Back in June I received this email from Catherine Heron with the photos above (from top to bottom: Shapleigh coat of arms, Mary Heron, Mary and her son, Charles.)
My grandmother died a week ago tomorrow. She was 98 1/2 years old.
She was 1 of 12 living daughters of a Union Civil War vet. At an impatient 3 she headed downtown alone, then graciously allowed a neighbour to accompany her: the "Unsinkable Molly Brown" of the Titanic. She was in Saltzburg when the Nazis came. Her Detroit friends included Louis & Suzanne Chevrolet. She escaped a marriage of politics and convenience by fleeing alone to a Nevada "divorce ranch" in the thirties in the middle of the night. Because of her stories, I know I am connected to all of history and humanity.
She was positively fierce, fierce in her opinions - petitioning to save greenspaces, fiercely liberal... fiercely proud of my career as an artist, fiercely independent - fiercely supportive, nay - instrumental in encouraging me to get out of relationships I was miserable about. She was University educated, keeping her mensa-member husband of 50+ years on his toes constantly - learning perpetually. Skype-ing herself in to my cousin's west coast lesbian wedding so she could share her genuine joy for both women.
A true practitioner of unconditional love, she always listened intensely, with vital interest. She taught us that grace, charm and compassion are what make a lady; to never stay in a passionless relationship; to have treats at the ready for your guests; to blaze a trail doing what is right; that love is the answer.
Through her, I was a descendant of the Shapleigh family - who arrived in Kittery, Maine in 1623 - three years after the Mayflower. The qualities and aspects of her that I've described, I have always been told, are "100% Shapleigh." In conversations with my aunt - her daughter - we've talked about the qualities of the women of this line, this "fierceness," quickness, compassion, energy, freedom. My name is Catherine Shapleigh Heron.
I had told my grandmother a year ago I had been playing with the idea of getting a scallop shell tattooed on my wrist - the scallop being the symbol on the family Coat of Arms, the original, from Devon. She loved this idea, and on a $26 birthday check wrote "FOR A SHAPLEIGH TATTOO??!" in the memorandum line. But now that she has passed, I've thought it over and would simply like to get the Shapleigh motto (also from the coat of arms) done up the inside of my arm.
The motto is "Fideli Certa Merces," which translated, is "to the faithful, reward is certain."
I was touched by Catherine's email for many reasons: the beautiful prose, the specific memories of her grandmother, and Mary's $26 birthday check (my own grandmother sends me $25 every year). So Catherine became June's Gratitude Giveaway winner and we endeavored to create a tattoo worthy of Mary Heron. The terms: that we would each donate $26 to a charitable cause dear to Mary's heart.
Update on 2011-08-19 19:01 by mara @ neithersnow
Read Part II and Part III of this story.