Sunday, August 14, 2016
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Thursday, December 17, 2015
When I lived in Guelph (over 5 years ago) I had two stepsons. Those stepsons had wonderful girlfriends, both named Katie. THAT made things interesting so I decided to solve the problem of two Katies by calling one Kate and the other Katie. For the purposes of this little story, I'll do the same thing. The elder of the two girls is Kate. She was young, vibrant, effervescent and such fun to be around. When I was preparing for my wedding, she was there. All of my friends were either home in Nova Scotia or busy, but Kate was there for me. Fortunately for me, she also lived just 3 or 4 doors away. I did my own wedding invitations and she was my critic, my champion and even, my printer. I can't count the amount of times she ran back and forth between our two homes, printing off versions of the wedding invitation until it was just right. Always helpful, always cheerful, Kate was a bright spot in a world where I didn't want to be. It's no secret that I hated living in Guelph but she was one of the few people who made it bearable. This in itself is remarkable but what made it the most remarkable to me was the fact that she was a young girl. She was a teenager when we met but she was there for me like a daughter and a friend. She was amazing. Then she and my stepson moved to British Columbia. It was a very sad day for me. I hated to see both of them go but I wanted what was best for them, so I said my "good byes", held in my tears until after they had pulled out of the driveway, then cried for a very long time. That was the last time I was to see Kate. And the last time I was to hear from her in many years.
Then there's Katie. A different stepson, a different girlfriend, the same name. Perhaps here it might not be amiss to note that, when I was young and thinking of having children of my own, I had always thought that if I ever had a girl I would name her Kate or Katie. (true story!) One of the few true loves of my life. Katie. She was everything I could have asked for in a surrogate daughter. Bright, witty, understanding and a smile that could stop traffic. But Katie was so much more than that. I know that she had problems of her own, but in a way that was far wiser than her 16 years, she managed to put aside her problems and be there for me. This child/woman who was "my Katie" was a true treasure. Her compassion knew no bounds. She visited me when she knew I was down. She didn't quite understand what it was like for me to be away from home, but she empathized. Katie was an adult in ways that so many people I know today are not. She is wise beyond her years still and a young woman I will treasure always.
So here we are in 2015, looking hard at 2016. I have reconnected via email and other social media with both girls. I am fortunate enough to be able to watch, as my Katies, now all grown up for real, go about their lives. I am astonished and amazed. These are two of the most resilient, intelligent people I know. Sometimes I find it incredibly difficult to grasp just how far they've come. Neither one of the relationships with the Katies and my stepsons worked out, but that's for the best. Both girls are in such a different place in their lives and have moved on so gracefully that I am left in awe. These girls who I knew and loved when I was in Guelph, have become women. Not just women, incredible women! They have created world's for themselves that are wonderful and while no one and nothing is perfect, these two girls have become young women I am so proud to know. I am so blessed to have once been part of their lives and am still able to watch as they live out their own stories. As hard as it is for me to comprehend, these girls have become wives, mothers, and two of the bravest women I have ever known. Kate's husband is in the military. That's challenging enough but, she has managed to embrace that life and create a family and home for herself, her husband and her child. Katie's child was born with Pierre Robin Syndrome. Watching her deal with her child's health issues was both heartbreaking and inspirational. She dealt with it so (seemingly) effortlessly that I am still awed. Fortunately she had a supportive husband and family, and now the baby (who is no longer a baby) is fine.
This Christmas, watching my two Katies with their husbands and children (albeit from afar) I want to thank them for allowing me to continue to be part of their lives. I thank them for all they did for me when I lived in Guelph and I am humbled by all they continue to do to create happy, healthy lives for themselves.
Before finishing my little story, I have to take a moment to thank Chuck and Corey. These two men have made my two Katies lives even fuller and richer than I could have hoped. They have stood by their wives and been exemplary husbands. Guys, I owe you...big time!
