On the 75th Anniversary of Maud’s Death…A Reflection

Seventy-five years ago today, on the 24 of April 1942, Maud died in her home, “Journey’s End,” on Riverside Drive in Toronto’s west end or Swansea Village. While the home is currently a private residence, there is a plaque in a park nearby commemorating the street.

Today, CBC Books has compiled, 75 facts you might now know about Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery and #20th is Maud! They had also asked me for some “fun facts” of my own, which are also included.

As you know, Maud kept a journal her whole life, but the last few years were difficult for a variety of reasons that had to do with the loss of her reputation, her husband’s mental health issues, her son’s behaviour and battling her own depression. The final years only had two entries, the last one being on March 23 1942 when she writes: “Since then my life has been hell, hell, hell. My mind is gone–everything in the world I live has gone–the world has gone mad. I shall be driven to end my life. Oh God, forgive me. Nobody dreams what my awful position is” (SJ:5, 350).

L.M. Montgomery’s tombstone in Cavendish. Copyright Melanie J. Fishbane

One month later, Maud died. There is still some debate around the circumstances of Maud’s death because, while it is difficult for many fans of the author to believe she took her own life, the family came out in 2008  hoping that it would raise awareness around mental health issues. Maud had suffered from depression and was taking a variety of medications to to help, but this was the 1930s and there was still not a lot known about mental health. Mary Beth Cavert of  The L.M. Montgomery Literary Society excellently outlines both sides of the debate.

Much like her life, which Maud recorded in meticulous detail, she also had planned what would be used and sung at her funeral. Benjamin Lefebvre’s The L.M. Montgomery Reader Volume One: A Life in Print, has a chapter on the various reports of Maud’s funeral proceedings. According to one newspaper account, the hymn “Lead, Kindly Light” preceded the the funeral oration given by Rev. Mr. Stirling.

Throughout her life, Maud explored her spirituality, and during the period I’m writing about she attends different church services, as well as Bible Studies. I wanted to choose a hymn that would have had some significance to her and would also connect to the themes in the novel.

I found this beautiful rendition of it by a choir and another (with slightly different lyrics) by Audra Assad.

I also listened to a number of different traditional recordings, including this one:

 

As part of the #countdowntoMaud I’ve been posting #quotesoftheday from the novel. Today’s was chosen from a chapter in which this hymn is used and in memory of a writer who has left us a legacy of fiction and life writing that I feel very honoured to be connected to.

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