A part of life

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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.

~~

Last week we had a senior’s bus tour at the lodge.  Unlike the previous tours, we had neither mildly concussed nor toppled our guests on top of one other.  The tour had been relatively trauma-free with the exception of a phone call a mere fifteen minutes after the bus arrived and our guests had been shown to their rooms.

Death had been hovering at the precipice and chose to include us in its folly with one phone call for the sister of its intended victim shortly after she arrived at the lodge.  What should have been a glorious adventure for Kathleen suddenly turned into a feeling of helplessness and isolation as she mourned the loss of her sister surrounded by a group of strangers.

But even in the face of sadness, there was no surprise in discovering that the group of strangers had chosen to embrace Kathleen and take on a part of her burden as their own.  As much as death wanted to be the headliner in this performance, the supporting cast was truly the star of the show.

Fellow travelers and staff made every effort to ease Kathleen’s suffering and reunited her with her family before the bus was due to leave the lodge.   It takes a village – and this village had a great deal of empathy and ingenuity.  Kathleen was able to reconnect with her family and attend her sister’s funeral.  And although she was missed on that last day of the bus tour, we knew she was where she needed to be and she knew we all held her in our thoughts and prayers.

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(image credit)

Death is selfish.  And although it may be a part of life, so is love and compassion.

 

The day the spaghetti broke

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I do not consider myself to be a “food snob” but there are certain things that are either right or wrong when it comes to the kitchen and food preparation.  Sure, bastardized versions of many dishes have been made popular over the years to appease the increasing number of dietary restrictions, but there is one thing that I find offensive if it is messed with and that is spaghetti.

One of my dear friends shared a story with me (mainly because he knew I would lose sleep over it) about “the incident” that may haunt me for the rest of my days.

We are both twirlers.  We take great pride in reaching into that steaming bowl of pasta with a fork and twirling that spaghetti, either on a spoon or in the bowl, until a pleasing mound of pasta is gathered in a beautiful spiral pattern.  There is something very fulfilling about the twirling process and the effort to twirl makes the reward of the first bite that much better.

It was a day like any other.  He had been out working in his shop and could almost smell the pungent aromas of tomatoes and spices wafting through the air.  As he neared the house, the scent of the sauce was accompanied by the fragrance of a fresh baguette, lathered in garlic butter, toasting in the oven.

She was there to greet him with a glass of wine and, as he got cleaned up from his day, she then busied herself getting the table ready for dinner.  He was eager to sit down to a heaping bowl of what he thought was going to be a fantastic meal.  Once he had seated himself at the table, she presented a bowl that looked very similar to this:

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What promised to be a meal fit for a King turned into a meal fit for a toddler.  I can only imagine the amount of time that elapsed while he gaped at the bowl in front of him, trying to be appreciative of her efforts but not commenting aloud about the egregious choice she had made.  She had sacrificed everything that is good about spaghetti and had broken the noodles into bite-size pieces.

He felt the harness tightening, encasing him in the invisible high chair in which he now felt trapped.  He repressed the urge to turn into that toddler and throw the bowl to the floor while he struggled to come to terms with the embarrassment those noodles must have felt.  He suffered in silence along with them as he spooned the unrecognizable pasta into his mouth.

Years later, I now suffer, not so much in silence, with him.  A law of nature was twisted that day – the day the spaghetti broke.

(image credit)

 

 

 

Suffering the side-effects of the human condition

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For those unfamiliar with the latest news in aviation, an Air Canada flight came down at Halifax International Airport on Sunday in what I personally refer to as a “successful crash”.  Airline media relations like to call it a “hard landing”.   I’m sure the passengers aboard would agree with my description since the pilot attempted to navigate the runway with no landing gear, no nose on the plane and short one engine.  The plane slid along the runway to a stop and passengers were able to exit the plane to safety.  There were more than two dozen sent to hospital with minor injuries but the end result was no casualties.   In lieu of what we have been watching recently about the German Airlines tragic ending, this story has a relatively positive outcome.

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The crash is under investigation and veteran pilots are already pointing the finger to pilot error unless the engines were not receiving full power.  It is too early to tell anything beyond the fact that the captain and his co-pilot are currently the only people who are responsible for bringing the troubled plane to the ground and sparing the lives of their passengers and crew.

