Sunday, September 11, 2011

Margaret Tanner's Unsung Heroine

I have no picture to post with this. There are no newspaper cuttings, no articles in magazines or books. Few even know this lady’s story.

Born in a family ravaged by the Great War (1914 -1918), her father had his lungs poisoned by mustard gas in France in 1917. He returned to his farm, but never recovered, thus dying young and leaving a widow with 8 children to struggle on alone. Where were the male relatives, the uncles and brothers who might have helped the bereaved family? Sadly, the battlefields of France and Belgium had taken their lives or their health.

For years this unsung heroine, with the help of an older sister, milked 40 cows in the morning, then they rode their bicycles 8 miles into the nearest town to work, and after they returned home in the evening, they milked 40 cows again and did other farm chores. Needless to say, they handed their weekly pay packets, unopened, to their mother.

Years passed, and when the younger siblings were old enough to help, things became easier. The lady was able to enjoy a social life.

 As the black clouds of World War II hovered overheard, she became engaged to a young man before he marched off to war. And she waited, like thousands of other women, for her man to return, stoically working in the munitions factory and helping with the war effort.  Soon the love letters stopped, her soldier was listed as Missing In Action, believed Prisoner Of War. For two years she didn’t know whether he was alive or dead, but finally the news came. He had escaped his captors.

On his return home they married, had three children and settled into suburbia. Money was tight, but having been trained at a young age to be frugal, she managed to keep things going, and all was well.

But fate had another cruel card to play. A slow moving muscle wasting disease. But did she give up? No. She enjoyed her children and grandchildren, took holidays with her husband and did charity work. All the while, this hideous disease spread it’s ugly tentacles throughout her body, sapping her strength, but never breaking her spirit.

After her husband died, she stayed in her own home for a few more years.  The disease spread, hungry and evil, it could not be stopped.  Finally, when she could no longer walk, she bravely set about finding a suitable nursing home.

Thankfully, she died before she had to leave her beloved home and cherished memories.

How do I know all of this? The lady was my Mum.

My message to everyone is – cherish your mother while you can, because the world is a sad and lonely place without her.

Please raise your cyber glasses of champagne, and drink a toast to yet another unsung heroine.


Laura Breck said...

What a beautiful story, Margaret. I'm amazed at how strong she was, how many obstacles she overcame. You were lucky to have such an amazing woman in your life. I bet you're a lot like her...

Brenda Whiteside said...

A heartfelt post, Margaret. A woman to admire.

Jerri Hines/Carrie James-Haynes said...

Lovely story. Thank you for sharing it.

Jannine Gallant said...

I loved hearing you mom's story. What a strong, amazing woman. Thanks for sharing, Margaret!

Alison H. said...

Amazing! Your mum gives a whole new meaning to the word "unsinkable", and I love the story of her soldier coming home after such a long, agonizing wait.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Laura, Brenda, Jerri, Jannine and Allison,
Thank you so much for dropping by. Glad you enjoyed reading my mum's story. I only wish I had half as much fortitude and determination as she had.
I doubt we will see the likes of her generation again.


Vonnie Davis said...

What a lovely trubute to your mother. She taught volumes by her silent, shining example. How lucky you were to have her.

Margaret Tanner said...

Thank you Vonnie,
I have to say I was proud to be able to call her my mum. Not that she would have wanted any accolades, of course. She was a very modest, unassuming lady.