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I’ve found myself feeling irritated lately. I don’t usually get irritated and when I do, it’s usually blown over easily. Yet for some reason, lately there seems to be a “pandemic of stupid” if you will.

The decision to re-open our buildings, timing, etc. is delicate. And the Parish sent out a questionnaire to find out what people are feeling as far as re-opening. Tomorrow I have a meeting where a final decision will be made by our Joint Church Committee. We will be looking at the feedback from the questionnaire as the decisions are made.

Lately some people have been telling me that what we’re doing, no, sorry, what I’M doing is wrong. That I’m going about this whole thing the wrong way. I was raised to be respectful, especially of my elders, and so I usually listen carefully, I acknowledge that I’m listening and then I try and find a way to further engage the dialogue.

But you know what? There’s no cure for stupid. Ignorance can be lifted through education, but there ain’t no cure for stupid.

The “armchair quarterbacks” are minimal, but they are out in force. Their voice, they believe, is the most important voice. And I know that there is no way I will make everyone happy. I know that. Yet I despair that someone may feel their voice is not heard.

My grandson needed emergency surgery a week and a bit ago. His appendix became inflamed and he was rushed into surgery. He was recovering well, then, over the weekend he started feeling worse. He was taken back to hospital and after a six hour wait in which he was told he was not a priority, his Dad took him to a hospital in another city who’s emergency room had very little wait.

He’s now awaiting emergency surgery because there is an infection by his spinal column that needs to be removed. I ran into a person in the community who asked me why I was so “down in the mouth” and I told her I was worried for my grandson. She dismissed my worry which was aggravating, THEN she questioned the strength of my faith because, and I quote, if I truly “had faith, I would not need to worry, I simply need to give it over to God.” When she said this I saw red.

“I have great faith in God, and I also have great faith in the surgeons and medical team caring for my grandson.” Yet I can and will still worry. Anaesthetic is a big deal. A young man in excruciating pain is a very big deal. She looked at me blankly and I turned and walked away. In my heart I know he will be okay. The surgery will be a success because he is a strong young man. I have faith in the surgeons to do their job well. And the rest of the medical team; techs, nurses, etc., will ensure he recovers well. BUT I CAN AND WILL STILL WORRY.

Words matter. Some people suck. And now I’m going to get some ice cream and go to bed early.

I would greatly appreciate prayers, good vibes, healing energy for my grandson and his medical team. Please and thank you.

Since the start of the pandemic, most mornings I drive to a local chain-store coffee shop for their steeped tea. Sometimes I order a breakfast sandwich or a donut, most days it’s just the tea. Over the past 16 months or so I’ve developed a friendship with the staff who work the early shift, in particular a young man called “G”. His nametag is one letter…”G”.

He is tall, slim, dark haired, olive skinned, wearing a turban and sporting a beard. He is Sikh and is originally from the Punjab in India. He came to the town where I am after finishing school in the next city over. He loves it here, with the four seasons and wide open spaces. The first time he saw in me uniform, wearing a clerical collar he was surprised, but didn’t say anything.

As we were approaching Holy Week he noticed I was in uniform every day. One day he asked me what it was I did for work. I told him I’m a priest and a minister. He stopped, smiled and slowly asked how it was possible for me to be those things, as I’m female. And so we began sharing little pieces of our stories with each other.

He wished me Happy Easter on Good Friday because he knew a holy day was coming up soon.

I asked him where he attends Temple as our town is too small for a sikh temple. He goes to Calgary, which is 3+ hours away, but only gets there a couple of times a year.

We have talked about God. We have talked about faith. We have talked about prayer.

Most mornings now, when I hear him on the loudspeaker I greet him by name, to which he responds with my name and asks if I’m having “my usual”. He is someone I look forward to seeing as his bright smile and peaceful disposition brighten my day. We almost always discuss the weather.

He has started asking about my congregation and when we can open the Churches again. I told him we were having an outdoor service and he asked if I could let him know how it went…so the day of the Outdoor service, I stopped before Worship for my tea, then after worship I stopped by again for another celebratory tea and he was thrilled when I told him it went well.

I thanked him for organising the good weather and he smiled broadly, bowed and said “you are most welcome…any time at all”, and we laughed.

The other morning I was feeling rather haggard. I’m sure I looked rather haggard and “G” asked me, with concern on his face, if everything was okay. I told him I was feeling overwhelmed but with a good cup of tea and an afternoon nap I should be okay.

As I was about to drive away he said “May God bless you this day” and I thanked him profusely.

This morning he said I was looking better, more rested, and I thanked him for his concern. I told him how much I appreciate seeing his smiling face and seeing him brightens my day. He said he looks forward to hearing my voice in the speaker and on the days I don’t get there he gets somewhat concerned. But he knows my job is ever-changing and perhaps I am taking a day off to be away.

I thanked him for his concern and told him that his blessing meant a lot to me. He told me he prays for me most every day. I told him I do the same. We both smiled then he said “I may not call my God the same as you call your God, but at the end of the day, there is only one God to whom we both pray.

In different circumstances we would have a distrust of the other because we are so obviously different. And yet, because we have taken a couple of minutes a day to say hello and to share some of our story, we now have a better understanding of who the other person is, and that God is central in both of their lives.

To that I can say only one thing: Thanks be to God. Amen.

I am having difficulty wrapping my head around the news of the remains of 215 children being found behind a former Indian Residential School in Kamloops. Yesterday, after I finished my sermon for Trinity Sunday I went for a walk in one of my favourite places and listened for the sound of the wind.

As a settler and a priest in the Church I feel deep shame that there were children taken from their parents and forced to speak a language they did not understand. They lost their culture, their language and their traditions. Many families were devastated. And that trauma has proven to be generational. Addiction, suicide, depression, a myriad of other symptoms and illness related to trauma.

