Tag Archives: Life

Another Reminder

There is so much I want to talk about and mention, so many things going on in my mind, but all I can think about is last week.

I had met Beth once in the Mall.  Although they work in different departments and on opposite shifts, my husband had mentioned her a few times and remarked on what a kind, gentle spirit she was and how he had been good friends with her at work.  Three weeks ago, he came home from work with bad news.  He mentioned how he had been working with her closely on some internal audit details and how he had been standing behind her when she made a call to her husband.  He works there too.  They wanted to work together to be close to each other.  They’d spent all their free time together out in their small piece of land, tending the few heads of cattle they owned; it’s what they loved doing.

She spoke in hushed tones:
“Can you come get me?  I don’t feel well.”

When he got to her desk, she whispered:
“There’s something wrong, I’m losing my sight, I’m going blind.”

As he was relating this to me, my initial thought was, ‘oh no, diabetes?

They then left and went to the local hospital, where a doctor told her she was having an allergic reaction to coffee — another reason I have blatant disregard for the local health care system and its staff here.

Unsatisfied with the diagnosis, her husband got her in to see a specialist 45 miles away, three days later, where they rushed her into Chemotherapy that day after they discovered she had acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) — the most aggressive of its kind.

Last Thursday morning, I got a worried call saying she had suffered a brain hemorrhage and was now in ICU.

She died that afternoon.

I can’t help but wonder how many reminders I need before I grasp the fragility of life(?).  This woman was alive two weeks ago, not knowing those were her last days.  She was just 39, with a college-aged daughter.  And her husband.  The love of her life has to just carry on.  Keep going to work.  But for what now?

Everyone has a right to their own thoughts and belief systems, but for me, it’s hard to fathom that colleagues are saying, “she’s gone, he’ll never see her again.”  What kind of hope for the future does that give?  It doesn’t.  What are we living for, if not for something far better than our imaginations can take us?  If that is true, all the love we share with others is null and void and for nothing.  It can’t be.  It isn’t.

Although I didn’t know her, it has been a eye opener for me.  A time to continue to appreciate and validate those in our lives.  A time to make the most of what we have and take nothing for granted.  A time to live in the moment and not rush to the next thing.  Life is too precious not to.
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Then The Planets Realigned…

Two days ago, a friend dropped off her 3-year-old girl for a few hours to play while she ran to a morning meeting.  I was ecstatic.  The boys’ bedroom needed some serious attention, and I could get it in better shape if Cameron was distracted by a friend.  It worked.  And apparently, his observation skills were in overdrive too.  You see, she’s in the middle of being potty trained right now, and I was in the bathroom with her 3 times in the space of three hours.  Two were false alarms.

As I was hoovering up the massacred juggling ball (I’ve had since I was 19) that he ripped open with his teeth and spilled the beans everywhere, a miracle occurred: He peed on his potty.  By himself.  And I missed it.  I was a mere 6 feet away.  Wow, I was ecstatic.  We mentioned it for hours. We told Daddy.  We clapped and jumped.  We sang a song.

img_2599It was a fluke, but a great fluke nonetheless.

I’ve had that potty sitting in their bathroom for the past 6 months, just so it’s always in his line of vision.  He’s never really shown much interest in it, but I’m not too concerned, boys are harder to train.  (Do they ever fully train anyway?)

I held him on a pedestal like a prodigy.

Until yesterday.  Yesterday, the planets realigned while I was drying my hair.

glassesHe climbed up on my bed and onto the headboard.  Behind the headboard on one of the window sills were my old standby glasses.  He found them.

Life has returned to normal.  The other lens, incidentally, was found on location at a second site twenty minutes later.  Now, if I ever need glasses, I have a good excuse to get new ones.
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Butter wouldn’t melt….

