My earliest memory of my grandmother is of her giving my brother and me some Arrowroot cookies to dip in milk. They had a magical softness to them when you suspended them in the half-full glass for just the right amount of time. Grandma taught me that.
For the most part though, my childhood memories of her are sparse. Visiting Grandma & Grandad wasn't fun, it was just something you did, and often it would involve the adults doing boring stuff like talking, so Matt & I would hide out in our grandparent's bedroom watching one of those old tube-based TVs that took 5 minutes to warm up before you could see anything.
I wasn't a very engaged kid. Looking back on all that time I could have had with her now, I feel cheated by my 8 year-old self who chose Mary Poppins over time with my grandmother.
To be honest though, I don't think 8 year-old me could have appreciated Grandma Nana the way I came to as an adult. Young Daniel didn't know much about what was going on in the world, and honestly, I don't think he cared very much either. To him, Grandma's house meant cookies & movies and that was good enough.
It wasn't until decades later that I really came to appreciate and understand my grandmother better. The woman was unyielding in a way that can only be described as inspirational. At a time in my life when I was beginning to take an interest in politics and Canadian history in general, my grandmother was there, answering all of my questions and sending me scanned copies of newspaper articles covering topics we'd discussed earlier that week.
I was raised on rather right-wing ideals, but Grandma worked against that full-time, sending me links and petitions from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and articles from Rabble. These weren't one-way discussions either: we disagreed often, sometimes spiralling into long email threads, referencing article after article. The goal was never to "win", but to better understand each other. Grandma didn't mould who I was, rather she challenged my preconceptions to help me build the person I wanted to be.
As I got older and more involved in politics & activism, our relationship developed into a pattern of advice. I would call or write to ask what she thought about a new campaign I was working on, or sometimes just for some encouragement. One time in particular, I wrote to her, tired & upset about a lot of the criticism I'd run up against in my political work in Toronto. I was lost and felt as if fighting wasn't worthwhile if all I was going to hear were people complaining and shouting me down. She had the Best Advice Ever, and I carry it with me to this day:
"The only people that don't get criticism are those that don't do anything."
In any avenue she could access, she was an activist her whole life. As a young woman, she volunteered with the NDP in its early years to help give Tommy Douglas a stronger voice in the House of Commons, and even in her 80s and 90s, she was circulating online petitions and tweeting about environmental and social issues.
Just last year, she was committed to the hospital for a litany of health issues, but the morning she checked out, she insisted that rather than going home, her daughter had to take her straight to an advance polling booth for the BC election. My grandmother, her lungs crippled with pulmonary fibrosis and breathing from a machine, made sure that she got her vote counted.
And this, this is how she went out. Literally lying on her death bed, her lungs ravaged after thirteen years of that slow-drowning disease, she contacted a local paper because she wanted to share with them that she would be taking advantage of Canada's new Medical Assistance in Dying law. As the first person in the Okanagan to make use of this law, she wanted to share her reasoning, and her strong belief that the Right to Die should be enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
At 91 and choking to death on her own lungs, my grandmother remained as fierce as ever. Using even her own death to further her desire for a better world. Not for her of course, her time was up, but for you and me.
I'm going to miss our talks, but her life has been an inspiration to me. I will endeavour to make sure that she isn't the last Quinn to be so uncompromising in both action and principles.