I cannot find the words to express how I am feeling, other than profound shame.

I cannot figure out how to shut off my brain so I can rest.

I do not know what to do to make amends and to express my outrage and grief.

215 children.

430 parents who were told God knows what about their child’s death? Were they told at all?

860 grandparents who were denied the opportunity to share their language and culture. To impart the stories of their families to ensure those children would become knowledge and language keepers.

Countless siblings and relations who were unable to grieve.

And so, what do we do?

What can we do?

I feel heartsick, but I do not know if I have the right to feel that way, as a settler.

I received a letter from the Reverend Murray Pruden, the National Executive Minister for Indigenous Ministries and Justice with the United Church of Canada. In it was a prayer he wrote.

We give thanks for this day and each day you grant us life to walk on this great land, our Mother.
Give us the heart and strength to come together in prayer in time of mourning, reflection and peace.
The news we have heard these last few days of our relations, families, the children who have been
physically taken away from us and have now been found.
And with this news, we grieve for their memory, for their struggle, for their spirit.
We pray for good understanding, guidance and love for all our families and communities who will need the direction and resolution at this time.
And we come together in prayer and ask for your light to guide us to be a part of that needed peace, support and resolve for everyone who is reacting to this great tragedy in our Indigenous Nations of this great land.
Creator be with us, allow us to be brave. Allow us to be strong. Allow us to be gentle to one another.
Allow us to be humble. But most of all, allow us to be like the Creator’s love.
Peace be with us, we lift up our prayers to you. In love, trust and truth, peace be with us all. In Jesus name. Amen.

Reverend Murray Pruden, National Executive Minister for Indigenous Ministries and Justice, United Church of Canada

We now know of the 215 lost children. I struggle to grasp that there may be more children that we do not yet know found in mass graves behind other former Indian Residential Schools.

Why, dear God, why?

215 children

I need to re-read the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There is more that I can do. I want to engage my Parish and teach about the horror of residential schools, as I suspect, there are many who do not know the history of the I.R.S. and the Church’s roll in that atrocity.

A few years ago I watched “Children of God”, a musical written about a Residential School in Northern Ontario. Corey Payette was the driving force behind Children of God, in writing both the music and dialogue for “Children of God”. At the beginning of the evening, before the show officially started, several school-aged children came up and introduced themselves in English and in Ktunaxa…a language which was on the verge of being lost, but thanks to the language keepers, it has been preserved and is being taught once again.

At the end of the show the actors are singing Gimikwenden Ina “Do you remember” a haunting song. During the show a young girl is raped and is forced to endure an abortion. The shame she feels for the dishonour brought to her family forces her to take her life. In singing Gimikwenden Ina, this young woman is sung to the next life. She appears at the edge of the stage, dressed in red and as the song is sung, she moves towards the front of the stage and out the side stage door. By this point the entire audience is standing, holding hands and singing the chorus of the song repeatedly. Tears unabashedly streaming down our faces – emotions mixed and raw.

The past two days I’ve been listening to music from Children of God. And I break open. I want to cry, to release the emotions I cannot quite express, but as of yet I am unable.

I encourage you to watch this and let the raw emotion wash over you.

Think of those 215 children with whom the Creator has remained.

Those 215 children who can now rest in peace.

The families of these 215 children who will never know why.

The Vancouver Art Gallery had a display of 215 pairs of children’s shoes as a memorial for the 215 children found. Other makeshift memorials have been set up across Canada. Flags have been lowered to half-mast.

It is something. But is it enough?

Blessed and Wise Creator, ignite the anger in me, to act. Help me to learn what to do and how to do it to keep the message of the cultural genocide known, so those atrocities will never again be repeated. Teach me what to do with my shame and my guilt.

Gimikwenden Ina – I will remember.

I have been talking to myself a lot lately. Usually when I talk to myself repeately, it means it’s time to update my blog. I just realised that I haven’t written since February. Where to start?

My little white Nissan, Melody, was hit by a snowplough. She was parked across the street as I couldn’t park in the parking lot (the snow was being cleared). The plough driver was coming around a corner and didn’t lift up the blade enough. Shattered the back windscreen, the two driver’s side windows, sheared off the drivers side mirror and gouged all along the driver’s side. I don’t believe I would have survived the accident if I’d been in my car.

At any rate, with some back and forth with the provincial insurance company and the city, I received a payout that more than covered the car loan. Excellent. For two weeks I was debt free! I then debated about whether to apply for another car loan as I had found a used car, excellent deal, online. I wasn’t sure if I wanted a car loan or a line of credit.

I have struggled with my finances most of my adult life. I couldn’t figure out why I was in my fifties and losing sleep about retirement, etc. Then I found K. Kenneth Davis, also known as “The Trans Capitalist“. He wrote an e-book, “The Money Talk” which, seriously, changed my life. It helped me understand that my ideas of financial success and freedom were outdate and were wrong for me. Check this man out. Seriously. You can find him on Instagram and Facebook.

I decided to apply for a line of credit, so I could use that once my “new-to-me” car “Hope” is paid for. It may come in handy when the time comes to buy that cargo van! I was approved for the line of credit ALL BY MYSELF, and “Hope” has come home to me. I’ve been picking up things here and there for her to make her into a micro-camper for days off and vacations. More on her in another post.

I’ve started simplifying my life. I started with my kitchen. I had too many gadgets that seemed like a fabulous idea, but were never used. I had way too many drinking glasses. I had wine glasses and I no longer drink alcohol. So they have been donated. I still have one very fancy heavy-duty wine glass that use to drink my sparkling water, when I’m feeling fancy. Most of the time I drink it straight from the Soda Stream bottle.

