Wounds revisited

Some days are heavy. It is what it is. My brother is very much on my mind today, as are his children and his granddaughter. Some news just opens up wounds and we feel the hurt anew. It’s been nearly three years since he died tragically in an event that was wholly preventable. Three years. It’s hard to believe – it doesn’t seem that long ago. We go on with our lives – what else can we do? As most of you know he was killed by an impaired driver as he was driving home from work. I am searching for peace as I write this and trying to let the heaviness go. Life sometimes seems so hard. I just found out that the man who killed him has been granted day parole – he has not served even a year of his four-year sentence. I am trying to process this information. I am trying to fully forgive. One step at a time, I guess, and one day at a time. And in the end, it really doesn’t matter whether he serves one day or several years – nothing will bring Chris back to us. So, what to do? There really is nothing to be done is there? Chris was a generous, kind, and loving individual with a terrific sense of humour. Hopefully I will find a way to channel these personality traits and live life as fully as I can, both for myself and to honor my younger brother who was the epitome of selflessness.

A visit to Fort McKay to see the Wood Buffalo

Our eldest daughter does not live nearby. In fact she lives too far away for my comfort, but that’s just the worrier in me. She lives in Newfoundland, while, we, in comparison, live in Alberta – many hundreds of miles away. During each visit we have driven to Fort McKay to see if the buffalo are out and until this visit went away disappointed. It was a lovely summer day and the time we had together was growing short. So, the day before she left, we decided to try once again – with success! The animals were laying in a field not far from the fences that keep visitors out. They mostly had their backs to us but not long before we left a few of them began moving about.

The wood buffalo are well looked after and guarded from over zealous tourists

I stood there with my daughter watching them and wondering what it would be like to see hundreds of these animals thundering across the plains. The small herd here is a subspecies of the American Bison and seem very placid and calm. Try as I might I cannot imagine these animals thundering anywhere! Plus, these animals, wood bison, are heavier than the plains bison, which were all but wiped out by the early settlers. These guys seemed quite content to loll about in the sun and seemed more like the herds of cattle I am more familiar with. Still, I am glad we get to see them from time to time.

One shaggy beast was a bit more active than his fellow buffalo
Sun bathing seemed to be all most of the animals were interested in
If a person is fortunate, you may catch a closer glimpse of these magnificent shaggy beasts when they come out for a cool drink of water on a hot day. This photo was taken on a previous visit. They did not venture to the pond this time around.
This one seemed at least a little bit interested in the humans beyond the fences…

I am grateful to live a mere 54 km (34 miles) from this place where the buffalo roam. And I am grateful that after many years and several trips, my daughter could experience these beautiful animals as well.

For everything there is a season – turn, turn, turn

Well, it’s true, I guess, there is a time and a season for everything under the sun. It’s been a busy summer – not much fun to be had while packing boxes etc. But that is behind me now. I am still not finished with the unpacking, but at a point where what’s left can be done bit by bit. I am so grateful for the help of my children, especially my daughter who came to help with it all. She returned to her home last evening. I will miss her terribly, but very appreciative of all she did. I cannot help but mention all the help my son and daughter-in-law were as well as my other daughter and her boyfriend. We are so blessed in our family.

My body still hurts somewhat and it will take a while to recover from it all but I am content with what we have accomplished so far. We even have a few pictures on the walls that makes this little place feel more homey. We have walked around the park-like setting that butts up against the back yard here and enjoyed watching the ducks in the pond (photos will follow soon). There isn’t a lot of summer weather left but I intend to enjoy it as much as possible before the chill of fall sets in. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope you’re enjoying the season. I am back ha ha. Cheers!

Summertime and missing the ocean

I was born in Newfoundland and lived there until Dad moved our family to Ontario. Every summer I get homesick for the island. I have so many wonderful memories of playing in the woods or on the beaches. My husband and I would later move back there to raise our own children.

Summer in Newfoundland is beautiful, there are loads of trails to hike, and of course bonfires on the beach as well as swimming. It is a nature lover’s paradise. Recently my brother gave me this wonderful aerial photo of the old house, which, sadly, is long gone. Looking at it takes me back in time. There have been many changes since we were children.

Port au Port West, NL, Canada – photo by Barra Studio

Our house looked over Bay St. George, a wild, tumultuous bay – unlike the quieter Port au Port Bay. This photo was taken on one of the rare calm days. The beaches on Port au Port Bay are mostly sandy beaches whereas Bay St. George beaches are very rocky. It was awesome on a stormy day to watch the waves crash loudly on the shores. It was also the lullaby I fell asleep to.

