I will love you until….

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After watching a few back-to-back episodes of Hoarders yesterday morning (yes, you may roll your eyes now), my Sunday chore list became exponentially longer.  What started as a routine house cleaning day turned into a fridge and freezer purge, the breakdown of every cardboard box within my reach, two dump runs and a full afternoon in the kitchen making healthy lunches and soup for the week.

As I spent that time in my kitchen, my iPod playlist shuffled through every type of music you can imagine but the more I listened, the more the songs reminded me of my mom.  I have been thinking about my mom a lot lately.  She had a huge heart and she would continually think of little things to do for people just to see them smile.   She would spend the weeks leading up to Christmas baking until she could bake no more.  Her house always had the essence of fresh-baked cookies and squares and the Christmas tins would be piled high on her dining room table.

Her favorite day was not Christmas day but the day that she would drive, or later be driven, to all of the places where she would deliver her goodies.  The local Hardware store, the post office and the local veterinarians would excitedly open the tins to see their favorite type of cookie and their reaction was the only present she ever truly wanted.  My mom was the type of person who would learn those little things about you and she would make sure that those little things made their way from her home into your heart.

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I was reminded of this wonderful quality when, during my furious Hoarder-inspired clean, I was rearranging some things in my kitchen.  There in the midst of my jar of utensils was a lone yellow rose.  I had long forgotten the bouquet of flowers my mother had given me so many years ago.  She had stealthily used my key to leave the flowers on the island in my kitchen and attached to the fragrant arrangement was a simple card that read, “I will love you until the last flower dies”.  I thought it was an odd message but after really looking the arrangement, I saw the flower in the middle of the bunch.  It was a lovely yellow rose, but it was artificial.  It would never die.

That was my mom.  And those little nuances that made her who she was are the things I miss the most.  Some days I’m fine, a phrase we are no longer allowed to use in my family, and some days, like yesterday, the emotion snuck up on me and I could not control the flow of tears.

But it is not just the rose that reminds me that she will always be with me.  My mom is somehow still able to pull strings and make wonderful things happen in our lives that we never expected.  And it is these things, the things that only my mom would know, that make the gestures so special and so meaningful.

To say I miss her is a gross understatement and  I hope she knows that I will love her until that last flower dies.

Remembering a post about Remembrance

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This was written two years ago and I could not think of a better post for today, so I am putting this out there for those who read it to read it again and for those who missed it to read it for the first time.

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Undoubtedly, you’ve seen them.  The men and the women of the Royal Canadian Legion Branches have been doing their duty, standing at local businesses with their trays of poppies, collecting donations.  I see them every year.  I donate several times every year and I am proud to don my poppy to show my support.

But Friday morning, November 6th, 2015, will stand out in my memory as the day I was truly humbled and I knew precisely what I would be thinking during my moment of silence on Remembrance Day.

My friend Karen was enveloped by her navy blazer, her hair neatly braided, and a bright red poppy radiated from the lapel on her jacket. But that bright poppy was no match for her vibrant smile as she stood in the rain with her tray of poppies strung proudly around her neck.  When I asked her why she was standing in the rain as opposed to being under the shelter of the covered entrance to the store, she paused briefly, looking into the sky while summoning her response.  When she replied, it stopped me in my tracks and hit me right in the heart.   She said, “I don’t know.  They stood out there for us so the least I can do is stand out here for them.”.

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For a few seconds, I was frozen in my spot.   I smiled at her and continued into the store to buy my morning paper.  I reflected on what she had said to me and, once out of the store, I stopped and chatted with her in the rain some more while I donated the rest of my change.

The thought of what she said still brings a tear to my eye every time I recall her voice saying that brief but overwhelmingly gracious line.  That sentence was profound.  One simple line put Remembrance Day back into perspective for me.

So easily at 11:00 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, we all take a moment to share silence to remember the fallen, praise the heroes and thank those still serving to protect our basic rights and our freedom.  But how much do we think about what those soldiers really endured to fight for us?  How deeply will we let our brain delve into those dark places to be able to scratch the surface of the atrocities the fighters of those World Wars, and the many conflicts since, have been made to bear?

As the previous generations fall into the past and subsequently we skip quickly ahead to the next epoch of humanity, how many stories of our fallen ancestors will continue to be shared?  My maternal grandfather died of a heart attack long before I was born.  He served and I know so little about his sacrifices for our family and our country.   His stories of bravery seem to be tucked away with his photographs and his absence.

