Canadian music star Johnny Reid created Maggie – making its world premiere at Theatre Aquarius – in tribute to his Scottish grannie. 'Everyone has a Maggie in their life,' says Reid and when the theatre asked for personal stories, many people were inspired to share about special people in their life. Take a read but grab a tissue first!
My mother, Margaret was my (and many people’s) hero. She endured her father’s gambling addiction and then he left her, her mother, and two sisters with no place to live. At the age of 7, she, along with her younger sister, were displaced for two years during World War II from Birmingham, England and billeted with a family she did not know in the interior of the country, to keep them safe. She returned to her home, spending nights in a bomb shelter and helping her Mom to cut and perm women’s hair. She also sold eggs and grew lavender – which she sewed into bags, and sold them to her mother’s customers for money or food. She experienced a lot of trauma, yet, was the most positive person in many people’s lives. She would often show this by raising her fist – and, shaking it – to encourage others to live their lives without fear.
She amazes everyone with her quiet strength and willingness to do anything for her family. This woman is my mother and her journey began 80 years ago with spunk and fire in her soul to serve. As a mother, she joyfully made a loving home for her husband and children as well as fostered young children for struggling mothers. When we were old enough to do more for ourselves, she went back to school for nursing where she served her community as an operating nurse for 33 years. Retirement was not an option when her only grandchild was born and she devoted her time to providing care and supporting our newest family member. She herself was a selfless daughter who cared for and held the hands of her parents until their passing. Today, she cares for her husband with the same love and devotion as she has for the past 64 years. Her own life came with many challenges, which she managed with dignity and grace. Her name is Judy and she serves her family every day with unconditional love expecting nothing in return. She is my hero.
See HAMILTON CITY Magazine's story about Maggie here.
Caroline Henry is the pillar and backbone of our entire family. She is an Onondaga woman from Six Nations Territory and is the youngest of 13 siblings. I couldn’t even imagine all that she has endured in her lifetime. She is the only living human of her immediate family. Born in the early ’50s, she is a mother to four daughters, a grandmother to 15 grandchildren, and a great-gramma to five great-grandsons. My Mom has always worked hard her entire life to provide for her family. We never went without because she always made sure we had everything we needed, despite all the challenges, racism, stereotypes, and barriers she had to face being an “Indian” growing up in the city. She is an Indian Day school survivor and thriving. Even though she had a family lineage of intergenerational trauma from residential schools, my Mom never let that get in the way of who she has always truly been. Her family values and beliefs are embedded and ingrained in all of us. She continuously loves unconditionally and is a true Indigenous warrior who walks tall and stands PROUD!! Her immediate family are all in the spirit world, guiding and protecting her to live and love the life she has with us here on earth.
My special person is my own granny – Grace. She was born in 1898. She married at 20 and had five children. Her eldest son was killed in WW2. My grandfather died at 54, so Granny was widowed at 46, with four remaining children. Later Granny moved to a small house 30 minutes away. She took in boarders to make money. She was very involved in my family of seven kids. We were so spoiled. She gave us tons of attention and encouragement in our interests. She played many card games, and board games and read all sorts of stories to us. When we went to bed we begged her for "Jack stories" about my dad as a kid. She walked through the fields with us picking up hickory nuts. She was always wearing a dress and hose and high black lace-up sensible boots. She never complained. Every Christmas she would sew us new flannel pyjamas on her old treadle sewing machine and knit us all wool socks and mittens. She instilled in us a sense of pride in our heritage. She taught us how to be frugal, careful with our money, how to be creative and how to be a good friend. She hardly scolded, and always had a smile for us. She gave us the gift of her time and love. Granny was such a treasure in my life!
