On April 20th I boarded a plane to visit a dear friend and celebrate her birthday. Sue and I first met in 1981 when we were neighbours on Rue Narcisse in Chateauguay, Quebec. Our thirty-seven year friendship saw us cross paths many times over the years, from Montreal to Kamloops to Calgary, with Sue eventually leaving for Vancouver to stay. Our friendship, in all honesty feels more like we are sisters.
The last time I saw Sue in Vancouver was during a business trip in 2009, and then we planned a Thanksgiving trip in our old stomping grounds in Kamloops in 2012, even making time to drive up the mountain to Pinantan Lake where we both lived until Sue and family moved to the mainland.
The really cool thing about a friendship like ours is that it doesn’t really matter how much time or distance comes between us, we pick up right where we left off when we finally see each other again.
Pinantan Lake, BC in the late 80s
While there, on this recent visit, I also had an opportunity to catch up with other friends, like Stephanie who was a teenager when we met at the Mustard Seed. And Scott, who also hails from Chateauguay, and Marie whom Sue first met in Montreal, and I later met in the late eighties in Pinantan Lake, British Columbia.
Stephanie, me and Sue – April 2018
It was so wonderful to sit around a table sharing meals and memories with these wonderful people. And walk around Sue’s neighbourhood, including a five kilometer hike to the falls in Golden Ears Provincial Park. I’m also very grateful to Scott for giving us a tour of the Fraser River on his boat.
Marie, Sue and Diana
Scott, Diana and Sue
On the Fraser River
Golden Ears Provincial Park
The air in the rain forest is so rejuvenating
Who knew that three days with old friends in beautiful British Columbia could be so energizing and good for the soul?
Thank you my friends for your over-the-top hospitality. I’m already looking forward to the day when I can visit again!
I recently read that when you want to bulk up your muscles by working out, it tears your muscle and creates a scar. That scar is what makes your muscle bulkier and makes you stronger.
Reading that reminded me of the above quote.
Every scar. Every physical, emotional and spiritual wound. Every stretch mark you endure, tells the story of your life. It shows what you have endured and survived, and makes you stronger.
Our scars make us stronger. They make us more beautiful, more uniquely us, and as an extra bonus, more compassionate and kind toward others. They tell the story of our life.
But just as with any workout routine, you first decide to be healthier, you embrace the current discomfort, you work through the pain, you rest when you need to, and then do it again. it takes time to see the results.
I’ve been working here at Oxford House for just little over two years and I can attest to what a great organization it is!
Hardly a day goes by that I am not hearing an amazing story, or learning something new about myself about honesty, integrity, sweating the small stuff, and the list goes on and on!
So I’ve just now decided a small way I can give back. As soon as I’ve published this post, I am making a $22 donation to Oxford House in honour of its 22nd birthday here and I’m going to challenge you to do the same.
if you’ve ever been helped by Oxford House, or you know someone who has, or you knew Ron MacMillan, Founder and past executive director of Oxford House, and want to donate in his name, or you know someone who is struggling with addiction or has lost their battle with addiction, and you just want to help someone else in their name, who is living in an Oxford House, will you consider donating today?
This loss spills out over things I never thought it would touch and i am shattered by the falsehood of permanence.
– Chloe Frayne
She’s slipping away, bit by bit. In many ways I’ve already lost the woman I’ve known as mother all my life. She’s being replaced with a new woman, one who has endearing qualities of her own, one who although a stranger to me, I’m struggling to know.
What a conundrum to build a new relationship, when memories created moments ago, are forgotten as quickly as they are experienced.
Yet what a gift it is in teaching me how to ‘live in the moment, love in the moment,‘ right in the moment we have.
She may not remember my visit, or the laughs we shared at the dinner table, or the conversation we had on the phone, or that the big-comfy-after-bath-housecoat I bought her, is hanging in her closet, but I hope with all my heart, the love shared in these moments transcends the moments, and makes its home in her heart forever, even if one day, she forgets me.
When you use the sheer force of your sorrow to crack open your heart, it promises to drop you down into a deeper capacity for compassion and care for all living beings. You become initiated into your own humanity in a way that connects you to all life. Such is the paradox of grief. It holds the power to either destroy or to save you. Which one is up to you.
“What is the name of that singer I really liked?” mom asked me, sitting across the booth from me at her ‘second home’ at Vieux Chateau in Hawkesbury, ON. “You know, the guy who sang, ‘You ain’t nothing but a groundhog?’“
How interesting that mom would ask that question, with the mistaken groundhog instead of the actual hound-dog from the song she so loved by Elvis Presley, since my brother and I had recently discussed how life with mom is sort of like the movie Groundhog Day.
