How many days off work for a death in the family?

A question posed by the grief reality got me thinking about this. For some reason WordPress would not allow me to post a comment. Weird. So I am answering it here, with a few twists. Many places of employment have a sliding rule based on closeness of relationship . I cannot remember what the exact policy was at one place I once worked but I remember this: I could have more days off for the death of my mother than I could in the case of my mother-in-law. Which was the case at the time and I guess that’s why it sticks in my memory. It’s weird, isn’t it? I mean, a death in the family affects us, no matter what the relationship happens to be. For some people their mother-in-law may hold a closer bond than they had with their own mother. At least that’s what one friend told me. She’d had a rocky relationship with her Mom but a close and loving one with her mother-in-law.

At any rate, how do employers come with this policy? How do we as a society measure the time needed to heal the wounds of grief? It’s such an individual thing. The pain cannot be measured. Some take much longer to recover than others. I dislike arbitrary rules but I guess there must be some policy or all would be chaos. Or would it?

My experience has been that grief is something most people avoid speaking of and often feel very uncomfortable around bereaved individuals. Why? Death is the one thing that is guaranteed in life. No one gets out of here alive. It’s just a fact of life.

If you’d like to check out the grief reality here’s the link:


Nearly a year ago I’d been reading news stories from around the world and grieving the loss of so many lives. The images of the caravan of hearses and military vehicles pushed into service to carry the dead away was beyond heartbreaking. At least that is how I experienced it. I was talking to a friend of ours about the horrific loss of life at the time and the many suffering through Covid-19 and he remarked that it did not affect him because he didn’t know “those people”. But for me, personally, every number represents a loved one who will never come home again, or it represents somebody suffering, perhaps horridly with the illness. And it affects me. No, I do not know “those people” but does it matter? In my view all life is sacred and precious.

 Reaching for something positive in such circumstances seems impossible – what good can anyone see in it? Perhaps, though, we need to recognize that humanity’s never-ending reach into places once wild in order to exploit whatever natural resources there may be has led to this virus being loosed upon humanity at large. Perhaps, just perhaps, there is a lesson to be learned here about rain forests and about wild places and the environment in general.

This evening I learned that a man I’ve never met died. And I grieve. In this case it is the husband of a woman I met only twice but came to know as a funny, wise, and totally awesome person through our engagements on social media. He’d had cancer. It all happened so very quickly. They only found out a couple of months ago and now he’s gone.

Perhaps it is the past year of the constant toll of bells, the constant and rising numbers of the dead, sick, or recovered – and what do they mean by recovered, because to all intents and purposes many people do not recover but spend months recuperating from the damages to their bodies that covid leaves behind.

So, yes, I mourn. I mourn all these people I have never met and I mourn the husband of my friend, a man I also never knew except through anecdotes his wife would share. Life is precious. Life is sacred. And so, to anyone who has lost a loved one, no matter the circumstances, I want you to know this stranger is so deeply sorry for your loss and I am sending my sincere condolences.

Nothing is insurmountable, or, bad news really does come in threes

Tough times do not last. I know this is true. I have experienced them time and time again. Still this whole corona virus thing seems like it has dug its feet in for the long haul. As businesses and organizations re-open across the country I keep waiting for that other shoe to drop. That second wave that sits like the monster in the closet I was so afraid of as a child. We’ve had a few, well actually three, pieces of news this week that make me wish I was a child again and could look to someone wiser than myself to deal with them.

 I wrote about Teather’s journey over the rainbow bridge yesterday. He belonged to my daughter-in-law and my son. He was such a sweet little dog and he will be missed so badly. That was one thing. Thing two: we learned that someone very near to our hearts and much loved may have been exposed to covid-19 just when we thought we were coming out of the woods where that dreaded, horrific disease is concerned. They will be tested on Monday and then we all await the results. I am confident it will come back negative, but still that small slim to none chance hangs over our heads like an axe about to fall.

Thirdly, we learned that my husband’s heart has suffered further deterioration. We are waiting for an appointment with a cardiologist in the big city. Our family doctor’s office said it could be a long wait due to circumstances around covid-19 and the long list of patients waiting to be seen. In the meanwhile, I may be called back to work soon. I work at the local library and have loved my job. Yet, the thought of working with the public in the midst of a pandemic is rather concerning, especially since my husband is at the top of the covid-19 list where vulnerable people are concerned.

