Precious friend, precious memory

Sometimes we are lucky enough to have a true friend arrive in our lives. I’ve had a “bonus cousin” for about 25 years who is this wonderful soul who not only married my cousin, but became like family and a true soul friend to me almost the moment we met.

Yesterday I finally managed to drag myself to the vet clinic to pick up Aladdin’s ashes. I had a long talk with myself and “self” agreed that I could handle the emotions of it and everything would be fine.

Self lied

I was doing really well as I was standing in line at reception, I even let a lady go ahead of me who was carrying a large feed bag. I visited with the doggies who were coming in, I felt ok.

Then it was my turn and I blubbered out that I needed to pick up my ashes and then awkwardly stood there and cried while she went to the back to get them. Interesting note, crying with a mask on is just a disgusting mess of boogers and tears that run rampant all over my face.

I got home, cried again a little bit, and then started making supper. As I was cooking the doorbell rang and it was this soul friend standing at my door.

She’d had a portrait of Aladdin made for me because she knew how much I loved him and how I missed him. I burst into tears, she got a bit watery around the eyes, and I blubbered away about how much I appreciated the painting and the love behind it.

The kids have suggested the portrait go in our “hall of fame” which consists of photos of all of my grandparents, and somehow a portrait of little Melissa (not sure how I made the hall of fame, but I’ve always secretly loved it).

I will never forget Aladdin, but I also will never forget the love that went behind this gift. I will treasure it forever.


Walk away from the past

So, I’m on day 2 of my “give in to grief” for the rest of the month of February. Shit I wish I’d done this years ago – I didn’t because I thought it meant I would be lying around doing nothing and feeling sad, so instead I pushed myself to the limit and accomplished less than I wanted and was still sad.

Here’s the interesting thing about accepting that I’m in a state of grief. I woke up this morning and my mind raced with all the things that needed to be done. I said to myself that instead of being overwhelmed by the pile of my life that got heaped up over the last 6 months (longer really) that I was just going to do what felt right and I was going to look after myself.

I accomplished more today than I have in ages. And I had a nap. My kids said tonight that it was the first time they had seen me looking genuinely happy in months.

Go figure.

I was in our local crystal shop this evening and I said to the lady working there that I wanted a light shone on my path so I could get a better idea of where I’m going and what I’m supposed to be doing. She told me that instead of focusing on where I want to go I should be focusing on letting go of my past so I can walk into the future that is waiting for me.

Damn it, she’s right.


Fine for February

After dad died, one of mom’s friends told her that anytime someone asked her how she was to reply I’m fine (fine meaning Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional). We used it as a coping mechanism, and I found myself using it again after mom died.

My dear friend Asrael reminded me today that it’s ok to take time to grieve. I realized I’ve had 7 major, traumatic events happen in less than 3 years and I’ve not had time to process much of what has happened. I can feel the effects of that in both my body and my soul now. I literally have nothing left to give.

I’ve been pretty angry with God and this morning as I was having a pissy fit about how I was just going to turn my back on him – the boy reminded me that my faith is what defines me and I can’t give that up. It was pretty powerful to hear him say that to me. I mean if that’s how he sees me, and he spends so much time sorting out his own spirituality, how can I give up on that?

So, I’m going to spend the rest of the month feeling all the feelings and reflecting on and assessing what is truly important.


The elephant on my back

I have this spot in the middle of my back, between my shoulder blades, where all of my sad emotions live. You may know the area, it’s the back of my heart chakra – although it took me a little while to put that together.

The first time I noticed it was 9 years ago when my beloved childhood pony Pirate died. I was living in Quebec at the time so I wasn’t able to be with him in his last days, but he was in very loving care with family back here in Alberta. After he passed, my back seized up, I felt the elephant arrive and step hard on the middle of my back. I ended up being bedridden with pain for a few days – not a good thing as I had small children to care for.

Since then every time something really sad happens, or I’m under incredible amounts of stress that elephant comes back. During the worst of the dark night of the soul, it was there as a constant reminder of how unhappy I was. Over the past couple of years I’ve been able to rid myself of that elephant except in the most dire of cases.

The elephant came back after my Dad died, but that time it sat on my hip and pelvic area for a couple of days making it almost impossible for me to move around. At least that time I was kind of expecting the elephant’s visit. I was feeling and flowing my grief emotions, but they were so intense I knew that there would be some kind of acknowledgement from my body as to what I was feeling.

I wasn’t sure how Christmas and New Year’s would be this year without Dad. This season has always been such an important family time for us, and over the past 10 years it’s often been the only time we have been able to be home and visit with loved ones. Christmas actually ended up being a delightful day, filled with laughter and love. Thank goodness for those children who let their love shine so brightly and lighten up the dark clouds of grief. My elephant stayed away and I was feeling so grateful for that. I’ve been really focusing on feeling and allowing all the grief to come through and then letting it pass on out.

That old saying pride goeth before the fall definitely is true for me, as the day before New Years Eve I woke up feeling horrible with a sore throat and that elephant perched firmly in the middle of my back. I home remedied away my sore throat (apple cider vinegar works wonders, I also used raw honey and dried ginger) in short order, but I couldn’t shake that darn elephant. Usually he perches on my back for a good week before I can get rid of that trampled feeling so I was pretty upset – there was still a lot of Christmas vacation things that I wanted to enjoy.

