The insistent ring tone broke through,
put my sleep back on suspend.
Josephine, there, with the phone to her ear
hearing words I couldn’t comprehend.
“I’m going down to the hospital,” she said,
in a way that left no doubt.
“Let me take you,” I offered, true,
but not quite believing what this was all about.
But even through her tears
I knew I heard, “Mom’s gone.”
Together we rolled down the road in the cold
and early light of dawn.

“Why couldn’t I have been there?”
she managed through her tears.
“After all, Mom made no fuss about carrying us
through the toughest of our years.”
But nothing came to me by way of reply,
perhaps I wasn’t yet fully awake,
unused to be driving so early,
feeling this unwanted heartache.
The spirit inside of me felt smaller than usual
as I fumbled for a way to fix it or reply
Instead I let my thoughts go flowing into silence, knowing
I really wasn’t ready for goodbye.

It’s funny how in times like this
your thoughts can so crowd around
that in the span of a moment you can
cover so much time and ground.
So we drove in silence for a while
in that winter air and early morning light.
In those moments, though, I had the chance to go
revisit some sounds and sights.
The many, many events that shaped our memories
of the person so important to us all.
Too many to state but perhaps I can try to relate
a few back to you gathered before this pall.


The past few days I’ve seen a bunch
of pictures taken from way back when
the kids were lighter, and things were tighter
because the house was smaller then.
So, how they did it? You might ask,
“what was the secret spell
that Gertie cast in that time past
so that things turned out so well?”
No, the family wasn’t rich but you could tell
they had all that they did need.
I’ll tell you now, if you’ll allow,
Gertie based her life on giving, not on greed.


Just think back, one and all. about the times
she helped you out in any way.
She did what she could, without you feeling you should
have a debt you needed to repay.
She understood the gift of self,
something she freely gave to all who asked.
A kindness here, a favour there,
from a friend and champion so quiet yet steadfast
And I’m happy to say, that as is often the way,
it’s a gift that’s taken root
through the kindness shared down through the years
that have come to follow suit.


Now, lest you think it was all so very serious and pious,
nothing is further from the case.
For it’s quite well known around our home
that a bit of fun she’d always be ready to embrace.
Think of the many times at the dances and such
when she’d get right on the bad.
Along with Alec stay til the first light of day,
just like the youngsters they would gad.
“Come on, let’s go!” and she’d make a show
of dragging you out onto the floor.
And do a waltz or a jig with the flick of the leg,
calling to the band to come back and play some more.

And speaking of gadding about I do recall,
a Christmas knock would never fail to make her grin.
Because in the name of fun Gertie was the one
who’d always let the mummers in.
And upon opening the door, she’d let them know
just who was the one in charge.
Two sips on their drinks and with nods and with winks
out onto the floor she’d barge.
“Now come on b’ys, let’s have a dance,
no need at all for you to feel so shy!”
And she’d give you a chance either a song or a dance,
each mummer would have to try.

And I do recall a few years back
when Gertie and a few of her offspring went out themselves.
Stockings on faces, a bunch of hard cases;
no mistaking them for Christmas elves.
Off they went from house to house
all for a dance some fun and even the scattered sup.
Some folks were traumatized I will have you advises
by that bunch of saucy pups.
Well the word got out on that hardy crew
that was mummering and making a fine Christmas fuss
‘til nobody’d let them in–twas quite a sin,
even made some of Gertie’s daughters cuss.

And the fun outdoors, she couldn’t be held back.
There were times she had poor Alec drove
I’ll have you to know just a few years ago
she even went for a dip up in the Mooring Cove.

And camping, sure it was her great delight
to visit with the crowd down in the park.
And no matter when she’d show you couldn’t get her to go
home til way long after dark.
For you knew full well it’d have to be an emergency
or some situation equally as dire
before you could prod that belle away from her spell
of sitting and gabbing by the fire.

And from fun we must run to the topic
of what gave her the greatest pleasure.
That’s an easy one, her best source of fun
was her family; her greatest treasure.
First her own crowd, then the kids, and then theirs too
and as of now even a brand new generation.
When she was with family even when sick you’d see her eyes blazing thick
with love and with adoration.
I even overheard two St. Clares nurses talking
about how supportive the family that she had.
Sure outside ICU, hundreds stood in a queue for hours–
don’t mind me, I’m just bad.

And when the priest dropped by to offer a blessing
and some hope for to impart
It was all he could do fer to keep with her
cause Gertie knew the prayers all off by heart.
“Slow down Mom, he’s here to bless you, not the other way around!”
her daughters all did say
The priest kept on going, laughed it off knowing,
“I can learn a thing or two from her about how to pray.”
For that self same maid who’s unafraid
to stand right here adorned with a set of bunny ears
also has, by design, her very own direct line
to office of The One that’s upstairs.

And just like that the daydreaming stopped
and there I was back in the car with Josephine.
Just a few seconds had passed leaving me quite aghast
at the memories of things done and seen.
But it was enough for I realized
that she really wasn’t gone.
A part, you see, was still with me
and forever, would live on.
And so, too, for you. You know it’s true.
I’m so sure I’m willing to make a bet
This has kindled thoughts anew in each one of you
in a way you’ll not ever forget.

And for now it’s sad. We must grieve Gertie,
who we all will dearly miss.
How could it not hurt? We’re human I assert
and the pain is a thing we cannot dismiss.
But time will pass, I don’t know how long.
But I do know that a day will come.
When a smile she will bring at the thought of something
we all did together with your mum.
And I’ll be happy to welcome that thought
into a brand new space I’ll be making for her so nice and new.
And that’s the way it should be–to be remembered lovingly
by each and every one of you.


About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
This entry was posted in family, poetry/songs and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Gertie

  1. jennypellett says:

    I am sorry for yours and Josephine’s loss, but a great tribute, Maurice. Gertie sounds like a real character – and will be remembered fondly, I’m sure.

  2. Barbara Carey says:

    What a beautiful, well written tribute to Gertie!

  3. David G MacLaren says:

    Maurice what a beautiful tribute to Josephine’s Mom. I enjoyed reading it.

  4. Mary says:

    Beautiful tribute and wonderful pictures of Mrs. Best also – She will be missed by so many.

  5. Jane Fritz says:

    Maurice, what a wonderful, loving tribute. It’s also a pleasure to see a Maurice Barry post in the blogosphere again.

  6. Tiny says:

    This is the most wonderful and warm tribute I’ve probably ever read. I am sorry for your loss, Maurice. Now it’s hard, but in time the smile will arrive.

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