I'm not entirely sure why I thought that it was so terribly important to write this except perhaps to let the world know that there are such people out there. In a world where families are failing and young people being so often troubled, I just wanted to tell the world that there are at least two young women who went above and beyond to make this life a better place for all those in it. These young women are an inspiration. They are smart. They are savvy. They are joyful as they plan their individual Christmases. They are loving. They are brave. They are...my Katie's.
When I grow up I want to be just like Katie. It doesn't matter which one.
Monday, July 6, 2015
Saturday, September 10, 2011
My sister's voice told me that Mum was near the end. I remember telling her that I'd be right up, The Emmy Awards totally forgotten. Everything forgotten. Just get there. My sister seemed surprised. She told me that I probably didn't need to be in a hurry as it would probably be a very long night and there was still time. I couldn't stay home. I couldn't take that chance. I had to go. Now. So I took off the PJ's, turned off the TV (I think) and went to Mum's. I don't remember the drive there. I just remember suddenly being there. And the TV being on. There were the Emmy Awards. Volume turned off, but the Emmy Awards just the same. And Mum. Unconscious. Grey. Stint in. Dying. Still.
Most of my brothers and sisters were there though I vaguely recall Michael not yet having arrived. My brother in law and one of my nieces were absent as well I think. They had had to go to the emergency room but were ok and showed up later. (I think) I remember watching my sister and sister in law wipe Mum's mouth out with a sponge type of thing that had been given them by the nurse for that purpose. I was shown how to do it but somehow couldn't manage so left them to it, feeling terribly, terribly inadequate. For the most part, we simply stared at the mute TV. How exactly are you supposed to watch your mother take her final breath? I don't think any of us knew. I know I didn't.
This had been a year coming. A very long year watching my mother be eaten alive by this horrendous disease called cancer. Watching her slip away a little more everyday. And watching her do it with a grace and dignity that defied anything I could ever replicate. My mother dealt with this disease the way she had dealt with life. Courageously, quietly and with grace. That was Mum.
It turned out that my sister had been surprisingly wrong in her prediction that Mum would linger that night. In fact, she died shortly after I arrived. Then the long night began. Again, I'm not sure how one is supposed to react when a loved one dies, but I do know how I felt. Numb. Odd. Bereft. Different in a totally undefinable way.
And so we sat. Brothers. Sisters. In laws. Boyfriend. Nieces. Nephews. And Mum's lifeless body. Yup, she died at home. Blessedly. And equally blessedly, the people from the funeral home were gracious enough to allow us all the time we felt we needed to say our good byes before taking her away. Odd the things you remember. But I remember that, and the gratitude I felt toward those people. There was some kind of odd comfort in Mum still being there, in the room with us. Finally, we had all said good bye and she was taken from the house. Again, a totally odd feeling. My mother was dead. The last of my parents - gone. I remember thinking "I'm an orphan" with some shock. It didn't matter that I was 41 years old. I was now officially an orphan. Like I said, it's odd the things that you think of at such times.
We spent that night in my mother's house, my brothers and sisters and I. It was, looking back, so civilized as to be almost uncivilized. But it was what it was. And it seemed to work for us.
I have no recollection of leaving. I know what we did as a family that night. I know it was very early in the morning before anyone left. I know I had a drink of scotch - neat (unusual for me), I know Mum's priest showed up at some point. I know I took her rosary with me when I left. I know the man who would become my husband drove me home. But I have absolutely no recollection of actually leaving. But I did leave. And went home. Home to my own home, where I had spent little time the past year. But home.
The worst part of being home was that it suddenly seemed wrong.....or something. Again, that undefinable something. Weird, off, odd, different. There.
Now the worst began. The moving on process. The learning to live without Mum. The horrible newness of life without her.
So it begins. I must heal. I must go on. Without her. This sucks.
So why, after 11 years, am I finally writing this? I'm really not sure. Possibly because so shortly after she died, my life changed in yet another huge way, in that I moved to Ontario. So soon after my mother's death, I left everything and everyone I loved to move over 1000 kilometers away. It was, it turns out, a mistake. But I didn't know that then. So I left in December. Probably not the smartest thing to have done but hindsight is always a 20/20 thing.
