My beloved Uncle may you R.I.P.


Yesterday I found out that a beloved uncle has died. He was ninety-one years old. Many have said he lived a long life. Yes, he did. Others have said it was his time. That’s a fair point, I guess. But does age really matter? I mean, loss is loss, and no matter the age it’s still painful. My uncle was a fun loving, mischievous, and very caring man. I could live to be a hundred and more and never meet a kinder, sweeter person. It hurts knowing that I will never get to visit him again or hear his laughter – the man would laugh until tears freely poured down his face. He really enjoyed a good joke! He also loved to play tricks and pranks on his loved ones. And he could never hide it when he had a plan – his eyes would twinkle and his grin would give him away long before he could execute his plans. But he absolutely loved it when one of his pranks was carried off before his victim caught on to what he was doing. Here’s a little case in point:

We were building an addition onto the little house we’d bought and my uncle came to help. He and my husband were busy outside nailing down the floor joists. My husband was so caught up in what he was doing he didn’t notice my uncle behind him nailing another joist in place. They were standing on ladders as the addition included a basement and they were laying the foundation for the ground floor.   I was in the house when I heard a light tap on the door. I opened it to my uncle who was bent over, laughing hard, and gasping for breath. He couldn’t catch his breath to tell me what was so funny. He was pointing to the corner where my husband was caught between the floor joists and could not move. My uncle had him trapped there. And it wasn’t enough for me to see the results of his prank, he wasn’t satisfied until everyone in the house seen what he had done. Then, and only then, did he pull the joist off so my husband could move.

Aw, the many happy memories. This was one of my uncle’s favorite stories to tell at every family gathering of which we were part. Actually, it is also one of my husband’s favorite tales to tell whenever my uncle’s name comes up in conversation. Do you remember when…it always begins. With my uncle there are many remember when moments. They are memories we will cherish.

He was also such an exceedingly kind man. He loved his family dearly. I remember his stories of how he met my aunt and the love in his eyes as he related it to me; of how smitten he was with her. She also died in November, five years ago. He missed her terribly. That same pride would shine in his eyes as he told me of the latest news of his children or grandchildren.

The memories are a comfort to me. Yes, it hurts that he is gone. But he left us an example of a life well-lived and adversities overcome.  We will mourn the fact he is no longer with us, but we will celebrate the fact that he lived, loved, and celebrated life with gusto. I will endeavor to follow his example. Rest in Peace Uncle Leo, you will always be remembered fondly and with love.

 

 

 

 

Tough times


Some days are hard – harder than others. I have been scrolling through Facebook and looking at the adorable photos of children (and adults) dressed up for Halloween. This is usually a favorite activity of mine, after all is said and done and only the deformed remains of jack-o-lanterns and candy wrappers are left to tell the tale of this annual loot fest.

I heard a news item on the radio today about a group who are petitioning government to have the annual holiday held on the last Saturday in October instead of the 31st, as is customary. That makes a lot of sense to me, as the news piece pointed out, there are too many accidents on this day every year. Don’t ask me for stats – I don’t have them, but it was something that struck close to home this year.

Yesterday afternoon my sister-in-law was in a horrific car accident as she was driving home. Details are still sketchy and I don’t know exactly what happened., except that the car she was driving was t-boned by a transport truck.  She had her daughter and one-year-old baby grandson in the car when the accident occurred. Fortunately her daughter and the baby are relatively okay. But my sister-in-law remains in hospital. She was seriously injured in the wreck. We have heard she is now in stable condition and we are grateful for that. I am hoping and praying for a complete and speedy recovery. My heart breaks for her children and her ‘other half’. We live in another province and sometimes the waiting is excruciating.

I don’t know what role Halloween may have played in the incident, if any, but I do know there are more reports of car accidents every year on this date. To move the holiday so it does not land on a weekday makes sense to me – not so many people traveling to or from work, meaning less traffic on the roads, making it safer for trick-or-treaters. In addition it would mean more time and less stress on parents, and on people in general as preparations for the frivolities can and do add stress.

