So I get the call on Thursday, May 17th, around 11:30. I’m at Big Mama. That is the fountain at Queen and University in downtown Toronto. It’s a monument to the Boer War. Mom has died. Well you know 75 yrs of a pack a day you know she wasn’t going to live for ever. Still it came as a shock. My brother-in-law Tom commented maybe don’t say anything about Mom being 90 yrs old she could end up a poster girl for Benson and Hedges Light.
Tom picks me up right away and we go out there. Hilary and Pamela were there as Mom died and they each held a hand as the life force went out of her. As traumatic as that may have been for them I believe that Mom’s journey to the other side was made so much easier by the loving presence of my sisters.
The origins of funeral practices are lost in time and yet funerals are universal. If they are universal they are also local. We are here in Oakville not to bury Mom in any ground or to fling her into a wind but to place her where she belongs, in our hearts. Can we do this? Let the memory of my beautiful Mother be a seed for you and me, for us today.
Welcome to Margaret Mary Tait’s memorial service. Margaret Mary Read’s memorial service. Peg from the Peg. The Peggy of our childhood. Our Mom of the many names.
The Reverend Canon Darcy Lazerte has been so kind to attend and to help us remember and celebrate Mom. We, as a family, are most appreciative of his presence. He was there with Dad and he is here with us now.
I think if you want to know about my Mom you need to know that she was the daughter of Andrew Tait, my grandfather, an electrician for the CNR, a participant in the Great Winnipeg Strike of 1919 when a police force rode down a peaceful assembly of workers, many of them combat veterans, as was my grandfather. He was a soldier who wrote poetry and who wrote In The Cold Grey Dawn, Vimy Ridge. I’ve chosen this poem from Mom’s Dad my grandfather as a tribute to his daughter Margaret Mary and to pay tribute to the passing of the generations as we are seeing here with Mom.
In the cold grey dawn of an April morn
When the clouds were hanging low
We mustered for the great attack
In a trench bedecked with snow
Our thoughts were for our loved ones
As the last few moments sped
We knew that many of us
Would be numbered with the dead
A mine went up before us
Our gunners made reply
We scrambled quickly o’er the top
To win the day or die
In the clear still light
When the fight was fought and won
We waited in a broken trench
The shrapnel broke around us
We cared not for the storm
We only looked in sorrow for the
Comrades who were gone.
Mom, my dearest, sweetest comrade is gone.
Margaret Mary was Peg or Peggy when we were growing up. Peggy was something. She was as vivacious as she was beautiful. When the boys came home she was a big hit at the dance hall socials they held in those days. It is no wonder she put the spell on a handsome skinny RCAF flight lieutenant who later on became our father.
Both Mom and Dad ended up poor after the depression and a lot of what they achieved in their marriage and as individuals was to ensure that the kids wouldn’t have to experience the tough times they went through. Important as it is, they didn’t just teach us to be financially responsible.
Mom taught us a lot important things. She taught us to be polite and considerate. She taught us to be respectful of other people. Together my Mother and Father taught us that it isn’t what you have that defines you, it is who you are that is the measure of what you have. Move to the back of the bus, give up a seat for someone with a physical challenge, hold a door for someone, male or female, smile and look someone in the eye and say hello.
You know if there are errors and omissions in my life I take full responsibility.
At some point, sometime in the mid eighties Mom morphed from Peggy into Margaret. By the time of her second job we’d all flown the coup and so it made sense for her to get out and do something. As a historical note her first job was with the railroad and they let her go when the boys came home. So now she was working again a, part time at job across from the Eaton’s Centre.
So Peggy became Margaret but she was always our Mom.
It is hard to put into words what my Mother has meant to me in my life. My Mom is still my Mom and she is my Mom from here and now until I die. She is the Queen who rules my heart and it is she, along with my son Louis and my sisters Hilary and Pamela and my brother-in-law Tom and my dear relatives and friends who share so deeply in the measure of goodness I have in my heart.
Having said that, I do have one small complaint. It may come as a surprise to those of you who knew her, but Mom had her, I’m not saying flaws, but maybe areas of enthusiasm that I didn’t exactly agree with, you know as an eight year old kid. Mom once washed my mouth out with soap. Shocking, I know. In fairness to Mom it was the fifties. Well after a munch on the bar of soap I promised I would never ever say that word again as long as I lived in my life. Man that was awful. What could that terrible word have been that I needed to chew on a bar of soap? Is George Carlin in the audience?
Well, on the other hand to be fair to Mom I was wild back then, roaming the alleys of Winnipeg and the death defying monkey trails along the Assiniboine River. I knew no fear. I was indestructible. I was going to live forever and so was my Mom. I guess I was a handful. But Mom was cool. Totally cool.
Mom’s deal was, Jimmie, if I was in her good books, or James Andrew if I was about to be passed on to a higher authority, Jimmie she would say, do your chores, show up for dinner on time and don’t bug me while I’m listening to baseball on the radio.
It was a good deal. It was a sweet deal. That was Mom.