This week my grandmother Jasmine Dorothea Mary Jackson (later Pocock) left this life and entered whatever comes next. I'm flying back to Ottawa for the funeral this weekend, feeling overwhelmed. Though I only knew her in her 60’s, 70’s and 80’s Jasmine was a major force in my life and in the lives of her 7 children and 10 grand children. From a young age we called her Mummy's Mummy and the name stuck. Here are some memories as I airport-and-plane across the continent:
I remember Mummy's Mummy as a strong woman from a time when women were expected to be weak and passive. She was incredibly smart and didn't hesitate to share her opinions and ideas and tell us the way things 'ought' to be done. I loved and admired her strength of conviction and strength of character. I'm certain she’s part of the reason I married Kati, another strong woman.
I remember Mummy's Mummy having little time for ignorance, intolerance or stupidity. If you dared share an opinion on something it had better be an informed opinion. This stimulated me to do the work necessary to understand things. I strived to be informed from a young age. She valued learning and knowledge formed through careful consideration of the facts.
I remember Mummy's Mummy's laugh. A loud guffaw-type cackle of a laugh. Usually in response to a story told by an aunt or uncle or family friend at one of our large family dinners. It must have felt satisfying for her to sit at the head of the table, watching the intelligent and interesting people she created converse and laugh and grow up to do amazing things in the world.
I remember Mummy’s Mummy’s kilts and skirts and dresses. I don’t think I ever saw her in pants. Her style was smart, elegant, and beautiful. Something she passed down to my lovely aunts.
Mummy’s Mummy was eloquent and well-spoken. She valued clear and concise communication. She didn’t mince words, but chose them deliberately, as an expression of who she was in the world.
One time my mom told me that her and her sisters and brother weren’t allowed to be bored growing up. Mummy’s Mummy believed boredom to be synonymous with mental laziness, and she had no time for lazy minds.
Mummy’s Mummy and my grandfather had a custom “modern” home built in Ottawa. The house is futuristic even today, with a central skylit kitchen surrounded by offices, bedrooms and living rooms, all configurable through various sliding panels. Some of my earliest memories of Mummy’s Mummy are of playing Legos at her huge dinning room table. She had containers full of ‘engineering’ Legos and I remember her showing me how to mate gears and build things.
She also had a marble collection that she gifted to me in my teens, thousands of specimens from mundane "catseyes” to extremely old and rare ceramic marbles from her childhood. She liked the unique history and beauty of the individual marbles in her collection.
She loved multi-thousand piece puzzles for recreation. Probably because they gave her significant mental challenge that yielded a satisfying and beautiful result.
I remember how she smelled: sweet somehow despite the alcohol and cigarettes that she enjoyed up until recently. Maybe sweet because she was sweet, or at least sweet to me. I remember her being happy to see me, her eldest daughter’s son and first grandson. She made me feel valued. She was a good hugger, and interested in my life.
I remember Mummy’s Mummy’s compassion and courage over these last years as my grandfather and her husband of 65 years developed Alzheimer's and slowly forgot the details of their life together. I remember going with her to visit him, and the enduring tenderness between them despite the circumstances.
Mummy’s Mummy served in World War II, earned a degree in library science, was an early adopter of computer technology, founded the Canadian Toy Testing Council, and served on the board of the Children’s Aid Society while raising 7 children. Without her I wouldn’t exist, nor would my brother or sister, or my cousins, or my mom’s writing, my aunt Mary’s art, My aunt Sheila’s tax consulting, my uncle Philips art, my aunt Tessa’s pioneering research on photosynthesis, my aunt Valerie’s art and research, nor my aunt Joanna’s writing. Her influence in the world will live on for many years to come.
I hadn't seen Mummy's Mummy for a couple years since Kati and I visited Ottawa in 2011, and since that time she became less able to get about, her razor sharp intellect beginning to go in and out of focus. But the last time I saw her she was lucid and upbeat. I asked her jokingly what it was like to be a "granny” to so many grandchildren and soon a great grand child. She looked me straight in the eye and said “I will never be anyone’s granny!” She didn’t like the passive connotation of the word.
Mummy’s Mummy taught me to stay strong, be myself, make the best of life, and never stop learning. She lived a great life. Farewell Jasmine, we love you.