Hearing Karen’s thoughtful reasoning behind standing in the rain with her tray of poppies made me want to research the time my grandfather spent serving his country.  I want to feel that connection on Remembrance Day and I want to share that legacy with my nephews so their generation will understand what it means to show courage in the face of adversity, so they will appreciate what it means to sacrifice yourself for the greater good and how bravery is defined by doing something you believe in, no matter what the outcome.

To all of the men and women who are currently serving, to all of those who have served in the past and to those who are finally enjoying the peace they fought so diligently to preserve, I salute you and I thank you.  And at 11:00 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, I shall bow my head and take a moment to truly appreciate everything I have because all of you made it possible for me to have those things.

 

Grief cannot be fixed, it can only be carried

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I have suffered my share of grief through the loss of many people I held dear.  There was no reason for those losses to occur in the way they did and dealing with those wounds has not made me a stronger person, contrary to popular opinion.

It is tough to find words to say to people after they have suffered the loss of a loved one.  There are no magic phrases to make it all better.  There is no invisible salve to heal the wounds.  There is only comfort in a hug.  There is the ability to hold them when they can’t stop crying.  And there are the moments to share the wonderful memories of the person who has passed.

Loss never becomes easier with time as much as people try to tell you it does.  The only thing that time changes is our ability to live our lives in a new way and deal with the absence of that person on a daily basis.  It is true that some days are better than others.  But it is also true that you can be so overwhelmed by the pain of loss that you cannot leave your house because your tears are uncontrollable.

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There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  Emotion will control you, not the other way around.  The only thing you can do is carry that pain with you and wear it like a badge of honor.  That pain reminds you of the connection you had to the person who has passed.  That grief is the glue that binds you to the soul who has left this lifetime.  And those tears are the reality that make you painfully aware that grief cannot be fixed.  It can only be carried.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

A Heavenly wish on Mother’s Day

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She birthed me and swaddled me,

she showered me with love.

Her arms always embraced me,

they fit me like a glove.

Her words were the only ones,

that could help to heal my scars.

Hers was the only light,

that would comfort me in the dark.

She woke me up to play with me,

she laughed at all my jokes.

She sang with me to old musicals,

although she couldn’t hold the notes.

Her faith in my abilities,

has stood the test of time.

She’s the portrait of what a mother should be,

and I’m glad that she is mine.

So, here’s to you, mom, on this special day,

my love for you has no end.

You’re my giver of life, my confidant,

and will always be my best friend.

And though my wishes are sent further today,

into a world I am unable to touch.

I know you hear my words of love

and they will forever mean just as much.

Adults say the darndest things

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I had it made as a kid.  My parents were co-owners of a coin laundry, a bakery and then a Sub shop that also served ice cream.  There were a few arcade games in the sub shop and Defender and Asteroids ate many of the quarters that were once my allowance.  I was the living version of a kid in a candy store.

My dad also sold real estate during the same time period, so to say he had many irons in the fire is a gross understatement.  His office was located conveniently up the street from the sub shop so I would bounce back and forth from each business and soon became a runner for the agent’s ice cream requests.  I will never forget Ken Robinson.  He was in his seventies, had white hair like Santa Claus and a severe penchant for mint chocolate chip ice cream.  He and I became quick friends once I learned that he shared the same love for that minty, chocolate deliciousness as I did.

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Every day, Ken would hand me his money and I would gladly run down the street to retrieve his afternoon treat.  I ran in to the office one hot summer day to find Ken’s desk unattended.  I asked the secretary where he was and she could not look me in the eye.  Instead, I was told to talk to my father.  Ken had died of a heart attack the night before.  I was devastated.  Ken had been the first person I had known who had died.  After many days of tears and avoiding the office, I finally gathered the courage to go back.  Carl was there with his ill-fitting sport coat and bad seventies mustache.  I will never forget how nonchalant he was when he spoke to the 11-year old me and said, “You musta killed him with all that mint chocolate chip ice cream.”

I carried that burden with me to Ken’s funeral and for many years after.   We went to the service as a family and I can still remember the dress I wore.  We paid our respects to his family and approached his open casket.  I was terrified that Ken’s wax-like body was going to sit upright, point at me at scream, “you did this to me”.   I could barely breathe.

Now, as an adult, I still have difficulties at open-casket funerals.  The logical side of my brain assures me that a deceased body cannot move, but the young girl and the writer in me still have that nagging doubt.

I can only hope that Carl eventually outgrew his horrendous mustache (and Herb Tarlek wardrobe) and learned to think before he spewed any further erroneous judgement on young, impressionable minds.  Either that or he has had ten children and countless grandchildren of his own and Karma has finally paid him a visit!