“He was my first love,” she said with a faraway look in her eyes. The silence grew, lengthened, as I waited and wondered. Her fingers played with the delicate chain she wore around her neck. I thought she’d forgotten me.
She smiled a half-smile as she finally turned to me. “That was fifty years ago. He always held a special place deep in my heart,” she paused again, quiet, reflecting, still. Reliving a past I could not fathom and dare not intrude upon even if I could.
“Our parents said we were too young,” she continued, “too young to know what love is. But we knew, we both knew. I remember … It was such a tender love, almost, well, spiritual. We were so young, but we knew what love is,” her voice trailed off once again as she re-entered that distant past and tears glinted in her eyes.
And I, a fool, did not know what to say or what to do to comfort her. I, in turn, was much too young to understand. I had no knowledge of such love. It astounded and confounded me.
I was too young at that time. But now the years have tumbled by and I am now at that age that she was then. And still, I wonder at a love held close for so long. So long. A love that never died.
I haven’t been feeling my best for weeks now. But, despite that I am looking forward to Christmas. It can be a bit crazy, even depressing at times, but I truly love this time of year. People seem more caring and empathetic than at any other time. When I was a child our family would drive to the church for midnight mass. We lived in rural Newfoundland, on the west coast of the island. Life was so simple then – or maybe it’s because I was a child and it seems simpler looking back. I remember the moon shining on the bay we drove along and my father remarking on how calm the water was. I remember singing Christmas carols and I remember my parents sitting waiting for all of us to get up Christmas morning. The tree never went up before Christmas Eve and in the morning it all seemed so magical. There were never a lot of gifts, but we appreciated the few things we received.
What is it about Christmas that makes me so nostalgic? As I place ornaments on the tree each one brings back memories of Christmases past and how very blessed and fortunate my life has been. No, it hasn’t been easy and sometimes life seems so unfair – but it is a good life nonetheless.
Wherever you are, and whomever you are sharing Christmas with this year, I hope you feel blessed. I hope joy overwhelms you. I hope you feel the peace and goodwill the season can bring. And above all this, I wish you love. Merry Christmas!
It actually is quite cold here this morning, and it’s been snowing on and off for a couple of days now. Snow – frozen rain falling from the skies. The song by Guns ‘n Roses, November Rain, plays in my head. “And it’s hard to hold a candle in the cold November rain”. It’s a song about relationship; about love and loss. Even though it’s a love song and the story about the struggles of two people in a romantic relationship, the ballad is so sad, so haunting – it brings back painful memories for me – not about a romance gone bad – but about loss, irretrievable loss.
November – Remembrance Day and recalling the sacrifices made in two horrific world wars. All those who died. All those who were irreparably wounded in body and soul…
November – the month my father died…
November – and remembering the day two years ago when I got that awful call – my brother was killed by a drunk driver.
November, a month I dread with its admonishments that life is fragile.
And realizing, yet again, that it is this very fragility that reminds us life is precious – so very, very precious! A reminder to live life with a grateful heart and to appreciate all the blessings that are given; that even though the earth may freeze, underneath the killing frost new life waits to bloom again….
I find myself reminiscing a lot – about my childhood and about my parents and siblings. Today was day 2 of the trial and again I am not there. I live in another province and between work and family obligations I am unable to be there at this horrid time. I had a nice chat with one of my brothers though, hence the reminiscing. I had five brothers and three sisters. Chris was the youngest. He was killed when an impaired driver plowed into him as he was heading home from work. Sorry if this is repetitious, but I don’t know who may be reading this. At any rate, my brother brought me up to speed on the happenings of the day. By all accounts it was rough for my niece (Christopher’s daughter, though she has been a real “little soldier”) and for all the family that was in attendance.
I am doing my best not to dwell on that though and instead I am sitting here with happier memories – like all nine of us children doing “the twist” in the living room as old-time 50s rock blared from the radio (at least I think it was a radio). Dad hated that “new fangled music” so while he and Mom were gone shopping my elder siblings let it rip. That is one of my favourite memories – the older siblings teaching us younger ones how to dance. Or the time we were all playing baseball up in the “back forty” of our property. Chris was so little, but very determined. He played his heart out, his little legs pumping furiously as he ran for home plate. He was the baby of the family and the apple of all our eyes. It was impossible to stay angry with him for long because he had such a sunny and generous nature. I am trying my best to honour him by remembering the good times and all the best facets of his character – of which there are many.
Fair warning, if you are following this blog it will be filled with anecdotes about my younger brother. I am so glad to have had him. I will honor him. I will honor his memory today and every day. Despite the heartache of his passing Chris continues to bless us all by bringing us closer together once again – I just wish he hadn’t had to die to do so!
Well that date is nearly upon us – that date that I suspect most, if not all, of Fort McMurray has been anticipating with a sense of dread and anxiety. Personally, for myself, I will be glad when the 3rd of May has come and gone. Memories, both sweet and bitter, fill my mind. It’s hard not to relive that day with so many media outlets reminding us daily that the one year mark is quickly approaching. I spent most of March and April dreading the reminders of the most frightening day of my life.
But today I will hold the most treasured memories close to my heart: The calmness and determination of my husband as he drove us out of town, my daughter encouraging me with her strength and dry sense of humour; Hugging my son and his wife when they met us in Anzac with their little dogs dancing in the back seat of their car; The memory of getting text messages from my sister-in-law and my nieces letting me know they all were safe; the memory of running into two young coworkers at a restaurant we’d stopped at during the scramble to get out of the fire-ringed city. How delighted I was to see them and the sheer relief that these two, at least, were safe. Trading news with them of other coworkers and breathing a sigh of relief that most, if not all, were accounted for. The memory of the countless text messages from family and friends offering their support, in every way imaginable. The memories of the abundant kindnesses bestowed upon evacuees and the outpouring of love from across the country. The hugs from fellow citizens and the sincere wishes shared for a safe harbor and to have all needs met.
When push came to shove the ultimate goodness of humanity came to the fore and that is worth remembering and cherishing. Anniversaries of horrid events such as this or the death of a loved one do make us dread certain dates, but in the end it is the love given and received that counts and what buoys us up and helps us to continue on with life. I will always and forever be very grateful for these gifts, given freely and without expectations.
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.