In Newfoundland today is known as Tibb’s eve. It is a layover of the old Irish Gaelic as best as I can discover.It was an expression meaning a day that would never arrive. Expression’s like "I’ll pay you back on Tibb’s eve," are cited as examples of usage of this phrase. As people waited so long for Christmas I guess that makes some sense. Some feel the origin is ‘Tipsy Eve’ and it was so called as the men in the communities would try each other’s homebrew before Christmas to make sure and certain it was good stuff.. This theory has merit as well. Either way I know the day as Tibb’s Eve.
The day has some significance for me as it is the day on which my dear Maternal Grandmother died in 1992. I think my Nan, Winnie Whyatt was almost 86 when she died. She neither longed for big days and she never got tipsy so I really don’t know if there is any significance to her departing from us on Tibb’s eve or not. I do know what a painful time that was 14 years ago. We were separated from my Grandmother by about 500 kilometers. Mom and Dad and I had been with her for the few days prior to her death which was a result of the trauma of a broken hip. It was an awful winter in Newfoundland that year, and it snowed every day as we drove the road from Springdale where my grandmother was living to Corner Brook where she was in hospital (about 200 km). After a few days of those trips were all tired. It was hard to make the trip, but even harder when we were there as we watched her slip away. I’ll forever know when I am ministering to families who are struggling like this at this time of year what this is like. I have been there.
I still remember the call in the early morning hours of December 23 to my Aunt Willowdeen and Uncle Winston Churchill’s house. She was gone. That day I lost the only Grandmother I knew. I lost a woman who had displayed to me and to all who knew her a tremendous faith. I lost my Nan. A woman of great strength, she lived her faith as a member of the Salvation Army. She became a solider and was dedicated to the fire and blood witness of the SA and its mission. She never missed a meeting and she always lived her faith, not just at the Sunday night meetings. Nan was a strong example of seeking to find good in all people and she lived her life as a ministry. She was tender, compassionate and kind. Life was not always easy for her, but she worked hard through all of it and never lost faith. She was seamstress, a cook and baker (her pastries were the best). I miss her a lot. I have never come upon a Tibb’s eve that she has not been a big part of my day.
Nan’s funeral was on Boxing Day. I was tasked with giving a ‘tribute.’ (I did a funeral a few weeks ago where three grandchildren got up and spoke about their grandmother – my heart melted. I have been there.) The plan was for some of my siblings to make the 500 km trek to be at Nan’s funeral. It was not that easy. When I woke on Christmas day and peered out the window the snow had not let up. I knew that it would be difficult for my brothers and sisters to be there. It was going to be me with Mom and Dad. I still recall the conversation that I had with my sister Helen by telephone that Christmas Morning. Mostly she talked, and I sobbed. I so missed my family. It was the first Christmas we were not together and it was at the worst of circumstances. She confirmed that the weather was probably going to mean that she along with my other sister and my brothers would not get there.
Boxing Day came, and we journeyed to the citadel for the funeral. I was so sick with nerves. How could I speak to this great woman wnd who she was. Words could not express what Nan meant to me. The greatest Christmas miracle came right before the funeral. My two sisters came through the doors of that citadel and I was so overcome with relief I cannot describe it. Helen and Elaine and their husbands Gary and Jack (my Godfathers) left there homes at 5 in the morning and drove through snow to be there. It gave us all a lift. I still remember the look of relief on Mom’s face. They will never know how much what they did that day meant to me. I learned in that very moment how important family can be. We all need family to give us support when we need it. I knew how very much the rest of my family were with us all in spirit and I knew how much they all wanted to be there was well. When Helen and Elaine arrived that day it was as if all of my siblings arrived. They brought all of the love and prayers from home to us. Today I pray for all who face death and dying during the Christmas holiday. I pray for all who are facing their first Christmas without a loved one.
Nan will be with me today as she is on so many days. I will go to houses today offering home communion to those who will not be able to get out for Christmas services. Nan will be in communion with me as I offer the sacrament. I will use her Bible to read the Christmas story to the shut-ins today. I lost my Nan in 1992, but she has been with in so many ways me since she departed this life. This very moment is an example. Hear this –
I sat down to write this blog and was reading about Tibb’s eve when Catherinanne called and asked a question. “Is this now the 23rd of December?” Upon my response “yes,” she said “I have something to give you and I cannot wait till morning.” It is probably the sweetest thing she has ever done for me. It is a statue/doll of a Salvation Army Solder in her uniform with the Christmas Kettle. I cannot say enough how much this means to me. Firstly because I know that Nan was with us in that moment. It was as if Catherinanne knew what I was doing, knew that I was sitting here about to offer a little piece of my Grandmother to the worldwide web. Secondly, this little gift which I am told is from my dear mother as well, will remind me every time I look at it of a person who shaped in no small way much of my faith.
I think I’ll go to bed now. I hope I dream of Nan. I think I’ll read a passage or two from her bible and the cover up in one of her handmaid quilts. These things are not large, but they serve as reminders of a great witness of faith. I now have another reminder in this wonderful figurine – thank you Mom – and Thank You Catherinanne, you have made my Christmas!
An Addendum Sat at 10:10 AM
My Salvation Army solder and Kettle sit on my desk as witness to a part of what instructed my faith. This will giv eme many opportunity over the next day or so to witness about my Nanny. In reading bible last night I found this clipping –
‘If we could see, if we could know’
We often say.
But God in love a veil doth throw
Across our way.
We cannot see what lies before
And so we cling to God the more
God leads us till this life is o’er
Then – endless day.
Thank you Nan Whyatt