For my brother


As children you were an awful tease,
a tormentor and a fiend
But somehow as we grew, I came to realize
The protector and the friend you were
And remain so to this day
I know I can always count on you
No matter what life sends
Your humor can be depended on
To chase away the blues
Integrity? Oh yes, indeed
You have that and more in spades
Honest, kind, and thoughtful, too
Though you try to keep that hidden
Commitment to our whole vast brood
Is melded to your being
And proud am I to be a leaf
On our family tree
And grateful too
That God gifted me with you
So, thank you dear, dear brother of mine
I know you always have my back
And I, in turn, will have yours too
I’m so glad we are related
And on this day that you were born
I raise my glass to you
In love and gratitude
For all you do
For all you are
And all you will be, too
I wish you every joy and bliss
May your cup always run over
With all that makes your heart so glad
And makes your life worth living
For you mean so much to me
And always, always will.

Aftershocks


“Some people don’t believe in heroes. But they haven’t met my brother.” Author unknown.

Today is my brother’s birthday. Sadly, he is not here to celebrate. He was ripped from our lives almost four years ago when a drunk driver smashed head on into his van as he was driving home from work. It has taken a lot to come to grips with his sudden (and needless) passing. I miss him. He was so generous, kind, and funny. He loved really, really bad jokes (the kind that makes me groan out loud). He was born two and a half years after me and he, my sister, and I were constant companions. We fought like crazy at times, competing often, but always we knew we had one another’s backs. The day he was killed was a terrible shock. Days like today that represent a special occasion tend to deliver aftershocks. Grief knows no deadlines. Yet, I can smile as well remembering the hero he truly was to me and to many others. The world has been lessened tremendously by his loss. On his birthday, and on the anniversary of his death especially, I think of all the people who continue to drink and drive and I wonder if it matters to them. That risk they take that has the potential to inflict so much pain. Distracted driving, whether through impairment due to drugs or alcohol, or through texting while driving kills so many people every single day. And so, to honor my brother, this is my small attempt to bring awareness. On that day, that horrible day, so many lives were forever changed. And I beg you to never, ever drink and drive.

Serenity Sunday:At home


Today is Mothers’ Day. It will be a different Mothers’ Day for all of us wishing to be near the women who have blessed our lives. Today I won’t be taking you on any far away tours but I invite you to enjoy the beauty that I see here at home. And I wish all you who are Mothers, all who nurture life, whether you wear the banner of “Mom” or not, a joyous day filled with beauty and love.

From the moment of sunrise, may you feel the warmth of the sun’s rays
Whether you face the eye of the storm
Or are filled with hope after the storm
may the beauty and blessings of this earth fill you with joy and wellbeing
Until after the sun sets and you lay your body down to rest
I wish you the blessings of peace and contentment

Happy Days are here and now, not in some “after things go back to normal” future. I wish you happiness, joy, peace. and all that is life-giving, all that is good.

Reminiscing and rejoicing about Mom this Mothers’ Day weekend


I was so blessed. We all were, my siblings and I. In the words of Jan Arden’s song, Good Mother:

“I’ve got a good mother
And her voice is what keeps me here”.

Our mother left this plane of existence many, many years ago. Yet, I still hear her voice in my mind, and still feel her blessings in my heart. She had several health issues, including diabetes. At that point in time she was admitted to hospital to learn how to take insulin by injection. Ten days later she was gone. Just a couple of days after she’d been admitted we learned she had cancer. Liver cancer is known as the silent killer (at least it was at the time). She knew long before the diagnosis. At different points she had told me and my sisters her premonition, her deep instinct that her time was limited, that she believed she had cancer. We each struggled with that information; with the idea of her death, which was impossible to accept. Months later we would have no choice. Yet, it is not her death that left the most important imprint, but a lifetime of loving, living, giving, and caring for her family, but also for the community at large.

