Archive for the ‘Grief’ Category

There is a Japanese word that I recently discovered,


It has to do with a deep emotional response that is triggered by a profound awareness of the universe (Wikepedia)

When I encountered it, I was visiting my childhood home. It was the day I arrived and was taking a walk, soaking in the East coast air, the great big sky and the changing leaves. Everything about the sights, sounds and scents of that moment made me think of my dad, how he would appreciate each of these experiences … for this is what we shared … a love of the wonder of nature …yūgen.

Two years ago today I heard his voice for the last time, as I called to wish him a happy birthday.

Now there is silence.

Yet, because of our shared love and awareness of the natural world, I am reminded of him in the call of the coyotes, the mysterious fluttering of a hummingbird’s wings, the sunrise and sunset (red sky in morning, sailors take warning. red sky at night, sailors delight), the early spring budding of pussy willows, the scent of artisan roses, the moon big and bright in the sky … a leaf fluttering and falling from the branch of a tree.

You see, I still see him, hear him, for our shared love of nature, of Creation echos within me.

Two years later, I am learning to not only appreciate this nature connection, not only seeing him in that which we loved and shared, but I am learning the value of leaving a legacy. Leaving whispers of encouragement and love for those you love.

Leaving whispers in the dark that say, not just remember me, but remember who you were in my heart.


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On March 14, 2020 I had a ticket to fly from the west coast to the east, but then … Covid.

I wrote, a week before scheduled to fly across the country, “from the west coast to the east, from one home to another, my mind begins to prepare for the sights, smells and sounds that will, in all probability, trigger the emotions of grief when I arrive.”

It was to be my first time back, in my province of origin, in the home of my childhood, with the people whom I shared the beginning of life … after the death of my dad in the fall of 2019.

Firsts, after the death of a loved one, can be triggers of grief that still lingers in the heart and mind. They can awaken a loneliness for that individual, as well as for who you were with them … for not only are they gone, but so is the part of you that was loved, adored uniquely by them.

So when I recently boarded the plane headed in the direction of my life’s beginnings, as I returned to my childhood home and family … I was so very aware that there would be one missing from that reunion.

There was a great part of me
that feared
that the weight of his absence
would be crushing …
but it wasn’t.

Though he is no longer there,

no lingering hugs that speak the words of the heart,

no squinty eye smiles from eyes so blue,

no fresh biscuits from the oven,

no information about houses for sale in their area (hints to move ‘back home’)

… he lives on.

I felt his life as my brother offered to drive me from the airport, the long way, so I could see the sights (and as he cringed when I shut the car door too hard).

I felt his life in the lingering embrace of my other brother, surprised to see me standing in his driveway (and in his use of ‘huh’ when he didn’t hear what was said the first time).

I saw his life in my nephews eyes, shining bright.

I heard his life in my niece, as she greeted me with warmth and unhindered excitement.

I felt his life in the stories my mum shared … so many stories that speak of a life … not perfect at all, but a life well lived.

He lives on …

It is a bit disturbing to admit that it wasn’t crushing to return …

but he wasn’t absent, he wasn’t missing.

The best of who he was still is …

it exists in pieces,

shared by each of us.

The seeds of his life have been planted in us and they keep growing,

for he lives on … on both coasts.

One day, while there, I was walking around the streets of the neighborhood of my parent’s home with their dog. A man, walking toward me, said, “is that Daisy?” I nodded and introduced myself. In very basic language, he went on to tell me that he and my dad spoke often. That he was a nice man. That he missed my dad. I told him I miss him too. We walked and talked a bit more … his simple expressions of remembrance of my dad filled my heart … he’s still here, in Bill too.

There was no grief in this visit for me. Only memories of a good life and evidence that the seeds he planted continue to grow.

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Isn’t it amazing how little things can take you off in search of something you didn’t even know you were looking for?

A simple social media post had me preoccupied and searching the other day … for over an hour.

The post is one I have seen a few times lately. An image of a person, in their garden, through a window, walking toward their house. What follows is a story, written by the adult child of that person, or their widow/widower. They share that the image is one taken by Google or Apple maps. These images are taken in the past, a year, or two or more ago. The person posting writes how they saved the image, for one day, they know, the address will be updated with a new image … and their loved one will not be in the updated image.

