The power of the written word

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Words have always been a passion of mine.  I can remember penning poems before my age was in the double digits and I loved to lose myself in books at a young age as well.  Having said this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me that words affect many others the same way they affect me but today I was shown a glaring example of how words, my words, had a greater resonance than I ever imagined.

On August 30th, I wrote this poem (click here) about a dear friend who had gone into hospital the previous night.   Writing, especially writing poetry, is very cathartic for me and allows me to deal with my emotion on a level on which I feel very comfortable.  I had given the poem to the companion of the woman who was the subject of the poem hoping he could read it to her in the hospital.

Sadly, a week after she went into hospital, she passed away from a virulent bacterial infection that her body couldn’t fight due to the aggressive chemotherapy she had been undergoing.  I never found out if he had read the poem to her while she was still conscious.

Today, I drove to the city with my friend and co-worker to attend the celebration of life for this dear woman we both had met at the lodge and absolutely adored.  When her companion, Sandy, saw us at the golf club, his eyes welled with tears and we were both met with a warm embrace.    He invited us to sit at his family table and treated us like we were a part of his family.  After a toast to Joan and some funny stories, I found out that Sandy had read my poem at her funeral service.  I was moved to tears.

As I write this post through many more tears, I can take great pride in knowing that my words fell onto the ears of so many others who loved her as well.  One simple night of pouring out my emotion into a blog post turned into a tribute that hundreds of people were able to hear and know how much she meant to me.  Words have connected me to her friends and family and for that I will be forever grateful.

 

 

And just like that, she was gone…..

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I was introduced to the term “pathetic fallacy” in my grade ten English class.  We were told that the phrase was used when weather mirrored a character’s emotion in the story we were reading.  Today that term popped into my head as I drove through town, the dark, churning black clouds reflecting the absolute devastation I felt after hearing a dear woman, a dear friend had passed away this morning.

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The irony of my learning of her death did not escape me.  I had called the hospital to find out if I was able to visit her on Friday morning, or at least spend time with her husband while he spent his day in the ICU waiting room.  The nurse felt that the family would not mind if she informed me of her passing.  My breath caught in my throat and for a moment I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.  The tears came soon after the nurse’s words settled into my ears.  She was gone.  I can only be thankful that I had a brief moment to hold her hand and tell her that I loved her before the ambulance whisked her away from the lodge last week.

Her age and her illness have no relevance to my overwhelming sense of loss.  She was the most lively spirit I have ever met.  She and I were two peas in a pod and I cherished the time I got to spend with her.  She looked every bit the part of a polished, regal lady but she wouldn’t hesitate to drop an f-bomb here and there when she felt it appropriate.  She was grace personified and I shall miss her radiant smile and that slight smirk that would accompany those frequent f-bombs.

I spent the drive home today barely able to see through my tears.  I had gone to let my dog out and, when I reached my entrance way, I was greeted by a tiny brown bird inside the entrance way perched on my cake pans.  It fluttered its wings and flew to the nearest window sill.  After a few attempts to retrieve the little bird with my golf ball retriever, the bird ended up on the floor behind some boxes and seemed to wait patiently for me to reach in and pick it up in my hand.  The bird did not hesitate to grip my finger with its warm talons and let me carry it outside.   For five minutes, I talked to the bird and gently stroked its feathers.  It didn’t fly away.  Instead, it closed its eyes and I just stared at it.

I am a big believer in signs and I truly feel that this tiny bird was Joan’s way of saying, “I’m okay. I got my wings and I’m not suffering any more”.  When I finally put the bird on the table on my deck, it sat and stared back at me for a few minutes, hopped across the table, pooped on the glass table top and then flew away.  It makes me smile to think that she still got the last word and left me with laughter and not tears.

I shall miss you, sweet lady.  We didn’t know each for a long time but we knew each other well and you will always have a big place in my heart.

 

 

 

Green means GO!

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I have been keeping myself busy with ideas for a new book while I have been anxiously awaiting my first book review from my nephew.  I had to keep reminding myself that it IS summer and he IS a 14-year old boy with other interests besides reading so I have cut him, and my nervous mind, some slack.

It is difficult to quiet a cacophony in a mind that is continually feeding on its negative thoughts.  Like an inferno that is started with one tiny spark, my mind became the spark and my stress was the oxygen that fueled the fire of my doubt.  The longer I went without any sort of feedback, the more I convinced myself that the book was terrible and my nephew didn’t know how to tell me that it was a flop.  Self-doubt is a vicious thing.

I silenced my doubts this morning as I prepared my meals for this week based on my new plant-based diet.  Being in the kitchen always allows me some escape from my reality.  After creating my meals, I ran into town and stopped at The Apothecary Shop for a few things.  I decided to use the blood pressure cuff to see if my change in diet had made a significant difference to my blood pressure.  While I was in mid-check, my nephew had seen my car and come into the Apothecary to find me.  The sight of him must have unnerved me because my blood pressure reading was ridiculous!

I couldn’t imagine what was going to come out of his mouth but I began to tug my arm out of the cuff before it had finished deflating.  He stood beside me with an apologetic smile.  He promised to finish the book before the weekend and that was all he said.  I said one word that seemed to hover in the small space between us….

