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Posts Tagged ‘mourning’

It’s the last day of 2016.  Today was a whirlwind of activity including a funeral for a 91 year old lady.  The cemetery was freezing cold, the wind was bitter and yet it was only -2C.

What I said struck a chord with many who were present and I received many positive comments about the comfort my words brought.  I was asked what my plans were for tonight and I replied I was going to clean my house, fill my car with gas, have a hot bath and go to bed early.

I don’t make a big deal about New Year’s Eve.  It’s never been a big part of my life.  As a child my parents would wish me Happy Near Year at 7:00 pm, which was midnight in England.  Then they would go out and enjoy either a house party or a dance somewhere.  As my brother and I grew up, it was us who would call our parents at 7:00 pm to wish them Happy New Year as we headed out to whatever activity was offered.

I’m not a great fan of house parties.  Mostly because I’m not a great fan of small talk.  I don’t make resolutions.  I don’t expect the drop of a big silvery ball or a special kiss at midnight to change my life.  I’m too much of a skeptic for that.

And yet I find myself drawn into the frenetic activity of Top Ten lists and favourite memories.  I keep reading how 2016 has been a terrible year.  Many famous people died.  And so did many ordinary people…like the 91 year old I buried today.  There were atrocities in the world, and also great hope.  There was a Presidential election that was arguably one of the shadiest ever in history, and yet the Earth keeps spinning.

Tonight I filled my car with gas.  Yesterday I got groceries.  My house is clean.  My homily is almost finished for tomorrow.  My sugar bowl is full as is my milk jug.  There is money in my wallet, soon there will be food in my belly.  I live in a warm house with a freshly made bed.  I had a luxurious hot bath and soaked until my fingers turned to prunes.

When I moved West I made myself a promise that I would be the best Andrea I can be.  I fell deeply in love with someone I’ve been wanting to know for a long time.  Me.

I am kinder to myself.  I take better care of myself.  I medicate and feed and water and exercise and laugh and cry and love.  I can honestly say that I love myself.  There will never be this moment again in my life.  In 2017 I will turn 50.  And just as Canada is going to be celebrating it’s sesquicentennial for months, I will be celebrating my special year as well.

I will be kinder to myself.  I will laugh more.  I will go exploring.  I will not be afraid.  I will try new things.  I will write and sing and dance.  I will take risks and be successful.  I will take risks and be unsuccessful.  I will continue to fall deeper in love with myself.

I am spending New Year’s Eve alone this year.  I had a few invitations.  I turned them all down.  Yes, there is someone I would like to kiss at midnight, but we cannot be together tonight.  And frankly, I’ll be fast asleep by then. 🙂

2016 was a good year for me.  2017 will also be a good year for me.  I anticipate many adventures and many more shenanigans.  I will be happy with who I am right now.  As opposed to who I’d be 50 lbs lighter, or longer hair, or healthier, or happier.  I’m pretty damn good as I am now.

My promise for 2017 is to love myself more.  And in turn, to love those around me.  Who will, in turn, love those around them.  We can start a revolution of love.  We can choose to love first.  Without condition.  As we are meant to be loved.  With abundance.  Carefree.  Bountifully.  Beautifully.  Eternally.

As the poet and prophet Lin-Manuel Miranda said “Love is love is love”.  Amen.

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my Dad died.  It was a “good death”.  He simply stopped breathing.  His wish had been to die alone and he did.  My Dad was a stubborn man, and I inheirited that remarkable trait.  For some reason I’ve been thinking of my Dad a lot this past year, especially when I was moving across the country.

On that day my Mam and I had been to the cemetery to make arrangements for interment.  We stopped by the hospital and chatted with Dad.  Mam had some time with him while I chatted with the nurses.  We knew the end was coming but didn’t know if it was hours or days.  When dad finished his conversation with Mam he winked at her…something he had not done in a long time.  Something he used to do often when they were courting.

I asked if it was okay for us to go to our next stop, the funeral home.  He said to go ahead, he wasn’t going anywhere.  Dad believed in being organized, another trait I inheirited.  I told him we’d be back in a couple of hours, he said not to worry.  As we concluded the conversation I said “Dad, I -” and he interrupted with “Shut it!”  I laughed and said I’d see him soon.  He replied “Take it easy”.  His signature response.

