Note: This letter was read to those in attendance of the official opening of the Mary Ann Centre September 26, 2006.
Our mother, Mary Ann Baribeau-Rabbitskin, passed away in October 2004, leaving behind a life filled with service to others, especially children. From my youngest days I can’t recall our home not also being the home of other children. Yet, though it seemed we often shared our mother with others, I cannot say that she gave us less love and teaching. She always made an effort to give love and to teach respect and values to all children who came into her life, especially her four sons.
In the late 1980s and early 90s, the Mistissini Native Women’s Association started up a daycare program and my mother joined that team of dedicated women who wanted to better the lives of mothers and their children. I remember her going into the Early Childhood Care program and working so hard to graduate, which she did. You know, she was the first member of our family to earn a college degree.
From then on, the daycare and the children she worked with were her passion. She called them “en-dwasheems,” or “my children.” And her co-workers became a family that she loved so much.
We had to contribute to helping her with her children. We would have to “steal” extra catalogues from the post-office for her to cut out pictures, or if we came by when she was preparing work for her children, we would have to sit down and help her cut out or paste things or whatever she was up to. She asked us to do many other things for her and her work and we were happy to help when we could because we knew how much she loved the daycare.
For her, the daycare was not a job, but a responsibility, just as a mother is responsible for her own children and her home. She would get excited about new projects, such as a new building or the renovation of another. And as any mother, she would worry needlessly and wonder if she should speak because people may not listen to her.
Throughout the years, no matter how excited she got about projects, it was always the children who were the focus of her attention. And as with any loving mother, she would take much pride in the achievements of those in her family and would grieve much if one of them was in pain.
Our mother did not much like speaking in public. She liked doing things. It is hard to find a picture of her sitting still. We have too many pictures of her in the background. She loved giving a hand and didn’t like us making a big deal of her contribution.
The last time she came home, I had to drive her to the clinic. When we came home, I offered her to drive around. She didn’t much feel like it because she was in pain so I just drove drove by the new daycare that was being built in front of the Elders’ home. She looked at it and asked what the building was and I told her it was the new daycare. She smiled and said, “It’s going to be nice, isn’t it?”
Her family and friends from Awash Daycare know how much Mary-Ann loved them, her work and especially her children. This is why they chose to honour her by naming this new centre after her. If we could see her now, I am sure that she would say that if she loved her daycare family so much it is because they loved her and helped her out in so many ways. This is very true.
To me, the name Mary-Ann Centre also honours all the women who worked so hard to build the Awash Daycare and to help make this community a better place. If my mother gave so much to the Awash Daycare, it is because the Awash Daycare gave so much back in return.
My mother was one of many who loved and continues to love their work and their mission to help the children of today become the leaders of tomorrow.