The good, the bad and the grossly unfair

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Death is selfish. It lurks in the shadows. It hides in a realm of certainty somewhere between acceptance and denial and it feeds on our inability to process its inevitability. It waits for nobody. It heeds its own agenda and it gives no signs of compassion. It simply reaps.

This past weekend began on a good note. I left work on Friday with plans for a full day on Saturday with a friend and things quickly changed. My weekend went from good to bad as Mother Nature unleashed her winter fury in the wee hours of Saturday morning and obliterated any plans for travel on Saturday. Since my car is still in possession of its summer tires, our plans were thwarted and I was home-bound for the day. While I made the most of the day by making soup and catching up on some reading, my disappointment still tainted my afternoon.

After a good night’s sleep, I awoke Sunday morning with a renewed faith the day would be great. With my shopping list in hand, I loaded up a grocery cart with items to make Freezer Crockpot meals for our local food bank, surrounded myself with a group of volunteers and we created twenty-eight meals that will each feed a family of four. The good that afternoon far outweighed the bad from the previous day.

When I got home a few hours later, I was greeted by the news an old friend has passed away on November 2nd after a brief battle with cancer. I was unaware of his passing until today and missed the opportunity to attend his funeral service. Even though my car is equipped with only summer tires, I would have driven through those early snow storms to pay my respects to Doug and his family.

He was a wonderful man. Charismatic only touches the surface of how animated his personality could be. He was quick with a smile, eager to share a laugh and truly one of the most genuine people I have ever had the good fortune to meet. To say he will be missed is an egregious understatement. I spent a great deal of Sunday night in tears, crying for the loss of Doug and the fact that so many people are taken before we are ready to say goodbye to them. Fuck cancer.

 

Hey Mom, what’s for dinner?

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A child rarely considers the impact family dinners will have on their life. When I was younger, I never thought for a moment I would be in my fiftieth year and have to go back into the vault of my memories to conjure up images of my family enjoying a meal together. There are still days I struggle with the reality that both of my parents are gone. Yesterday was one of those days.

We were having a trivial discussion at work about meatloaf and meatloaf always makes me think about my mom. She made a killer meatloaf and every time she told me she was making one, I always asked her to make one for me. I am pretty proficient in the kitchen, but my meatloaf never, ever turns out to be as delicious as the one my mom made. Although she gave me the list of ingredients she used, there were no measurements so my end result is never as tasty as what she would produce. (I’m sure she did that on purpose and also left out one or two ingredients)

When I walked into the grocery store after work, I was almost certain that I would be trying, once again, to duplicate her recipe but other memories quickly sabotaged that idea and random ingredients found their way into my shopping basket. When I reached the cashier, I recognized all of the ingredients for my mom’s Hamburger Stroganoff.

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Perhaps my brain will forever deny my taste buds any chance of my dinners tasting as good as the ones my parents used to make, but the way my house smelled last night disagrees with that rationale. I was fifteen again. I had just come home from school and the smell of Hamburger Stroganoff permeated the air. I could almost feel my parents’ presence in the kitchen. I could see my mom blush as my dad patted her on the bum, knowing that I caught that loving touch in my peripheral vision.

To say my dinner was satisfying doesn’t come close to what it was. My dinner last night transported me to a time when, even though things weren’t perfect, things were perfect. And though I will never be afforded the opportunity to ever again yell, “Hey Mom, what’s for dinner”, I can still try my best to make those meals that will freeze those moments in time, if only for a while.

 

I got the message, loud and clear

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We have a scrapbooking group checking in to the lodge this weekend. I’m sure you are wondering why I am sharing this information. Thinking about this group made me pull out the scrapbook I made for my mom’s celebration of life over four years ago.

Part of my healing process was to capture the many parts of my mother that made her so wonderful – her childhood, her marriage to my father, her becoming a mother and her dedication to our family. As I turned each page I had created, adorned with pictures of her infectious smile, I became overwhelmed with emotion. Tears began to slide down my cheeks but I stopped myself from becoming a blubbering mess by remembering all the extraordinary things about my mom and that made my sadness turn into happiness. She was a woman with a big heart who everyone admired and loved.

As I was going through my scrapbook pages, my iPod continued to shuffle songs. Although I was lost in the images of my mother, the song that began to play in the background of my reverie was called “Remember David” by A Flock of Seagulls. David was my dad’s name.

My dad passed away eight years before we lost my mom. He is never far from my thoughts but the raw emotion of my loss is tied more tightly to my mom because it is more fresh in my mind. I got the message loud and clear. I don’t miss my dad any less than I miss my mom. There are days that I take myself back to the minutes before he took his last breath, the seconds I counted between those breaths and the exact moment I knew he was gone. It is a moment I will never forget.

But with the sad moments of his loss come the memories of the life he lived. He was gregarious. He lived life to the fullest. And although he left this world before he should have, he left a huge imprint. He shaped my world and he left his spiritual impression on my brother and my nephews. They all embody the pieces of him he would have wanted to leave behind. They are loving, they are adventurous and they put their family first.

