Category Archives: it’s all about family and friends

The Heart Never Forgets

George P. Gallagher
April 15, 1948 – March 17, 1997

 

The Heart Never Forgets
by Louise Gallagher

There was a time,
when your words and the things you did made me laugh
a time when your smile felt gentle on my heart
like warm spring rain after a harsh winter.

And then there are those times
when your words pierced my skin
slicing as sharp as a dagger to an apple’s core
leaving my heart exposed to the harsh cold winds of your anger.

There was a time.

Those times are all gone now
ended when your life careened, out of control
like a bullet racing steadily towards its target
on the road to forever gone.

I would take them all back
the good times and the bad
the laughter and the fights
I would take them all back to have you here again.

But there is no going back on death
No rewinding of time to get back those long-ago days.
There is only this time, flowing ever onward, relentlessly
carrying me towards the day when I too shall be, forever gone.

There will come a time when I will meet you there
on the road to forever gone. And when we meet, you will smile
and the past will be forgotten and our hearts will remember only
that which the heart never forgets, Love.

___________________

Perhaps it is that my brother loved to have a big fuss made about his birthday, at least until he started seeing signs of what he didn’t want to see, getting older.

Or perhaps it is that his passing was St. Patrick’s Day and I am wary of mixing laughter and good-times with the day he entered the realm of the ‘forever gone’.

Or perhaps, it is that his death along with the death of his wife, Ros who died in the same crash, was such a trauma-filled time, a time of grief and anger, of broken hearts leading to a broken family circle.

Whatever the reason, it is always on the day of his birth that his memory is strongest. A day I was not there for because, as I always liked to remind him, he was much older than me.

It is hard to imagine my brother at 72, which he would have been today. His memories are frozen in time, his face captured in photographs that ended on that day in March when time stopped moving forward for him, and we began the journey of learning to move on without him.

It was just before his 49th birthday. My sisters and I used to joke that George wouldn’t have enjoyed his 50th. It was too clear a delineation between younger days and older ones to come. He would not have liked the reminders that would have tumbled in on waves of love and laughter from his family and many, many friends. But we would all have loved the opportunity to get back at him for the countless pranks and jokes he had played on all of us.

It would have been my brother’s 72nd birthday today.

He is forever gone, as is the past. Today, my heart only remembers him with that which the heart never forgets, Love.

 

Ring In The New Year!

The New Year has begun. Gratitude rises. Love expands.

After several delightful days in Vancouver with my daughter, son-in-love and grandson (he is AMAZING!), we arrived on Gabriola Island to spend New Years Eve with my sister and her husband. This morning, we are preparing to leave for Tofino. The forecast is rain (after my beloved finishes watching the Canada/Czech World Juniors Hockey Game that is! ūüôā ). My outlook is sunny.

Storms on the west coast. Moody. Dramatic. Captivating.

Walking the beach. Smelling the salt stung air. Hearing the waves crash.

My kind of magic.

Yesterday was a bright blue sky day. The sun danced on the ocean. The mountains glistened in the distance and my heart sang a song of joy.

My sister and I did the Gabriola Polar Bear Swim (it was my second, her third) — or as one woman at the beach called it — the Dunk and Dash.

Yup. That was me. I ran in. Dunked. Ran out.

It was worth it! To begin the year with a dip in the Pacific Ocean, chilly waters and all.

I am looking forward to Tofino. Looking forward to quiet time to reflect on the amazingness of the year past, to fill my memory bucket with gratitude for all that transpired, all I received, all I experienced. And, to open my heart to all that is possible in this year to come when I let go of worry and fear of what the future may hold and flow with grace into being present in this moment of Love unfolding.

It has been a grand end of a year and the beginning of the next.

It is a time to celebrate. To reflect. To give thanks and to share the Love that flows as effortlessly as the sea, in and out and all around.

Happy New Year to all!

 

Happy Canada Day!

This is a repost of last year’s poem I wrote for Canada Day.

 

Happy Canada Day to all of us who have the privilege of calling Canada our home.

Where the wild things howl.

Photo by Anton Strogonoff on Unsplash

The howling of the coyotes wakes me up.