Having been home just over a year now, I find myself seeing my mother in crowds of people where I never did before. After all, I wouldn't expect to see her in Ontario. It's been an odd year for me. This first year home. A year of "firsts" in many ways. Dealing with my mother's death and my brother's death all over again in a different way has been something of a challenge. But it is happening. Slowly. And, I suspect, will continue to "happen", until it has finally hit home that now, both are gone. Mum. Michael. Both gone. And now I'm back. And dealing the best way I know how.
I will always miss her. Just like I will always miss my father and brother. But today especially, I am remembering Mum and her courageous battle in life and her dignified death. I love you Mum.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Any health scare, no matter how insignificant it may or may not seem to others, creates a time of introspection for me. These last few months have done exactly that. The "breast cancer scare" (that's what I have dubbed it) has made me take a long, hard look at those I love and those who profess to love me. While I realize that everyone has a different definition of the word love, this is mine and I am entitled to it.
Looking back over the past few months, I am still amazed at the way people behaved, or in many cases, did not, when they heard the news of the lump. Many people I had considered close friends were not there for me at all. Others, almost virtual strangers, stepped up in a way that was absolutely mind boggling. All of this, is what made me start to question my own definition of "love". Not romantic love, which is, far too often, fleeting, but the lasting love that comes from a really good relationship with someone who cares. Near or far, good or bad, if you have someone in your life who will "be there" for you, no matter what, then you have love.
Love is a brand new friend driving 50 miles to take me to a doctor's appointment so that I wouldn't have to be alone. Love is a phone call from Winnipeg as soon as they got the news. Love is a hug, because I needed a hug. Love is not being judged because yes, my faith was not as strong as it should have been at times, but real love stepped in and prayed for me, so that I was able to make it through, even while struggling to maintain my beliefs. Love is an email a day from someone I have never met (and will probably never meet), with uplifting scripture verses and poems because this person knows I like poetry. In short, love goes out of its way to do for another human being that which may not necessarily come naturally or easily.
It has taken all this introspection for me to realize that I have, over the years, been forming and living out this definition for myself.
A few years ago, my ex husband's best friend was in a coma and not expected to live. I remember being in the waiting room with my ex husband, his friend's wife and two of his friend's brothers. His wife was, quite understandably, overwrought. I watched as this poor woman fell apart at the thought of losing her husband. I watched as my ex husband (her friend!) and her two brothers in law, sat and did nothing to comfort her. I realize that comfort is not a "guy thing", but this woman was in very real danger of losing her husband and was an emotional wreck! Someone needed to help her! As I sat and wondered for the umpteenth time why I was there, I became more and more angry. I have to admit here that I didn't then and still don't, particularly care for this woman. And worse, she despised me. Suddenly none of that mattered. My personal feelings for her didn't matter. All I saw was a woman in incredible pain. That woman needed help and none was forthcoming. I got angrier and angrier as I watched her brothers in law and my ex husband do nothing. Finally, unable to handle it any longer, I got up and put my arms around her. She immediately collapsed into them. I don't recall exactly what I said, but I'm sure it wasn't terribly profound. I was totally shocked as she clung to me like someone going down on the Titanic. Then I realized, this was her Titanic and I was her lifeboat. When you're in crisis, it doesn't matter what the lifeboat looks like I guess, just so long as it too is not taking on water! So I held her until she felt strong enough to collect herself a bit. She then looked at me and said " I don't care who you are, right now you're an angel from God". There are no words to describe the shock I felt at hearing those words from this woman. There are also no words to describe the pain I felt at being so utterly helpless in the face of a real crisis. I couldn't help her husband, that was up to God and the doctors. What I could do, was step out, way out, of my own comfort zone, and offer her a literal shoulder to cry on. So I did. When no one else would step up and be there for this woman, I did. And I felt love. Looking back, it was perhaps more God's love telling me I had done the right thing, than her love, but who knows? Maybe, just maybe in that brief encounter, she felt love. If so, then I did something good. Something God would want me to do. That's a good thing.
