Judique homecoming

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that many fine editors had struggled to improve Contrarian’s prose over the years. One of these was Jo-Anne MacDonald, a journalist of cool discernment and unflagging commitment who edited my columns in the Port Hawkesbury Reporter and the Halifax Daily News.

Jo-Anne now works at the National Post, today’s edition of which carries her lovely story about  76-year-old Lella Dubuque of Walpole, Mass. Last year, doctors diagnosed Lella with inoperable cancer, and many rounds of chemotherapy failed to arrest the disease.

Her son Michael urged her to get a second opinion and to make her annual trip to her childhood home on Cape Breton Island.

Every summer but three since 1953, Lella has returned to the three-storey, towering white clapboard house by a brook in Judique, a rural community hugging the western coast of the island. She was born in the house with windows of wavy glass, walls of Douglas fir, and a wood stove burning in June out of necessity…

They arrived in July. Lella’s brother had opened the house. A cousin had scattered vases of wildflowers, Lella’s favourite, about the rooms. Her twin brothers flew in from Windsor, Ont. Her son Mark came from Kentucky.

Over the course of a week, more than 100 people came to see her in what has been described as a living wake. They exchanged old stories and brought her rosary beads, prayer cards, holy oil, even blessed salt. Lella assured anyone who asked about her illness that she was “looking forward to the journey” and to being with her relatives in Heaven.

Judique’s parish priest, Father Allan MacMillan, performed what was once known as the Last Rites, but is now more optimistically called the Sacrament of the Sick. Afterward, the family gathered on the veranda with a bottle of wine and Lella asked Fr. Allan, a Gaelic singer, for a song.

I won’t spoil the ending. Read the whole story here. Hat tip: Doug MacKay.