Halloween definitely did not equal fun for my husband’s family this year, nor for our own little family. It was a scare I would not wish on anyone.  It was a very tough day, and those days are likely to continue into the foreseeable future as we wait and hope and pray….

Celebrating a wise and wonderful woman: my sister


“The best thing about having a sister was that I always had a friend.” – Cali Rae Turner

Carol and Peg

 

“A sister is a special kind of angel on earth who brings out your best qualities.” – Author unknown

“Sisters are for sharing laughter and wiping tears.” – Author unknown

I have been blessed to know so many beautiful souls encapsulated in female bodies. Today I just wanted to give a shout out to one such incredible woman that I am blessed to call my sister. She is the eldest of our family and was like another mother to me while I was growing up. I will forever be grateful to her for all she did for me as a child, and all she continues to do today. She was my hero when I was a little girl and I worshiped her. She has been my protector, my anchor, and an unfailing supporter of all I do. Words hardly seem adequate to describe all she means to me.

Peg helped raise all of us younger siblings. She helped cook for us, clean the house, and performed a myriad of tasks. The fact she did all of this with love and a commitment to our family speaks volumes. She taught me the meaning of love and sacrifice through her actions for our family.

When I was eleven years old she had the first of two sons. In 2012 she and her husband were faced with the deaths of both their boys. The eldest died of a brain aneurysm in March and his younger brother of cancer just six months later. My heart broke for them. It just seemed so cruel to me. It made me question my faith – my sister, however, did not. She was (and remains) a paragon of strength, even as she grieved. She is a pragmatic person and firmly believed with all her heart that they were both in a better place, and her faith demonstrates her belief in a loving and merciful God. An example, that I have no doubt, has helped her granddaughters tremendously.

She is astounded that people think of her as strong – but she is. She walks the walk of faith, demonstrating her belief, not by preaching, but by the way she lives her life. She champions the underdogs and works to make life better for her family and friends. These are just some of the reasons she continues to be a hero to me. For it is the little things – a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, a hug when you’re sad, and a hot cup of tea when you are cold – that make life good; that make it worth living.

I am grateful to have had her in my corner as a child, a place she continues to occupy today. The depth of love I have for her cannot be described, but I want the world to know what a huge difference it has made in my life to have such a wise and wonderful woman to light my path and shelter me from life’s storms. Today is her birthday, and I celebrate her life and all she continues to be for me and all who know her.

 

Ancestry: My Search


The mystery of ancestry

“There are many people who could claim and learn from their Indian ancestry, but because of the fear their parents and grandparents knew, because of past and present prejudice against Indian people, that part of their heritage is clouded or denied.”
–Joseph Bruchac, ABENAKI

In 2013 I learned that one of my great grandmothers was a Mi’kmaq woman. This all came about in 2008 when the Mi’kMaq nation in Newfoundland & Labrador were finally recognized by the Canadian government and struck a deal to become a landless band under the Indian Act. Many families, mine included, began investigating birth, marriage, and census records. My cousin did much of the work and found evidence in the census of the early 1900s. It came in the form of my grandfather’s brother admitting he was a Mi’kmaq descendant. However, I do not know if it was his mother or grandmother who was Mi’kmaq. I know his mother’s name, but not my great, great grandmother’s. It saddens me.

In 1949 the Dominion of Newfoundland became a province of Canada. At that point in time the federal government was in the midst of negotiations with several First Nations bands.  Because the leader of Newfoundland & Labrador, Joey Smallwood, wanted to join confederation he vehemently denied there were any indigenous peoples there, in order to reassure the federal government they would not have to face the same challenges there.