I read a disturbing story today that some passengers are already threatening to sue Air Canada.  Just days after the tragedy of the German flight being piloted straight into the side of the Alps, these passengers’ perspective seems to have crashed and burned as well.   Their plane,  although potentially mishandled, was brought down safely in high wind gusts and snow after the landing gear was sheared off because the plane hit some antennas.  The one hundred and forty-nine passengers and crew of Germanwings were not so lucky.

Yes…your flight crash landed, but you survived.  Yes……you unfortunately had to stand on the runway for an hour before being shuttled into the airport.  No, I don’t think that is acceptable and no, I wasn’t on the plane and don’t know the terror you certainly experienced.  But nobody has to make a call to your family to say you didn’t make it.  Nobody has to guide your loved ones through the pain of knowing they will never have a body, or even fragments of a body, to bury to give them a sense of peace and closure.  You are alive to tell the tale and you, unlike so many others, will live to see another day.  Your family does not have to spend countless hours wondering what happened to your flight because you did not disappear without a trace, never to be seen again.

Perhaps the thing that irritated me the most and began this tyrannical rant is that one of the passengers made a flip comment about taking “plane crash” off their bucket list. I had to close the page of the interview.  Who, in their right mind, has plane crash on their bucket list and who can be so flippant with such a crass statement shortly after 149 people tragically lost their lives only days earlier and many other missing flights loaded with passengers and crew will never be found?  The light bulb that was my hope for humanity has been alarmingly dimmed today.

Perhaps those passengers threatening to sue were still in shock and merely making a rash judgement.  I can only hope that if the lawsuits go ahead and money is awarded to the victims of the unfortunate landing in Halifax that they will look back on the events of devastation that have happened within air travel over the past few years and use that money to set up a fund to aid families who have lost loved ones.  Winning a cash reward for surviving would be such a monumental slap in the face of the families who are still grieving and to those who will never get the answer to the question of what really happened to their loved ones.

 

Ashes to ashes – fiction

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She knew his heart would crash, landing right at her feet the moment she told him it was over.  What had been a fairy tale beginning had quickly turned into the twisted relationship only Dean Koontz could do justice in one of his macabre stories.  It had been tumultuous, to say the least, and she just needed to be free of him.

Over the course of their relationship, he had retreated into a cocoon inside his mind, fueled by the haze of booze and cigarettes.  She had not realized his heart had shrunk to such a miniscule version of what it once was until she saw it laying before her, cold and lifeless on the stony ground.

His face seemed to become more emaciated the longer she looked at him.  He had not reacted verbally to her accusations.  He could only nod in sullen agreement because he seemed to have lost the ability to speak.  She berated him, lashed out for each minute she spent wishing her life with him had been different.  With each bitter word she uttered, her Machiavellian intention became clearer to him.

She couldn’t tell if his eyes actually became bigger when he realized what was happening or if it just seemed like it because his body was withering at such a rapid rate.  His hair-line seemed to recede as she watched and his gaunt complexion resembled more of a skeleton than a human body.  She pulled the small doll from her pocket and lingered before she pushed the last pin into the woven material that covered its chest.  A small sigh escaped her lips and she plunged the final pin into the doll.  What remained of his skin and bones hastily turned to dust and fell to the cobblestone street.

She stood idle for a few moments and watched as the ants began to march single file through the crack in the stone.  Like a well trained army, they worked as a team to circle the tiny carrion and haul the remains of the lifeless heart down the hole to take home as a trophy.  Little did they know, the spell she had created would only allow that heart to exist for mere minutes after the rest of his body had disappeared.  The ants would get it into the hole but it would never remain solid long enough to present it to the colony.

As she walked away, she carefully removed each pin remembering the outcome that each jab had on his physical being.  She tossed the pins in the gutter and placed the doll safely back in her pocket, hoping, once again, this would be the last time she would need it.

~~

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Written for the Grammar Ghoul Challenge – to use the picture above – Just a lonely heart by Marina Carvalho
is licensed under CC by 2.0
,  and the word crash with the following definition – Move or cause to move with force, speed, and sudden loud noise

 

 

 

Not all silence is golden

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paul-helleu-sketching-his-wife-1889Her silence began to paw at him.   Like the constant yanking of coat-tails by an impatient child,  her wordlessness did more to annoy him than if she were nagging him, as she usually did on these trips.  But she was petulant in her nature this morning and it was agitating him to the point that he could not focus on his painting.

