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?
i TAke oVer muMyz
I deManD Fudz!!!%##!
WhAt wid Thiz stOopID hAmbUrger and bleAck, rIce?
seRsly. whEre reAl fudz?
rEaLLY. Whatz wiD deSe
I knOEz eAtzie dIs CrApz.
vEt is meAnz. and NaSty.
wHeRe my ToorKeY and my Froit and mY WEgetEwaBbbbbLeS?
bring. FuDz. DeeSe HooManS staRRRvEs deLta.
iZe VerDy hUnGRiezzZZZe.
i NO EatZ sTuffIes no Morz.
U BriNGz dA FuD?
(I noZe liKse doSe CatZ on DahDeeeZe BlUgh. U nO LisTenZe tO DeM)
All stuffies of that model have been removed from the house.
Delta would like you to know that she is very, hungry, and it's going to be al ong time till tomorrow when she can eat.
She thanks you for her concern, but wants to know where her dinner is and why you haven't brought it.
She thinks the vet is very mean.
Which is more of a challenge than you might think. You see, the thing you need to know about a Mastiff, is that they are lazy.
More lazy than a sloth, more lazy than your brother in law with a bottle of beer in his hand after pay day, they are profoundly lazy.
A long walk for a mastiff is roughly 100 feet. Possibly we might get 150 feet because she has been cooped up in a kennel.
This is going to be grand, I tell you.
The topics were wide ranging, but she gave some great ideas.
1. Be intentional about how you want to remember the person you are grieving. You could light a candle for them, hang an ornament on the tree, donate money to their favourite charity, or a meaningful charity, leave a place setting at the table, talk about your memories of that person, tell their favourite joke, sing their favourite song. It doesn't matter what it is, but have a plan. Accept that plans sometimes go awry.
2. Find a supportive place to go, where you can openly express your grief and sorrow at Christmas. This could be a blue Christmas service, a remembrance service at a local hospital or funeral home. These are important. This will be one place where no one will expect you to have a stiff upper lip.
3. Accept this year is not like other years. Make changes if necessary. The changes aren't forever, but just for this year. You can do other things, different things, or the same things you have always done next year, but this year, do things differently. This can mean going to a restaurant, going to another country, having appetizers only and no turkey, you get the picture.
4. Accept this will be hard. There will be days that will be better than other's, there will be days that it is easier for you to be in the Christmas spirit than others. Accept what you can do, and be kind.
5. Communicate that this will be hard for you, to your friends and family. Talk about how sad you are that the person isn't here, and talk about your memories or your hopes and dreams about what this Christmas was supposed to be.
6. Be kind to yourself. Watch a funny movie, leave early, bow out, go to things that bring you peace and comfort. Buy yourself a gift. Don't compensate for your sorrow by spending too much money. Invite friends over to help you decorate the tree.
7. Use ritual. Consider the holiday memorial to help you bring your loved one back into the holiday.
Perhaps more than that, remember, there is a wide group of us, we dead baby mums. And we are standing together, with not just our child's name, but yours as well. We do not grieve only for ourselves and our children, but for all of us, and this terrible time of pain. We are stronger together. When one falls, we can help each other up, and if that doesn't work, we can sit on the floor together too.
Her blood tests have come back completely normal, and she has responded well to re-hydration with an IV.
Tomorrow they will try the barium again, to make sure that there is no obstruction, and we will go from there.
Not out of the woods, but looking more hopeful than this morning, when we discovered that she had lost just over 20 pounds in a few weeks.
We are kicking around the house, missing her.
Thanks for your prayers and support. We will keep you updated.
The time has come for us to talk of etiquette. I had one reader who wished to know how to avoid pouring gravy down her uncle's shirt, and one reader who wished to know how to apologize. I wonder if they are related? Readers, I assure you, that while a lady may need to apologize, she does not need to apologize for pouring gravy down a house guest's shirt. It simply isn't done.
A well bred woman always maintains a stock of stationary. At minimum you should have note paper, note cards and envelopes to fit. Mrs. Spit is fortunate to posses monogrammed stationary, but this is not a requirement. You should also have a blue or black pen to write cards and letters. It need not be said, a lady does not use pencils, or ink of a violent hue to write her correspondence. As to the design of the cards and papers, I will leave that up to you, but will point out that the design should not induce dizziness on the part of the recipient, and condolence cards and letters should always be as plain as possible.
A note about form - for heaven's sake, spell things correctly. Mis-spellings and gramitical mistakes are sweet from a five year old, and simply obnoxious from a 25 year old. Letters always take the form below.