As a child we often visited our grandparents who lived just a little ways up the road, or to play with our cousins who lived nearby. I also remember going often to Mr. Martin’s house across the road. He had built wooden stairs down to the beach – the steep banks would have been difficult to navigate even for agile children. I don’t know why we addressed him as “Mister”. He was actually our great-grandfather’s step brother – but that’s another story. My husband insists we don’t have a family tree, we have a family forest – easy to get lost in it. But I digress, yet again.

You will see I labeled the photograph. “The old homestead” was built by my grandparents. At that point in time they did a lot of farming, as well as fishing to feed their large families.

“The pond” was formed when Port au Port Bay flooded the area during a storm. After that a breakwater wall was built to keep the bay at bay (pun intended). We used to go skating on the pond in winter – in more recent years it has been used for snow mobile races.

We had a barn on the property where we kept a cow and chickens, and, from time to time, a pig. I remember what fun it was jumping from the hayloft down into the hay below. It was not an easy life for our parents. There were a lot of chores to do from cutting wood for the wood stove to making home made bread to hauling water – we did not have indoor plumbing – that was a task my older brothers especially detested on laundry days. Everybody had chores to do from eldest to youngest. Still, I am so grateful to have been born there and to have these memories to treasure.

A weird sense of Deja vu

We were only home two weeks, barely enough time to get back into the swing of things. Then it struck again: Another gall bladder attack. It was in the early morning hours and dawn had not yet broke through the night skies. My husband was in agony. I rushed him to the emergency room and before we knew it we were on board yet another air ambulance taking us to Edmonton.

As we waited in the emergency room at the University of Alberta hospital for him to be assessed the sense of Deja vu was strong. We had indeed been there, done that just seven weeks ago! I was tired and frustrated. We had been told at that time he was too high a risk for surgery. Instead they’d stuck a draining tube in and hoped that would be the end of it. NOPE!

To be fair, doctors did do the best they could for him at that time. But now, our doctor at our local hospital had told us that, high risk or not, it had to come out. I was terrified.

Fortunately he came through the surgery yesterday without a hitch and thus far is doing exceptionally well. However, we had been told during his prior hospitalization that any operation would cause stress on his heart that may not be evident immediately and that the risk of a heart attack would continue for up to a month or more.

Still, I am hopeful and relieved that his gall bladder is out and no longer represents a danger to his health. At any rate there was no other choice this time around.

Prior to his surgery I had been praying and asking God to guide the surgeon’s hands. I believe He did. An overwhelming sense of calm filled me as I prayed. I had also asked God to continue to him safe in the weeks and months ahead. I have faith in the Creator and I am so very grateful for the prayers of family and friends. I believe in the power of prayer.

It has been a very strange Deja vu, including that sense of complete calm and total peace, even in the midst of the storm, for which I am grateful.

A Belated List of Thanks

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”  –William Arthur Ward

As many of you know, my husband was recently discharged from hospital after spending nine weeks there. Part of that time was spent at our local hospital until he had to be flown by air ambulance to the city. Being so far away from home meant dealing with many challenges.

 First of all was the care of our fur baby, Callie-cat. So, my first thank you goes to my son and daughter-in-law who took such good care of her in the days following our sudden trip to Edmonton. After a week or so it became apparent that this hospitalization may be quite extended and it was becoming difficult for my son to make the frequent trips to our home to care for her. Then my daughter stepped in, taking Callie to her place for the duration. Added to the pet care my children were an enormous help in other ways, like packing clothes to send to us as well as other necessary items. My daughter-in-law made banana bread for me (twice) and included it in care packages they sent down. This is only a small list of all they did to make life easier and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without their help.

Then there was the help I received from coworkers and friends who helped make our enforced stay much less stressful. I hope they know how truly grateful I am. One friend made a special trip to the city to bring the clothes and things my kids had packed for me. No small favor as the city is a five-hour drive one way!

Added to these kindnesses were the frequent phone calls with family and friends that helped me keep my sanity and acted as an anchor in the storm of life. We also received many messages via social media to express support and prayers. When I think back over all the kindnesses my heart truly overflows. We are so blessed to have so many kind and generous individuals to share our lives.

