Keeper of family memories, great-grandmother, Memie. Born Jan. 30, 1926, in Causapscal, Que., died May 12, 2013, in Quebec City of a lung infection, aged 87.
Madeleine was born in the middle of a cold winter to a small Quebec family of four (at least small by the province’s 1920s standard).
She grew to become a beautiful girl and developed a very close relationship with her older sister, Thérèse. Tragedy struck when Thérèse did not survive open-heart surgery meant to save her life, and the bond they shared came abruptly to an end.
Later, Madeleine’s life was again filled with love, shared with her husband Valère. According to him, his beloved “Madelon” was the most beautiful lady in the village.
Madeleine’s formal education was limited to Grade 5, which she completed in a one-class school in eastern Quebec, but that didn’t prevent her mastering exquisitely la langue de Molière.
She loved to read, especially biographies, satisfying her need to further her education on her own. She would also meticulously clip newspapers as a hobby, sharing stories with everyone dear to her and proudly highlighting her loved ones’ accomplishments, big or small.
Madeleine made sure that everyone in the family knew their roots. She took and collected thousands of photos, meticulously documenting each with the time, location and individuals’ names. She would make double prints to share with her four children.
What really made her stand out was her astonishing memory of birthdays, wedding anniversaries and graduation dates, not just for her immediate family but for her numerous nephews, nieces and distant relatives – Facebook not required.
Like many of her generation, she was a woman of faith. Life tested her faith when her older son suffered a stroke in his early 20s. She was a proud woman, and would rarely let those around her know when something wasn’t going well. She never shared with her family that she had chemotherapy treatment; she refused to let cancer take her down.
She took care of her elderly mother even into own senior years. “Family comes first and you look after them,” she would say. She would put the needs of her children first, no questions asked.
In her early 40s, Madeleine became a young grandmother and was affectionately called Memie by her first grandson. Later, every grandchild, all their spouses and the great-grandchildren came to call her Memie.
Madeleine spent her last few months in hospital battling an untreatable lung condition, but that did not stop her believing she could live longer. She was not ready to go despite her failing health. She was still thinking of the future, avidly reading the newspaper every day.
But life decided differently, and on Mother’s Day our dear Memie left us peacefully and, as usual, not wanting us to worry. She talked to her daughter on the phone a few hours before she passed away. “Don’t worry, I will be just fine,” she said.
Marie-Christine Bernard is Madeleine’s granddaughter.