Me, I'm not so good at that. I shudder, lurch, trip and stumble into another speed. I am a car with a badly adjusted transmission. Stopping before the red light, but just barely. In early November, after 3 weeks of working stupid hours at work and at home, I was at a loss. There was nothing on my to do list. It seemed I had no purpose, no meaning. I spent a Saturday, doing more or less nothing, but feeling like I should, I ought, I must, be frantically busy.
Perhaps my struggle with transitions stems from a seeming inability to be kind to myself -My ridiculous expectations of myself, that I will be busy and smart and organized and kind and merciful, with a clean house, home cooked meals, 15 well behaved children and a dog that doesn't eat chocolate.
That song from Annie - "The sun will come up tomorrow", isn't it all about what we already know? The sun will come up tomorrow. How do I want to deal with it? After the decisions are made, the die is cast, what do you do next? When the next steps aren't clear, when the pace of life changes suddenly, abruptly, what do you do? How do you keep from stumbling? Adjust the cadence of your steps? How do you learn this? Who teaches it?
And life, it seems like it is all about transitions. Growing up, changing, moving, getting married, having babies, getting old, we are constantly in transition. Each day is a transition, as I accept that what's done is done, and about all I can do is try harder the next day.
But I wonder, I have lived the last year in huge transitions, not quite a mother, not quite barren, seeming too full of grief, then feeling like I should be over it - I never seem to be where I should be, when others expect me there. I never seem to be where I expect me to be.
And I am thinking about transitions as we move into the new year.
And I wonder, will transitions always be like this?
Are any of you any better?
Part the first:
yep, I ate too much chocolate, too much fat, vats of mashed potato's, and realized that however good my wild rice stuffing might be, you really need bread based stuffing for sandwiches, to put next to the turkey.
I got a new bathrobe, 2 new buildings for my Christmas Village - Spitville now has a shoe store (!) and a department store with my last name that I have wanted for the last several years.
Oh, and the miraculous gift - a Cricut.
So, c'mon tell us, what did you get?
Part the Second:
DeAr mRs. MaRthA:
I iZzz VeeRy SoRy. I IZ BaaaaaD DogggLe. i Eatz aLLL tHe ChOclIt u SenZ MUmmY. I Iz soRy. I gO tO CorNeR (aNd to BaThROom, toO) AnD bE SaDz. VeRY SaDz. I tElL MuMMy is NumMy. ShE gEtZ mor MaDz.
(Dear Martha, mum is sorry too, we thought that having it in the centre of the kitchen table, far out of the reach of mastiff nose's would be sufficient, but apparently See's is just that good, and her nose found it. All that was left was a few small! pieces of wrapping. Sigh. Sorry to be so careless with such a thoughtful and wonderful gift.)
This week to Nikki who decided to add some meaning to her Christmas season. We would all understand if she chose to face this Christmas Season by crawling into a hole and pulling the ground over her, but she didn't. She chose to give back, to give of herself, to connect with gratitude.
Days on days, hour and after hour, blank. For someone like me, who always has a plan, a list, an idea, something to do, this is both bewildering and disturbing. It is disorientating, to think that I somehow have lost the better part of 60 days. As my mother remarked, why would I want to remember them. Some sorts of pain are likely better forgotten, left in the world a a mind fragmented by grief. At any rate, whether or not the immediate pain of losing your son is best left in the past, is not the point of this post.
I remember the Christmas Eve service last year, probably better than I remember most things. I remember the hymns and the readings. Perhaps the liturgy helps, after all, the service for Christmas eve has been the same for all of the time I remember.
But, I remember the remarks of 2 people. A woman who sat behind me, and at the passing of the peace, she held both my hands in hers and told me "Next year. We'll pray for a baby for you next year." Now, I realize that for some of you, this would be horrendous pain, but for me, it was the first time that anyone had held out hope for something other than this pain. It was the first time that someone reminded me, in the words of the psalmist, weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. It was the first time I realized that there might be something in my life other than unrelenting agony.
There's a guy in my church, and I don't mind calling him a guy, because that's what his title in our youth group is. He's the resident "wise guy". Which is more than a play on words, but it's an accurate description of him. He's wise. And I remember this wise guy, talking about losing his children years before, as a result of a relationship gone sour. It was not the same he told me, but in his eyes, I could see that he got it.
"Hold on to me children, there are better days ahead." He told us that he had been praying for us during the service, and these words had popped into his mind and heart, and he wanted us to know what God was saying. At the time, I put the 2 comments together, and I decided that better times must equal another baby. At the time, Mr. Spit desperately wanted me to get pregnant, and I equally desperately wanted to adopt, not ever wanting to be pregnant again.
I had all but forgotten these words in the last few months. Perhaps because church has become, all to often, a real source of pain, perhaps because we feel abandoned by our congregation, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
But, I stood in church on Wednesday night, and I heard the verse announcing the birth, and I remembered.
There is, in spite of a few months of trying now, still not a baby. But I am learning, slowly, tentatively, better days do not refer to the removal of my pain, rather they refer to my ability to cope with it, to alter myself as a result of it, to integrate it into my life, physical and spiritual, and to abide.
Better days indeed.
Anyway, I can usually be heard to comment on something that one of you has been up to. I might talk about a good thing, or I might comment that someone had a rough day, or the lunacy of something (Jenn being maced, and Martha (God bless her sanity) painting her house scant days before Christmas).
And sometimes, if it is not a name that Mr. Spit hears often, or if I use your real name, and not your screen name, then Mr. Spit will look at me, with this look of apprehension bordering on fear.
There is a person, and clearly I know them really quite well, well enough to be concerned or sad or overjoyed for them, and Mr. Spit has No. Idea. Of. Whom. I. Am. Talking. About.
It's the nightmare of every husband, I suspect. Especially Mr. Spit who is probably better at relating to others than I am. So, after I have rattled on for a bit, I will catch the confused look, and I will tell him. There are 104 of you in my blog reader. It might be hard for him to keep you all straight.
I might call you one of the people in my blog. Alternatively, you might be abbreviated as "blog lady". You might be categorized, you might be "Hannah's Mum, or Devin's Mum or Callum's Mum". You might be named by where you live - she's the one in Wisconsin or on the East Coast, Alicia in Calgary, Glo here in Edmonton and Loribeth in Toronto. You might be Susan, who wants to marry me, or Excavator and Julia, who always make me think. You might be JuliaS, who is not the other Julia, and apparently has men get "touchy" in the choir!
You might be Jen or Trish, with the wee babe, or Antigone, whose Persus is taking his sweet time. You might be one of my engineering women, who work with things like Mango's and send me cool articles. You might be Jane in the UK, who works with the brownies. You might be Brown Owl, named for her mum, that went home to heaven this spring, and is busy with Gabe and her own wee Grandchild. For Sam and Martha, you are forever known as the people who send us Chocolate. Two Hands is the midwife. Some of you are now known as Toby's. We presently think Geohede is crazy for moving on Saturday, with Twins. You might be You might be JamieD, Carbon or someone else whose cycle I track as closely as my own, saying my prayers for you each month, and shaking my fist at God when you post about CD1.