Why yes, your children should absolutely send thank-you cards. If they are not old enough to hold a writing implement, you write the card. If they are old enough to hold a crayon, you write the card and they draw a picture. If they are old enough to be at school, they are old enough to write their own correspondence. I promise, if Aunty Spit receives a drawing or a letter with mis-spellings from a wee one, she will only smile.
For A Gift:
- In the words of the famous and immortal Etiquette Grrls, you get a gift, you send a card. Always. This goes for birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, because it's Tuesday gifts, friendship gifts, good-bye gifts, baby gifts, wedding gifts, any gift. Let me repeat that again. You get a gift, you send a thank-you card, within 6 weeks.
I cannot say thank-you enough for the amazing gift that you sent me. It was wonderful that you thought of me, and I cannot tell you how surprised I was that you sent me the Hope Diamond. Really, your care and concern knows no bounds. It resides in a very special place in my home, and I shall treasure it always.
Sincerely, Mrs. Spit.
For a meal, hospitality, or a kindness done:
- If someone feeds you dinner, you write what is called a bread and butter letter. It is simply a letter thanking the person for the time they spent preparing for the meal, and preparing for your visit. It is an acknowledgement that they provided you hospitality, and you appreciated it.
- It is always appropriate to mention a particularly memorable event or dish, as long as they do not bring up negative memories. We would not, for instance, bring to mind the flaming roast beef, or the car accident on the way to the museum.
- Finally, a very important note. Writing a bread and butter letter does not absolve you from bringing a hostess gift. You do that as well.
- If you are writing a letter for a kindness done - someone who attended a funeral of a family member, or who assisted you with a task, you highlight the task, and simply thank them for their kindness.
Thank you so much for your kindness and hospitality in holding a congratulatory dinner party for me, as a result of my Nobel Prize. As always, your food is incredible, your hosting skills are impeccable, and your home, lovely. I shall treasure the words in that remarkable toast for always, and my mouth is still watering from the delicious roast beef. You truly are amazing.
Sincerely, Mrs. Spit
A Congratulatory Letter
- We use these when someone achieves a great thing, is to be married, had a baby, graduated from schooling, won an award, received a promotion and the like.
- The letter simply reflects that the person has put in hard work to get where they are, and we wish to celebrate in their good fortune.
- Where you are congratulating a recently engaged couple, it is important to point out that we never, ever congratulate the bride or the bride to be. It is the very height of rudeness to suggest that we are congratulating her on her ability to "catch" a man. Rather, we congratulate the man, who is fortunate that such a wonderful woman has consented to be his wife, and we wish a woman every happiness.
Really, it seems just yesterday that you started grade school and I was baby sitting you, and here you are, graduating high school. Your mother tells me that you will attend my Alma Mater, Wonderful University in the fall - I'm so pleased, I have such fond memories, and if the cafeteria still serves them, do try the cinnamon buns.
We want to send you every congratulation in the world, you have worked hard, and you deserve every good thing.
Sincerely, Mr and Mrs Spit.
A letter of Condolence:
- These dear readers, must be the hardest letters to send. They are not a few scrawled words written on the back of a sympathy card, but instead, a heartfelt reflection of your sorrow at the tragedy in an other's life. I remember these from after Gabriel died, and I remember how much comfort they brought me.
- You may chose to send a letter by itself, or tucked in a standard sympathy card.
- A word to the warning, be very cautious about sending religious type cards, where you don't know the religious background. Nothing is more offensive than religious sentiment to those who are not religious.
- It is always important that a condolence letter be written as plainly and simply as possible, and not include any ridiculous platitudes. They will not help the bereaved feel any better.
- It is always appropriate that you recall a particular memory about the person, or the way in which they affected your life. I am sure that it need not be said - we do not mention old arguments or unhappy memories.
- Even if you know the bereaved well, and you have spoken to them, still write a letter. The memories you share and the happy thoughts will bring them comfort.
Dear Mr. Smith:
I heard with such sadness the announcement of your wife's untimely passing. Please accept my sincere and heartfelt condolences for your loss.
I worked with Judy at White Guys with Blue Ties, Inc, and it was such a pleasure. She was so knowledgeable and helpful, and she will be missed. I remember especially how she liked to make accounting jokes, and in doing so brightened up otherwise boring meetings. I will think about her and miss her jokes.
