“She’s still sleeping peacefully,” my eldest daughter, Alexis, texts from my mother’s room at 6am. She has spent the night curled up in the easy chair in the corner of her room, keeping watch.
Along with my sister who lives on Gabriola Island, she flew in last night from Vancouver. The nurse at the centre where my mother lives had suggested we ‘gather the family’.
“I feel like I am fading out,” my mother whispered late last night as the three of us sat around her bed. “I know my time has come.” And for a brief moment her gentle humour glimmers in the room, “So why am I still here?”
For a 97-year-old, her heart is strong. It is her body that is failing her as her will to live fades with each breath.
Surrounded by her 3 daughters and 2 granddaughters, my mother sleeps. Her breaths are short and shallow. Her contorted, arthritic hands lay folded on her chest. It rises and falls with each breath. I watch the movement closely.
We sit and chat. We sit in the silence. The lights are dim, The midnight hour is upon us.
My mother opens her eyes. “I’ve had a good life,” she whispers. “God has been good to me.”
And she closes her eyes again. She drifts back to sleep. I watch the rise and fall of her hands on her chest.
Yesterday, she saw my father. “He is waiting for me”, she said. And then she makes an effort to smile. It is a small one. She doesn’t have the energy for more. “My mother and father are waiting too,” she says and closes her eyes.
And I keep watching her hands on her chest. Rise and fall. Rise and fall.
Back to this stark, wintery land of snow and trees standing naked along the banks of an ice-covered river. Of frosty mornings where buds still sleep beneath a blanket of snow and the robin has not yet returned from its winter sojourn south.
I am home.
Home to my beloved C.C. and Beaumont the Sheepadoodle who is lying on the chaise beside my desk, his eyes glued to the stillness of the landscape outside my window.
I am home.
Yet, part of my heart, my mind, my soul remains captive to a 2-year-old boy whose laughter and giggles, sunny smiles and joyful nature hold me forever under his thrall.
I am home.
And I miss him so.
My daughter too! (I had to say that so she wouldn’t feel left out. 🙂 )
But it’s true. I miss her too. Being part of her journey as she becomes a mother, watching her as she grows more and more confident, more and more assured of her gifts is a blessing.
I had a lovely time celebrating my grandson’s 2nd birthday and now I am home. Home to pick up the threads of my artwork, my writing, my being present in this beautiful life filled with the grace of all my blessings, of people I love (and a furry one too).
I love time by the sea. Time spent with my grandson and his parents – and this trip had the added bonus of my youngest daughter also being there as well as C.C.’s daughter. I love time spent wandering Granville Island Market and Jericho Beach. Time sitting in coffee shops with my daughter chatting and exploring what it means to be a woman, wife, mother, in this time and place. Time alone in a restaurant by the sea, writing in my journal, watching the boats bob on the water and people pass by on the street. And most of all, I love the time playing on the floor with my grandson, reading, playing with his blocks and fleet of toy cars and trucks.
I love it all and cherish each moment.
And I love coming home to this place where I know I belong. Where my beloved welcomes me with open arms and Beaumont’s ‘cold shoulder’ welcome doesn’t last longer than the time it takes me to take off my coat. This place where my heart is at ease, my steps assured and my creative soul awakened to the beauty of each sunrise, each moment passing because no matter where I am, my life is a vast richness of love and joy, beauty and grace.
I am blessed and I am grateful for it all, this beautiful life of mine.
The light wavers;
perhaps the person holding it is tired.
The steps slow.
The rush seems to be over.
Last August, my mother turned 97. She is mentally still sharp as a tack though her hearing is no longer what it used to be. Physically, she does not fare quite so well. Since a fall that broke five bones when she was 94, and two hip operations to repair the damage, she has been confined to a wheelchair. Her arthritis is crippling. Her hands are gnarled and her fingers crooked. She can no longer hold a magazine, her knitting needles or a pen to do her crosswords. The bones in her mouth have deteriorated making it painful to wear her bridge and impossible to eat anything but soft or pureed foods.
The doctor tells her that her heart is strong. Her body, she says, is tired.
Years ago, I asked my mother to tell me her life story. One of the things she told me she regretted was leaving her family behind in India when the war ended and she set sail to join my father in England. She was one of 10 children with lots of extended family around. They spoke French. Were raised Catholic – up until meeting my father, my mother was convinced she would become a nun.