You get the point. You are mentioned and loved and cared for and followed. It is my great good fortune to be a part of your lives, my tremendous privilege and honour to share in your world.
Christmas is many things to all of us, to some it is a time of wonder and merriment, for others, it is a time of sad and sober reflection, wishing the new year would bring them something different. Some will be glad to kick the old year to the curb.
To all of you, and yours, whatever your location or label,
Mr. & Mrs. Spit
Delta, Maggie, Toby and Koda (and Gabriel in heaven)
Singing came as a surprise to me, when I arrived at boarding school. Perhaps no more of a surprise than the 100km hike that started the year, or the care and feeding of 50 chickens, until they went to slaughter, right before Thanksgiving. (Exactly how chickens died was also a surprise) Singing was not optional, although the choir master probably wished it was, at least when it came to me.
I am told that there's a period in the development of young children, when they learn to sing, when they learn about the difference between notes, when they learn to differentiate between tones. Coincidentally, at that same time, I was deaf, from peri-tonsillitis. It may not be my fault, but I am told that I sing an almost perfect fourth above or below the note I should be singing.
While I am particularly enthusiastic about singing, I'm not gifted. Sticking me in the alto section was very likely, at least in part, a way of burying my voice. I don't think it matters all that much that your voice is way off, when you are humming.
So there I was, 17, with a boyfriend in the audience, with my blazer and my kilt, and my profoundly ugly school tie, singing about gardens at a Christmas(?) concert. More specifically, since I had a lot of time to consider, I realized I was signing about someone plucking blushing roses from a sweet maiden's garden.
And at that moment - that exact moment - when I realized that perhaps, oh, just perhaps, this song was not so much about gardening.
In an overheated church, in my kilt, with my boyfriend, sitting next to my mother, in the second row, smiling at me. The Christmas concert. He'd realized the song wasn't about gardens either.
I stopped singing. In the middle of a line, I stopped singing. I started thinking about the words. Then I tried to stop thinking about the words. Telling myself to "get hold". Telling myself to keep singing. But I kept looking at the words, and then I started gasping for air. Readers, I tried so hard not to howl with laughter. My face turned as red as my hair, I waved my music folder in front of me, tugging desperately on the ugly school tie. The choir master, looking at me, first with confusion, then consternation, then condemnation.
Alas, I dropped to my knees, out of sight of the audience, my strangled laughter rising above the soprano's, who busy carrying the tune.
And then the person next to me, well, she clued in. And before we could get to the second verse, the verse which includes the line "O grant me the pleasure for which I fondly sigh", it suddenly seemed as if 60 young women clued in to what this song was about. Or, at least what it was not about.
And that my friends, is why I spent the first evening back, sitting in the headmaster's office, Accused of fermenting a riot and trying to explain how I had managed to ruin the concert. Should you find yourself in this position, I would tell you that the best defense is not necessarily a good offence, and telling your head master it was a stupid and suggestive choice, and that if he would let you sing soprano, you would not have time to consider what the words meant.
O Come all Ye Faithful, anyone?
circa 1860 or so
Yes, I'd like to see the lyrics.
Given to those who perform silent but heroic acts. Those that would never think of praising themselves. Those who work hard to make the world a better kind of place, just by virtue of who they are and the decisions they make. For those who are much like Sir Toby, shy and quiet, but always available to purr.
Are always gratefully accepted and can be sent to the email on my profile page.
And yet, in that slumber, the 21st, the solstice, it is the start of something. Starting in September, we northerners begin to lose the sun. It gets darker and darker, earlier and earlier. We lose sight of the summer, our memories clouded in cold and dark.
I bid my son farewell in the language, in the liturgy, of my ancestors. Using the words of those before me, using the same form as the words that tied his father and I together on our wedding day, the same verses that sped my father on his way home, we came to bid good-bye to Gabriel on the shortest day of the year.
On my wedding day, I remember the church doors opening as the congregation began singing the first verse.
For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love from which from our birth, over and around us lies. Lord of all, to thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise.I remember my broken spirit unable to give words to the hymn. Not resplendent in a white wedding dress; rather small and broken, in a navy blue suit, hiding arms covered with bruises and needle marks.
I remember his God Parents, reaching back to the words of Job. Some of the most triumphant words in the Old Testament, spoken with such quiet sadness.
I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my flesh is stripped from me, yet in my body I will see God.I can hear Regula's voice as she read the Gospel, My adopted grandmother's voice stumbling as she read Revelations, perhaps unable to believe that any hand could wipe the tears from our eyes, wishing we were already in that land of no more death.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
I remember the words at the end:
On the shortest day of the year, a day in which death seems so imminent, so powerful, so crushing and cruel, on that day, we said good-bye.
Into your hands, O merciful Saviour, we commend your servant Gabriel. Acknowledge, we pray, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.
On the day the old year could be said to end, and a new sunrise, a new season to take its place: we proclaimed Gabriel's birth in heaven. We spoke about light, not darkness. On that day, our broken hearts and faint voices stood up and proclaimed the power of the Resurrection. On that day, we proclaimed that Gabriel was gone from our arms, but was entirely safe and alive in God's hands.
Alleluia Gabe. Spring is just around the corner.
You only are immortal, the creator and maker of all; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and to earth shall we return. For so did you ordain when you created me, saying, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
(toby awards on monday)
A Ph.D who explains the difference between which and that, and does it with diagrams.
I will be honest, this is not my first choice. I'm forcing myself to remember about making choices and choosing attitude and re-joining the world of the living. I'm forcing myself to remember that just because life isn't how I imagined it, how I wanted it, doesn't mean it can't be good. As I downloaded the service, I thought about my words yesterday:
I have accepted that grief is a thing that takes just a bit from us each day,asking us, reminding us, forcing us to surrender a bit more of our hearts each time it comes to call.I was accused a few months ago, of not showing grace to someone. No, that's not quite right. I was not accused. Someone told me I didn't show grace, and they were entirely correct - I didn't. And those words have stayed with me. They have bothered me. In quiet moments, I have taken them out and held them up and looked at them.
My first thought was to look at this person, and think "Grace? You have the audacity to speak about grace? Well, let me tell you about grace." And truthfully, if we got the same amount of grace that we showed others, this person would be into negative grace. It is particularly galling to have your sins pointed out to you by one of the coldest and most thoughtless people you know.
And then I thought about humility. You see, I have learned a lot about humility in the last 12 months. In fact, the last 12 months have been, in one way or another, all about humility. Humility has been Gabe's lessons to his mum - I am learning a lesson about cost and pain and grace.