With sympathy, Mrs. Spit
The Letter of Apology
- There are only four instances in which it is permissible to send a letter of apology - Where the slight was minor, where the person is simply so angry that they will not speak to you, but you wish to apologize anyway, and where it would cause more of a commotion to apologize in public, or where you are sending a replacement item for something that was broken.
- In all other cases, you must apologize in person.
- Very often, when we are writing a letter of apology, there is a desire to explain why we have done or said what we did. (In essence, we say "I'm sorry, but. . . )
- DO NOT do this. If something is worth apologizing for, it is worth apologizing for. There is little point in trying to explain away part of your guilt. Apologize and be done with it.
- Alternatively, often we apologize for things we have no business apologizing. If you are apologizing to "smooth things over", ask yourself if this is really appropriate.
- I cannot give you the form for a letter where someone is simply too angry to speak to you. In all likelihood, the issue will be serious and difficult. I can only say to be genuine, to be direct, and to seriously consider what you want to say. Ugly words said in haste or anger cannot be quickly resolved.
Form 1: Where the slight was minor (including replacement)
Dear Mrs. Neighbour:
I wish to extend my apologies for breaking your window while playing baseball. I recognize that we were indeed very careless in our play, and understand that the broken window must have caused you considerable inconvenience. My mother and I would like to come over to your house to arrange repayment for the damages. Would tonight at 7 p.m. suit?
Your servant, Badly behaved neighbour child
Form 2: Where it would have been more of an commotion to apologize at the time
Please accept our sincere apologies for our lateness to dinner yesterday. We must have been a terrible inconvenience and caused you significant consternation as you tried to serve dinner in a timely fashion. Our lateness was inexcusably rude, and we are sorry that it occurred.
Sincerely, Tardy Friend.
A few notes about above. If you are more than 10 minutes late, send an apology. When you do arrive at the dinner, slide into your chair, perhaps demurring and saying "traffic". I assure you, the rest of the world does not want to hear about a car that wouldn't start, a child that wouldn't behave and the like. You have already made enough of a spectacle of yourself, and it does not do to draw even more attention to yourself.
If you are going to be more than 5 or 10 minutes late, it is incumbent upon you to call ahead and offer to either step back from the invitation, or repeatedly assure your host that they may begin serving the meal, and you will eat whatever left overs survive. If you are the guest of honour, nothing short of chaos and death should permit tardiness.
Of course there is homework. Sit down and write a card or letter to someone. You could send a thank you to a friend for being a really wonderful friend. Perhaps you have a condolence note or a congratulations letter to write.
You must obey the form rules at the top, and you must mail or hand deliver it. Absolutely no e-mail.
Let me know what you have done, and why and next week I'll give you a shiny lovely button.
Then I typed another one, and it ate that too.
- The dilemma of the fetid fridge, it is solved my friends. Yeah, it troubles me no more. None. Not a bit. Nada. These little gems from Lee Valley (and if you live in the states, you have Macy's, it's a fair enough trade!). Anyway, all is right in my world.
- So, as it happens, the most amazing hot dog place in the world is right up the street from my house, and we happened to go for lunch today, and I was chatting to the owner/cook/bottlewasher and telling him about my American thanksgiving thing (he's American). Told him I couldn't find sweet potato's in cans or regular form, and he told me to skip the can, but he'd get me 6 from his supplier. So, there you have it, I have sweet potato's, I have to pick them up on Friday. I'm going to see if I can knock off a hat to say thanks this week.
- Would you all go tell Mr. Spit to post about the process of finishing the bookshelves? He did the lion's share of the work, and he deserves mucho credit. (Unfortunately, as a result of the credit crunch, he won't be getting any
- Mr. Spit and I went to a grief at Christmas workshop. It was great. As Mr. Spit put it, we paid $80 to have other's watch us cry, but there was some great information, and it was really practical. Well worth the time and the money.
- After all of that, and a sleepless Saturday night, which found us both awake at 7 am(!) on Sunday, we took a miss on church today. It was just more than we could do.
- I'm reading The Shack. Jury is still out. But it has maybe given me a blog post.
And finally one last thing. If you don't want to listen to me pontificate on some variant of etiquette, does anyone have a dilemma? Not sure how to set your table correctly? How to toast the queen at a dinner party? How to seat the queen at your dinner party?
My blog reflect that I am
ISFP - The Artist
The gentle and compassionate type. They are especially attuned their inner values and what other people need. They are not friends of many words and tend to take the worries of the world on their shoulders. They tend to follow the path of least resistance and have to look out not to be taken advantage of. They often prefer working quietly, behind the scene as a part of a team. They tend to value their friends and family above what they do for a living.