I know I will be given the strength, wisdom, and fortitude to deal with it all from a Divinity whom I am so very grateful for. At this moment, as I write, however, I really want to tell the Creator, ‘enough already, enough!’  Yet somehow, some way, these tough times will pass, as others have passed. I just have to hang on and keep faith in the One who is all-wise and all-powerful.

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.

Remembering a friend long gone

Funny how a song can take you back to your youth. My best friend through my teens died many years ago. She was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when we were fourteen years old. She died when we were thirty-eight. She was fierce. She was funny and she was a wonderful friend. She managed her diabetes better than most. It took her a fair amount of time to come to terms with it though. I remember her sneaking French fries from my plate. I remember her begging for a bite of my chocolate bar and other goodies that she was not supposed to have. Her mother was very strict about what she ate. Understandably. But when you’re a teenager the idea of dying seems impossible, so I would indulge her, even while I scolded. Perhaps if I had known more I would not have eaten such junk in her company. But I was equally in denial. It would take many years before I became aware of the toll the disease would take on her body. By then it was too late.

I was her maid of honour at her wedding. The marriage lasted less than three years. They never had children. I remember her visits – she eventually moved to British Columbia, while I went in the opposite direction, back to Newfoundland where I’d been born. She visited us there once and we took her around to see the sights. I guess the Long Range Mountains were not nearly as spectacular as the Rockies, and I was disappointed she was not as enthralled with them as I was. Yet we did spend many pleasant days on beaches and on forest trails. I would not see her again. A year or so later her mother called to tell me of her passing. I wish she would not have told me of the circumstances – she had died alone in her small apartment and it would be a few days later before a neighbour found her body. I think that is the worst memory and the despair I felt (and often still feel) knowing she was alone.

Still, I treasure all the memories and the friendship we shared that helped us through the minefield of adolescence and the rigors of our young adulthood. Her brother told me about spreading her ashes on the waves of the Pacific. One day soon I hope to make the trip to view the splendid redwoods and listen to the waves lapping the shores of British Columbia and say a final good-bye to this friend of my youth.

Corrie Ten Boom and “The Hiding Place”

I have been wanting to write about the book, The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom since I first picked up this little book months ago. Life has been so busy!

If you follow this blog you know that we spent the months of February through May with my husband in hospital in very poor health. He was flown to Edmonton – many miles away from where we live for further care. It was a time of great upheaval and an awful lot of stress. Not long before this happened I chanced upon a book on peace at the library where I work. That book was so helpful to me as we waded through the health care system. But it was Corrie Ten Boom’s book that I found in the hospital that continues to illuminate my life. Bear with me as this will be a longer post than I usually write – but this book is so important that I felt moved to share.

The book is about Corrie Ten Boom and her family’s experiences through the Second World War. The family was involved in the underground, a network of people hiding Jews and providing for their needs. In the end Corrie, her sister, Betsy, and her father (along with many other relatives and friends) were arrested and eventually sent to a concentration camp. It is a book about courage and heroism, but most of all it is a book about faith in very dark times.

Yet, this little book tells the story in such an easy, but gripping, fashion it is hard to put down. I have read it through several times now and with each reading something else pops up for me – another lesson I had not fully digested in previous readings. Overall it is a book about hope in dire situations as Corrie moves from her childhood in Holland to the dank and disgusting conditions of a concentration camp.

Corrie and her sister remain together and are moved from one camp to another, with each being more horrific than the last. Eventually they end up in Germany in a place where it seems all is hopeless and despair is rampant. To say they are treated badly is a gross understatement, at the very least. Corrie cannot see how God can bring any good out of the circumstances they are subjected to: overcrowded conditions, little food, constant harassment and often torture and beatings, overworked to the point of death – it is very dark days indeed, with the wisps of smoke from the death chambers a grim reminder of their precarious existence. The particular barracks where they are forced to live is infested with fleas. And yet, it is under these conditions that Corrie learns one of the greatest lessons. Even fleas can be used to accomplish God’s will. Because of these parasites the guards are reluctant to enter this particular barrack, leaving the prisoners alone and allowing Corrie and her sister to minister to their fellow prisoners.

Eventually Corrie is released and goes on to minister to former prisoners as well as their tormentors and those who were instrumental in causing much suffering and death. It is an amazing story of one woman’s walk of faith and the many lessons she learns about the mystery we call God and about love and forgiveness.