I’ve donated most of my shoes. I have five pairs left, three pairs of boots (one pair of winter boots, one pair of rain boots, and one pair of dressy boots. I pared down my handbags. I pared down my luggage. I continue to pare down my clothes. I took a swoop through my closet this weekend and I think I’ll be doing it again in about a month.

I read an article about a woman who wore the same dress for 100 days. At first I thought it was kind of gross, but the more of the article I read, I began to understand why. I have clothes in my closet for “just-in-case” purposes. I haven’t worn them in years. I have a number of blazers, all of which I like, but only wear about half.

Where is it written that we can’t wear the same ensemble over and over? I mean, truthfully, I do wear the same outfits over and over. When I do buy clothing it’s usually to replace something that has worn out or no longer fits. There are a few things I have learned through this pandemic. One of which is, I am NEVER AGAIN wearing a garment with a fitted waist. No thank you.

At any rate, I’m not striving to be a true minimalist, rather, I am striving to have a simpler, less-cluttered life. I want to be surrounded by things that are useful and also things that are beautiful…things which bring me joy.

I will put blogging into my calendar so I am more regular at doing so. There’s some interesting things happening with Sir Vincent, including an ongoing debate about whether or not it’s acceptable to stand in my ear to see out the window in the middle of the night. Sometimes multiple times! I sleep on my side, hence, he stands on my head, his paw in my ear.

Anyway, do please check out K. Kenneth Davis, The Trans Capitalist. He may well do for you, what he did for me. Buy his e-book and take a long, loving look at your finances. Maybe you’ll decide, like I did, that I don’t need more money, I need less stuff. I don’t need a big house to call a home, I can create a home on wheels. Etc.

I had the opportunity to talk to Kenneth about money. I was a total geeky fangirl when he approached me to talk about my reactions to his e-book. We were having a fabulous conversation about shame and money when technology failed. Isn’t that ALWAYS THE WAY? So, I’m hoping we can chat more about that. He has given me the confidence to understand that it’s never too late to learn about money, and budgets, and debt, and savings, and expectations.

For that, and for him, I am incredibly thankful.

The past year has been a pain in the…um…neck. Let’s go with neck. A lot of tragedy. A lot of loss and yet, also a lot of laughter. Learning new things. Engaging in new ways of being Church and doing ministry. Lately I’ve been paring down my “stuff” because I realised I don’t need much.

I never imagined I would live to fifty years of age. Now I’m beginning to think about retirement, and again, I can’t imagine living to 65, so I’m hoping/planning/daydreaming that I will be able to retire at 60, buy a cargo van, renovate it into a tiny house on wheels and go travel. I hope beyond hope, that the pandemic will be a distant memory in six and a half years.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. Yet I also realise that I am the number one expense for both Churches in my Parish. Our congregation is aging, and it is naive to think that we will return completely to how things were pre-COVID. Our online Worship has been invigorating and life-giving, yet it also excludes people who are unable to access technology, even though they could join us by telephone.

I made two goals for 2020/2021. First goal is to maintain status quo with respect to Worship. Not take on any new projects or over-tax my time and energy. I’ve only got so much to give and I have a bad habit of giving beyond my capacity. Which isn’t good for anyone. The second goal is to treat myself with the same respect I treat my congregation, in other words, putting myself first. Setting boundaries. Knowing my limits. No apologizing for saying no. No guilt or explanation needed.

I am setting time aside every day to daydream, sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes as long as an hour. I think of the type of van I want to get, what I will build, what I will need and what I will want for the rig. I’ve been watching YouTube videos and researching portable power sources online. If all goes well, I’m planning to go back East this summer, as I was unable last summer. If it is possible, I’m going to car camp across the country, staying in Canada. I’ll take my time, sleep (comfortably) in my car and see if this is something I can actually do. If nothing else, it will be an adventure!

My doctor raised the dose of my antidepressant a week ago. I’m not sure if it’s working, but it has only been a week. I want to fight the brain fog and fatigue, caused mostly by grief. Raising the dose of my antidepressant won’t do that, but it may give me more energy to do that holy and sacred work.

So here I am. My Beloved’s birthday is Sunday. He would have been 61. I miss him so much, at times if physically hurts. But here I am, doing my best. Taking it one moment at a time.

I journal every night. I pray almost constantly. I don’t usually speak aloud to God, but rather, open my heart so she can hear me at my innermost core. That has brought me peace and for that I am incredibly grateful. Adopting Sir Vincent has also been a gift. Even though he can be a jerk (I mean, we can all be jerks) he is my grumpy olde jerk. And he’s begun giving me not so subtle hints when he wants my attention. He will climb onto the desk and lay across the keyboard, or he will climb on my lap and do the same, while demanding I scratch his head. Subtle, yet affective.

I wonder if there will be a world in which ministry can go mobile? A community of clerics living the van life where we travel from place to place providing ministry in person and online? With balanced days, less financial burdens and more self-care. Sounds ideal. Now if we could just do something about the frigid winters in Canada. 🙂

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child”. In making changes, both small and significant, I have realised that it takes a team to keep me sane, and upright…well, unless gravity intervenes.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the chiropractor for my bi-weekly visit. At that visit he was going through diagnostic tests that are done twice a year. They measure my biochemistry among other things, and can show cause and effect to how I’m doing. I’m not sure exactly what it measures, but he can read my stress, and life balance, in the results. Needless to say, given how the last couple of months have gone, the results weren’t great.

So we talked about it. About what’s been happening in my life. About how I need to make changes within myself before I can expect anything else to change.

My physiotherapist is also an amazing resource. And she’s a parishioner. She, her husband and their lovely dog join us by Zoom for Worship some Sunday mornings. And it’s great. She and I also talk about how my body responds to stress and what I can do to help with physical and joint issues, which right now, are many.

