“Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night. – Hal Borland
“I saw old Autumn in the misty morning stand shadowless like silence, listening to silence.” – Thomas Hood
The sunlit days are growing shorter. Light fails earlier. In our region we had a rather dismal August. I had been hoping for better days in September, but alas the month is drawing to a close, and sunny, warm days have been few. It is somewhat depressing. Fall is such a short season here. I am trying my hardest to shake off the dark moods that seem to be tied to the season. I love fall. I am not a fan of winter. But, on the other hand, long winter nights in front of a fire are comforting. It is a great time to hunker down with a good book and a mug of something hot by my elbow. It is also a good time to hone whatever artistic or creative skills I may possess. It is also a wonderful time for day dreaming – mostly about balmy days, hopefully on a beach, or in the midst of a beautiful forest. Ah, hope ‘springs’ eternal!
I am not feeling well – it’s either a cold or flu or both, but whatever it is it is sapping my energy and making me want to hibernate under the covers until it’s gone. Still, there are things to be grateful for, like the hot meal my eldest had ready for me when I got home from work. It’s my husband making an extra trip to the store for medication for me. It’s my youngest making me “special” tea to help me feel a little better. It’s text messages from my son every morning to wish me a good day and to say “I love you”. It’s my cat running to meet me at the door when I get home from work every night. It’s a comfortable home in a beautiful setting. It’s feeling safe and loved, even with a snotty nose and a horrible headache, or maybe because of that. I am sick, but I am being coddled and comforted. And I am counting my blessings.
It’s hard to explain to anyone who has not experienced it – this dark cloud that has cast its shadow over everything magical and good. Christmas has always been my favourite time of year, but it is exceedingly difficult to get into any semblance of Christmas spirit this year. My brother’s death on the 19th of November last year did not conjure as deep a darkness that following the trial of his killer has this year; The next court date is the 8th of January when the defense will do their best to plant seeds of doubt in the judge’s mind. That date looms over me like a huge black mountain and seems impossible to scale, or to set aside. God knows I am trying. It is a bitter pill to swallow, this knowing that the defendant will be celebrating Christmas with his loved ones while we, the family of the man he killed, do our best to put aside the pain and anguish of our brother’s needless death. Life is not fair – but then who ever promised it would be?
I have read stories that tell us that we agree to certain conditions and circumstances before we are born on this earth. That is a comfort to me in a strange way. I can imagine Chris making the decision to be the one to die in order to save the lives of other people who were travelling the highway that day – one of which was a young mother with her three children in her car.
Chris possessed a generosity of spirit that is hard to convey. He was a truly selfless person in many ways. And he was very kind. So I can totally imagine him agreeing to play the role of victim in this scenario. Ah but he was more than the victim of an impaired driver. The many people who approached me and my sisters and brothers following his funeral attest to the mark he made on this world. And not in any big splashy way, but in the small acts of kindness he performed daily. It is this knowing that gives me comfort that no criminal trial or any amount of anguish can ever take away.
One year ago, but it feels like forever – each day a long battle with seconds and minutes leading up to this one. They have been days of unbelievable agony and days of sweet solace as family and friends reached out to one another to comfort, to support, and to befriend; to bind the deep wounds and to heal.
We have learned that at least three other drivers narrowly escaped a fatal collision that day. One was a young mother with her three children in the car. But my brother was not so fortunate. My brother was ripped from our lives in that violent, senseless, so-called “accident”. I have a lot of trouble with that word, mostly because it was no “accident” when that other driver lifted that bottle to his lips prior to getting behind the wheel, transforming his vehicle into a murder weapon.
Still, what does it all matter? Nothing will bring Chris back to us. He is gone and we are left to pick up the pieces. There is anger – no, there is RAGE – like nothing I have ever felt before. It passes. There is pain like I have never known before. It passes, at least until the next wave.
I am reaching deep inside myself for something positive to say. This morning I was thinking of a book I once read by Henri Nouwen. In it he describes his struggles with grief following the death of his mother. And he leaves words of comfort and wisdom with these thoughts: had his mother not died, she would not have been able to infuse the spirits of all her loved ones with her own spirit of love and of peace. I take comfort from his ideas.