My father was an only child. There wasn’t a lot of love lost between my father and his parents. He had never really recovered from feeling they had abandoned him when he was 9 and they divorced, shipping him off to boarding school from England to the prairies of western Canada. He spoke limited French when they met though he did speak Farsi, the language of the region in which my mother was born. My mother spoke limited Farsi as Pondicherry, where she lived, was a French protectorate at the time and her family was Euro-Asian, not as they were all sure to tell you, Hindu.
For my mother, family was everything. For my father, family, at least the one he’d known as a child, equalled pain.
Together they built a family of four children and then a huge extended family of friends my parents adopted over the years. They were well-loved by many. My father for his outgoing nature and generosity not to mention his amazing baking skills. My mother for her kind nature, gentle ways and her gift of creating beauty all around her.
My father left this world over 25 years ago. My brother followed a year and a half later.
My mother struggled to recover. Struggled to make sense of the loss of the men whom she loved with all her heart.
Up until my grandson was born 2 years ago, my mother often talked about how she wished she wasn’t in this world anymore. How life felt too heavy, too dark to see her way through.
And then, she met her great-grandson and she felt energized, alive, willing to perhaps even reach 100 years of age.
She’s not so sure of that benchmark any longer.
She has lived a full life, a life complete with love and sorrow, the lightness of being and the darkness of night, joy and loss, happiness and grief.
Last week, she said she felt her time was drawing near.
She has come to that place where ‘the light wavers’.
The beauty of her years has made this place poignant and gentle and illuminated with grace. There is acceptance mixed with love and gratitude for the beauty of her light in our lives over these many years.
The grief can wait until after she is gone, whether that is this month or in years yet to come. For whatever her time on this earth, it is a time to celebrate, to cherish and to love wildly this tiny matriarch who has travelled so far from the young woman who met a ‘flyboy’ from the RAF during WWII and followed love from India to England to Canada back to England then France and Germany and Canada again.
My mother’s light is wavering.
She grows more and more tired.
Her steps as she moves her feet along the floor beneath her wheelchair have slowed.
There is no rush to say good-bye. Only this gentle easing into what will inevitably come when the pain of one more exhale grows heavier than the life that rushes in with every breath.
I feel my heart melting quietly into that place where the light of Love does not waver. That place where Love is all that remains, to carry, to embrace, to share and to remember.
How his birth heralded the beginnings of an incredible journey through Love and wonder.
How suddenly, this new role of becoming his ‘YiaYa’ became more than I ever imagined it could be.
How being his YiaYa was a rite of passage into a new and deeper realm of Love. I never had to make room in my heart for him. He was already there, even before I knew him and will always be there even after I’m gone.
How his every move, his every smile, his every sound brought joy and wonder into my world and made me pause longer to wonder about my footprint on this fragile planet, my impact on this world.
How my heart beat louder, how its rhythm of love grew wilder and how I grew deeper into the meaning of family, legacy, life.
My grandson turns 2 on Saturday. I am flying to Vancouver to see him, to bake him a cake, to share in the festivities, to sing “Happy Birthday” and to savour time spent with this thoughtful, mischievous, inquisitive soul who brings such incredible light and meaning into my world.
Because that’s what he does it, every day. Bring joy and wonder into my world with his light and laughter, his smiles and love.
I am so grateful.
I wrote him a poem for his birthday. It is my anthem for him. Part of my legacy of Love.
I wrote him a poem and then I recorded it so that he will always have the memory of my voice telling him how much I love him.
I wrote it for him and for me and for grandparents everywhere. You are welcome to share in it too.
We drove east from Hope, BC in pouring rain that turned to slush, to snow, to rain and back to snow.
It was a slower than normal drive to accommodate the conditions. I am grateful, my beloved factored in both the weather and my nervousness of driving in such unfavourable conditions.
I’m also grateful we did decide to finish our journey yesterday as the Hwy has been closed in both directions between Revelstoke and Golden since yesterday afternoon.
We just slipped through.
The generosity of strangers.
About 20 kms west of Golden traffic stopped. A long line of cars serpentined along the road in front of us and quickly, the line grew behind us.