Beaumont the Sheepadoodle hears them too. He leaps up from the floor at the end of our bed where he has been sleeping. Races down the stairs to the patio doors. He stands. Barking, body tensed, eyes fixed at what he cannot see, somewhere out there on the top of the hill beyond.

It is 3am.

I try to calm him. To get him to stop barking. He wants to get out there.

I close the blinds.

Finally, the howling stops and Beaumont lies down by the glass doors. He does not want to come back upstairs.

And I am reminded, no matter how much concrete surrounds us, we are not far from the wild.

It is in our roots, our DNA, our genetic history.

We have seen a coyote a couple of times since moving into this place in December. I don’t know if it’s the same one, or a different one each time. We see him, or her, loping silently across the hillside in the early evening. We know there’s a den, somewhere at the top. We’ve heard their howling before. They are the wild things.

I wonder if they howl to entice unsuspecting prey into their space. Beaumont always wants to take off after the sound. He wants to investigate.

I don’t let him. I keep him on the leash now whenever I let him out.

He is not wild. Though I wonder if the howling awakens deeply-buried wild memories of life before domestication.

Deer live somewhere on the hillside too.

We see them often. Four or five. Every day they traverse the slope. Walking elegantly through the snow, scrubbing through the bushes and trees for fodder.

They too make Beaumont bark. Whenever we’re outside and they see us, they take off, their long legs leaping through the snow with ease. Beaumont strains at the leash, barking. Inevitably, one of the deer will stand at the edge of the trees, staring. Unmoved by Beaumont’s barks, he seems to be enticing him to play, ‘catch me if you can’.

In those moments, it takes all my strength to get Beaumont to quieten down, to not pull and strain at the leash.

The wild stirs within him, calling him to run after it. To be part of it.

We are not that far from the wild here. The city limits stretch further into the rolling hills at the edge of that liminal space where wild meets tamed and man keeps pushing the wild further and further away. Yet, still the wild things roam. They have adapted to the citylife. They have formed their trails from the wild spaces to cityscapes.

The howling of coyotes woke me at 3am.

I feel the wild calling me. Let go it calls. Come. Outside. Run. Barefoot in the night. Dance beneath the belly of the fullness of the pregnant moon. Throw your head back and howl in the pure delight of being alive.

I calm the urge and go back to bed.

Beaumont is on guard. He will keep the wild things at bay.

___________________________________________

The howling of wild things in the night reminded me of a song my brother used to play long ago on his record player when we were teenagers and not yet tamed by life.

Perhaps it is fitting I am reminded of my brother this first day of March. It was this month, 19 years ago, that his journey on this earth abruptly ended.

My brother loved music. He’d play a few bars of a song, stop it and ask me to “Name that Tune”. I wasn’t very good at that game. He’d laugh and tease me and play another song. “Wild,” he’d exclaim as some drum roll or guitar riff caught his fancy.

My brother was a wild thing. He loved life.

 

It’s a girl! Birthday wishes to my youngest daughter.

liseanneWhen she was little we nicknamed her Ghee! because that was the sound she made when she was excited about something. The exclamation mark was important. Even as an infant it was obvious that her mode of travel through life would be to always put an exclamation mark after everything she did.

Yesterday, my youngest daughter turned 29. I couldn’t write my blog about her yesterday as I had forgotten to ask permission. She’s particular that way. Determined. Confident. Assured.

On Sunday night, six of us went for dinner to celebrate her big day and I sat and watched her and felt awe wash over me just as it had that day,¬†29 years ago, when she burst into the world with her delightful laughter and way of being and said, “I am here!”

It was cold¬†on January 30th, 1988. Her father and I were just finishing off touches to her bedroom when my water broke, two weeks before my due date. There was a nurses’ strike¬†happening,¬†the temperature was sub-Arctic and I hadn’t quite finished doing all the things I wanted to get done¬†before her arrival as Alexis’ little sister. I wanted to wait. At least until after the nurses’ strike. My doctor¬†informed me waiting¬†was not an option. Liseanne agreed. She arrived just after 3pm¬†in the afternoon of the 30th. Two weeks early. 6lbs 1 oz. A perfect miracle of life.

