Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fate or Coincidence?

My sister is forever telling her kids, and myself, that everything that happens in our lives is preordained in the Book of Life. Was it my destiny to buy a new car last month? Was it my destiny to have my tooth extracted last Saturday (they could have rewritten that chapter!)? Some people say that we make our own destiny. If that were the case, it wouldn’t have been my plan to have my tooth pulled!

All the time growing up, we had heard the story that my stepfather, Douglas Kay, had been in Halifax, Nova Scotia on the day that my mom arrived in Canada. My mom (Rhona MacDonald Marshall) was 13 years old when she left Scotland aboard the Aquitania via Southampton, England on April 4, 1946, landing in Halifax on April 10th. She traveled with two of her older sisters, Vina (aged 15) and Helen (Marshall) Crossman (aged 31). My Aunt Helen (or Nell as she was always called) was a War Bride and was coming to Canada to be with her new husband, William Henry Crossman (uncle Harry). When my grandmother, Eliza Hamilton (Burnett) Marshall, passed away in 1943, my Aunt Nell made a death bed promise to look after the three youngest children, my mom, my Aunt Vina and my Uncle Norman. As “fate” would have it, just before leaving, my Uncle Norman turned 18 years old and had to do his mandatory 2 years military service, causing him to stay behind in Scotland. After spending a few days in Halifax, my mom and her sisters boarded a train and headed west to Balcarres, Saskatchewan to live on the Crossman farm.

My stepfather always loved ships and trains and loved taking pictures of them. In April 1946, when he was 19 years old, he traveled from Montreal to Halifax to see the ships arriving, of which he took many pictures. On April 10th, he happened to take a picture of the Aquitania as she was arriving and on April 11th he took another picture of her while in dock, with all the War Brides at the railing. Was it fate that he was there that day or just a coincidence?

Was it fate that just after the war ended, Doug’s sister Helen married Forbes Peter Farrell (my future father’s oldest brother) and she moved to Balcarres to live on a farm not too far from the Crossman farm? At this time, Doug (still living in Montreal) was working for Canadian Pacific Railway on the cross-country train. When the train got to Indian Head he would jump off and go visit his sister in Balcarres, eventually becoming good friends with the Farrell’s; Forbes, his brother-in-law, Robert Allan, John (Jack) and their sister Lillian (who apparently had a big crush on Doug).

When my mom left school at 16 years old and was out working, she started dating Jack Farrell, who later dumped her for his future wife, Cathy! My mom then starting dating Jack’s older brother Robert Allan (or Allan as he was always called), eventually marrying him on August 15, 1953, making my mom and Doug’s sister, Helen, sisters-in-law. Fate or coincidence? Of course, my mom and Helen (by this time my Aunt Helen) became good friends and she was often at Helen’s house when Doug was there visiting (my mom, not being able to hold a grudge if her life depended on it, also became good friends with Cathy!).

In 1955, my mom, dad and my sister Judy (then just 2 years old), moved to Moose Jaw, Sask. (about an hour from Balcarres), where my Aunt Nell and Uncle Harry had already moved to. This is where my other sister, Heather and I were born. Doug remained friends with my mom and dad after they moved, often going to visit them when he was “out west”.

On August 12, 1962, my father passed away at the age of 35, due to complications from his diabetes, leaving my mom a widow with 3 young children. He was buried on August 15th, my parents 9th wedding anniversary. Of course all the Farrell family and the Crossman family and my Aunt Vina’s family were all at the funeral. Was Doug there? Who knows? I do know that after my dad died, Doug would still come to visit my mom when he was in town, making sure that she was doing o.k. Eventually, their friendship grew into much more and they were married on December 21, 1963 in Moose Jaw. After they were married, we all boarded a train and headed for Montreal.

My mom and stepfather were married for 26 years when he passed away on April 7, 1989 at the age of 61, from complications due to his Parkinson’s Decease. My mom passed away on September 8, 2003 from cancer, at 70 years of age.

So was my mom and stepfather meeting and eventually getting married preordained or was everything just one big coincidence?


  1. I don't know about fate, but I believe 95% of peoples troubles are cause by themselves and consequences of their behavior. Working in health care I see the results of the consequences all the time.

  2. In your blog you mentioned your stepfather took pictures of the Aquitania in April 1946 but you only posted one in your blog. My grandmother was a warbride and arrived on that ship that day. I'm making a memorial video about her because she passed away last November. I am gathering as many photos as possible this month and trying to complete the video by Mother's Day of this year. Would it be possible for you to send me a digital file of the other picture you mention in this blog? If so, please send it to me at:
    I would really appreciate it!