I learned something shortly after Gabriel died. We are all broken. All of us. We all carry about pain and sorrow and tragedy in our lives. In every life, something is less than perfect. It just so happened, on the 10th of December, 2007, Mr. Spit and I became visibly broken. Beyond all semblance of holding it together, broken. Beyond trying to fake it until we made it, broken. Just plain, completely and utterly broken.
But, in actual fact, Mr. Spit and I are no more broken than many others. No more broken, no more deserving of grace than all of us are. No more broken and no more in need of grace than all of us.
As I search for meaning, struggle to understand why my baby died, and why I have to keep giving up dreams, I have been thinking about the words in Luke 12:48. Essentially, they say that when someone has been given much, much will be required of them in return. I do not often, or easily, think of Gabriel's death as giving me something.
The loss, I will dryly admit, seems to suggest that much more has been taken away.
And yet, out of my own pain and sorrow and tragedy, I have learned how the pain and sorrow and tragedy of others feels. My eyes are opened to the Kingdom of God that is within us. To the need for mercy and grace. Much has been given to me, even though I didn't not want it. Indeed, this gift, it rests uneasily within me still. The Kingdom is still touch and go with me. You will note that I was far from it yesterday, even as I was searching for it. I am, though, aware of the Kingdom of God, and my need of it.
I read Mark 12 this morning, thinking about the Kingdom of God. In the verse, a teacher challenges Jesus, asking him what the most important commandment was. Jesus gives us 2: to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and souls and minds, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.
The teacher asking the original question goes on to note that this love was more important to God than all the sacrifices in the world. Indeed, Jesus tells this teacher and us, that when we hang on those rules, we are not far from the Kingdom of God.
In the Kingdom of God, I am learning there is both the strength and the serenity to go and buy the Festival of Lessons and Carols on iTunes, and listen on my couch. I am learning that grace matters more than I could ever say. Thank you all for showing so much of it to me.
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.
I am trying to find a church that is hosting a Festival of Lessons and Carols.
I don't know when the Festival of Lessons and Carols became a part of my own, private Christmas celebration. Probably when I was in high school, in a choir, and we sang it. You are familiar with the liturgy for this celebration if you have heard Handel's Messiah.
In a supposedly joyous season, where every single thing has been a grind for us, where every single Christmas activity has made me want to duck for cover, where the sights and the sounds of the season remind me that I should have a 9 month old baby, and not an urn, I feel so terribly alone. In a room full of people, I am lonely.
About the only thing I was looking forward to was the Festival of Lessons and Carols our church was doing. It's not about my child or your child, it's about the Christ Child. It's about waiting and longing and celebration. Joy and repentance. It's about where I was at this year. It's about reconnecting to tradition. To the roots of my faith.
Except, not this year, at my church. This year, it's an advent pageant. With a set of parents and a brand new baby. A set of parents that in the 5 years we have been trying, have managed to have 3 kids. And suddenly the Festival of Lessons and Carols is almost entirely about children - the lack of children, other people's children, and quite without realizing or intending, our Church has left Mr. Spit and I behind. It's no one's fault, no one did anything wrong, it is simply what it is.
We were thankful for the advance warning, thankful for the person who warned us about the new parents and new baby, not sure if this would affect us. And while I might like to rage about a "kindergartenopoly" or to talk about the need to be sensitive to those who have something other than the traditional family, it won't change anything, and I'm not sure that anyone could change anything.
But we are left: tired, beleaguered, defeated, unwelcome. We will stay home again, as we did on Mother's Day, Father's Day, as we did when we knew a new father would be introducing his child. I will forgo a thing I love, because it has been altered past my understanding, into a source of great pain.
I have tried to make this blog post something other than it is. I have tried to find a lesson, a moral, even a witty observation. I have tried to find something good in this situation.
And I have nothing. I have the memory of driving home last Sunday, looking at Mr. Spit and shrugging. "I guess we aren't going to church next weekend". I am left with the same thoughts running through my head.
The death of Gabriel was hard, but it was only the beginning of hard. I have given up my hopes, my dreams, my belief in a certain kind of future. I have accepted that I will always be, even just a little bit, sad. I have accepted that I am a pariah of sorts, both in a church filled with children, and with my other relationships. It turns out that against all odds, people are convinced that dead baby is catching.
I have accepted that grief is a thing that takes just a bit from us each day, asking us, reminding us, forcing us to surrender a bit more of our hearts each time it comes to call.
And honestly? I'm mad and tired. This post is sad and pathetic and decidedly whinge-y. This was the one thing I wanted. You could keep your presents and your turkey and too many people, and Christmas parties and the lights on my house. You could keep watching the Sound of Music and listening to the Queen's message on the radio and making tourtiere on Christmas eve.
All I wanted was the Festival of Lessons and Carols. All I wanted was Once in Royal David's City and the words of John, about my Lord becoming flesh and words. All I wanted was to sing in the Bleak Midwinter and to hear about people walking in darkness seeing a great light.
I'm tired of death stopping for Mr. Spit and I.
It's here, the night of the event. What do you need to think about? Perhaps it's just me, but I walk through my house, considering each of the rooms, and then I walk through the sequence of the evening, and contemplate what I might need at each step. Here's the highlights.
1. Is it clean? No really, I'm serious. Not sparkling, not eat off the floor, but it should look neat. Yes, it's perfectly permissible to pile everything in your master bedroom, and close the door. I will point out, from sad experience, at the end of the night, when you are completely exhausted, you are going to have to move all of that stuff. Struggling to deal with this, I'd take a look at this lady. I'm a fan.
2. The kitchen - look dear readers, here's my take on it. If you have an open plan house, your kitchen better look clean. Obviously there is food prep going on. But honestly, I have been seriously turned off by more than 1 12 foot high pile of dishes in the sink, and a garbage can overflowing.
3. The front entrance and hall - want to know a secret? Clean this really well, and tidy up the rest of the house, and your guests will think that you are a Martha wannabe. Seriously, inviting front entrance, people fill in the blanks in the rest of the house. Also, in the front entrance, do you have space for coats and shoes? Clear off the coat rack, clear off the shoe rack, or make your spouse responsible for taking their coats to a (clean!) bedroom.(1)
4. The bathroom. Is it clean? Under the seat too? Have you hidden away anything you might not want other's to see?
Here's the thing. Guests should never open a closed space. Never. And if you happen to see something, out in the open, or in a closed space, that, shall we say, perks your interest, YOU DON'T SAY A WORD. I mean it. Go home and tell your husband. Tell your dog. Under no circumstances do you make comments about medication left on the counter, or pregnancy tests in the waste basket, or what have you. I assure you, if they wanted to discuss it with you, they would have. Having said that, stop this horrible situation by simply looking at your bathroom as a guest would.
