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Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19’

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. 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Today is the 11th of November. It’s Remembrance Day. I woke up this morning with bright sun shining off the snow that fell yesterday, and I felt numb. That’s been a common sensation lately. There’s part of me that wants to rage and weep, to cry and scream, to shout and curse, and yet I’m unable to do any of those things.

I got dressed very warm to go to the Cemetery Cenotaph today. Usually I’m in full Legion Uniform with a black wool funeral cope, a black beret and black gloves. Today I dressed in long underwear, a pair of black tights, a long sleeved white top, cassock and surplice, two pairs of socks, funeral cope, beret and gloves. Poppy and mask.

My friend and neighbour drove me to the Cemetery and we arrived to see a swath of snow removed to make a walk-way for those who would be laying wreaths. The Communications person for the local Legion branch was there with her iPad and iPhone ready to record and broadcast the service. A reporter from our weekly paper was also there.

I chatted with the lady who was giving a speech this year. She does every year and she is truly gifted in her ability to write. We saw flashing lights from the corner of our eyes and the motorcade had begun. Firefighters in the first two vehicles, then about a dozen vehicles, with the RCMP bringing up the rear, also with lights flashing. It was a mesmerizing sight.

People exited their vehicles, everyone was masked, most in uniforms of various descriptions. A veteran from each branch of the service stood at the head or foot of a soldier’s grave. Once we were all in place, our soloist began with O Canada, his baritone voice clear and rich. He sang our national anthem the way I have become accustomed, half in English and half in French. There was a moment of silence then the bugle recording sounded the last post. We observed two minutes of silence, a recording of a piper played a lament, then reveille was sounded.

In the distance the Church bell rung, indicating it was 11:00 a.m. We began a little early, but I don’t think anyone noticed. I heard my name called and I went to the podium and read from Micah 4.1-5 and a prayer I wrote yesterday. Then I put my mask back on and walked back to where I had been standing.

Jennifer read her speech and it was awesome. She had researched some of the soldiers buried in the veteran’s section of the cemetery. She reflected on what their funerals would have resembled, with a horse-drawn hearse. She spoke of the brave, the survivors, those who returned injured and broken. She named PTSD and the respect all of our soldiers deserve, from yesterday, today and into tomorrow.

Then it was time for the wreaths to be laid. As the names were being read out a flock of birds began to sing and fly. I don’t know what kind of birds they were, but they were beautiful framed against the grey sky. It was overcast so we couldn’t see the Three Sisters (mountains) but they had been described in Jennifer’s speech and those of us who have lived in this valley for awhile have all seen them.

From where I stood I saw young veterans whose memories of Afghanistan are still fresh. I saw old veterans whose memories of peace keeping and of active service were just beneath the surface of their eyes. There were firefighters, both professional and volunteer. Conservation officers and regional and local personnel. The Silver Cross Mother laid her wreath first and when she removed the poppy from her lapel, kissed it through her mask and pinned it to the wreath, I counted 8 other poppies.

In all about 18 wreaths were laid, and then it was time to sing God Save the Queen and depart. Our soloist, Karl, sang two verses of the song. We sang along with verse one, but he lost us in the second verse. I hummed beneath my mask. He turned suddenly when he’d finished the second verse and Jennifer smiled, thanked everyone for coming then Oscar told everyone to return to their cars, and follow one another out of the cemetery. Apparently Karl had forgotten the third verse of God Save the Queen and was upset about that. I told him I didn’t realize there WAS a third verse to God Save the Queen. He head learned it for today.

A couple of veterans came over to say hello as we headed back to our vehicles. We lamented that we couldn’t go to Rocky Mountain Village for the brief service we do each year, but we all understand why. Hopefully next year.

As the wreaths were being laid, I thought back on the days when I was in my 20’s and I’d take the day off work to be in the Colour Party for the Legion, then go back to the branch and bartend for a few hours. None of the men and women I marched with are still alive, as they were in their 60’s and 70’s back then. I’m in my 50’s now.

Jennifer and her husband drove me home and I came in, got out of my formal clothes, pulled on my favourite house socks and did some work. About 3:00 pm I decided my work day was over and I found the movie Passchendaele. I had not watched it before. I’m glad I watched it today.

This was a Remembrance Day unlike any other I’ve experienced. And one I will remember forever.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them, nor the year’s condemn.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,

We will remember them. We WILL remember them.

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I’m having the kind of week where it seems I’ve forgotten to recharge my brain and the battery is in the red zone. Every time I leave my flat I make at least one visit back because I’ve forgotten my keys, my purse, my mask or the list of things I need because without it, I’ll invariably forget. Ugh.

We have entered the season of Remembrance. On Sunday we celebrated All Saints Day. At the conclusion of service I switched on a battery powered candle and wrote down the names of those who have died since November 2019. That candle continued to “burn” until this morning.