“And………..”, I asked.

“It’s REALLY good”, he replied.

So now I sit, comfortably ensconced in my living room with words churning in my brain for my second book.   I have always loved the phrase ‘green means go’ and I feel like I have just been given the green light to continue my writing journey.  I’m already excited about this next book and can’t wait to dive in!  See you on the flip side.

 

 

And just like that, it was out of my hands…..

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I saw the corners of his mouth turn into a smile as I handed it over.   One hundred and eighty-two pages of eight and a half by eleven paper covered by eighty-two thousand, six hundred and fifty words of a story I crafted were turned over to my fourteen year old nephew so he could be the first person, besides myself, to read the book in its entirety.

My nephew, like me, loves to read and even though his calendar age may prove that he is only fourteen, he reads far beyond his age.   I could think of nobody more suited for the role of first reader than him and I was happy to hand the pages over to him.

My dad was a voracious reader as well.  Although the premise of my story may not have been something my dad would have eagerly pulled from the book shelf, he would have been my biggest fan.  It is bitter-sweet knowing how proud he would have been of my accomplishment but knowing that I can never hear those words come from him.  I know he is up there somewhere giving me a thumbs up and doing his best to encourage a literary agent to take a chance on me.

As much as I sit here, nervously awaiting the outcome of the first read-through, I anxiously anticipate feedback on the story.  I’m sure Dean Koontz or Stephen King never batted a thousand on their first at-bats so I’m expecting to take many more swings before I knock it out of the park.  I just want to make sure I stay in the game!

Life is about a lot of things

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Today began as nothing special.  But  my nothing special day changed drastically when my car made the familiar turn onto my road after doing some shopping on my day off and I casually glanced along the macadam leading to my house.  What I saw on the road made me do a double-take and tears instantly appeared in the corners of my eyes.

A random woman, a stranger, was walking her two small dogs, one black and one white, down my road and for a split second I could have sworn it was my mother.  When she was still alive, my mother chose to park her car in my driveway and walk her two small dogs, one black and one white, on my road because it was a manageable, quiet street.  When I came home from work, I would see the silhouette of my mother and her two sidekicks as they simultaneously pulled her in a myriad number of directions.  It was a struggle for her but she walked those little dogs until she could walk them no more.

Before I realized it, I had come to a complete stop and simply watched this woman walk away from me.  I don’t know how many minutes passed before the fading contour of her shadow turned onto the side road and disappeared.  The clock of my nothing special day stopped and I couldn’t move.  I could barely breathe.

The hopeful part of me anticipated that the woman would turn around and come back.  The stubborn part of me was willing to sit in the middle of the road until she did because the child in me thought for a split second that my mother would be the one to round that corner on her way back.

Eventually I collected myself and pulled my car into my driveway.  I was already on the verge of an ugly cry so I stood in front of the Birch sapling I planted three years ago in her memory and nothing could stop that surge of emotion from escaping.  But the cry was much shorter than I anticipated.  As I looked at that Birch tree, now almost double the size it once was, I realized that life does go on.  We endure many hardships, we suffer through tough times, but beauty always has a way of sneaking back into our lives, even when we think the best things in our lives have been taken.

mom's tree

(this photo was taken in 2014, shortly after it was planted)

Life evolves.  Life is about birth, growth, love and death.  But life is also about remembering, cherishing, holding on to memories and carrying on.  Life is about chance encounters, reconnecting with friends, deja vu and finding new things to love.  And life is about knowing that you were once able love something so much that it physically hurts when you keep remembering that it is gone forever.

Life is about a lot of things but, good or bad, life still happens every day.  I am just thankful that I am able to wake up each morning, engage with the people I still have in my life and spend time remembering those who have been able to emerge from their eternal cocoon and spread their wings in a new reality.

Life is about a lot of things.  But most of all, life is about finding some happiness in the saddest part of your day.

This is my circus and these are my monkeys

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My aunt recently had a milestone birthday and  last night we had dinner at our family cottage to celebrate.  As much as I admit to having some absurd personality traits and a slightly off-center sense of humor, I realized my apple does not fall far from my family tree.

The conversation flowed freely as we all caught up on the relevant stories in each other’s lives.  Lots of laughter was shared and the dialogue eventually focused on funny stories from the past, as it always does.  Though the tales have been told many times and in many ways, they never get old.  These stories are the thread that binds us, the string that weaves through the fabric of our relationships.   Spending time with these people is home to me.   I am never more myself than I am with this crazy circus I call my family and I am happy to be one of its monkeys.

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After spending a couple of hours around the dining room table, the summer solstice sun began to make its descent into the horizon.  The waning orange glow reflected on the water and we made our way out onto the screened porch to watch the evening sky struggle to hold onto the remains of the day.  For a moment, no words were spoken.  We were enveloped in a comfortable silence as we watched the sun disappear.  A single voice broke the silence, more stories bubbled to the surface and the darkness of the evening was welcomed by our laughter.

As the saying goes, you don’t choose your family.  But if I were given a choice to go back and make that decision, I can’t imagine choosing any other people to go on this journey with me.  Thank you monkeys, you fill my life with love and laughter.