Charlotte Elspeth Hill has suffered great losses earlier in life than some. Her strength is in her DNA though, and she claims surviving her biggest fears as a child has liberated her as a woman.
I am the third generation of Elspeth on my mom’s side. The name to me is synonymous with strength. My grandmother, Elspeth Hughes, was a trailblazer. She defied gender norms and was one of the first women in Canada to get her pilot’s license. My mother, Elspeth Hill, raised two children while caring for a husband who battled cancer three times. While my dad was sick, Mom worked three jobs at times to make sure we had what we needed, all with the brightest smile on her face.
Mom and Grandma set the tone for my life. I grew up a tomboy and Mom and Grandma celebrated that I was nonconforming. When I didn’t want to wear dresses to school dances, they made sure I had the new pair of basketball shorts or the runners I wanted. I lost Grandma in my early teens, yet her legacy has never faded. When I was twenty-seven, I lost my dad. It was sudden and I wasn’t ready. My grief was untameable and wild. Mom and I got through it together. It was only five years later when she was diagnosed with cancer. I dropped everything to take care of her, but she was gone in less than three months of diagnosis.
I couldn’t understand why I didn’t grieve the way I had with Dad. Why I was calm and seemingly ok. The greatest love on this planet is between mother and child. She set me up to make sure I’d be ok. I was holding her hand when she took her last breath and all the strength and beauty, she has, she had transferred to me. I carried on, the way she did so many times throughout her life. I am in mourning, of course; I will be for the rest of my life. But the gift of strength she got from her mom, and that they both passed down to me, is the most critical piece of my being that has allowed me to overcome the greatest hurdles in life.
Is that in the name? Of course not, but having Elspeth as my middle name is a reminder of that strength I still hold.