My “Maggie” is actually named Maggie! I only knew that my grandmother Meg ever went by “Maggie” when I had the chance to see the manifest from the ship on which she travelled to Canada. The oldest of 13 children who immigrated from Larkhall, Scotland, their journey to Halifax eventually landed them in Hamilton, where my father was born. My grandmother can only be described as a “force”. She was no wilting flower, and she took care of all of her younger siblings until she met my grandfather and married him. “Meg/Margaret/Marg”, as she was known, took the stewardship of her community very seriously. She was heavily involved in the inception of the Canusa Games, and an award was established in her name after her death. The Marg Brokenshire Award is presented every home year to the person or persons who “goes that extra mile” and shows the true spirit of the CANUSA motto of “Experience the Friendship”. My grandmother did not attend higher education, but she was smart as a whip. She instilled a love of education in both her children, and grandchildren and was always excited about our graduations. I hope I have made her proud.
My wife Debbie is a very, very special person in my life and also life in general. She has battled through breast cancer and now is cancer free. She cared for her dying father for many years when he was battling cancer until he passed. She recently looked after her mother in long-term care for many years up until recently when she passed away from dementia. She was there right up to her last breath. She is soooo strong in her ways that it gives me strength to carry on day by day. My wife still works in long-term care herself and her stamina blows me away! I want her to retire like me (I am 10 years older) so we can spend quality time together but COVID has kept her at her job and she wants to see it through until the end. I am from Glasgow, Scotland and would love to take her to Scotland to show her my beautiful country. I pray for that every day. MY WIFE DEBBIE IS MY ROCK
While I have been blessed with many "Maggies" in my life, someone who challenges me to be my best self every day is my daughter Natalie. Natalie is 23 years old. She is a creative artist, seamstress, and loves to help others. Natalie is a student at Mohawk College where she is completing her program in Art and Design Foundation. Natalie also has autism. She struggles with organization, decision-making, and social situations are often challenging. Despite her struggles, she is determined to make her way in the world and welcomes anyone to come on the journey with her. She inspires me to see others with different eyes – acceptance, and empathy. I am grateful for her presence in my life, and I know that an opportunity to be part of the Maggie premiere would be an amazing experience for her. Thank you for your consideration.
My special “Maggie” is my wife, Susan. I had a tumultuous childhood and was not coping well when along came my "Maggie" – she saved me. Susan rescued me from depression and forced me to pull up my socks. She worked two and sometimes three jobs while raising two beautiful boys and providing for me while I attended school. The sacrifice, love and nurturing while always positive was amazing. Susan, my "Maggie," always found time for others, never herself, and lifted me out of depression without any medical assistance. Not sure how she did it. Both of her boys played rep hockey too and she travelled throughout Ontario. Her commitment to others never waned and she never complained. Later in life, I learned of the psychological burdens she carried, which, in reflecting back, made her unwavering drive and accomplishments even more unbelievable. Susan lost a boyfriend at 17 in an accident, her father at 18 to cancer, endured some significant personal trauma of her own, and moved from England to Canada as a teenager. Susan cared for her mother and critically ill sister. She has a heart of gold caring for all, even finding time to volunteer with the elderly and serving lunches to kids. No one is stronger than my "Maggie."
We came to Canada in 1966, I was 8! Eighteen years later my mom got cancer and died at age 46! My dad kept her at home and looked after her until he took her to the hospital where she passed away that night. A couple of years later he met and married my stepmother. They were very happy until she developed dementia in her 70s. Again, my dad looked after her for years. She became bedridden and could not speak, yet he would not put her in a long-term care home. It really took a toll on him. Close to the end of her life, he had to put her in a hospice where she passed away shortly thereafter. He had his life back again! But last year he was diagnosed with colon cancer! He had surgery and was to be out of hospital in three days. He developed major complications post-surgery and was in hospital almost two months! I saw him every day until there was a COVID outbreak so no visitors! He was so ill we almost lost him but with lots of prayers, he rallied back and was finally discharged from hospital. He required help when he came home so I moved in and looked after him for a week. He’s back to his old self again and living life like he did before. My dad is 85 and is my true hero!