Provide soap, a clean hand towel (I don't want to use your possibly used bath towel, I'm picky that way), an extra roll of toilet paper, deodorizing spray, and a garbage can. No really, I can't emphasize the garbage can enough. My mother is a type one diabetic, and there is nothing that horrifies her more than to have to locate her hostess to dispose of her needles (they are safe for garbage disposal) and her testing strips. Put a garbage can in there.
4. If you aren't heading right into dinner - the room you are stuffing your guests in.
Is this room clean? Are there enough seats? Coasters for drinks? If dinner is going to be a bit, do you have some nibblies for your guests? Having nibblies can stave off rioting guests (and I guarantee Uncle Fester is more cheerful with some food in his tummy.)
If you have pets, do you have a plan for them? Any pet might get nervous with multiple people around them. They might cope best if they are in another room.
The Sequence of The Evening:
Have you thought about what is happening, and when? Walk through the evening in your mind, from the guests arriving, to seating everyone, to toasts, serving dinner, dessert, conversation afterward.
Think about each step, and what you will need. Do you have all of your place settings, do you have a place to hang coats. Do you have the centerpiece, and have you taken the buns out of the oven? (2)
Next Column will be on December 31, and it's all about sticky situations with guests.
Your homework is to tell me about a sticky situation(3)
(1) No really, about the clean - at the end of the night, they will want to go and fetch their coat, and you will be too tired to throw yourself bodily across the door to stop. them. from. going. in. there.
(2) Not that I have ever done this and needed a fire extinguisher. Nope, not me.
(3) Because Mrs. Spit has no experience with difficult guests.
It's called Core Rhythms. It's going to strengthen our back and abdomen muscles.
I can even do it pregnant.
Everyone with me.
You shouldn't have. No. Really. You SHOULDN'T have.
What are you looking forward to, under the tree?
Now, you see, when they offered me a choice of classes - I actually chose to take the grade nine's. I really like teenagers. No, really, I do. They can be a bit of a handful, but they are smart and have a great sense of justice, they like new ideas (but not change) and if you can get them interested, they care so much about the world.
They told me it was a class of 17, but 3 students were absent today. I thought that seemed really small.
They told me, as I was about to go into this class that they were "special ed". Actually they told me they were "K and E". I nodded dumbly. I didn't know what K and E might mean. I still don't. But I think I have a pretty good idea now.
I had 3 kids that fell asleep, but that was ok, since they couldn't hit, poke or talk to someone while they were sleeping. I didn't feel any urge to wake them up.
They promised me that there would always be an adult in the room. Their homeroom teacher told me "they were much better". They used to be much worse.
They didn't tell me that they were like overheated popcorn, liable to explode at any moment. They didn't tell me that "protection" was not a safe word to use with teenage boys. I knew about not talking about things that were even remotely sexual or related to undergarments, but protection? There's a problem talking about protection?
Oh, and did I mention about how they left me alone with them? In the gym? With basketballs and lacrosse sticks? yeah. . . . .
I'm going back to my drink.
Thanks for your prayers, they availed much. After all, I didn't swear.
- I stood in line behind a guy, at the
Second Cuplow altar of caffeine. He asked for a hazelnut latte (blech!) with triple cream. The store clerk and I were both very confused about what triple cream might be. He was insistent that he always got it. Anyone? What's triple cream in a latte?
- It is time for the creme de la creme on
Stirrup QueensThe Mother Ship. I am supposed to post my best post. I don't have any idea of which one that might be. Anyone? Readers Choice?
- I have an idea for a Christmas blog. Much like Mel's show and tell - pick an object, a recipe, a decoration, a tradition, find a way to represent it pictorially, and then write a blog post, to be published Christmas Day, with an explanation of what it means to you. I know I'm not the only person not looking forward to Christmas this year, and I thought if I could reach back to happy memories, that might help. Thoughts?
- Ok, I lied. One last request. As you read this, I am standing in front of 30 Grade 9's (15 year olds), teaching a Junior Achievement class. Could you pray, sacrifice burnt offerings, send up good thoughts to the universe that they don't throw things at me, and that I don't swear in front of them? (As soon as the lady said don't swear, I suddenly became convinced that I'm going to)
Thanks, and have a great day!
She started this process in September, and tonight, she is struggling a bit. The base line, she tells me, moves notes unpredictably, and she just can't seem to get the hang of this song. The strings make awkward notes, and her fingers hurt from uncomfortable and unfamiliar movements.
It sounds funny, she says. Small and tin-ny and lacking something. She is one small instrument and not so practiced either. It does not help that there are no words, and only the music for one instrument. She cannot get a sense of timing or syncopation, and me trying to sing along is not helping.
She does not know of Beethoven, of towering cathedrals that require a great amount of music to fill them. She has never stood at a funeral for a much beloved lady, who brought such joy to the world. We sang her Ode to Joy, to speed her way home to our Father. We sang of joy to remind others, and ourselves, of the joy that is in this world, even in the midst of death and sorrow. We sang the hymn to remind ourselves that there is joy that outlives death, that death is not the end, and the promise and power of Resurrection is stronger. She does not know that there is a set of words that are different from the "Joyful, Joyful we adore thee" set that many of us know. That the old lyrics are poetry and power.
I don't play at all, but I want her to understand something of the power of the song. I cannot bring her to that funeral, but I want to reach into the soul of a 15 year old young woman, a young woman who is wholly remarkable and smart and kind and funny, and on the cusp of being a woman. A young woman who, as a result of a stupid and senseless and tragic accident had to say good-bye to her father long before she should have.
I want her to understand something of resiliency, of courage and strength. Characteristics that will serve her in her life, but are taught in the process of learning to play a piece of music. I want her to understand that even when you are only a small instrument, you play with all your heart, and somehow the creator of the universe plugs you into his world, and your tune is larger and louder and carries more weight.
And so I dig - into my CD collection first, and then on iTunes and I find her a copy of it - the entire Red Army Choir, singing the song.
I tell her to sit, and I turn it up.
She listens, and nods.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watch her, again picking at her guitar strings. Plugging back in.
I suppose we could say, that as I walked into a new room on the maternity floor, as they offered me a room on the gynecology floor, the geriatric floor, any floor but "that" floor - the post-partum ward - I suppose as I smiled at them and told them there were still babies in the world, and I would just have to get used to it, bear it, I suppose that we could say today was the first day of the rest of my life.
I tell people, others in this situation that it doesn't get better, but it does get easier. I believe that still. There came a point, a few weeks ago, when I realized that if a one year anniversary meant anything, it meant that this was forever. It meant that the days I was surviving to face would pass, however I chose to mark them. I was looking at the rest of my life, knowing that I would always miss Gabriel. If there is a choice to be had, it is how I will live, how I will remember and honour and find meaning.
I will spend the rest of my life living in dead baby land. Perhaps I will inhabit other lands too, I am always a wife, a friend, an employee, a volunteer and a child of God. And I am always Gabriel's mother. By virtue of our connection, by virtue of his short life, I shall always spend time in this place. Part of me is here.