Mom was wise and insightful; understanding and compassionate. Family meant everything to her. She was devout but not dour. She sang a lot. She laughed a lot, too. She left us an example to follow, which is not easy sometimes. I could write so much more about all her positive attributes, but I think you get the gist of it. So, while I still miss having her in my life in a physical sense, I know she is always nearby, encouraging us as she always did. When I was visiting her in hospital one day she turned to me and said, “You’ll be all right, you know”. I remember answering, “Yes, I know, because I’ve had you”. That answer remains true today. And I will be eternally grateful for her care of me.

This is my Mom. Taken in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada around 1944

First fires then a pandemic and now floods. Please tell me this is it


Its been a rough few days. It’s only Thursday but it feels like forever since the Athabasca river overflowed and came inland. On Monday the ice jam was 25km long, it is now 13km long. That’s a lot of ice! But it is dissolving slowly and the waters are receding, so that’s good news. The bad news is that many people who had finally moved into newly rebuilt homes that they lost to the fires have lost them again to the flood. It puts things into perspective. Hubby and I have been inconvenienced. We have to make the three hour drive out of town for his dialysis, but we still have a home. Unfortunately this situation may last another week. Yet we are able to rent a motel room in this lovely little community of Lac La Biche and it’s a very comfortable room. My brother continues to wait for news concerning his house and whether or not it sustained damage. The whole downtown core was flooded out. Around 13 thousand people had to be evacuate. My daughter and her boyfriend were also among them. And the adventures continue.

The biggest challenge has been maintaining social distancing and isolation. My brother and sister in law had to go stay with a granddaughter, whom they had not spent time with since the lockdown. I imagine there are many in similar situations.

And so I am asking for prayers for our city as we continue to cope with these often overwhelming challenges.

Family bonds, a Thank You to my siblings


The bonds between siblings remain throughout the years. Whether we speak often, or have long periods of time when life keeps us busy, I know my siblings are there for me – always! My siblings multiply my joys and share my burdens so they become lighter. We grew up in rural Newfoundland in a little house on a hill that looked out over the bay. As I travel back in time, I am filled with nostalgia for those happy days playing in the fields that surrounded the house or in the woods behind the “back forty”. I was one of nine children – number seven of the bunch. I am so grateful to be part of this family. The eldest took such good care of the younger members. I always felt secure knowing they stood between me and anything that threatened harm. Growing up in a large family can have its challenges, but the blessings far outweighed these. My heart is overflowing with gratitude for each and every one of my sisters and brothers. They have taught me, guided me, stood by me, and always, always loved me. And I thank God for the blessings of growing up with such caring and compassionate people. Life can wound us, but if we are fortunate enough to have a sibling that truly loves us and supports us we will find healing. So, this is my thank you to each of my brothers and sisters who enrich my life, lift me up, and support me. I am so very glad we have each other.

A reflection on love this Valentine’s Day


My parents were an example that has been a challenge to follow. So many times, as one of their children, I witnessed love in action. Valentine’s Day was a lot of fun, mostly because of the little red and pink hearts we decorated to give to our classmates, to be honest. Mom and Dad never made a fuss over this particular day. If Mom received flowers it was likely to be wild flowers picked in a field. I do remember a few years when chocolates were part of the scene, however. One of my favourite memories is going for a ride in the car with Dad and my younger sister and brother. I think it was more likely to have been their anniversary than Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t matter which it was. I remember Dad buying nylons and a pretty china cup and saucer to give Mom. It was such a wonderful thing to be included in the surprise. She was so pleased when we got home and gave her these trinkets.

Yet, it wasn’t special occasions that helped us know that our parents truly loved one another. It was more the day to day examples such as Mom cooking Dad’s favourite foods. It was the tenderness in their eyes when they looked at one another. It was the forgiveness given after an argument or disagreement. It was the way they care for one another like Dad’s old black tin lunch pail, always ready when he was leaving for work and the kiss they shared just before he left. It was the pride they took in one another’s accomplishments. It was the trust they had for one another; the sacrifices they made for the other’s happiness; it was consideration of one another’s feelings, preferences, and such. Yes, they were an example of what marriage can be, should be, a commitment and caring that gave us children a strong foundation to grow on. No, they were not perfect, but they loved generously. Isn’t that what Valentine’s Day should be about?

