“And the songbirds are singing, like they know the score.
And I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before…”
— Fleetwood Mac
My mother was my song bird, resilient and strong, who taught me how to fly and then set me free. A year ago on February 25, my mom passed away. She was 95. My emotions as I reflect on this last year are as turbulent as the weather outside today. What I miss most are my mom’s words, her voice and her presence. “When things don’t go according to plan, wipe the slate clean and start again,” my sister noted as she shared my mom’s words at her Celebration of Life. My mother was a resilient woman. She is the reason that I too am a resilient woman.
In 2008, I helped my mom publish her memoires titled “60 Plus Years in a Nutshell — My Life Story.” Marguerite Mae (Allen) arrived on January 14, 1923 at Rosetown Hospital in Saskatchewan. “They called me Marguerite after an aunt of Mother’s and Mae after Uncle Sandy’s old grey mare,” she wrote.
Together with six other siblings, 3 boys and eventually 4 girls, my mom spent her early years living on the family farm near McGee, Saskatchewan. The farm, originally purchased by my grandfather in 1912 (and still in the family today), featured a wooden house heated by an old wood stove, with neither running water nor hydro. They endured the Great Depression, dust storms, extreme winters, locusts, fires and everything else life threw their way.
They had two teams of horses who helped with the heavy work on the farm — Peter and Bunny and Babe and Duke. For many years, my grandfather prevented his ‘girls’ from doing the ‘dirty work’ in the barn. But in the later years, when the boys went off to war the “girls were recruited to do chores like slopping pigs, milking cows and feeding chickens,” my mom shared.
“We rode Pete to bring home the cows at night. If you dug your heels into his ribs, then he would bite the cow in front of him and it would move a little faster. We always rode bare back so if we were thrown off, we wouldn’t get tangled in the saddle (my dad’s theory). Speaking from experience, I just went straight forward when I was thrown,” mom wrote.
“In the summer, we walked the two miles to school and home again. Being the fourth child, I figured I was short changed on legs and was forced to run part of the way to keep up with my older sister who had long legs,” she said.
My mom married her soul mate Mel Garland on March 15, 1947 following his service in WWII and together they raised six children. Theirs were lives fully lived. Her memories were a testament to their 60 years together.
My mother was a creative human being who expressed her love making beautiful, colourful pieced quilts and other original crafts. She had a passion for life-long learning. She did not fear power tools and she did not suffer fools kindly. She loved gardening, birds and butterflies. Some days she didn’t have a ‘filter’, but she had a great sense of humour and enjoyed a good laugh. She was intelligent, determined and she persevered when life threw her curve balls. She survived knee and hip replacements, various surgeries and cancer.
I don’t think my mom really appreciated our decision to purchase our farm so late in life. Perhaps because her own early experiences with life on a farm, she commented, “why would you take on all of this work?” But I am grateful that she was here at the age of 90 to participate in our ribbon-cutting ceremony, launching The Mane Intent in 2014. My parents’ legacy enabled us to build the in-door horse arena that now graces the property. It’s a sacred space where magic happens between horses and humans — men, women and young people. It has enabled me to support programs like Building Internal Resilience through Horses for young women and to support people who have an expressed desired to live life more fully, with greater purpose.
I miss my mom. I wish for just one more conversation. I recently came across the last birthday card I received from her. It reads: “This is more than just a birthday card. It’s a hug with a fold in the middle! Lots of love Mom.” Right back at you Mom — wherever you are.
About the Author
Jennifer Garland is the Owner/Program Director of The Mane Intent, offering Health and Wellness Workshops and Individual and Team Effectiveness Coaching. Jennifer’s intent is to bring horses and humans together to explore new possibilities, getting you out of your comfort zone and giving clarity of voice to your leader within. She has over 25 years of leadership experience in communications, cause-related marketing and change management. As a strategist, facilitator and effectiveness coach, Jennifer has provided counsel and support to senior leaders from all walks of life to build productive relationships, facilitate learning and to embrace change. She is a ‘socialpreneur’ who values the art of living life fully with intent.