Ruminating on Autumn


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Autumn is just about upon us. The days are growing shorter. As summer draws to a close I feel sad. Sad that I did not make the most of the warm season. Sad, I did not languish longer under the blue skies and hot sun. Isn’t that just life – to take the days for granted as though they are infinite. But like summer itself, life is short. We tend to take it for granted until something terrible happens. Perhaps that is the silver lining and the lesson in tragedies – they make us aware of the fragility of life.

I have been thinking a lot about my brother. He was killed when an impaired driver crashed into his vehicle in November of 2016. Sudden death is always horrible. It rocks your world and turns everything upside down. I know I am far from alone in experiences such as this. What is it about seasonal change that brings out such maudlin thoughts? And have you ever noticed that there are far more deaths in fall and winter than the rest of the year? Strange.

But I don’t want to be a downer. Chris was a very funny guy. I miss him. However, I will cease to ruminate on the sadness his death brought and focus instead on his many gifts. He was also very thoughtful and generous with a sunny nature. I wish there were more people like him.

Yet, we are all unique with precious gifts of self to offer. Whether we are artistic, creative, or just plain kind – we each have a gift to bring. My sister says she has no talent. But she’s wrong. She has a wonderful gift for helping people. She works in the psychiatric wing of a hospital in a fairly large city. She is well suited to her work as she is endlessly patient and forgiving, as well as wise and compassionate.

Whatever work you may do. Wherever you may live. I hope you recognize your talents, and that others do as well. I hope you know you matter and your life does make a difference.  I hope you rock this world with loving kindness and that you know kindness! Until next time – Cheers!

Oh, Green earth and oceans blue


Smoke filled skies resized

Sun peeking through the haze

Smoke filled air burns my eyes

Earth is aflame in many quarters

Forest, farmland, waters too are under attack

Lightening strikes and births a new inferno

My throat is dry; My spirit weak

What will become of life as we know it

When all is ash, what good our technology then?

While powers that be deny global warming

Tsunamis unleash terrible punishment

Floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes too

Pummel the lands of the earth

When all is said and done, what good the profits then?

Money is but an instrument to provide for needs

Needs, not wants should be the measure

But love of money births greed and folly

Oh green earth and oceans blue

I stand and cry these tears for you

On the road to redemption


ROAD 2 ALTERED

On the road to redemption

You may experience pain like –

Like falling on an upturned glass bottle that is broken and jagged,

That gashes deep into your skin and bone

Tearing tendons and ripping away sinew

 

On the road to redemption

You may be rejected, vilified, and tormented

And that will hurt you, rob you of much-needed rest

As your thoughts tumble one after another

Like a cascade of frothing water

And you may feel unable to stop the leak

That drips incessantly and poisons your days

Like a dam full of holes

You may feel like you’re drowning – but you won’t

 

On the road to redemption

You may experience loss and grief

A death perhaps, or the tearing away of a life you thought was assured

A change that forces you to re-examine all you once held dear

And leaves you questioning your sanity

And your equilibrium

As your life spins out of control on some kind of crazy tilted axle

Until you barely know which way is up or which is down

 

On the road to redemption

You will be tested, time and time again

Your character will be formed as lessons are learned

As you are baptized in fire –

A fire that you think will consume you – but it won’t

 

On the road to redemption

You may be tortured by life, but –

Look for the helpers and they will appear

They will pour sweet balm upon your soul

And plant peace deep within your heart and mind

A peace that leaves you rested and healed

A peace ‘beyond understanding’

On the road to redemption

LOOKING FOR PEACE


Since that horrible day on the 19th November in 2016 my family have all been looking for peace. Today was the final day of a trial that began a year after my brother was stolen from us by an impaired driver. There have been many hard days, and others where we found comfort in one another and in each of our individual little families. It’s been a brutal journey. I hope we can each finally find a measure of peace now that the trial has finally come to its conclusion. After 18 months of hell we can finally lay our brother to rest and do the best we can to go on with our lives. We will continue to mourn his loss. It was just so senseless and so unnecessary – and that is what has made it all the more difficult to let go. And especially with a criminal trial dragging us back to that day over and over again. It’s been torture to say the least. But, perhaps now we can begin to let go of all the dregs of bitterness, anger, and remorse that has plagued us all. We are looking for peace and I pray we each find it.

