This is May 18, 2015, and 157 years ago my maternal grandmother was born in Gagetown, New Brunswick , Canada. I want to pay tribute to this woman even though I know so little about her.
But thanks to my son, Stephen, who went to Canada with me to do family research, I do know that her father, Angus MacIntosh, immigrated from Scotland and was a farmer and a blacksmith. She herself was named Diana Christine, later shortened to Ina, and had two sisters. The next solid fact is that in 1880 she married Leander Saunders, from St. John, New Brunswick. I have no idea how they met, but I do know that when my mother was born in 1890, they were living by the Reversing Falls in St. John. My mother was the 6th child, and when she was 6 months old, the family immigrated to Boston. There my grandmother gave birth to three more children, my beloved Aunt Dot being the youngest., born in 1900.
My grandmother lived to be 87 and so I am able to have some memory of her since I was seven when she died. My parents used to take me to visit her most Sundays , and we had holidays together. I recall a warm, gentle woman who loved to have me brush her long hair, usually held in a bun, and read the Bible to her. From family stories and photos there is much I can conclude about this woman.
From a tinted tintype made when she was 16 or 18, I know that she had a head of thick, auburn hair. Supposedly she lost her hair when she suffered typhoid fever, and when it grew back in, it was wavy. Pictures of her in her eighties show a fine-looking but frail regal woman with few wrinkles.
I know she was strong, not just because she raised 7 children (2 died as toddlers from whooping cough or diphtheria) , in the days before labor-saving devices, but when giving birth to my mother, she got up in the middle of labor, did the washing, and got back in bed to deliver.
I know she must have had enormous emotional strength because when widowed at 58 when my grandfather died from being kicked in the stomach by a horse, she remained the strength of her family, Until the day she died, her grown children, all of whom lived near her, sought her counsel and comfort when they were burdened. For example , my own mother, at age 55, was pretty sure she was having a heart attack but called her mother before seeking medical help.
I know she was kind and generous because as was the custom of the day, she prepared a large hot meal at noon, and all were welcome at her table. Hobos, as they were called, had a symbol code of their own, and they inscribed one indicating “Kind Woman Lives Here” on my grandparents’ gate.
I know she liked to keep busy, and even into her 80’s made braided rugs, crocheted afghans, and patchwork quilts. At Christmas when her children were growing up, my grandmother created something special for each child – knitted mittens, a hat, a scarf –and my Aunt Dot reported that often the gift was still damp, having been pressed or blocked as my grandmother stayed up most of the night to finish the items before Christmas morning.
I know religion was important to her. She read the Bible daily and when going to actual church services became difficult, she listened to services on the radio. She especially loved hymns, and her favorite was “Heavenly Sunlight.” This hymn which continues, “flooding my soul with glory divine” captures the source of her attitude toward life. As she was dying, after the briefest of illnesses, she begged my Aunt Dot, “Hold my hand until Jesus takes it.”
© Dorothy C. Judd
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