Funny, I never think of myself as an artist. And no one would call me gentle. But there you have it. . .
I had to do a series of 3 things related to Gabriel's loss and a new baby, and they were going to hurt. Frankly, I didn't want to do any of them. Crawling into a hole and pulling the turf back over my head was looking like a reasonable and viable option.
So I called this old teacher/mentor/friend of mine and I said "L. tell me I have to be a grown-up. Tell me I have to suck it up and do these things. Tell me I need to dig deep and be an adult."
And I suppose what I was looking forward to was someone telling me that I simply had to do these things. That it was a part of being a grown-up. That doing this was like picking a funeral home and planning the funeral. It simply had to be done. And while I would have liked to stick my fingers in my ears and shout "la, la, la", that wasn't an option. Dig a bit deeper and get it done.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing was that Mr. Spit and I were going to do these terribly difficult things, and no one around us was going to know that they were hard. Certainly, the most painful, galling thing about baby loss is that it is so hidden. Today I will go downstairs and I will order flowers for a new baby. On Sunday, I will sit in church, and I will hold Mr. Spit's hand, and I will know how painful it is for him to watch a father announce a baby. And in that moment, just the two of us, we will be left behind, forsaken in this dead baby world. And if you are going to do a terribly difficult thing, it is a good thing to hear a well done afterwards. And Mr. Spit and I, we don't hear well done.
And I needed my friend to tell me, I had to be a grown up. I had to do these things because it was, for lack of better words, our lot in life. And however unfair, however tragic, it was what we had to do. It wasn't right or fair, but it is what it is.
She actually didn't tell me that I had to be a grown up. She told me I was sending flowers to a new baby at the same time I was arranging flowers for the altar for my dead son, because that was the kind of person I chose to be. I wanted to be. That I was choosing grace and mercy and kindness, even when I did not completely feel it, because I believed in those things. I was choosing to show those things, because I want the world to be a particular kind of place. Because it is a form of obedience to God, and because it is, put simply, the right thing to do.
I have realized, I cannot change Gabriel's death. I cannot wave my hands and scream and make things better. But I can, in the midst of this still terrible time, chose how I react. And even when that choice is hidden, and no one knows what it cost, no one around us knows how terrible and painful these things are, I can choose my conduct.
It is hard today, it will be hard tomorrow, and I am beginning to learn, in some sense it will be hard forever. But I choose. Perhaps that makes it easier.
So, love the computer, hate dell with a passion. Must be the worst customer service in the universe.
I'd take a picture, but we haven't replaced the camera yet. Slowly. . .
(and stupid teenage kids who robbed my house? Take this computer and I will come hunting for you. I mean it.)
It's one week from American thanksgiving. Which, ordinarily wouldn't matter to me, but it seems that I am doing American thanksgiving this year.
It all started when we renovated the house (you know the bookshelves you saw on Monday?) starting in August of 2007. (I howled with laughter at the wonderful and delightful Alicia who thought we got this done in a weekend!)
Anyway, with no dinning room, I didn't host Canadian thanksgiving, but I rashly told my mother we would do American thanksgiving. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, and Christmas was a total write off last year (Christmas? What Christmas? Oh, that thing that happened 15 days after my son died? That was Christmas?)
Anyway, I was talking to one of our consultants, an American, who was a bit down that she couldn't go home for thanksgiving this year, and I volunteered our spiffy new dinning room for the celebration of American thanksgiving, except on the Sunday, the Thursday not being a holiday in Canada.
Anyway, to my ahem thing. The American consultant had only one request, that we have the sweet potato casserole.
Which leaves me with 2 questions:
1. What is the sweet potato casserole? Does it have a recipe? Is it safe to simply type "sweet potato thing" into google? She mentioned something about mini marshmallows. If it has marshmallows, does that mean it's dessert?
2. Is a sweet potato the same as a yam? I can find yams. No sweet potatoes. Safeway knows not of your sweet potato casserole.
Please, dear Internets, help a girl out. She needs her casserole, and I have no idea what she's talking about. She has expectations of me, and I don't want to disappoint. It's hard enough to be away from home on the holidays, but really and truly, it seems like the sweet potato thing is really important. I have visions of making her day with it.
I remain your humble, obedient, faithful and committed servant,
Which leaves me in a quandry. What to do on Wednesdays? I have been thinking amidst the painting and sanding and taping. Here's what I have come up with so far.