I Have The Best Husband

I have the best husband.  He rarely watches sport on tv (maybe 4-5 times a year, tops), he cooks fabulous meals — not just barbecue.  I have to say though, he rocks the grill: succulent chicken and juicy, mouth-watering steaks.  He openly admits to not being great with cars, but will read up how to fix something online and do it perfectly.  He cleans (remember, he’s a microbiologist?  It’s really rather very handy), he doesn’t hunt (although I admit it can be handy), he offers foot rubs, back massages and warms my feet in bed; he lifts me up: spiritually and emotionally; he bathes, sings and reads to the boys when he sees I’ve had a hard day.  And from the moment I met him, he gives the best hugs.

He left late Saturday afternoon to go miles south of here for an overnight campout with the Scouts. Like most married people of the womanly persuasion out there, I don’t do very well when he is gone — even if he just pops out for 10 minutes to go pick something up quick from the local rip-off merchants convenience store past the 4-way stop: the only form of traffic control in this aptly-named village of 700.

Ever since we started dating, oh, nine years ago, I felt the luckiest woman alive.  I didn’t have to settle for a quirk or trait that made me uneasy or I showed disdain for.  He was perfect.  For me.  And with that, I have always had this underlying fear that I will lose it all.

Way back when, he used drive 2 hours from University to work every day and then an hour home.  I’d especially worry when the winter months hit.  He made it half-way to work one day, phoned his boss and came home early.  I was surprised and delighted to see him.  With that type of schedule, he’d leave at 7 a.m. and I wouldn’t see him again until 10 that night.

Then he told me what happened, and my fears were justified.

A few cars were at the side of the road, parked at the median having hit black ice.  He slowed down as a precaution and ultimately stopped to offer any assistance.  Nine years ago, it’s weird to think that mobile phones weren’t as prevalent, but it’s true.  He offered his phone to a few who needed  it.

Suddenly, there was a noise that stopped time.

He looked up to see a car barrelling towards him at highway speed and quickly vaulted over the concrete median.  Seconds later, the car spun in undulating circles and smashed into the spot where he had been standing just moments earlier.

I have had a mantra since we’re been married: Tell him you love him every day.  Tell him you love him every day like you’ve never said it before.  Appreciate each day as it comes.  Appreciate it with a warm, encompassing embrace.

When he returned home yesterday just after noon — and in theory only 20 hours later — it felt like months.  We have been separated before, the longest being 3½ weeks, almost 4 when he came to Montana to start his new job, and I stayed behind to sell the house with a 2-year-old and 20 weeks pregnant.  It was rough, but we did it.

Yesterday felt worse than that.  The house was unanchored and quiet — even with the boys, and I felt lost and sullen.  Even worse, I dreaded going to bed and going to sleep.  To spite the bed, I lay facing the window instead of the empty mattress.  It was horrid.

On his return, I embraced him and clung tight, as tight as a sea urchin.  And, in retrospect, the evening was magical.  But not like that.  OK, like that. But, he bathed the boys, did the whole night routine alone and tucked them safely in bed.  I grabbed a DVD we’ve had waiting for a few days and sneaked it into the player.  I had never seen it.  All I knew was, it was good.

Two words:  The Notebook.

I have never openly sobbed so much at a film.  It touched so many truths in my mind and spoke to my heart.  I lay nestled on his chest for its entirety.  After I retrieved it from the player, we stood and embraced each other for ever, crying.

“Promise me.  Promise me you’ll come visit me when I’m old.  Don’t leave me alone.  And if I [get Parkinson’s really bad], promise you’ll come get me.”

I have the best husband.

Metamorphosis

What an ogre I was.  The Yuck had left me unyielding and unshifting, someone I’m not.  All since July.

I wasn’t letting the kids be kids.  Too much structure.  Too much control.  Order. Quiet.  Little statues to adorn the sides of my fireplace.  I have chips and a huge dent in the drywall from where my rage got the better of me and I threw a Little People garage towards the safety gate and missed.  A monument to a person I hope is long gone.  Someone I hope is fixed because I decided to change a few things.

