By Susan Weisenberger
The bear is a great Canadian symbol of strength and perseverance. It is not very often that you find an older lady with a tattoo but Gracie wears this small symbol on her left wrist with pride. She has a great love and respect for Mother Nature. The bear seems to speak to a life that has suffered and has endured with a smile and good will. Gracie claims her home is filled with bears – and she loves each and everyone! She called herself a bear in the buckwheat and I was eager to discover exactly what that meant to her.
Gracie Sutherland has seen and experienced a lot of this great country of ours. Her father was Wing Commander in the Air Force and then worked as an early Bush Pilot. Later he flew with Canadian Airways and Canadian Pacific Airlines. Back in that day companies were not so concerned about keeping families together and so Gracie spent much of her young life separated from her parents. She lived in Prince Albert, Vancouver, Davidson SK, Regina, Montreal, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Although Gracie did not often find herself in happy circumstances she did use her humour and friendly nature to endure.
Gracie describes herself as an observer. Without a consistent family life as a child she felt she needed to know her place and how to pay attention. She still knows how to take care of herself and follow the rules. She never played hooky from school. If she could follow these rules as a child then she would stay out of trouble and could enjoy small pieces of happiness. She coached herself on how to be a happy go lucky gal.
Gracie lived in Edmonton since 1949 with her husband Len of 52 and a half years. They had a son and twin daughters who, she says, kept her going. Gracie lost both Len and her daughter Lindsay to cancer. But along the way Bobby Sutherland found Gracie. She describes him as the epitome of joy for her. “He was a treasure right down to his socks!” They were married for 6 and a half years before he also died of cancer. Gracie tried to stay in Edmonton but eventually decided to come live with her daughter Lesley who had settled in Stony Plain. Within a few months Gracie realized she needed her own space so she found her small apartment in Forest Ridge. She has her own address and all she wants or needs. “I love my life and I love my family and I dearly love my little apartment!”
Gracie has lived in Stony Plain for 8 or 9 years. She loves the peace and quiet of the area and knowing that she is safe in her little house. She loves the management and staff of Forest Ridge. They have the knack of making everyone feel at home. She could not give them high enough praise. Gracie has found her peace and tranquility. She is a happy bear!
Gracie does not pat herself on the back too often but there are a few things she is proud of. She is proud of how she survived a less than perfect childhood and created a life of community and connection. She is proud of how she pays attention to the little yet important things. She is proud of her cozy home that is filled with meaning. She is proud of how she has managed her affairs after the deaths of two husbands.
Gracie says, “We are not here for the taking but for the understanding”. How does her life give meaning to those words? Bears are a great part of Mother Nature just as the human spirit is. Not everyone understands the bear. Gracie has not always felt understood either. But she rises up each and every day with a smile and good will. She tells herself, “Be yourself, Gracie! Do what you want to do. You’ve always been a good person. Love and accept yourself!” It is this perseverance (observe, blend, survive) with a smile that makes her our little bear in buckwheat and a gem in our midst.
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