happiness

Where were you when you heard the news?

I was sitting in Tulip Room 2 with my girl waiting for a doctor appointment. I had left my phone in the car and was just sitting there when her phone buzzed. She looked down and casually said “the Queen is dead” and I promptly burst into tears.

A few minutes later we could hear two women talking about the Queen’s passing. We couldn’t make it all out but they were clearly upset and sharing some of their memories of her. When my doctor came into the room it was the first thing we spoke about and it turned out that it had been her processing the death.

Those of you who know me may remember that I fell madly in love with Lady Diana before she married Charles and my love and respect for the People’s Princess carries on today. I’ve also had a lot of respect and admiration for Queen Elizabeth. No matter the situation, she has always conducted herself like royalty, I’ve never heard anything bad said from her or about her (not saying there isn’t anything – but really if there is it must be fairly uncommon – her children are another matter).

Lately I’ve said that the only thing that would be worse than the Queen dying is him becoming king, and with that her becoming queen consort. Bleh. Mostly it’s just that I don’t like how they were dirty with Diana.

And it was pretty much the same thing my doctor said – she just said it with more kindness than I just did. Really upset about the Queen, but even more upset that she was going to now be called queen. Then we had a long and lovely talk about how much we both loved Princess Diana. Finally my girl understood what I was saying when I said that there were so many of us in my generation who loved the People’s Princess.

I’ve loved the Queen too – for all of my life. And I sure will miss her. I will miss her class and grace. I will miss the way she kind of reminded me of my Auntie Mary who is also gone, and who also made it to a lovely old age (95). I am grateful though that I was given the opportunity to process the information of her passing with an adult whom I trust and admire and respect. It was very meaningful to be able to share our memories of both the Queen and Princess Diana with each other.

God Save the Queen.

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Dad’s Photos: Annora Brown’s Crocuses

I love this legend. This was the reason why I started bringing in the flower books to the hospital when Dad was so sick. I was trying to remember the story but was falling (very) short. I felt so badly for dad who had gone to so much work to put together all of these treasures so that we could remember what he taught us forever. So now this story to me is more than just a beautiful legend, but a treasured memory of time with my dad.

Blackfoot legend retold by Annora Brown, photos by John Ramsay.

This is the painting dad is talking about. It hangs on the wall in the kitchen behind where I’m sitting and I enjoy looking at it every day. To me it captures exactly what an Alberta spring looks like. It has hung here for as long as I can remember, and while Cherie has a copy this original is also hers and one day will hang on the wall at her place.
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happiness

Holding hands

The other day the girl and I had quite a disturbing experience as we were nearly mowed down crossing a small road in a parking lot in Cochrane. We were halfway across the street in front of Pet Valu heading towards Save On, walking in the cross walk, when a lady came flying down that road that cuts between the stores. It took me a second or so to realize that she wasn’t stopping or slowing down and was heading right towards us. Worse, the girl was the one who was going to be the “buffer” between me and the car when it hit us.

I screamed the girl’s name and grabbed her arm while we both looked towards the car with horrified expressions on our faces. Both our bodies tensed up like we were going to run, and at the same instant realized that we wouldn’t have time to make it.

As I was accepting that this would be how we would die, suddenly I felt the girl’s hand slip into mine. One small movement that in regular times wouldn’t perhaps mean much (although it’s been years since she’s wanted to hold my hand), but in this moment it meant the world. If that was when I was going to die, somehow the thought of holding her hand felt quite comforting.

At the last second the woman veered around us (didn’t slow down though) and threw her car in the parking spot that clearly had captured her attention making her unable to see anything besides that coveted spot.

Scary as crap, but what has stuck with me was that feeling of that little hand in mine as we stood there terrified. It was both her grown up hand, and the hand of the little girl who used to want to hold onto me every second of every day.

I remember when dad was dying, all he wanted was to spend time with us, his family, his loved ones. Nothing that he had accomplished or accumulated seemed to matter, all that did was the love he had in his life. That hand in mine reminded me how important it is to treasure and cherish my loved ones (well and to make sure that people in cars see us when we are crossing the road).

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happiness

Love that lasts through time and space

Poor Ella has been quite depressed since Aladdin died. She’s the most cat-like of our cats (don’t touch me, don’t look at me, and whatever you do… don’t touch my fancy tail) and has a harder time getting along with the other animals (and sometimes humans). But she loved Aladdin, and he loved her.

