Category: Death

Risk’s potential

flying1

Have I been writing quite often about my dreams? Maybe it’s because I’m woken on so many mornings by my alarm, pulled out of dreamland, bringing the dreams with me. My kids are not going to remember the 2.0 version of their mother, the one who for thirty-five years or so was the very opposite of early riser. The 2.0 version thought 7 o’clock in the morning was quite viciously early enough, thank you very much. But the 2.0 version has been obsolete for over a year now. She may already have been forgotten. My kids are going to remember version 2.1, up before dawn, coming in from outside in running gear, or freshly showered after spin class. “Where were you this morning?” they ask sometimes, greeting me from their perch at the breakfast bar.

I’ll admit: it wasn’t easy to recalibrate my instincts. But I’ll admit, too: change has brought about all sorts of good things. I’m friendlier, for one thing. Less prone to the growlies. Less resentful, somehow, of the necessary morning duties, more light-hearted regarding the inevitable complaints. (“This toast is too cold!” “This porridge is too hot!”)

This morning, I woke with dreams of my friend’s father still in my mind. We attended the memorial service last night. Let me tell you about one small and extraordinary moment. After the more formal proceedings, we all went to the church basement to eat sweets, visit, and share memories. Among the people who got up to say something was a woman I’d never met. She wasn’t a family member or someone from the neighbourhood. She said she knew my friend’s father from work. She said that she worked as a teller in a bank. My friend’s father had been a customer. She spoke about his friendliness, his stories, his interest in her life, about how, as she came to know him, she would wave him over to her line. She regretted that she hadn’t gotten the chance to say goodbye. She was glad to be able to come to his memorial service. She came to his memorial service. Isn’t that amazing?

This is what it says to me: The potential for meaningful relationships is all around us.

Meaningful relationships don’t have to be conventional. They don’t necessarily require tons of time. They can be as simple as asking your bank teller a question. Being interested. Being curious. Being, most of all, present.

Today was a day rife with potential challenges. I got up early. I did not nap. I was interviewed on live radio right after the kids left for school. And then I headed off to lead writing workshops for teens. Several fairly major things remain to be checked off my to-do list. But it hasn’t been a hard day, not at all. I feel a little foot-weary from standing. I feel a little wired from more than my usual dose of caffeine. But I feel, also, the worth of every interaction, no matter how small. Pay attention. Whatever is happening in your day, look it full in the face. Ask questions. Wonder. Give it your best.

I thought, today, about how new experiences are always around us. How people, if pushed in the friendliest of ways, will embrace something new. How even the most grownup of us crave to feel those moments so common in childhood — the ones that delight and surprise us. How maybe all of us are waiting to be delighted and surprised. And then I thought, I can do that.

It’s as easy — and as crazy hard — as stepping outside of my comfort zone.

Swept along the beautiful river

mykids
my kids

Usually on Monday mornings, I post my “week in suppers.” Today, I’m going to change the routine to honour where I’m at. Which is not to say I’m cooking no suppers. Suppers have been and will be cooked. But this has been an emotion-filled weekend. I’m not even sure where to place myself in the midst of the emotions and events. Am I observer? Participant? Witness? Conspirator?

On Saturday, parenting alone, I enjoyed the company of six children for part of the morning. I have difficulty describing how happy it makes me to be with my kids and their friends. To be part of their conversations. To listen to them relating. To laugh. To consult. To make plans together. And to allow myself to be swept along by their energy.

One of my closest friends lost her father on Saturday. He’s been our neighbour for the past few years, too. Thinking about him as I drove across town to pick up my soccer girl, I thought about how life sweeps us along, and how we are both at the mercy of a greater current, and yet blessed to be a part of it. I sat in the parking lot and wrote the poem I posted here on Saturday (typed into my BlackBerry; first BB poem of my life, I must admit). Then I picked up my soccer girl, and watched her transform into piano girl — and win a prize at a piano competition.

Piano and competition are two words that fit together rather uncomfortably. I considered my emotions as we listened to the competitors playing their songs, and I found myself disliking my instinct to contrast and compare rather than simply appreciate and celebrate. Nevertheless, to see my daughter rise to the occasion and play her song with imagination and flair, and then to see her rewarded with a ribbon … it was such a joy. I kind of wonder at myself for taking so much pleasure from the achievement. Why should my pride be any greater for her winning than for her purely being willing to try, practicing, working hard, and performing her heart out? You know?

We stopped at home to get changed before going to Grandma’s (where the other children already were). My friend called just then with the news of her dad’s passing. “His spirit has left his body.”

When I think about her dad, I remember a man who lived with an almost casual generosity. It was so much a part of his being. There was nothing forced about it, not like he had to remind himself that others needed caring for. Simply: he wanted to help, to be of help, and he did, and he was.

kparty2

I almost want to stop this post right here, but there’s more. It was such a weekend. A big birthday party had been planned for Saturday night, and I was hosting it here at our house (hence the children off to Grandma’s). With my friend Zoe in charge of vision and decorating, we transformed our house into a … hm, how to describe it? Indian colours and food and music and bindis and a mehndi artist and hanging silks and mango lassies and women. It was a party of many layers. I’ve never cried at a party before — good crying. I’ve never om-ed at a party before. I’ve never limboed under a platter of Indian funnel cakes, either. It was a beautiful night in honour of a beautiful friend.