Boxing Day 2019


Aw, the day after Christmas day, the very large bins behind our apartment building are overflowing, a sad commentary on our excesses as a society. Yet, the ravens are crazily happy tearing open the garbage bags to retrieve their own feast. Perhaps this is a day that scavengers celebrate. The little dog that lives in the house behind us is also in his glee, barking furiously and racing back and forth and seeming to thoroughly enjoy his game of chasing ravens. The ravens ignore him and continue with their business of dumpster diving.  Squawking rends the air as the little dog takes part in the cacophony of discordant sound.

photo by Anastacia Hopkins

As for me and mine, we are draped limply in chairs and on couches in an attempt to recover from the bustle and rush of Christmas preparations. The day is done, but I hope the season of giving continues, not the presents, but the presence. The gifts that come from the heart: the lovingly prepared meals and snacks; the comfort of loving embraces; the gift of company for the lonely; shelter, clothing, warmth, and cheer that does not come in a box but wrapped in sincere concern for one another. May that concern never be boxed in or thrown into a garbage bin. May the ribbons that festoon our daily lives be ribbons bright with love and humanity. May they be ribbons that do not chaff or constrain, but drift warmly around our very souls. May our hearts be worn bravely on our sleeves as we continue through the days and weeks and months ahead. Amen!

Christmas trees and traditions


I was scrolling through memories on Facebook and looking at the Christmas trees we have decorated through the years – always the same decorations. It never changes, and nor do I want it to. The ornaments each have their own special memory attached from the hand made ornaments my children made when they were little to the store bought “treasures”. Isn’t that what creates tradition?

Other traditions are not physical, like certain ceremonies and symbolic actions that help us build our lives around all that is life-giving and good. Last evening, I sat with my daughter making a few home-made trinkets. That togetherness and time spent crafting and creating is another fond tradition. I hope that when I no longer walk this earth that all our traditions will bring a sense of continuity and comfort to those we leave behind. Christmas is such a sentimental time of year. At least it is for me. Trips down memory lane are frequent and never fail to help me appreciate the love of family and friends.

I hope you are enjoying this time of year and counting the many blessings of the season. Wishing all my readers a blessed and truly joyous Christmas.

An example to follow: My brother, my friend


He was a very funny little guy and much smaller than his classmates, but his heart, oh my, his heart, that was bigger than words can describe with any sense of justice to a very kind and humane man he grew to be. Giving came second nature to him. Sharing was never something he struggled with, and that never, ever changed. He was brave. He was courageous. He was smart and caring and compassionate. Today marks the third-year anniversary of a terrible day for our family. The day that big, loving, generous heart stopped beating, forever. And the day that left a hole in each of our hearts that time does not heal and dates such as this reminds us of just what was lost on that highway. That highway. That day. When time stopped as we tried our best to wrestle with the shock and dismay; the pain and the sorrow.  That sorrow and pain that we continue to struggle with because it was all so very preventable and so surreal.

Surreal because he did not die of natural causes. Surreal because he was stolen. He died at the hands of an impaired driver. And so, it hurts more, somehow, knowing he had absolutely no control over his fate as he drove home that day.  I try very hard not to go there, not to imagine what he was feeling as he came upon that car hurtling toward him with no place to go to safely avoid the collision. But on this day … on this day it is nearly impossible to avoid thoughts of him. And thoughts of him invariably morph into the manner in which he died. To add salt to the wounds the impaired driver walked away with barely a scratch. A bump on his head and a sprained wrist the only evidence of his crime.

The impaired driver was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death and received a prison sentence. It doesn’t matter much because one day that impaired driver will walk free. Our brother walks free too, on the other side of the veil where we cannot see. All we can do is pray for strength and courage to carry on. And, perhaps with the grace of God, emulate to some degree the empathy, kindness, compassion, and love that were his hallmarks. Please, Divine One, let us follow his example.