They would lie on my bed for most of the day all cuddled up together, and they slept there at night too with me interrupting their space. He just got her, he loved her no matter how cranky she was and in turn that made her less cranky.

Since he’s been gone, she’s lying on my bed alone a lot of the time. She’s just kind of down and depressed even though we try and shower her with love.

Today the girl suggested we take Aladdin’s ashes and put them on the bed with her to see if they comforted her at all. It’s funny, if it wasn’t for the kids I never would have got ashes back, but it seems they were much needed. I could not believe her reaction.

She lay on the bed for ages loving on that box

I was not prepared for how beautiful or emotional this would be. But she just could not stop hugging on the box that contained the memories and essence of her best friend.

It was a truly beautiful moment.

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happiness

A year of pain – a year of growth

This has by far been the most difficult year of my life. If you had asked me a year ago what I thought was coming in the year ahead,  I would have said there was no way after the last few years that so much intense pain could be ahead of me, but there you have it.

A year ago today I took my unplanned dismount off my horse and shattered my shoulder, broke my helmet, and scared the crap out of myself. I spent almost 2 months barely able to move after that, needing help from my kids to do the most basic things for myself, and needing them to step up and help with care for my mom. It was truly humbling to have to ask for help to do up my bra and get dressed.  They both were pretty fantastic about everything, and we had unbelievable love and support from friends and family during that first little while which was the only way we made it through. We need our tribe.

Three days after I got the all clear from the doctor that my bone had healed properly and I could begin to strengthen and gain mobility, mom started chemo. Everything seemed so intense and time seemed to move at a slower pace, but in reality things went downhill for her very quickly after that. She was in the hospital for 5 weeks with pneumonia after her first few weeks of treatment and never fully regained her strength after that.

She came home for a couple of weeks at Christmas time which was a huge blessing, and we were able to celebrate the holiday and enjoy precious time with her then. Another dark cloud appeared during this time as the kids’ other grandma (Mr X’s mom) cut off contact with them and that relationship has never been repaired.

Mom went back into hospital not too long after New Years, and passed away January 18th.

As I was still trying to absorb that loss and mourn, my daughter became critically ill and the next few months were spent caring for and supporting her.

To add to my sorrow, I was betrayed by someone I loved and trusted which caused me incredible pain, and somehow Mr. X was allowed to fall through the cracks of the system and become almost $50,000 behind in his payments which has put a huge financial strain on my family.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my relationships and weeding out the ones that aren’t healthy for me. Sadly I’ve come to the conclusion that my most important relationship, my most loved one, after God and my children also isn’t one that I am able to continue and I’ve decided to sell my beloved horse. I will be getting a new one, but I’ve tried and tried and although I love him with all my heart it just isn’t meant to be.

Today I get to close the chapter on this year of pain. It doesn’t mean I get to leave all those emotions behind me, it just means that I intend to move ahead and continue to seek happiness and peace.

In reality, all I want to do is go to bed for 2 weeks and cry. We went and saw the second Mama Mia last night, and had I had any idea the storyline I would have chosen anything else. But it was ABBA, how could it be painful to watch right? It’s made me realize I haven’t even begun my grieving process and that I probably do need to stop and sit and cry for a little while.

So much has happened I don’t even know how to begin to absorb it.

One thing I do know is a lesson I learned from the person who deeply hurt me. I refuse to live the rest of my life being a victim of Mr. X, a victim of circumstance, a victim of low self worth, a victim of others. If the kids and I have walked through all we have been through in the last few years we are survivors, we are warriors, we have strength I never would have imagined possible.

I’ve been really struggling with my happiness journey lately. I’ve not wanted to blog or reflect on anything that has been going on. But today I feel that it’s time to move ahead, to let things go, to feel what needs to be felt. And there’s a certain amount of happiness in that release.

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Memorial rock

I finally got to the funeral home and picked up the memorial rock my sister and I had made for our parents.

It’s weird that this is a Happiness moment, and yet it’s not that weird at all. Since dad died we have marked a spot in the yard, where some of his ashes were scattered, that has been our memorial gathering place. Now we have a marker for the both of them. A place right here at home, in one of their favorite spots, where we can sit quietly (with the mosquitos) and remember them.