What they have saved is a live version,
of one who is no longer
in the window, the garden.

Well, my curiosity was peeked.

I started on my phone. Immediately finding an image of my childhood home, in summer, in the not too distant past. The care was still parked. The front garden full of growing activity.

Then I noticed the doors to the storage shed opened. I zoomed in for a closer look. The Rollator to the right of the doors. This was no longer a job for my phone. The laptop was opened, the search continued. I moved to look from different angles, zoomed in and out, checked out satellite views, even trying to peer into the back of the property from the street and through the houses behind.


I switched to another mapping website, to no avail.

Though I was not seeking, not needing to see my dad that day, the possibility of a live image of him had built up such a great hope of that possibility. After seeking unsuccessfully, I was rather disappointed. To only have had the opportunity to see him living again. To have had the joy of seeing him and smiling.

Deep down inside
we always seek
for our departed loved ones.
-Munia Khan

Then I remembered a video that I have, from my last visit home. He took my daughter and I to the maple sugar woods. Though I could not find the video, I could hear his voice, after tasting the syrup on the cold snow, “some good” with that characteristic sparkle in his eye.

I guess that once a loved one no longer lives and breathes life’s breath, those who loved are simply still seeking signs of life.

If I could only see you
And once more feel your touch.

Yes, you’ve just walked on ahead of me
Don’t worry I’ll be fine

But now and then I swear I feel
Your hand slip into mine.

-Joyce Grenfell

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I thought that I was done with this subject … then … more words flowed out onto the screen. I guess the ripples are still in motion …

It is akin to floating, or maybe I just long to feel the motion of the ripples on the water. I long for peace …

Nope, that doesn’t do …

Most of time I live and move through my days as always, then something jogs my memory, or I bump my knee and like the pain of an old injury resurfacing, I dissolve in a puddle …

No … still inadequate …

I’ll see him in one of my kids and I almost burst with a combination of joy and sorrow …

Nope …

How does one describe walking through the first 365 days without a loved one? How does one, adequately, define the experience of great loss? How does one say, at the same time … the pain of loss is always there and life goes on? How does one meander through year one with everything the same, yet every first a reminder that everything is different?

Short answer …

I don’t know.

This experience of year one without my/our dad, my mom’s husband, the next generation’s grandfather, a friend, neighbor, cousin does not make us experienced, experts. It just leaves us longing for what was, for time snuffed out.

Not only do we feel the void his death has left, we feel and know that it has changed us, our relationships with each other, for his empty space has removed scaffolding in our relationships with each other, causing us to either be stubbornly unmoved (a fallacy, as Seismic Shifts move us all) or completely unmoored, bounced around by every wave, every ripple.

Every ripple … the ripples of his life, breathless for almost a year, are still moving.

I saw it when my younger daughter filled my kitchen with biscuits from his biscuit recipe, when my nephew worked in his garden in spring and when my niece showed up to help clean his garden as summer was fading. I see it when my older daughter calls her grandmother to check in on her, when my son wrapped his arms around me, offering wordless comfort as I melted into a puddle. In how all the grands love their dogs and cats.

I saw it in the stubborn, in the drop everything and run, in the sadness and the frustrations and the avoidance techniques of my brothers … of myself.

He is in our risqué humor, our desire to help each other, our love of music and movement, in the colors of fall and the earliest maple syrup and pussy willows in spring. He is in the late night game, the local hockey team, eyes closed, but don’t you think about turning the channel. He is in the beauty and fluttering of a hummingbirds wings, the enjoyment of an ice cream cone or a meal surrounded by one another. He is in the contradiction of our striving and contentment. He is laughing … that deep belly laugh that often ended in him coughing up a lung. He is on the swing in the cool of a summer evening, reminiscing with our mom.

 “In the Ramtop village where they dance the real Morris dance, for example, they believe that no one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away—until the clock he wound up winds down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.”

