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.

 

 

 

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.

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(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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Some trips down Memory Lane

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I don’t profess to know much about history.  I spent more time trying to avert my eyes from my high school History teacher’s unpleasant gestures and I unfortunately did not absorb any of the assumed knowledge he had bestowed upon us.  Instead, I doodled, wrote poems and passed notes to my friends.  I narrowly escaped with a passing percentage from my tenth grade scholastic year because of the embarrassing grade I received from that History class but my outlook on the past has recently changed.

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I have been asked to help with a project for our local library.  They would like to create a book that details the photos and the memories of our senior residents, learn what brought them to Muskoka and what the area was like when they first arrived.  I knew I would enjoy the journey but I didn’t know how much I would love it until I did my first interview on Wednesday.

This area has been home to my family for many generations.  I have been fortunate to live here for most of my life and have many photos and stories of family members who walked these paths long before my grandparents were born.  It has been a part of  my soul for longer than I have been on this Earth and I now get to hear stories of how Muskoka has been the love of many other people’s lives.

My first interview was with a delightful 82-year-old woman who was born in Cork, Ireland.  She moved to England with her family after the war and bravely left the safety of her home to move to Canada with a friend when she was 23 years old.  As I listened to her detail the moments of her life, I became absorbed in her words as she described her passion for her early days as a cottager and subsequently as a summer resident.  Her words moved me.  I felt the same strong emotion she did as she described how she felt more than fifty years ago when she first came to the area.

Perhaps history is subjective.   The stories of our past may be told in different ways but they will always hold a special place in our heart.  I am looking forward to joining a few more of our long-time residents on their journey down memory lane.

The thing about friends

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There is an infinite number of moments that friends can share.   Some of those memories may be remembered differently, based on individual perspectives, but most times the memories can transport people back through time to partake in a journey of laughter and recollection.

Yesterday I got to spend a few hours with an old friend who I have had the good fortune of reconnecting with and we have become great friends over the last two years.  We may not see each other often but, when we do, we have no trouble picking up the conversation where it left off the last time we talked.

I have several very close friends with whom I share the same special relationship.  Time and distance may separate us but the closeness we share is evident when we finally occupy the same physical space or talk on the phone.  Conversation flows like no time has passed and the laughter shared is just as genuine every time.

Friends like that don’t come along often.  To be able to be apart for long periods of time and just pick up where you left off is a gift.  Some of these friends are in different provinces and various time zones but we don’t let that distance or time negate the closeness of our relationship.

I have lost several people in my life who were a big part of my heart and when you suffer that kind of loss you learn to truly value everyone who can help to fill that space.  You learn to be grateful for every single moment you have with the people you call friends.  And you learn that being apart only makes you appreciate those friends that much more when you are together.