I am off to spend 5 days with my grandson, daughter and son-in-love celebrating his first birthday!
See you next week!
Sometime ago, I attended a workshop at a hotel downtown. When I arrived, I wasn’t sure where to go and approached a waitress I saw setting up a table in the lobby restaurant. As I approached, she looked at me, smiled and said, “Louise. How wonderful to see you.”
“Hi!” I replied, glancing at her name tag. “Claire*. I know I know you but I can’t remember from where.”
She smiled. Glanced around to see if anyone was within earshot. “From the shelter,” she said. “I was a client there years ago.”
My eyes widened in wonder. “Wow! I wouldn’t have recognized you. You look fabulous,” I told her.
And she did. Her once gaunt face had filled out. Her eyes sparkled. Claire, when I knew her many years ago at the shelter was a crack addict. While there, she drifted in and out of sobriety, in and out of rehab with never a stint of sobriety lasting longer than a couple of weeks.
When high, she flitted like a butterfly, laughing and joking with everyone.
When coming down, she drifted through the room like a wounded sparrow, dragging a broken wing, fluttering feebly, fearful it would never fly again.
When sober, she volunteered. Helped out where ever she could, constantly staying busy in the hope she would not succumb to the call of the drugs eating at her peace of mind. “I want to be sober,” she told me often. “I really want it, but I’m too scared to let go of the drugs.”
She’s been clean and sober for several years.
“I’m loving it,” she told me. “Love being sober. Love getting to know me again,” she laughed. “I was too afraid to do that before.” She glanced upwards, pointed above. “It’s a miracle. I’d be dead by now if He hadn’t found me lying in the dirt and picked me up. I am so grateful for His Love.”
Claire’s sobriety was hard work. Rehab. Fall. Rehab. Fall. Until one day, there was no more falling. No more rehab.
“There were so many people who made a difference on my journey,” she said. “I say thank you every day.”
We chatted for a bit. My eyes welled up several times as she told me about her journey, her letting go and surrendering to Love.
As we said good-bye, she gave me a hug. “I’ve always wanted to thank you for being so kind. You always treated everyone with respect. It meant a lot. You reminded me of what was possible even when I was high and running scared.”
I wanted to brush off her compliment. To slip away and let it slide off me.
I chose not to. I chose instead to let her words lift me up and to give her my appreciation for sharing her story with me.
“Thank you,” I said. “Your words mean a lot to me. Seeing you has reminded me to never let go of hope. To always believe in the beauty of the human spirit. I’m so glad you are alive.”
There are no accidents even though running into Claire felt like one at the time.
In Claire’s story I was reminded of the magnificence of the human spirit when it soars free of limiting thoughts and behaviours that tie us to the belief we do not deserve Love. Chatting with Claire reminded that we are all at times like a bird with a broken wing, desperately trying to take flight. It is only when we do the hard work of letting go and falling into Love, that we set ourselves free.
In Love’s embrace, we are safe in our humanity. In Love, even broken wings find the courage to fly.
* not her real name
I told your story yesterday old friend. I told your story and shared your voice with strangers. Just like you wanted. Just like you knew I would those days when you shared stories of your life on the road and laughed and teased and flirted.
Remember? You said you wanted to be remembered. Oh. Not for the word you carried that named you. Oh no. Never that harsh and judgmental label – homeless. It didn’t sit well with you. Call me anything but that, you said.
And then you laughed. Because I’m not, you know. I’ve got a home. Here. And your rheumy eyes glistened and I saw the longing for home shining.
I told them of your brother. Of your reuniting. Of the missing years that had no need of filling in. Of the tears and the joy. And finally, I told these strangers who had never met you, but wished they had, of your brother’s hand holding yours in those final moments. Of your passing over filled with grace in the love of a brother who never forgot you and never gave up on finding you before it was too late.
You blessed my world my friend. You blessed me with your laughter and your words and your insistence you would fight this. You would win. You would beat it. Not even life can beat me down you said. And it didn’t. At least not life itself. You were so full of it. So completely engaged in it. And then, you were gone.
