’s a little snippet of it, written by my mom for the obituary.

Born March 7, 1921, in Crawley, Sussex, England … A war widow, Daisy came to Canada on the Queen Mary in 1946. Once here, she met and married her second husband, who was the older brother of her first. Earl happily took over the care of his late brother’s son, and he and Daisy went on to have three more children. Though their life together was marked by family tragedy and difficult financial times, the atmosphere they provided for their four children was one filled with a great sense of security, acceptance and love. Daisy’s priority was always to family. She did manage two trips to England to visit with her family there, and enjoyed numerous visits from English relatives to Canada. She enjoyed gardening, and always wanted an English garden, like her granny’s, or at least a Canadian approximation of one. She was an avid reader, relishing novels, biographies, and books about Canadian and British history. She enjoyed watching curling on TV during winter and Toronto Blue Jays baseball games during summer. She never wanted to be thought of as British; she considered herself a Canadian, through and through. She managed to live independently, in the same home Earl built in 1952, well into her 98th year. Though shy and retiring by nature, for many years Daisy acted as Secretary in the Pontiac Historical Society.

 

There’s a lot more to the story, and thankfully I have that in print. Years ago, my mom and my stepfather interviewed my grandparents and compiled their stories into book form. This was a business of theirs at the time, but of course this one was done free of charge. As a result I own a roughly 400 page tome filled with their stories, pictures, and lots of nostalgia.

My love of junk may have been born in my grandma’s house. As a kid, my mom told tales of a closet filled with old things that hadn’t been seen in years, and that excited me greatly. My grandpa wasn’t at all interested in clearing it out, but my grandma was and we (my mom, grandma, and I) compromised by doing it slowly, in installments. There was a lot of junk in there, given that my grandparents were of that generation that didn’t throw much out, but inevitably there were things that sparked my imagination. My most memorable find was a WWII-era world map published by the CBC which portrayed the reach of the Axis forces as the tentacles of an octopus. I kept that map for many years, but unfortunately it disappeared at some point, perhaps during a move. I was able to find a similar one online, but it seems to be fairly scarce. I wish I still had the one we found together, but so it goes.

My grandma, around the time of the cleaning of the closet, with my grandpa and her sister

My grandma was part of the Greatest Generation, meaning she experienced the Great Depression and World War II. During the latter, she lived not far from London, and often saw German bombers on their way to bomb the city and dogfights between German and Allied planes. The Nazis were focused on London, but she learned what to do when the air raid sirens went off, and knew the sound of a V-2 bomb (from the book: “You could hear them coming – a sort of eerie singing – and you just prayed their singing didn’t stop, because once the motor cut out, it meant the bombs were going to drop, right there or someplace pretty close”). She met her first husband after he was stationed nearby. A member of the Cameron Highlanders, he died in 1944 from friendly fire during the battle of the Falaise Gap.

In her senior years, my grandma was somewhat of an anachronism. She never used a computer, the internet or a cell phone, and had no interest either. She loved reading, playing Scrabble and enjoyed watching the telly. She mostly kept to herself and loved her family. Outwardly, hers was a simple life, at least in the years I knew her. I can’t help but feel like my generation, and other generations have something to learn from hers, which is not to say that they didn’t have something to learn from us as well.

We exist in an age of distraction, and my generation in particular seems to be having a difficult time finding our way, struggling to define the meaning and purpose of our lives. My grandma didn’t have any issues with that, perhaps because she lived through poverty and war and death and saw first hand how fleeting it all can be. She valued her family, and she followed the Golden Rule. Maybe the meaning of life is as simple as that, especially if you’re flexible when defining what “family” really means.

At 98, her death is not surprising. I had hopes of her making it to 100, but I knew that was far from a guarantee. I’ve been preparing for this eventuality for some time, so I feel no sense of shock, but obviously I’m still sad that she’s gone. She’ll always have a place in my heart.