The day had lent everything he required for his creative process.  The sky was reflecting a profusion of purples and blues off the water and the grass was standing perfectly still, waiting for him to capture its very essence on his canvas.  She began to pick at the weeds in front of her and sighed heavily each time she threw a collection of dying blades into the windless day.

With each of her exhalations, his brush stroke became angrier and more forceful.  The once stunning colors on his palette were becoming a mottled collection of angry hues and the overwhelming emotion he felt rising in his cheeks began to match those shades of regret and dejection.  The beautiful day now felt sour and unfriendly.

He put his brush down and stood to stretch.  She turned her back to him and that simple gesture was the last act of child-like behavior he would tolerate.  In one fluid motion, he reached into the canoe and, without thinking twice, grabbed the paddle and struck the back of her head with all the force he could muster.  Her skull split like a ripe melon and an arc of blood spatter found the extra canvas hidden in the canoe.

After standing over her for several minutes, he delicately placed her hat back over the gash on her head.  He studied her for a moment.  There was such a serene quality to her silence now and he felt the inspiration to begin painting again.  He reached the for the canvas in the canoe.  There was something intriguing about the pattern of blood and his brush strokes on this new piece of art gingerly worked around those drops to maintain their artistic integrity.

He felt great satisfaction looking at his newest masterpiece.  He placed the canvas on the now spare seat in the canoe and began looking for some large rocks.  He would have to do his best to make sure she wasn’t found near the others.

~~

Written for the Grammar Ghoul challenge:  using the word “paw” as a verb and using this picture to write a story up to 750 words.  I’m not sure why my creative brain always goes in the direction of the macabre.

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Nobody thinks it will happen to them

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Winter is upon us and, as luck would have it, I was very ill-prepared for the sudden onset of about two feet of snow.  Our friends to the south of us in the Buffalo area got it much worse than we did and I hope everyone is safe and warm preparing for the clean up after that terrible lake-effect snow that was dumped on your world.

The flurry of flurries made me realize how far behind I am with following my prep list for the “festive” season.  My summer tires are currently doing a remarkable job getting me to and from work and my golf clubs are still using the valuable space in my trunk that should now be reserved for my winter safety kit.

Those kits are rarely seen in vehicles but, if you were one of the people trapped on the Interstate during the storm that pounded Buffalo, are a very welcome use of space when you are stranded in bad weather.

Having a safety kit in your car is such a simple way to help prevent what could be a terrifying experience.  It is so easy to collect the necessities and have it in your trunk, just in case.  Good things to keep on hand are:  candles and a metal container to hold them, matches or lighter, snack food like nuts, trail mix or energy bars, a blanket, a change of clothes and footwear, flares, a flashlight, a whistle, kitty litter or a bag of sand (I keep strips of carpet to put under my tires – they are awesome!) and bottled water (using plastic bottles that do not crack).

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These items should be there as well as your usual items like jumper cables, spare tire, windshield washer fluid and small shovel.

Please be safe this winter.  It only takes a trip to the Dollar Store and a few minutes of your time, but it could save a life, maybe even yours!

 

Under his spell

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lempicka-saint-moritz-1929

What wouldn’t she have done for his love,

for the forbidden taste of his lips,

for the soft caress of his fingers tracing lightly upon her skin.

She savored the memory of his smile,

she recalled his sweetness as he spoke his words of love,

words that were meant to only fall on her ears.

But his carefree words deafened the ears of the spoiled.

Those words were never meant for her.

His life had been promised to another.

And now her soul was trapped,

forced into everlasting damnation,

compelled to bear witness to his life with another.

Their black magic hardened on her skin like a crust,

holding her face in sadness for eternity.

Her body now a statue,

held fast in its place,

her eyes meant to watch him,

reminded every day of what she cannot have.

Her consciousness banished

to a lifetime of anguish and melancholy.

In the darkness he would sneak out to visit her,

his touch was just as warm and his words of love, just as sweet.