And that is how she has rolled for 29 years.

Taking the world by storm. Ready or not. Here I come.

It is one of her many gifts. She doesn’t wait for the world to catch up. She leads the parade.

Inspiring. Thoughtful. Thought-provoking. Liseanne likes to challenge ideas, shake-up the status quo, see things through different perspectives.

And she likes to invite everyone into her creative way of seeing the world.

Once, when she was about eight, she really, really wanted a dog. When she asked me if we could get one, I told her I didn’t think so. I was a single-working parent of two young daughters. I didn’t want to have to care for an animal. A few days later, she asked me if we could get an elephant. Of course not, I laughed. An elephant’s too big. What about a giraffe? Same thing, I told her — plus the fact our roof wasn’t high enough to accommodate an animal that tall. She pretended to think about it some more and then asked if we could get a tiger. Tiger’s don’t do well in the city, I replied. Oh, she said. Do dogs?¬†Of course, I casually responded. And they’re not too big or too tall for our house are they? No. They’re not. Good, she said. Then a dog is perfect.

It wasn’t until two weeks later when we were on our way to the SPCA to check out dogs¬†that I realized I’d been outsmarted by my 8 year old daughter.

And when we came home with Bella, an 80lb shaggy black bear of a dog, I realized I’d been out-smarted again. I’d insisted that if we got a dog, it would be a small one.

Liseanne was right though. We needed that big shaggy girl in our lives. And so did their dad, she would later convince me. ¬†Travelling back and forth between houses with the girls, Bella had become his best friend. She’ll only be a block away, mom, she told me when she asked if Bella could go live with their father. You’ve got us. He needs someone in the house with him. And so Bella, the dog she’d lobbied for so convincingly took up residence in their father’s house a block away.

Because it was the right thing to do and doing the right thing is at the heart of who Liseanne is. She cares about people, animals, everything. And beyond caring, she turns up. She takes action.

During the floods, she volunteered around the city helping to sweep out flooded basements, carry out sodden belongings of strangers. It didn’t matter. She was needed. She was there.

Liseanne is a successful young business woman now. She holds a responsible job. She sits on the board of a not for profit. She gives of her time, her talents and her treasures.

It’s who she is. It’s how she is in this world. Loving. Laughing. Living life her way.

And I am so blessed. She has gifted my life with grace and love. And when I really needed it, she gave me the forgiveness I so desperately needed and kept on loving me just the way I am.

Yesterday was my youngest daughter’s birthday. My life and the world are a better place because she’s in it.

 

Beaumont the Wave Chaser

He is a wave hound. A chaser of the curve as it falls over onto itself racing towards the shore.

He follows the line of the water, running at full speed along the beach.

He does not bark. He does not zig nor zag. He runs like a bullet speeding through air, following the wave.

Beaumont loves the beach. He loves the ocean.

As always happens, no matter where we are or who we’re with, I am the first person up in the morning. It is my habit. My way of being.

I treasured those quiet mornings in Tofino. As the sun rose behind¬†the trees lining the eastern horizon, the light advanced in long shimmering lines, reaching far into the western shores of the Island, pushing night’s blanket away from the shore. Beaumont and I would quietly leave our cabin at the edge of MacKenzie beach and walk¬†in the early morning light,¬†down the steps to the golden sand of Crystal Cove. I’d let him off his leash and he would race around me in circles, his mouth open in a great big huge grin, his body quivering in anticipation of the frolics to come, just on the other side of the rocks protruding from the sand. I’d throw his ball. He’d grab it and make a beeline for the first wave washing ashore.

And the fun began.

Ball in mouth, he races along the curve of the water, splashing and leaping in the waves. If there are others out in the early morning light, they inevitably stop and watch and smile.

Beaumont in the waves is a smile making machine.

He does not pay attention to humans, other dogs, birds. Nothing. He only has eyes for the waves, the water cascading over itself as it rushes to shore.

One woman couldn’t resist his antics. She waited patiently to grab just the perfect photo. She walked towards me, camera outstretched to show me. “I’m so excited I caught him leaping in the waters. His smile is contagious.” She showed me her photo and added. “I want a dog just like him!”

