For My Mother

Mom GraduationJanet Norgrove (08/05/54-02/12/16)

Dear Friends,

If life is a journey, then Janet began by walking early.

Born in El Dorado, Saskatchewan as an only child, as a toddler she lived in Edmonton and Toronto, where her father was very ill. When he had learned to walk again after his illness, his job as a mining accountant took them across the country. She lived in Ontario, on the Prairies, in Newfoundland and in the North, where she summered on Great Bear Lake, in Echo Bay.

Janet attended a dozen schools in as many years, enjoying learning even if she never found it exceptionally challenging. Her father eventually died after a long decline when Janet was fifteen. After struggling with illness and the financial challenges that accompany them, Janet and her mother (Lucille, d. 2001) moved to Wilmington, Delaware.

For a moment Janet’s feet stilled and the journeys that opened up before her were of a different sort. She spent her high school years in Delaware, exploring ideas and developing her appetite for books—she was a voracious reader until the end. The late 1960s and early 1970s were exciting intellectual times and Janet cut her political teeth on the civil rights issues of the day. It cost her a bra or two in protest, but during this time Janet set a trajectory for the life of learning and public service that would define much of her work in the 1980s.

Wilmington was also where Janet began lifelong friendships. Guy and Dorothy Palandrani were at first neighbours, but their house soon became a second home. There, growing up with their children, Janet found new strengths—strengths that set her feet to journeying after an underwhelming semester at the University of Delaware. It was in the mildly Bohemian years that followed that she met Dana Dickieson in Hamilton, Ontario. He was the love of her life, and together they moved to his family farm in New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island.

Mom & Dad in field_editedJanet and Dana were married in 1974 and she took the world by storm. Janet began to get involved in the social issues in her community in creative ways. After attending the University of Prince Edward Island as a young mother (BBA, 1984), she turned to progressive politics. Janet was truly a trailblazer, helping to introduce the New Democratic Party to Islanders by running federally in 1984 and provincially in 1986. She was the first woman to run for the PEI NDP and was instrumental in changing the way Canadians understood their relationship with politics.

With the birth of William “Riel” Norgrove Dickieson in 1987, Janet turned from public life to a renewed engagement with the Island’s private sector. There was tragedy, then, that stilled all our feet. On a cold February day in 1990, with Tina and Brenton at each side, she buried her beloved Riel and Dana.

The road goes ever on, and after supporting her children through high school, Janet loaded up her little Dodge and went west. She finally settled in Calgary, where she spent much of the next decade as CEO of the Western Stock Growers. Her home in Calgary became a second space for both Tina and Brenton, who had made southern Alberta home for a little while.

The east called again. Brenton and his family returned to Charlottetown, PEI, and Janet settled in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Soon Tina found her way there too, establishing a family of her own. Janet managed a prominent university research project, and created a community of friends and family – most important of these her two grandsons, Nicolas (age 11) and Hunter (15 months). These were strong years for our family, and once again Janet’s little apartment was a sanctuary, and included Janet’s daughter-in-law (Kerry) and son-in-law (Jerry).

For us children, and for others, Janet was the first feminist in our lives, the first teacher, a great risk-taker, a committed activist in whatever she chose to do. She was fierce in love and debate and friendship, able to carry a great weight of pain through her life and to finish that journey in a way that was a powerful testimony to everyone in her life. She faltered at times. Somehow, though, she found strength to continue on, often leading others on a path she did not know.

Cancer is its own journey, and sometimes a destination. Eventually, it was cancer that brought us all to Janet’s bedside at St. Martha’s hospital. We were celebrating, as we often did on a night when we could gather. We sprang for the $18 wine, this time, and local beer, and take-out that filled the ward with smells of garlic and curry. We tilted beer bottles and lifted wine glasses and paper cups to Janet’s life. And while we were celebrating, she tried to slip out without us noticing, journeying on to whatever comes next. It was her way, after all.

We are sad that we will not be able to journey with Janet anymore, but glad that she made the trip worth it, and was with us when she could.

Brenton and Tina

There will be a service for the family at a later date.