And I have much to be thankful for: My health, my home, my family, my friends.  I have been feeling and doing much! better since I started eating better.  I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m on a diet, because I’m not.  We never really had cakes and biscuits in the house before, and now we have Costco 3-packs of Carr’s (made in Scotland, no less!) Ginger and Lemon Cremes.  Two is a serving.  I know!  Two!  And, I’ve lost weight to boot.  Eight pounds in 3 weeks.  But I swear I’m not dieting.  No, really.  All I have been doing is adhering to serving sizes on the back of the box.  It’s easy for the most part —  except when it comes to pasta.  Two ounces is a serving?  Really?!  I’d be better off buying a Gerber Stage 3 pasta dinner, there’d be more in that tiny jar, let me tell you.  I think Barilla is taking the Micky.  I mean, come on!  Two ounces?  You know they’re sitting in their cushy wee corporate offices with half a pound of farfalle between two of them, laughing till somebody snorts a hunk of it down their nose.

No, but I’m not bitter.  Yep, I’m not.

Who knew?  I’d be feeling dumpy and gloomy, so I’d eat chocolate.  But all that would do is eventually make me feel worse.  So then I’d eat more sugar, and the sinking feelings still weren’t going away. . . I was going around in a circle.  And becoming a circle!

It’s started a revolution.

So.  I’ve decided.  I’m tired of hearing it, so I’m just going to live.

Enjoy being young, you have fit legs, youth is wasted on the young.
Enjoy dating, it’s all serious business and responsibility after you get married.
Enjoy just the two of you, everything changes when you have children.
Enjoy when they’re babies, they grow so fast.
Enjoy them when they’re throwing fits and imploding, they’ll be teenagers soon.
Enjoy being in your 30’s/40’s, don’t take life so seriously now.
Enjoy your grandkids, you can hand them back.
Enjoy retirement.
Enjoy the young, they have fit legs.  Youth is wasted on the young.

I’m stopping it all.  I’m dropping out of the cycle.  Forget it.  I’m living for myself.  I keep hearing “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalms 127:3) or thinking about how Christ always went to the children first and blessed them.  Or how we should become like little children. I’m letting the kids be kids and enjoying what we have.  Lining up dining chairs and making trains for hours until we get tired of it.  I’m having water fights and making homemade playdough.  They’re eating off of the ‘good’ grown-up plates and drinking from proper glasses that have the potential to smash, but I don’t care so much, because every day is a special occasion.  They’re sitting and laughing with me and getting to know their mother.

Getting to also know she has a sick sense of humour.

I’m playing hide and seek, but not in a cute-come-find-me kinda way.  In the he-can’t-find-me-and-starts-freaking-out way.  Sure, they’ll have abandonment issues and will likely pay thousands to retreive their sanity, but for now, it’s nice to feel wanted.

One of my new favourite things to do is have Ian lie on the carpet and drop cashews into his mouth.  We laugh together when one slides right in.  We giggle and squirm when one bounces off of his teeth or slides down his neck.

We’re all learning and growing, and I couldn’t be happier.

A Year Wrap-Up

Through life’s lessons, I’ve learned to take things as they come, learn from them and endeavour to slowly move on.  Nothing is gained from dwelling on the past if the dwelling merely brings negative thoughts and bad vibes; and yet, without trials and hard times, one could not grow and develop, nor could one fully appreciate all the great times with absolutely nothing to compare with.  It is the savour of life.  Salt.  So, with that, let’s do a little comparison, shall we?  (And probably rub some salt in the proverbial wound in the meantime.)