In the end, you won. In the beauty and the tragedy of your life, you found the thing you most sought. That thing we all yearn for. That place we all want to be. Held forever in the arms of Love.
Yesterday I told your story and I smiled and laughed and remembered you just the way you wanted to be remembered. Determined. Feisty. Laughing and just a little bit naughty.
Tell them about the man I was, you said. Tell them about the man with dreams and big ideas and an eye for the ladies.
You winked when you said that. You always winked when you flirted.
Tell them about the man who could lift bales of hay with one hand and change a flat tire in three minutes flat. Don’t tell them about the skin and bones, the skeleton rattling around a small cubicle room where all I own fits into a 2×6 foot locker. Leave the ending out, would you?
Remember me for the man I was. The man who did it his way. The one who told himself he never needed anyone and found out, in the end, he was grateful to be wrong. Make sure they know that, you said. Make sure they know. No one is meant to be alone. Especially in the end.
I told your story yesterday old friend and you were remembered and eyes glistened and hearts drew near and warmed their hands in the glow of your closeness and I knew, you were there. Laughing. Caring. Sharing your stories and your funny jokes and not so delicate ones too.
You are not forgotten my friend.
It is cold and frosty outside today. Inside, my world is warm and toasty. Beaumont sleeps on the chaise behind me. My beloved lays in our bed. The furnace hums. The river flows past, its ripples glistening in the light that shines from the bridge above. The bridge that connects two sides of the river flowing past.
The world outside my window is wintry white as once the screen lay flat and white before me. Until your memory filled it.
I ran into an old work colleague yesterday. We laughed and chatted and talked about people we knew. Those who are still with us. Those who are gone.
“It’s good to remember the good of that place,” my colleague said. “That way we let go of what we do not need to carry.”
Wise words, I thought. And I remembered a man who once stayed at that place. His name was Terry. He is gone but the lesson he taught remains.
In remembering, I searched for something I’d written of him a year after he passed.
No one is meant to be alone., he said. Especially in the end.
The air is frigid outside my window. Arctic air encompasses the city.
There are those who are outside in this cold, struggling to survive.
If you are in Calgary and see someone in distress, please call the DOAP team — 403-998-7388
If you are in another city, please check with your local shelters if there’s a number you can call, or call 9-1-1
The Window Through Which We Look
A young couple moved into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they were eating breakfast, The young woman saw her neighbor hanging the wash outside. ‘That laundry is not very clean,’ she said. ‘She doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.’
Her husband looked on, but remained silent.
Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, The young woman would make the same comments.
About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband:
‘Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this.’
The husband said, ‘I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.’
And so it is with life.
What we see when watching others depends on the window through which we look.
It is a sometimes human practice to sit in our easy chairs and judge others. To view their world through the comfort of our view of the world to see the defects on their side, rather than notice the cloudiness of our own lens.
I often hear this in the homeless-serving sector from those not immersed in the work. “Why do they drink?” “Why don’t they plan better for financial hardship?” “How can they let their children down like that [by bringing them to a homeless shelter]?
No matter the injustice about which we are speaking, or the social condition which we are viewing, our judgments come from a lack of understanding, an inability/unknowingness of how to step out of our own construct of how the world should be according to us, to see the world according to another’s lens and position in it. Living within our own world view, it is challenging to see how our privilege has provided us more grace, more room to make mistakes, more capacity to weather life’s storms. How another’s choices are not based on a ‘desire to create worse’ but rather a lack of opportunity or knowing of how to create better.
As I journey through this week, may I always remember that no matter my view, it is different than someone else’s. Not right. Not wrong. Just difference.
No one sits where I sit just as I do not walk in someone else’s shoes. May I always remember to check the cloudiness and cleanliness of my own view. That no matter my view, may I remember, it is more compelling and compassionate to make room for other’s to share their own views, rather than make them see mine as the right and only view through which they must live.
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