Updated: Jul 20
October 16th, 1940 - June 30th, 2020
“Bridget, come over here”, Marie yelled from the top of her driveway with a tone of love and laughter. It was the middle of the summer and she excitedly hollered to me: “Hurry up; I have a Christmas present for you”. A Christmas present? I thought that was odd, but I ran across the street and Marie presented me with the cleanest, most amazing, brand-spanking-new chalk board for my playroom. It was almost as big as me. She asked one of the older kids to help me bring it to my house. I was confused as to why I would have a Christmas present from her in July, but on our street you had to be ready for anything. She said my Mom would explain everything when I got home. The gift was hidden in Marie’s basement so that I would not see it before Christmas. Although funny, it was not surprising that everyone forgot about it until the summer garage sale prompted a deep clean of the basement. As I recall this earliest memory of Marie, I can still hear the sound of her voice followed by her beautiful laughter.
Marie Roberts was one woman you could always count on. She always showed up. She always brought love and compassion along with her loyal friendship. I have known Marie my entire life. We were neighbours and we were friends, but our friendship was deeper than that. She was family. The Bates, Grimaldi, Roberts’ and Smith-Quinn families all lived within a hop, skip and a jump of each other. We knew where to go if we needed milk, sugar, eggs, or lunch. If you knocked on any of these doors, you would be yelled at from the kitchen granting permission to just walk in.
Marie was a prominent member of my parent’s “dinner-party gang”. Today, I am struggling to face the death of Marie. An inability to celebrate her life during this covid-19 pandemic just exacerbates my grief. Marie went to Heaven on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. I know she is in Heaven because she had a heart that mirrored that of Christ; kindness, compassion, and unconditional love. The only real comfort is the assurance that she is now reunited with her husband Bob, her friend (and my mom) Marie Bates, and dinner-party gang member, our uncle Bob Franks. The dinner parties in Heaven are about to get a little more rambunctious.
Marie often told stories about my love for hockey. She spoke with a great deal of joy for the people she loved, especially her kids. She always reminded me and others that it was “her” David, the only teenager on the street who would choose me to play road hockey on his team. I was 8 years younger and the older kids would not let me play with them, until David came out; I was automatically in the game leaping up from the sidelines with my mini hockey stick ready to battle the giants. It meant a lot to me that Marie continually shared this story and it spoke volumes about the love and pride she had for her son, David and two daughters, Susan and Diane.
When Susan was pregnant with the first grandchildren, a set of twins, Marie was bursting with excitement and ready to show off her Grandma status to all the neighbours. I remember being one of the fortunate kids who got to go to the Roberts’ house and play with the twins: Robert and Elizabeth. It was my first experience of being more like a babysitter as I roamed the front lawn collecting bugs with these two little energetic toddlers. Marie’s love for all people and joy for life was undeniably contagious. If you were with her, there was joy and love. Oh and there was always laughter, always laughter.
As a member of the elite dinner-party gang, Marie had a special friendship with some amazing people. These “Dinners” kept going on throughout the years, with the Roberts, Grimaldi’s, Bates’, Sharon and Tom Quinn and my Auntie Donna and Uncle Bob Franks. These dinners were private events that kids were not invited to. If I happened to be in the area or living at home when a dinner-party was taking place with the gang, I could pop in and say hi, and then only appreciate the laughter and muffled conversation from another room in a faraway part of the house. My Mom always planned a rest day after the dinner-party because she knew she would have to nurture her overworked laughing muscles. Now that four of the dinner-party gang members have passed on, they are no doubt up in Heaven planning another extravagant, gut-busting dinner for when the rest of them arrive; I hope the mansions in Heaven are equipped for the joy and fun that will be served up.
Marie was always present when invited to my Dad’s birthday parties, visiting me in various parts of Ontario, sending me emails and Facebook messages. As her eyesight deteriorated she continued to fight through any adversity to communicate her message of love to her family and to the world. Raising three kids, doting on her grandkids and great-grandkids, gave them a precious gift of love to carry on the family legacy of innate joy. I remember Marie giving me a very loving and comforting hug at my Mom’s funeral. She made sure that I understood she was always available if I needed to talk.
Marie will be missed. But she will never, ever be forgotten. Just like her husband Bob, My Mom Marie, and Uncle Bob, she will live on as a shadow, a voice, an echo of laughter, riding along-side each of us for the rest of our lives.
If it weren’t for you, Marie, I would not understand that family does not have to be blood. Family is a heart-connection and you, my dear friend will always be connected to my heart.
Written by Bridget Bates-Halfyard – July 2020