Here were 2008’s ASPIRATIONS:


1. Make friends with your new sewing machine.

  • First point of action: remove it from its taped up box
  • Re-learn how to use it after a eighteen-year hiatus
  • Harness its capabilities and overlook the mind-consuming danger that you could ram the high speed needle into your left forefinger
  • Make some rawkin’ things with it, including a Rag Quilt

2. Recycle more to fit more rubbish in the wheelie bin. How can such a small family generate so much crap?

3. Revolutionise Your Blogging Experience

  • Move blog (and archives–BAH!) to another server

MSN has been getting my knickers in a twist for a very long time. Despite blogging here for the past 2.5 years, becoming Space of the Week twice, being featured on The MSN Homepage and having over 207,000 hits under my belt, I have taken all I can stomach with the Nuisance. The catalyst was the most recent of changes: No basic or advanced HTML in the Sandbox. At all. Basically, you can’t make a clickable header anymore, which is why mine has huge ugly white spaces all over it. My other option is to just leave it altogether.

  • Be done with Blogging
That’s a goal, right?
  1. I have continued to stare at the taped up box.  I have, in my own defense, made conversation about said ‘taped up box’ and have been promised some how-to times ahead.  Don’t judge me.  Actually, go ahead.
  2. I have been recycling like a mad woman — much to my husband’s chagrin (I shouldn’t really have to say that we have to travel the 45 miles to Missoula to drop it off, should I?) — and have even recruited my 4-year-old in the processes, adding this new word into his vocab in the emerging months of 2008.
  3. It’s hard to believe I have been with WordPress a year now, and although I have moved the biggest majority of my posts over, I have a few months left to do.  It’s labourious mostly because I have to do it by hand, one-by-one and I am peeved that WP doesn’t allow you to export files from any server, and not just Blogger and Typepad (to name the very few).  Which, consequently, means I have lost all my precious comments too.  All three of them.  However, I have not — as the savvy-eyed among you will have noticed — given up blogging.  Although I will say, I have come very close to it, particularly 2 weeks ago.

In retrospect, although 2008 had it’s downs, there were ups amidst those downs; sweet moments I cherish.  Quiet moments as death approached both my Gran and Grandpa-in-law that I hold dearly to:  My Gran gently stroking my hair as I showed her the back of my still-thick hair (compared to my poor Mum’s!) and the still, quiet moments I shared with Clifford, a shell of who he once was.  There is nothing more bitter-sweet than to sit in a quiet room with those who are departing.  The Spirit is very strong, almost overpowering at times.  The tears would come, just from the sheer intensity of peace/love/tranquility in the rooms.

I am grateful for the departure of two thousand and eight.  It hasn’t been bad, per se, but I have done a lot of growing and molding this past year.  Things I don’t really care to revisit, but instances where I have grown the most.  One of the hardest things for me to deal with was returning to Montana after being in Scotland for three weeks.  I hadn’t set foot in the UK in five years, and naively thought I could handle it, considering my last trip was a breeze.  I was overloaded with excitement to be there, to even just stand in a supermarket (Morrison’s or Tesco) and just stare at the shelves while others meandered past, barely paying attention to my quiet enthusiasm.  Essentially, I rediscovered my homeland, something I never thought possible.  Returning to Montana was the antithesis of the trip: dormant grass, a lack of infrastructure, people, buildings, city life and importantly, my family.  What a rough, turbulent month I had after my return, and, like usual, I grinned and beared it.

So, I have waved farewell to 2008 and heralded in 2009 in great style.

We spent the day with a family from our Church and a big handful of friends.  To say their home is huge is a slight understatement.  Adding their shop and a few other things, it spans a whopping 12,000 square feet.  They have a large swimming pool, a billiards table, air hockey, a ginormous kitchen and many, many rooms.  I used a bathroom to change my clothes from sledding down their hill repeatedly (and consequently being transported back up the hill on either a Rhino or a snow mobile) and tried to guesstimate its size.  It was definitely around 16′ x 16′.  They are a great family, with huge hearts and we really had a fantastic time — maybe except for Cameron, where, on his maiden and only voyage downhill strapped onto the long plastic sled under us by my legs only, slid so far down, I had to clench his heid with my thighs in-between the air we caught.  After he retained composure, he even went in a pool for the first time (and if you think I did, you are sadly mistaken!  I am, however, going to buy a pair of women’s surf shorts and a tankini top, because that(?) my friends, is a bloody great idea!  Exclamation POINT!).

