Friday. We got the call that my dear Grandma Fife was being moved into Palliative Care from her home at the retirement home. Okay, more serious than before, but thankfully we were already back in Canada, and I was planning to spend the following five days to have time for just Mike and Grandma.
Friday night, 8pm. We receive the dreaded call to go to the hospital… now. My upcoming Mike and Grandma never came, as she passed away shortly after that call.
Friday night was so fast, yet so incredibly slow. Driving in, running through the halls, finding her room, holding her warm hand, and beginning my good byes. Yes, she lived 95 years. Yes, she “went quickly”. Yes, I am so very grateful for the memories and the moments we shared. Yet, there’s an unimaginable hole that no amount of time could help me prepare for that moment when I realized she was gone.
August 25 was her funeral, and I had the absolute honour to give her eulogy. As soon as I finished, a cry from my core burst out. I let it go. Life is many feelings, and many moments. And all of the pain that I am feeling is worth all of the love that I shared with my Grandma.
I thought I would share with you a glimpse into the life of Doris Amelia Ellen Fife. This is my eulogy.
I thought I would begin with a poem that I found a few days ago in one of grandma’s drawers, tucked away amongst greeting cards, newspaper clippings, and more greeting cards. I think it might have been one of her favourites, as she kept it for so many years. From what I could find, this poem may be a Tom Fife original. It’s called Treasure.
If I found a flower for a queen,
All full of shine and sweetness.
With little slender stems of green
And blossoms of completeness.
A flower for a beautiful queen
With golden crown, no other
Oh, if I had a flower like that
I’d bring it to my mother.
We all have our tucked away stories, our quilted patches, and our newspaper clipping perspectives about our stories, our treasures related to Doris Fife. Mine today is through the eyes of one of her grandkids. I’m Mike, one of Anne’s children.
So grab your copy of Women’s World, a plate full of Jello, and tuck your kleenexes in all of the pockets and coat sleeves you can find, as I share my treasured stories of Doris Fife.
Doris was a grandma, a mother, a daughter, a sister and a friend. No matter the situation, she was there ready to sew a dress, make dessert, take us to Lansdowne Place and McDonald’s on Thursdays, help out at the church, create a quilt, or simply just listen when we needed an ear. She was more open minded than often given credit for, and she loved like it was her job. I actually think loving was her life’s career. Her family, her friends. She liked to ask questions. No matter what else was going on in the world, it always seemed that grandma was perfectly set, holding her Friends Are Forever mug of tea, right there with me.
Reflecting, I sometimes wonder if grandma knew more of my stories, then I knew of hers. Maybe she liked it better that way. I think she never wanted to be a bother to anyone else, and she thrived by seeing the world through our eyes. But she did have a few favourite stories to tell. If she were here to share a story with us today, I’d bet it’d be that when she was younger, she, with Jessie, Daisy, and Betty, biked to Bewdley. They were challenged to get a jar of jam from the Bewdley storekeeper if they made it. And when they got there, they not only got the jam, they put their legs up on the fence, hoping for a truck to blow its horn.
For many of us, the treasures of Grandma that we have tucked away in our coat pockets are from the farm. That was the place where she raised her 3 children, and welcomed many for parties on the lawn, for a cup of tea one on one, and would wave so long from the doorway. For Niall, he recalls waking up super early before sunrise and creeping down the stairs, hoping grandma was there ready to cook him breakfast. And often, she was.
For Jess, it was Grandma washing Jess’ hair in the sink when she was little using an old milk jug. For Brad, grandma and grandpa gave him a home when he didn’t have one. And to make it feel even more like home, she always had those cookies with the red cherry centres. Amy loved learning the key Grandma skills from her: sewing, and baking with Grandma in her kitchen, making, and eating those famous chocolate chip cookies.
It was those moments watching grandma share her love with animals with such an honesty, especially horses and dogs. Kiera loved grandma’s love of nature, and her humour. Her humor always showed in the corner of her eyes, even if she wasn’t laughing out loud.
I loved going with her to feed the barn cats. I picture grandma always wearing rubbers and a long dark blue coat, with me on one side and the bucket from under the kitchen sink of last night’s leftovers. We’d slide open the wooden door, and go around to all of the tin dishes. “Kitty kitty kitty!” she’d yell out, and from under straw, the ceiling, the floor, all around us, these cats would appear. Summer days with the grandparents are something that I at times resented, but I will always cherish. Guiding Light, the Young and the Restless, puzzles, and walks. Watching the Price is Right, and just as the showcase showdown was about to start, Grandma would call Grandpa and I in for lunch. Every. time.
Amy, Brad, and myself recall most fondly those days when the three of us, with Tim, Grandma and Grandpa, would get lost around the farm. Visiting the cows, and cats. Walking the lane, maybe with Carla in tow, often with a picnic of cheese sandwiches, most likely wearing rubbers. And those extra special days when we would pile in the car, and go to the park, and just play in the water and on the equipment. Just a simple, perfect time. These little throwaway moments: treasures.
The farm was her happy place, with the cats, the cows and the horses, Grandpa and Muriel, the garden and the river. The walk to the river, standing at the river, sharing the river with us and our laughter, and just being quiet with the river: that was grandma’s most favourite spot.
Being around Grandma and Grandpa, and seeing how dedicated they were to each other. There was a simple acceptance and love of one another that I once thought was normal in relationships, but now understand how truly special that was. “Max! Max!” That was one way Grandma shared her love.
I admire how grandma never missed a birthday or anniversary card. She already had a pile of the upcoming few months of cards ready to go. And she also never threw out a single card that she received. To grandma the little scraps of paper, the moments each of us shared, the letters we wrote, the phone calls and visits, newspaper clippings. These were her treasures.
As she aged, her legs swelled and her memory faded, but underneath it all she kept her stubborn selfless essence. Loving us. You cared so much, and when you thought you couldn’t do anything for anyone else, you started to feel defeated. Yet, you never stopped working your job of being a caregiver. You kept asking us questions, and always listened. You loved us and made it so easy to love you, and that is such a … useful . treasure.
It’s the holidays, it’s the birthdays, it’s the Easter egg hunts, it’s the many meals, where you will be missed so much. Those calls I would make from somewhere in the world, when you would often ask me the same questions every few moments. I will miss those. Any time I call someone Bill, when I mean Amy, when I mean Anne, when I really mean Brad- you will be with me.
From my grandma, I believe I’ve inherited her rough knees and her patchy memory. Yet, I think these could be her greatest lessons taught in the perfect subtle grandma fife kind of fashion. Initially very frustrating. But: The sore knees have helped me slow down, to find patience with myself and the world, and to enjoy the millions of simple little things around me that I was previously rushing by. And my mind and memory remind me to treat every moment like it’s the first. To treat every interaction like it’s the best. To simplify life, to cut out the clutter, to sigh at the challenges, and to be thankful.
So whatever your stories, whatever your memories, whatever scrap pieces of papers and greeting cards you have tucked away, hold on to those treasures of Doris Fife. Raise a cup of tea for my grandma: I am so thankful for the years I had with my grandma. I am so thankful that she was able to share her 95 years with all of you. We are her patches and she is the thread. We are Doris’ most beautiful treasured quilt.