Good morning everyone! My name is Greg Meakin. I am Nancy Meakin’s youngest, if you can believe that. I got a haircut yesterday because I knew my mother would be annoyed at me if I looked scruffy today. I flew in from the Seattle area the minute I heard of my mom’s passing last Saturday. Together with my older brother Bob, his wonderful wife Carol, and my awesome niece Cassidy, we have spent the past week preparing for today, and preparing for life without my mother.
Before I begin, I want to extend my deepest thanks to all here today, and elsewhere, who have reached out to my brother and me this week. The outpouring of condolences and warm wishes from so many people has been astonishing. The Montreal Gazette Guest Book was full of tributes from my mother’s past students, and past friends. To say my mother touched many lives is the biggest understatement of the century.
To Reverend Steve and the entire group here at Strathmore, my brother and I are deeply thankful for you opening your doors, and opening your hearts to us this week. Thank you very, very much.
I am very sad that my wife and family out west cannot be here today. Here in spirit today are my wife Deborah, my twin boys Carson and Colton who are now 24, my eldest son Tanner and his wife Catherine, and of course my beautiful grandson Adrian Meakin who is now 2 years old. He’s not terrible yet, but like all boys, he’s working on it!!! .
All of the West Coast Meakins reach out to everyone here today, and offer their love and prayers for my mother. We have a dual citizen, multi-cultural type of family, and my American boys fondly called my mother, Nana in Canada.
Also, I have to take a moment to relay a message to everyone here from a friend of mine in Montreal who I spoke with on the phone. This gentleman wanted me to relay the following message to you:
“I have not been in the public for more than a year, due to my health. I cannot be there, but I express my condolences to your family. Please say hello to everyone at the church tomorrow.”
This message is from Jean Beliveau, retired Montreal Canadien. My mother was a crazy Habs fan since the 1950s, and she would LOVE to hear that Mr. Beliveau paid his respects to her today.
I have been wondering all week what my mother would think of all this. All this fuss about her. I think she would think it is silly — especially the cost!!! I believe she would say, “Just throw a little party. Maybe a Pot Luck. I’ll make some squares”.
I struggled this week with what I would say here today. A Eulogy is an important thing, but at the same time, my mother would only want me to share stories, and maybe have a laugh or two along the way. At times, I felt like this message today was a homework assignment from my mother! I could hear her voice all week, believe me.
So, what I did was put together a one page biography of my mom, copies of which are on the table in the back. There you will also see the beautiful photo collage put together by Cassidy Meakin. Feel free to take a copy of the biography home. It gives you a brief yet descriptive chronology of my mom’s life.
And for now, I would like to take a few minutes to share a few stories I know my mother would want you to hear today.
Unlike most young people, my mother knew hardship, especially financial hardship. Like many here today, Nancy was born in the Great Depression, a few years after the Stock Market Crash of 1929. The Depression was a difficult time, and my mother told me often about the hardship. One Christmas, her mother asked her what she’d like for a present. My mother, only 4 years old at the time, said, “BONCA DO I GUESS”.
BONCA, to my 4 year old mother, was BANANA. So, my mother was telling my grandmother that for her Christmas present this year, a banana would do just fine. A banana. Can you imagine young people today being that humble, or considering a Christmas present of less than $300?! My mother would tell me that story often, because she had no problem letting young people know how spoiled they were.
My mother was the hardest worker I ever knew. She was a single mom before it was cool. She was a Hockey-Mom, a full-time teacher, a student at night getting her Degree, and a great cook and homemaker. she would clean house whenever she could find time in her crazy schedule. I remember vividly, at about 20 years old (maybe after I had a few cocktails the night before) being woken up by a loud vacuuming in my bedroom. Right at my head. It was probably 5:30 or 6 in the morning, and mom was doing her housework because that’s was the only time she had time
She taught my brother and me the work ethic, that’s for sure. She taught by example, not by words. She taught morals, and ethics, and manners. She insisted on pleases and thank-yous, on opening doors, on keeping elbows off the table, and all that Greatest Generation etiquette. Cards and letters and gifts and baking and anything that would make anyone feel good, came pouring out from my mother her entire life. And unfortunately, there seems to be less and less manners like that in the world today.
There is always someone in the neighborhood who is everyone’s mom. That was my mother. Mrs. Meakin was a second mom to my best friend Derek Gatehouse, who is here today. Derek and I have been best friends since we were 5, almost 50 years mow, oh my God. Derek would come to our back door, walk in, go to the fridge and get something to drink. He’d help himself to Hello Dollies, a treat my mother would keep on the kitchen table for guests. Then he would walk over to my mother’s To-Do List on the fridge door, and write, PRESENT FOR DEREK. He would do that EVERY time he came by, for years. My mother LOVED Derek as a son, and would giggle and pretend to be annoyed at him for his manners.
Despite being 3,000 miles away, my mother was the most awesome grandmother to my kids when they were growing up. My boys knew Nana in Canada like she lived next door. She flew out to visit us a few times, and always brought tidings of joy, and Canadian money, and fun things with her. I remember when my twin boys were little, my mother reading a bedtime story book, Brown Bear Brown Bear, and my kids just adoring her.
Imagine having the Nancy Meakin as your grandmother?!
One visit, my mother opened her big red suitcase in the middle of the living room, and began doling out gifts, as she always did after a trip. A bit later, one of my twins, Colton, who was not even two, walked over to my mother’s suitcase, opened it, and looked in. He was looking to see if there was more of that great stuff that came out of that suitcase!
Nancy Meakin would do anything for her boys. Bob and I had the best Christmases, fun summers at the cottage in Plattsburg, anything that would make our lives better — more fun — more memorable. Mom bought us 10-speed bicycles. I can’t remember how many times she had to cart me to Lachine General Hospital for stitches, or X-rays, or sports injuries.
She taught me the power of Faith. She would later share how tough it was raising two boys alone on a teacher’s salary, and she endured stress she would never share with us, of course. So often, when she was in a bind, or might not have made her rent, she always told me SOMETHING miraculous would happen. A money surprise would come from nowhere, or something would happen that fixed her situation. She was a very faithful and spiritual women that way, and I’m thankful to have inherited this from her.
I won’t take any time on her incredible teaching career here. Those stories have been circulating, and will continue. What I will say to everyone who she ever taught, or ever worked with on staff, that my mother remembered everyone, and kept everything. She loved her students — often multi-siblings and even multi-generations over the years. And she loved the camaraderie of her coworkers. Sorting through her vast amount of keepsakes this past week, I was amazed that she kept every class photo, every staff photo, every newspaper article, even assignments from students through the decades.
Although funerals can be somber affairs, my mother would say “That’s the way life goes. Don’t be sad — be joyful for a fait accompli“. Ever pragmatic, ever “with it” as she would say, ever modern in her thinking and in her teaching, Nancy Meakin would tell us to have a great day, and off to work on Monday everyone.
I know with all my heart my mother is with us right now, and with her family. I believe she is with her father, her mother, her sister, and her departed relatives and friends. I really do.
And one thing I know for sure: She’s organizing everyone up there, and writing thank you cards to everyone here today.