Two years ago, mine and Mike’s dad, and mom’s husband of 56 years passed away. Mom hasn’t been the same since. How can someone go on when their husband, whom they have spent more than half their life with, is suddenly gone.
It hasn’t been easy for mom, or for us kids who are witnesses to the profound sadness that saturates mom’s reality. And just recently mom has also had to give up driving and leave the home that she and dad built together to move into a retirement home.
Getting old sucks!
We try to tell ourselves otherwise to make ourselves feel better, but it’s a shit show of giving up independence and autonomy. Sure, one can still find joy in moments and be grateful for what remains, but as in the case of mom, that takes a great deal of re-focusing and determination.
You see, mom isn’t who she once was. She has become very forgetful and displays signs of dementia, and she knows it. Imagine if half your brain was breaking down, and the other half was fully aware of it. It can’t be easy for her. And she is different. She’s not the mom we knew. But the new Margot is beautiful. She’s compassionate. She is concerned about the future of, and misses, her family immensely.
During my one-week visit, I watched mom reach out to others who are struggling, doling out hugs, taking the arm of a woman who has pain when she walks. Mom is fierce in her efforts to help and protect others, because she knows firsthand what it means to feel helpless. She is beautifully compassionate when she hugs and cries with those who are hurting. And although she doesn’t feel it, she is brave, emotionally connected and a light in the darkness.
It’s not been easy for us, her kids, because we are heartbroken with the cards that life has dealt mom. We feel guilty because we can’t spend as much time as we would like with her. And yet, we are so proud of her and so in awe of her ability to FEEL the moment and experience it in the moment.
I don’t mind so much when she cries, because that is RAW honesty, and it passes. She feels it. Accepts it. And moves on. I guess the hardest part is when she panics, when she feels that she screwed up in someway, when the chaotic thoughts in her head send her into a tailspin. Thankfully, these episodes seem to be less, now that she gets her medication dispensed by a nurse at the correct times.
Don’t misread me. It’s not all gloom and doom. Mom’s only been in her new home for a month. She needs time to mourn what’s she’s lost, and grow accustomed to her new surroundings. We do have high hopes of a meaningful quality of life experience for her moving forward. We look forward to a possible trip with the whole family to Germany, mom’s homeland, and we look forward to a June wedding between my daughter and her fiancé.
But I don’t think we are fully off the hook. Individually, and as a society, we need to take a long, hard look at how we treat the elderly. How do we make sure that there is still “life” in their lives? How do we create an environment where joy can exist? How do we move away from ‘doing everything’ for them to ‘helping them find their new purpose?’ How do we move away from the warehousing of elderly people, to an integrated model of all society that includes children and all ages? And how do we keep the conversation going until we find it?
Getting old sucks, but it doesn’t have to…
Check out the amazing results that happened after this cool 6 week experiment.
~ DIANA’S ENORMOUS BOOK OF QUOTES ~
Mom lives at Place Mont Roc now; a wonderful place, run by wonderful people, helping wonderful people. Their kindness is amazing and it’s a great foundation on which to build what we can further do to respect and keep the dignity of our seniors; our moms and dads.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of Louise Gallagher’s company. It has become a tradition for us to meet each year before Christmas. And I always leave our time together re-energized.
Among the many topics we cover, we talk about Louise’s current move to a new home. I imagine, because of Louise’s creative soul, she must have lots to pack as she’d be inclined to keep things that might be used in a future art project.
“Yes I do,” she affirms, and holds up a print out saying, “I look at this and wonder how I could use it for art.” She goes on to tell me about an empty container she keeps that reminds her to ‘hold space’ for things she cannot change, like the hurts she has caused others, or others’ have caused her.
I pull a black, shiny stone out of my pocket – an Apache Tear – and tell her when I feel it in my pocket I remember those whom I have lost in this life, and those who still struggle.
Do you have a meaningful object? What does it remind you of?
Two things that stand out to me, when Dad taught me to drive are, don’t let the guy behind you pressure you. Don’t drive faster for him. Drive the speed you feel comfortable with. And, Look where you want to go. Look as far up the road as is visually possible. Don’t look at the sharp corner you’re on. You saw that a while back, you knew it was coming, you’ll get through it.
Sometimes while in the curves life throws at us, we feel the pressures of life pushing us to do something we’re not comfortable with. We can’t take our eyes off the current situation. We’re looking for a quick fix. It is then when we must fight the urge to focus on the trouble we’re in and keep our eyes on where we’re headed.
~ DIANA’S ENORMOUS BOOK OF QUOTES ~
Perspective: Maybe God is taking you through troubled waters because your enemy can’t swim.