Fragility of Life


I woke up this morning and after my usual morning routine I opened Facebook. One of the first posts I saw was a news story about a wildfire burning approximately 120 km from here. I live in Fort McMurray and I was here when the wildfires swept through the city and caused an evacuation of about 88,000 people – many of whom never returned. Not a good start to the day (the news story I mean). It made me anxious. The next post I saw was about snow in Newfoundland, my native home. All I could think was I would trade the hot, arid weather we’ve been having for snow any time. At least I wouldn’t be concerned about a wildfire with that lovely white moisture falling from the skies. The weather network is forecasting rain on Saturday – just a couple of days from now. I hope we get a good downfall – one that really soaks the earth.

Last month I was reading news stories about flooding in various regions of the country and I guess those people would have been happy for the sun to come out and dry up all that excess water. Life is a funny thing. We always seem to want what other people have, but after the wildfires of 2016 I will forgive myself for that. There is still too much evidence of the devastation all over the city, so, yes, snow is preferable in my mind. It’s only May after all. Yet the temperatures have been in the 25 to 30+ Celsius range all week. I will be glad for the cooler temps promised for next week. Step outside our door and you will smell the smoke in the air – again, I dislike it intensely.

Still, I am a lot less anxious than I was a year ago, so that’s something. Last evening, I went to the funeral home to pay respects to a man we know who recently died. And to offer what comfort I could to his wife and my dear friend. Life is so fragile and so precious. Death certainly puts things in perspective. Fire, floods, earthquakes, etc. are part of life. So too is death – it comes to each of us and is our one and only guarantee. Today I hope to live my life in such a way that it is a help and maybe even a blessing for others. That is my prayer and my fervent wish.

The Lesson of Tragedies


I don’t know any of the people who died in a horrific accident involving a bus carrying a hockey team, the Humboldt Broncos, from Saskatchewan and a tractor trailer last evening, but my heart goes out to their families.  I cannot imagine the pain. So many young men on their way to play hockey – young men filled with hopes and dreams. Words fail me!

We assume we will live to old age and hopefully die a peaceful death, but for many this is not the case. It is not the case for the people on that bus; not for the many who have died due to fentanyl-laced drugs; not for the people who die by suicide; not for the many who died as a result of school shootings; or the many more who die from cancer and a long list of other diseases.

The thing is none of us have a guarantee on the number of years we will have here on this good earth. My baby sister died at three weeks old, a cousin at three years, my infant niece also only weeks old, and a nephew died of a brain aneurysm and his brother just six months later of cancer, my brother in an accident – the other driver was impaired.  All of these deaths, and more, have taught me that life is so precious. Yet, I often forget just how precious and fragile life really is.

I have heard the reply when asked how things are going, “same old shit, different day”. It is easy to feel cursed. It is easy to be swallowed by negative thoughts and emotions. But life really is a blessing. And, after all, even shit can be used as fertilizer to help plant life grow, perhaps the “shit” in life can even help us grow as long as we hold on and learn the lesson it comes to teach.

Crying: Not acceptable!


What is it about crying that make so many of us so uncomfortable? What is it that keeps us from expressing the deepest hurts and agonizing grief through tears? It is, after all, a very human thing. Yet, for many of us, myself included, it is an indulgence and a show of emotion I would do almost anything to avoid.

I remember being in the “family room” as my mother lay dying in her hospital bed. My younger sister began sobbing uncontrollably and I, hanging onto my composure by the thinnest of threads, nearly lost it raising my voice as I commanded her ‘to stop it – right now!’  Thankfully my brother came to her aid and intercepted the exchange, admonishing me with body language as he sought to comfort her telling her it was okay to cry. Of course it was!  I just couldn’t bear to lose control.

A few days after my mother died my two little finches also died and I cried copious tears over them – the tears I would not allow myself to shed for my mom! Yet I was okay with it – why? I have no idea. It just seemed acceptable to cry over my feathered friends. Tears over my mother’s death were shed in private, as much as possible. Part of this was due to the fact that I didn’t want to distress my three children who were very young at the time.

I remember my father’s admiration for my older sister’s stoic response to pain – she rarely cried in public, or in front of any of us that I can remember. And I worshipped her. She was my hero. She still is. I emulated my hero as much as I possibly could and she did not cry. So, I determined at a young age that I wouldn’t either.

I have made some progress with my war on tears – I do allow them now where I wouldn’t in my younger days. There are things I have learned about tears. For example, tears are healing.  Did you know that science has shown that the tears from expressing the pain of grief are different, for example, than the tears shed in response to frustration or anger? Interesting!