I have the best family doctor. She is much younger than I am and we have a very open relationship. She knows I will advocate for myself and she will call me out when I’m not doing what I should be doing. A couple of weeks ago I was not doing well at all. And she called me on it. So, now I’m taking a pill to help relax me enough to sleep. The pill works well…when I remember to take it at the best time, not four hours later. Ugh.

My Spiritual Advisor is a former mentor and current close and trusted friend. She lives in Ontario and will also challenge me when I’m not at my best, and will call me out, on what I need to do to be at my best. The other night we spent a couple of hours crying together over the phone, as I realised that I need to make myself a priority. I need to be as much of a priority as my Parish. Now where you, kind reader may be saying “Well, duh”; to me, this was an extraordinary realisation.

I also realise how fortunate I am to live in Canada, with universal health care and a great set of medical and dental benefits from my employer; to enable me to visit the chiropractor, and physiotherapist without going bankrupt. To be able to talk to my family doctor, or go to the emergency room and not need a loan to do so.

Each year I am required to write up a set of Goals and Objectives, for myself and to measure my parish leadership. At the end of the year I go through them with a committee, whose sole focus is ensuring I feel supported. When I sat down to go through the goals for 2019-2020, I was certain I had not achieved most of them, because of medical leave early in 2020 and because of COVID-19. When I stepped back to look at what we did accomplish I was astounded. Which is fodder for another blog post…

I came up with just two goals for 2021-2022. The first is to maintain status quo with respect to my workload. Focusing on Worship, Liturgical and Homiletic Preparation, crisis Pastoral care and other life milestones, such as baptism, weddings and funerals. In other words: hatch, match and dispatch. The second goal is to be more mindful with how I care for myself so I don’t end up on the knife’s edge again. Both goals were received enthusiastically.

I’m learning that I need to follow a routine if I’m going to be at my best. I need to wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day, regardless of what day it is. I can nap in the middle of the day, but I need to observe the same waking and sleeping times.

I’m learning that my body is unreliable in triggering hunger. In the morning I tend to feel nauseous, a side effect of medication and M.E. On days when I’m at the office, I don’t pack myself lunch or snacks or anything. And sometimes I find myself walking through the door at 4:00 pm feeling unsteady and somewhat lightheaded. Well, duh.

SO, the plan is that when I am going to be working at the office, I will pack (mostly) healthy snacks in my work bag as well as some water. I will endeavour to eat in the morning, and will aim for two meals a day. On days when I’m working from home or enjoying the Sabbath, I will again aim for two meals a day, plus snacks.

Every day I will go outside. Even if it is to smell the air and walk around the block, I will get outside and move my body.

I will take breaks when working, rather than pushing through, then realising it’s 9:00 pm and I haven’t eaten or moved in several hours.

Priority one is sleep. Once I have that balance achieved, it should help the other priorities fall into place, such as journaling daily, intentional daily prayer, intentional meditative practice, stretching and breathing exercises. Being gentle and loving with my body. Curbing negative self-talk, and treating myself with the same kindness I treat those I love.

My hope, is that in six months, I will be feeling and looking much better. Right now I’m weary and look as though I’ve been “dragged through hedge, backwards” as my Mam is fond of saying. In other words, I look as lousy as I feel.

But hey, I’m grieving after suppressing that grief. Grieving takes time, and so does healing. And because it’s written down and shared with several people, you included, dear reader, I will now be more accountable, to myself and to you.

So, you can expect more frequent posts, I won’t commit to how frequent, but definitely more than once a month.

And now I will wash my face, brush my teeth and head to bed where I will journal and listen to a daily meditation. And then hopefully fall asleep to the sound of my cat purring.

This is the time of year when social media feeds are filled with resolutions and promises for new life and new living. A time to say “out with the old” and “in with the new”. If there’s anything that 2020 has taught me is that we cannot possibly imagine what the future holds.

In January I prepared myself to have surgery. I was spayed in the middle of the month, and had to take six weeks off. I’m not good at sitting still to start with. And doctor’s orders made it only marginally more do-able. So, I had surgery, all went well, waited on biopsy results. Ovarian cancer. The good news was that those were biopsies of already removed ovaries. So, yay! I stayed with a friend for the first four weeks and struggled with pain management, sleep management and trying not to do too much. So I came home and the Parish gifted me with a meal-train meaning every evening between 5:00 and 6:00 pm a freshly cooked meal was delivered to my door. That lasted for two weeks and was fabulous!

February I was back to work and dove in with back to back AGM’s. It was Lenten Planning, Book Study, Bible Study and Worship Services. Worshipping at 9:00 am at the Anglican Church and 11:00 am at the United Church. Learning a new hymn book and new ways of worshipping. Celebrating Communion in a different yet familiar way. And just when we were getting into the swing of things there was a virus that was developing and spreading in China.

March saw us ramping up for Holy Week and Easter, listening to the news with fear as it seemed that this virus was now in Europe and would eventually make it’s way to North America. Discussions were held with respect to suspending Worship and investigating online Worship. Zoom. And then all hell let loose. On the 18th of March we were ordered to shutter the buildings. Pivoted to online worship, then added slides, all the time thinking we were going to be back in the building in time for Holy Week, then for Easter, then for Pentecost. Then someone finally said it…it will be months, if not years.

April, May, June all went in a blur and it was obvious that I would not be able to go to Ontario in August to visit my family, friends and my Beloved. I was gutted. I visited a friend on the other side of B.C. and was more hyper-aware of everywhere I was going then ever before. I brought home a friend’s senior cat, Vinnie, who has been a constant companion since June.

