Saturday, September 17, 2016

Celebrating LIFE!

Our extended family gathered in Chilliwack to celebrate our Uncle Paul's 80th birthday on September 10th.  

As many of you know, our mom passed away at the end of August.

If you didn't know, our mom loved parties.  LOVED them.  She hated to miss any kind of event.  I just know it must have irked Margaret to no end that she didn't live long enough to attend her own 80th birthday party last weekend.
Our amazing Manitoba cousins flew all the way from Winnipeg to celebrate our Uncle Paul's birthday.

Our incredible Chilliwack cousins hosted a weekend to remember.

It was a very special celebration.  We partied with Paul and we remembered Margaret.  

It was a happy reunion of our family.

My cousin Bonnie is a chef and provided all the delicious charcuterie boards.

See what I mean?  Amazing.

Kula loved being a part of it all.

Heartfelt greetings between sisters and cousins.

Family is family is family.  It doesn't matter if we saw each other yesterday or years ago.  The bond is there.  The loving connections remain.

"Love you."

Brothers from different mothers.

Cousin Leslie and her pup Kula.

Cousins Bonnie, Carla and Dawson.

To celebrate their 65th birthday, Margaret made her twin brother Paul a beautiful book of photographs documenting their life together.  It was the hit of the party.  It brought back so many beautiful memories for everyone!

Uncle and nephew.

We had so many laughs that weekend.

Noogies for all.

Homemade quilts as birthday gifts.  Carla finished these quilts for Paul and our mom.

Cousin Gord pouring shots of scotch for a toast.


Uncle Paul and his kids.


My brother-in-law Kevin taking a quiet moment to look at Margaret's book of memories.

Can you tell they're related?

Me and my favourite Frenchman.


Me and Ken.  One of the funniest men I know.

Cousins under wraps.

Olive and Chrissy.

Uncle Paul and a few of his nieces.

Carving up the pork.

Evening sky.

Thirty people around the table for dinner.


What a gorgeous night.

Our mom was there in spirit.

80 candles for 80 years.

Reminiscing around the fire.

It got cold during the evening!  One has to keep one's head warm somehow.

Everyone bunked in overnight sleeping in campers and trailers, guest rooms and hotel rooms.


Birds in paradise.

Having my morning coffee with my new friend Jesse.

After breakfast, everyone drove out to the cemetery on Little Mountain where our grandparents are buried.  We spread some of Margaret's ashes at her parents' grave.

Our mother would have balked at us spending $900.00 for an urn to transport her ashes from Squamish to Chilliwack.  So we opted for the 'super-classy-plastic-bag-inside-a-cardboard-box' urn.   


One final good-bye.

The mourners paying their last respects.

Sweet dreams, Margaret.  You were well loved by so many.  We will miss you like crazy.

I cannot thank my immediate and extended family enough for everything they've done for me.  It is their unwavering love and support that sustains me.  Love is love is love is love.  You people mean the world to me.  

Thank you to all of my friends and relations for the phone calls, bouquets of flowers, sympathy cards, meals and e-mail messages.  I promise to respond to each and every one of you.

My sisters and I will host a 'Celebration of Life' for Margaret next spring when my daughter Molly can travel from Boston with her new baby.  We will keep you posted on the time and place.

My love to you all.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Life And Times Of Margaret McQueen

This is how most people will remember our mom.  With her reading glasses hanging around her neck and a 'splash' of red wine in her hand.

This is my obituary for our mom.

Margarethe Helene Penner was born on September 10, 1936 in Winnipeg, Manitoba to Russian immigrants.  She was born half an hour after her twin brother Paul.

Paul and Margaret  1937.

Margaret and Paul 1944

When Margaret was 8 years old, the Penner family moved out west to Chilliwack, British Columbia and settled on a three acre farm in the Fraser Valley.

Margaret's high school graduation portrait.  1954.

Marg Penner married Floyd McQueen on June 2, 1956.  
She was not yet 20 years old. 
They had three daughters; Nancy, Mary and Chrissy.  
Our parents were married for 24 years, divorcing in 1980. 

Chilliwack, 1958

Margaret and her girls on the beach in White Rock, B.C.  
August, 1967

During our childhood we lived in our Grandfather McQueen's little house on Stewart Avenue in Coquitlam.  It was there that our mom cooked, baked and sewed up a storm.  The foods that came out of her kitchen were legendary.  Ask anyone about her world famous zwieback buns, Sunday night prime rib roast dinners or Christmas jam-jam cookies.  

Here's Marg rocking her paisley pantsuit and silver lamé ankle boots in the '60s.

