Magdalene Massicot and her grandsons pose in front of church in 2013. She died later that year. Photo courtesy the Massicot-Telemaque family

A grandma’s love eases the pain

  • October 23, 2020

A high school student whose yearbook tribute to his late grandmother was replaced with a racist message says her legacy of faith is helping him through this challenging time.

Joshua Telemaque, a football player at St. Mary Catholic Secondary in Pickering, Ont., wrote “RIP Grandma. Thank you for guiding me through my four years of high school,” but when he received his yearbook noticed it was replaced with a reference to a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo.

The time the senior student spent with his grandmother, Magdalene Massicot, a devoted Catholic who died in 2013 at the age of 72, is still very near and dear to his heart. Though the yearbook incident has been difficult for him to process, he says because of her, he knows he can get through it.

“She’s watching down on me 24/7 all the time and I know she’s smiling and happy, even through this situation,” said Telemaque, who experienced bullying throughout high school. “She’s giving me support and comfort and just telling me to keep on pushing. I’m still hurt and there’s a part of me that will always be scarred from the situation and really mentally damaged, but she’s really giving me strength to just go through my day.”

Telemaque’s mother, Marva Massicot-Telemaque, says it’s no surprise her son chose to pay tribute to her late mother because the pair was inseparable while she was alive. It began, Marva says, when she was pregnant with him and Magdalene would talk, sing and read to him in the womb. After he was born, their relationship only got stronger.

“She was right outside the hospital room (when I gave birth) and as soon as she heard the cry, she came inside, spoke to him and the most amazing thing happened,” said Marva recalling the day her son was born. “She held him and she spoke to him and he’s staring into her eyes because he recognized that voice. It just created this special bond and it’s still not broken. It’s still there.”

“She had a huge influence on me,” said Telemaque, who regularly attended church services with his grandmother at St. Timothy’s Parish in Toronto. “My parents told me about God, and she showed me about God at a young age and made it fun for me. She would sing little songs to me about Him. She would read the Bible to me. She was just an amazing person.”

As news spread of the incident, an outpouring of support came in from people across the world. In celebration of his 18th birthday on Oct. 14, the Toronto Argonauts and the Pinball Clemons Foundation offered him a four-year scholarship to any university of his choice.

Martin Buckingham, who had never met the Telemaque family, was also moved when he heard the story and decided to start a GoFundMe account, which has raised over $13,000 in support of Telemaque’s post-secondary education.

“I’m really involved in (charitable work) and bullying is such a huge deal among children,” said Buckingham, who owns a catering business. “Somebody came to me and said we should do something, and it just took on a life of its own. We’re really happy to help.”

Magdalene and her family emigrated to Canada on Oct. 14, 1991, exactly 11 years before Telemaque was born. The family says Magdalene was beloved by all the children that had the opportunity to spend time with her. She was born in Dominica, an island nation in the Caribbean, and throughout her time living in Canada every year she would go back at Christmas time to bring barrels of toys and gifts for the children in the village and host holiday parties. She did a lot to help the Thibaud Catholic church located on the island in the parish of St. Andrew and because of the holiday cheer she spread in the community was affectionately known as the “Christmas lady.”

Magdalene was diagnosed with stage three pancreatic cancer and was given four months to live but went on to live another year and three months. She died on Dec. 9, 2013, leaving behind her four children, seven grandchildren as well as members of the ministry in Dominica who were devastated.

Her wish was to live to see her grandson graduate high school and although she was not able to see that day, through the kindness and generosity of strangers from around the world the family says they know there is still goodness in the world.

“I’m just extremely grateful, thankful and appreciative, and my heart is feeling an over-pour of love,” said Telemaque. “The whole world in general has just been so amazing and just spreading the love towards me and just showing me that there’s not just hate in this world, there’s kind loving people.”

When she died, her body was brought back to Dominica, so that the people in the village could say their goodbyes.

The family continues her legacy by sending gifts to the children in Dominica, and also recently opened an account to raise money for pancreatic cancer in her honour.

Since the yearbook incident, nine other students have reportedly come forward with complaints of tampered quotes. The family says although they are still working through the pain of the incident, they are grateful they could use the moment to spotlight Magdalene, who believed in treating others with respect and kindness.

“She was always uplifting everyone, always loving and showing positivity towards all the people around her,” said Telemaque.

“She’s like my guardian angel right now and when she was alive, she was also an angel.”

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