Heaven became real to me for the first time when my niece's mum died. I remembered Carrie at her daughter's wedding. She was so vibrant, so full of life, so in love with the world. I remember her dancing, throwing her hands in the air, shouting "Opa!", looking around at all of us, inviting us into her joy.
I woke up one year ago this morning, and realized that my son was there. And I wondered if Carrie, if my grandmother, my aunts, dear friends, my father, had rushed to greet him. I wondered if his great-grandparents were there, waiting for him, if Christ himself had woken them up that night, and told them to come, to watch, to be ready. I wonder if heaven held their breath.
I wonder if those who have gone before were waiting. That as soon as he left our sight, our world, in another world, another place they were taking up the cheer. They were whispering and shouting, "he's coming, he's here." I believe they waited that night, waiting for their grandson, their nephew, their great-grandson, their cousin, their grandnephew, their beloved friend's babe. I believe they scooped him up and held him, told him it would only seem a moment until we were there again. I believe a community awaited him, whispering in his ear, singing him lullabies, providing love and comfort. I believe they hold him still, telling him of our families, our stories, telling him of who we are.
This is the last of the advent reflections. It does not mean that this time is necessarily over, only that we have traversed this particular portion of the land of grief, with your help. One year has passed, and as I chose on the 11th last year, I must again choose life. I must again choose to live in this world, take part, give back. Use my days wisely, until I am called home. There is still work to do, even for a broken woman. I must again chose to believe that God knows more than I do, hearing and believing:
I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. (Job 19:25-26)
Advent too, is a time of waiting together for something monumental to happen. It is a time of knowing, but still of waiting, wondering, abiding. In much the same way have I heard your voices and your prayers. In much the same way have you walked this path with us, slowly, carefully, mindfully. Abiding. In much the same way have all of you held out hope that there is another side to this land, that as terrible as my memories are, you are with us, and Mr. Spit and I are not alone.
I have come through the memories of this time, marked by words and prayers, your emails and phone calls and memento's, flowers and your tears. Marked by the many of you that have borne silent witness. We owe debts that we cannot repay. Please, do not think for a moment that Mr. Spit and I are not aware of this.
A light has shone in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
And if there must be a lesson to Gabriel's short life, I suspect this should suit.
We sang the song, wishing you were here to hear us, even when we could barely carry the tune.
But behind us, we heard a whole host of voices. We are not the only ones signing.
When our voices fail, there are always those behind us.
They tell me that the Lord gives and he takes away.
And I am to bless his name.
I was a mother, and then my son was gone.
Blessed be the mother of sons, they say.
And I am, just barely, mummy.
My mind is full.
Words that will never escape your lips.
There will be no kisses for mummy.
No flowers in your chubby hands.
rather blood and fear and sorrow.
The joy of creation barely welled up on my lips.
I barely had time to praise His name, your name,
Before the gall of sorrow, it over took me.
In Him was the light, and in you was our light,
and a light shone in the darkness, and the darkness
did not understand it.
Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh
A piece of my heart,
My treasure, in heaven
Dear friends and loved ones,
With great joy and heartbreak, we wish to announce: at 10:26 PM on December 10, 2007, Gabriel Anton was born into the hands of Cathy, his midwife, sang to in the arms of his mother, rocked in the arms of his father, bathed in the arms of his grandmother, and baptized in the arms of Regula, his Parish Priest.
At just after 11 PM, he was carried to Heaven in the arms of the angels, where we will meet him again one day.
At 520 grams (1 pound 2.4 ounces), and 33 cm (13 inches) he was wee, with 10 fingers and toes, and a full head of hair. He was a perfect, but very tiny baby.
Many of you have asked how you can help. Until now, we didn't know how important it would be for us to talk to you about Gabriel. You can help us by allowing us to share in the magic and the sorrow of Gabriel's life. Please ask us questions and let us tell you how we feel. It will take time, but your support will help us to continue living and remembering our precious baby, Gabriel.
We will welcome your visits. Please don't feel the need to find the perfect words to say, there are no good words, and that's okay.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
In Christ's love,
Cheryl and Owen
Mostly just the chorus.
Good-bye my friends, it's hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky.
Now that spring is in the air
Pretty girls are everywhere
Think of me and I'll be there.
And I remember this day, in snatches. I remember my mother having me up and walking - to bring the labour pains faster. I remember sitting in the cafeteria and seeing a classmate from high school, now a nurse. Turning my body so that she would not see me.
I didn't know how to tell her, what to say. That I was pregnant but dying, and waiting for a baby to come, a baby that wouldn't live?
Normally, you see, labour is about anticipation. It's about bringing a baby into this world. The child who became Gabriel, a child whose gender we didn't even know. I was convinced that this was a girl. And I remember the discussion about names. Gabriel as a girl was to be Eleanor-May Genvieve. The Genevieve for my best friend. And suddenly I realized that this was a different baby, a different expectation, a different life, and this baby needed a name of their own. I picked out a girls name, and Mr. Spit chose a boy's name.
I remember weeping in the shower, and my mother trying to comfort me. But there was no comfort. The tears, however empty, however powerless to change anything, they were the only escape of the agony.
I remember the pain increased throughout the day, the feeling of cramping. Telling the nurse, and her quiet hand, telling me this was good. Good, I thought? What could be good about this? Nothing about this was as it should be. Around me I heard the cries of babies. I had been warned that Gabriel would be born still and silent.
I remember the blood tests, every 4 hours, the increasing doses of blood pressure drugs. My resting BP increasing. Loading doses. A note on the door to check with the nurses station before seeing me. A friend that came by to pray, and my mum telling her we didn't want company. This was too much for us, we needed to hold together and wait.
I remember my mother's panic and exhaustion. I remember never being afraid for my life. I remember residents and doctors parading in and out, nurses changing shift. I remember the nurse who sat for a while, stroking my hand, telling me that she was sorry.
I remember care and concern and mercy.
Even in the shadow lands, there is memory.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
People frequently assume that the 10th of December must have been the worst day of my life. I can see why - the day of my son's birth and death is a day filled with so many emotions. But it was not the worst day. That day was today.
The home care nurse arrived for my first appointment. And I failed the test to stay home. My blood pressure was too high and there was too much protein in my urine. And so I found myself back in the case room at the hospital. Laying on a narrow bed, shivering.
It seems strange when I think of it, that I would shiver. I am always warm. Always. But the coldness, it sunk it my very being. It did not matter the number of blankets they brought me, I shivered. It was not a physical coldness, but the weight of fear and sorrow and terror that had pervaded my very soul. It was cold in my heart.
I remember sitting on the bathroom floor at home that morning as Mr. Spit packed my bags and made phone calls, cancelling the meals that were to be arriving, letting others know that things had changed, again. I remember petting the dogs, and weeping, I just couldn't keep living with this sense of fear and dread and hopelessness. I remember sobbing that I couldn't keep doing this, that I couldn't be this powerless, this weak, this fragile.
