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Posts Tagged ‘life’

Memories of my Dad

The last few weeks I’ve been dreaming a lot of my Dad and stories he used to share with me when I was a child.  Quite often on a Saturday morning my Mam would wake me and strip my bed.  She’d put me into bed with my Dad and he’d snuggle me in and tell me stories.  I think he was hoping I’d go back to sleep, but it never worked out that way.

My Dad was born and raised in a city…Manchester.  There was a canal that some people fished in…my Dad fished in it for bicycle parts as that is what he saw dumped in it most often.  His first bike was a Frankenbike made up of about a half dozen different bike parts.  He and his buddy Charlie got up to all sorts of mischief in their youth.

My Dad was an introvert and craved alone time.  As my brother and I grew up Dad got less time to himself.  At one point he bought an inflatable dinghy from a garage sale and used to take it out to Minnow Lake.  He also bought a fishing rod because, in his words, “if a man is seen alone out on a boat he’s a weirdo, but if he’s fishing, he’s okay”.  So he used to inflate the boat at a gas station, shove it in the backseat of the car and head out to Minnow Lake.

He’d put the dinghy out and he’d jump in with the fishing rod, then float for awhile, set the rod out (note, no bait) and lay back and relax.  He never had a paddle with him.  When I asked him this he said “eventually I’ll blow close to shore” and he must have because he always came home.  In the city where we lived, there was a roving news reporter who would capture footage of local landmarks and places of interest that would be used as a backdrop to the nightly weather forecast.

One Saturday night, after supper, we were watching the evening news when the weather shot came on.  The weather announcer said “and here we have footage of a solitary fisherman out enjoying the sun on this beautiful summer’s day”.  And you could see it, the yellow dinghy, the sole of my Dad’s shoe propped up on the edge of the dinghy and the fishing rod bobbing in the water.

“Dad”? I asked.  “Good Jesus” he replied. “I can’t be left alone anywhere!” We all had a good laugh at that.  My Dad’s fishing adventure captured on film for all eternity, or until it was filmed over.  The last time he took the dinghy out he was happily floating around the lake when the wind shifted.  He began to float towards shore but heard a slight hissing sound.  By the time he reached shore the dinghy had taken on water.  He safely dismounted the boat (do you dismount boats?)  rolled up the dinghy and threw it in a nearby garbage can.  I asked him where the boat was and he said he was finished with it.

Perhaps he saw the leak as a sign from God or perhaps he realised he could be solitary in some other way. Regardless, I’ll never know the answer to that.  But thinking about seeing his foot on the evening news does make me smile.  My Dad, the television personality…or at least, his foot was.

 

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As you may have figured out by now, the surgery was a success.  The pain was as expected and I ended up with a secondary infection that has since cleared.  I will be taking probiotics for the next few months to balance my stomach after two rounds of antibiotics.

So much has happened since I last wrote.  I won’t go into the details here.  After the surgery I slipped into a deep depression.  It was hard work to care for myself once I was home again, and I wanted to be home so I could be back at work…and yet I struggled to do the things I need to do to be healthy.

I slept a lot because my body needed it.  I ate when I was supposed to, but didn’t always make healthy choices.  I didn’t get out to move as much as I should have because I was sore and depressed.  Thank God that has passed and I am back to my usual goofy self.  I’ve made some decisions about myself and my life…

I have stopped colouring my hair.  I’m going to let the silver come through, or Executive Blonde as I’ve heard it called.  I have bought some new clothes and thinned through  my closet again.  I’m enjoying my body coming back to life after anaesthetic.  I’m using my yoga mat again and while it’s very slow, it’s coming back.

During post-surgical recovery I rediscovered Pinterest.  I’ve now got great ideas for how to decorate the mantle, I began an easy makeover of the laundry room/powder room and am making over my bedroom.  I’m not sure if I’m “nesting” before winter or where the burst of energy has come from, but I’m beginning to feel more like myself.  And I like that.

I’ve made a commitment and promise to myself to get outside every day and walk.  It may be for kilometers and may be for meters, but every day I will get outside.  When you live in the beautiful corner of creation where I do, how can you not get outside?

