Category Archives: family and friends.

Beauty in the rubble.

 

My beloved and I had one of those conversations last night… you know, the difficult kind where all you really want to do is dump your unease, your fear, your shallow breathing on the one you love, if only so you can feel relieved of the burdens weighing down your heart.

Yeah. That kind. Where grace takes a back seat to your drive to take your unease out on the one you love.

It is one of the challenges of sequestered solitude. Being together 24/7 is an unusual circumstance.

The mind does not like unusual circumstances.

It prefers the predictable. The known. The road most travelled. Especially where human relations are concerned.

The challenge… Sequestered solitude/quarantine/stay-at-home/sheltered-in-place is such a new circumstance, it can be easy to mistake the comfort and ease of travelling together on the road most travelled for a rut.

For me, if there’s one thing I want to avoid, it’s being stuck in a rut. And, because my ruts are often constructed of unspoken words and thoughts not shared and dreams and fears unexpressed, I end up convincing myself that the only way out is to lob a few word-grenades at my beloved to blow up my silence.

Yeah. Not pretty. Nor all that smart. Because, if you’re like my beloved and me, when I lob a couple of word-grenades at him, he doesn’t like to back down. And then… You guessed it. Game on.

We all hold in our minds, stories of how these battles are won and lost. How fraught they are with minefields and how the best defence is a strong offence.

In moments of discord, however, flinging your words like a heat-seeking missile at the heart of the one you love is not an act of self-defence. It’s an act of aggression.

Yeah. It was that kind of discussion.

Not pretty in the midst of the fray. Grace-filled and loving in its denouement.

Compassion is key.

Compassion for your beloved, and yourself.

Compassion that awakens the grace within to stop, mid-sentence and acknowledge how your behaviour is contributing to the discord. How your fears and uncertainty are the shaky foundation unleashing your angst with all that is going on, and not a statement of anything shaky in your Love for them.

Compassion that allows you to look at yourself and your behaviour with loving-kindness and to look at your beloved through eyes that see ‘the why’ of your love for them, not the why not’s.

These are scary, challenging times. Not just on pocketbooks and bank accounts, jobs and businesses, health and well-being. But on our hearts, minds and bodies. All around us, there is uncertainty. Lacking clarity, uncertainty gives rise to fear. Fear can become a powerful force of destruction when it is not surrounded by Love.

My beloved and I had an uncomfortable conversation last night. It had begun with a relatively benign event that grew into a mountain of discord by days end. Our conversation didn’t start out pretty, but then, when word-grenades are used to ‘open up dialogue’, the ensuing conversation seldom is.

Trapped in the rubble of our discord, we had a choice to make. Dig deeper into our individual foxholes firing shots at one another until one of us eventually falls into an uneasy sleep. Or, join together and dig into the rubble to unearth the exquisite beauty of the truth that sits mounted like a beautiful jewel at the centre of our relationship. Love. It binds us together. It makes our lives and hearts sparkle.

Sometimes, because of our habitual responses to stress, change, uncertainty, we will default to our positions of weakness, rather than strength. And while in our heart of hearts we know neither of us wants to hurt the other or cause the other pain, when weakened by fear, it’s easy to forget that truth.

It is in those moments we must both choose to let go of our need to be right so that we can give in to our desire to grow together in deep, intimate, sacred Love.

My beloved and I fell into the muck of deep, difficult conversation last night. I am grateful. It opened our hearts to deeper, more intimate connection, not just in this time of Covid but in all the times of our lives together.

 

Namaste.

 

 

 

 

I hear you mum. I know. I will not forget.

On my desk stands a photo of my daughters, sisters, grandson, mother and me. It was taken at the time of mum’s 96th birthday in August 2018. My eldest sister had it mounted on a block of wood and gave it to mum. It graced the desk at the end of her bed, beside her TV. She looked at it every day as French CBC played on the screen and she sat in her wheelchair and watched and listened to life beyond her room. She prayed for each of us in the photo and often placed a finger she’d kissed against her great-grandson’s face.

As I sit at my desk and watch the river flow in the ever-widening channel it carves through the ice and the sun slowly tints the sky rose and pink and periwinkle blue, I feel the presence of that photo. It graces my desk now. It holds memory. It tells a story. Of the past. Of the future.

Tears well up in my eyes. Not because I miss my mother, or wish she were here right now to tell me what to do or how to handle challenges and obstacles on my path. She wasn’t that kind of mother.

My mother was the magnet that brought us all together. She was the one who drew my daughter home to Calgary from Vancouver and my sister from her home in the Gulf Islands. She was the one whose significant birthdays we celebrated as a family whenever possible. Her dancing girls and grand-daughters. Her grandson who gave her the courage, when he was born, to remember the joy of having a son without the pain of his loss over-shadowing her memories.

This photo is her story of life, its threads woven through the warp and weave of her journey. It is full of the threads she held in her crooked, misshapen fingers and sometimes used to lovingly place kisses on the faces of those she loved. It is surrounded by photos of her mother, father, brothers, sisters, her children, grand-daughters and her grandson.

These photos crowded the walls of her room. Every day she would look at them, say prayers for the departed and those still here. There was little room for a new story to be told on the walls of her room when her time ran out. Yet, the story told in this photo will continue.

It will weave its way into being without my mother’s hands guiding and drawing the story-makers together. It will unfold without my mother’s fingers reaching out, as she does with her grandson in this photo, to link the generations together.

And that is why I cry. A link to the past has broken. There is only the future to foretell. A future where my mother’s hands do not reach across the distance to draw us all together for one more photo of all of us standing around her. Her dancing girls and granddaughters, her great-grandson and her soon to be born, great-granddaughter.

We are now the link. We are now the gatherers. The ones who must draw together the weave and warp of our tapestry to create rich and vibrant hues and stories that will unfold in time.

We are the history-keepers, the story-makers, the tellers of the past, the architects of the future.

I feel the absence of my mother in the photo this morning. She was the one who brought us all together. In her absence, I see the photo that will be taken this summer when my granddaughter is born and a photo is taken of her when she is three months old. Just as my grandson is in this photo.

And I hear my mother’s voice telling me as she so often did when I was younger, in the times before I became a mother and held in disdain her love of family and her desire to gather us all together, “One day you will understand and you will know what family means. I pray you never forget.”

I hear you mum. I know. I will not forget.

Rise and Fall. Rise and Fall.

Mom with her daughters, June 10, 2019

“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.

This Beautiful Life of Mine

I am home.

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.

Namaste.

Where the light wavers, love flows freely

My mother. Photo taken Feb 5, 2020

Yesterday, David Kanigan over at Live & Learn shared an excerpt from – Ann Napolitano’sDear Edward: A Novel (The Dial Press, January 6, 2020)

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.

_______________________

Thank you, David, for the Lightly Child, Lightly inspiration.

I Will Love You Forever My Little One

My grandson turns 2 years old on Saturday.

I 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.

I remember…

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.

You can listen to the recording HERE.

 

We Are Home.

We drove east from Hope, BC in pouring rain that turned to slush, to snow, to rain and back to snow.

On the ferry from Vancouver Island

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.

Stopped on the Highway outside Golden

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.

Traffic stopped

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 road ahead

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.

Lives forever gone. Families changed. Journies altered.

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.

All is well with my world.