The mystery of Christmas peace


It was a much nicer Christmas than I expected it to be, especially since the week before we heard from the crown attorney’s office asking for a meeting on the 29th of the month – sending us all into a bit of a tailspin and bringing all the pain of the trial and Chris’s death back fresh once again. For those of us outside of the province, we will be taking part through a conference call – which is a good thing; at least we will be able to participate in whatever is to come.  I did not want to write about my thoughts or feelings in the days leading up to Christmas. It should be a joyful time and I did not want to cast a shadow over it for others. But it was hard. I think our whole family felt like we were being drawn back into the darkness of pain and grief with that impending meeting. It also left us all wondering what was up now – I guess we will find out Friday morning. I know that many of us, if not all, were dreading another Christmas without our brother and worrying about the impact it was having on his children.

But the mystery of peace at Christmas time seemed to percolate through the negative thoughts and feelings and overcame them. At least, that’s how it was for me. From deep sadness to inexplicable joy as Christmas approached. Now, don’t get me wrong – grief is also a mysterious thing and could trip me up when I was least expecting it, but in the end I was able to rise above it – thanks to the grace that Christmas brings.  And family – that blessing that buoys us up and helps us keep going.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  And may the deep and abiding peace of Christmas remain with us all throughout the New Year.  Merry Christmas and as Tiny Tim said, “God bless us, everyone”.

Reprieve


 

My mind is a million miles away – it’s with my niece, my siblings, and my extended family who are gathering for one more day of testimony. It’s been a very difficult week for all of us. I am not there physically but my heart and mind are. Yesterday they saw photographs of my brother’s demolished vehicle. I cannot imagine how hard that was. I am so grateful that they will get a much needed rest from the courtroom. Today they will hear and see more, but there is not another court date until the 29th. I am so glad and relieved that we all get a little reprieve from it all.

My focus has been on my brother’s children and my siblings and all my family, but I just want to take a minute to give thanks for my husband and children who have been unfailingly supportive through it all. I could not get through this without them. While my heart has felt like it was being ripped from my chest, my spirit has been buoyed up from all the love I have received from them.  So while this whole thing has been devastating, there have also been beams of light in the darkness. And for that I am sincerely thankful.

Grieving and Solace


One year ago, but it feels like forever – each day a long battle with seconds and minutes leading up to this one. They have been days of unbelievable agony and days of sweet solace as family and friends reached out to one another to comfort, to support, and to befriend; to bind the deep wounds and to heal.

We have learned that at least three other drivers narrowly escaped a fatal collision that day.  One was a young mother with her three children in the car. But my brother was not so fortunate.  My brother was ripped from our lives in that violent, senseless, so-called “accident”. I have a lot of trouble with that word, mostly because it was no “accident” when that other driver lifted that bottle to his lips prior to getting behind the wheel, transforming his vehicle into a murder weapon.

Still, what does it all matter? Nothing will bring Chris back to us. He is gone and we are left to pick up the pieces. There is anger – no, there is RAGE – like nothing I have ever felt before. It passes. There is pain like I have never known before.  It passes, at least until the next wave.

I am reaching deep inside myself for something positive to say. This morning I was thinking of a book I once read by Henri Nouwen. In it he describes his struggles with grief following the death of his mother. And he leaves words of comfort and wisdom with these thoughts: had his mother not died, she would not have been able to infuse the spirits of all her loved ones with her own spirit of love and of peace.  I take comfort from his ideas.

Chris has left us all many gifts. His death brought us all even closer to one another. His generosity, his kindness, his ability to make light of life’s struggles, his wit and  his incredible sense of humour live on in all of us. Perhaps in some way we are infused with his spirit. That is my hope and my solace. So today I will celebrate his life and give thanks for all the blessings he continues to bestow.

Remembrance Day – remembering my grandfathers and the men who served


in-defence-of-the-city-back-in-the-day I remember when neighbours would visit when I was a child, inevitably conversation would turn to reminiscing about the wars. I remember sitting enthralled as I listened to these war stories – until the conversation took gruesome turns and my mother would shoo me outside to play. I am grateful for those stories. They gave a human face to the horror of war, and brought home the sacrifices made.