The summer meant taking some vacation but not going far. I took two weeks, then another week, and banked a fourth week, hoping I could travel in the fall or at the end of the year. Nope.

My Beloved and I talked by phone every week, sometimes more often. We were both struggling with what would happen if either of us contracted COVID-19. He had respiratory issues and I am immuno-compromised. My M.E. was out of control due to the constant stress on the body and mind.

I felt as though I was running as fast as I could and remaining, firmly in the same place. My mental health was suffering. Sleep began to be affected and I heard the word “Self Care” used a lot by my family doctor as well as my new therapist. September loomed and the Joint Church Committee made a decision to celebrate our First Anniversary of Shared Ministry the last Sunday in August in what would be a communion service. The first communion for us since the 14th of March. It was a simple, yet powerful online service with a half dozen people in the Church providing worship leadership.

Those same words had been used to describe the Holy Week and Easter Services, simple, yet powerful. We would send out a Zoom link for Worship every Saturday and on Sunday we would have 20 – 25 people, with those numbers steadily climbing to close to 50. We have folks from Fernie, from the Elk Valley, from other parts of B.C., and other parts of Ontario. We have folks from Alberta, Montana and even England. And over those ten months we have become a Parish Community. We have become family.

Every Saturday night I would hear from my Beloved. We would talk about his email reflection and I would read him my Sermon. We would talk about the state of the world, the rioting, Black Lives Matter, white priviledge, systemic racism, the upcoming U.S. election and what the world was looking like. On the 20th of November we chatted in the afternoon. Neither of us were feeling great, so we said goodbye and agreed to talk that next day. Except we didn’t talk that next day. He died.

His death broke me open as I couldn’t make the trip to his funeral. I was devastated that I couldn’t be there in person. I had made him a promise a decade ago that I would arrange his funeral and would preach/deliver the eulogy. It was the most difficult thing I have ever written, and delivered. I told the truth, which is what he wanted me to do.

The night of his funeral, a parishioner died by suicide. He was someone who struggled with depression and was bipolar. We would talk about depression with gallows humour, as one does. When his wife called me I was in shock. She wanted the funeral to be on their wedding anniversary, the 24th of December. So, that’s what we did. His funeral at 10:30 am, following a procession of fire trucks from his home to the Church, passing their studio one final time. It was a poignant service with people tuning in by Zoom from Canada and England.

Christmas was very different. Three completely different services on Christmas Eve, one on Christmas Day. By the time I got home from Christmas Eve Service at 10:00 pm I was shattered. I tried to watch a movie, but couldn’t settle into it. So I gave up, went to bed, woke up the next morning and after washing my face and brushing my teeth, I celebrated Christmas Day Communion with 30 people online, broadcasting from my flat.

My mental health is fragile. I’m resting as much as I can. I’m working at a slower pace. This was solidified when I fell down a flight of stairs (only about 6, indoor, carpeted stairs) on Tuesday. December has always been a difficult month, gravity-wise. I scuffed up both knees and landed on my nose. It’s not broken, but I will have lovely bruises under my eyes. I will find out just how skilled I am at concealer makeup.

What I have learned is this…no matter how much you do, there will be someone who is in awe of what you’re doing. No matter how much you do, you will feel insignificant in comparison with someone else. The entire world is in a state of stress and prolonged stress isn’t good for anyone.

Over the past week I have set up an office at the United Church and at the Anglican Church. I have reference books and files there that I don’t have at home, which means if I wake up in the middle of the night and want to work, I can’t as easily as before. I’m hoping this will mean I can try new things, read fiction, listen to a podcast, take up drawing. Learn some skills and hobbies rather than working all the time. Learn to balance life and work.

Learn that taking a nap is important and sometimes necessary. Learn that eating proper food is important. Learn that having friends in important. Learn that grieving takes a long time and, like God, works on it’s own time (much to my obvious chagrin).

My body hurts. My nose is swollen. I ache everywhere. And I feel numb. I miss my Beloved. I write in a journal every night to him. It helps. I haven’t yet cried for him. I know it will come, when the time is right. Last Christmas, among other things, he gave me a cloth cozy for hot drinks. It’s green quilted fabric and I take it everywhere with me. It’s amazing. Except I’ve lost it. Now, usually I don’t freak out about physical things. However, this thing I am freaking out about.

I’ve checked the pocket of every coat. The inside of every handbag. In my work bag. I’ve checked the nooks and crannies of my car, my flat, both Church offices. I asked a friend if I left it at her place when I was last there. I pray to St. Anthony that it is there because if not I will be devastated. Not because of what it is…but because it came from him, and he’ll never be able to give me another.

It feels like, if I have lost it, I’ll have lost another piece of him.

Anyway, I will keep looking, if I am meant to find it again I will. Hopefully my friend has it and all shall be well. And if not, I’ll learn the lesson in that too, eventually.

SO, here’s to balance. Here’s to finding joy in the small things. Here’s to plodding along one step at a time, one day at a time. Here’s to remaining kind. Here’s to therapeutic naps, weighted blankets, new bedding and purring cats. Here’s to 2021.

The Reverend David Arthur Traies Fuller

28 February 1960 – 21 November 2020

David Arthur Traies Fuller was a flawed man. He was the first to tell you that, and yet he cared deeply, often too deeply, about how he was seen. His reputation was important to him. He believed in the Book of Judgment, and would often lament that he was certain, at the end of his life, God would examine him, and he’d be found wanting. The past two years have not been good for him – health-wise; both physically and mentally.