Too often, it is not part of a person's natural inclination to hug or show outward emotion to others. To those people I say "tough". How can you say that you love someone and not be able to put your own feelings aside and give a hug to someone you know wants, indeed needs, it? How is that loving your neighbour? In Matthew, Jesus asks us "if you love those who love you what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" (Mat. 5:46) Is this so very different? If someone is hurting and you don't offer comfort because the kind of comfort that person needs is not something you're comfortable with, how is that "loving your neighbour"? I know that this is a personal something, but that means I get to inject my personal feelings. And to me, there is no difference.
Love is tough, no question. Most things in life worth having are. Love however is the toughest. Love doesn't just ask that you step out of your own personal comfort zone once in a while, it requires it! If you can't do that for someone you profess to love, how can you call it love?
Love is a verb. It doesn't sit back and watch. It takes action. Always.
Like I said, over the past few months, I have been thinking about this often and looking at the people I thought would always be there for me. In many instances, the people I thought would be there, were most definitely not. And many I never dreamt would or could care, stepped up for me in such a huge way that it still humbles me. I won't say that I've taken people's love for granted because I don't feel that's true. I do think that I have assumed, incorrectly, that many people I thought would care, perhaps did not. That's an incredibly sobering thought. When I look back over the amount of time I spent alone while dealing with my latest health scare, I am grateful to those who did in fact take the time to help in whatever way they could from wherever they happened to be. And I realize that that list includes, almost exclusively, people who went out of their way and/or stepped out of their own comfort zones, to be there for me. I also recognize the people who were not there for me. I am truly sorry now for the assumptions I made. And terribly, terribly saddened by those who call themselves "friend", but remained distant. That however, is probably the origin of the phrase "live and learn".
I really want to dedicate this post to those of you who stepped up for me. (I truly hope that you know who you are!) You will never know what it meant to me to have you there for me when I needed you. And you continue to be there for me. Always. I love and appreciate you all! There is a seriously good reason that you are part of my life! Thank you.
--The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Mat. 25:40
Friday, January 14, 2011
When I was 14 years old (perhaps 15?), I was dragged, kicking and screaming to PEI on a family vacation with my parents and my little brother. It is of no small consequence to note here that, at 14, I was a messed up teen who had been dealing with a diagnosis of epilepsy for the past year. It was beyond horrible. I was a freak and I knew it. It therefore, made little to no sense to me, to be forced into this family vacation where I would be exposed to even more strangers from whom I had to hide this truly "freaky" disease. But, no matter what argument I came up with for staying home, where I was at least reasonably safe, my parents would have none of it, so PEI it was. God help me. And, He did.
I don't remember a lot about the first days of that vacation other than the very real resentment I felt at having been there at all. Somehow, I must have overcome that, or more likely hidden it. At least well enough to meet Colin. Something else I don't remember actually happening, it just suddenly was. There he was, the cutest boy I'd ever seen, being my friend. And for reasons I don't remember (and to this day cannot fathom), I told him the truth about my epilepsy. It didn't bother or upset him! How that was possible was another one of life's great mysteries to this messed up, freaky teenager. But there it was. A cute boy, who accepted me for who I was and actually liked me! Wow! It would take far more understanding than I will ever have to make sense of that, but there it is. He became my friend. He was there for me. He was even a "protector" of sorts.
I remember a game of volleyball that I somehow I found myself in the midst of with other kids in the campground. Colin being one of the kids. Naturally. If Colin was there, wherever there was, I wanted to be. Somehow, during the game I was accidentally shoved unceremoniously into a thicket by an over zealous player trying to get the ball before it hit the ground. (not an unreasonable thing to do in a volleyball game). Colin didn't see it that way. He saw me go into the thicket and was there in a flash to help me out. Having made sure that I was indeed unhurt, he turned on the other kids and started his tirade. He berated the other kids for having done that to a girl who could very well have had a seizure because of it. And he did it well. Those kids probably didn't know what hit them. Colin ranted on my behalf long enough for the others to get the message and a hero was born. At least for me. Long live white knights in shining armour!