I, of course, had to stuff my face completely and ate a bit of everything everyone brought.  You have to!  What kind of person would I be if I left anyone’s dish out?!  That’s just uncalled for.

A final comparison to this time last year is that although we are a good nine days into the year, I have yet to come up with anything new I want/need to accomplish.  There’s time yet, I suppose.

Fractured

How?  How do you transition from the death of a loved one, celebrate the beginning of new lives together two days after that, and then ultimately lay to rest a great man four days later?  Such a myriad of emotion all rooted in one cause: Love.  I went through, and am still going through innumerable emotions.  I couldn’t sleep the night preceding Bryan’s grandfather’s death.  I stayed up until 01:40 not really wanting to go to bed, sensing something from deep within.  I eventually relented and slid into bed, completely uncomfortable and unable to fully relax.  Thirty minutes later, he was gone.  Harried footsteps alerted my brother-in-law downstairs (where we all were too), and he quietly gathered his siblings.

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Two days later, I am standing outside the place where he is to be married, knowing grandpa could full-well be in attendance.  In fact, it would have been the only way he could have attended, and I think he knew that.  Despite the quiet solemnity of the days before, and the further planning and organising needed, the family bore up amazingly well.  There wasn’t any sadness looming over the wedding at all, it was completely a happy occasion.

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The funeral was beautiful, his casket something he might have fashioned by his own hands himself.  Bryan had organised a local piper to be there to play a short melody of Danny Boy and Amazing Grace as he approached the graveside.  He paused for the military recognition and then walked off into the distance playing a beautiful song, Coming Home.

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Coming home myself, I fully planned to walk back in to life, to record my thoughts as they occurred, and catch up with dear friends.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I needed time for myself.  The day after Bryan’s grandpa died and incidentally, the day before the wedding, I went to my former OB/GYN and spoke to an associate there.  I explained how I felt, what changes I had noted in myself emotionally and physically, and how although I didn’t feel unwell, I certainly knew something wasn’t quite right.  She scheduled blood work to be performed, one test being duplicated from my previous blood work, and ordered more than my other visit to the CNM here in Montana.  I had my TSH, T3 and T4 levels checked (all thyroid), my glucose, iron and insulin levels and a few others.

I had felt disappointed and frustrated as I explained my concerns with the nurse midwife (I had to see her, remember my doctor died the night before?  Yeah.) and I was met with, “you need to take time each morning and write daily affirmations on your mirror.”  That’s not what I needed to hear.  In fact, I felt like she wasn’t listening at all.  Although I felt discouraged, I knew I didn’t have to settle for a half-diagnosis; to be told I was fine and sent on my merry way, so I took my health into my own hands and sought out the second opinion.  I have since been referred to an Endocrinologist and am trying to glean as much information about the three available doctors here in the area that I can.

I didn’t realise how heavily everything was weighing on my mind and took the three days I would have been blogging last week to just take time for myself.  I’ve used the word broken before, but that’s how I’ve felt.  I’m not quite my whole self, but I am definitely headed in the right direction.

And as for death and the transition of life, it is part and parcel of life and I accepted that a very long time ago.  What has been most difficult for me is coming to terms with loved ones dying.  It is never easy whether someone is taken from us suddenly or an illness is drawn out — it’s difficult to see people you love go through it and know there is little you can do, if anything.  All you can do is love.

If I have learned anything this week, is it that love really does — and should — encompass life, and that the support and tenderness of those close to us should be magnified.

Words and Thoughts

In a quiet corner of the house, in a dimly lit south-facing room, lays a shadow of a man I once knew.  He can’t speak, smile, or motion and he doesn’t really have a lot of range of eye movement from within his partially opened eyes.  But…but!  I know he hears me.