Margo (best friend)
Her name is Margo and she is my best friend. We met in high school at age 16 and hit it off immediately. Perhaps the fact that we are both Scottish and called each other HEN played a part in our beautiful friendship. She is the kindest, most generous woman I have ever met, always going beyond the call of duty for her family and friends. She saw me through so many ups and downs in my life that I honestly believe that’s why I’m still here. She was able to laugh in the face of adversity. Everyone loved Margo! Unfortunately, I lost my “Maggie” a year ago. She lost her battle to cancer at the age of 66. She had recently retired. I know she is still with me; I feel her. I miss her and love her. Whenever I see a cardinal I always say, “Is that you Hen?” When the cardinal sings, I know it’s Margo saying, “Hello Hen!”
Joan came into my life when I was approximately 25. Joan met my father and they became a couple. My mother was also married to her second husband. As you can imagine, it is somewhat difficult to have family functions with parents that have remarried and all you want is everyone to attend and get along. Long story short, Joan was always very happy to come with or without my mother there. Joan and I became very close as the years have passed because she has always been non-judgemental and loving. She and my mother got along fine and we would often get together for lunch after my father passed. My mom was wonderful that way as well. Both my parents have now passed on and Joan continues to be my second mom and one of my closest friends. She made our family gatherings easy. I love her to bits.
When asked the question, “who is an important person in your life?” the person that immediately comes to mind is my Auntie Anne. My Auntie Anne has been there for me and my sisters for every milestone in our lives and has always fought hard to be there for us. In 2013, the afternoon before my sister's graduation, Anne had a doctor's appointment that revealed she needed to go to the hospital. She refused to miss her niece's graduation, so she dismissed the doctor telling her to go immediately, and drove 45 minutes to go to the graduation ceremony. That night she went to the hospital and eventually needed a kidney removal. I spent every weekend and most of my summers at Anne's house, she would take me to the movies and water parks, even trips to the grocery store were made fun when I was by her side. She was also the first person I ever flew on a plane with. She would be embarrassed about how much I'm gushing about her, but she is a truly amazing woman who has always been a supportive rock in my life and has shaped me into the person I am today. Her selflessness is admirable and I hope to carry that trait with me through my life.
My special person is my mother Claire. What can I say? She is the most incredible person I’ve ever known in my life. She has been an inspiration. I’ve watched her struggle through her health for the past 40 years. She’s a two-time survivor of cancer and continues to struggle with fibromyalgia. She has blessed my life in so many ways, through all of her struggles, she’s supporting me through all of mine, never complaining, always supporting. She’s always mentioned Johnny Reid, and his music helped her get through some rough times during COVID. When everything was shut down, I planned a special evening for us to watch a Johnny Reid special. It was a wonderful evening. She brings joy to my life every day. I don’t know where I would be without her. I would love to celebrate her and show her just a little bit of how much I love her and what she means to me.
My special person is Carolyn, my sister-in-law. My brother sure picked a good one in her. She is always kind, and giving and does for everyone. She works until physically exhausted, providing for her kids, step-kids, grandkids and all her pets. She has a couple of dogs and took in a couple of her daughter's cats. One day when she was at the park with one of the dogs, she came upon an abandoned puppy, born with only three legs, left in a box with a small pack of food. She picked him up, took him with her, and made a home for him that very day. Now the little guy scurries around the place like he pays the mortgage and the taxes! 🙂 Despite her love of biker week in Port Dover, she has the softest heart of anyone I know!
My brother Stephen, has Downs Syndrome but is always joyful, happy, and content. He is challenged, yes, and aware of not being like everyone else but he never lets that stand in his way! His is an exceptional example of living for and in the moment.
My father's mother came from Scotland in her early 20s. She had two girls and a boy at a young age. Her husband travelled for work and was overseas during the war. The fear and uncertainty that guided her daily existence are somehow unimaginable to me and my generation. Nowadays, we enjoy so many luxuries and time-saving, space-saving, gadgets, apps, and programs at this time. We barely sneeze and Siri is saying bless you for us! I never met Anne and Duncan – my fathers' parents. Anne died of breast cancer when my father was two and Duncan died when I was three. I did not know any of this until much later in life when my father reluctantly told the story. It saddened him to relate the loss and the emptiness he felt. Despite never meeting her, I feel my grandmother is one of my special people. She raised three children on her own and inspired and instilled in them the beliefs, traditions, and character she herself possessed. My aunts and father were strong, honest, caring people who garnered much love and respect during their time – all because of their mom, my grandmother. What Anne gave to them is an invaluable gift that was passed to me and to my kids.
