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Archive for the ‘FAMILY’ Category

Happy birthday to our West Coast girl! Born twenty-four years ago … about nine months after we arrived here, to this place we now call home.

But it has always been home for you. The addresses may have changed, the occupants too, but home for you is the west coast, it is where you belong.

I associate your birth with spring, blooming magnolia trees and Easter … these are parts that are always part of your life, your home.

Though you do not live at my home anymore my mother heart will always think that my home is yours too.

I will eagerly make a place at the table, have a blanket ready to cover you as you snooze on my couch or bed, invite you to help trim the tree … all because your moving out on your own does not make you less a part of my home.

When you come to visit, I send you back to your place with food or flowers or goods … because I want to share a little of my home with you.

I plan and plot when I know that you are coming, hoping that you feel at home when you are here.

Honestly, it is never long enough and my selfishness bristles when you’re running late, or have to leave early. But, that is my problem, my expectations and I remind myself that to have you for a little while in my home is blessing. And I am thankful that you’ve come.

You see, when we parents have a home that we have built for our loves we want them to love being here as much as we do. I guess we parents have to learn from nature, from the birds that encourage and even push their birds from the nest they’ve made … because that is the way.

Just days before your birth we celebrated Easter and your presence inside of me brought me different and intimate understanding of the Spirit within us. Though we are the residence or home of the Spirit, it is the risen Jesus who gives us home feels like none other. I remember reading (just days before your birth) “when everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am” … this is the home without me needing to do any of the preparing, the cooking, the cleaning … I just have to show up, and I will be home.

The magnolia trees outside our home are beginning to prepare to bloom in the warming spring sun. They whisper to me your name, remind me of your pink skin … they remind me of when we brought you home.

May today be the budding of spring in your life. May you know the security, the warmth, the nourishment and the love of home. May you know this, your original home, with your dad and I, always has a door open, a place at the table, a room to rest your head, a warm hug …

love lives here for you.

Happy birthday my west coast girl.

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We sat there, enjoying our meal together, when the conversation moved into an area of gold.

“So, who has inspired you and why?”

What followed was great revelation, great insight into those who have been the influencers in the life of my, now adult, son.

The people named were not surprising to me, though I did find it interesting the order of who was mentioned. Then there was the why question … why did this person, or that, stick in your mind as inspiring?

Youth leaders, teachers, camp leaders … those were the areas of leadership that they all originated from. Mostly men (as this was my son), but women as well. Descriptors such as authentic, available, consistent, interested, solid, challenged to work harder, be better flowed from his lips.

I found myself to be so encouraged.

As a mom, a parent, it is always good to know that your child received encouragement towards growth from someone else. It is good to see that our children are not just impacted by us, as parents, but by others around them. That they take into adulthood the whispers of encouragement from others.

“If your actions inspire others to
dream more, learn more, do more and become more,
you are a leader.”
John Quincy Adams

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Over the past weeks, my son has had me on a steady weekly diet of Star Wars films and animated series (Clone Wars and Rebels) to prepare me for season two of The Mandalorian. He felt I needed more background knowledge of the Mandalorians as well as a better understanding of how things fit together in the Star Wars narrative.

I just want to watch Season 2 of The Mandalorian!!

He, though, sees the bigger picture. He wants me to not just see season 2 as a show, but as a part of a bigger picture …

where did he learn this bigger picture emphasis?

Okay, so … maybe from his mother.

Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery, hmm… but weakness, folly, failure also. Yes: failure, most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.

Those words, spoken from Yoda to Luke, in the Last Jedi, could fit as appropriately when speaking of the parent/child relationship.

As my own three apprentices are now adults, I feel much of the teaching, the passing on, is done. Now I am watching them reach out into the world with their training done, making their own choices of which lessons to keep and which to abandon (temporarily or permanent? who is to say?).

In my parental passing on of what I have learned, I have equally passes on strengths and weaknesses, wisdom and folly. In my human imperfection, I have also failed them at times … and that failure is also part of the package that I hand over to them.

This is how the human race has a tendency to repeat past mistakes, for history’s teachers impart both the good and the bad, the blessings and the curses from within themselves.

As their parent (master 🙂 ) I have handed down to them many things, but my legacy is not just what I have modelled, taught or insisted upon … my legacy is also what they do with the treasures (and trash) I have shared with them.

Just like a teacher to a student in a classroom, there is no formula for guaranteed success.

If we look beyond human parents and Jedi masters, even in the mastery of Jesus himself, to his disciples, there was not perfection in the following of his teachings. Yet, two thousand years later, his word and his way (“this is the way”) are still being taught, still being modelled … imperfectly.

Though the burden, or struggle of all masters, all teachers, all parents is that our legacy is not in what we impart, but in how our apprentices, our students, our children use what we have given them.

And this is the greatest burden, but also the greatest learning of all parents.

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Here in our Pacific Northwest corner of the Canadian world, we celebrated Family Day yesterday.

It’s a holiday when schools and businesses are closed. It is on the calendar right between the end of the Christmas break and start of the Spring one. In our pre-pandemic life people might have prepared a weekend away, activities to do as families, or a meal together.

For many, everyday has been family day since about mid-March, 2020, when so much of what was normal closed, cancelled or became restricted. Family homes became hubs of every area of life, from meals, to work, to school, to entertainment and sports and the arts.

But there have been other families for whom family day would have different reflections of the past year. The inability to physically be near, to hug, to hold the hand of an older parent or grandparent, or spouse. The restrictions on travel, or border crossing that have prevented families at a distance from drawing near. The loss of the life of a loved one.

Yesterday, as I looked at our family photo, I looked at the faces of my family. Each one of those faces is an individual with different gifts, struggles and purposes. Each one of them hand-picked for our family, for each other. Sometimes we need a day to reflect and remember the gifts that are those who make up our family. It can be a day to connect (in person, or afar), a day to pray for each one, thanking God for them.