I took to Twitter and sure enough, DriveBC quickly answered my Twitter query — “Does anyone know what’s going on?”
There was a serious incident on the highway blocking lanes going in both directions. No information yet on when the highway would be open as it had occurred not long before we were stopped. No detour available.
It was a waiting game.
Until about an hour later when a young man hopped out of the U-haul in front of us, walked back to our vehicle and knocked on C.C.s window.
“There’s a detour road about 1km back,” he said. It will lead you to the outskirts of Golden.”
A pick-up had already turned around and was heading in the direction of the other route.
We turned around and followed him. As did other cars once the kind young man had passed on the information.
It was a backcountry road. The terrain was beautiful. Rolling hills with ranchhouses dotted amongst trees, lights glimmering in the fading light of day. The road was ploughed. Travel was easy.
About 20 minutes later we found ourselves at the edge of Golden. A stop to refuel, both vehicle and ourselves, and we decided to push through the 3 hours to home.
I’m grateful we did.
The Highway between Revelstoke and Golden remains shut down this morning due to avalanches. There’s a very heavy snowfall warning for the coastal highway leading into the interior today. Travel is ill-advised. And while there were travel warnings yesterday due to weather conditions, the roads weren’t slippery, just snowy at times and wet.
I am grateful.
Grateful for C.C.’s patient driving — both with the conditions and me as I tend to be a little tense (ok a lot) when semi’s roar past in a blur of flying snow and gravel, especially on curves!
I am saddened.
Our journey was punctuated by two serious incidents that took the lives of two people. One the day we left Tofino which closed the Hwy just east of Hope — we were stopping there for the night, and then the incident yesterday.
We drove home yesterday. Up and over the Coquihalla to the interior. Along the vast expanse of Lake Okanagan to the Rockies. We crossed over Roger’s Pass and then Kicking Horse further east. We drove down out of the mountains to the rolling foothills towards the city and home.
We carried with us our memories of our time by the sea. Our time playing with our grandson and visiting with our daughter and son-in-love.
It was a beautiful respite and a love-filled transition into the New Year.
And now we’re home.
This morning, I sit at my desk by the river, a candle burning, soft music playing in the background. Beaumont has had a brief morning walk and is once again asleep on the bed with C.C. I sip my tea and watch the traffic on the bridge travelling in the same direction we were yesterday.
In front of my window, ice islands stretch out from under the bridge and the river flows endlessly to a distant sea.
It is good that once a year the day of our birth comes around to remind us to stop and breathe and give thanks for life, living and love.
It is good that on this day we are reminded of all the love that fills our every breath.
It is good that on this day we take the time to reflect and appreciate all we’ve experienced, received and given over the past year(s).
It is good to be thankful on this day for the people in our lives who make it so rich and special.
It is good to take time on our day of birth (and everyday) to acknowledge within us the deep place of knowing, who we are shines brightest in our connections to one another. That Love fills the intersection of each relationship with its never-ending flow.
It is good that we stop and acknowledge and give thanks for that which binds us together, connects us and keeps us safe – Love.
It is good that we give thanks for the Love that illuminates our hearts, filling our lives with such abundance and joy.
It is good that we give thanks on this day for the trials and tribulations, the pains and sorrows we’ve experienced. They are part of the tapestry of our life that lets us test our wings and unfurl them just a little bit further.
It is good to remember that no matter how dark the day, the light shines brightest in the darkness.
It is good that we fall into gratitude for the richness and beauty in the depths of all that is present in our lives.
It is all good.
And on this day of my birth, It is good to acknowledge how my journey is strengthened and made more beautiful because it is woven into the lives of so many people whom I love so deeply my heart aches in the joy and wonder of that Love.
And it is good to acknowledge on this day that I believe in Love. I believe in the power, the majesty, the wonder of this energy that embraces our world in such beauty it takes my breath away.
Because I believe that in all things, in all ways, in darkness and in light, in beauty and in sorrow, in joy and in loss, in wonder and in tears, there is always Love.
It is my birthday today. I am grateful for all of you who come and share this space with me, who leave comments and likes and tiny little footprints that illuminate my heart with your presence throughout the year.
I am blessed with this beautiful life I inhabit. In the love I know is real and true and deep and profound.