I met David Fuller at my first Clergy Conference in 2007. I made the mistake of wandering into the hospitality room, and didn’t know a single person there. I looked around the room for a friendly face and was feeling more and more anxious. I went to the bar and bought a beer, then found a place to stand along a wall. I heard a baritone voice “Excuse me, would you like to sit here?” And there he was, larger than life, gesturing to the opposite end of the couch on which he sat. I gratefully accepted, he stood as I approached and he waited for me to sit before he did so as well. He offered to buy me a drink, which I politely declined, as I’d just bought one, and we then talked for what turned out to be hours. And so a friendship was born.

I intentionally chose the reading from Isaiah. The heavenly banquet, “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear”. (Isaiah 25.6, NRSV) David loved to eat. Watching him prepare to eat a steak was an adventure. He’d ask for a steak cooked medium, baked potato and cremated onions. He didn’t want them just grilled, he wanted them black. Not once, in all the meals we had together, did he ever get cremated onions, they were always returned to the table before they were fully blackened.

They way he ate reflected how he lived. With gusto. He would cut a small piece of steak, then carefully add the onions, some potato, a bit of steak sauce, and pop it in his mouth. His eyes would roll back in his head, he’d place his utensils at attention and he’d groan with ecstasy, unless the steak wasn’t cooked properly, then the wait staff would receive a gesture and things would be put right.

He loved being a priest and he was an excellent priest. He also loved being a teacher, and when he left the classroom and returned to Parish Ministry, the time he spent on the Postulancy Board, with the exception of the last couple of years, was time he truly enjoyed. He relished in the task of walking with candidates for Ordination. He enjoyed challenging them. He would tell every student, at the beginning of their summer, that he was trusting them with his flock. If they messed with his flock, he would mess with them. But with stronger language. To him Parish Ministry was all about establishing and maintaining relationships.

Every Christmas, after his last service, he would come home, open a bag of Lay’s ridged chips, some French Onion dip, a bottle of Pepsi, and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”. His favourite scene was when Zuzu saw a bell ringing on the Christmas tree. “Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets it’s wings”. I quoted that once to him, complete with Zuzu’s voice and he said “don’t ever do that again.”

David Fuller could swear, especially when he was worked up. He and I once got into an argument about something theological and both ended up red-faced, cursing and about an inch away from each other’s nose. Then he started laughing. “You’re cute when you’re angry” he said. I said bad words.

He would often tell me of his children Sarah and Matthew and how, when they were born, it was important to him that they both receive the name Traies as well as Fuller.

He was proud of his heritage, he was proud of his family. He was awed by his father Doug’s gifts of ministry, and yet would often question his motivation, particularly when it came to being ornery with Bishops. How ironic that in the last two to three, okay, dozen years, he’s become ornery with his Bishops.

He talked of visits to London to visit with his brother’s Keith and Terry or “The Guys” and how they’d eat dinner together, then doze off in front of the TV with the game still playing. He loved reminiscing about “the good old days”, of times gone by, when the world seemed a simpler and kinder place.

He would talk about his childhood, growing up on military bases and how he intended to go into the military, not the priesthood. God had other ideas. It was on the top of a hill in Chilliwack, BC, during his basic training, when he watched a sunrise so spectacular, it caused him physical pain. He knew it was a call from God, but he wasn’t yet ready to answer that call. When he finally did answer that call, he talked to his C.O., then called his parents from a payphone and told them he was coming home…and going into the other family business – the priesthood.

In the last couple of years David would talk about his children with such love. Sarah Christine Traies Fuller, he was so impressed with your gumption. Your dad loved watching you eat. I see you as embodying your Dad’s best traits. You won’t be silent in the face of injustice. You speak up, even if you’re the only one speaking. You give with all you have, and you can swear like a trucker.

Matthew Christopher Traies Fuller is the creative one in the family. Your dad loved watching you on stage. He admired your fearlessness. Your desire to travel, to see the world, and when you met and married Marco, he was so very pleased that you found your true love. While I haven’t heard it because I haven’t spent a lot of time with Matthew, I expect he can swear when the occasion calls for it.

David played his cards close to his chest. He didn’t let many people in, and when he let you in, you knew you were in the presence of the sacred. Whenever we would attend a Clergy Education Day, he and I would arrange to gather afterwards, for dinner and a chat to discuss whatever it was we learned that day, and then how we would never get that time back…sorry Bishop.

He didn’t trust many people. He had many acquaintances, yet not many friends. And to be his friend was to feel special. When I would visit, especially before I moved West, we would walk by the waterfront, always with him on the outside, and with my arm tucked firmly under his. Always a gentleman, he would open the door, hold my seat and insist on sitting where he could see the door.

He is one of the few people with whom I always felt completely safe.

David took his mother Phyllis’s death in 2015, very hard. It was unexpected as his father Doug had been in and out of hospital. He and I talked about his Mum’s funeral, and whether he should preside. My Dad had died three years earlier and I had presided his funeral. David understood that I was the only one that would do it correctly – that would be able to do what my Dad wanted. So it was no question, he would preside Phyllis’s funeral. It nearly broke him, but he did it.

When I lived in Dorchester, I used to pick my mother up from the care home where she lived and still lives in Innisfil. David offered to drive with me so he could visit with Sarah. My mother adored David. And funnily enough, could never remember his name, even though her only son has he same name – David. When we would stop for smoke breaks, David would stand outside with my Mam, as she lit a cigarette, while I would go and fetch coffee. On one such smoke break I could see his face turning crimson. I came over in time to hear my Mam say “I like you, she should have married you.” It was the first and only time I saw him speechless.

When I made the decision to move West he was angry with me, but didn’t tell me until about a week before I left. We met for dinner and he told me not to go…plans had already been made, I’d accepted a post with Christ Church in Fernie and I’d left St. Peter’s, Dorchester. “You’re my best friend”, he said. I told him I’d still be his best friend, even on the other side of the country. I promised whenever I came back to Ontario, I would visit him. And I did. Every August I would venture back to Ontario, except this year.

