Monday, April 5, 2010

The Essence of Mammy

It was Easter Sunday, and Steven and I took the kids to my parents’ home in Kingfield for a short visit. My grandmother, Mammy, has been living with Mum for the last year, but due to hectic, crazy schedules, it had been awhile since my two younger children had seen their great-grandmother.

Mammy is almost ninety-four years old. She has been blessed with good health for most of those years. But when I walked into the living room to greet her on Easter morning, I knew something had changed. Was changing. Her lips smiled—they always do—but her eyes told a different story. Mammy’s poor little body is getting tired out.

Over the years I’ve thought a lot about life and death. I suppose part of that is due to being a writer. I write about everything under the sun, and while putting pen to paper, I have to give the subject of my prose some serious thought. So… I often reflect on those elusive questions; the ones most people avoid thinking about. I’ve even talked to Josie, Eli and Guy about my eventual death. I want them to be at peace when I am gone. I want them to know that even when the time comes and my body fails me, I will still be here. Bodies aren’t indestructible. They are nothing more than tissue and water and calcium and sinew. They aren’t made to last forever. But the spirit? The soul? The essence that makes me, ME? Now THAT is something that is durable and long-lasting!

When my children do something unkind or boneheaded and feel that modicum of shame… that’ll be me shaking my head and urging them to think first, next time, and to try harder. When they help someone or act selflessly and feel that little burst of pride? That will also be me, giving them a hug and an ‘I’m proud of you, babe!’ It won’t matter that my body has turned to dust. The core being, the quintessential Karen, will always be around. You simply can’t erase the essence of a person that easily.

Mammy knows that the end is near. No one knows exactly how near. That’s up to God or biology, or a combination of the two. But at her age, and with her body wearing out, she knows.

But this is what I hope with all my heart she truly recognizes. I want Mammy to know that she will always, always be with us. She won’t ever leave. She can’t! Her soul is too strong, her influence too great, her awesomeness simply too awesome. I know for a fact that this woman will be hanging around these western hills and glacial lakes and the trails through our forests for a long, long time. Every single time I see a train or hear its whistle blow, I’ll think of Mammy, who first walked with me on the rails of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Every time I pick a raspberry and taste its warm sweetness, I will see her filling a basket from the bushes in Seboeis. When I play cards, it’s Mammy’s lovely, wrinkled hands I’ll see dealing them as I remember all the games of Solitaire she taught me. When I sleep at night, it’s under a quilt she lovingly made. When I do the mundane chore of vacuuming, I’ll remember how she drove all the way to Kingfield from Milo one rainy day, just to buy a vacuum for me at Jordan Lumber Co. because she knew mine had sucked its last hairball. When I write a poem, I’ll reflect on the fact that the very first one I ever wrote was a gift for her and my grandfather Grankie, because I couldn’t afford to buy them a Christmas present… and I’ll remember the pleasure those two old folks expressed when they received that simple gift. They gave me the confidence to write, and that has been a gift beyond measure.

When I see a pile of moose poop (and that’s a story in and of itself), who will I think of? Mammy. When I find a pretty rock? A funky mushroom? A wheat penny? That wonderful woman will be right beside me, oohing and ahhing as I look in wonder at the small treasure.

Mammy’s not going anywhere. Nope. Her body might be rebelling, but that lady’s spirit scoffs at such weakness. I’ve said it already, but it bears repeating: Ruth Dolley is awesome. The best grandmother a girl (or boy) could have asked for. I didn’t ask for her, but I got her anyway. How lucky, how blessed I have been. How blessed I AM.

Leaving us soon? I don’t think so! No way, no how. There will come a day when I won’t be able to easily lay my eyes on that lovely, smiling face, but I will never, ever have a problem finding her. Every day, in every direction I turn, she will be there. Because I love her, and because she loves me, she will always be right here beside me.

The essence of Mammy. Something that awesome won’t ever leave those of us who love her, those of us she’s touched.

I love you, Mammy. Forever.


  1. Remember your friends are here if/when you need us.

  2. Wherever there is Love, there is Life. I talk to my Mum every day. I love her. She lives in my heart.

  3. Hi Joanne.

    You are so right. Thanks for taking the time to reassure me.


  4. And this is gratitude in its truest form. Gratitude from you and gratitude from Mam flowing through you both..She'll never die..You said it best..Love you