It seems strange to me, but I don't recall a definitive moment when they told me this was the end of the road for Gabriel and I. It just seemed as if things got worse and worse, darker and darker, and I shivered more and more. Every test, the news was worse.
I remember trying to read The Shipping News, and when I look up from my computer, it sits on the shelf unread. I remember knitting Mr. Spit a cabled hat, but unable to concentrate on the stitches, unable to make my numb and swollen hands co-operate, form stitches.
I suppose the end was when the Perinatologist on call came in, with a better ultrasound machine. She ran the wand around my belly, and then reached over and turned off the machine. Handed me Kleenex to wipe the goop off.
I remember her sitting down. I imagine she took a deep breath. And I started hearing words. No amniotic fluid, the baby was sending all the blood to its brain, to keep itself alive. Baby had dropped 100 grams or so. My blood pressure. Low platelets, high urine. Kidneys failing. Baby dying. Me dying.
It seems strange, I should think those words, the words she used to tell me that it was time, this road had come to an end, it seemed as if I should remember those words, they should be etched into my very being.
And it is like a vacuum has sucked them out of my memory. I remember the last kick, but no memory of the words that signaled the end of Gabriel's life.
I remember discussing next steps. Phoning my mother, my midwife. I remember making decisions. Not to intubate, not to save my child. I remember the pain, gasping out the words that I didn't want him to suffer.
I remember the C-section vs. natural birth discussion, and the choice to try to do this on my own. I remember the offer, my mother's wish that I could just have this done, and I remembered the words in a Yarn Harlot story about it being a certain truth that a thing begun must be ended. I remembered the words from my school, that the end of the matter is better than its beginning.
I remember the God awful realization that God had given me my son on the 28th of June, and now he asked for him back. As the world around me celebrated Advent, this was Good Friday, and I was Mary by the cross. I would be Mary preparing her son for burial, one last act of service to a child my body brought forth. I remember the words to a worship song running through my head, lines about Blessed be the Name of the Lord, though there's pain in the offering.
I remember the phone calls I made, and the phone calls Mr. Spit made. I remember my best friend's cry of "No, surely there must be some hope". I remember telling her there was none, it had to be this way.
I remember my niece offering to get on a plane that night, friends offering to come to the hospital. I remember hushed discussions and my insistence that Mr. Spit bring the scrabble game from home.
I remember waiting for an IV pump, and a student nurse that I smiled at, and told her that she could practice her IV skills on me. I remember apologizing that I would be her first labour patient, wishing that she could have a happy memory for her first birth.
I remember my midwife and my mum. I remember my mum asking Cathy how long an induction would take, and I remember Cathy biting her lip and shaking her head. I remember her saying a long time, that my body would not so easily give up this child it sheltered.
I remember Cathy sitting with me, putting me in the shower. I remember the start of the Mag drip, and finally I remember Cathy reading this psalm to me, flipping the pages in my bible.
Testing 1, 2, 3,
Ok, we're good.
Now then, ladies and gentlemen.
I'd like to introduce a new feature here at Mrs. Spit Spouts Off.
The Toby Award
Given to those who perform silent but heroic acts.
Those that would never think of praising themselves.
Those who possibly don't even think of themselves as brave or heroic. Named after the Vinyl Cafe's Arthur awards - where in people nominate themselves, their family, their friends and even complete strangers for the award. The award celebrates the family dog - Arthur, and the quiet way he improves the life around him.
I awoke this morning to 26 pounds of cat on my feet. Toby is large and timid, but he shows up every night, for a pet and a drool (I pet him, he drools). His mission in life is simple - eat, drink, give love. It seemed appropriate to name these awards after him.
I have 2 nominees for this week.
C at My Resurfacing, who wrote about taking joy in some one's pregnancy. Who wrote so beautifully about extending a form of grace and mercy to a young woman who likely had not seen much of that. Who did so at a time when her heart is bruised and battered. Who did something at tremendous cost, and made the world a slightly better place. I doubt anyone around her realized that she had to dig deep, but I did.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you would join me in raising your glass to C. Who is lovely and brilliant and kind and gracious, and is doing so incredibly well at being Callum's mum, when it is a hard trudge, every single step of the way.
And Nominee Two:
Jane, from Pink Heebee. Jane is a Guider - that is she is responsible for a troop of Brownies, and a Troop of Guides. And as far as I am concerned, anyone who spends that amount of time working with children, completely without compensation, deserves a medal. It is those adults who work with our pre-teens that show them they have worth, that show them they matter, and that show them what it means to be a part of a community.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you would join me in raising your glass to Jane, who works tirelessly, to give this world's children a better lot in life, to teach them about kindness and gentleness and care and concern for the world around them, and does so quietly and often without thanks.
The Nomination Process
"I noticed that you haven't receieved any prenatal blood work, or your Diabetes screening and that you are under the care of the midwife."
Now, maybe it was because I had just received what the hospital called "breakfast" - which mostly just made me think that I wanted to continue fasting. Maybe it was that the nurses arrived every 2 hours to take my vitals, and then chastized me for not sleeping. I was a bit tetchy.
So, in she waltzed, with this delight in her eyes, that my midwife had screwed up. She was surprised when I went through the testing requirements and detailed why they hadn't been done (I was a plasma donor - I know what my blood type is, what Mr. Spit's is, I was immunized against Measels at the ripe old age of 23). She left, looking a bit defeated. I felt for her, because I was looking at my breakfast, and I was feeling defeated.
Then the perinatologist resident walked in. Indicating that my doctor was out of town, and that she had decided that I was not to be discharged today. Not at all. Nope, not going anywhere. Never mind that my OB was content with me being discharged, and the nurses felt that I should be discharged, and there was a home monitoring plan set up, nope - she didn't like this.
I could see the sign on the nursing station, asking doctor's to discharge their patients, and all I wanted to do was to go home.
Today, I remember as being a day of fighting. I didn't realize the fighting had only just begun.
Thank you to the many of you who told me to burn the damn thing. I shall drop my old coat off at the local shelter. However cathartic burning it might be, I cannot countenance that there are still far too many people in this city of mine, that are cold tonight. That do not have a jacket to keep the snow off their body.
I will send the jacket on its way, and pray that it is warmth and comfort to another. Perhaps the jacket shall be like it was when I bought it - warm and comfortable, filled with optimism and a sense that I looked young and hip and smart in it.
I have been thinking about dyeing wool today. It's what I did this time, one year ago. Only a few hours before I was diagnosed by my midwife, I had been in the local yarn store, purchasing Alpaca wool to knit her a shawl.
