Update: DeeDee went to be with the Lord peacefully while surrounded by 4 of her children on the evening of January 29, 2015. —————————————————————-
The meeting place is nestled along the Whistle Road on Grand Manan Island. It is a happily situated house, tall and white, with a little porch, a weeping willow tree, a babbling brook, and a garden that was once the talk of the island. Situated across from the North Head park, it is a place that holds many fond memories for me.
What has always made the meeting place special is my grandmother, Edith Brown, whom many of us refer to as “DeeDee.” She is the reason why there is a meeting place. No matter what season it is, one can always expect a warm welcome at the meeting place, where freshly baked goods and lively conversation take place.
During my “growing up” years, we visited the meeting place often. My mother, having been the only one of her siblings who moved off of the island to stay, would pack me and my brother and sister up for summer and other holiday vacations. We could always expect fresh chop suey and rolls when we arrived at the meeting place.
It was at the meeting place where I sat and watched DeeDee pin her long brown hair into curls. The meeting place is also where us children could expect to find a jar full of coins on the counter, awaiting our arrival so we could traipse off to the Corner store for a treat. When we ate at the meeting place, Papa had to eat too, even if he had just eaten lunch.
The meeting place is where DeeDee taught me about birds and how to bake rolls and other delicious treats. I can see her in the kitchen of the meeting place, packing a picnic of rolls, red juice, and other goodies for the beach. When she wasn’t cooking or bird watching at the meeting place, she was out in her garden, a place of pure personal delight for her. People would come to paint there. People would come to visit there. Children would stop in after playing at the park. For everyone was always welcome at the meeting place.
Life took on its different forms throughout my lifetime at the meeting place. I recall coming down the stairs of the meeting place for a cheery Christmas morning. I remember earnestly praying as a child by a bedside at the meeting place when a beloved uncle had gone missing at sea. Then there was the emptiness of what it was like once Papa was gone from the meeting place and how it didn’t quite seem the same without him sitting in the rocking chair. Seasons change, and after DeeDee fought and won a battle with cancer, her strength began to weaken. I went from watching her bake, to baking with her, to having her tell me how to bake while overseeing my efforts from her kitchen chair, to her being in another room and not able to come out (but for the occasional peek in the oven). Once in awhile, her telling me what to do would get on my nerves, and she knew it, but it was as though we always had this mutual understanding that it was okay. I was in her kitchen, and she was a far better cook than I could ever hope to be.
It was an odd feeling for me one morning when it dawned on me that instead of me hearing her banging pots and pans in the mornings to cook, I was the one in the kitchen, bright and early, cooking things for the meeting place. I don’t bake that often. In fact, the meeting place is my favourite place to bake. During a most recent visit, I remember seeing a pheasant in the yard while I was kneading bread, and I recall thinking, “This is why she loves the meeting place so much. It is surrounded by the beauty of God, and it is filled with so many lovely memories.” Baking at the meeting place reminds me of her bustling about in the kitchen, and I love for the family to gather around fresh baked goods for conversation like when I was a child. I love the meeting place. It is a home away from home.
They say that DeeDee is dying. She is in the hospital, and they don’t know whether the cancer that has returned will take her or whether her heart will give out first. It seems like such a cruel fate for a woman who was once so strong to be wilting away. I wish I could be there just to sit with her, to read to her, to sing to her. I wish I could’ve asked her more questions about what it was like to build the meeting place and to raise so many children there. I wish I could’ve found the words to tell her just how much she means to me and how she gave me such a wonderful collection of memories at the meeting place. But when I last left, I couldn’t find the words. Words seem so inadequate for such a wonderful legacy.
Sometimes I wish I could move into the meeting place to keep up the tradition of pudding Mondays and roast Sundays, but it seems as though my station is meant to be elsewhere. DeeDee worries about what will happen to the meeting place, and after having learned more about all of the work, heart and soul she put into it, it certainly is no wonder.
When I left the island in December, I remember hoping DeeDee would be around at Easter to sit in the yard of the meeting place and watch the Easter egg hunt at the park. That was wishful thinking I suppose, because she has always been there. I am grateful that God blessed me with a son during her lifetime so that he could experience the meeting place as it should be. I grieve that my other children will never get to know what it was.
Where will the meeting place be once DeeDee is gone? What will happen to the meeting place? Visits to Grand Manan will never be the same. Will I feel like a tourist where once I felt so at home? I may never get to bake at the meeting place again. I have always welcomed change, but change such as this is not the kind I wish to hold company with.
In my mind’s eye, I can see her, DeeDee, young and strong arriving on Heaven’s shore. She is running to meet her daughter Wendy, who died so young, her sister, who died in childbirth, and many of her other family members who have gone before. She is free from pain.
I don’t know what Heaven will be like, but I’m sure it’s bound to have many a meeting place. I like to envision myself strolling up a quaint country road where her mansion will be. Children will be giggling and playing in the yard, others will sit painting the flower gardens or watching the birds, chatting, and drinking a cup of tea.
When I arrive, she’ll come out onto the porch with her apron on. “Come on in dear. I’ve been waiting for you. Tell me what the latest is.” I will laugh, because knowing her, she’ll already know the latest. She’ll give me a warm embrace, and I’ll walk inside to the smell of freshly baked bread.
Then the family, all of us, will gather around the table at the meeting place. It will be as though I were a child again – carefree and not constrained by time – because in Heaven, the grandest meeting place of all, the visiting never needs to end.