I’m working with a budgeting program to help keep my expenses in check, my budget balanced and, as of January, begin saving a little bit each month.  I’m truly feeling as though I’m gaining control again over the things I can control and that makes me very happy.

This is my first year in ministry in British Columbia.  The folks here have not seen some of what I do.  And thus far, the feedback has all been positive.  We have recognized All Saints and All Soul’s.  All Soul’s had it’s own service last Wednesday and it was well received.  On Sunday we recognized Remembrance Sunday and it was also very well received.

This week I have a Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph with one of the local schools on Thursday, a Cenotaph Service on Friday morning at 11:00, then another one following at the local Legion, a nursing home gathering at 2:00 pm and that will wrap up Remembrance Day.  Whew!

I’m loving this community and learning more about it.  Meeting people who have introduced me to the arts community, the museum, and other such wonders has been incredible.  I’m enjoying the arts community locally and in the next city over, where I have season tickets to the Symphony of the Kootenays and the Community Theatre.

My work/life balance is the best it’s ever been.  And for that I am thankful.

 

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For many years I have closed off parts of myself…parts that held secrets or had been damaged.  Parts that I felt were no longer a part of me…that impeded me being who I have chosen to be.

Until recently…

Moving West has been, in many ways, a re-birth for me.  When I was packing up the myriad of books that have traveled with me for decades, I came across my old sketch pad from the early days at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.  The pastels were dried up and useless, and yet the drawings held as much emotion as they had when I first drew them.  I must admit, at first I wasn’t sure what some of the images represented…and then I read the titles of the pieces…and a switch flicked.

I adore the mountains…and I’m feeling a creative part of myself awaken to capture them.  I’m not artistically talented in any way, and I have no idea what the images will look like when they are finished…but I do look forward to the creative process once again.

My wardrobe consists of predominantly black and neutral pieces…the occasional burst of yellow or orange.  I liken my wardrobe to that of a female robin…subdued.  However, I do have one dress that is my favourite…it’s a subdued rainbow tie-dye dress that I absolutely adore.  I bought it because it was on sale, and because it made me smile.  And yet I didn’t wear it much because I was uncomfortable attracting attention to myself.

When I was paring down my wardrobe I had to keep the dress, which actually surprised me.  That dress and a very feminine summer dress that I’ve had for decades made the cut.  So far it’s not been warm enough to wear the summer dress although I have worn the rainbow dress a couple of times.  In fact, I’m going to wear it for my induction with a light coloured clergy shirt.

I feel as though I am shedding the extra winter layers for the bright and beautiful promise of summer.  I’m wearing dresses with shorts instead of tights, and I’m walking a little bit straighter, head a little bit higher.  I’m stopping to smell and admire flowers and ask to pet dogs.

After a long, long, dark moment of grief I have emerged and reawakened — as a flower pushing against the newly warmed ground, seeking the sun and the promise of warmth on my skin…the feeling of rain refreshing and washing away the doubt and debris.

I am coming alive in ways I thought were finished for me…in ways I never imagined were possible, never mind wanted…and yet – here I am.

The colours that surround me seem brighter.  The sun and sky clearer.  The air sweeter.  The water cooler.  The grass smoother.  After a long, hard hibernation, I am daring to push my head against that which has held me down and embrace the new life which flows from within me.

I am alive.  And it is grand.

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The birds are singing…the crows are clouding the sky.  There is a smell of fresh earth and last years dog poo in the air.

My winter coat feels too heavy and burdensome…I long for the days of cardigans and skirts…of lighter colours and facing the sun.  All winter it’s felt as though a heavy weight was on my shoulders, I could barely look up.  And now, I can see the grass, the snow is finally melting, our Mother Nature is preparing to awaken the new life that slumbers beneath the earth.

It’s so very exciting.  And it’s no coincidence that as we are approaching the halfway measure in Lent we can begin preparations for new life, new birth, new opportunity.

But before we can spring to the incredible day of resurrection, we must first endure the agony of the garden of Gethsemane.