By morning, the house was spotless (true story). I picked up my soccer girl and drove her to another game, and watched her play a position she never played even once last year: forward. I watched her make passes and chances and exciting runs and assist on a beautiful goal. And then I watched her play the second half in her usual position in net. She played the whole game with intensity, and such happiness. Pride doesn’t cover my emotions.

When I brought all the kids home, we snuggled in our rearranged living-room (there are a lot of pillows on the floor right now). They watched a movie, I napped, they were all around me. And then Kevin arrived home from Ottawa, putting us all back together again.

So, you see, I spent a lot of the weekend on the sidelines, just watching and taking it all in, doing what needed doing, being of use, being present.

I have this feeling that life is filling me up. I might be here for awhile. When I’m full, it will be time to share and process and, maybe, who knows, to write another book.

Life is bigger

ivy1
A poem for this day


I am swept along
I am a still point in a river that will not quit its rushing
I am immersed in the world
I am blessed
I am not to understand everything and not to take anything
I am given to grace and place
I am sure as a branch and broken as a branch
I am breath and brilliance and calm
While I am, I am
With love with fierceness with the selfness of ongoing until
Gone
Burn in the water flame in the soil flicker in the darkness of a house at midnight
Steady on.

This isn’t a Halloween post, though it falls on Halloween. I have a difficult relationship with Halloween. It seems a strange holiday, making light of death and darkness. Maybe I should just accept it as being another way we humans try to make sense of mortality.

It’s been four years since my father-in-law passed away. He died on Halloween, and Kevin’s mother telephoned late that afternoon, twice, first to tell him to hurry and come home, and then, not long after, to tell him, yes, please come home, but it’s too late to make it in time. But we felt fortunate. We’d been to visit just two days earlier, and knew that goodbye was coming. Still, we wondered what to do. The kids were dressed up and excited about trick-or-treating. How to give them this news? “Take them out,” I said, “and I’ll stay home and pack.” And so that’s how we told them, after trick-or-tricking: when they arrived home with bags full of candy, our bags were packed. There were wrenching sobs, and we changed them into pajamas, hopped into the van, and drove away, letting them eat all the candy they wanted. I don’t suppose we’ll ever forget that night, or that drive. It felt like an adventure, momentous and sad all at once.

A year ago, my grandma passed away on Remembrance Day. Last week, my grandpa, her husband, also passed away, and our family travelled across the border for another funeral, on another autumn day. As we drove to the graveyard for the burial, it was raining and the sun was shining. From our angle, the rainbow that emerged looked like a column of magic dust rising out of the earth, colour, shimmering. We all saw it.

I don’t know what everyone else thought. I don’t even know what I thought, exactly. Just that it was a rare and ephemeral sight, and I was glad for it.

Today is a perfect fall day and I will sit at my desk and write

Today is a perfect fall day, crisp, pale blue sky threaded with grey clouds.

Today, I will sit at my desk and write.

Today, I will enjoy this cup of coffee and wish for a second one.

Today, I did not get up early for yoga. When the alarm sounded, I turned it off and crawled back into dreamland.

Today, I ate porridge for breakfast, plus an egg with toast.

Today, I kissed and hugged four children, reminded them repeatedly to get ready for school, listened to them play the piano, and bribed one of them to go to math club once a week.

Today, the builders arrived to continue their work.

Today, I will sit at my desk and make up stories about characters I’ll never get to meet in real life.

Today, I pause to remember my Gramps. Once, he took me to see wild horses. Mustangs. It was sadder than I thought it would be. I was ten or eleven. The mustangs were corralled for sale on a ranch, of sorts. I remember dust. I don’t know what my Gramps thought of it all. What the wild horses meant to him. I think he appreciated the atmosphere of wheeling and dealing. But I know he loved horses, too, like I did. When I think of him, I think of horses.

Today is a perfect fall day, yellow leaves on green grass, and the frost lifted by the sun.

Today, I will write something for Gramps.

What I found this morning when I went looking for something else

This is not my favourite time of year, nor my favourite season. We are nearing November, a month that gets me every pass around the sun. I miss the sun. Winter solstice marks the movement toward light, and every year I look forward to it. Yes, it also marks the start of a long, cold, snowy winter, but the light is returning, and that’s what matters to me.

I went outside this morning to take a photo to illustrate this post, looking for a little pathetic fallacy. I was thinking dead leaves in pools of last night’s rain. But instead, I found purple flowers, green leaves on plants, pale sky, rich oranges, shining rocks and dark wood. I was looking for signs of darkness, but beauty found me.

Mary Oliver would be pleased.

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