For all intents and purposes indigenous peoples were discriminated against in every corner of the country. It was no different in Newfoundland, where indigenous people were forced to hide their identity in order to gain employment. This, coupled with past colonial biases, and patriarchy, meant that many Mi’kmaq people denied who they were and identity became a closely guarded secret in many families, including mine.

Unfortunately, I have little information regarding my native ancestors, their culture and ways of life are foreign to me. However, I have always held certain sympathies with indigenous peoples around the world, long before I knew the truth of my own heritage. This is partly due to the way I was raised, but also, I think, to the mysteries of ancestry. There has been much written about cellular memory and I cannot help but feel there is truth to the thought that our ancestor’s experiences are written in our DNA. It certainly explains the phenomenon of déjà vu!

I have learned more about the Mi’kmaq people since 2013, and have much more to discover. I am grateful to have made the connection, thanks to my cousin’s hard work and generous sharing of information.

I attribute my passion for nature, the environment and human rights to my Mi’kmaq ancestors. For although I never knew them their innate connection to the earth and collective cultural ways do live on through the mystery of ancestry.

“Oh Great Spirit, today I am ready for You to use me as a channel of Your peace. Let my walk today be visible so the people will say “There goes a Man of God.” I want to know what He knows. If they ask, I will tell them to go out into the wilderness and pray for You to guide them.” – Native Prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer: Family and time to celebrate


“For there is no friend like a sister in calm or stormy weather; To cheer one on the tedious way, to fetch one if one goes astray, to lift one if one totters down, to strengthen whilst one stands.” – Christina Rossetti

“I have wonderful shelter, which is my family. I have a wonderful relationship with my brother and sister; this makes me feel that I know always where I belong.” – Jose Carreras

I am so excited. My sister arrives for a visit this evening. Summer is wonderful that way – for the ease of travel. My sister is a year younger than me and growing up we were always together. Even as teenagers we stayed close, often sharing the same friends and social circles. She is my best friend, confidante, and source of support. She is just wonderful!

I am also looking forward to family gatherings with my brother and his wife and family. Their daughter is also visiting. I have not seen her yet as they have been on a little road trip exploring other areas of the province. I can’t wait to see her and her hubby and children. Family – that’s what it’s all about, right?

I am grateful for summer days; for bar-b-ques and long walks with my friend; for lazy days basking in the sun; for time to spend with loved ones and opportunities to celebrate life!

Today, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, I wish you blessings of love and light. Cheers!

“If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day


Pow Wow at Flat Bay, NL Canada July 2013

Today we celebrate the rich diversity of our country’s First Nations peoples. From the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador to the beaches of British Columbia our native peoples offer a wide variety of culture and spirituality. Yet traditionally, all across this great land they share a love of nature and a deep respect for the environment. Several years ago, I learned that one of my great grandmothers was a Mi’kmaq woman. Unfortunately, due to patrimony and the colonial practices of the day, I know little about her, or the Mi’kmaq people. I have been doing my best to learn more ever since then.

Today I celebrate all indigenous people everywhere and especially those here in Canada. Let us dance to the beat of the sacred drum and give thanks to the Creator who gifted us with life.

Clicking away


I have been reading the news stories coming out of the U.S.A. about the horrific policies in place that allow babies and children to be separated from their families. I am saddened and appalled, as most people are. At the same time, I am seeing memes in my news feed on social media declaring that children are separated from their families when their parents break the law. But, you see, in that case it is the parent who is put in a cage, not the child. And in most cases, there are other family members who step into the breach to care for the children. This kind of thinking defies logic in my mind. How do you compare the two? There is no comparison.  Do people not understand that families fleeing situations that place them in peril- whether it’s due to poverty, war, or natural disaster –  are searching for a place to raise their children in peace. These people are the most vulnerable citizens of this planet. And the most vulnerable of all are the children. I cannot even fathom the trauma they experience by being forcibly separated from their only source of comfort and security – their families.