I was very particular about that shawl pattern. It had to be lady like. My midwife, is above all else, a lady. She is quietness and gentleness and strength itself. I knew from the get-go that I wanted to knit her something. It took me a long time (25 weeks to be exact) to decide. And finally, I decided. A shawl. Cathy just struck me as a shawl kind of lady. I had never knit a shawl before, but that's never stopped me. I'd never had a baby before either. I had joked that we had a trade system going. She was going to bring me a baby (preferably in her black bag), and I was going to give her something hand knit. Seemed a fair enough trade to me.
So, I walked into the store, looking for a shawl pattern. I was particular. It had to be pretty. It also had to be reasonably simple. Now, my yarn store is used to me, and they were surprised that I asked for a simple thing. I patted my belly and told them my brain had gone to pot. I laughed. Someone had asked for my mother's phone number the week before, and I had gone blank. Totally blank. Nope, I patted my belly and asked for something simple.
And then we started talking wool. Which actually, in the knitting world, means feeling wool. I touched and touched and touched. But I had a particular colour in my mind. There was nothing that suited, nothing that lived up to the colour of agate in my mind.
No problem. I purchased 3 skeins of pure white alpaca, and then 50 packages of grape kool-aide. Today I spent dyeing wool. Waiting for it to dry. Wondering, if this baby was coming early, wondering if I had enough time to knit. I told Gabriel that he had to wait long enough for me to get his midwife's shawl done, and something for him to wear home from the hospital, since he was no longer going to be born at home.
I had consulted Dr. Google, but only a little bit. I knew about low dose aspirin, but not eclamptic seizures or kidney failure or IUGR. I knew enough to be concerned, enough to keep myself busy and not think too much that day, as I waited to see the Doctor.
I was quite firm. "You wait. I'll tell you when you can come." I invoked the "this is your mum speaking" and I poked him, just to be sure that he was awake and listening.
The wool was waiting for me, when I came home, long since dried, on the back of my kitchen chair. Ready to be knit. It's strange how grape smells of broken promises and sorrow to me now.
Today, I'm stuck on a coat and pair of shoes.
It is not normal that Edmonton should be so warm in December. I have been able to cope without a jacket. And I have been pleased. Indeed, I have refused to wear my winter jacket and kindly, mother nature has co-operated. I have not had to go to this place, until today.
Every time I think about the jacket, think about fetching it from the basement, I have this image. Me, walking out of the hospital, without my son, wearing this suede jacket and a pair of blue crocs, that my feet barely fit in.
I am remembering swirling snow and cold, and seeing that couple at the nursing station strapping their brand new baby into the car seat.
I am remembering that horrible feeling, knowing that my heart was so empty and would never be full. I remember stopping to look back at the hospital, to the basement, where I knew the morgue would be, and realizing that I had left my son, for the last time. I would never see him again. This was the final good bye.
And I have this picture in my mind's eye, this picture of a broken and defeated woman, shuffling out the car in an old jacket, worn because it accommodated my protruding belly, and a pair of blue crocs because they fit her feet, and I can see her in the snow storm, head down, knowing her heart was broken beyond all repair.
I should like to dispose of the coat. Not to give it away, but to haul out my chimena in the back yard and burn it. To throw on the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and loneliness and sorrow and terror. To brush my hands of heart break. To attempt to redeem memories.
And it is my practical, frugal side. The side that remembers this coat, purchased in my first year of University, still in good shape, worn and loved. It is my practical side that tells me to be a grown up, wear the coat.
Get to put the button up. The rest of you, including Susan who wants to marry me (Mrs. Spit is thrilled to be asked, but must regretfully decline) must actually write a letter to someone for something, and report back in the comments.Now then, Today's Lesson, The Dinner Party.
It's amazing - the best dinner party I have been to did not have the most remarkable food, nor did it occur in the most glamorous location, but was the work of a wonderful hostess.
It was from her that I learned the most important part of etiquette, the underlying principal as it were - etiquette is not about me, it is about you. Etiquette is not about making yourself feel comfortable, it is about making those around you feel welcomed and treasured. Etiquette gives us all a set of rules about how to interact with each other, not so that we can beat each other up, but so that we can live peaceably, with a minimum of ruffled feathers. It gives us some underlying guidelines about how to act, and what to expect from others; therefore, when you aren't sure what to do in a given situation, don't go running to Emily Post, but rather, spend some time thinking about the other person.
Yes, tables are set in a particular way, toasts are given in a particular way(2), we write thank you cards (3), but we do these things to make other's lives more comfortable. Etiquette, at its very core, is a noble sort of sacrifice. It's a gift you give other's.
The etiquette mother would like you to know that 95% of the success of any event is in its planning. Read that again, dear readers. For those of you with a journalistic bent, you could consider the 5 W's.
- What - what is the scope of your event. A large gala? A small party? A holiday meal? We have all been to those meals where someone missed that it was Christmas and served day old pizza and stale beer. While this might have been perfectly acceptable at University, it palls a bit when we are grown ups. Are you doing a pot luck? What can people bring?
- Who - who is coming. Who do you plan on inviting? Take care to have a good mixture of guests. Have people who are well mannered, provide intelligent conversation, and won't upend their wine on your white carpet. Think about whether you want children, and if you do, what are you going to do to entertain them?(4). Try, whenever possible, to have an even match of men and women, and an even match of singles and couples.
- Where - where are you holding it. The facility - rented, your own home, a church basement, it does have an effect on what you can do and the number of people you invite. Mrs. Spit promises you that if you decide to invite 50 people to your 600 square foot house, Martha Stewart is not coming to build you a 1500 square foot addition. You need to cope with this dear reader.
- When - when will you be hosting it. This matters. Especially around Christmas. Think about the timing, what night of the week you are holding it, how much time you will have to prepare, what other's are doing. There is no point inviting the Queen to your dinner party on the 19th of June, she's at Ascot, and simply will not be able to attend, no matter how much it pains her to send regrets.
- Why - why are you having the dinner. Are you planning a gala? Did your best friend accept a Nobel Prize? Has your partner received a prestigious literary award?
The invitations. Sending them out in a reasonable time frame, and how you will communicate the invite. Mail? By hand? On the phone? How you send invitations conveys a sense of what the party will be like. If you wish to have them professionally printed, allow time for this.
There are a variety of ways to phrase an invitation. From the extremely formal version Mrs. Post uses, to a more casual phone invitation, inviting other's for a Superbowl party. However you wish to invite others, make sure you provide them information about when and where and whom they may bring. If the party has a purpose (a birthday, for example), should they bring a gift. The information about when and where and why are very important to guests. It dictates what style of behaviour they should use, how they should dress, and how long they should expect to be there. Clearly, what goes at the Superbowl party is not what goes at the dinner party for your Nobel Prize winning friend.
The Guests: Depending on what the purpose of your party is, will dictate your events. Unfortunately, with family, that means inviting Uncle Fester. I wish it wasn't so. Truly. I know all the off colour jokes, the abominable table manners, and the rude questions about money, jobs and children. I do. Alas, dear readers, Mrs. Spit has an Uncle Fester too.