While it never for an instant occurred to me that I might have a seizure as a result of an accidental push, neither did it occur to me to correct him. No way! Someone is actually being kind to me? This is new. And not just anyone, but a boy. And understand this, not just any boy, but the cutest boy in the Maritimes. Isn't it interesting how quickly we can elevate our heroes when the want is strong enough? He started out being the cutest boy on The Island. Now he's the cutest boy in the Maritimes. And he wears armour and rides a horse. Cool. Very cool.
I suppose it is also noteworthy here, that in my short life, my experience with any and all males had been less than kind. My brothers were never nice to me, my father was someone to be feared and the only other boys I knew, were boys at school.They stayed away in droves. (I was the freaky kid with epilepsy remember)? So this new kid, a boy, who not only paid attention to me but was sweet, kind, generous and caring was a total anomaly. Truly. I had never experienced kindness in any real way from any male before. So yup, white knight it is. And white knight he remained.
The vacation ended and I went home with my parents while he went home to another part of Nova Scotia that was far enough away to prohibit phone calls that would have kept us in touch. I really didn't believe that I would ever see Colin again. I was wrong.
Three years later, I actually found myself with a girlfriend in Colin's hometown. With much prodding from my girlfriend, I called him. (I was a very shy kid and this was a white knight! It really took a lot of prodding, trust me!) But I did make the call. And he did remember me. I visited him the next day and was gratified to see that he still had his horse and his armour had not dimmed in three years. Perhaps the only difference was he was just that much better looking. It was a great day, and the best hug I have ever received came from my white knight named Colin. We spent the day at his parents house where I met his family.
Another surprise. These people were totally unlike my own family. They got along very well, and seemed to genuinely care for one another in a way that was totally foreign to me. They seemed like the perfect family. Colin, his brother, sister and parents were all wonderful, kind people and it struck me as making total sense that Colin was the person he was. He was a product of his upbringing, which seemed to me (with my whole day's worth of experience) to be the most perfect family I had ever seen.
But, like all good things, this day too, had to end. So I left Colin, my wonderful white knight, horse and all, to go back to home. But I carried some pretty special memories with me that lasted for many long years. Memories that, as I grew older and at least a little wiser, became more realistic. While Colin always remained special, the armour faded and the horse disappeared to be replaced by what, I suppose, was a more realistic view. A memory of a wonderful boy who, at a crucial time in my life, was there for me. Probably totally unbeknownst to him. But he was, at the time, a hero indeed.
Many years passed before I would ever encounter Colin again. So many in fact, that I doubted I would ever hear tell of him in any way again. But like all good friendships, it was not to be. 35 years after my last meeting with this wonderful boy, I found him again. On Facebook. Yup. That hideous "social network" that we all love to hate so much. After much prodding (again! some things never change I guess) from a wonderful friend, I sent him a "friend request". I truly believed that he would have forgotten me long since, but perhaps should have known better. Some things really don't change. And real friends, it would seem, are one of those things. He did indeed remember me. He remembered that vacation in PEI. He remembered everything. We reconnected via email and renewing an old friendship that began when we were children was a real treat for me! Yes, he's changed. I have most definitely changed. But I think that the inherent goodness that made Colin such a hero at that oh so tender age, still exists in him. Like the rest of us, he's older now, but that goodness that had been so attractive to me as a teenager seems to still be there. It's really nice to know that "the good ones" never go away entirely. They grow up. They change. They mature. But, as is often the case in life, good usually remains. And so it has with Colin. He is today, a good man. Not unlike the good "boy" that he once was. That's nice. That's really nice. The world needs more good people.
I'm really not sure what the purpose of this particular entry was. Perhaps, I simply needed to tell you, and more importantly myself, that there is a lesson here. Never give up on good in the world. When you least expect it, there it is. And that's always a good thing. Isn't it? :)