As I quietly made my way into his room yesterday, it was easy to overlook the IV and the morphine drip, the shelves of medical supplies and the monster hospital bed.  All I saw was a frail man propped up in bed with his face naturally angled at the ceiling.  I spoke with him and carried on a one sided conversation quite well, but inside I was breaking.  My heart was breaking and my spirit ached for this man who always had something to say, a kind word, a strong hug and his gentle, loving eyes that pierced your soul every time.

It’s hard to stay out the room, I am drawn to it.  It is so peaceful in there.  Quiet, serene, calming.  I can’t really describe it and do it justice … like a huge warm blanket that encompasses you completely.  The kind of feeling that makes you happy inside, almost glowing.  I sat in there yesterday.  I don’t know how long it was, I just sat there with him staring into the walls listening to him sleep, his hand enclosed in mine.  I had told him he was holding my hand whether he liked it or not.  I sat in silence, listening to the oxygen tank buzz, the 1940’s music softly playing from the TV and thinking about all of his stories and words I had heard over the past eight years.  I’d be fine and then tears would come to my eyes.  But not the tears you would expect, I wasn’t sad, I was at peace.  But then the sad tears would come.  Why does a man so amazingly brave, generous, strong and so full of chivalry and charisma have to be reduced to this state?  It’s not fair.  Life isn’t fair and dying isn’t fair either.

We expect his days are very few now.  I am deeply saddened, but know he won’t be in any more pain.  I worry about my mother-in-law.  She is amazing.  She works so hard and takes such amazing care of her father, my admiration for her runs so deeply.

What a bitter-sweet time.  My little brother-in-law, whom I adore, is to be married on the morning of Thursday to a wonderful young girl that I am getting to know, and just doors down from where I sit is a legend of a man, living out his last few hours.  My words will never do my thoughts justice.

Photo Hunt: Lazy


Thanks to the young age of the country, the lack of state-consistent public transport systems and the landslide majority of amenities and life essentials (including neighbourhood shops) which are not within walking distance: I have become lazy.

Bereavement: The Journey

Six months have transpired since the death of my maternal grandmother:  Brigid, my Gran.  A woman who was as stubborn as the day is long, usually very difficult to read and set in her ways.  And with that, a very generous, loving and gentle soul who held dear to her Irish-ness throughout her life, despite having left her home in County Cavan at the young age of just 15.

She moved to England and worked in hotels and pubs and was well-known wherever she went.  She was a true lady, her hair was always done, her clothes immaculate and her lips graced with fuchsia or deep red lipstick with a smile and a nod for everyone.

I didn’t always understand or agree with some of her motives for things, or how she approached things head on; and being difficult to read, it was hard to see her true feelings for things.  But one thing I never doubted was her love for her friends and those close to her.  She travelled unceasingly back to her beloved Ireland to visit her remaining siblings (she was the middle child of nine), or down to London, up to Inverness or over to the Isle of Skye.  She kept very active and full of energy and life.  Looking at her, you just thought she’d just keep going and going.  She was constantly going somewhere, even if it was out for her early morning walk which she took religiously, rain or shine.  The snow wouldn’t stop her either, in fact, winter was her favourite season most of all.  Having served in the army decades ago, she still had her regimented walk with her head held high.

In her life she’d moved around quite a bit. When I was 10, she moved to Australia to live with her new husband, Burgess.  He was a remarkable, amazing, gentle soul and I only wished I could have known him better in life.  He was the type of man you could see his soul through his eyes.  They’d met and married in London and went to live near Sydney a little while later.  A few years later when I was 15, they moved back to Scotland living up north, and I got to get to know him a little more, not just through the notes and letters we would exchange.

He had been shot in the head with a pellet gun by a bully when he was eight, it had consequently damaged an optic nerve and he lost his sight in his left eye; but he never let that slow him down, he was a big rig truck driver for years and was an amazing carpenter.