1. Wednesday's are for knitting. I could talk about what I'm working on. This might not happen every week, as there are some weeks that are scant for knitting time, or weeks I am working on large projects, and it would be very boring.
2. Wednesday's are for cooking. Except I would have to cook.
3. Wednesday's are for gardening. Except that my garden is frozen solid.
4. Wednesday's are for etiquette. I came up with this one when I received a thank you card.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments
I know why.
Perhaps one of the most galling aspects of Gabriel's death is how people have failed to realize that I am broken. Perhaps this is my own fault. People might call me a variety of things, but broken is not apt to be one of them. I don't look broken, I wear clean clothes, I have finished a renovation, I work hard, I'm presentable. I don't dissolve into tears at the slightest provocation. If I do sob, I do so quietly, late at night, on my own. Holding a stuffed animal that should have been my son's, looking at his photo's, my fingers tracing the outline of his footprints. Whatever the state of my heart and soul, I look fine.
And Mr. Spit and I quickly discovered very shortly after Gabriel's death, starting after his funeral, but absolutely 6 weeks after his death, that people expected us to be all better now. They seemed to expect that we would arise one morning, brush aside our heartbreak and sorrow, move past this tragedy, and be just fine, be the people we had always been.
And 11 months later, there is still a kleenex box on the table. The small and silent testimony that we are not ok. I remember the words from my aunt's poem, that our heart's are shattered, in a million pieces on the ground, and that our mind's have spoken of never coming round.
We received notification of a new baby last night. Or rather, Mr. Spit did. I didn't rate notification. Perhaps they have decided that I am an awful enough person that I can't work up excitement that a baby is here. And I suppose that this is true. I can't. I'm pleased the baby is here and well, but I simply can't understand why my baby died. I can't accept that the rain falls on the just and unjust. I am again, still, always, broken. Not okay.
There will be a new baby in church on Sunday. A father will walk up the aisle and introduce his son to the congregation. There will be clapping and cheering. And Mr. Spit and I will sit in the second pew on the Gospel side, and I doubt that anyone will remember that Mr. Spit never got the chance to do this. I doubt they will remember the couple who's memories of their son are only memories of a hospital room. Our memories of our son in church are only those of the funeral, and I'm hoping that other's will forgive us for not wanting to remember much of that. I doubt that anyone will remember that Mr. Spit and I, we are parents too.
And the pell mell rush of time, it will continue. Gabriel's day will come. And I have booked it off, because I cannot bear the thought that no one will remember. That it will be just another day. That my phone and doorbell will not ring, that no one will stop and say that they too remember a life that was and then was not. That I will sit alone in a puddle of tears and memories and broken dreams. We will perhaps have a birthday cake, but we will not invite anyone. Who would come? Who would come to celebrate a dead baby? Who would walk into broken dreams and minds and hearts?
And after his day, Christmas, a Christmas that will not be baby's first. There will be glass ornaments to the bottom of the tree, and I will not purchase baby toys. The house will be perfect, and I will feed many people, praying that so much joviality around me will uplift my battered heart.
And finally, the week after Christmas, there will be a baptism Sunday. And again, Mr. Spit and I will sit on the Gospel side, and we will bow our heads, and remember that this was to be our Son's day. We will remember a hasty baptism, without the benefit of liturgy to soothe our soul, because things had to be hasty. We will stand in silent communion with a set of God parents, miles away, because there is no need for them to be here. Instead of promises to raise a child in God's love, they read the Old Testament reading at his funeral. They spoke of heart break and pain and read of Our Redeemer living, in the midst of the death of our dreams.
Without him, I'm not Ok.
I know why the song is stuck in my head.
Was it not just yesterday that I held my son in my arms? The moment seems so close, but the calendar pages, they tell me that so much time has passed. Was it not just a short while ago, when Mr. Spit and I were shattered? I saw a woman in our support group, and her grief and pain and sorrow were so palpable, that I could not seem to figure out how we could have ever been that lost. I cannot imagine what other's must have thought. I cannot fathom what it must have been like to know us. I can see time has passed, I can see we are better.
I was in Costco a month ago. I walked into an aisle, taking a wrong turn. And I walked into this aisle, and there were toys. Baby toys. Things I would have been buying for Gabriel.
Suddenly, without warning, leaving me gasping, breathless, I realized. After Gabriel's day, after that, comes Christmas.
Need more room for books. Let's build floor to ceiling book shelves. (Note the classy "crown moulding")
Oh look, we added re-drywall walls to the list (Seeing as Mr. Spit was all practiced up now). Dinning room not exactly fit for company, unless the company is used to eating off sawhorses.