I remember going to the funeral of my best friend’s father. I remember her mother’s admonishments to ‘be strong” which I interpreted to mean ‘don’t cry’. My friend and her mother sat dried-eyed through it all. How is it socially acceptable to laugh out loud with delight, but not acceptable to cry?

This is all rhetorical, of course. But life is short – so laugh out loud with delight, but don’t be afraid to weep either for tears truly are healing.

Thoughts and Prayers


I have been thinking a lot about thoughts and prayers after the backlash following the horrific shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It is not hard to understand the anguish and the anger that follows such a senseless and tragic catastrophe.  My heart goes out to the people in this community and to the American people as a whole. “Thoughts and prayers” have become a terrible cliché after so many mass shootings. It seems trite and useless, I am sure. The phrase that is meant as an expression of sympathy; as an expression of unity and empathy has been viewed as an insult to many when government action is not taken.

I am a child of the 60s and well remember the student protests in regards to the Vietnam War; to racial segregation; to injustices in general. I remember the sit-ins that were met with armed soldiers in some cases. The movie, ‘The Trial of Billy Jack’ springs to mind. We were the generation that wanted real change – and many of us still do. Sadly, violence is too often the response to a peaceful demonstration for change in many places in the world.

Yet, we are God’s hands. However, we have to agree to be just that. We have to ‘put our money where our mouths are’ and take concrete action to give legitimacy to our thoughts and prayers.

I am Canadian, but the coverage of the most recent school shooting has been massive here. It has eclipsed the very real issues around human rights that we face in our own country. When a farmer can kill an indigenous youth and be exonerated something is terribly wrong. My heart aches for the American people, but it also aches for all Canadians and for humanity in general, for all those who are living with injustices of every kind.

“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of” – Alfred Lord Tennyson. I believe in the power of prayer; in the power of positive thought; in the inherent goodness of humanity. But our prayers must also incorporate the will to do something, to be God’s hands in this world.

School shootings


The other day my niece shared a news story about a school shooting in Kentucky; it saddened me and made me think of the drama, the pain, and the shock of another school shooting in Brampton, Ontario in 1975 at Brampton Centennial Secondary School. It was the school I went to and where several classmates had been hurt and three, including the shooter, died.

I knew the shooter, Michael Slobodian, and I knew the teacher that died, Margaret Wright, and I knew John Slinger, one of the dead, but only in passing. Michael had been the boyfriend of a girl I knew. He was also in several of my classes, including the English class where Mrs. Wright was our teacher. She had recently moved to Brampton from New Brunswick, if memory serves. And she was the mother of two young children.  I also remember Dean Naden, who lived a couple of houses down the street from the Slobodians. He tried to reason with Michael, but was shot for his efforts. I remember Ernie Nicols, whose family set up equipment in their yard for their son to practice for track and field events. Ernie ended up paralyzed after he was shot that day.

There are more, many more. Many people were hurt that day and many were traumatized.

It was an event that would mark me for the rest of my life. I think about it every time there is another such tragedy. I remember the sirens, the rampant rumors, the fear, and the panic. I remember gathering in our basement with my sister and our friends that evening. There was a lot of weeping and a lot of questions.

I remember going door to door with a petition to gather support for gun control legislation.  I remember the man who argued with me for a long time about the right to bear arms. He was a “new” Canadian and had emigrated from a country that offered few liberties. He felt government should not make such laws. I felt then, as I do now, that there is no place in society for the indiscriminate sale of guns, especially high powered rifles that are not needed for the hunting of game.

Michael Slobodian was sixteen years old – a child still. I think of him and still wonder, “why”?  I believe that children – all children – should be treated kindly and with respect. I read once that the way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice. Let our words to children be those of love, kindness, caring, and deep respect.

Sorrow Unexpected


 

Piercing sorrow

Squeezes my heart

At unexpected times

In unexpected ways

Keep going; keep busy

Keep going; keep busy

I drive myself

Harder and harder

Running from the demons

Of pain, of anguish

I dare not stop to rest

For sorrow sits

Where I lay my head

Rushing to nowhere

Since you are gone

And comfort is not mine to know

Laughter and song

Seem light years away

Tucked into my memory

And there they will stay

I push and I struggle

To avoid the grief

For your death left a numbness

Your passing beyond belief

 

I wrote this little poem for my brother, Chris, on December 2, 2016. It was just a short time after he was killed when an impaired driver collided with his vehicle as he was heading home from work. Every day we go about our business thinking it is just one more day. No doubt Chris also thought it was just another day. I am sharing it to remind my readers and myself that every day is special; every day a gift. Let us all use our days wisely.