Neil McKinnon’s affectionate tribute to his extraordinary mother is more than just an overview of their family relationship. This memoir encapsulates the extraordinary life of a woman, who, although she was born with the best of luck, still persevered and remained faithful amid adversities. Neil’s mother, Florence Jane, is truly the miracle of Centennial.
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia was the home and birthplace of my mother, Florence Jane MacDonald, born to Mr. and Mrs. Duncan MacDonald. She was one of three children born to Sarah Anne. Sarah, a widow with two children, had been married to Mr. Robert Kinsella. Robert was stricken with tuberculosis and died, leaving Sarah destitute with young Kathryn and Mary. After a struggle or two, Sarah was introduced to a widower, Duncan MacDonald. Duncan had been married as a young man many years earlier. His wife and son passed away during childbirth. Duncan kept busy for years taking care of his farm, working as a carpenter and playing his violin for relaxation.
A friend of Sarah’s, Katie Beaton, made a match, as it was called, and introduced Sarah to Duncan MacDonald. After a nice courtship they married and settled all together on Duncan’s farm. Duncan was sixty-five at the time and Sarah forty-five. Two years later along came a baby girl, Florence Jane. Florence was born blind as she had cataracts on both eyes. It was realized, after several doctor’s visits, that she would have to be operated on but not until she was three years old. Duncan and Sarah pondered over the decision and worried about the ordeal and the suffering young Florence had ahead of her. Florence’s chance for sight would mean a horrible experience of excruciating pain as the removal of cataracts at that time was without a sedative. There would be no Zylacaine or Novacaine or any numbing of any sort. The pain would be awful.
For the next year or so, she was not to be in the sunlight or near a bright light or even have a picture taken. Therefore, there are no pictures at all of her as a child. While little Florence was recuperating from the eye operations, she slowly began having sight for the first time. Although her vision was smoky and blurred, she started to appreciate her little world by discovering the source of cooking odors and which odors came from the barn or from the farm itself. For the first time she saw her mother Sarah’s beautiful homemade bread, biscuits, rolls, blueberry muffins, and lemon, raspberry, and blueberry pies. Berry picking was a popular sport there in the summer months.