Every morning I walked the beach with Beaumont and was reminded of how easy it is to be in the moment, to be present to joy and share smiles with strangers.

Lesson from a Dog: Chase waves. Smile lots. Life is an adventure.

Grief wears thin with time’s passing. An ode to my brother.

He loved music.

He loved to play a song and stop it after a few bars and ask, “Name that tune!” And, before you could even get the answer out, he’d be onto the next one. It was a game he always won because he controlled the music. He knew all the songs.

My brother passed away on St. Patrick’s Day, 19 years ago today.

It sounds like a long time when written that way. 19 years.

Grief wears thin with time’s passing. But the missing doesn’t¬†fade. Especially on this day. The day of wearing of the green when my brother would celebrate all things Irish in honour of our dad whose Irish roots ran deep.

My brother didn’t look very Irish. He was dark and handsome. More Arabian prince than Irish duke. But he had the Irish way. One minute dark and brooding. The next smiles and laughter as if the blue sky was a gift that he could bestow upon everyone with just his smile. Like a bright sunny day, my brother¬†could win over any heart. Young or old. Male or female.

I was reminded of my brother this morning as I watched a video of two men having an Irish dance off this morning. I laughed.

They made me think of my brother. He died long before Facebook became ‘a thing’. I can only imagine his feed. It would be filled with inspirational videos and quotes. Things to make every heart smile and every mind open.

My brother would have loved to watch the two men in their dance, but he would never have joined in. George could not dance. He had no rhythm. None at all.

We used to tease him about it. My sisters and I. We’d stand still and move one foot in semi-time to the beat of the music. We’d put our hands on our hips and randomly fling out one arm, not in time to the beat, bob our heads spasmodically and laugh and say, “Look George! I’m dancing like you!”

And my brother would laugh with us and parody himself dancing just like us making fun of him. Because despite his lack of rhythm, he loved a good joke and his laughter was always a song of joy.

Which was about the only song he could sing in tune. He had no rhythm and I swear, he was tone death too.

Midnight mass was always a killer. Especially as we got older and the Revillon my mother insisted we revel in before midnight mass also included my brother and dad imbibing in copious amounts of Irish whiskey. We’d go to the church and stand in the back (my brother was notoriously late for everything) and George would insist on singing at the top of his¬†lungs. “God doesn’t care if I can’t carry a tune,” he’d tell me laughingly. “He just likes to hear the sound of my voice singing!” And he’d belt out another note as my sister Anne and I would attempt to drown out his singing with what we considered to be our more harmonious sounds.

As a kid he tried to play every instrument under the sun. But the lack of rhythm thing always got him. Especially when he was learning the drums. It was painful. We begged him to please stop. To make it end. But he persisted. I’m not sure if he actually liked playing the drums or just enjoyed the tormenting of his sisters more. I have a feeling it was the latter.

He was one boy amongst three girls. Second in birth-order. First in-line of sight. Or at least, that’s what I always jokingly told him. The sun rises and sets on the son, I’d say and he would smile knowingly and carry on with whatever mischievous misdeed he’d concocted that inevitably came back to roost on me. I knew better than to compete with his position in the sun. I knew better than to try to set the record straight. The only nickname he ever carried at home was ‘Music man.’ Mine was ‘The Brat’. No contest. It was always my fault when things went wrong.

And they often did with George’s escapades. He loved to play tricks but he wasn’t very adept at scheming. And he could not keep a straight face, no matter how hard he tried. Which always made it difficult when he tried to play a joke on someone. Inevitably, before the punchline was ever reached, he’d break into laughter and tell the recipient what was going on.

I think he knew that his jokes and tricks were never that funny.

But it didn’t matter. His enthusiasm for the execution of a joke, and his desire to bring everyone in on the joke long before the game was up, won over the hearts and minds of everyone who came within his sphere of influence.

And his sphere was great.

That’s the thing of being like the sun. You touch everyone with your warmth.

My brother and his wife Ros, passed away on this day 19 years ago.

Grief wears thin with time’s passing. And still, they are missed.

 

********************

This is the video that made me smile in memory of my brother this morning.