We can’t quite put the winter boots away, there is still ice underfoot.  The furnace still comes on, but not as often and we are foolish to leave home without our hats and gloves.

It’s coming…Spring is coming.  We can’t rush it, but know that it will be here.  Before we know it, the sunlight will seemingly lengthen the days, warm our faces and the first colours of flowers and bushes will begin.  The sprouts of leaves and buds on the trees will remind us that after death comes new life.

Now is the time to walk with our heads held high, like daisies as they push through from their winter slumber.  The birds sing, the buds push through and the world continues as it has always done.

One foot in front of the other, one day at a time.  Day by day a little more light to illumine the darkness, to warm the earth and bring her back to life.

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I must say that surgery is an interesting thing.  I don’t like being the centre of attention, which I know is weird, given what I do for a living.  Having the doctors, nurses, techs and whatnot ensuring I was cared for was strange.  I’m used to doing the caring, not being cared for.  My friend drove me to the city where I was having surgery, 45 minutes away.  He was allowed to wait with me before I went in and he prayed with and for me, and the doctors, nurses, techs, and everyone involved at the hospital.  I felt remarkable when he had finished.

The nurse who was preparing me for surgery heard the prayer and cried.  We told the doctor he had been prayed for and he was delighted.  The entire team did an amazing job, even the anaesthetist with no sense of humour.  I commented that the table in the operating room looked like it could be used for crucifixion and he stared blankly.  Which was okay.

I remember the lights in the operating theatre, I remember the IV in my arm.  I remember a mask going over my mouth and being told to breathe deeply.  And then I remember being asked if I was thirsty…and was I ever.  I had a sip of ginger ale and it tasted like the greatest thing ever.  I was parched for 3 days.  Gatorade and water with some tea fixed that.  I felt numb for a couple of days, other than when I stood up or sat down.  Then I cursed.

I am now 8 days since surgery and I’m feeling okay.  I still use pain meds in the day time.  I am standing for longer periods of time.  I am making progress and feeling better.  And tomorrow I go back to work.  Which I am very excited about.  I know it will knock me sideways, but at least I will have done it.  Moving back into the work world and Church land slowly is what I need to do, and am doing.

I am thankful for the surgeon and the doctors.  I am thankful for the nurses and staff who cared for me as a person, not only as a patient.  And I am especially thankful for my friends who rallied around with food, prayers, gentle hugs and care. I never realised how much I am cared for.  Now I have a better idea.  And it warms the cockles of my heart.

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Sleep has been rather elusive over the past few weeks.  Part, I suspect, to the bizarre weather and temperatures that can’t seem to decide if they are seasonal, extremely warm or extremely cool.  Part is due to two awesome honours I have been given, one of which is happening tomorrow night at the Transgender Day of Remembrance or TDoR.  The other is the Invocation prayer for the newly elected Municipal Council on the 1st of December.

The groups are quite different and the types of prayers will be quite different, but they will have one thing in common: love.

We will gather for TDoR to remember those trans* men and women who were killed.  For no other reason than they were “different”.  We live in a world that is increasingly filled with hate.  Atrocities being played out every single day and broadcast into our living rooms.  There seems to be no safe place to hide.

As a proud ally to the Rainbow community, I take these things both personally and seriously and I struggle to not be overwhelmed with the zigzag of emotions as I craft the prayer.  Many people in the Rainbow community, especially in the Trans* community have been ostracized by the Church.  They have been told horrible things, by horrible people who do NOT speak for Jesus.  And they sure as hell don’t speak for liberal-minded clergy like myself.

I believe, with all that is good and holy, that the God who created us in God’s own image, is a God of unimaginable love. A God who would love us into being…creating order from chaos.  Who with the turn of a hand separated earth from water, light from dark.  Who created us in the same image; male and female; either or neither; queer, asexual, bisexual, pansexual.  Who showed us the way to love by seeking it and seeing it in each other.