In August of 2019 I was waiting on cancer test results, and he knew I was worried. I asked if I could come to Church and he picked me up at the hotel where I was staying in Chatham and took me to all three services. At the second service in Blenheim, he asked me to stand up and asked the congregation to surround me. He and they, laid their hands on me and he prayed for me. I don’t remember much of what was said, but I do remember feeling as though I was being enveloped in love. That was the first and only time he saw me speechless.

David was loved by many parishioners over his 32 years of parish ministry. He loved his flock in the Parish of Rondeau Bay. The folks from Trinity Blenheim, St. Paul’s Erieau, and Grace Church at Rondeau Park. He was fond of boasting that it was the only Anglican Church inside a provincial park. He and the congregation at Grace Church, helped in the formation of many good priests in the Diocese of Huron. He was quite proud of the cherry pie baking ladies, and enjoyed the Christmas bazaars and Parish suppers.

The last time I saw David was in November of 2019 when we spent a week together on retreat. He had come through a hospital stay about three weeks before and wasn’t well while we were together. We talked about the end of life. I asked him how he wanted to be remembered, and his reply surprised me. He didn’t want to be remembered as a fabulous preacher or incredible liturgist. He wanted to be remembered as someone who was generous. And whether it was giving advice, going out for a meal, or spending time with you, he was always incredibly generous.

We discussed our wishes for our funerals. He told me what he wanted, who he wanted, and where he wanted it. And he asked me, as he had done in 2010, if I would preach at his funeral. I agreed. I simply never imagined it would be this soon. When he dropped me off at the airport to fly back home, I hugged him and said “I’m not ready to stop loving you.” And he said “Oh come on now, knock it off.”

The gospel today is one David and I discussed often, as we both carry burdens that we don’t need to. It’s an occupational hazard as a Priest and as an Empath. The last two years and especially, the last nine months David struggled. He struggled with his priest-craft. He continually doubted that he was doing enough during the pandemic. He loved and worried so much for his people, that he gave himself away, often to his own physical and mental detriment.

From Matthew’s Gospel we hear Jesus say, ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ (Matthew 11.29-30, NRSV)

David carried massive burdens, which were compounded with some parishioners questioning if he should be receiving a full stipend, because the Church was closed and how much was he really working? When he shared that with me, I was angry and disappointed. He believed that he was doing an adequate job, but it wasn’t enough. He called through the parish list, one at a time, over and over again. He was checking on his people, ensuring they had his support and prayers.

He prayed for his flock, and after lock-down began, every Sunday, with the exception of two, he went to Church and did the three services, alone, save for the presence of the Divine. He would use the Great Litany. He would sometimes chant “O Gracious Light”. He would pray. And often, he would cry. He missed weekly worship, he missed his flock, and he missed the Eucharist.

David started a weekly email reflection in July, and every Saturday night he would call and we would compare notes. He’d read me his reflection and I’d read him my sermon. Sometimes we were in lock-step and other times we wondered if one of us had the wrong readings for that Sunday.

Friday the 20th of November we talked through the day. He wasn’t feeling well. He said he was going to go to bed early, and he’d call me the following day. It was the next day, Saturday the 21st of November that he died.

At 9:10 am on Sunday 22nd November, his Archdeacon and my friend Kristen Aikman called me. I must have asked her to repeat herself a half dozen times. And then I said bad words.

It still doesn’t feel real. Writing this has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, and yet it is a labour of love. It is keeping a promise I made my best friend. Someone I loved, and from whom, was honoured to receive love. I miss his laughter. I miss his hugs. When David Fuller hugged you, you knew you had been hugged.

David Fuller was a flawed man. He didn’t properly care for himself, and was too proud and private to let anyone else care for him. His diabetes and depression had been escalating. He told me in March that he didn’t expect to survive the pandemic; not that he was afraid of contracting COVID-19. Whether it was foreshadowing or a self-fulfilling prophecy, we’ll never know. He was right. He didn’t survive the pandemic.

He may have died feeling he had not done his best, yet I am certain, when he arrived before his God, and the Book of Judgment was opened; the gates of heaven opened wide and he heard “Well done, good and faithful servant.” From Isaiah “And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death for ever.” “Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken”. (Isaiah 25.7-8, NRSV)

We now have a job. To remember our David. At his best, of course. Each of us has a thread, a thread of different colours. And as we share our stories of him, and in doing so remember him, we weave together a tapestry that will resemble him; not in a portrait, but as a rendering of him and the things that were important to him.

His children, his family, his flock, his friends. Winning a cap badge at auction on e-bay. Finding a special something that reminded him of someone and gifting it to them. Meeting a friend for a meal, or a cup of coffee, and setting the world to rights. Debating theology, U.S. Politics or Church History.

Walking with a grieving family and ensuring that they felt supported in their grief. Now it is time for us to grieve him. And this grief will last for the rest of our lives. It won’t always feel this strong, with time it will fade, but it will always be there. You see, when someone you love dies, the pain you feel is matched only by the love you shared.

And as we don’t ever want to stop loving him, we will never stop feeling this pain. It will lessen, then all of a sudden we will remember him; watching a murmuration of birds, hearing the waves lapping the shore, watching a funny YouTube clip, going for a drive on a perfect Spring afternoon, or hearing a song by the Alan Parsons Project. It will feel like a shot to the solar plexus and we will be transported back to the day we found out he had died.