He gave me my love for honey and hearty homemade soup.  He was a very spiritual man and it showed in his actions and words.  He was laid back, but in the kind of way that he let things just roll off his back.  I regard myself one of the luckiest people in the world that I got to know him.  His hugs were brimming with love, his smile endearing and his laugh infectious.  I still love that man.  In August 2000, I had been in California nine months the day my Mum phoned me.  There was an intonation in her voice in the few words she spoke in salutation.

“Who died?”  I asked, hoping I’d imagined her tone.
“How did you know?”  she sobbed.  And then the words I had dreaded, “it’s Burge.”

My heart sank and I grieved that man for a very long time.  He had been plagued with illness throughout his later years and it had finally taken him — with stomach and prostate cancer.

If there was any chance, I would pray and hope for a husband just like him: Someone who would love and cherish me implicitly; someone tender, who I could connect with on every level and someone who oozed with the love of life.  It took some time, but I found my Burge.

They moved back to Australia in 1990 and for the ensuing ten years, I got to know them as I had before, through letters and cards.  My gran was a prolific letter-writer.  She kept in touch with an armful of people, constantly writing to someone.  She loved it and it showed.  Her address book was filled with people (I even found my last letter to her in the front – what a tender moment) and she had all of their birthdays marked down in her calendar and never forgot one.  She’d even send your card a month early, just to be sure you’d get it.  When the end of October rolled around, you could always be sure of a red envelope from her.  It was your Christmas card.  My Gran loved Christmas and the music, sending cards, parcels and calendars to everyone.

I am grateful she took the time to write to me as a teenager – a constant that helped buoy and shape me.  I thanked her for it as she lay on her hospital bed.  Her humble response was, “it was just a small thing”.  “Yes, but it’s the small things that matter”, I responded gently.  She nodded and smiled.

It was both cathartic and painful to stay at my Gran’s place in March, it was a perfect monument to her, frozen in time in October 2007, organised and quiet still. There were tributes of her everywhere, perfect tokens to who she was and what she loved: she had decorative plates of birds, pictures of penguins, flowers, and Irish and Scottish mementos — even her framed and hung Australian citizenship certificate.  Each room was filled with her favourite spring colours: lilac, pale yellow, pale green and delft blue.

Whilst I was staying at my Gran’s place, I clung on to a hope — it may have been false hope, but it got me through a very difficult task. I wanted to do something for her, for the home. I wanted to clear out what I knew she didn’t need: old bills and papers. They were everywhere:  In baskets in the kitchen, in drawers, in mugs on the mug tree at the sink, all around her living room, in her bedrooms. But not in the bathroom. I must have got rid of about a dozen carrier/plastic bags full of them.   As long as I kept repeating, ‘I’m doing this for Gran’, I was able to get through it.

Days before she died, I kept coming across little slips of paper or lengthy scripts. Some were typed, others hand written. They were all in different places, and each were a great find and a comforting solace. I never thought for one moment that she would pass whilst we were there, but unknowingly, these little pieces of paper helped me through a very trying time. Little pieces of treasure.  They were essentially, a voice from the dust.  My Gran had experienced the death of her close sister and Burge, and had held on to words of encouragement and support. I was grateful that she did.

My Gran’s death 6 months ago is quite easily one of the toughest times I have experienced in my life. It ripped the ground from under me and I felt dazed and confused for what seemed like days, when in fact only a few hours had passed.

Two days later, as I was poring through more papers, I came across something that changed my focus and redirected my thoughts. It was the quintessential hug; the comforting embrace that my heart needed.  I share it, hoping it will help someone else who is grieving a loved one.

Burge had written this to my Gran’s sister, Peggy.  Peggy had recently lost her husband and he reached out from Australia to Ireland with love and compassion through his written word.

24 July 1996

Peggy on this earth we view death from the perspective of one who strays behind, much as we view a long journey when we are seeing a loved one off on a train, a plane, or a ship and wave our goodbyes, only able to imagine what the trip will be like, or what our loved one will find when he gets where he is going.