I want to nominate one of my best buds and favourite superhero. As long as I’ve known him, this man has supported every last one of my hair-brained ideas – right down to leading a group of youth to Mexico to run summer camp for orphaned kids – multiple times. He cares for other humans in the most practical ways. I’ve seen him provide a home for a single mother and her littles, at his own expense. His reach goes well beyond his inner circle and he extends grace and kindness in every situation. He is the epitome of humility and authentic, unconditional love. He is someone who lives life out for others on the daily. He’s my dad – Steve!
When it comes to strength, determination and a mother’s unconditional love, my friend Mariam comes to mind. In 1989, this mother of six was faced with a mother’s worst nightmare when her youngest son suffered a life-altering stroke at the age of 9. Michael became paralyzed from the neck down as a result and Mariam now had to dedicate her life to caring for her son 24/7. In 2017, at the age of 37, Michael made the heart-wrenching decision to end his suffering by using the newly enacted MAID Act. However difficult it was, Mariam not only had to remain strong during her son’s life but also in his choice of death. She honoured his wishes and keeps his memory alive through his art, writing and his fight to honour the rights of those who wish to end their life with dignity.
The “Maggie” in my life is my mom, Susan. My mom is a giver and a caregiver, always there for family, friends, and community, sharing her time, love, and compassion. Growing up, I had the privilege of watching my mom care for immediate family along with cousins, elderly relatives, and children she babysat. As a teacher, I watched her guide and mentor children throughout her career, and to this day she tells me stories of meeting former students who greet her with a hug and share the impact she had on them. I was proud to follow in her footsteps, becoming an educator, and attempting to carry on her tradition of building supportive, lasting relationships with students. Mom is a model of what it means to give back. She volunteers at the local hospice and nursing home weekly. She shares her passion for reading with others by maintaining lending libraries in both facilities. My mom is also my biggest supporter and encourager. She is a proud grandma who looks forward to celebrating the latest milestones with her grandchildren. All of this while keeping in touch with longtime friends, assisting family members whenever they need help, and reading in her “spare time!”
This is about the special person in my life. This is the story about my daughter, who has made a huge impact in my life and has filled me with unconditional love. On January 6, 1985, my husband and I welcomed a new baby girl - Holly. She was the most beautiful baby! When she was two, her father died in a car accident. It was Holly and I against the world. It was a very sad and challenging time, but we made it through. I knew that by the time she was 3, she was going to be someone special. I enrolled her in a “Mom and Tots” program. They had activity tables set up and she insisted on finishing every project before she went on to the next. She was very organized from the beginning. When Holly was 9, she was diagnosed with scoliosis, her spine was starting to curve. We tried every alternative besides surgery. Nothing worked. By the time she was 13, she had back surgery. She recovered wonderfully, but it wasn’t easy.
She finished high school with honours and went on to university for mechanical engineering and business management (five years). At 21, Holly was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She was just ready to start her co-op summer student program at the company I worked at. She had the surgery and it was a long recovery, but she persevered and was determined to graduate from university, which she did. She then went on to do her masters in sciences, graduating with honours. She went on to work every summer at the company as a student and eventually worked there for three years full time. At 23, the thyroid cancer came back. It was so heartbreaking to watch her go through this again. We were devastated. But her strength and determination again shone through. During these troubling and challenging times, she lost two of her aunts (my sisters) to cancer. It’s been a tough journey for Holly and me, but we have supported each other over the tragedies.
Holly’s career, now, is amazing. She has worked so hard to excel in her professional life. She has worked in the Arctic at a diamond mine and now has moved back to Ontario where she has an amazing career. She has also married the most wonderful man on earth. Holly’s courage, determination, perseverance, and unconditional love are just amazing, beyond words. With everything she has gone through, it has made her the most special woman I’ve ever known with the biggest heart ever!