Our mom was a self-taught seamstress and sewed everyone's clothes.  And I mean everyone's!  Hers, ours, her friends' and relatives'.  Since my sisters and I looked alike, our mom dressed us alike too.  We were taking the train across the prairies to visit family in Manitoba when this photo was taken.  We disembarked in Winnipeg and were greeted by a raging snowstorm.  In bare legs and knee socks!  
March, 1970.

Our mom was a doting grandmother.  She had five grandbabies and loved them all.  And they adored her.  
Left to right:  Alex, Katherine, William, Paige and Molly.  
July, 1992 

Mom and Mary on Margaret's 60th birthday.  September, 1996

Marg earned her nickname 'Grandma Greyhound' from travelling to our homes on her never ending Squamish-Victoria-Kamloops bus circuit.  When Chrissy and I were young mothers, our mom was indispensable.  She'd cook, clean, do laundry and take the older children for countless walks to the park so that we could nap with our babies.  When I returned to teaching full-time, Margaret bunked in with my family for one week of every month for that first year.  I couldn't have done it without her!

When our mom visited us over the years, our friends would show up in droves.  Everyone wanted to see Grandma Marg, or G Marg as she was affectionately known.  Games of Scrabble were played, multiple glasses of red wine were guzzled, laughs were had. If Grandma Marg was in town, you knew there was going to be a party.

The whole fam damily.  September, 1996

Our mom was also known to enjoy a martini every once in a while.

Who knew Marg was such a good drummer?

Margaret with her sister Annelie in Minaki, Ontario.  2013

Our mother easily made friends with everyone.  Her mailman, her pharmacist, the clerks at Walmart, the caretaker of her apartment building.  We teased her about her huge fan club.

She remained good friends with folks from her childhood and went to her 60th high school reunion a couple of years ago.  Our mom was the president of her 'Stitch and Bitch' gang which consisted of eight amazing women who got together every month for FIVE DECADES to drink wine, laugh and smoke.  Margaret had close friends from when she was a 'hot dog lady' during our elementary school days.

Marg (kneeling) with her 'Stitch and Bitch' gals.

Our mom had a big calendar hanging on her livingroom wall and each date was filled in with handwritten birthdays, wedding anniversaries and deaths.  She knew how old everyone was, how long someone had been dead, how many years a couple had been married.  Not only did she know, but she also sent out greeting cards plastered with colourful stickers to commemorate every occasion.  I'm sure many of you were recipients of Margaret's annual Christmas letters. 

Margaret's 79th birthday.  September, 2015

Chrissy and Mom up the Sea-to-Sky Gondola.  September, 2015

She was her nieces' and nephews' "Favourite Auntie Marg".  In-laws and out-laws, both sides of the Penner and McQueen clans adored our mom.

Paul and Margaret.  Thanksgiving, 2015

Our mom's face after learning she was to become a great-grandmother.  March, 2016

Mom and I on Mother's Day of this year.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought she'd be gone three months after this photo was taken.  May, 2016

Our mother's health hadn't been great for many years.  In her early 50s she was diagnosed with a genetic disease that caused her body to chug out cholesterol at an alarming rate.  She had numerous by-pass surgeries to circumvent clogged arteries.

No one ever knew how sick she really was.  And that's just the way she liked it.  She never wanted to dwell on the state of her health.  When asked how she was doing, Marg would often reply, "Perfect." Or, "Fine-fine."  And then she'd change the subject.

She spent a good part of this past summer in the hospital; first in New Westminster and then in Squamish.  The blood vessels to her colon were blocked.  This time there was nothing more to be done.

Through it all, our mother rarely lost her smile.  Rarely lost her sense of humour.  She was in good spirits.

When Doctor Bohn (one of the many angels at Squamish General Hospital) suggested that the focus of her treatment would have to shift to end-of-life care, she smiled and said, "Shit, bugger, stink!" That made us all laugh.

One regret was that she wouldn't live long enough to meet her first great-grandchild in October.

Our mother died as she lived.  With love and grace and good spirits.

Chrissy, Mary, my daughter Paige and I were with our mom when she passed away.  We held her hands, we talked to her, we cried, we laughed.

What Will Matter?

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.
All things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear.
So too your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.

It won’t matter where you came from, or on what side of the tracks you lived, at the end.
It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and skin colour will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built;
Not what you got, but how you gave.
What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.
What will matter are not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.
It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.
Choose to live a life that matters.

By Michael Josephson

Our mom lived a life that mattered.

Our mother was blessed to live for 80 years.  And I am grateful that I shared in 58 of them.

Sweet dreams, Margaret.  You were a wonderful mom, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. 

You will be missed.

We love you.