Life can throw a curve ball from time to time and I am so thankful that when it does, I have been blessed with many kind, generous, and thoughtful people who help lessen the burdens and add to the joys. I thank you all, sincerely, from the depths of my being.

“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”  –Albert Schweitzer

Just Okay

“How are you?”

“I’m okay.”

“Just okay?”

“Yup, just okay, but I’m here.”

I participate in this scenario quite often. My husband is not well and I am his main caregiver. I don’t think most people want an honest answer to the question of how I am, not really. Most days I am okay – just okay. There are some when I am very happy, and of course others when I definitely am not happy. But for the most part I am okay. I don’t think people really want to know about my daily struggles or the things that I find frustrating. It’s not easy caring for a sick partner. It just isn’t. I congratulate myself on a daily basis for being ‘just okay’.

I have written about the ups and downs of health issues pertaining to diabetes more than a few times here. My husband jokes he has ‘frequent flyer miles’ at the hospital. This weekend he ended up there once again. I don’t know who dropped the ball. It may have been the doctor’s office when they called in a renewal on his medications. Or, it may be that the pharmacist neglected to include one of his meds in his blister pack. He takes a lot of medications, and it’s easy to miss it if one isn’t there. Plus, his meds are often changed for one reason or another. At any rate he’d been without one of them for about a week – a medication he really needs – hence the most recent hospital stay. It’s scary sometimes. And it’s also daunting, this responsibility to be on top of everything medical.

I am doing my best to take care of myself as well as him through it all. I try to keep it positive and I pray a lot. But much of the time I am exhausted, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet, I am okay. I know powers greater than mine carry me through it all. So, yes, I am “just” okay and I’m alright with that.

Searching for meaning

It was a strange dream in many ways. I dreamed Caitlin was receiving the sacrament of Confirmation, which is strange because she was not raised Catholic. Confirmation is a sacrament in which the person is asked to confirm promises made by the parent at baptism. In essence the person is asked if they want to be a member of the church; to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Of course, dreams are never straight forward, and least of all this one.

In the dream I was supposed to prepare Caitlin to receive the sacrament. I also had to give a sermon, or a talk about the sacrament and its meaning at her confirmation ceremony. It was a dream about faith, spirituality, and about family and forgiveness.

Caitlin’s father, my brother, Chris, was killed when a drunk driver crashed into his van as he was headed home from work two years ago. In my dream several family members were interrupting my speech to talk about Chris, not to dishonor the proceedings but because many are still grieving and healing.

The name, Christopher, my mother often told us, means Christ-bearer. That also came up in my dream. As the dream progressed Bob Marley’s tune, Redemption kept playing. So, what was the message I was being given? Confirm the Christ Bearer? Confirm Christ? Forgiveness? Redemption? Family?

There’s a lot to tease out of this dream. It is the 23rd of December and Christmas is approaching. But the dream was not about Christmas per se, even though it is the day we celebrate the birth of the Saviour. But Christmas does put a lot of emphasis on family with the Holy Family taking front and centre, or at least it does in most Catholic households.

I am searching for meaning – not just of my dream, but of life itself; of spirituality and what divine love means to me.

May this Christmas bring peace to us all and to our world that is in dire need of peace and love and all things good.

Regaining equilibrium and giving thanks

Last week was a very difficult week. Between my husband being hospitalized and my bout with flu coupled with the fast approaching Christmas season I was stressed to the max. I am grateful to have 2/3 behind me. My husband is home. I am over the flu. Now, to tackle decorating and shopping. I have always loved Christmas and I am looking forward to family time and friendly gatherings.

I am also looking forward to a reprieve from any crises with my husband’s health. The one thing these crises continue to teach me is to value our time together; to not take anything for granted; that life is very fragile and can end at any time. With his release from hospital many people assume he is better – and he is to a degree, but damages done to his heart and kidneys due to diabetes have taken a toll that cannot be reversed. We will work to keep his kidneys and heart from further deterioration and, hopefully keep dialysis at bay.

Still, I am grateful. I am grateful for the kind and warm support we have received from a wide variety of people – from close family and friends to acquaintances to my blogging community. Words can never express what this support has meant to me.

To all my readers, a sincere thank you for your kind words and expressions of support. They truly mean a lot to me and bolstered my spirit when I was feeling very low and very afraid. May all the blessings you bestow return to you multiplied many, many times and may all your kindnesses return to you a thousand-fold. From my heart to yours I wish you a peace-filled and truly joyous holiday season. May God bless you all

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.