Turning us upside down

Gayleen and Frank, 25th anniversary - Copy

Two years ago today, we were preparing to attend the funeral of my childhood friend, Gayleen. Since then, I’ve endured the loss of friends— Kathy, Susan and Pat— this year, and others, and of course, Samantha, who died much too soon at the age of 16 years old. Today I dedicate this blog post to anyone who has lost a family member or friend in the past year, because I know I am not alone.

Turning me upside down

“It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth — and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up — that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Life is a strange thing. Just when we think we’ve got things sorted out and life is ‘humming along,’ there comes a change. A boss says, “We don’t need you anymore” or a change in economic times makes us reconsider our spending, and even where we live. Along with that sorting and packing up of our belongings come feelings of bewilderment and sometimes anger and a lot of sadness.

Big events change things and force us to make new decisions that we might not have made otherwise, such as when a tornado turned the barn on our family farm into a shambles of wood and cement and broken beams. We were fortunate that no one was in the barn at the time and that the animals were in the field that August day when the storm passed through. It was clear that the barn had to come down afterwards for safety reasons, but my parents had to decide what to do next for their farming operations.

There was no death on account of the tornado, but there was some trauma for the house got a good shaking too. Everything my parents had worked for had changed. If there were any blessings, it was the way people in the community worked together to help out those affected by the storm.

Grief, as a part of life, is even stranger. We get settled into a lifestyle, while knowing we won’t have forever, but someone close to us dies and it sets everything we know on end. Time is marked ‘before’ and ‘after’ the event. Before the tornado, before the cancer diagnosis, before the accident… and after.

When friends offer their condolences or bring a meal for a family upended without their beloved, those are difficult times, but healing begins with those comforting hugs and help.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying, named the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. What was once was believed to be an orderly pattern, people soon learned that there’s a back and forth, not necessarily in that order. Still it’s helpful to know what feelings are part of the terrain.

I don’t pretend to know how it feels to experience the death of a child or spouse, but I do know it in relation to the death of a good friend or close relative outside my single family unit. There’s an empty place where that person once was, and even when we know the person has believed in God, and whom we presume to have gone to their heavenly home, there’s the ache that’s left—an emptiness.

In a conversation with a fellow church member this past year after yet another death of a friend, I said, “We’re never ready.” She was quick to agree and cited two examples from that very week, one of them being Samantha, who at 16 had already shown much promise.

We cry ‘too soon’ or ‘it’s not fair.’ We may plead and bargain, but this is our new reality and our life is thrown out of its routine by something so large that’s beyond us.

Society, at least in North America for the most part, would have us rush back into living, to try to forget our trauma, to keep busy and move on. While there is a comfort to routine, even that has been upset, whether in job loss, tornado’s destruction or the death of someone close. The grief moves with us. Ross says:

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”

Christians believe that the person, loved by God and accepted as his child, will go to that perfect home where there are no more tears and where Jesus wipes away those tears. Hard as it is to go on without the beloved, we believe that Jesus walks with us through that grief and that if we’re crying, it’s quite likely he sheds tears with us as he did for his friend Lazarus.

This may not be overly theological, but I’d like to think of Jesus as having one very large handkerchief that he uses to wipe away our tears, as well as a big warm hug to help us along the way. He`s gone to prepare a place for us, a place where there will be no more tears.

The ‘hanky,’ as my grandmother would have called it, may very well belong to a friend and the hug from those around us, in his stead. And I might ask, as I did in this part of a poem I wrote this fall for another storyteller whose grandson died in October:

 

“Is that handkerchief big enough

for our tears too?

for Mom’s, Dad’s, Grandma’s and Grandpa’s

my tears

and those of all our friends?”
May you be comforted this day by someone’s love and not be afraid to call on God for his love and peace as you grieve.

 

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a bouquet for you today

January 31, 2016 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

Bringing in the New Year

Once a month I post over at the Canadian Writers Who Are Christian blog. Here’s a taste of what I wrote this month, so early in 2016.

22581694128_cdbe97abd6_z                                                                                        At the Fall District 86 Toastmasters conference in Blue Mountain

 

Bringing in the New Year—Carolyn R. Wilker

 

We’re nearly two weeks into 2016, but for a few moments I want to reflect on the old year that we’ve just put aside.

This past year was momentous in so many ways and sad in others. Three people in my circle of acquaintances and friends—some for as long as 30 years—died in 2015, plus one young teen who attended our church. As I mourned the loss, I also felt grateful to have known Kathy, Susan and Patricia, and Samantha. I reflected on the blessings they brought to my life. Susan was part of my early writing life and edited my first book, Once Upon a Sandbox. Kathy had invited us to her place when we were new members at the church and then to the Bible Study she often hosted. Patricia was a kind and generous neighbour who became a friend, and Samantha is gone too soon at the age of 16.

Even while I mourn the loss, there were good times aplenty. My husband and I gained a new granddaughter, an addition to the two small grandchildren we already have. I had new publishing credits (Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon and Tower Poetry) and requests for a column in our national denominational magazine, Canada Lutheran, and publication therein, but also invitations to do my memoir workshop in new locations to new organizations. There have also been new friendships in the making and a fabulous writer’s critique group in my corner.