Last night we had our first “virtual” All Soul’s Service for those who have sustained a death or are simply needing a place to come together and grieve. I lit 30 candles, as that was the number of names I had for those who died recently, and those for whom we had been asked to remember.

The service usually contains a time for individual prayer with anointing and Eucharist. We could not have the full service in Church because it would be longer than the recommended 40 minutes. We are not allowed to touch, so anointing would be out of the question. And online Eucharist is not yet been approved in the Anglican Diocese where I practice my ministry.

So the online service ended up being about 20 minutes, but it also gave us an opportunity to speak to each other.

I’m feeling irritated today, like I can’t focus on the work I need to get done. Part of it, I’m certain, relates to being an empath and feeling other people’s grief and sorrow.

But I suspect part of it is feeling folk’s anxiety about the U.S. Presidential election. I’ve intentionally not listened to any news outlets today. I’ve received multiple emails from different sources reminding me I can “tune in live” to hear the results of the Presidential election. But I’m not going to.

I am going to relight the candles I used last night and sit with them, reading, perhaps journaling, until they extinguish, then I’ll likely go to bed.

The reality is, I’m weary, as I was in my last posting. I slept a lot yesterday and it helped, but I need more.

My flat is a mess, my housework is accumulating, but honestly, I can’t be arsed. I know I’ll get the gumption back up at some point to get it all done. But likely, it won’t be today. And it may not be tomorrow.

I’m going to make a list of things that must be done, as far as worship, the baptism on Saturday, meetings that I must attend this week. And the rest will wait so I can rest.

I have a feeling I’m going to feel irritated until I return my home to order, but right now, sleep and rest is more important than irritation.

I feel that right now I should come with a warning sign “Beware, she’s irritable. Approach with caution”. Or something like that.

But I’ll get there. I always do. (shrug)

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I’ve been interested in zero-waste living for a while now. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go completely zero-waste, yet I am making strides. One of the first things I switched over from was from plastic to bamboo toothbrushes. I used to have a subscription which delivered a new toothbrush to me every two months. Then I started figuring out how much pollution was being caused with a single toothbrush shipped every two months, as opposed to ordering six toothbrushes at a time…a year’s worth, if you will. The other day I came across bamboo toothbrushes with removable heads. That needs more investigation…

Today I took my last plastic bottle of laundry detergent to the Transfer Station for recycling. I’ve got some pods to use and then I’ll be starting laundry “strips” which are organic paper-like matter that you throw into the washing machine with your clothes and voila! I’ve been using wool dryer-balls for awhile, and I love them.

My goal is to reduce single-use plastics from my home as much as possible. With COVID-19, it’s a little bit difficult because we aren’t yet allowed to use reusable produce bags at the grocers. A benefit though, is I use the disposable produce bags when I go to the gas station.

A few months back, I switched to shampoo and conditioner bars and they are amazing. I’ve switched out body wash for artisanal soap. When I finish up the remaining face wash I’ll switch to using bar soap on my face.

This week I ordered zero-waste deodorant. It’s called “No Pong”. The name itself made me laugh out loud. The skin under my arms is very sensitive and reacts easily. I’m hoping this deodorant that I apply with my fingers will do the trick.

So now, instead of a bunch of bottles in the bathroom, I have one. Face wash. The rest are all bars. Soap, shampoo and conditioner. The razor I currently use is a metal and plastic handle with a removable/replaceable head. I don’t know that I will be able to handle a Wilkinson-style razor with razor blade…my hands shake and my balance is bad, I don’t want to inadvertently cut an artery.

In the kitchen, my storage plastics have been replaced (as they lived out their life expectancy) with glass bowls and silicone lids. I just bought a microwave popper to keep excess packaging out of the landfill/transfer station.

I use beeswax cloths instead of plastic wrap. I buy milk in glass bottles. I’m going to buy juice in a frozen concentrate rather than a plastic bottle. I use parchment paper instead of aluminum foil whenever I can.

Toothpaste. I’ve tried tooth tabs before and I can’t stand the gritty sensation. I’m not a fan of carbon toothpaste and am looking for tooth powder that is healthy for my teeth and gums and zero-waste. I don’t love brushing my teeth, so I need something that doesn’t suck…and doesn’t taste like garbage.

My cat’s litter is made from a recycled corn byproduct which makes it biodegradable. I’m still putting it in plastic bags to get it to the garbage, but I’ll figure out something to address that.

I buy pop in cans instead of plastic bottles when I’m traveling, or better yet, I bring a reusable water bottle. Again, with COVID-19, where I would bring a re-usable mug when I bought tea, they aren’t permitted currently.

I used to bring my prescription bottles back to the pharmacy for re-use, but right now that’s not allowed. So I’m amassing quite a collection. I’ll find a use for them, I’m sure of it.