I never knew my paternal grandfather, or my father’s brothers who served in the Second World War. But my Dad would tell stories of his father, the artisan and carpenter. I remember my Dad’s eyes filling with pride as he described the things his father made, even intricate items like a grandfather clock. Apparently he was very talented. He was wounded by shrapnel during the First World War and would suffer from pieces the surgeons were unable to remove for the rest of his life.

My Dad was the youngest of his family. He was a twin, but sadly his twin sister died of tuberculosis when she was twenty-eight. So I never knew her either. His eldest sister became a regular correspondent with me. She lived many miles away in Vermont and I didn’t get to meet her until I was an adult, but it was through the exchange of letters that I formed a relationship with her. She loved to write and to receive letters, as did I. I have kept many of her letters, hoping one day to weave a story from her descriptions of growing up in Newfoundland in the 1930s until she moved to Boston when she was a teenager.  They are a treasure and a window into the past. Through them I got to know my grandfather a little better. She describes a man who was very loving and kind. He had a great love for animals and for nature. Sadly he was changed by his experiences overseas and returned a bitter, impatient man and could often be cruel. It hurts my heart to think about what horrors he witnessed. He served in the army and I have no doubt he would have been diagnosed with PTSD today.

My maternal grandfather had suffered many strokes and his speech was difficult for a child to understand. But he was unfailingly patient, kind, and very gentle. He lied about his age in order to join the Royal British Navy and went to war at fourteen years of age. Later he would serve in the navy again during the Second World War. The wars never changed his personality – for all of his life he was the consummate story teller, entertaining family members, neighbours, and friends alike. I remember him sitting and chatting with my Dad. My father would often be laughing very hard with tears running down his face in response to the anecdotes and stories Granda was telling.

Today is Remembrance Day, and like every year my thoughts turn to these brave men who fought to ensure the freedoms we enjoy today. May they Rest in Peace.

Frozen and adrift


DARKNESS

Numb

Frozen

Adrift

Nothing much matters

Zombie-like I stumble through days

Filled with Heartache

Awaiting the warmth of the sun

And for humanity to care once again

I know it’s there

Beneath the layers of scar tissue

That heart full of love

Coping, waiting

Dark days

Darker nights

Yet hope softly whispers,

“Hang on, child,

Brighter days are coming”

A hand reaches out

Enfolds mine

Anchors me

Brings a moment of solace

And I breathe deeply

Of peace

I take it in

Every cell bathed

In the light

Of love

Let there be healing


a-natural-cave-carved-out-by-the-sea-on-the-gravels-nature-trail-port-au-port-nl

Some day are filled with agony. It is what it is. Some days I find strength and comfort in places that surprise me. I am so grateful for that. We must soldier on. Frozen feelings melt. Kind words of support and love are like balm to my soul. I am not alone in my grief; many are the people who join me here. Some hearts are full of anger and rage – hearts that feel alone, broken and forgotten. Some hearts are loving and forgiving – But whatever lies within, it is human – human to love, human to hurt, human to want to lash back at that which causes pain.  I hope I can find a way to sow seeds of peace and of love – to let hurting hearts know you are not alone, to bind the wounds and let healing begin. Please, God, let there be healing, let there be love.

Love is patient. Love is kind

It does not envy, it does not boast.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,

It is not easily angered,

It keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil

But rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts,

Always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

  • 1 Corinthians 13.4

Blank pages


IMG_5692 b n w blank page

My life is a book of blank pages

That I fill daily

With my thoughts, words, and deeds

Whether joyful or sorrowful

The pages are mine to fill

Let me act, and not react

Let me sow seeds of peace

And of love

Let my words fall like a gentle rain

On the ears of others

Let my touch be gentle

And my thoughts be honest

Let me reflect upon

My life story

Without regret

At the final setting of the sun

Let my soul be glad…

When there are no pages left to fill

Let me go gracefully

Into the quiet night

A thank you to the bully I once knew


Musing photo by Anastacia Hopkins

This one is for the girl who taunted, insulted, and belittled me every chance she got. Thank you. You helped me learn what it feels like to feel sad; to feel less than others; to feel like I didn’t belong. In the process you helped me learn empathy and compassion. You made me stronger. Thank you.