In these days, that are often compared to pre-war Europe, Corrie Ten Boom’s story shows that even in the darkest of days God is not dead; that faith can overcome the very worst of circumstances; that love really can conquer all.

A life briefly lived

A life, so briefly lived

I never felt the flutter

Of tiny wings in flight

Just the deep and aching pain

Of empty arms and heart

I didn’t get to know you well

Though you lived beneath my heart

Never got to say hello

Nor bid you a goodbye

Never held your tiny body

Never kissed your downy head

Your time on earth was brief indeed

It was a fragile hour

They said you were not strong enough

They said there’d be another

As if your life mattered not at all,

Your essence an illusion

Child of mine, it’s been decades since

And still I often ponder

Why a life as brief as yours

Carved deep furrows in my being

This gift you left of insight sweet:

That though one may be weak and small

Their very vulnerability hides

A secret glowing soul

That we would all be well advised

To emulate and style

For it is in such needs so deep

We learn humility

So, thank you for your gifts, sweet babe

Your spirit creates such wonder

That I, in turn, feel small indeed

Like a peep to roaring thunder

Child of mind, so brief in time

I cherish and remember you

Death of a Sunflower


She bows her head down to the earth

As if in prayer and submissive stance

She lowers her head down to the ground

From which she sprung, but a short time ago

Her life is short but leaves behind

Memories of her beauty and her grace

And reminds us all of the sacred and sublime

That lays within utter humility

She hangs her head, but not in shame

‘Tis only the lateness of the hour

Her stalk, once strong, that held her high

Lowers her gently now back to the soil

She will lie fallow through harsh autumn winds

And willingly gives herself to winter’s icy grip

Knowing that the seed she carries

Deep within her flower

Will arise anew when the sun once again warms the earth

In the great cycle of death and birth

On death and dying

Despite all the worry and despite all the pain my mind returns to my little brother – taken too soon. He and my husband were pretty good buddies. They shared a lot, including open heart surgery within months of one another. He called a lot after Randy’s operation. And after his own a few months later he and Randy would share “war stories” of the after effects through many phone calls. It was an experience that seemed to strengthen the bond they already shared. In the past few weeks I was pained at the idea of my life partner leaving me forever. I dreamed of Chris and wondered if he would be there to greet his buddy once again.

Over the past years I have had to deal with one crisis after another as my husband’s health failed. He will never again be “healthy” as most of us think of it. There has simply been too much damage done to his heart and kidneys due to diabetes. And once again he is in crisis. Once again I am preparing myself for the inevitable. Having said that, I also know he could live another 5, 10, or even 20 years, despite the present situation.  There are, of course, a lot of variables.

My husband is the consummate clown. He loves to make me laugh – he loves making anybody laugh. It hurts to see him worn out and weary.  It hurts to think of life without him by my side.

Yet death comes to each of us – there is no escaping that fact.  So I will hold the precious memories of our life together close to my heart while anticipating the memories we will continue to make as long as life goes on. Death is part of life. And life, as hard as it seems sometimes, is a precious, precious thing.

Hardhats on fence posts: a memorial and a warning


I had read news stories of fatal accidents on Alberta’s Highway 63 long before I saw the long line of fence posts balancing coloured hard hats.  The safety helmets displayed on this rural highway captured my imagination and I wonder about the men and women who may have worn them – many of whom worked in the oil fields north of Fort McMurray.

Highway 63 is also known by many nicknames, chiefly “highway of death”.  It is the one and only route into and out of Fort McMurray – a 443 km stretch of highway that winds through an agricultural countryside.  According to the Globe and Mail, there were 2,457 accidents on that highway between 2008 and 2012 and public pressure to twin this two-lane highway became intense; after a fatal accident that claimed seven lives in 2012 the provincial government made the commitment to do just that. Work to twin the highway is ongoing.

But driving by the line of helmeted fence posts statistics are the last thing on my mind. Each hard hat represents a loved one who would never return to their families:  A worker who would never show up for a shift again; a parent, child, sibling, relative, or friend who would never celebrate life again.  Whatever the cause of each accident the fence post memorial stands as a tribute to those who died and serves as a reminder to passers by that life is fragile and can be cut short in an instant, a warning to drive with care.  May all who died travelling down Highway 63 be remembered and may they Rest in Peace.