Ruadh gu brath!

This post is a tribute to my mother.  I have taken much time in thought of how I wanted to tell the world of her.  For those who have followed this blog, there have been times I have spoken of her condition, which even now I am not prepared for.  Even though I am faced each day with the inevitability of her loss, I have struggled to find a way to put into words her essence of being.  I feel at last I have found a way to do this, and hopefully tell of a most beautiful soul whom I have had the privilege and honor of calling my mother.

Ruadh gu brath is Scottish Gaelic for 'redheads forever'.  To tell my mother's story I must first begin with my grandmother Rebecca Ellen McEwen, for whom I am named.

We are of the Clan McEwen of the Scottish highlands.  Our ancestral home is found on the coast of Loch Fyne where to this day the remnants of the Caisteal Mhic Eoghain, or Mac Ewen's castle, can be found.  The core of our clan is dated back to the Clan Ewen of Otter who lived in Argyll in the 1300-1400's.  During the 15th century our clan was lost due to our leader Swene McEwen dying without an heir and the loss of lands to taxes where the barony was turned over to the Clan Campbell in 1432.  After this we became known as 'Children of the Mist' and began to create alliances with other clans to survive, mainly the Campbells. There are three offshoots of the MacEwens in different regions of the highlands, but I will not address those.  In 1746 the Act of Proscription was enacted by the British Parliament over the Scottish Highlands to stop the revolts against the King by banning the clan system and attempting to assimilate them together. However, in 1782 Sir Walter Scott led the Revival of the Clans which took hold and the Act was repealed.  It was at this time our clan members established our heraldry, which bears our crest and motto, and the clan tartan.  It is truly unknown whether they are true to the Clan Ewen of Otter, but according to historical research they have been firmly entrenched and established as such.

Our crest is the Oak Tree and motto is ~ Reviresco, 'I grow strong again', and our Coat of Arms is the Lion and wheat. Our tartan is similar to that of the Clan Campbell, navy blue, bottle green, black, yellow and red.
I grow strong again.

We are also known as a bardic family because our history holds many generations of poets, musicians and artist. At this time we are finally moving into a stage where we will once again have an established clan leader.  In June of 2019 the Clan McEwen will hold a Derbfine, which is a meeting to establish patrilineal inheritance.  It is then Sir John H.R. McEwen, the current Clan McEwen Commander, will be established as Chief.  To date Clan McEwen is the largest and most important Chiefless Clan in Scotland.  It was my mother's hope to one day visit Scotland and see her ancestral home.  She is unable to travel and being unsure of her remaining time with us, I pray I have the opportunity to stand in her stead at that historic occasion for our family.  

My great, great grandparents emigrated from Scotland and my grandmother was born here in the U.S. The family eventually made their way to the Gulf Coast and settled in New Orleans, Louisiana.  My grandmother was known for her iron will and determination.  She was considered the 'black sheep' of the family because she shunned propriety and the social requirements of the class to which she was born.  In other words, she wore pants and carried a gun.  Yes, my grandmother was a rebel.  She loved to hunt with the men and refused to wear dresses at every turn.  Eventually she received her teaching degree and took a train to nowhere, which wound up to be a small rural community known as Forts Lake, Mississippi.  It was there she became the school teacher in a one room school house to a community of five original settler families in the area.  The story goes, my grandfather 'Son' Clark rode up to the school on a white horse one day and stole her heart.  They were married against the wishes of her family, and had eight children.  My mother was the baby and the only one with red hair. Ruadh gu brath!  The McEwen line lived on and through her children.

My mother, Rebecca Lee Clark Bishop, has the strength of the McEwen blood within her.  A tenacity of life which I have never encountered in anyone else.  She has walked through many hells and survived.  Her soft spirit and compassionate heart was only made stronger by her internal strength and will.  It is a tenacious spirit I believe comes from our lineage of a clan family who have fought to remain.  Grandma Clark was a stoic woman who never raised her voice and from what I have been told by family members, only had to look at you once to get her point across.  If that didn't work, she had a rod several feet long she would whack you with, all without a word spoken.  She is the one who passed this strength of spirit to my mother.  She also passed on her sense of adventure.  Mom always told me grandma would say to her, "Beckey, go! Go explore the world and live.  You can always come home if it all falls apart.  Home will never go away."  That is exactly what my mother did.  

When mom graduated high-school she was recruited by the FBI.  Unfortunately, after she had made the choice to join them, her mind would be changed by the one person she would never have expected, her father.  The night before she was supposed to leave Grandpa Clark came into her room and sat on the bed with her.  She thought it was to say goodbye, but it turned out to be much more. My grandfather was a hard man, born in hard times and because of it they had lived in poverty most of my mother's life.  Life made him hard inside and he rarely showed emotion other than a bad temper. That night however my mother was to see a side of her father she had never seen before.  As he sat there with her, he gently took her hand and with tears in his eyes said, "Don't leave me Beckey. Don't leave."  Mom never joined the FBI.  She went on to take secretarial course work and became a secretary in Mobile, Alabama for a local attorney.  Years later she would meet my father who was in the United States Air Force and together they explored the world, for a time.  There is much history in that story but I will not post it here.  Needless to say my mother survived and only became stronger for her trials.

I love my mother, and I respect her deeply.  Her sacrifices in life were for the sake of everyone around her. They were sacrifices of love.  I have never known my mother to be out-rightly selfish. Oh, as a daughter I can say there were bad times, but as a mother I can say we all make mistakes. As parents we are not given a handbook on how to do everything perfectly.  I am deeply grateful for my mother and the lessons I have learned through her.  If not for her I would not have survived my own visits in hell.  If not for her I would not have the openly spiritual nature I embrace.  If not for her I would not have the sense of adventure that I do.  Because of her telling me, "Go Ellen! Explore the world and live!  You can always come home if it all falls apart.  Home will never go away", I have and continue to live my life with an open sense of adventure.  I am known as the family gypsy.  When I talk to family members the first thing they ask is, "Well, where are you now?"  My mother instilled in me the beauty for the arts and different cultures.  She once lived in Guam with my father while he was stationed there. She made friends and steeped herself in all she could experience.  

My mother taught me compassion, a love of nature and finding the beauty in the simplistic things which surround me.  I loved our walks in the woods and her teaching me how to make a fire.  I love how her favorite color is emerald green, and every time she goes outside she talks about the different shades of green she sees.  She taught me to stand on my own two feet, dependent on no one, yet vulnerable enough to be led by the right person.  She taught me love is the core of all things and not to be taken lightly in any form.  She taught me I am valuable and worth any sacrifice.  Because of her, the strength she taught me and the love she gave me, I know who I am.  I may forget every once in a while, but she is always there to remind me.  

My heartbreak comes in knowing my days are counting down with this amazing woman.  There will come a day when she will not know who I am anymore.  A day when I will simply fade away, and this day comes too soon for me.  Her biggest fear is that she will be forgotten.  My mother, my precious, precious mother, how could we ever forget someone like you?  Your legacy of spirit, graciousness, poise, strength and grace lives on in us, your children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren.  No, we will never forget you, and I know that even though we will fade away for you, your soul will know us still.  Your heart will always be present, always.  I am so grateful I can be here for you now, taking care of you as you once did me.  An opportunity to make a few more memories to get me through the dark times, and help me find the light when I am lost.  More time to see you smile, hear you laugh, see you hold the grand-babies, and listen to your stories.  The most important thing of all, mom, is that I can be here for you when we do fade away.  Here to make sure you are safe and secure. There are no words for what I hold in my heart except, I love you mom.

Rebecca Lee Clark Bishop


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