Young love, lost

Scene from the movie, Me before You, courtesy of

“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.

School shootings

The other day my niece shared a news story about a school shooting in Kentucky; it saddened me and made me think of the drama, the pain, and the shock of another school shooting in Brampton, Ontario in 1975 at Brampton Centennial Secondary School. It was the school I went to and where several classmates had been hurt and three, including the shooter, died.

I knew the shooter, Michael Slobodian, and I knew the teacher that died, Margaret Wright, and I knew John Slinger, one of the dead, but only in passing. Michael had been the boyfriend of a girl I knew. He was also in several of my classes, including the English class where Mrs. Wright was our teacher. She had recently moved to Brampton from New Brunswick, if memory serves. And she was the mother of two young children.  I also remember Dean Naden, who lived a couple of houses down the street from the Slobodians. He tried to reason with Michael, but was shot for his efforts. I remember Ernie Nicols, whose family set up equipment in their yard for their son to practice for track and field events. Ernie ended up paralyzed after he was shot that day.

There are more, many more. Many people were hurt that day and many were traumatized.

It was an event that would mark me for the rest of my life. I think about it every time there is another such tragedy. I remember the sirens, the rampant rumors, the fear, and the panic. I remember gathering in our basement with my sister and our friends that evening. There was a lot of weeping and a lot of questions.

I remember going door to door with a petition to gather support for gun control legislation.  I remember the man who argued with me for a long time about the right to bear arms. He was a “new” Canadian and had emigrated from a country that offered few liberties. He felt government should not make such laws. I felt then, as I do now, that there is no place in society for the indiscriminate sale of guns, especially high powered rifles that are not needed for the hunting of game.

Michael Slobodian was sixteen years old – a child still. I think of him and still wonder, “why”?  I believe that children – all children – should be treated kindly and with respect. I read once that the way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice. Let our words to children be those of love, kindness, caring, and deep respect.

For the love of family & friends

There are a lot of messages on social media promoting mental health and understanding – that is good! It is November and the Christmas season is fast approaching. Although it is a time of year touted as “family time” and a time of “peace on earth and goodwill”, for people suffering from depression and especially for those who are alone it is a very stressful time of year. The ever present messages exhorting us to buy this or that to celebrate Christmas are overwhelming. For people who may not have the means to buy the latest toy for their child or the means to travel to wherever “home” may be it can be very painful.

I remember the days when a death by suicide was hidden, if possible. It was so misunderstood and socially unacceptable that whole families were shamed at a time when they most needed love and support.

I think we are only just beginning to understand the torturous pain and unbearable challenges that people who die by suicide have been faced with. Mental health issues seem to be an ever growing challenge for society in general. So I do copy and paste messages that promote compassion and understanding. I think it’s important. But the bigger challenge lies with spending time with the people in our lives that are suffering. I hope each of us find within ourselves the grace and the patience and the compassion our loved ones need and deserve. Peace out….

Shades of Gray

There are so many shades of gray in every situation. Often, and I would say 99.9% of the time, nothing is clear cut. If only life were so simple. Every human being is made up of the vast number of experiences he or she has had. Some are positive experiences and the more of these a person has, it seems to me, the more likely that person will be open-minded and fair.  Of course, negative experiences are life’s way of helping us learn whatever lesson it is we need to learn. And hopefully we do learn. Years ago I studied journalism and later political science and communications. I learned a lot and I am grateful for that. Not everybody has the opportunity to take courses or avail themselves of “higher” education.  But we all have the opportunity to be widely read; to learn more about the lived reality of the citizens of our country and others.

Unfortunately too many people neither care nor are interested in learning more. Too many take the so-called facts pandered by the media (and especially social media) as gospel truths when in reality we are being given only a small portion of the story. Regretfully these are made up of sensational headlines designed to gain attention. They lead to fear mongering as well as hate and discontent.

It’s been said, “ignorance is bliss”, perhaps this is so, but it also leads to misunderstandings and hardness of heart. It has also been said that “knowledge is power” and I think this is true.  At least it gives us the power to form our own opinions and not be so easily led by others.  Information can lead to a better world, but we must be wary of where that information comes from.

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!

Honouring those who have gone before me

“We ourselves can die with comfort and even joy if we know that death is but a passport to blessedness, that this intellect freed from all material chains, shall rise and shine.” – Matthew Simpson –

Recently our family lost a wonderful man, my Uncle,  and I have been coping with the grief of his loss. Death comes to each of us sooner or later. That is a sad fact of life. And we each deal with its sting in our own individual ways. Personally, I prefer to celebrate the lives of those who have gone before me. For every man, woman, and child leaves behind their acts of human kindness, however small of measure.

Death has been part of my life from an early age. I was not yet four years old when my infant sister died. People may say what kindness could a babe so small have given? Well, I remember holding her. I remember her gaze locked with mine. I remember the peace and love that emanated from her like a warm fire on a winter’s evening. She was so tiny, so perfect, and yet capable of giving and receiving love.

A few years later my three year old cousin died. I remember looking into her casket and sighing saying, “but she looks just like an angel”.  My child’s mind equated pictures I had seen of angels with golden hair and fairest faces, just like my little cousin. I see her still in my mind’s eye and remember the stories told of her gentleness. Death visited our family once again soon after when my grandmother’s brother passed away. This great-uncle was a frequent visitor to our house where he would sit quietly and patiently while my mother moved about the kitchen seeing to his needs as well as the needs of her children. I remember best his quiet presence that invited calmness and serenity.

I was twelve when a friend from school was killed in an automobile accident. She was a year ahead of me in school and took it upon herself to protect me from a bully and any unpleasantness. Wise beyond her years, she helped me realize how unhappy the bully was and how I should not take it personally while simultaneously not allowing them to cause me any real harm. She remains one of my heroes.

Since childhood my grandparents, as well as my parents have died and a bit later my baby niece and then my sister’s sons within six months of one another. Death has also claimed friends, cousins, aunts and uncles and with each death I am rocked with loss and pain once again. ‘Time heals all wounds’ or so they say but some wounds go deep and take much longer to heal. And, again, it is a very personal and individual thing. For me it is a comfort to turn the memories over in my mind; to listen to music once shared; to gaze upon photographs of those who are no longer physically here. They will live on as long as we do not forget them, as long as we tell the stories of their lives and celebrate anew loving kindnesses given. I believe my loved ones have risen and shine on – on the other side of the veil where sadness is no more.