A Good Home, Faith, Friendship, Legacy

What We Leave Behind

One fine spring day, my husband  and I drove by the old farmhouse his family once owned. We were so amazed by what we saw that he stopped the car. The two “small” weeping willows he planted decades ago at the front of the property were now sprawling giants.

At the top of the driveway, to the left, towered a beautiful light blue pine, almost as tall as the house. It glistened in the sunshine, its colour even more breathtaking now than when we first planted it. 

Subsequent owners had preserved these trees, but removed many others that we’d planted. 

It made me think of legacy. What we leave behind. What others deem worthy, and what they don’t.

There are the usual possessions, of course. The dwelling, the furniture, the coin collection, the lovely dishes.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea pink cup and saucer

Things we acquire.  And even the trees we plant.

But the older one gets, the more we realize that it’s often the intangibles that are our true legacy.  The love, understanding and support we gave to others. The doors we unlocked so others could walk through, the actions we took to comfort or strengthen others during rough times.  

And even how we say goodbye.

~~

Jeni Rankin lived in Scotland. I met her through her blog (The Hopeful Herbalist). We shared a love for family and nature. Her prose, poetry and photos radiated beauty,  tranquility and a caring spirit. We became blogger friends and penpals. 

It was when my husband got critically ill a few years ago — and Jeni kept in touch with us through her letters and prayers — that I realized where some of that tranquility and caring came from. Jeni’s faith was strong.

Last year came her cancer diagnosis. It must have knocked her sideways, but she continued to inspire those around her. Husband Ian, their children, relatives and friends — and even far-away penpals like me. 

She wrote a final letter last year. There is such grace, faith and love in it, and every time I read it, I thank Jeni for these words she left behind for us. With her family’s approval I share it here, hoping her words will uplift and inspire others too:

Dearest family and friends, I just wanted to say ‘Thank you’ each and every one of you for the small acts of  gladness you have showered on me and the family. Each one a token of love and prayers poured out for us.

*** Warning – this might make you sad ***

Many of us never get a chance to say ‘Goodbye’ so I just want to take a little time right now and say Goodbye and thank you for the memories, your friendship and fellowship. Shared meals, parties, weddings, births and inevitably funerals. Live everyday well, with gladness in your hearts. Seize the Day!

“Stand at the crossroads and look;

ask for the Ancient paths

ask where the good way is, and walk in it,

and you will find rest to your souls.”

Jeremiah 6:16 

Death is a mystery, and we know it comes to each of us but our faith has carried us to this juncture with your wonderful support and love.

“Death is not the end; it is only a new beginning.

Death is not the master of the house; 

he is only the porter in the King’s lodge, 

appointed to open the gate and let

the King’s guest into the realms of eternal day.'”

John Henry Jowett (1864 -1925)

We live in a random world filled with random acts. A few random acts with my DNA and a few, miscreant cancer cells have always been one step ahead of treatment. It’s cancer hidden in plain sight, right there in the mouth, so please keep an eye on your mouth and take regular dental checks.

Meanwhile I try to live each day as I can with a smile, with grace and joy in my heart. My hope for you is that you too will live every day ‘until breath becomes air…’

AND I get to choose my music for the funeral. (NO, not “Ding, dong the witch is dead!) I want one of those great hymns that speak volumes in a few words. If any of you musicians want to bring your instrument; feel free!😅   .. We have just spent some time with Pastor Nick discussing the arrangements. There will be a committal at Monkton Natural Cemetery before a service in church followed by a tea to which you are all warmly invited. We intend to sing Abide with me at the committal, please bring your instruments. My family confess that music is not their best strength! 

“Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;

Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.

Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;

In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”

Thank you  for all the lovely flowers too  but if you wish to make a donation on behalf of http://www.letstalkaboutmouthcancer.co.uk/ to allow them to continue their work promoting self examination and information  about oral cancer please do…

But now I need to rest, just want to leave a lovely song for you too…

 

Now may the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace, as you trust in Him, 

with much love, 

Jeni xoxoxoxox

 

 

 

 

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A Good Home, Faith, Family, Family Moments, FEar, Life Challenges, Life in canada, Love, Words

NO WORDS

There are no words.

*

One speaks to God in frightened silence

Broken only by jagged breath.

One reaches for faith

And reaches again.

*

Before faith,  the lurch in the belly.

The gasp from the chest.

The hurt in the heart.

And sighs too deep for words.

*

Shock. Denial.  Floundering.

The waves of fear, threatening to drown.

We must not drown.

We search for a fixed point.

*

The heart glimpses the rock

Rising up from the water.

The rock shines with promise.

Strong, fixed and charcoal-dark.

