Saturday, September 15, 2012

This one is for Marj

On top of everything else I had to deal with this summer, my Aunt Marj passed away.  It was a shock to me ... not that she passed, she has been ill for some time ... but that her listed next of kin, her grandson, refused to claim her body ... which waited at the morgue for weeks ... nasty business.  In fact, I was not even informed until well after her death.  Since I was her only family that visited her, I was asked to release her personal effects to her common-law husband ... I did that last week ... but not before I went through her things myself.  I'm so glad I did, for there were a few things of enormous value to me.  But I wanted to pay her some tribute on my blog before I go into that ...

Marjory Isabelle Edwards

March 1938 - July 2012
Thankfully I have copies of the old childhood photographs of Marj and my father.  I really like this one, it's so typical of the family photos taken at that time .. you know, children missing their soldier fathers ...

She grew up to be a beautiful, strong willed woman.  When I went through her things I found this photo ... it is in rough shape, I love it!

She was married, gave birth to a son, and then very quickly divorced.  She really wasn't wife ... or mother material.  Her son, my cousin was raised by my grandmother.  Later in life, she would never forgive herself for that. 

For me growing up, I only saw my aunt on family holidays ... she was so confident, she had such a powerful presence.  And then, my father died ...

Suddenly Marj became a huge part of my life.  I know that she had a huge hand in forming the person I was to become.  She had a quirky sense of humour ... and her laughter could fill a room.  She taught me to question authority ... that I should never accept the status quo!  I was a fat teenager ... and school wasn't always fun ... but she taught me to sew my own clothes ... so I might fit in better.  She was no angel, she wasn't always honest, she was quick to anger ... but we could always make a joke of it later.

I've got some pictures from back then ... they are really horrible, the old 110 cameras were a joke!

Well, as happens in life ... we lost touch with Marj.  I'm sorry for that.  It had to be at least 10 years before we would see each other again.  My grandmother had a stroke and I saw Marj at the hospital.  During that time she had lost her son ... drug overdose ... she just wasn't the same ... the laughter was subdued.

When grandma died, we met again at the funeral ... a small dignified event.  That's when I met Rikki, Marj's grandson, I had not seen him since he was a toddler, now he was in his teens.  We all vowed to keep in touch.

Well, that didn't happen ... for some reason Marj shunned all attempts to keep in touch, and in fact she appeared to go out of her way to ensure that we once again lost touch with our great Uncle Earl.  He never saw any of the cards or invitations we extended to both of them.  Eventually we all assumed that Earl was dead.

When he did die in 2008, his best friend was able to contact us.  That's when we learned that Marj had been quietly siphoning off his money ... but he had lots of it, and he never suffered for the theft ... and in the end he even left her the lions share of his estate.  Earl was a class act! 

But along with the news of Earl's death, we learned that Marj had collapsed in her appartment and was hospitalized.  My mother, my sister and I visited her there.  What a change ... where had Marj gone, who was this frail, fragile woman, her face battered from her fall.  It hit me hard.

She would never go home again.

I took a single picture of her with her "husband", I use the quotes because even though they had been together for 10 years, she didn't refer to him that way and they didn't actually live together.  Anyway, she found herself looking back on a live lived ... fully ... but not well.  She begged me to take her cat ... she couldn't bear the idea of her beloved cat being put to sleep ... and I thought the better of her for it.  So Silver came to live with me ... I still have her!

While I was shocked at the changes to Marj, I was even more appalled by my mother and sister's reaction.  They were almost gleeful in their spite ... Marj had it coming, they said.  They vowed to never see her again, and they never did.  I could never live with myself ... she was no angel, I knew that, but to leave her to die alone ... that's just not in my nature.

Marj asked me to be her power of attorney, but I declined, something I'll regret.  I thought that she'd ask her "husband", but instead she asked her grandson ... he visited her ONCE to have the papers signed ... all nice and legal.  I visited Marj when I could, providing clothing, shoes, goodies and chocolate ... and her health continued to decline.  I wanted her moved to Waterloo so I could see her more often, but she was just too weak.  And then her inheritance from Earl disappeared ... gone from her bank account, all of it ... that did more to hasten her death than anything. 

I could forgive Rikki for taking the money ... nobody is perfect, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and all that ... but I'll never forgive him leaving her body unclaimed!

So the nursing home called me to either claim or release her personal items, 2 months after her death.  There was not much, pictures, old school report cards and class photos from her son which I took ... but there were some things I just couldn't leave to someone else ... like her locket.  She never wore it ... but she kept it close to her.  It once belonged to her grandmother, Maude ... another strong woman!  Inside is a picture of my grandfather in his army uniform ... and one of his baby teeth ... preserved all this years.

I actually started to cry when I pulled this little pin from a warn leather pouch.  It had belonged to my father.  He was a bus driver and he wore this tiny Canadian Flag pin on his lapel.  When he died, he was buried in his uniform.  My sister wanted the pin, so my mother removed it from his body before the casket was sealed.  My sister gave it to Marj ... and 40 years later, I was holding it in my hand.  A tiny treasure that Marj had valued.  A little voice tells me that I should give it to my sister ... but I'm going to keep it!

The biggest surprise was this stash of religous pins.  So NOT Marj ... she was an atheist through and through ... so why did she keep these ... I don't know their history ... were they her mothers ... her grandmothers ... maybe both.  But she valued them, and so I will too.

I kept one of her rings and her bracelet, and released the rest of her things to her "husband" ... he was with her until the end.

Be at peace, Marj ... I'll never forget you.