You vented your frustration on me. I was your emotional punching bag. You helped me learn that I didn’t ever want to be that again. I learned that I matter. I learned to stand up for myself, though I didn’t at the time. As a friend of mine puts it: “to be somebody’s doormat you have to lay down first ‘. I will not lie down. I will stand firm. My experiences with you helped me learn this. Thank you.

You helped me see that my sensitivity, while it caused me great pain at the time, turned out to be my greatest strength, for I can see the pain in another’s eyes and reach out to help them. Thank you.

I came to understand how deeply unhappy you really were, and so I learned forgiveness. Thank you.

When I was young I thought I was weak and you were strong. But to be strong means to be kind; to be merciful; to be true to one’s values. That is what I learned.  So, thank you.

To have healthy self esteem means that the opinions of others are just that – their opinions and I do not ever have to allow them to define who I am.  Thank you.

Because you judged me I learned what it feels like to be judged and I vowed to never be that kind of person; The kind of person who defines others by their colour, religion, gender, or place of birth. Thank you.

All of the children in our class were afraid of your wrath and so nobody would play with me. I learned what isolation and loneliness feels like. I learned the importance of reaching out to the downtrodden; the lonely; the stranger and the outcast. In the process I have met wonderful people who became friends. So, thank you.

So you see, while your words hurt, they did not win out. It was never really about you – it was about the lessons I needed to learn. I like the person I’ve become. So, thank you!

Letting go of negativity


Letting go of negativity is not easy. I am constantly telling people close to me to be careful with their thoughts, but I am no expert on letting go of negative self-talk. I struggle with it on a daily basis. Sometimes the sorrows of this world; the hate and anger and general injustices get the better of me. I forget to pull down my glass bubble, my safety shield. And then I am good for nothing and nobody. It is so easy to let the stress and worries of day-to-day life get the best of us. Our thoughts can become like a million daggers pointed straight at our hearts. They become death-dealing. And instead of being a support for others we become the ones needing support. That is why the struggle to resist our inner critics is so important. How can we give to our loved ones or our communities if our glass is totally empty?

On the flip side, we become beacons of hope and light and goodwill when we treat ourselves with gentleness and compassion. We become more productive, more able to give and sow seeds of kindness and peace. And the good news is we get to choose our thoughts. We can choose how we react to life. Will it be with gentleness and understanding or with judgment and hate? We are all only human, flawed and imperfect. Why then do we expect perfection from others?  So today I will count my blessings, of which there are many. And I will give thanks I am able to offer solace to those who may need it; those whom may be mired in the jungle of negativity – but I will remember to draw down my shield first!

The “Art” of War


I think one of the strangest phrases in the English language is “the art of war”. How can we describe war as art? To me art is creative, life giving, soul-baring, and thought-provoking. How can war with its destruction, death, and harm of every kind be described as art? There is nothing of art in war. It cripples people and countries. It leaves nothing but pain and despair in its wake.

The Oxford dictionary defines art as “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

Art can also be expressed in literature, music and song; It may be a piece of architecture or photography. Art instills a sense of wonder. It can perplex and puzzle us. It can leave us feeling truly touched or amazed and exuberant. I think anything that makes people think or feel on a deeper level might be called “art”. Art moves us, changes us, and ultimately, leaves us better people than we were before the experience.

Not so with war. War is ugly, damaging to the psyche and is the opposite of creativity. War tears down. It does not build up. It is the antithesis of art. War is death-dealing. There is absolutely nothing positive about war. It is nothing but strategic moves to inflict the greatest pain on a group of people or a country. And that may require a level of creativity on the part of generals, etc. but let us not call it art.