Terry Pratchett – Reaper Man


the water still ripples.
the clock is still wound.
the wine is still ripening.

and dad … the crop you planted … it’s growing strong,
and the bounty of it will never come to an end.

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It was a Thursday morning, just like today.

Just like today, the sun shone brightly that day, after days of grey and gloom and rain.

At a glance, one might say that it was the calm after the storm … for me, a year ago, it was the beginning of the storm after the calm.

Twelve months later it is still a mix of calm and storms, everyday life and everything is changed, laughter and tears, stability and wobbling.

Twelve months of grief for my dad, followed by grief for his sister and her husband, a cancer diagnosis and treatment for a brother, the diagnosis of chronic disease for a daughter as well as illness for another, the loneliness of our mom and a world pandemic to round it all out.

Grief doesn’t happen in isolation. Life, with it’s joys and horrors just keeps happening, with little concern for our pain and processing.

There have been times when I have felt, metaphorically, buried alive with grief, disappointment, fear, tragedy and sorrow. Days when I got out of bed, but stayed on my dung heap from morning ’til night. Days when I didn’t have anything left to give … to anyone, even myself.

And the one who I had previously gone to, when there was no other … he was gone too. And I felt it. I felt the vacuum of his absence, the loss of the undergirding he had always provided.

And what have I learned?

  • I have learned that life is short … too short for regrets, excuses. We have today, this moment … that is all we know we have.
  • I have learned that speaking of your pain validates the pain felt by another.
  • I have learned to say I love you instead of good bye … to family, to friends … it will one day be too late to speak them, don’t save them like fancy china … throw them around like confetti.
  • I have learned to lean into my sadness, to cry when the tears surface, to say the words, “I am sad today,” to feel the feels of grief.
  • I have learned that it’s okay to take a break from helping others … saying no or not volunteering to help someone else is okay when your cup is empty.
  • I have learned that even helpers need helpers … from my husband, to a couple of friends, to my counsellor … these people have been the ones throwing me flotation devices when I was taking on water.
  • I have learned that even though I have struggled to write during this year, I have managed to continue to practice this daily discipline.
  • I have learned (again) that God never leaves us in the valleys of life, including grief … and he shows himself in people and wonders that can only be of him.
  • I have learned that grief is not something one can go around, but we must go through it.

It has been a year … started with a beautiful, sunny morning and ended the same.

Though the void left behind will never again be filled, I am hoping that this sunrise was the calm after the great storm.

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Remember, remember, the Fifth of November

That is the start of a poem, a nursery rhyme from the seventeenth century about religion, politics, treason and an impassioned ‘guy’.

this post has nothing to do with any of those things …

I heard the line a few weeks past and, in an instant my mind raced to the significance of the fifth of November.

On November 5, 1943, with the miraculous simplicity of the birth of a baby, the baby boy who would become my dad, breathed his first breath … and like a rock dropped in the water, ripples spread out, forever changing the lives of so many.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November

As I remembered the fifth of November, it was a memory of that date last year. I didn’t want to forget to wish him a happy birthday, so I called as I was driving home from work, speaker on full … so that I could hear him not hear what I said (yes, he had hearing aids. No, he didn’t wear them).

“Hel-lo” the phone came to life quickly … my mom not picking up calls that day, knowing that most would be for him, wishing him well on his birthday. He loved birthdays and relished the attention on his.

I don’t remember what we spoke of, though I am certain that he told me about who else had called him, where he and mom had gone to dinner, and how whatever he had eaten was “some good.”

What I do remember for sure is that it was our last conversation and … I was miffed at him.

It was so clear that he did not hear much of what I said (damn pride about those hearing aids). And … he just wasn’t right, not himself … and I longed for something better.

As we said good-bye, I rolled my eyes, wondering if he had heard much of what was said. I was miffed at him … and that was our final conversation.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November

This will forever be my final memory of talking to my dad. Within days he was not feeling well, then taken to hospital by ambulance, then …

If I could have a redo, I would have called him back the next day, been more patient, asked more questions, said I love you until I was certain that he heard it …

But, there are no redos … we only have today, this moment.