“What can you do to promote world peace?
Go home and love your family.”
Mother Teresa

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February … the month of love …

As I drove to work yesterday I voiced three voice texts, one to each of our adult kids. It has become a (mostly) weekly ritual, so that I am being intentional about connecting with them, wishing them a good week and reminding them they are loved.

As I finished the third voice-to-text, I laughed out loud. Our son’s text was longer than to our two daughter’s for it included, and don’t forget to clean your bathroom.

I love you and don’t forget to clean your bathroom …

This is the struggle of loving each other up close and personal, under the same roof. It is where my business is your business and love is often interpreted as putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher, making a B+ (or higher) grade meal (family joke), not letting the dog on the bed, spraying the bathroom before you leave it and don’t forget to clean your bathroom … because we have to cohabitate together.

Living together means love isn’t just heart-warming words, kisses in the moonlight or sharing an episode of the Mandalorian together … it is living out our love as respect and service to each other.

And that’s the tough where the rubber meets the road truth.

Loving words are important, are good to share. They can be the gas that keeps love on the road. But our daily deeds, done in love are the oil which reduces the friction of bumping up against each other everyday. No love vehicle can stay on the road without both.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:16-18

… by the way, I came home to a sparkling clean bathroom

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So it’s your birthday today!

Yes, I ended that sentence with an exclamation mark, even though birthdays have never been something to celebrate in your mind.

I remember the first time I celebrated your birthday with you, your mood would have indicated that you would rather do just about anything except acknowledge you were turning a year older … you were twenty-three.

Though birthdays are not something you wish to celebrate, you are worthy of celebration.

Your roles in life include being a son, a husband, a father but there is one area of your life that I have seen this year (and every year before) that makes my admiration for you grow exponentially.

I have come home from work many days to the awareness that you are having a FaceTime conversation with someone, usually an older person who you once worked with/for, whose home you once lived, or knew somehow in the past. Or it might be a call with that guy who is a security guard at a local shopping strip mall, or the elderly man who you met at the barber. As Covid has snuck into the senior’s home where you work as a chaplain, preventing you from doing your work onsite, you have spent countless hours making phone calls to the residents, making contact by voice and heart, being received with happy excitement as well as teary thankfulness.

And each time I overhear your conversations, my heart is reminded of yours.

Your words speak love, encouragement and hope. Your listening speaks even greater volumes. You remind these people that they are still worthy of one’s time and attention, that they are still alive, that the breath of … not just life, but living and purpose is great within them. And through it all, you are the whisper into their souls that they are a valuable child of God …

A few weeks ago your phone rang, just after we climbed, weary-eyed, into bed. It was that English gentleman you’d met at the barber. He was calling to see if you’d heard if the lady barber (who, herself, is seventy-something) you share is still working. Though exhausted, my attention was fixed on the conversation between you and he. You discussed the barber situation, British television programs, historical events … both of you speaking and listening in turn. It was obvious that he was not eager to hang up, to go back to his silent apartment and you did not rush, but continued the conversation joyfully.

And I lie there, silently beaming with pride in how you gave this man the gift of being valued, being seen, being heard.

This is your gift, your greatest calling, giving attention to those who so easily get pushed aside, forgotten.

Now, today, as we celebrate your taking another turn around the sun, I hope you see the value in every breath you take. I hope you are able to receive attention directed to you. That you feel and know that you you are alive and that the breath of … not just life, but living and purpose is great within you.

May you hear the whisper into you soul that you are worth celebrating!

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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

Dad,

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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As the day of your birth approached, I was thinking about the dreams I have had over the years for you, my first born daughter.

Dreams about how you would make the world a better place.

My first, and most grand dream was pretty basic … that you live. For those of us who have known loss before that first breath this basic sign of life becomes the grandest dream.

Actually, it is probably similar to your grandest dreams for those who you work with, as an addictions counsellor … that they might continue to have the breath of life.

I have watched you, heard you share stories from your work … stories that break my heart, leave me with questions that I later pour out in prayer. I hear these stories with ears of a momma … aching for the aching, for what they are missing in life, for the traumas that they have experienced that have led them to such destruction.

I see your heart most clearly when I hear you speak of those you work with in your day (and night) job. I hear your hopes for their futures, I sense the hints of your dreaming for them, for their lives.

And here, in your workplace … whether in your office, or on the streets of a ‘skid row’ (in the middle of the night … ), or over a coffee, or at a park, or as they are coming off a high, or as you administer Naloxone to save their lives …

YOU are making a difference in your world.

Matthew 25 tells us the parable of the sheep and the goats. It is the final parable that Jesus shares (final things said and done should be noted because … they were Jesus final attempt at telling us how to live).

“The King will say to them, `Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things …

  • filling in forms for people who need help
  • finding a safe place for someone to live, to sleep
  • administering Narcan, in a drive thru, to someone who is turning blue, after overdosing on an opioid … after a long day working in a drug treatment residence
  • taking a kid to get the first food they’ve eaten in days
  • being threatened by someone for supporting a teen girl who needed to leave a dangerous home environment
  • sitting and hearing the woes of an addict, while silently suffering with your own physical pain
  • hearing the stories of sexual abuse of teens by boyfriends, uncles, fathers, brothers, foster parent and on, and on, and on again

… for one of the least important of these, you did them for me!'”

You are living the dream, girl. You have breath in your lungs and you are using what you have been uniquely gifted and called to do, in a way that can change someone’s day, their life, this world.

This work you do it beyond what I had dreamed for you … but not beyond what your Creator made you fully equipped to fulfil.

I am so proud of how you love and help those who in our society are often seen as the least.

Happy birthday sweet girl.

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