Here are my suggestions - if Uncle Fester has a drinking problem, put one bottle of wine on the table. At the opposite end. Feign deafness when asked about alcohol.
Do not put Uncle Fester next to Aunt Myrtle. They don't like each other, they haven't liked each other since that terrible day in 1876, and this is not apt to be the Christmas that they finally reconcile. Seat them at other ends of the table. A very large table.
Don't egg Uncle Fester on. I know, it gives you a great story to tell your co-workers on boxing day, but it makes the rest of your guests contemplate burrowing through your floor with their dinner fork. If necessary, change the subject. Loudly. If they go back, remind them. "Uncle Fester, we are talking about 19th century British literature now. What do you think of the poetry of Phillip Larkin?". (5)
In all seriousness, as the host it really is your job to try and maintain control of the conversation, and prevent the rest of the guests from being embarrassed.
The Food: How much will you need? What will you serve? What dietary needs must you accommodate? Are children coming? I must tell you dear reader, the under 5 set simply does not appreciate your Fois Grasse. I'm sorry, but it's true.
Consider also the palates of your guests. Uncle Fester and his ilk do not eat truffles. And in all fairness, I consider myself adventurous. Even I quake when faced with a very large bowl of sea cucumbers. In fact, not only do I quake, I still twitch. If it's a holiday, stick to the traditional holiday foods, and throw in one interesting dish.(6)
All joking aside, you don't need to be a gourmet chef. You need to serve food that is good looking, and tastes good. There needs to be enough of it. And I cannot emphasize my final bit of advice enough. The night of your dinner party is not the time to decide to make the 376 step main dish that depends entirely on how you hold your eyebrows. Martha Stewart will not swoop down and rescue you when you muck up on step 17. Don't ask how I know this. Learn from me.
The decorations: Consider what you want. Will you have place cards (always a good idea, and facilitates separating Uncle Fester and Aunt Myrtle). What will your table centre piece be? (Not so large that your guests are peering one-eyed through greenery). Do you decorations allow guests room to move through the area to sit at the table?
Your Serving Accouterments: Do you have enough place settings? Silver ware? Wine glasses (remember, you don't need one for Uncle Fester). Do you have a platter for the turkey? A gravy boat? Enough spoons and forks for serving side dishes? Enough trivets (hot plates) for dishes. A nice pitcher for water? Enough coffee cups and dessert plates?
That's it for today. Here's what's planned. And why yes, you can ask questions. I'll handle them in the sticky situations section.
Week 2: The night of the event
Week 3: Sticky situations with guests
Week 4: Your responsibilities as a host
Week 5: Your responsibilities as a guest
(1) umm, unless you are a man. Yeah.
(2) and if you "clink" Mrs. Spit's Limoges crystal from her grandmother, she will harbour uncharitable thoughts in her head, and possibly use the plain glasses the next time you come over.
(3) Or not, but this is a topic for another post. In the interim, I will say that someone who cannot manage to put pen to paper for a gift can see me in hell.
(4) Lest they be the ones upending their wine.
(5) Alternatively, you could talk about the weather, sports, celebrity gossip, movies, music, children. DO NOT talk about politics and religion with Uncle Fester. Stop him dead in his tracks. Smile your sweetest smile and say "politics gives me indigestion." Repeat ad naseum. At holidays, talk about your best Christmas. At birthday's, talk about something good about the birthday person. You get the point.
(6) It pains me to say this. I despise turkey. I wish people would serve anything else. But, there you have it.
I am remembering the discovery that my doctor did his rounds at 6 am, and I am remembering the same doctor coming back to talk to me at 8 that night.
I am remembering another ultrasound where I asked, no begged, the tech to not be so quiet. It had been the quiet and grim determination from the tech the day before that had frightened me so.
I am remembering visits and fear, and making a list of things to bring from home. I am remembering the division, would I stay in the hospital, or would Gabriel and I go home and be monitored from there?
I am remembering the sinking feeling that I had stepped on a hamster wheel, and I had no control left, and I just wanted to get off.
Today, today the taste of fear is sharp and heavy in my mouth as I remember.
Behind the backdrop of expectation and hope, Mr. Spit and I walk through these days, from today, to the day of Baptism after Christmas, that our son will not be present at. As we walk through the memories of this dark and lonely time, plodding, dragging our feet and struggling to look like we are at all joyful about Christmas, we are not reflecting on joy.
If we were not present for advent last year, at least in spirit, we are left behind this year. While others are anticipating, expecting, waiting, we are living in the past. We are walking through the steps of last year. Our memory preoccupied. Our hearts empty and our eyes full.
For about 6 weeks now, I have remembered last year, juxtaposed to this year. I have imagined that if I only screamed loud enough, I could warn the me from last year. I know that I am powerless to change the outcome, but maybe I could have prepared myself. I have pictured myself with a Lent metaphor, as a lamb led to slaughter. I stop, during my day, and I remember back to a year ago. I remember where I was, and what was happening. I mark out my own emotions, my own moments.
I woke up today, remembering a sensation from hiking, where you start descending a mountain trail, and somehow, suddenly, you found yourself losing your footing, losing your balance, and you are, quite without your intention, you are running down a hill. And while it may still look like you are in control, you alone know that you don't have any control over your legs, and it will only take one badly placed rock, a sudden turn in the path, and you will be gone.
And so I am going to take a miss on Advent this year. At least for a bit. I am going to stop wanting hope, and instead chose to remember, deliberately. To reflect on what was, and then so suddenly, what was not.
Today I will mark the day I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. The first day that nothing was as it should be, the first day of the slide to disaster and terror and sorrow.
Today my little one, we saw you for the second time. And you were so still. And then we saw the doctor. We were so frightened, but so hopeful. We believed that this would be ok. We told you to hang in there. We asked for a strip of the fetal monitoring paper for your baby book and joked that we were going to take away more of your allowance for scaring us like this.
Tonight I got to the case room at the hospital, and my blood pressure was 215/120 and we realized that this was not going to be simple or easy. We learned new names, new terms. Today the word high risk pregnancy entered our lives. Tonight, for the first time, I heard the words "in case you need to not be pregnant any more."
And today was the beginning of the end, for all of us.
Still missing you.
There are lots of worthy causes on the list, but CF is very close to my heart. 25 years ago, my cousin died of CF. Robyn was a young child - not even young woman. She should have had her whole life ahead of her. Instead, Aunt Faith keeps Robyn's ashes at home, because Robyn just wanted to be at home. It is a sad thing when a child only wants to be home with her dog, and has had so much time in the hospital.
We have seen progress. Research has increased life expectancy. Early testing, early treatment. Hope. There is still more work to do.
For Robyn, for Aunt Faith, for Uncle Ken. For all of us, and for all of those diagnosed and their families, would you go vote?