Born September 17th, 1901 - Died March 13, 1995
My Grandmother was born while Queen Victoria was still alive. She saw the great Zeppelins of W.W.I plummet to destruction. She watched helplessly as close family members fell prey to the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1919. Her eyes beheld the dueling fighter planes over the City of London in the summer of 1940 during the Battle of Britain.
Accounts of her past life enthralled me; I never tired of hearing her stories. Always something new, an aspect of her life's experiences I had never heard of before or, an entirely original account of the past carelessly drawn out of her ever sharp memory and told with a crystal clarity that brought the story to life for me.
But most of all, to me she was a patient, kind and wise grandmother who's memory will always have a welcome existence in my memory and soul.
However, this story is best told by Doris
herself. During 1981 she turned her insomnia to use by quietly penning
in the memories of her past. It was not until 2001 that Morten
Meilgaard came across the transcript. He claims that I typed it out
from her written hand, but I have no recollection of this.
One day - many months after Doris passed away - a small package from Wayne State University Medical Center arrived. It had been so long that I had forgotten to expect it's arrival - Doris' ashes.
We parked by the coast guard on Bell Isle, an island in the Detroit River between the United States and Canada. Slowly, we made our way down a long pier that juts out into the river. It occurred to us that walking this stretch was akin to symbolically walking the length of a lifetime lived. Lowell and Sue brought their son - my godson - Nicholas Boileau there and his friend Spence Barefield, so there was good generational representation. (Nick referred to Doris as his Great Grand Godmother.) Upon reaching the end of the pier, I placed the urn with Doris' ashes on the railing. Friends and family cast ashes and, if they so chose, said a few words. I mentioned that it was Doris' wish to have her remains cast upon the Detroit River, and it seems appropriate; her ashes were spread to the waters bordering two countries - the symbol of Doris' love of travel - and the Detroit River, flowing towards the sea, washing her remains towards the Old Country. Finally, it seemed appropriate that Doris was born on an island and that her remains should be cast to the waters from the same.
Sally Kaplin brought autumn flowers and leaves; they were cast upon the river, at which moment the sun broke through the cloud layer, illuminating the Detroit skyline. It was truly beautiful. We were all quite touched. Morten and Manon brought a bottle of white wine, which we used to toast the memory of Doris, as the flowers and colorful leaves slowly floated towards the reflection of a brilliant Sun. I think we were all quite surprised by the beauty of it all.
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