My Mam and I went to the funeral home to make arrangements, leaving dates blank.  Pages and pages of administrative details were signed off and then I took Mam home for a cigarette and a decent cup of tea.  I called the hospital from Mam’s and the nurse told me Dad had died about 45 minutes earlier…peacefully.  We were in the funeral director’s office at the time.

I told my Mam.  She started to cry.  I called my brother and spoke with my sister-in-law who said she’d tell him.  I called the funeral home and told the funeral director we needed to get things started.  She was shocked.  So were we.

The next few days were a blur with arrangements, conversations, visitors, shopping for a funeral suit, dress, shoes, writing a homily for my Dad…and of course, choosing music and readings for the service.

I think Dad would have been pleased with the send off he received.  Many of his colleagues were there, and many of his former students.  My brother gave a great eulogy and I gave a homily and when we were finished the Legionnaires formed an honour guard and laid poppies on a wreath.  The Sgt at Arms and I presented my Mam with the first poppy pinned and then we played Frank Sinatra singing “My Way”.  Very poignant as Dad always did things his way.

I’ve a busy day today as it’s Sunday.  But when my work day is over I will go to a local pub and raise a pint to my Dad.  I can’t get Labbatt Blue here (thanks be to God), but I will raise a pint of local lager to him.

I love you Dad.  I miss you.  Take it easy.

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I’m not a fan of the unknown.  I like to have a plan, and more of then than not, a back up plan.  Some call that being anal retentive.  Some call that being organised.  I simply call it life.

When my Dad was sick, I tried to get him to talk to me about his Celebration of Life.  He had asked me, once he knew he wasn’t going to get better, to preside his service; not because I am a priest, but because I am a Legion Padre, and would do it “properly”.  It was high praise from my Dad and while it was the most difficult thing I have ever done, nobody would have been able to do it the way I did it.

I am loving the mountain view from where I live.  I get out every single day and walk.  It may be a few blocks or it may be a few kilometers.  And every time I walk its with my head up so I can see the majesty which surrounds me.  Sometimes it’s so beautiful I can barely catch my breath.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my Dad.  I have no idea why he’s on my mind so much but he is.  Today was a very productive and active day.  We had our mid week worship, went to the Seniors Center for lunch (which is often the highlight of my day, if not my week).  I applied for a BC driver’s license.  I did laundry, chatted with a friend and tried to watch a movie.

I can’t settle.  I’m feeling tension in me, not a pain per se, but more of a level of anxiety.  And I’ve no idea why.

So I logged onto this blog and did a search with the tag “dad”.

We had a complicated relationship.  He was my idol and hero for many, many years.  When I was in my late 20’s I made a relationship decision that hurt him badly.  And so we did not speak for close to a decade.  When we began speaking again it was, initially awkward, but eventually we found a more comfortable place to be.

When we learned his anyeurism was not operable I tried to get Dad to plan his service.  It took nearly four years but we finally had the conversation.  And it went something like this…

ME:  So, Dad…

DAD:  What?

ME:  Have you given any thought to what you want for your service?

DAD:  No.

ME:  It’s something we need to discuss.

DAD:  I know.

ME:  When do you think you’ll want to discuss it.

DAD:  Not now.

ME:  Okay.  Maybe next time I’m here.

DAD:  Maybe.

We had this conversation likely a dozen times.  Finally I hit on an idea…

ME: Dad?

DAD: What?

ME:  Have you had a chance to think about what you want?

DAD: No.

ME:  Do you think we need to have this conversation or do you want to leave it with me?

DAD:  What do you mean?

ME:  Well, I’m thinking you can either tell me what you want, or I’ll do what I think you’ll want, which will definitely not be what you want.  Is that what you want?

DAD: No.

ME:  Okay then.  (silence)  Well?

DAD:  Well, what?

ME:  Your service?

DAD:  What about it?

ME:  Readings?  Hymns?  Homily?  Eulogy?  Location?  Party?  Interment?

DAD:  Don’t care.  My Way.  No Way.  Yes, you and David.  Legion.  One round on me.  At the Columbarium, but not the Legion one.

ME:  Thanks Dad.  What that so hard?