In the midst of hatred and violence, there truly is only one way to respond…with love.  I am honoured to have journeyed with many members of the local Rainbow community; some who now live in other parts of the world.  For many of them I was a final attempt at meaningful connection with God.  When you are told that you are not loved, it is often a message that goes deep into the marrow of your being.  Being told that you ARE loved takes time to penetrate past the hate.

For many people in the Rainbow community and especially in the Trans* community, they need to learn to love again. Walls go up out of necessity; if you have a high enough, deep enough wall, nobody will get through.  It takes time, patience and above all, it takes love to reach through the wall.  Love manifests itself in many ways; through trust, compassion, understanding; and if not understanding, then patience and silence.

It has been said that I pastor to a fairly conservative congregation.  And yet, I have seen them reach through concern and questioning to embrace friends from the Rainbow community.  Reaching out through love; of seeing the humanity and human dignity of each other; the face of God reflected in each other.  And seeing that is a most beautiful thing.

We will gather tomorrow night to mourn for those whose lives were taken; that their lives will not be taken in vain.  We will remember those who blazed so brightly and whose light was extinguished; but not their spirit.  TDoR will be taking place across the globe in many countries.  The gatherings will be in beautiful, safe spaces.  Those who are present will be moved; often to tears.

And it will be my responsibility to ensure that everyone who is there feels the love of their Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer.  To be invited to ask an ecumenical, multi-faith prayer is an honour and a challenge.  I believe that the Mother and Father of us all, who loved us into being will be with us, and will give me the words to speak to the hearts of those who will gather.  Because in the midst of darkness we must illumine that darkness with the light of our love.  For our Creator, for ourselves and for each other.  We WILL remember them.

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Just over a year ago two baby boys were born in the same day.  Chances are many more than two babies were born, but these two babies were born to people I knew.  One baby, E, was born to two loving parents.  Over the first year of his life he flourished as he learned to smile, to roll over, to pull himself up and to walk.  Seeing pictures of him on Facebook made me incredibly happy. In comparison, H was born to a loving mother and community.  His father had chosen not to be in his life; but I don’t believe that he wanted for love.  Shortly after H’s birth he developed a fever and infection but it was too difficult to diagnose.  At two weeks old he was transferred from the city hospital to the children’s hospital in another city.  He was attached to machines that flushed his kidneys and fed him.  At three weeks I baptised him in one of the isolation rooms at this hospital.  And at 28 days he died.

Throughout the first year of E’s life I so badly wanted to meet him, but I was afraid.  When the community gathered for H’s Celebration of Life I wasn’t sure how to navigate the waters before me.  It was uncharted territory.  But through the grace of God and love from many people, we gathered to remember a young life that was once vibrant.  Last Saturday E and H turned a year old.  For E it was a celebration with family, food and love.  For H it was an Anniversary Celebrating his first birthday.

In my homily at H’s celebration I mentioned E and his family.  I bought a gift for E’s birthday many months ago and have still not given it to him.  Yes, I have been busy, but the reality is that I’ve been scared.  So very scared that I may, in some way, harm E.

When I held H in my arms I whispered to him that I would love him always and teach him of my friend Jesus.  The same holds true now.  I do so very much love him and instead of teaching, I am learning about Jesus through H.

In the midst of planning H’s service my friend and parishioner B left this life.  His last two weeks were very difficult.  He was ready, in every way, to die.  But his body wasn’t ready to let go.  Eventually he did slip away peacefully and while we celebrated that he was free from the agonizing pain that had racked his body for months; he was now free.

I met with the family and discussed details that B had shared with me.  We filled in a few spaces and decided what it was that needed to be done.  On the day of his service I took a deep breath and realised that I was not alone.  I remembered that this service was for B.  I knew what needed to be done.  HIs family spoke affectionately about him.  We told stories, we laughed and we cried.  And we gathered to say goodbye (for now) to one we love dearly.

It is my hope that B and H have met.  It is also my hope that H and E have met.  I am going to write E’s mother a letter to explain why I have been such a negligent friend.  And I will gather all my strength and set a time to go and meet young Master E.  Who’s life has been everything that a young life should be.

Perhaps we can chat about our friend Jesus.

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