Read more here.

 

 

Canadian Networker Fall Business Expo Fall Business Expo in Kitchener, Ontario

January 12, 2016 at 12:37 am Leave a comment

Happy birthday, Dad

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Dear Dad,

Did you ever think about one day being a parent,  how  different life could be?  Did you plan for all the activities you would introduce to us? And might you have guessed you’d outlive your parents by this many years?

We celebrate you for who you’ve been to us:

A kind father who made time to play with us, build sandbox and swing set, teeter totter (and replace those boards later), not to mention teaching us to skate and play baseball, two of your favourite activities. We had fun doing it too, and it was always good for an activity when we had certain company.

A father who taught us many things such as the names of trees, plants and flowers and who made a celebration of going to the bush each spring to pick flowers (the abundant ones we could pick) for Mother’s Day.

A hero who taught us it’s okay to make time for fun, to laugh and that crying is not shameful but a very real part of life sometimes.

A father who taught us to drive the riding lawnmower, the tractors, the truck and a car, and who taught us how to operate machinery safely because you wanted us to be safe and around for a long time.

A father who was a good role model and loved our mother. He was faithful and showed us, as Mom did, that it’s sometimes good to put others first and help them out in need. We saw the results of that later when the tornado hit, how neighbours worked together to help each other out, and Mom and Dad received too.

A person with a good sense of humour but who also valued who we were as individuals and never asked us to be anything but ourselves. And a person who can now enjoy seeing his grand and great-grand children and can enjoy a good visit, jig saw puzzles and a good show on television.

Happy Birthday, Dad. We love you very much. I hope you know just how much.

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January 8, 2016 at 3:41 am 2 comments

Something to think on

I’ve often heard this line: “But we’ve always done it this way.” Yet the truth is that when change  is called for, doing things the same way we’ve always done them will not produce change. It gets us into an even deeper rut when that way of doing things is no longer working. Like driving a car back and forth on a muddy road and just getting in deeper.

My daughter’s friend, Lara, had this quote on her Facebook page this morning.

If You Want Something You’ve Never Had, You Must Do What You’ve Never Done

It made me think.

There’s no author mentioned and when I searched on google, I learned this statement has been around for quite some time. Apparently, it’s not Thomas Jefferson to whom it’s sometimes attributed.

 

Yet another blogger proposes another discussion on the quote—and a different person to whom the quote is attributed.

 

Now I’m not suggesting that you suddenly decide you want to be an astronaut, because that would involve a lot of training you may not have. What would be the one thing you want to do differently?

Apart from the quote attribute query, what does the quote mean to you? It’s a good question for the New Year. Maybe even better than a resolution.

 

 

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December 31, 2015 at 3:24 pm Leave a comment

Memoir Writing Opportunity

Do you know of a senior, who lives in Kitchener, who maybe doesn`t get out much but who would like to begin to share their stories. Everyone has a story.

I`m pleased to have been offered the time to present my workshop.

Senior Connections Jan 11

http://www.carolynwilker.ca

Canadian Networker Fall Business Expo

December 30, 2015 at 4:05 pm Leave a comment

This is Christmas

Another of my favourite performers. Enjoy and Merry Christmas.

 

 

December 25, 2015 at 12:36 pm Leave a comment

Christmas Eve Day

We’re nearly there, at a day we celebrate every year. Presents bought and wrapped, cards sent and received, a tree in our living room. Often a Christmas party or two as well.  And the creche on the window ledge.

 

 

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the stone creche after our story time

 

I asked my granddaughters who are 4,6 to help me set it up. They were  here for the first two days of the school holiday.

“What’s a creche, Grandma?”

“You’ll see.”
I got out the box and invited them to help me unwrap the figures, but first we took out the stable, and I began to tell the story of a man and woman travelling a long way to a place called Bethlehem.

We unwrapped the other characters and I named the items— the angel, shepherds, Mary the mother and Joseph the father, and of course the baby Jesus. There were shepherds and sheep to unwrap too, but not wise men for they didn’t come to the stable. Also a donkey for travelling and a cow for the stable.

I moved the white stone pieces around as I told about Mary and Joseph travelling a long long way, then how there was no room in the inn, because so many people had come there, but the inn owner said they could stay in the stable out back where they’d be protected from the wind.

I told the girls about the shepherds in the field watching their sheep and how an angel came to tell them the good news of the new special baby, then more angels appeared in the sky and sang to them and about a special star in the sky. It was not an everyday occurrence to see an angel so the shepherds were afraid at first. But then they were excited to see the baby, so some of them went to find the stable while the others watched the sheep.

“What do you think a shepherd would take as a gift for the baby?”

“A toy?” said the six-year-old.

“Might they bring a baby sheep? They can get the wool cut off and make a blanket for the baby.”

They nod their heads.

“The shepherds were really excited about this special baby and they went and told other people before they went back to the fields.”

 

I stop there and let them ponder this much of the story. Better in smaller parts. Besides they’ll learn more later. I let them play with the figures and move them around.  And the photo is the way they ended up. It’s fitting they’re all there together at the end of the story. Think I’ll leave it as it is for now.

 

 

December 24, 2015 at 1:41 pm Leave a comment

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