I decided to take March Break off this year. I had holidays to use up, Makenna had a week off school, made sense. My sister in law is a teacher, so she had the week off too, and suggested we all go to Niagara Falls for a few days...basically to see if we could all survive in close quarters together...which would determine whether we could ever all go to Disney together - which is a long term goal of mine, and short term goal of hers.
So, in January we booked our stay for March Break at the Americana Resort in Niagara Falls. Jeff and I agreed that if we went, it would be because we could afford it. We would NOT be putting it on plastic. So we figured out how much we would need, and how many weeks we had to get it before the trip. We each contributed a certain amount each week up until we were to go...and almost all of my cash came from the sale of cheesecakes...so thank you very much to everyone who helped me with that. We had enough to cover the cost of the hotel, and then some. I was proud of that, and we were so excited to go. We had been working since January to make this happen. The plan was to go to KW Saturday, stay the night at my sister in laws, and then go to Niagara Falls with them from Sunday - Tuesday.
Friday morning I found out that my Grandma Noble was in the hospital, had suffered a massive heart attack, and wasn't expected to survive the day. The Noble family is not a close one...my dad has 5 siblings and I have 12 cousins, and there has been a lot of drama. This is a family who has dealt with many many many things over the years, especially mental illness, addiction, and family breakup.
I spent Friday waiting, and wondering what to do. On Friday I told my dad that we had planned to go away, but that I would cancel my plans to be here for him. He insisted that I still go, as there was nothing I could do here. He said "it could be 10 minutes, or it could be 2 weeks". I talked to him a few more times on Friday, each time he insisted I continue with my plans.
Saturday morning we (finally) told Makenna what are plans were. She was SOOOOOO excited. She was jumping all over the house, as she always does when she's excited.
Each time the phone rang, my heart jumped. My sister in law called to see if we were still coming, my brother called to see if I had heard any more from my dad.
And then my dad called.
"Mom's gone" he whispered.
Thankfully, for her sake, it was relatively quick. Her husband, my grandpa, had a stroke, and continuously went downhill for 5 years before he died, and it was awful for my dad and his siblings.
Then my dad says to me "You're still going on your holiday, we aren't doing anything until Tuesday night anyway, and there's nothing you can do here". I refused, telling him I would stay home and be here for him, and he said he had lots he needed to do, and his siblings were with him, and he would see me Tuesday.
Did I go? Yes I did. We went to Niagara Falls with my sister in law and her family, as planned, and we had a wonderful time. I had a heavy heart, but i loved seeing the smiles on my kids and my neice and nephew's faces. I was more concerned about my dad and how he was handling yet another blow, and I spoke with him a numebr of times while I was away. As soon as I got home, I went out to the farm and spent some time with him, listening as he talked, and cried.
My Aunt Carol wrote a eulogy, and she and my dad asked me to read it. I also added my own piece to it.
As we assembled in the funeral home and when the curtains were drawn so the family could say our final goodbyes, I witnessed something I never expected. I was the first to place a rose in the casket, followed by my cousins, and as we returned to our seats, there were so many tears, my aunts and uncle were sobbing, my brother was sobbing, my cousins, males and females, were sobbing, my husband and sister in law were crying, and yeah, so was I. There were so many hugs, and kind words spoken among everyone My dad was the last one to add his rose, and if you know my dad at all, you know how hard this was for all of us to watch. This act alone made the majority of us sob, watching my dad say goodbye. I was sitting beside my cousin Jamin and we were both shaking with tears. I looked over at my brother and his face was red, as was everyone else's in the room I was in. I don't think anyone expected that much to happen, but I'm glad it did, and I will never forget what happened among a family with so much troubled history, in that tiny room.
And then, of course, I had to get up and say the eulogy. Which I did. I stumbled once, but I did.
Most of it was written by my Aunt Carol with input from my dad, and then I added my own piece at the end...
My Aunt Carol spent a lot of time organizing her thoughts and getting them down on paper, which is not an easy thing to do. I am honoured to read this, on behalf of her, my Dad Ken, my Uncle Doug, Aunt Dianne, Aunt Shirley, Aunt Barb, and the entire Noble Family…
Good afternoon family, friends and neighbours.
Thank you all for coming today as we gather to remember Geraldine Noble, who passed away quietly in the hospital, just before dawn on Saturday, March 13. Though not entirely unexpected, it was still sudden and quick and we are all thankful her suffering was minimal. She seemed to know her time was approaching, as her last week was a busy one. During her last days in the hospital, she was surrounded by her family telling stories and laughing with eachother as she slept and quietly slipped away.
She was born in Newbridge, ON, on May 13 1937, the only daughter to James and Ruth Brears and a sister to three boys – Beverly, Wayne and Larry. Growing up on a farm she learned about hard work and dedication to the task at an early age. In her teenage years she worked cleaning houses until she met and married Russel Noble in 1954. They moved to Kitchener and both worked at Savage Shoes. After Doug and Shirley were born they moved to Wallace Township and rented a log house from Emmerson Zurbrigg, which they later purchased and moved it onto the Noble Farm. By 1964, in her mid twenties, she had 6 children. After her father in law, Roy Noble, died in 1962, her mother in law, Margaret Noble moved into a trailer and the family moved into the farmhouse. Here, Russ and Gerry raised their family.
Other than a brief part time job at Campbell Soup Co in Listowel, Geraldine Noble was a full time mother and “domestic engineer”. Besides keeping up with the farm chores and juggling the needs of a husband and 6 children, 3 square meals a day and dishes, never ending laundry and mending and sewing clothes for her growing kids, she also maintained a huge garden and sold raspberries, strawberries, corn and peas, and collected eggs and raised chickens. She sold health and beauty products and did furniture repair for Conway furniture and Koenig Upholstery. She was also pretty handy with power tools and interior renovation. She crocheted doilies and table cloths, created quilts and afghans. She enjoyed crafts such as toile painting and silk flower arrangements, scrapbooking old poems and sayings, collecting postcards and researching her family tree. She was involved with Girls 4 H for several years, teaching the neighbourhood girls and her daughters to sew and to cook. Her sour cream biscuits and dumplings were always delicious and a favourite to the local men who stayed to supper after a day of harvest. Holiday Dinners on the farm were always a huge feast with a vast variety of pies and desserts to satisfy everyone.
The seventies began with graduations and weddings every year. By the eighties all of the Noble children had moved out and were married. In 1982 Grandma Margaret passed away, leaving Russ and Gerry alone on the farm. Despite not having finished high school, Geraldine enrolled in Conestoga College to become a Personal Support Worker, graduating with a 90 + % grade average and then worked for a short time. When Russ got the urge to traverse North America in his bull horned van, Geraldine went with him and they enjoyed almost 10 years of traveling this continent, north, south, east and west. After Russ suffered a stroke in 1992, they remained closer to home and she took care of him until he passed away in 1997.
Until 2002, she lived alone in the farmhouse, but she found it too much space to keep up with so she turned the house over to Ken and moved into a new trailer across the driveway. A senior citizen now, she tried a few “seniors outings”, but she tended to keep herself busy in her sunny living room. Flower crafts, scrapbooks and jigsaw puzzles occupied the long winter hours and she loved her westerns on DVD. She collected and organized names and birthdays to create a detailed family tree.
She enjoyed watching her grandchildren and great grandchildren grow and learn. Though not overly affectionate or cuddly, she was always watchful to keep them safe, yet gave them enough space and freedom without hovering.
She never stopped being a mother. If you asked her for help, she was right there. Whether it was something as simple as how to remove a stain, make good gravy or cook a goose, or more serious issues of health and relationships, if you wanted to talk she would quietly listen and hear not only what was being said, but also what wasn’t being said. If you seriously asked for her advice or direction, it would be tactfully rendered with quiet thought and wisdom.
Geraldine Noble lived her entire life in this community. She loved her family and enjoyed the company of a few close friends. She was a mother of 6, a grandmother to 14 and a great grandmother to 12 who all will remember her as a determined, resourceful and resilient woman. When she set her mind to doing something, nothing could deter her. When motivated, she could be incredibly industrious and efficient. She was rather frugal, and could always make a dollar out of 98 cents.
She had a great sense of humor and liked to laugh and hear laughter – from her children, then grandchildren and more recently the squeals of new great grandchildren. She was an observer of people and of life and she loved to watch the birds too. If her children were to narrow down the lessons they learned from her, they would include “that family is everything”, and “mothers will always love their kids and kids will always love their mothers”.
On a more personal note, I have many happy memories of spending time at the farm when I was a little girl…most of them involve the kitchen table. When I was little, I thought my Grandma Noble was the best Gingerbread house maker in the whole world. That was the yearly tradition with the grandkids at Christmas time and I looked forward to it every year. Now, I continue that tradition with my own kids, and I think of her every Christmas when I am up to my elbows in icing.
I also remember sitting around the kitchen table with her doing jigsaw puzzles and word searches for what seemed like hours at a time. I can still clearly see her and I at that table as my brother and my dad were outside somewhere…shooting something…(it may have just been tin cans…) Word search puzzles are another thing that remind me of her as I do them with my daughter now.
Another thing I remember about that kitchen table was sitting there watching her and grandpa roll their own cigarettes, a process that just fascinated me, and I always begged to help with…although I must admit that is not a tradition I have continued with my own children.
I would sit and have lunch there at that table when I visited, and could never get over the sheer size of the meal. I was a town kid, we had sandwiches on the fly if our mom could slow us down long enough to eat…but at the farm, lunch felt like a 7 course meal and it was a sit down affair, every single day, and I marveled at all of the work that went into it.
The last couple of days, I sat around a different table, but in the same room, and sifted through mountains of photo albums and loose pictures that Grandma had collected over the years. One of my favourites is of that big blue van with the bull horns and the bumper stickers. I can’t think of my childhood memories at the farm without thinking of that van. Yesterday I looked through photo albums full of just postcards, of places they had visited over the years. Another favourite picture is one of all the cousins, me the oldest, Faye the youngest, 14 kids in 10 years, all sitting on one couch, looking in all different directions, as our parents snapped what I think is the last picture of all of us together. Faye, who is now almost 20, is only 2 or 3 in that picture I think.
I saw picture after picture of a smiling grandma holding a Noble baby, and then our school pictures over the years, and most recently, computer printouts of pictures of my cousins and I that are on facebook…I know she wasn’t on facebook, but she kept up with all of us, and has album after album to show for it. Through different stories I have learned more about her life as a wife, mother and grandmother and after talking with Elva Reichard last night, I realize what a dear friend she was as well.
The last time I talked to her was a few months ago, on the phone. She told me that even at 72, she still worried about her kids. I told he that’s what made her a good mother. She talked a bit about grandpa too, calling him “her man”.
Today, I like to think she is back with “her man”, seeing the sights in that big blue van with the bull horns and bumper stickers, the big smile back on her face. And for that, I speak for everyone when I say, I am grateful.
Back here, Spring has arrived. With Spring comes sunshine, flowers and new life.
When you see the sun break through the clouds, think of her.
When you see trilliums, think of her.
And finally, when you see a butterfly, remember her, and all of the good times.
Know that she is free, and at peace.
What the caterpillar calls the end, the maker calls a butterfly.
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