In 1952 our mom immigrated to Canada from The Netherlands with our grandmother and 2 uncles. She left behind our dad, who she was dating at the time. A year later he followed her to Canada and they married in July 1953. 9 ½ months later Lena was born on April 22, 1954 in Toronto. She was named Magdalena Cornelia Wilhelmina Meskes. That’s quite the name, but she was lucky to get a short form and be called Lena. A few years later Lena and my parents moved to Willowdale. Lena became an older sister three times as she welcomed her siblings John, Tim and Lory. With parents who had just immigrated, Lena’s first language was Dutch. When she went to kindergarten she had to learn English. Lena enjoyed art and music and was not very fond of Math.
In 1975, at the age of 21, Lena got her own apartment in Willowdale. Lena held various secretarial jobs but found the job that she loved when she worked for the Children’s Aid Society. She occasionally went to pick up babies and look after them briefly at the office. She loved that. While living in Willowdale, Lena attended The People’s Church where she played the violin in the church orchestra. She played for the Living Christmas Tree performance for a number of years and this was a highlight for her. In 1988 Lena became an aunt for the first time, a title that she was proud to have. 6 more times after that, the group was completed with Alyssa, Andrew, Evan, Sierra, Sarah, Emma and Rachel. In 1989, Lena decided that she wanted to take the big step of home ownership and moved to Cambridge where she purchased her house that she loved so much. Lena was very handy and did many of the renovations herself including tiling the bathtub wall and floor and laying laminate flooring in the hallway and kitchen. She also redid the exterior in vinyl siding and built a covered deck in the back. While Lena was handy with the tools, she was not so handy in the kitchen. She didn’t enjoy cooking or cleaning up. At our family Christmas dinner, our mom had an idea. She decided that we would pick a name out of the hat to see who had to help with the dishes. The first year we did this, Lena’s name got picked and she grumbled a bit but went in the kitchen and helped. The second year, her name was picked again. This time she said "me again, what rotten luck". I’m wondering if my mom ever let her in on the joke that every paper in the hat had Lena’s name on it.
One thing we all know about Lena is that she lived by the phrase Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Lena could make a car last longer than anyone I know. Lena’s first car was a Chevette that she had for about 20 years. In 1994 she bought her second car, her beloved green Ford Aspire. That little car lasted her 23 years and she finally replaced it last year. She was so proud to say that it was the last 1994 Aspire on the road in Canada. Reuse was certainly something that Lena lived by. Her neighbours knew that things that are their trash, Lena would turn it into a treasure. She certainly had some amazing creativity to repurpose unwanted items. When the cover of a binder was no longer in good shape, she took both the front and back off and hung just the binding with the rings in the closet to hold her scarves and belts. There wasn’t much that Lena couldn’t reuse, but if she couldn’t, I’m sure she would recycle it because she had about 10 recycling boxes in the back yard.
Cambridge proved to be a great place for Lena to move to, as that is where she met her long time love Horst Marschall. After a few years of dating, Horst moved in ... not into Lena’s house, but close. In fact, right across the road from her. Together Lena and Horst had 2 cats Monty and Patch, even though they lived at his house. Lena never had children, but when she talked about Monty, everyone thought it was her baby. She would talk about taking him to the store and how he would sit in the shopping cart. We always had to check that she was still talking about a cat. Lena and Horst did everything together and he was a great addition to our family. Sadly in 2012 Horst passed away. As Lory discussed with Lena her own service plans over the past several months, she was clear that Horst’s memory book that Lory had made for her, had to be there. A favourite place of Lena’s was Langs, a local community centre. Horst and Lena attended together for many years. They attended programs together and volunteered there as well. Up until her illness started, Lena attended the woman’s group as well. She really enjoyed the programs and the ladies who attended and this was a great social place for her.
As most of us know, a big love of Lena’s was the St. Jacob’s market. She started working there for a vendor selling apples, then shoe shining and then moved to a booth to sell Thentix products. She did a great job for the owner and sales increased significantly. When the owner decided he didn’t want to continue at the Market, Lena decided to open her own business and manage everything herself. She was so proud of this accomplishment and said that she was achieving one of her life’s dreams. She was a great sales person and did very well running this business. She enjoyed talking to all the people at the market and meeting new people every day. Lena was very passionate about the water filter program at Samaritan’s purse and always had a coin collection bottle at her booth that people could drop a few coins to help, even if they didn’t need any of her product. She regularly collected up all the coins and sent them off to purchase another new filter to give a community clean water. Lena also volunteered with Samaritans purse to put together the Christmas shoe boxes for the children.
Back around the year 2000, our mom convinced Lena to go with her to the Guelph Bible Conference for the "Young at Heart" retreat. Even though Lena was actually still young at more than her heart, she agreed to go to this senior’s week. She enjoyed it so much that she went every year after that. The week before ending up in the hospital, Lena had just completed a week of camp. Lena was so passionate about many things, but her greatest love was the love for the Lord. She attended Forward Baptist Church for 17 years and then moved to Faith Church after Horst passed away. Having a church family meant lots of people to gather, worship, socialize and engage with. When Lena became ill at the beginning of July last year, it was her faith and support of her church family that helped her stay positive. Lena had a long and rough road over the last 11 months including 2 brain surgeries, 12 hospital transfers, chemo, radiation, rehab and many stays in the ICU, but she never complained. We all admired her optimism and how positive she was. She just kept saying that she didn’t have to cook or do the dishes, so all was good. Lena had so much more she wanted to do here, but when you know the alternative is to be in heaven reunited with Horst and our parents, she didn’t think it was a bad alternative. So today we celebrate her 63 years of life and all that she had accomplished and enjoyed and take comfort in knowing that she is home.