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. Upper Maillardville to be exact.  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 roasts or Christmas jam-jams.  

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 also 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 or two 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 and laugh (and smoke).  She had close friends from when she was a 'hot dog lady' during our elementary school days.

The caretaker of Marg's apartment building created this memorial in the lobby.

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." And then she'd change the subject.

She spent a good part of this 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 to her that we'd have to shift the treatment focus 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 November.

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.



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