I can only thank my iPod shuffle for reminding me to “Remember David”, not that I will ever forget him. Those subtle reminders make me realize he is never that far away from me and I should make a point of remembering David more often. I miss you, Dad.

 

 

It was never about the muffins

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am addicted to Pinterest.  This glorious website has opened up new avenues of cooking for me as well as opening a few doors to my past. Yesterday was a glowing example of that.

I wasn’t looking for anything specific so when I came across a simple picture of a blueberry muffin, I was immediately transported back to our old house on Foreman Road.  I was ten or eleven years old and I was in our kitchen, as I always was on Sunday mornings, making Betty Crocker Blueberry muffins for breakfast.

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I loved Sundays.  I loved the fact that my parents trusted my ability at such a young age to prepare a breakfast that we would eat in their bedroom, they tucked under the covers and me (and sometimes my brother) sitting at the end of their bed.  Thinking back to those wonderful times, I can almost smell the freshly baked morsels just out of the oven and I can see the pat of butter melting into the white cake, making the blueberries glisten in morning light from their bedroom window.

If I close my eyes, I can teleport myself back to that kitchen, mixing the ingredients ever so carefully, taking the lid off the tin of real blueberries and making sure I was careful not to spill the syrup and stain anything in its path.

Just when I feel like my parents have slipped a little further into my memory cache, one simple picture of a blueberry muffin was all it took to bring them stampeding back into my thoughts.  When I look back at all those breakfasts in bed, it was never really about making muffins, it was about making memories. And those moments  that are now frozen in time will help me hold my parents close forever.

Another year has passed

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Today marks four years since the day my mother passed away.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her or laugh at some funny memory that bubbles to the surface.  But with each smile, I still feel that pain of loss.  It will never go away but it does get easier with time.  This is the poem I wrote after she passed and it touches my heart as much now as it did when that pain was so fresh.    I miss you, Mom.  xx

You left us in the early hours,

so peacefully your spirit would roam.

Through a gentle wind and the rising sun,

the angels called you home.

A ladder was built for your journey to light,

each rung meant to make you content.

While bathed in the glowing light of rebirth,

you gracefully began your ascent.

Loving arms awaited  you there,

curling you into their embrace.

Heaven welcomed an angel back home,

 rejoicing her love and her grace.

You leave behind your spirit and joy,

in those who loved you each day.

While our days will be saddened by the emptiness we feel,

we know we will see you someday.

~

Jane Eleanore Nairn – May 21, 1940 – March 7, 2014

A little piece of you

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I never used to let myself think about it,

about the day you wouldn’t be in my life anymore.

It felt like an existence that was light years away.

 But reality blindsided me,

and took you,

without even giving me chance to say goodbye.

For so long, my picture was blank.

All the colors of my puzzle,

the hues that were once filled in by you,

were nothing but monochromatic shades.

My world was black and white.

 But slowly, your color is returning.

My paint-by-numbers world

is gradually being saturated by your ethereal touch.

paint by number

I can see your favorite blue in the sky,

and I can feel the warmth of your oranges and reds in the setting sun.

 Your celestial brush animates my canvas.

The green you paint in my forest nurtures me,

the brown of the earth grounds me,

and the lines in your picture guide me.

Before you were gone,

my picture looked so different.

But now I embrace every line, every color,

looking for a little piece of you along the way.

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They thought they had more time

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I arrived at the church fifteen minutes before the service began and I was ushered into one of the last remaining seats at the back of the church.  The room was full and buzzing with conversation.  At the front of the church was a large picture of the man for whom we had all come to pay our respects and say our goodbyes.

There were several familiar faces and many I did not know.  Some carried on animated exchanges while others sat and prepared for the tears they knew were coming.  The church fell silent and we all rose to greet his wife, his children, his grandchildren and his extended family.

During the service, his children got up to share their memories of their dad and through broken, emotion-soaked voices they gave us another look into the man we all knew and greatly respected.  Before they even spoke, I saw the pain in their faces.  That same pain had been etched into my skin years ago when I lost my parents, my dad in 2006 and my mom, more recently, in 2014.  It is a pain not easily described to those who have not lost a parent.

Although both of my parents were ill leading up to their passing, they both left before I had a chance to say I love you once more because we thought we had more time.  This poor family thought they had much more time but their dad died very unexpectedly of a massive heart attack.  I sat through the service with dry eyes, because to have cried one tear would have opened floodgates that may not have closed.

I sit now writing this post through the tears that I could not shed on Saturday for fear they would not stop.  I think of all the lives he changed for the better.  I think of his countless hours spent doing things for those less fortunate.  I think of the legacy he left behind for us to follow.  And I think of his children who thought they had more time with their dad but never had the chance to tell him “I love you” just one more time.

As someone so astutely pointed out to me on Saturday, we are all given numbers and we never know when ours will be called.  Love deeply, laugh abundantly, share your good fortune with those who go without and don’t ever take for granted the moments to tell the people in your life how you feel about them.  You never know when their, or your, number will be called.