If you could glimpse, for even a moment, the glory and excitement that a departed loved one faces when his eyes “close on time” and “open on eternity”, if only we could glimpse this, perhaps there would be more understanding in our sorrow and more joy in our grief.  Sorrow, then, must be akin to love; in fact, what is sorrow but the tender side of love.  As I said before – to take the sorrow out of death, we would have to take love out of life.

In a beautiful blue lagoon on a clear day, a fine sailing ship spreads its brilliant white canvas in a fresh morning breeze and sails out to the open sea.  We watch her glide away magnificently through the deep blue and gradually see her grow smaller and smaller as she nears the horizon.  Finally, where the sea and sky meet, she slips silently from sight; and someone near me says, “there, she is gone!”

Gone where?  Gone from sight — that is all.  She is still as large in mast and hull and sail; still just as able to bear her load.  And we can be sure that, just as we say, “there she is gone!”  Another says, “there she comes!”

Nothing is so beautiful as a person in a resurrected and glorified condition, there is nothing more lovely than to be in this condition and have our partner (loved one) and our families with us.  Life is eternal and love is immortal; and death is only a horizon, and a horizon is nothing, save the limit of our sight.

In the weeks and months that have passed, I have used music to ease and heal my heart.  I had found a small square note my Gran had written in her home:

You Raise Me Up
Josh Groban

I knew she loved it not only for his beautiful vocals, but for the violins that reminded her so dearly of her Irish music.

There were days I would just wander around listening to it and To Where You Are, soaking in the comfort it gave me and letting go of suppressed pain and grief.

From her bedside, I remember her asking me if I liked music.  “Yes Gran, I love music.”
“Oh good.  Do you like the Spice Girls?”
I chuckled, glanced at my mother and responded, “No, I prefer music with great vocals, people who sing with their heart…”
She nodded and simply said, “good, you can have any of my CDs that you want–”
“Oh Gran, don’t talk like that!”
“It’s OK, I don’t need them, do I?”

She knew, but never talked much about it.  The day after her birthday I had said:
“This isn’t a very nice place to have spent your birthday, is it?”
“No.  And I won’t be doing that again!”

She died three days later.

I think I have cried more in this last week than I have cumulatively up until this point.  Grief and sorrow can overwhelm us if we allow it to.  But with that, grief and sorrow are natural.  Like the letter said:

If we take the sorrow out of death, we have to take the love out of life.”

I take comfort in knowing that she is still around, watching out for me, seeing my children, seeing where I live.  She is still with me, there to uphold and support me; still loving me.  I have no doubts that the times I feel the sadness creep up on me are the times she is close by.  I never feel sad for long, and as quickly as it comes, it passes.  I know that I am left to journey through life with her just as a memory, but these memories are ingrained in my soul, showing me a pattern for life.  I will always miss her and her letters.

I love you, Gran.

Me, my two brothers and my Mum

Word of the Week

bucket:

This can mean bin: “The bucket is all that’s good for.”

To bucket something is to throw it out, reject it as not good enough: “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t just bucket this essay?”

A bucket can also mean a large amount of alcohol: “You must’ve had a right bucket last night to end up in a state like this.” Someone who regularly drinks heavily may have it said of him that he takes a good bucket.

If the weather is said to be bucketing it down (or bucketing down) it’s forcefully inclement; like the sky is pouring down buckets of water (on Scotland, typically).

If something or someone has kicked the bucket it means it has died or the gadget no longer works: “Would ye look at that! My radio just kicked the bucket.”

If someone asks, “What’s wrong with his bucket?” Rather than enquiring about the state and upkeep of his garden and household instruments he means what’s wrong with his dour face. Dour (rhyming with moor) means gloomy or sullen. This question is usually taken to be rhetorical.

Hear it (as my youngest interrupts me).