HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ONE AND ALL

 

 

I can scarcely believe the privilege it is for me to see this film after all these years.

There is my beloved Mum serenely happy on her wedding day, July 25, 1929. There is my dad in contented attendance. From what people tell me, Dad was simply an amazing human being. On my desk I have a picture of him at his graduation from McMaster University, Toronto, Canada. His stated aim was – ‘‘to sail beyond the sunrise’’. And indeed he did.

He and his brothers started an orphanage in India, in the early 1920s. Dad went around to the mill owners asking for jobs for the orphans. He and his brothers used to pray all night for the food and supplies they needed. As he told my mother, the next morning there would be a knock at the door, and there would be someone with a basketful. He also told her that the first time he laid eyes on her, when he was giving a talk at the Christian Mission Alliance College in Nyack, New York, he went back to his room, got down on his knees and prayed ‘Lord, give me a chance to meet this woman or take her out of my mind.’ A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door. There was my mother holding in her hand an invitation to Dr. Turnbull to speak at a gathering in Toronto. The letter was signed by my beloved granny, Lydia Orford Fleming. You can see her in the film with her peaked black hat.

Needless to say, Dr. Turnbull found many an occasion to come to Toronto for speaking engagements. He had spoken on platforms across Canada and the U.S. and was known as the dress code of the Alliance. When he proposed, my grandmother was in total shock. Her daughter Queenie, as she was known, (born in Queen Victoria’s Jubilee year, 1897), was a rebel who wanted to wear bloomers on Sunday of all things, and had begged her mother to take her to China with her where she stayed for two years with her missionary sister Stella and brother-in-law Murdoch Mackenzie.

Granny arranged for a quiet wedding on Donlands farm, no white dress or big wedding for this rebel daughter. A choice that obviously suited this happy couple. There is Uncle Murdoch with his white beard welcoming the guests as they arrive by car. He is just back from China where he walked on foot among a people he loved for 30 years.

I first saw this film just about a year ago when Jean P. found it among a box of assorted tapes including some of Neil’s radio tapes. Interestingly, Dad was also a radio broadcaster. He had walked on foot in South America for many years, looking for locations for missions. Then he found a radio station on a Russian ship and brought it back to New York, where it allowed him and others to broadcast a message of love and hope to people that needed both.

The night of Mother’s Day 1930, he was being driven by one of his students back to Nyack from a broadcasting session in New York to be with my Mum who was four months pregnant with me. It was a dark night. The car turned a corner, hit a pileup of sand and skewered into a ditch, smashing up against a stonewall. Dad, asleep in the back seat, was killed instantly.

Granny was staying with my mother and came quietly in the night to tell her the news. Since Dad had little money in the bank, my mother had no other choice but to sell the home they had just bought on campus in Nyack. Then she packed up her bags and returned to Donlands to live with her mother and two older sisters. Just four years ago, I read for the first time a letter she wrote to her brother, Goldie, “I am determined not to go under. I feel a spiritual strength being given. I am grateful beyond measure.’’

The night before Neil’s funeral, I entered his now empty room and was about to break down completely. Those words ‘’Grateful beyond measure’’ floated into my consciousness. It carried me through the next days and weeks. At the funeral a friend of Neil’s and mine, Delores Kumps, came up to me and said, “Catharine, I had the most amazing dream last night. There was Neil, large as life, and he said to me, “Delores, be happy!” I knew it was a message for me as well. I can just hear Mum and Dad cheering.

Neil could always make me laugh. Never will I forget the time the red sleeve of his dressing gown caught fire during our supper. To read the full story, look on the blog two days ago or at the end of the book put together by our friend Alan Hustak. Neil McKenty Live! 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: