In the movie Waking Ned Devine, there’s a scene with the character Jackie O’Shea (played by Iain Bannen) addressing a funeral. O’Shea is interrupted by a lottery official whom he is trying to defraud. Without missing a beat, Jackie launches into an extemporaneous eulogy, ostensibly for his lifelong friend Michael O’Sullivan (played by David Kelly) who is in the church and posing as Ned Divine — the holder of a winning lottery ticket — while the real Ned Devine is lying dead in the coffin posing as Michael O’Sullivan.
Switching gears on the fly, O’Shea looks straight at O’Sullivan and laments our reluctance to voice our love for a person until after they’ve gone. Then O’Shea proceeds to tell O‘Sullivan what their relationship has meant to him through the years.
That’s where I stand with my mum. She’s 96-years old and I want to tell her what she has meant to me before she can no longer hear the words. For years I have been rehearsing the things I planned to say at her funeral but that’s not good enough.
So mom, straight up, I want to tell you I love and admire you.
When dad died, you stood up and took all the pitches for the family. This was made only more incredible by the fact that English was your second language (yet you read and write it better than many English-born Canadians) and you had no job experience, except being our mother, since leaving Quebec.
Out of love you went out to work, making sure us three kids remaining at home were clothed decently, fed well and educated. We never lacked for anything and when we wanted to do something, the money was there to do it.
I knew very early that you were made of special stuff. The courage it must have taken for a Quebecois girl to go against the family by marrying an anglais in the 1930s shows an iron few people share.
But I think there was something special about you right from birth. Your own mum, Louise, had a strong romantic streak that wasn’t characteristic of the farming community she and grandfather Raymond settled in — after all, she named you Dinora, for the opera by Meyerbeer.
That romance was passed on down to me and I’ve spent a lifetime living a life most only dream of. We had some great times together and if I could have, I would have taken you with me on many of my adventures.
Unlike so many women faced with widowhood who made it a priority to find a man to look after their brood because they couldn’t do it alone, you did it by yourself and with pride.
That pride shone through in everything you did until we assumed it was simply normal. This really came home four years ago when, at 92, you climbed your first mountain. The photo of you sitting atop Mt. Kobau above Osoyoos and grinning is my favourite. I remember you saying you couldn’t wait to call your 80-something baby sister to brag about your feat. You, mum, are one incredible cookie.
Dinora On Mt. Kobau © Bruce Kemp