One step at a time. One choice at a time. One item at a time. I’m very mindful of packaging. And of shipping. I try to buy local wherever I can, or if I need to go to the next city to buy something, I’ll combine errands to save on unnecessary trips.

With everything that is going on in the world, it may seem silly or unnecessary to be concerned with single use plastics. What I do know is I can make a difference. Even though I am one person.

I have paper towels but rarely use them. I have tissues, but also have ladies handkerchiefs which I carry when I’m out. I have washable dusting cloths and cleaning cloths. I try to buy with the least amount of pollution wherever possible. The mop I use has a removeable, washable pad.

Now, I love the dishsoap I use. And I’ve used the same bottle for the past 3 years, buying refills for it. I know there are solid bars I can use for dishes, but I’m not at that point.

I no longer colour my hair. It’s not to say that I won’t ever do it again, but right now I’m enjoying watching the Artic Blonde come in. I love the silver highlights. And I’ve earned every single one of them.

When I’m out and about if I stop for a cold drink I politely refuse the straw. I have bamboo cutlery and glass straws for when I travel.

It’s not everything, but it’s something.

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I’ve taken up walking. I know, I know…walking. I like to walk, I’m fairly skilled unless there’s a hill, it’s windy or the road is uneven. I firmly believe my centre of gravity is between my eyes. I tip over quite easily, in fact, more easily than a cow…or so I’ve been told.

One of my favourite walk/hikes takes place behind a rest area about an hour’s drive from here. I drove there yesterday, a beautiful day, parked my car, got my water bottle and off I headed. I hadn’t hiked this area in more than a year and decided, instead of going the way I usually go, to take the other entrance, where I usually come out at the end. It’s a loop, so it really shouldn’t matter, right?

WRONG!

I started off well, stopping to read the signs about the geography of the area, to read about the Indigenous land and Ktunaxa Creation story. And off I perambulated. It’s a relatively easy hike, fairly flat. The path is wide enough to step off easily if someone is approaching, which I did a few times.

At one point there’s a switchback on the trail, which I completely missed. I would up walking on the Trans Canada Trail for about 1.5 kms. I was going in the WRONG DIRECTION but didn’t figure this out for quite some time. You see, I have a poor sense of direction, but it was a lovely day and I had my water bottle with me. I would stop and take photos, sometimes just stand a breathe, marveling in my surroundings. It was a beautiful day.

I prayed for the survivors of the Nova Scotia massacre and prayed for those who died. I prayed for my dear friends who were burying both their mother and father yesterday. And I walked. And I walked. And I veered off the path I was on, thinking it would get me to where I was supposed to be.

Nope.

Another kilometer out of the way.

But it was a lovely day and I had my water bottle with me. And my ankles were starting to hurt.

You see, I’ve not been walking in long stretches since my surgery. I walk for a kilometer or two, usually around a small lake or paved path. And I was getting very sore.

When I finally pulled out my mobile and took a look at where I was on the map and where I was SUPPOSED to be I started laughing…a bit maniacally. I said a prayer for strength and sanity, did a 180 and started walking back to where I had come off the path. I got back to the path and turned back onto the path, in the direction from which I had come.

While all this was going on I came up a foursome riding their trail bikes. I stepped off the path, we said hello and away I walked. When I was walking back down the trail I saw them again. We nodded hellos again.

I continued walking and eventually got back to the spot where I had gone wrong in the first place. Now keep in mind, I had planned to walk for an hour, perhaps two. At this point I’m 3 hours in and still need to get back to where I started. And my hips are starting to hurt.

Ugh.

I now have a decision to make…am I going to re-trace my steps or am I going to try and finish the original loop. In a moment of abject stupidity I decide to try and finish the loop…only to realise after half an hour of walking that I’m not going in the right direction (again).

As I walk towards the switch-back I see the four cyclists again and we nod and smile again. I’m asked “Are you following us?” and I respond “Yes! I’ll see you at the finish line”.

Ugh.

I get back to where I came off the trail initially and follow it back. Just as I’m getting to the mouth of the trail I see the foursome one last time. We smile and wave as I hobble towards my car.

When I got home I headed straight for the Tylenol. Then I had a shower, put on pajamas and relaxed for the rest of the night.

What had started as an easy 2 hour walk became a 5 hour endurance test. I did it. I survived it and other than being sore, I felt pretty good.

I woke up this morning feeling pretty good. Then I tried to get out of bed.

Kyrie Eleison.

More Tylenol. A quick trip to the grocery store. Cleaned up my kitchen and now I’m going for a nap. After more Tylenol.

Moral of the Story…don’t be a dumbass. Perhaps I should carry a compass. And maybe pack a flare gun for emergencies.

Oh, and I did stop on the way home to get some more water.

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