And. . . . living room is not fit for company either, unless the company is used to moving around power tools.
And finally, attractive ceiling. (Which really was the major motivation for the project, if you are me. . .)
I had that feeling this week that I noticed many times before I was pregnant. That feeling of discontent over not having children. I noticed it and decided that I was not going to go there. I was not going to go down melancholy lane and think of how miserable my life is without children. It's really not that bad. Honestly, I've got a lot going for me.
Yes, I still do have an irrational desire to have children after my last failure of a pregnancy. I have a lot of mixed emotions about that one, but the one thing I want to do differently this time is to have a different relationship on my desire to have children. My attitude before was, "oh, I'll be so miserable if I don't have my own children, I don't know what I'll do if it doesn't happen!!" I just sound like a pathetic whiny child like this. I can't tell you how many times I had this kind of meltdown.
I feel that this attitude is coming from a place that the children will give something to me. I love kids. I have two stepchildren that I think are great. But the reality is that whatever children I have will want a whole lot from me, and I'm really kidding myself if I'm going to be coming from a whiny child type attitude myself.
Now, when I feel that feeling of impending doom when I ruminate on not having children, I'm stopping to look at the truth of that. It's just a structure that my mind created. It's not really true that I will be miserable if I don't have children. Yes, I will have to go through mourning of the loss, but if I have children, I'll also be mourning at the loss of how my life is now. I'm 42, so I'm pretty used to having control over my life. I have a very satisfying career, I can pretty much do what I want when I want, and my step kids are now old enough that they can pretty much take care of themselves. Having children will really upset my status quo, and I think the older you get, the harder it is to adjust to that.
The question is, how do I want to approach having children? I don't know. I haven't figured that one out yet, but I'm not going to get mired down in gloom and doom. I made that mistake before. I'm not going there again, at least, I'm going to try not to go there. I don't know if I'll have the chance to have my own children in this lifetime. I think I'm going to try again, but I'm not spending so much time obsessing on how my life is so miserable without children. Sounds awfully idealistic? Yeah, but it beats being depressed!!
Guest post from Cross-Pollination.
It was my first week in a new job, and one of the tasks assigned to me was to open the safe and go through the last effects of a patient. I needed to inventory them, and then figure out what to do with them. The family didn't want them, and while there wasn't much (nursing homes don't have a lot of room) they were precious enough to him that he asked the care facility to put them into safe keeping.
Now, I suppose if this was a made for TV movie, there would be love letters or letters from the front of the last great war, or something. But, there wasn't. There was routine correspondence from bill companies and the Canada Revenue Agency, and a few other odds and sods. Finally, there was his wallet. The usual, a driver's licence, expired for 5 years, a credit card, expired for 3, a library card, some store club cards, photographs of children who were likely all grown up, a dress photograph of a soldier and Royal Canadian Legion memberships.
There were 30 years of memberships in that wallet. His driver's licence had expired, his credit card had expired, but the legion card, that last one, it coincided with the year of his death. Clearly, his identity as a soldier had been more important than his identity of a driver. He had made some effort to maintain this identity. The photograph of a young man in a uniform told me told me, he was a soldier once and young.
With a negative response from the family, I contacted the Public Guardian, and in the same conference room, shortly before Remembrance Day, I handed over his effects. We went through them one by one, holding them up, and ticking them off our respective inventories, bureaucratic requirements making the whole experience seem much more important than it really was.
Finally, as they wheeled this box away, walking back to their office, I returned to my desk. With a sense of unease - unease predicated upon not quite sorrow, but perhaps something I might define as dolor. A notion that this man, who served my country, who indirectly served me, had passed from this world, and no one seemed to care.
Mr. Spit, a former soldier, would tell you that soldiers do not fight for their country, or the abstract notion of democracy and freedom, they fight for their friends. They live and they lay down their life, for their friends. I phoned the Public Trustee back to make sure that they would notify the Legion, to notify those friends.
I went that year, to the legion by my house, to their ceremony, and I stood at the back, and when everything was said and done, I left a small bouquet of flowers. I will stop again today, to remember. At the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, Mr. Spit and I will stop. And later today, I will leave some flowers. To remember a soldier once, and young.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
for the fallen
So, I could bring
- Grated zucchini. I've got 6 bags. Please send me recipes.