I miss them, but I feel their presence strongly

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happiness

Dancing with the angels

Early this morning, Mom put on her riding boots and walked out to the pasture in heaven to grab a horse and go for a ride. I hope she’s dancing with dad, riding her horse, playing with her dogs, and having tea with her parents and all the other loved ones who have been waiting for her. She’s free, she’s saved, she’s at peace.

This has been an impossibly difficult couple of years.

For those of you who knew my mom, I don’t have to explain what kind of a woman she was. She was the strongest, bravest, kindest woman I knew. She defied the odds her entire life. The surest way to make sure she would do anything was to tell her she couldn’t. You will never walk again – walks. You will never be able to go to school – goes to Stanford. You won’t be able to have kids – has kids. All our lives we were taught to not let little things like that’s impossible  get in the way of anything.

Mostly she taught us what love was. She worked hard to give us the best life possible, and one of her greatest lessons was that my sister and I need to be friends, that we will be each other’s allies all of our lives.

All day long family and friends have been calling, texting, and emailing us. So many people loved mom, so many people love us. Thank God for this tribe. I had one cousin drop off a huge bag of chocolate to keep my energy up (haha), and another one invited all of us over for supper and a visit. I knew mom would be so happy to see us all coming together. Happiness, it’s found even in sad moments.

One of mom’s caregivers showed me this poem the other day. I keep thinking that as we were saying goodbye, there was a group of loved ones saying hello.

We love you mom.

Gone From My Sight

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,

spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts

for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.

I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck

of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone.”

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,

hull and spar as she was when she left my side.

And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me — not in her.

And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”

there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices

ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”

And that is dying…

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You are not alone

The part of my brain that feels sorry for myself keeps yelling out omg why am I dealing with all of this all by myself?

But the part of me who really sees what’s going on says you are not alone

And I’m not

All day long people have been coming by, calling, or texting and saying just that. None of us here are alone. We all have each other. It’s why we need a tribe to get through this thing called life.

This morning I finally got around to putting up the calendar my cousin-in-law made and January’s caption seemed perfect for how I feel today

We need to turn our eyes to that which is unseen and rely on our faith.

Today has been emotional but it has also been filled with peace and love – and that is happiness.

Gratitude:

Mom’s amazing caregivers

My tribe

The kindness of my sister who is staying overnight with my mom.

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Come together

One thing I have learned as I’ve been writing this happiness blog (almost 3 years now) is that happiness isn’t about rainbows and unicorns. It can be found in every moment of life – even the crappy moments. And honestly over the last 3 years I have had a lot of crappy moments.

Lots.

Things aren’t going well with mom, we had some news today that was difficult for all of us. We are now shifting towards comfort care for her and trying to make things more peaceful for her. Love is always the most precious gift to give, and right now she needs a showering of love.

Inside that dark cloud some light appeared. The hospital today quietly filled up with our loved ones. There are sure a lot of people who love my mom, and we have a lot of people who love us too. I talk a lot about my tribe and how I don’t know what I would do without them. Today was a shining example of that truth. The tribe is quietly and lovingly holding us all in this moment and I am so grateful for that. It’s the true meaning of happiness – we are all coming together in love and prayer.

My gratitude today:

My sister

Heather

The rest of my tribe

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Old memories, new memories 

Today was absolutely bursting with all kinds of different emotions. Before May 28, 2015; this date was just another day on the calendar. Now it is wrapped up with memories of Dad and the day he died. There was so much intensity those last few days, weeks, months… and then there are all the memories we cherish and carry with us of him and the light he shone in the world. To balance those intense feelings, we attended a huge family celebration for my uncle and aunt in honour of their 60th wedding anniversary. Life keeps on going, and there are always joyful moments and sad moments mixed in with each other.

Mom and I spent some quite time by “dad’s tree” in the garden. The last few days he was home the blossoms seemed to hang right over him, wrapping him and the rest of us up in the change of season. It seemed like a fitting place to sit for a while this morning and spend some quality time with memories of Dad.

Having a family party in the afternoon really brought perfect balance to the day. This tribe that we have – they are so amazing and we are so blessed to be part of such a group of people. The way this large family comes together is quite special an unique and I couldn’t imagine living life any differently – I love knowing that we are part of this huge tribe.

There is always happiness to be found if you remember to look for it. The happiness this afternoon was as clear and as loud as our laughter. The happiness this morning was more subdued, in the form of memories, and gratitude for a man we love so dearly.

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