DAD:  No.

ME:  Good.

DAD:  So you’ll take care of it then?

ME:  Yes.

DAD:  Good.  (silence)  Don’t you have somewhere else to be?

And just so you know, the readings were carefully chosen by myself and approved by my family.  We played “My Way” when the service ended.  There was no homily.  Both my brother and I provided an eulogy.  The service was at the Legion with his ashes present.  As soon as the service ended, the bar was opened…and we raised a glass to Dad.  We found a niche in the Columbarium that was not visible from the road.  I think he would have liked that.

I was looking at the photograph we chose for his service.  It was taken after my Convocation from Seminary.  He’s sat outside, looking less than impressed, with a cigarette in his hand.  A picture that simply captured the essence of my Dad.  I believe it was my brother who took the photo.  I don’t have much of anything physical as a reminder of my Dad.   I have his university diploma which is framed and hangs proudly on the wall of my office.  I have the cigarette case my Mam gave my Dad when he graduated – the first university graduate in the family.  I have an ornament I gave him for Christmas many years ago that was given back to me.  And a cardigan with a hole in the elbow that he used to wear when he was marking.

But much more importantly than that I have my memories.  His stories, which he captured in words and I now have one of only three copies ever bound.  His story telling mannerisms.  His sense of humour.  His down to earth nature.  His ability to tell it like it is and, as I age, not care what people think…to a certain extent…okay, that one is still in process.

I miss my Dad.  This is one of those moments I often speak of with folks who are bereaved.  Grief will hit like a thief in the night.  And you will be left breathless.  And as suddenly as it came, it will leave.  And you will be alright.

I will be alright.

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Tomorrow is the Reign of Christ.  It is the last Sunday in the liturgical calendar, so for all intents and purposes, it is New Year’s Eve.  Each year I change the sign at the Church to read “Happy New Year” and each year there are folks who don’t get it.  And that’s okay.

Once we enter Advent, it is a time of liturgical whiplash…so many emotions, all hurtling together, colliding and often making things messy.  At the Church where I serve, the tradition is to celebrate a Lessons & Carols service for both Advent and Epiphany, to mark the beginning and the end of the seasons.  They are joyous services, filled with story and music and are a lot of fun to put together.

Advent itself is a time of Anticipation, for the birth of a very special baby.  We light our Advent wreath and the litany we use usually points to social justice concerns around the globe.  The services contain readings imploring us to wait, with great anticipation, as something remarkable is to happen.  They are amazing services.  The third week of Advent we light a pink, rather than a blue candle and can wear rose coloured vestments, if we have them.  I am blessed to have a set of rose vestments that I wear twice a year, for Gaudete and Laetare Sunday.

And in the midst of all of this there is the hyper-caffeinated onslaught of Commercialism relating to Christmas.  Buy me!  Eat me!  Want me!  Drink me! surrounds us at every turn.  For many who have experienced loss, all of this can be simply too much to bear.  The thought of the cooking, cleaning, baking, shopping, wrapping, is simply too much.

So each year the Church hosts a service of Light and Remembrance, inviting the same families who have been invited to the All Soul’s services to come and be in a simple service filled with light.  It is an opportunity for us to come together and refocus ourselves, to remember the original reason for the season.  Nothing is expected of the person, simply to come and be.

We list the names of those we are there to remember.  And at an appropriate time in the service we name them aloud.  We can light a candle for them.  We can gather to be together in a place of pain to support one another.  There are five readings which relate to the season and correspond to a candle in the advent wreath.  The service is simple and meaningful and always leaves me feeling completely exhausted, in a mostly good way.  For a couple of hours we create an environment of complete peace and tranquility.  A safe place where we can gather to feel how we truly feel, not having to paste on a happy face and pretend that it’s all going to be just fine.  Because sometimes it’s not.

I need to remind myself to slow down this season and be careful.  The sidewalks are slippery, today rain is falling and the temperature is supposed to drop.  It will be downright scary tomorrow.

So I fill my body with healthy food.  I fill my soul with hope, peace, joy and love.  And I surround myself with those who understand, who don’t have to be happy in order to celebrate the birth of our Saviour.

I encourage you, whether Christmas is difficult or not, to do the same.  Don’t forget to breathe.

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