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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44 Responses to For My Mother

  1. God be with you during this time of separation in all the Love you have shared.
    “There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it.
    At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it.
    It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve – even in pain – the authentic relationship.
    Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation.
    But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.” [Dietrich Bonhoeffer]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Barb Marsh says:

    That was beautiful tribute to your mom. Prayers


  3. Karen says:

    I am very sorry for your loss. Sadly, cancer follows its own rules. 😦
    Your beautifully worded and honest blog post is priceless, honouring your mother more than any award could ever do.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Poi si torno all eternal fontana
    Love to you and your loved ones Brenton
    Cheers to the ‘joy inside my tears’ ~stevie wonder


  5. robstroud says:

    A very tender testimony. My prayers will be with your family. I too lost my mother to that malevolent disease.

    But, oh, the promise of the Resurrection. It does comfort…


  6. Craig Gallaway says:

    Thanks Brenton. A fine tribute. Blessings. CG

    Liked by 1 person

  7. traildustfotm says:

    Brenton, I am sorry to read this. You and your Mom and her loved ones will be in my prayers. Heaven gained a new resident, but earth lost somebody special.


  8. What a lovely tribute, Brent. She would be proud, I feel sure, of what you shared. Praying for you during this time.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I feel inclined to add that I clicked through your other posts — somehow suspecting that I would learn why your mother buried her husband and child. I found the explanation. But, oh, my, what another special gift I found: the revelation of your father’s great sacrifice (the greatest of all, it turns out) and the very moving journey you took to figure that out and to make many other connections that you took the time (and words) to share. What a gift that is to me!


  10. Baynes, Leslie A says:

    Brenton, I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your mother. What a lovely tribute! It was a privilege to read this.

    Leslie Baynes
    Associate Professor
    New Testament and Second Temple Judaism
    Department of Religious Studies
    Missouri State University
    901 S. National Ave.
    Springfield, MO 65897


  11. Wayne Stauffer says:

    so sorry to hear of your loss. she’s just a few days older than my wife my prayers for you to feel God’s comfort

    wayno Sent from my iPad



  12. May I also offer my sorrow for your loss. You wrote a beautiful tribute to her and I hope (as I did last year) that the writing of it was of some help to you. We owe so much to our parents and, if we are honest, we come to realise that in raising us they had to react to things that happened much of the time. Clearly that was true in your mother’s life and she had to do so much of it alone. May she rest in peace and may light perpetual shine upon her.


    • Dear Stephen, I knew that you had suffered in this way last year. This time wears on me a bit, but I am not overwhelmed. It explains why I have a response unfulfilled to something you wrote about one of my posts–Lindskoog or my Hobbit’s theology (probably the latter).
      Thank you for the blessing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t worry about the response. My comment was on your excellent pub lecture and the discussion after. I will refer to it when I write my last post on Book 4 of LOTR next week and a farewell (for a time) to Frodo and Sam. The blessing will go with my prayers in the days ahead.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. thegatheringfire says:

    I’m truly sorry for your loss. Prayers for your family during this time of heartache. This was a beautiful and touching tribute.


  14. Heather Jewers says:

    Dear Tina and Brenton,
    I am so sorry to hear about your mother’s passing! I can only imagine how heartbroken you must be in facing her loss! I feel very fortunate to have known her and worked with her over the past several years. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Brenton, I feel as though I know him as she spoke of you both often. It was clear that she loved you both dearly, and took great delight in her grandchildren! I loved her drive, her wicked sense of humor, zest for life, and she had the best laugh ever! I will miss her.
    My sincere sympathy to you both at this sad time,
    Heather Jewers


  15. Mokarrom Hossain says:

    I am very sorry for your loss. Your mother was a great helping person. She was our project manager at CLI. I will never forget her support at the beginning of my journey at StFX. She will be in my prayer.

    It was a nice tribute.


  16. L.A. Smith says:

    So sorry to hear of your loss. Prayers for you and your family in this grieving time. May God uphold and comfort you, and bring you His peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. L. Palmer says:

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts on your mother. She seems an incredible woman who worked to make the world a better place. People like her have a greater impact than we can ever know.


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