Thankfully, I have a lifetime of good memories with my dad, far more good and warm and positive than this last humdrum conversation.

Death is a part of life and we cannot live in relationship with other humans thinking that we have tomorrow.

Do it, today. Say it, today. Live with no regrets.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November

November 5, 2019, was my dad’s seventy-sixth birthday. Twenty days later he breathed his last, but, like a rock dropped in the water, ripples are still spreading out, forever changing the lives of so many.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November

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This morning, someone I love will begin to emerge from a valley of shadows.

Chemo and radiation treatments come to an end. It is a day that signals the faint but growing light at the end of this dark tunnel … this valley.

Just three months after our dad died unexpectedly, the oldest of my two younger brothers was told that he may have cancer. A month later that possibility was confirmed. Another month later, treatments began. Now, nearly two months later, he will walk out of radiology, hopefully for good.

In the midst of all of that, he had to have all of his teeth removed (due to the radiation treatments). Covid 19 introduced the world to social distancing, eliminating the support of his partner at medical appointments, counselling and making it more challenging to get transportation to medical appointments. It also restricted the freedom to travel (how I would have loved, would love to be there to help his family).

It was a solitary valley of dark and menacing shadows.

The side effects of the ‘cure’ were dreadful for him … for them, for his family were also subjected to the effects of such powerful treatments. They had to endure his physical exhaustion, the emotional rollercoaster and vile sores in his mouth and throat that made even drinking water an agonizing torture. They have watched his body mass decrease by over 15%.

It is as though, the completion of his treatments are the first signal in over seven months that our hearts can begin to emerge from the valley of shadows.

I have heard many whispers of Psalm 23:4 :

“Even though I walk
through the darkest valley …”

Some versions say, “yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” …

Death is what one thinks of when we hear the word Cancer. It doesn’t matter our age, our situation in life, the type of cancer … we all know of someone who had cancer, who died, So, when we hear it as a diagnosis our minds rush to that scenario … contemplating what we will miss, who we will miss.

I am certain that for our entire family, who were still wandering in the shadow of our father’s death, for whom death still had a presence, a personality … his diagnosis caused fear to raise it’s ugly head.

What a season it has been for him, his partner, his kids, mom and all the rest of us who cheered him on from the sidelines. It has not been easy. As he said to me just yesterday, “it was a good cancer, because it is so treatable.” Yet, a good cancer makes me think of the impossibility of being kind-of pregnant … it’s still cancer. And this ride has been so rough and in this time of pandemic, it has been made even more challenging.

Yet, here he is … walking through this valley, taking in the poison that is his medicine, enduring agony to eliminate the pain. Utilizing every bit of strength to get through each day, while this valley takes everything out of him.

Congratulations, brother! You made it to the end of this leg of the valley. You’re not at the very end yet, and there will still be a bit more stumbling in the dark, but the light is shining in.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:4

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He hasn’t been ‘daddy’ since I was quite young, but I will still always be a daddy’s girl.

He chose me … not really knowing who I would become, the choices I would make, or even if I would chose to love him back … that is father love that parallels the love offered to us all, through Christ, in our God.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1

God, the father to all, the father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5) will love us when there is an earthly absence of a father … of a good father. God is a father who loves with an unconditional love. He can fill the void that some feel on this day of celebration of the love of a father … the void of who we were because of a father’s love.

A few months ago I wrote of the grief of loss as not only that they are gone, but so is the part of you that was loved uniquely by them. It is the loss of a person, a relationship, a part of who you have always been … with them, in them, through their eyes.

I have always been his daughter … cared and sacrificed for, taught about life and living, chosen and loved as his own. It is hard to explain how it feels to have always known that you are so loved, to have been confident that there is no one and nothing that could ever change that love … not driving the car in the ditch, not even moving to the other side of the country.

Today I will feel it … the absence of it all … his presence, his voice, his acceptance, his unconditional, chosen love. The void leaves me aching with memories and missed opportunities.

Most of all, today I will miss who I was in his eyes, in his presence.