Two years ago, wildfires swept through the city I call home and we were evacuated. We left with very little clothing, food, or water. Some jokingly referred to themselves as refugees. But we live in Canada and the Red Cross delivered food, water, medicines, and essentials within hours of being evacuated. Yet I still remember those feelings of fear and vulnerability, even though I knew help was on the way. The mass efforts to provide humanitarian aid was swift and gratefully received.

For the peoples of South America there is no such comfort. Instead they reach a border where they hope to receive aid and are faced with the ultimate sorrow – separation from their children. I cannot even begin to imagine how that feels, or how I could ever deal with such a situation. And so, I have been clicking away, sharing news stories that underline the plight of refugees and immigrants; sharing memes that encourage compassion and inclusion.  I don’t know what else to do. I feel totally helpless. As for the people who embrace the logic of “don’t break the law”, I can only shake my head and sigh. Laws sometimes need to be broken when your very life is at stake. And this litany plays over and over in my mind, “there, but for the grace of God, go I”.

New life, new reasons to celebrate


“The littlest feet make the biggest footprints on our hearts.” – Author unknown

I woke up this morning to the happy news that my niece had her baby girl. Life is so wondrous and so precious. This is my brother’s first grandchild and her birth has been much anticipated. She has given us something wonderful to focus on and a much-needed break from the jumble of emotions this past 18 months have been. If you follow this blog you know my brother was killed by an impaired driver a year and a half ago. This precious child is bringing healing and a new focus on the joys of life. While I am saddened that Chris is not here to hold this precious baby, I am rejoicing that she has arrived safe and sound and both mother and child are recuperating from the rigors of childbirth. Yes, life is fragile, but life is also very, very good.

My three mothers


I was blessed with the best. I had a good mother, a woman who sacrificed much to ensure I had what I needed. But more than that I was blessed with two older sisters who cared for me, nurtured me, supported me, and loved me. I have been fortunate to know many loving and caring women in my life, but these three women are my rock, my foundation, and my heroes. They still are. I was chatting with a friend yesterday who had a very different experience with her mother and sister. I felt bad for her, but she made me think again of how blessed my life has been.

I cannot say enough positive things about the woman who gave me birth, and I have in past blogs, but today I really want to focus on my “big” sisters who gave so much of themselves and continue to do so. My Mom died many years ago, but the kindness and compassion that were the hallmarks of her character live on in all my sisters. My eldest sisters were my Mom’s constant help, often doing household chores and helping to raise us younger siblings. They helped with cooking, cleaning, and all the rest, but more than all that, they helped nurture and love us. I just wanted to write something to honour them all, for I am deeply grateful for all the gifts they imparted.

And then there is my younger sister, who, though younger, was also a very important part of my life and continues to be. She, too, is a loving, caring, and nurturing person. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and if I could have one wish it would be that all the kindnesses freely given to me by all my sisters would be returned to them a thousand-fold.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the nurturers in my life!

Sojourn into sadness


So, this past Friday was the day my family read their victim impact statements in court as proceedings continue until the day of sentencing. The day when the man who killed my brother will be lead off to serve time in a federal prison. That day is not far off now. Yet, it brings no peace. My brother will be no less dead. I think the worst thing about how he died is how totally preventable it was followed by the long drawn out process of the criminal justice system. I am struggling yet again with the fallout of one person’s decision to drive while impaired.

I have been talking with my sisters today about the difficulty of writing a victim impact statement and how no amount of words can ever truly express the devastation we all feel as a family and as individuals. I am confounded and deeply challenged trying to express it.

Chris’s daughter is soon to be a mama, but her child will never know her grandfather. This child is especially anticipated with joy and thanksgiving, for a part of Chris will live on. But there is a deep sense of sadness as well because Chris, who adored babies and small children, is not here to spoil his first grandchild. We will all do our best to step into the breach, but we are not Chris and never can be.

And so, I write this in the hope that it will strike home the message of “don’t drink and drive” for it has far reaching effects and endless sorrows for all involved.