- Fatigue. I came home on Friday at the usual time (a real change - wow my house in daylight!) and I decided I needed a nap. I lied down at 5 pm, and I woke up at 9 am the next morning.
- Paint. I've been painting. All bloody weekend. Not done yet.
- Finished dinning room. As of next week, we will be all done.
Thanks for sticking with me, sorry I didn't post on Sunday, as promised.
I am caught in something with work, and it is horrible and wretched and every awful thing, and it is all I can do to keep my head down and be silent and not tell them where they can take this rotten job and stuff it.
No, really, it's that bad. The fact that I have put 34 hours in this week, and that does not count today, and I took Monday off for the knitting retreat, and my house was broken into and I am clearly not pregnant this month, well, I'm not sure how much worse of a place I can be in.
I'll talk to you on Sunday. I promise. I'll bring the funny. Right now I'm just bringing the tired and weary and defeated and holding it together enough to get through this.
Oh, and if you have e-mailed me, I'm sorry. I'm not ignoring you. One of the things the burglars made off with was my laptop. A new one is ordered, and I'm using Mr. Spit's in the interim, but it's hard to check e-mail when you get home at midnight.
I am, in my own Canadian way, deeply patriotic. I love my country. At the very core of my being, there is a part of me that is all things Canadian. This is a strange thing for a Canadian to say. We are, as a general rule, quiet about our great love for this strange and wonderful land we call home. If you ask us what we love about our country, we will give you intangible answers. Thoughts, impressions, playful, wayward words. We will not share facts or figures, rather our intractable and resolute ideas of what makes a country. And when you tell us that these things do not make a country, we will shrug and tell you that dreams and memories and love are not neatly described. They must be learned and memorized.
We will tell you of the wonder of the Northern Lights over Slave Lake. We will speak of lights flashing and dancing in the sky above us, the night so clear and cold that it takes our very breath away. We will tell you of woollen scarves around our faces, breathing the smell of wet wool, with just our eyes peeking out. We will tell you of laughing with glee and joy at a light show older than time itself, and far grander than we. We will tell you that it is hard to clap with your hands in mittens, but that is no reason not to try.
We will tell you of winter nights that are so still and cold, and the snow falling like a heavy blanket, of so much snow, that your hair is covered with a heavy white hood in the time it takes you to walk home from your best friend's house, just down the block. We will tell you that snow crunches under your feet when it is very cold and you can hear it for miles. We will tell you of the sharp smell of winter and the dusky smell of wood fires, smells that stay in your heart and can be called back at a moments notice. We will stop speaking and retreat into memory, thinking of of the smoke from a fire going straight into the air, and the the sharpness of cold air on your face, and the way it stings it's way into your lungs.
We will tell you of silence on Christmas Eve, with snow falling, and the clouds so heavy and close that they surround you, that you can reach up and feel the heaviness and dewiness and mistiness in one grasp. We will tell you how Christmas lights in the country seem to glow for miles, and they light up the space between the air molecules, and they call you home.
We will tell you of other Christmas Eve's where the sky was so full of stars and the air was so clear and clean that it seemed that you could reach every star. Where the milky way was a coverlet, hiding the secrets of heaven from us, and if we only looked hard enough, we could see the face of God smiling back at us.
And I had a plan. To introduce my child to the wonder that is Canada. To wrap him up in warm clothes, and wake him up to take him out in the first snow. To bundle him up well, and hold him in the air, and twirl around with him in my outstretched arms, and show him this country that I love. To begin the process of teaching him to stop and stare, to appreciate. To love, deeply.
It was the first snow tonight, my son. And you are not here, and it does not snow in heaven and I am wondering how the Northern Lights must look like from above.
We are fine, the dogs are fine, the
And on another note.
150 years ago, a black man was worth 3/5ths of a white man. 45 years ago, a black man stood up and told us that he had a dream, and then died for it. Last night, a black man was elected to the highest office in your land.
Last night, a man stood up and we saw that it could be true. Last night it did not matter that Mr. President-Elect Obama didn't look like many of us, or that his middle name was from the middle east, it didn't matter that he wasn't the same ethnicity as we were, that he had been raised in foreign places, last night, a man who stood up and called us to be better, to hope and courage and service, to all of those in the world, last night, he accepted his nomination to the highest office in America.
And lest you think that all is well with the world, that man, a great and honourable man, he accepted your nomination from behind bullet proof glass. Our world is still broken, things are still not the way they should be. Problems, on both sides of the 49th parallel are looming and here. But I can think of no better way to meet them than with courage.
I'm proud of my American neighbours.
