Once upon a time there was a good king who had a son and two daughters by a first marriage. In honor of the birth of a third princess, the only offspring of his second marriage, the king gave a magnificent feast. The three good fairies of the kingdom arrived and stood lovingly around the cradle. The first fairy gave the infant a heart as pure as gold, the second offered her a will as strong as stone, and the third bestowed upon her thinking and speech clear as crystal. The fourth fairy, the one who, though never invited, always manages to find her way in, bent over the cradle and cast a spell on the infant. She predicted that when the child reached the age of 14, she would be bitten by a snake and die. The three good fairies could do nothing to ward off the spell. Nevertheless, they revealed to the king that he, and he alone, with his human hands and heart, could save his child from death.
The little girl grew to adolescence surrounded by kindness. Yet all the loving care in the world could not keep the snake from biting her as predicted. Her father, whose hands and voice were as calm as his heart, breathed sufficient strength into his daughter’s heart to allow her to overcome the sickness. However, the young innocent heart, though having lost none of its courage or generosity, had now been greatly weakened in its physical aspect. This weakness was such that the princess, aspiring to take a vow of poverty, was refused entry into a convent.
For that we can be thankful! For the young girl’s heart of gold, which beat fast, very fast, sometimes as fast as that of a bird, was in fact the heart of a carrier pigeon, the heart of a messenger who needed the world every bit as much as the world needed her. How could she ever have survived caged in, even for a noble cause? She might truly have died had that come to pass.
The princess took a husband and became Queen of her household. Thanks to the wealth left to her by her father, and to her extraordinary talent for managing that wealth, the Queen was always able to receive the help she needed to take care of her four children, three sons and a daughter. For the education of her lovely offspring, she set out to find the wisest governess of the kingdom. The Duchess of Simons, who hailed from foreign lands and who was seeking a place to bestow the fruits of a profound Wisdom onto to young children, was soon invited to care for the children several hours a week, as well as other children from the neighborhood.
The Queen offered her new-found friend a tower, a round tower where the little ones could hold hands to form a circle and dance and sing rounds, to share in experiencing the arts and more importantly to experience the art of sharing. Thanks to this fortunate association, the Queen learned much from the many books of Wisdom brought by the Duchess, Wisdom which was not only aimed at children, but also at grownups. In other towers, here and there, she studied this Wisdom with several other seekers and from then on, and for the rest of her life, would be intent on applying it.
And the very life that was transforming her also transformed her children into fine young men and women quite ready to go off on their own to discover the world. And our lovely messenger bird moved to a new town, and then settled near the shores of a great river so that her now seriously-ill husband could breathe the invigorating air and she could devote all her loving attention to him. The couple took wonderful trips together. But then the morning came when the faithful companion, held standing upright in his wife’s arms and looking at the rising sun, began his journey into the Other World.
Henceforth finding herself with no particular responsibilities, our lovely bird could open her wings and fly as she wished… She was offered the comfort of a second marriage. She chose rather to fly off to a neighboring land to deepen her knowledge of the art of educating young children that she had discovered with the Duchess of Simons. When she returned, she built a new tower, set close to a clear river. Knights arrived to help her in this endeavor. Other towers were erected, so that many young souls could become “children with hearts as pure as gold, as strong as stone and as clear as crystal.” An entire castle, a castle-school, developed, and our friend, leaving the circle-rounds and the other teaching in the hands of the knights, sat for several more decades at the castle’s great round table as administrator and wise counselor. She, who was never supposed to have reached adulthood, thus became “Grandma” to an entire kingdom!
Then, when her delicately transparent heart could no longer bear the hectic life of the castle, Grandma wished to build one last tower, a more tranquil place in which souls nearing the end of their earthly journeys could find a welcome home. Though her dream of a tower could not come to fruition, the turret where she built her last nest nevertheless became a haven in which all who wanted to share their life experiences could find refuge from time to time. She who had known how to knit the lives of children and adults together in a great social weaving, was now knitting a place for new meetings… just as she continued to knit those warm wool shawls for so many people. And the waters of life continued to flow, but more and more simply and more and more slowly. Although she still had to endure several violent whirlwinds, she did so with great courage.
Then came the day when the heart of our beloved bird began to beat faster than her knitting needles, faster than the hands of the clock which told that the Hour was near. Her heart started to beat faster and faster as it opened up, and she could see that it had begun to sprout two large white wings. Then came the night; the two great wings, bright, strong and pure, beat slowly but resolutely. Then, at sunrise, they carried the Queen’s heart upward, so high up into the firmament that it flew beyond the Rainbow.
And we, who do not doubt for one moment that such a heart can never be destroyed, know full well that it indeed lives on.
HUGUETTE BIGRAS- CHAURETTE
1922: September 15, Huguette Bigras is born in Laval-sur-le-Lac, Quebec.
1925: Huguette contracts rheumatic fever, and survives, it is said, thanks to the care and strength of her father. The valves of her heart, however, are permanently damaged.
1947: She marries Jean-Pierre Chaurette, notary.
1948-1954: She gives birth to 4 children, despite her fragile physical condition. Her financial situation, which she manages astutely, will allow her to receive the help she needs.
1952: She meets Madeleine Simons while looking for a kindergarten for her children – a meeting which is a turning point in her destiny. Madeleine wants to open a Waldorf kindergarten, and Huguette makes that possible by offering a room in her own house. Children of other families are welcomed to join.
1954: Huguette becomes the first French-speaking member of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada.
1966: The Chaurette family moves to Quebec City, where Huguette starts Canada’s first French-language Anthroposophical study group and opens the province’s first Anthroposophical bookstore.
1974-76: Her husband is diagnosed with cancer. The children are all now living on their own. The couple moves to Petite Rivière St-François, a magnificent site on the banks of the St-Lawrence River. They travel quite a bit, most notably to Dornach. On July 11, 1976, Jean-Pierre dies in his wife’s arms, standing upright, gazing at the sun as it comes up over the horizon.
1976-78: Huguette does her Waldorf kindergarten teacher training in Spring Valley.
1978: Huguette opens “l’Eau Vive” Waldorf kindergarten in Montreal, which eventually gives birth to the École Rudolf Steiner de Montreal.
1980: She becomes one of the founders of the school, where she works as a crafts teacher but soon becomes the school’s astute and efficient administrator, a position she will hold for many years. She welcomes new families with great warmth, and it is little wonder that everyone calls her “Grandma Chaurette.”
1988: Despite her declining health, she becomes the first French-speaking Class reader in Canada.
1996: Her wish now is to create a Co-Housing project, but since this does not come about, she rents an apartment in the same building as her coworker in this project (and the one who will become her close friend and caretaker to the very end), Inge-Barbara Bastian. In no time, her apartment becomes a space for meetings, games and human exchanges for other tenants in the building, who all say that she brought them together as a new family.
1999: Open-heart surgery (quadruple bypass and replacement of two valves) grant her ten more years of life.
February 17, 2009: At sunrise, Huguette crossed the threshold. She who was not supposed to live to adulthood leaves four children, 13 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and hundreds of friends, both adults and children whom she took into her heart as her own adopted brothers, sisters, children and grandchildren.
It is with deepest gratitude for all she has given, both of her personal wealth and her qualities of initiative, brotherhood and courage, that we wish her well on her new journey, knowing full well that she will continue to work for the Anthroposophical cause and for the True Human Ideal.