I am joyful in this space in which I find myself today and every day. This space where I get to live my life free of fear and turmoil. Where I know when I flip the switch the lights will come on. That when I open the fridge there will be food to eat. That when I open the front door, there will be only friendly faces to greet me. That when I walk the streets I do not fear bombs falling or guns rattling. That I do not shiver with cold because I have a warm coat and boots and gloves to protect me from the cold.
I am thankful for my home. My lamp lit desk that overlooks the river. My bright and airy studio that inspires my creativity and personal reflections and expressions. My home. My beloved. My family and friends. My delightful Beaumont.
I am grateful that my world is filled with such possibility, such joy, such Love. That I am free to express myself without fear. That I am free to be myself without censure.
I am grateful for another year to have journeyed around the sun connected to the world in new and exciting ways that enliven my outlook and sparkle-up my perspective of this amazing, crazy, sometimes thought-defying, inexplicably cruel and breathtakingly beautiful world of harmony and contradictions. Of grandeur and of pain. Of our human condition in all its multi-faceted dimensions. Of our natural world showing us what is possible when we let go of fearing one another and join hands in peace, hope, Love and joy.
That first morning when I enter the living room and turn on the Christmas tree lights for the first time of the season.
Normally, this morning doesn’t arrive until after December 9th (my birthday). But, originally my sister was to have been here this week, and as C.C. and I are leaving to visit our grandson and family right after Christmas, we decided to deviate from tradition and put the tree up early.
Which is lovely. As I write and reflect and look out the window at the world slowly awakening, the beautiful reflection of the lights shimmering on the tree has been added to my view.
How blessed I am.
My youngest daughter and her partner came over last night and joined us for dinner and in decorating. We laughed and shared stories and my daughter threw in the occasional comment about my tendency to want to ‘over decorate’. “Less is more” just doesn’t seem to align with my vision of Christmas.
When the last ornament was placed, and the angel carefully set upon the treetop, we all agreed, Vincent is a beautiful tree (And yes, he has been named after the artist in celebration of creativity, passion and all the vibrant colours of the world.)
It is in the decorating of the Christmas tree I feel the movement of our family tree the most. My eldest daughter and C.C.’s daughter both live in Vancouver now. C.C.’s son is on a U.S. tour with his band, leaving just the four of us to do the honours.
It was lovely and sweet and filled with moments to cherish and while holding the slight bittersweet tang of missing those we love who have over the years always been here to decorate.
And that’s the thing about this special time of year. It isn’t about gifts wrapped under the tree, or rushing from store to store to buy that perfect something someone may or may not want. It’s about family and friends gathering together around a tree, a table, on a skating rink, a toboggan hill, a walk through the woods.
It’s about time spent laughing and teasing, telling old stories we’ve heard countless times before but that still ring true with the sounds of love and familiarity that imbue their spirit.
It’s about one of the ‘kids’ finding the tackiest ornament (the one I swear I’m going to relegate to the garbage bin every year but just can’t seem to do it) and placing it in a very visible spot on the tree because you know, I’m going to hate it there! (And yes, this happens every year and I always feel the warm glow of love in its happening.)
It’s about Love.
Missing and longing too.
Because it is at this time of year, along with the loving of time together, I feel the absence of the ones I love, who aren’t here, the most. Whether they have moved away or have left this physical world for places beyond my ken, there is always that mushy place in my heart that has the sweet, tender aura of absence.
We decorated the tree last night. I sit at my desk this morning, it’s lights a shimmering glow in the window before me.
The river flows. Traffic moves along the bridge. The sky is dark.
Nat King Cole sings Christmas music in the background. Dawn light will soon creep into the dark, gently tucking night back into the envelope of day that lies in waiting just beyond the horizon.
We decorated the tree last night. My birthday has not yet come and gone, neither has my beloved’s who celebrates his the day before mine.
Possibly, in decorating the tree before our birthdays this year, we’ve created a new tradition of when Christmas appears in our home. Perhaps, this will be a new way of stepping into this season of Peace, Hope, Love and Joy that will lovingly embrace the ever-changing landscape of our family tree.
The tree is lit. My heart is light and just a teeny bit achy. All is well with my soul because deep within me is the tender knowing that, no matter where the ones I love are, they are always at home in my heart. I carry them with me always.