*

The deep water swirls and obscures

So confident in its massive power.

It carries threats of death and echoes of loss.

And loud whispers of nevermore.

*

Quick now: shut it out.

Do not give it the power it craves.

Focus instead on the fixed point.

Look again and find the rock.

*

There are no words.

I speak to God in silence and jagged breath.

My arms thrash, thrash and thrash

And touch solid stone.

*

I hold on, hold on

Fight to hold on to its solid-ness

The waves of fear, and drowning waters

Are all around.

*

One thrashes and fights

And struggles with all one’s might.

And speaks to God, in silence and jagged breath:

Let my beloved live.

*

Let him live.

Let us get to the hospital in time.

Let the doctors and nurses know what to do.

Please let my beloved live.

**

A Good Home, Architecture, Barns, Bond Head, Bond Head Harbour, Canada, Canadian History, Canadian life, Children, Country Homes, Country Living, Faith, Family Stories, Grieving, Heritage Homes, historic neighborhoods, Home, Homes

To Everything, A Season – Pt. 5, Ebor House series

*

*SPOILER ALERT: You may wish to read Pt. 4 before this one.*

**

My ancestors had a saying when asked why some of their relatives had married first cousins:

“Cousin and cousin make good soup.”

The Farncomb family must have made a lot of good soup. 

Frederick married his cousin Jane.

Son John married his cousin — another Jane.

Younger son Alfred married his cousin Hannah.

But let’s go back to 1867.

**

Frederick inherited money from his uncle Thomas Farncomb, the wealthy Lord Mayor of London, England. He and Jane bought more land in Bond Head, and hired a Toronto architect to draw up the plans.

The house was built in 18 months, between 1868 and 1869.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Front 2

Three of the Farncomb sons – William, John and Frederick Edward – became Anglican priests.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Anglican church in Fenelon Falls

Blog Photo - Ebor House Rev. Farncomb in church

Two others – Alfred and Thomas – became doctors.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Entrance

Alfred became a popular and influential general practitioner in the Newcastle area. His wife Hannah appears to have helped him with the record-keeping. Hannah was a skillful host of weddings and other special gatherings at Ebor House. She was also the organist at the family church (St. George’s Anglican) for 40 years.

**

In 1895, John, who’d been posted to various Anglican churches in Ontario, returned home to St. George’s as the Reverend Canon John Farncomb…. a nice step up from being an ordinary priest. He was a well-respected rector.

Blog Photo - Ebor House - B and W photo of St. George's

He’d married cousin Jane in 1880 and they had five children.  Two sons, Frederick Charles and John Robson, went to Trinity College, a private school in nearby Port Hope that previous Farncombs had attended.

In the summer of 1901, the boys were 16 and 18 years old. They were home for the holidays.

There was a nice sandy beach at Bond Head, and it was a popular spot for both adults and young people alike. I imagine that the boys could hardly wait to put down their school stuff, shuck off their uniforms and go to the nearby lake for a swim. They did that often that summer.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Entrance lookign to lawn 3

But August 11 was different. Frederick Charles and his brother John did not return home that day. 

Both drowned in Lake Ontario.

Blog Photo - Ebor House and Bond Head harbour

It was as if the world had come crashing down on the Farncombs.

**

Parents who’ve experienced it will tell you that the worst thing that can happen is to lose a child.

John and Jane lost not one, but two children in one day.

Two beloved sons gone.

And now, John and Jane were expected to grieve, but carry on.

Perhaps onlookers thought that a priest and his wife would have some special way of coping with tragedy. Perhaps they thought that with three priests and two doctors in the family, everything would be alright.

Everything was not alright.

**

St. George's Anglican

The boys died in August 1901, and John, Jane and the remaining children  left St. George’s Church before the year was over. He served at another parish for several years.

How did they cope?

One imagines that they tried hard to get over the loss.

That they tried to rely on each other and their families and on their faith.

But Jane fell apart, and, in his own way, so did John. She died in 1914, broken, and he followed three years later.

**

In the century that followed the boys’ deaths, momentous events took place in the world.

Blog Photo - Ebor House - Normany Landing

The first and second world wars, in which many young Canadians fought.

The great depression.

A man landing on the moon.

The cold war between the west and Russia.

And these were just a few.

Blog Photo - Ebor House

Ebor House lived through them all. Life went on.

Despite the tragedy, Ebor House  continued to be “home” to Farncomb descendants. It appears to have been a wonderful home, full of activity inside and out.

Alfred’s daughter Helen married Reginald Le Gresley and, from the huge barn, they operated Newcastle Dairy. It produced 1,000 quarts of milk each week.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Newcastle Dairy  Bottle

The whole Le Gresley family worked in the dairy, adults and children alike.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Barns and hydrangea

There was a creek nearby for fishing. A beach for swimming.