Chris has left us all many gifts. His death brought us all even closer to one another. His generosity, his kindness, his ability to make light of life’s struggles, his wit and his incredible sense of humour live on in all of us. Perhaps in some way we are infused with his spirit. That is my hope and my solace. So today I will celebrate his life and give thanks for all the blessings he continues to bestow.
Fearless, courageous, and kind are a few more adjectives I would use to describe him….in this little story Chris was still very young, but his fearlessness was apparent from a very young age. As I have already written, Chris was the youngest of our family of nine and we lived in rural Newfoundland at that time. Life was good. Our parents kept a cow for milk and chickens for eggs. We also had a dog and cats. Our house was on a hill overlooking the bay. It was beautiful there. Life was particularly joyful in the spring when baby animals were born as well as fluffy little chicks.
It is the memory of those chicks that reminds me of my little brother’s fearlessness. We three youngest ones were out in the yard when a mother hen happened by with her brood. Now a baby chick is cuteness itself and the desire to hold one overtook us all. However, there is nothing fiercer than a mother hen protecting her brood and having a large chicken running at you with wings fully extended can be pretty daunting for a young child. My sister and I backed off. Chris did not. He was so determined to catch one of those baby chicks that the chase was on for hours with my sister and I yelling encouragement as well as words of caution. Well, he never did catch one and eventually had to admit defeat – to his great chagrin and disgust!
Another big challenge for Chris was feeding the family dog, a German Shepherd named “Smokey”. She was fully grown – Chris was not! He would have been perhaps 3 or 4 at the time and every time he would try to bring her a dish of food she would accidently knock him over, which frustrated him to no end. The dog was very gentle, but like any dog would become excited when she smelled food. Finally Mom thought of a solution. She gave Chris a tree branch and told him to make Smokey lay down so he could put her dish in its place without suffering the indignity of being bowled over. The tree branch was bigger than he was…he was pretty little. I still remember the expression of joy on his face the first time he put Mom’s plan into action. Holding the branch in one hand and the dish in the other he sternly ordered, “Smokey! Down!” and the dog laid down. Eventually she would automatically sink to the ground and simply gaze at Chris with intent interest as he brought her food to her – no tree branch required.
Whether it was newly born chicks, a large dog, cats, kittens, a cow, or a calf Chris was so gentle and kind to all animals. They say a person’s character is formed by the age of seven…. throughout his life Chris kept these attributes of courage and kindness; fearlessness and gentleness.
As I have written previously Chris died in an automobile accident when his vehicle was hit by an impaired driver on Nov. 19, 2016.
It’s been said that the deeper the darkness the brighter the light shines. It seems like my world is in that place of darkness. The pain of losing my brother has been followed by the hospitalization of my husband. Worry has tried to keep me off balance, but I will not let it win, nor any other powers of darkness. How I react to it all is my decision, my choice. And I refuse to let it break me. Not this time. I intend to be a source of comfort for my family and a source of strength.
Winter is cold, but we can be kept warm. The fire blazes brightly in the hearth. Blessings flow even through the rain of grief and stress. As someone once advised, “look for the helpers, they will appear”. So today I will give thanks for the helpers and for all the well wishes and messages of love and support we have received. The light does indeed shine brightly in the darkness.
“We ourselves can die with comfort and even joy if we know that death is but a passport to blessedness, that this intellect freed from all material chains, shall rise and shine.” – Matthew Simpson –
Recently our family lost a wonderful man, my Uncle, and I have been coping with the grief of his loss. Death comes to each of us sooner or later. That is a sad fact of life. And we each deal with its sting in our own individual ways. Personally, I prefer to celebrate the lives of those who have gone before me. For every man, woman, and child leaves behind their acts of human kindness, however small of measure.
Death has been part of my life from an early age. I was not yet four years old when my infant sister died. People may say what kindness could a babe so small have given? Well, I remember holding her. I remember her gaze locked with mine. I remember the peace and love that emanated from her like a warm fire on a winter’s evening. She was so tiny, so perfect, and yet capable of giving and receiving love.