~~

Written for the Grammar Ghoul Challenge – combining the above painting, Saint Moritz, by Tamara de Lempicka with the word prompt:

Crust (noun):

A hardened layer, coating, or deposit on the surface of something soft

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Another gone too soon

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It is difficult to write an upbeat post when tragedy has pulled its dark blanket over our small town once again and taken another young life long before it was time for his soul to leave the Earth.

When you live in a small town, nobody is really a stranger.  Those familiar faces you see on the street every day become more than strangers.  They become extended members of our friendship circles and unwittingly become like a member of our family.

Those faces, those smiles that become etched in our memories leave a lingering impression.  If we are lucky enough to have created a relationship with those who were once strangers, the sound of their laughter will remain in our hearts.  This young man was one of those who created a lasting impression on his first encounter.  He had a gregarious spirit and made many people smile.  His bonds of friendship ran deep and his absence will leave a big hole in many hearts.

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My sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends.  Our town will seem darker but Heaven has gained such a bright light.  May you rest in peace and may the many souls that have gone before you find comfort in your warmth and kind spirit.

 

 

Until we meet again

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 (image credit)

When I am overcome by sorrow and surrounded by an outpouring of emotion, the writer in me takes over and helps process the overwhelming feelings by using words.  I cannot express enough gratitude for those words at times when tears and despair are not adequate enough to describe the sadness of attending a funeral for a 30-year-old man who had been experiencing the best year of his life.

In the aftermath of a tragic event, two parents lost a son, a younger brother became an only son and my best friend lost her brother.  The news of his passing was felt in our small town like the shock waves recorded during an earthquake.  Everyone who knew Cam was rattled to their core.  The emotion was raw, the grief was all-encompassing and the anguish could have been described as physical pain.

We gathered in Toronto today to celebrate Cam’s life.  We shared tears, we shared many hugs and we all knew we had lost something special in our lives that we can never get back.  Cam was that guy that everyone loved to be around.  His smile will be forever etched in the memories of those who were fortunate enough to see it and his absence will never go unnoticed.

His funeral service today was a touching blend of spirituality and prayer, accented by a heaping dose of Cam’s sense of humor.  As the family left the service, the well-recognized Monty Python song “Always look on the bright side of life” played while we stood, waiting to join the family outside.

“Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.”  —Phillip Brooks

Cam truly was a man of character.  May you rest in peace, Cam.

 

An unfortunate series of events

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Last night I was scanning through the social media sites, surreptitiously wasting precious moments of my life that I won’t get back, and found a collection of pictures on Facebook that I just had to scan through.  The pictures were of some unfortunate puppy dogs who had run into some bees and the photos had been turned into memes.  As much as I felt sympathy for these poor creatures, I was certainly enjoying the humor of those who wrote the accompanying words.

dog-eats-bee-looks-like-goofy(image credit: weknowmemes.com)

 Fast forward to this morning.  I let Callaway out for her usual morning routine.  I have great faith that she will not run out onto the road since she, like me, is a great creature of habit.  When I went out to let her back in, she wasn’t waiting at the door as per her normal behavior.  I stood on my deck and whistled for her and the jingling of her tags came from a direction that was out of her usual territory.

When her front paws landed on the first stair, I saw the bee on Callaway’s back.  I grabbed the towel that was hanging close by and, after the most ungraceful display of heroics, I swatted the bee away.  But I knew it wasn’t the only strike.  Her usual playful entrance to the house was replaced by a sullen walk to her doggy bed where she lay licking her wounds.  There was no waiting for cookies, only a somewhat embarrassed dog attempting to be brave through her tragedy.

The irony of my previous night’s web surfing did not escape me.  I watched the bumps on my poor dog’s body increase in size and tried to console her as much as I could before I left for work.  In a matter of minutes my dog had gone from svelte to lumpy.

I’m glad I live close to my work because I couldn’t stand the worry and came home at 10:30 this morning to make sure she was okay.  Her pride was a little bruised but her physical condition was stable.  There was nothing a bit of love and a few more cookies couldn’t fix.  As I type this post, the swelling is going down and Callaway’s sense of adventure seems to be somewhat diminished…..for now.  She seems to be content to watch the wildlife from inside the house.

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