I will post pictures of the $700 swatch, tell you the story of my water bottle on the tray, and illustrate how not all knitters are good knitters. I will talk about how the reindeer pulling Santa's sled have rain poncho's for each night.
I only brought knitting for me (for all of my projects, I have exactly one thing that I knitted. Everything else I have given away. It is my first pair of socks. Sufficed to say, I have learned lots since then.) There is a shawl that I started, and a pair of socks in purple and lime green, and a scarf that I carried all the way there, and back, and didn't start, but there are 6 more tiny hats for wee ones born still. And many knitters that have heard about our precious children, and how much we love them.
There were fiber purchases, knitting in front of the fireplaces, dessert every night, and smoked salmon on good cream cheese, with capers, on rye bread every morning. There was in fact, every good kind of food, and a spectacular room mate, who did not make fun of me for being odd.
The train trip was spectacular, and somehow 50 knitters restrained themselves from shearing all the Dall sheep we passed. (It was hard, we persevered). There was a paper bathing suit, and a photo of a woman in the paper bathing suit, who should not look that good in a paper bathing suit. In fact there is no one that should look that good in a paper swim suit.
Oh, and there was Ashley. I will also tell you the story of Ashley.
So, photo's and stories tomorrow. For tonight there is a husband who was so happy to see me, he bought me a food processor, (which is more romantic than you are thinking) - there are cats and dogs to pet and love, and a bed with my name on it.
I thought of you all, even though I had no Internet. I'm slowly catching up on your blogs, be patient with me.
I didn't, in fact, know that he had lost hope, I didn't know he was in a dark and horrible place. I, like so many, wish that I had known. That in that terrible place, I could have held his shoulders and his hands. And promised that I would have stayed with him. Found him help. Believed in a brighter tomorrow.
And his life ended one day after school, and suddenly we were all left with more questions than answers, and sorrow, and this was the first time that such sorrow and tragedy had entered our lives. We were just 15.
And I struggled. You will tell me that I was indeed fortunate that death did not cast it's pall over my life until the age of 15, and I will agree. But I will maintain, now and then, that it does not matter at all when that pall touches your life, only that it does, and there is a terrible change before and after.
Some months ago, Tash had a beautiful post about shadow children. And I started reading, thinking that I understood exactly what she was writing about. I didn't. And that's ok.
But when someone refers to shadow children, I shall always think of my experiences after Doug died.
For years, I would think that I saw him. While my brain knew that he was gone, and was past where I could communicate with him, past where I could touch him, be with him, I would think that I saw him. Something in the slope of shoulders, the way someone flipped their hair off their face, a particular laugh, echo's in the appearances of hands.
And I would know, at least in some sense, that time or lighting or distance or fatigue were playing games with my mind. But, another part of my brain, wanted to see what I was seeing. It became a fight in my mind.
4 years after Doug's death, in the year of a friend's death, death on a sunny October day - a death that was a senseless as it was stupefying, a new set of clergy came to my church.
And for the first time, they celebrated the Feast of All Souls.
The Feast of All Souls is simply this - a reminder, that there are those here on earth, and there are the faithful departed. There are Christ's sheep on earth, and the lambs of the flock that we ask Him to recognize as His, and they are in heaven. And that heaven is merely a breath away for all of us. And when you think about it, it seems a strange thing. A feast is a celebration, and we are celebrating the dearly departed.
And in that year, with this feast, I could begin to make some sense of death. I could begin to bound and describe death. The sting was a bit removed. Not the pain of grief and loss, but the senselessness of it. I will never say that Doug or Matt died for any good reason. I will never say there is a point to their death, a point to any death. I will say that I was finally able to put death in some sort of perspective, incorporate it into a larger narrative. Death was no longer an end, but perhaps merely a stop. Death became a form of birth, a way of transfiguration. An entry into the communion souls, more powerful and enduring than the exit from this world.
I think of All Souls more deeply, some years. In some years, it passes without a thought. In this year I shall remember my son, who is within the communion of saints. And this knowledge will not take away any of the pain. It will not make me miss him any less, it will not make my heart rest any easier, as I question why he had to die at all.
I will say this, if he had to be anywhere, the Communion of Saints is where I would most like him to be. Amidst friends and family, amidst those who have made me laugh, and cry while on earth. Amidst those who have taught me some of life's most profound lessons. And if I cannot be my son's teacher, I should like them to be. Amidst those who have known me deeply, amidst solid and pure love. There is, if not meaning, then solace in this.