A few years later my three year old cousin died. I remember looking into her casket and sighing saying, “but she looks just like an angel”. My child’s mind equated pictures I had seen of angels with golden hair and fairest faces, just like my little cousin. I see her still in my mind’s eye and remember the stories told of her gentleness. Death visited our family once again soon after when my grandmother’s brother passed away. This great-uncle was a frequent visitor to our house where he would sit quietly and patiently while my mother moved about the kitchen seeing to his needs as well as the needs of her children. I remember best his quiet presence that invited calmness and serenity.
I was twelve when a friend from school was killed in an automobile accident. She was a year ahead of me in school and took it upon herself to protect me from a bully and any unpleasantness. Wise beyond her years, she helped me realize how unhappy the bully was and how I should not take it personally while simultaneously not allowing them to cause me any real harm. She remains one of my heroes.
Since childhood my grandparents, as well as my parents have died and a bit later my baby niece and then my sister’s sons within six months of one another. Death has also claimed friends, cousins, aunts and uncles and with each death I am rocked with loss and pain once again. ‘Time heals all wounds’ or so they say but some wounds go deep and take much longer to heal. And, again, it is a very personal and individual thing. For me it is a comfort to turn the memories over in my mind; to listen to music once shared; to gaze upon photographs of those who are no longer physically here. They will live on as long as we do not forget them, as long as we tell the stories of their lives and celebrate anew loving kindnesses given. I believe my loved ones have risen and shine on – on the other side of the veil where sadness is no more.
I was raised in a rural area and have to confess that cities continue to intimidate me. My husband has been having issues with his health for many years now and though I’d like to live out the rest of my life in the peace and quiet of the country I find myself thinking of moving closer to the city.
It seems these days that no matter where you live you have to travel for health services, unless you live in a big city. It takes a minimum of four hours for us to travel to the city for specialized health care, and that is if we do not stop for any reason. So, we lose a good part of each day that we travel back and forth. In addition there is usually a fair bit of stress involved from highway construction projects to getting off on the wrong exit, although investing in a GPS unit has helped considerably. More recently I have also mastered Google maps on my cell phone, which is also a boon.
New technology aside, in a society with an aging population I worry we will all be lodged in cities, surrounded by a concrete jungle where high rise buildings block the moon and the stars. Now don’t get me wrong, there is much to offer in urban areas: theatre, concerts, museums, a wider selection of dining experiences and much more. But for me personally I think I would die a thousand little deaths every day that I am unable to view the wide open countryside. Birdsong is very important to me – in the city it’s a strain to hear it above the sounds of traffic. Quiet and solitude are as important to me as the air that I breathe. Both of which are a rare commodity in the city. Somehow we must strike a balance between the physical needs of health care and the profound spiritual needs of the soul. We must!
“There were some problems only coffee and ice cream could fix.” – Amal El-Mohtat, Steam Powered
“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream”. Unless you happen to live in Fort Mac where, sadly, our favourite places to grab an ice cream cone remain closed. This makes me sad – very sad. I crave the cold comfort it brings of happy memories with my family. I especially look forward to that first one of the season. The beast – the name aptly given to the wildfire – stole one of my favourite things about summer. I have met very few people who do not enjoy that cold sweet, sweet treat. And it’s not like I even eat much ice cream – except in the summer., and even then it’s really just now and then. There is just something about summer that makes me crave an ice cream cone – soft serve please. Instead we have to settle for whatever the supermarket carries and it’s just not the same. I know there are more important things to think about, but right now, at this moment, I just want an ice cream cone. So people across the nation think of us while you wipe that sticky ambrosia of the gods from your fingers and faces and raise a cold cone for me!
Do not look to the stars
The answer is not there
Nor in the widest ocean
Or on the mountain tops
But look inside, deep inside
Where you will discover
The secrets hidden in your heart
Behind some thick and heavy door
That you can open if you have the will
And the courage
To face what lays there
Curled and forgotten
Within the confines
Of your self