The term “person of increase” comes from Wallace Wattles who, at the turn of the 20th century, looked upon abundance and affluence from both a scientific and spiritual perspective. Wattles urges each of us to know and remember, “You are a creative center, from which increase is given off to all.” He advises to hold to “the unshakable faith that you, yourself, are in the Way of Increase,” and to let “this faith fill and permeate every action … Do everything you do in the firm conviction that you are an advancing personality, and that you are giving advancement to everybody.”
Wattles had studied the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson who, in an essay entitled “Spiritual Laws,” asserts that each one of us has our own vocation, a unique call. When a person heeds this call, “He has no rival. For the more truly he consults his own powers, the more difference will his work exhibit from the work of any other … By doing his own work he unfolds himself.”
“What attracts my attention shall have it,” writes Emerson, “as I will go to the man who knocks at my door, whilst a thousand persons as worthy may go by, to whom I give no regard.”
In 1980 came a knock at my family’s door.
The person standing there was an elegant, immaculately dressed 30-something woman named Monique Bordeleau who was dating my 40-something uncle, Derek. No sooner had she entered our house, than she placed an elaborately wrapped package into my hands. I can still feel the silk ribbons giving way to a burgundy snakeskin belt with gold links that fit my 15-year-old waist perfectly. The belt was wonderfully disturbing and exotic in my suburban environs.
Monique was French Canadian. She had lived abroad for years and, I could tell, she was “emotional.” My soon-to-be aunt delighted in her act of gift-giving. She exuded pleasure in meeting me and went on to say that if she were ever to imagine she’d had a daughter, with my permission, she would imagine me.
I was as startled by this stranger’s affection as I was enthralled by her sense of glamour.
And while she relished pointing out her strategy in giving me the gift of the belt – shamelessly exposing it as a ploy to win my heart – my heart was already won.
Monique rocked my world.
When she and Derek took up residence together in a stylish Ottawa apartment, I found myself riding the train there from Toronto, alone. She offered a hideaway where I could feel both grown up and, at the same time, nurtured. With Monique I discovered the joys of eating pasta on fine china and silver, sleeping in a “suite” bestrewn with teen magazines, fresh flowers, bowls of fancy nuts and dried fruit, new pyjamas, sachets of bubble bath, and other carefully assembled toiletries.
Monique took me shopping on Sparks Street. She bought me Bandolino patent-leather pumps (again in burgundy), an Indian cotton skirt, and she spoke of Italy. She spoke of men, giving serious attention to my prospects. Monique talked about her childhood, her parents’ divorce, her most beloved and irreverent aunt, her mother’s death, various romances (including two former husbands), and recovery from cirrhosis of the liver. She and Derek were open about being recovering alcoholics.
I quietly adored the adult details Monique shared with me, pondering the complexities of a world I was about to enter while she smoked and laughed, swore in French, and treated me to bottomless cappuccinos.
Clearly, Monique was committed to my politician uncle. She embraced their life together. When my cousin Carole and I travelled by train to witness their 1982 vows on Parliament Hill, we took pride in our family’s own “royal wedding.” I wore a teal blue taffeta dress with puffy sleeves and a bell skirt, drank too much champagne (regretting only the picture with the Prime Minister afterward), and loved every minute.
Through the years the cards and presents continued, enfolding my own daughter’s life, too. Countless pairs of tiny shoes Monique described as “candies.” She offered a cottage to my former husband and me, for use in July. All the cards in her distinctive handwriting. The ribbons.
In our family, we all save Monique’s ribbons.
When my adult life unfolded with its own momentous chapters, including the array of obstacles that inevitably arise with growing, sometimes not growing, and growing again, she would always say, “Next bus stop, kiddo.”
And of course, nothing was ever perfect. That wasn’t the point.
What more can I tell you? For 35 years I’ve been grateful in this woman’s presence. Monique has been a person of increase for me, and I have not known anyone else quite like her. As Emerson would say, “The Soul’s emphasis is always right.” I see how in heeding a call, some people stand out as models for others. They burn brightly, not because they have titles or fame, outstanding track records, careers, expertise or vast wealth, but because they display unusual levels of generosity, attention to detail, and care.
Next week at Easter, I can still be glad as I board the train to Ottawa. To borrow words from G.B. Shaw, “a splendid torch” waits for me there. A light that cancer will never truly dim. And for a moment I imagine us walking on Sparks Street all day long.