By Lynda Shadbolt
Published Oct. 15, 2019
Richard WAGAMESE (1955- 2017) was an Ojibway from the Wabaseemoong First Nation in Northwest Ontario who is recognized as a foremost First Nations author and storyteller. I am currently reading a book of his called Embers - One Ojibway’s Meditations. He has chapters and meditations dedicated to stillness, harmony, trust, reverence, persistence and joy.
As we approached Thanksgiving I read his chapter on gratitude. The book is inspiring and thought provoking. In one of the meditations on gratitude he suggests that it is the little things in life that we are most grateful for. Watching a sunset. A hug. A helping hand.
As I read the meditation I thought about Katherine Hodgson McMahon who recently passed away and how grateful I was that I met her. She will live on in the hearts of so many people in our county and beyond. She had the world’s biggest (seriously true) smile and loudest laugh and her generous heart supported many people in her lifetime. She had a family who she loved fiercely and talked about often to me. She had a long and full career of working with children and families and supporting them to improve their lives.
I first met Katherine when I moved to Haliburton and was fairly new in the community. I didn’t know many people and didn’t have a child at the time. In those years (early ’90s) my husband and I looked after our young nephews every summer to give my sister, who had recently divorced, a bit of a break and we also just like having the boys visit. The boys were very young and had a lot of energy and didn’t sleep well and constantly pushed the limits of what they could say and do with us.
One day in the first or second year of us having the boys, I was at my wits’ end with them and a neighbour suggested I take them to CHACE Place so they could play with other kids, and I could relax a bit. Off we went.
Partway through the day I was sitting at a table with a group of moms, and Katherine, when I burst into tears and proceeded to tell the group how worried I was about the boys. They seemed to be out of control to me. I was worried about them and their behaviour, and I was very concerned about their mother and how they would all get through this challenging time in their lives. I’ll never forget Katherine. She let me tell my story and listened and in the kindest way possible assured me that they would be fine because they have a family around them who loves them. She talked about how the love and the time with them would make a big difference in the long run. She shared research from that time period that indicated how one caring adult can make an impact in a child’s life. Katherine listened to me, reassured me, made me laugh and gave me a big hug as I left. I always remember that day. It shifted my focus from worry to hope and faith.
Katherine supported so many people; I know there is a lot of gratitude for her. Fast forward 25 years and my two nephews are living great lives in Vancouver and are happy. And so is my sister. And I am grateful for all of it.