David asked that “Old and Wise” by the Alan Parsons Project, be played at this funeral. To quote some of the lyrics, “And to those I leave behind/I want you all to know/You’ve always shared my darkest hours/I’ll miss you when I go” and “When they ask you if you knew me/Remember that you were a friend of mine” (Old and Wise, Written by Parsons/Woolfson)

The Reverend David Arthur Traies Fuller, or “Dave” as he preferred to be called. To a select few he was David. Beloved son, father, nephew, uncle, priest, prophet, lover, friend. You will be remembered. Rest well beloved David. You have earned it.

Today is my 53rd birthday. I don’t usually make a big deal of my birthday. When I turned 50, the Parish decided a big deal needed to be made and so, with the duplicitous support of many people, a surprise party was planned. And I was truly surprised! Coupled with the pounding heart at the bellowing of “Surprise” I remember why I don’t like surprises. I know that sounds ungrateful. I don’t mean for it to. I was very touched that the Parish and community decided a milestone birthday would not pass without celebration.

This year’s acknowledgment has been very different. I’m on retreat, staying with a friend, as my customary “pre-Advent” retreat. I had hoped to be visiting another friend who lives a 2-day drive away, but with COVID-19, it’s unsafe to travel far from home. We are encouraged to keep our bubbles small. And so, I rearranged plans and I’m an hour from home, rather than 2-days from home.

On Sunday I got the phone call you dread getting. My Beloved had died the night before. I am thankful it was a friend who called because I must have asked her to repeat herself a half dozen times. We hung up from each other, I drove to Church in a daze and we had Worship together. As the day wore on I felt like I was separated from my body. My feet felt like they were made of lead. I couldn’t concentrate and I felt as though my heart would shatter.

My Beloved had given me instructions many years ago, when I still lived in Ontario, as to what his funeral wishes were. When I moved West he asked me just before I moved and again, last summer, when I was unable to go to Ontario for vacation, he asked me again.

He told me a few times that he didn’t think he would ever see me again. He didn’t think he would ever see his children again. He did not expect to outlive the pandemic. And, unfortunately, he was right.

He and I both struggled with mental health issues. We were sounding boards and confidantes for each other. I am very grateful I have a counselling appointment tomorrow morning.

I have emailed his daughter and the Dean of the Cathedral. Plans are in place for the date and time of the service. I met with the Dean this morning by Zoom. I intentionally chose today as a reminder of a special day. Today is the day when I was able to keep a promise that I’d been asked a dozen years ago.

My Beloved’s service will be simple, small and profound. Both of his children want to speak, yet I will do the Sermon and Eulogy.

At the end of his service will be a song he has loved for a very long time. “Old and Wise” by the Alan Parsons Project. The lyrics spoke to him about his love of family and friends. Check it out.

My natal anniversary will be simple. I like simple. In comfy clothes, easy food, a decadent cake, and possibly a movie on TV. May even celebrate with an early night.

We continue to walk though this strange time. It is not how I had imagined my birthday would be. But here it is. Another trip around the sun. I’m curious what this next 12 months will hold. And I’m certain it will be different than this year.

For friendship, for family, for love, for fresh air, for random dogs to pet and geriatric snoring cats, for the love of God and the beauty of the earth, and the overall feeling that people are, for the most part, inherently good, I give thanks.

We are living in difficult times. No doubt about that.

We can often slip into traps of thinking and focusing on what we cannot do. Sometimes we feel stuck in the NOT instead of in the CAN.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we need to wallow a little. Times when we need to sit in the muck and mire. But we can’t and shouldn’t unpack there.

Yesterday I was working in my office and I needed to answer the call of nature. I sanitized my hands, took a sanitizing wipe with me and went downstairs. I opened the door to the daycare and said “Good Morning!” Every child stopped, smiled and said hello or waved.

I used the bathroom, and when I came out a little bossy girl (reminds me of myself) asked if I wanted to help her put the lunch bags away. She didn’t give me an opportunity refuse. She put two at my feet and said “this way”. I followed her with the lunch bags, then she told me which ones belonged to which child. There was a specific place for each lunch bag in the fridge, and only she knew the order. I’d been having a frustrating day before I went downstairs. After she had put me to work, and declared “good job” when I handed her the second lunch bag and closed the refrigerator door, I came back upstairs with a smile on my face.

In the last two weeks I’ve celebrated two of the major sacraments of the Church, baptism and marriage.

At first glance it would appear that neither of these should be possible in these difficult times. And yet, all parties involved with both events were determined they would happen, within the protocols we have been observing.

The baptism happened. It was a small and joyous occasion, with a ten month old baby baptised at the font where her father, auntie and Grandmother were baptised. A small gathering of 11 people, each keeping in bubbles of 2 or 3. Everyone wore masks. And I am certain all who attended will always remember that beautiful moment in extraordinary circumstances.

The wedding happened. It, too was a small and joyous affair, with a beautiful young couple who have already been through more than their fair share of heartache. The bride was married in the Church where her parents were married and where her Grandmother is one of the matriarchs. Everyone, save for the bride and groom, wore masks. And I am certain all who attended will always remember that beautiful moment in extraordinary circumstances.

I read an article where a group of national leaders in the global Anglican Church were gathered over two days by Zoom. They heard from a number of medical personnel, as well as social workers, psychiatrists and epidemiologists. Dr. Michael Ryan of the World Health Organization said “epidemics are about communities. Communities stop epidemics.”

We have been in this liminal state for eight months. And we will remain in this state for a long time yet. Too long to try and measure now, or it will seem defeating.

Instead let us prepare for the coming of Jesus. Imagine his parents preparing to take a journey, on foot, of approximately seven days, only to discover there was no bed for them as the awaited the birth of this extraordinary baby.

Let us make our measurements small. An hour, a day, a week at a time.

Let us be extravagant in our patience and extraordinary in our kindness.

We may not all be in the same boat, but we are all in similar storms.

Amen.