Parents who worked in the barn behind the family house.

And neighborhood children to play with.

**

The records show that Frederick Farncomb died in 1893. His wife Jane died in 1905.

Blog Photo - Ebor House F Farncomb

The house passed to their son Alfred, then to Helen, Alfred’s daughter, then to Helen’s son Balfour. He was the last Farncomb to own Ebor House. He sold the house to Ron.

Blog Photo - Ebor House ron sits on table

Not much is written or said about John and Jane Farncomb in the public sphere.  Years after their deaths, one or more Farncomb descendants had a memorial stone made for the couple.

The wording is one of the most moving I’ve ever read.

Photo by Laura
Photo by Laura

“Heartbroken on drowning of sons Frederick and John Farncomb.” 

**

Next: The Series ends with another twist.

A Good Home, Country Homes, Country Living, Country roads, Faith, Family, Following your dreams, Frederick Farncomb, Fruit trees, Gardens, Heritage Homes, historic neighborhoods, Home, Home Decor, Homes, Life in canada

Joyful Times at Ebor House – Pt. 4 in the Ebor House series

You don’t really own an old house: you take care of it for the next generation.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Room over kitchen

That’s what Ron has done. And as we walked through the rooms of his home, I felt his deep connection to it.

Blog Photo - Ebor House curved staircase

Blog Photo - Ebor House Daughter's Bedroom

“I ‘get’ the house,” he said. “And I also feel a connection with the family who lived here.”

“What’s the spirit of this home like?” I asked.

Blog Photo - Ebor House ron sits on table

“The house is very nurturing. Not just for me, but also my friends who visit. It’s a very nurturing home.”

Blog Photo - Ebor House Ron pats Bebo

“But there were also tragedies”, I said. “Doesn’t that affect the house’s vibe?”

Ron replied: “Most old houses have seen tragedy. But this was also a very happy home. Over the years there were births, christenings, weddings, dinner parties, children playing, picnics on the lawns…  And I feel that joy here.”

**

Acres of land surrounded the Farncomb family home. Fruit, berries and vegetables grew in their garden in the early to mid-1900’s.

I imagine summer days at Ebor House. Children sent to pick cherries and having fun doing it….

Blog Photo - Bond Head Kids cherry-picking at Newcstle

Adults picking raspberries a bit more intently….

Blog Photo - Bond Head people Raspberry picking

A family member trying to teach the pet dog new tricks.

check credit for this photo
B & W Photos from the Jack Gordon and Cecil Carveth collections, Newcastle Village and District Historical Society

And I imagine wedding parties.

A newspaper story about a wedding at Ebor House in the 1890’s said:

Blog Photo - Ebor House Front 2

After the service, which was performed by the rector, the Rev. Canon Farncomb, the wedding party were entertained at a dejeuner given by the bride’s sister, Mrs. Alfred Farncomb, wife of Newcastle’s popular physician.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Living room reverse

“… The bride was a picture in her traveling costume of broadcloth, the chapeau stitched and trimmed with grey wings and tie to match. The wedding presents were costly and numerous. A great deal of silver came from friends in England.

“Among the gifts was a massive loving cup, lined with gold, upon which was engraved the family crest, it being an heirloom for many generations: a solid silver teapot, tables, dessert and tea spoons, a silver soup tureen from Dr. and Mrs. Tom Farncomb (Trenton) , a handsome china dinner set from Dr. and Mrs. Alfred Farncomb (Newcastle).”

Blog Photo - Ebor House dining Room4

And another story about another Farncomb wedding:

Blog Photo - Ebor House and Church Entrance

“….There were vases of pink and white carnations and antirrhinum on the altar and the coloured rays of the afternoon sun streaming through the stained glass windows of nave and chancel made the scene one of entrancing loveliness. ….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…The bride, given in marriage by her uncle… wore a princess dress of white satin brocaded with lilies of the valley in velvet. She wore a long net veil and carried a bouquet of white lilies and carnations. She wore a gold locket, a gift of the groom….

A reception was held at Ebor House, ancestral home of the bride’s maternal forbears.”

Blog Photo - Ebor House Entrance lookign to lawn 3

Faith and family were important to the Farncombs. Church was a family-affair. Frederick and Jane’s son John was the rector at St. George’s,  Alfred taught Sunday school, and Alfred’s wife Hannah was the church organist.

But no family is immune to tragedy. Despite all the success and influence, all the joyful family events, all the involvement with their church,  the Farncombs also experienced heartbreaking sorrow.

**

Next: An event that tested even the strongest faith.