Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remembrance


Not knowing its significance to me, she gave it almost as an aside during a meeting at my office.

"Miah asked me to give this to you," she said, placing it in my hands.

I immediately gasped in recognition of something I considered a treasure.

"Do you know what this is?" I asked, and she said that she did.

Taped onto it was a small piece of notepaper decorated with hearts and a little picture of a girl feeding squirrels and birds. The note said, "Joanne, Please give this to Belinda, Thanks, Miah."

It's hard to find the words to express what I felt, but it was as if it had been guided to the next pair of hands that were to hold it in trust; and a heart that would keep a memory alive.

It was just a leather pouch, but to me it was about whose the pouch it had been.

It was made ruggedly out of one piece of tan leather, folded and stitched together on both sides with flat, thin, strips of off-white leather. The flap was secured by a pair of domes sewn inside.

There are initials on the flap, "E.H.," painted in white. They are in the centre of an small oblong of stitches, securing a piece of leather inside onto which the domes are sewn. The initials are a puzzle, since the pouch belonged to Evelyn, whose last name started with "C." I'm not sure if she inherited it from someone else, or if someone got her initials wrong when they were put on. Two drops of white paint landed on the front of the pouch sometime in its history, and no one bothered to remove them.

In the pouch there are the remnants of lives long gone—a letter written in 1941 on a lonely Christmas Eve, shortly after a bomb had dropped nearby the home in Belfast, shattering windows. There are old photographs, newspaper death notices and other things. They belonged to two people that came to Canada from Ireland in the early nineteen hundreds. These people married and the child they had was "our" Evelyn.

I look into the eyes on the photographs and see "Evelyn’s people;" Evelyn, gone seven years ago now to heaven: Evelyn who was known and loved for her character and feistiness--Evelyn whose 16 years with the agency I work for (after her discharge from an institution,) were the stuff of legends.

She had no people when she came to us, but God saw to it that she soon had some. He made some of us love her dearly.

Mention her name in a group of veteran staff even now, and the stories start. She would love that. She always loved stories.

She loved me to recount the story of the disastrous day we spent together when I left the lights on in the van in the parking lot at the Finch subway station. A smile would break across her face at the humour in it all. That was the day she took the gum I offered, and it stuck to her dentures. We crossed the parking lot to the van waiting with a dead battery, to the sound of Ev's wailing about the gum on her teeth. Earlier that day we had ridden the subway (an event in itself since it was quite scary for her) in order to catch a streetcar, just for the fun of riding one--something she had wanted to do. But all of the streetcars seemed to be on the opposite side of the road to the side we were waiting on. Ev and I both thought that was funny. We gave up, crossed the street and caught the streetcar on the other side. We were immediately surrounded by emergency vehicles with sirens wailing, on their way to an accident or fire. Evelyn wailed too--she was scared by the hullabaloo.

When she died, after eventually moving to a nursing home; Miah and I had visited the funeral home together to say our last goodbyes to the part of her left behind, but missing her indomitable spirit. Inexplicably, she lay there with her mouth open. I don't know which of us spotted it first, but when our eyes met and we broke into laughter through our tears--for we could not help but gaze into her open mouth and see her name inscribed on the inside of her dentures; the dentures that no doubt flew across the room so often that a nursing home staff wanted to make sure they were returned to the right person.

On a day of remembrance; I treasure her memory. 

2 comments:

Susan said...

"the stuff of legends"

Yes, Evelyn's memory is certainly one that remains - and I'm sure always will.

Thanks Belinda, for keeping "the legend" alive. I'm sure Evelyn's smiling a little brighter in heaven today.

Susan said...
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