I was his daughter …

Though I am loved beautifully by my husband and kids, my mom and others who I hold dearly, today I remember, with thanks, the man who loved me enough to call me his own …

Today …

I ache for who I was in the eyes and heart of my dad …

every part of my life changed because of his love …

and every part of me is lonely for him, for my identity in and through him.

I am still just a dad’s girl and I miss him so.

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No words.

Just sadness.

No response.

Just heaviness.

No answers.

Just … lament.

God, I know you are there, I know that you are faithful and true and trustworthy.

I know that you have been with all of humanity since before time began. That you are in us, that you have shaped us and molded us in the inmost place. I know that when you look on all that you have created, you say, with parental pride, “it is good” … every one of us.

But I ache.

For humanity does not treat each other as good, with grace. Your creation has demeaned, devalued and degraded some in society, to the point of death.

I … I am called fair, for my skin is pale, but those who are called this fair … have not been. We have been anything but fair. What can I say or do to help those who have been subjugated by the fair … like me.

Like Moses in Egypt, like Tubman in her Underground Railroad, like King in DC, the heart cry of “Set My People Free” … free from discrimination, free from threat of harm, free from the looks, free to do and to have as the fair people do … has interrupted our our lives. The volume of the protesters could not speak as loudly to our hearts as the whisper,

I can’t breathe

God, those words, that scene … it destroyed a part of us all … red and yellow, black and white … (Jesus loves the little children of the world).

Can I still sing those words? Not that you love the children, but naming four (inexact) colors? God, I don’t know the rules … I don’t know the words to say, I don’t know how to be the support and hands and feet of you and I just want to say,

I am with you.
I am so sorry for the hatred.
I am so sorry for the pain and struggle and fear that you live with,

simply because those of us who are fair … are anything but.

This week has been significant, Lord. The white elephant in the room of humanity has been seen. People have raised their voices, told their stories, demanded change from leaders, from … the fair who are not. Social media has been full of #BlackOutTuesday, #blacklivesmatter, lists of organizations and businesses to support (or to avoid), lists of how those of us who are fair might help, support … be fair.

But, some of it, Lord, is contradictory. One person posts this, another posts the opposite. One posts the blacked out screen, another says #BlackLivesMatter matters more.

God, I want to be the help, the change the arm around the shoulders of others. I want the people who I love, who are not as ‘fair’ as me, to know that I weep with them, that I don’t see their color so much as the life within them (is that okay to say?) and …

I hope they don’t see mine.

For, God, the fair have not been.

O Lord my God, I cried out to You,
and you healed me our world. 
Psalm 30:2

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When I read those words, above, in Dr. Steve Rose blog, they resonated in a way that made me think I would need them in the days to come. This week they surfaced in my mind as I read the posts on social media and in the news.

We who can respond are responsible for our actions, or our inactions. As long as I have breath, I am responsible to respond, to speak, to write, to work to change my world, through changing myself.

I am responsible to get to the bottom of my sin, my actions and beliefs … in the light of Truth … the Truth.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)

The Psalms declares our earliest beginnings … we are the handiwork of the very Creator of everything. This is true for us all … male or female, Jew or Christian or Buddhist or Muslim or atheist, red or yellow or black or white. Whatever difference or division or thing that may separate us as the human race, all were created by God and for him (Colossians 1:16).

Behold, all souls are mine. (Ezekiel 18:4)

No other human possesses or controls another’s soul. It has been, it is and it will forever be under the ownership of it’s Creator … we may deny him our soul, but it cannot be snatched by any other.

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7)

Dirt … that is what we are made of, dirt of the Earth. We are humans, from the humus, the soil to be worked, to produce good fruit.

This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it … (Isaiah 42:5)

The Creator of the heavens … who gives breath to its people, and life … that is what makes the dirt organic, full of life … it is the very breath of God.

Breath, breathing … to be able to breath is the gift of life, through the giver of all life, for all lives.

Who should take that breath away? Not I.

We who can respond are responsible for our actions, or our inactions. As long as I have breath, I am responsible to respond, to speak, to write, to work to change my world, through changing myself.

“If violence is absolutized, we only find ways of hurting, we find very few ways of solving problems,” Ravi Zacharias

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