She did not go gently into that good night

As it is with any pregnancy, things get forgotten and put off for later. Taxes to be filed, letters to be sent, emails to be returned, blog posts to be written.  I am guilty of much of this – I am only now finding post it notes stuck to the top of the fridge reminding me to schedule Alice’s eye appointment.  Six months ago. 

Last Christmas season, when I was big and uncomfortable with a giant baby Henry inside me, my maternal grandmother died.  It was not unexpected, as she was well into her 90s and had been ill for some weeks preceding her death.  But still, a loss felt deeply across a large extended family on my mother`s side.   And now, a year later, I am reminded that I never wrote a blog post about her death.   I definitely meant to, and even had a draft going.  But, as it goes in a house preparing for a new baby, that post went the way of appointment reminders and thank you cards.  So it is now, a year later, that she is in my thoughts as we prepare for a holiday season without her.

She was known as “Doll” to her grandchildren (and even most of her children).  And she was all kinds of outrageous at times. She was not the typical grandmother who scooped you up and cuddled you for hours.  She didn’t knit you a sweater and make you a hot cup of cocoa and whisper wisdoms in your ear.  She could even sometimes be too abrupt and a little (dare I say it) mean.  She had opinions about the world and she wanted you to know that.

But she did teach you how to play piano, as well as a good game of cards. She laughed loudly at your stories and encouraged you to dance at family parties (of which there were many). She was a woman who loved a good, old fashioned, family sing-a-long.

It’s true, she could be fierce.  But it was a fierceness blanketed with love and strength.   If anything, Doll taught me to be open with my opinions, and to not shut my mouth when someone else said something I didn’t like.   I come from a long line of opinionated women, and I am proud of that lineage.  We are women who have many neuroses and anxieties and even depressions, but try to keep us quiet and submissive? We will come at you with both fists fighting.

It was in my later years, after I was an adult, that I came to know Doll better.  During the summer after Alice was born, I spent a month up north at my parents’ place.  Trying to get some sleep, and trying to come to terms with the fact that this tiny little person now depended on me. Doll was also spending a few weeks there, and so 4 generations of women in my family (Doll, my mother, my daughter, and I) had the opportunity to spend hours of uninterrupted time together.  I was touched and amazed by the way Doll was with my new daughter.  Every morning she ask how my night went with the baby, and told me stories of her own babies and their sleeplessness. Alice adored her, and would reach for her all the time.  Doll would bounce her on her knee and coo and make her laugh.  And in those moments, I saw the woman who mothered five children, survived the Depression, lost her husband 20 years earlier, and always always did not go “gently” into any night.

I only wish she had lived long enough to meet Henry.  He is just the sort of mushy gooey giggly baby boy that she would have loved, or so I like to think.  I like to also think somewhere in her passing from this world that she passed Henry on the way in.  And, after telling him he “had a good shaped head” (inside family joke here), she wrapped him in her memories and love, and passed him onto me. 

I will end this with a song, as she would.  This was one of her favourites, and has special meaning in my family. Click on the video below – it really is a present to my mom and her siblings on this first Christmas season without their mom.  Because everybody needs a little bit of their mom on Christmas.  Even those who are grown and have grandchildren of their own.

Merry Christmas Doll.



  1. Mom said

    OMG – This is so lovely. Thank you for putting into words my exact feelings about my mother. You are a gem, darling and you continue to reduce me to rivers of tears. I hope all your sibs and my sibs and their kids all read this.
    Love you.

  2. crazymumma said

    I am certain she knows how appreciate she was by you.

    And may we all be a bit of a Doll someday huh?

  3. Marla said

    Aww, Kate. I’m sad that our daughters can’t know their great-grandmothers, because they shaped us as they shaped our mothers.

  4. “Because everybody needs a little bit of their mom on Christmas” – so true. A beautiful post Kate.

  5. kgirl said

    Never too late. Beautiful post.

  6. Lisa b said

    Kate this is beautiful.

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