That day Jenna and I ended up going to the Apple Store to have them fix her computer that I had fried (it’s like doing a bad home dye job – I only will do that once and from now get the professionals to do their job), and we spent some time walking around. An aromatherapy store called Escents finally has opened at Market Mall and we went in to check it out. I’ve been using DoTerra for years (and love them), but I’ve had some difficulty changing my account to a Canadian one, and with our low dollar here right now I’m not in a huge rush to have things shipped from the States anyway. The fact that Escents is Canadian is an added bonus.

I ended up purchasing their Rescue Relief Gel on the faint hope that it would offer some relief.


When we got home I announced I was going for a nap and had Jenna rub some of the Rescue gel on my back before I laid down. When I got up an hour later I was amazed that I felt about 60% better. I could move my shoulders and I could breathe without it hurting. She rubbed some more gel on, and by the time I went to bed that night I was almost back to my old self. I have never ever had something work so effectively.

I’m now using it on my lower back and hip area where I store all my stress and fear in huge balls of painful muscle knots to see what it can do there.

I was so pleased to find something that actually helped relieve that damn elephant. It was a good indicator that I still have a lot of grief emotions that I need to deal with and release, but at least I don’t have to have the intense physical pain while I’m doing that.


Happy birthday Dad 

Today would have been Dad’s 75th birthday. I haven’t been home to celebrate a birthday with him since he turned 64, and now that I’m here, he’s not. Sigh. Because we celebrated the last 10 birthdays with him over the phone or on Facetime, I wasn’t sure how acutely I would feel him missing here today – that is anymore than any other day. Sometimes my brain convinces my heart that he’s just gone on a trip for a while and I’ll be seeing him soon. Denial, it’s a difficult cloak of protection.

Turns out I miss him quite a lot.

Dad loved going for walks. He was always trying to get someone to go outside and do something with him – walking, skiing, swimming – he just wanted to be outside. Today I wanted to honour his memory by walking along the ridge by our house – one of his favourite places to be. It’s actually one of the spots where we scattered his ashes, and a place where I haven’t been strong enough to walk along since.

Today I knew I needed to walk there. To go to the place that Dad loved so much and where he found so much peace.

I stood at the spot where we had scattered his ashes. I cried for a long time. Thank goodness it’s a beautiful, warm November day or my tears would have frozen on my face and that would have made a sad situation an awkward one as well. I stood and cried and looked out at the view and just let all my emotions flow. It was both really hard and really easy. I had a lot of clarity come to me in those minutes I stood there thanking Dad for all that he had given to me.

Dad was always so good about making sure that I knew that he loved me no matter what. I never had to worry that I would ever do something that would make his love for me falter in any way. As I go through life and realize that so much of what is called love is conditional it gives me an even greater appreciation for this pure and true emotion of love. What a gift to have, what a gift to give.

I stood there and thanked God for the beautiful place we live in. Dad wanted to spend eternity in the spots he loved so deeply and being there brought me such peace and comfort.

the view along the ridge where we scattered the ashes

I walked for a while with my Dotted Dog and her Naughty Puppy Friend before getting a text from Jacob that he was on his way. He walked up and joined us and we walked the rest of the ridge together.

It was so calm and warm. It felt beautiful to have the sun shine its healing rays on us while we walked and laughed over memories of Dad. The kids miss him so deeply, he was such an important force in their lives. 

Last year at Christmas Dad and I walked the ridge and for some reason decided to stop and take our first ever (and what ended up being our only) selfie. It was the last walk I took with Dad, even though I didn’t know that at the time. We had such a deep, spiritual conversation – I’m so thankful we had the time for those kinds of moments.

omg it was so cold that day

Jacob and I stopped at the same place today and took our own selfie in memory of Dad. I think he would have really liked that we were out there together remembering him. 

After I was back home, I was sitting at the table with Jenna talking about Dad. She leaned over and petted my arm and said “I bet you really miss him today”. Then she said “If it makes you feel any better, while you were out on your walk I went up to my bedroom and sang him happy birthday” and then she burst into tears. So, we sat at the table and cried for a little while. Then we found a video that she and I had made last year on his birthday wishing him a happy day. We cried some more. We did manage to keep talking through our memories until we found some that made us feel better. There are lots of good memories.

I’m pretty lucky because I had a Dad who loved life and loved to pull us into it at full force. Even when I’m sure he wasn’t interested in what I was doing he was always there to listen to me and to talk about things or to watch me do things (the hours that man spent at the side of a riding ring watching me go round and round on my horse. Both my parents spent ages in the heat or (usually) the cold watching me ride).

I work hard at continuing to walk through my grief. I miss him like crazy, but I know he would want us to jump into life with everything we have, without fear. I don’t want to deaden my emotions, I want to feel them deeply and breathe through the tough ones. If I don’t feel the sad emotions, I also won’t feel the joyful emotions. I am on this happiness journey and Dad has been a big part of that. I find happiness in new experiences and I find happiness in memories. As proof of that, my happiness moment today included remembering all the love and fun times shared with Dad, and also experiencing fun times with Jacob (and those crazy dogs) on our walk. There is more tearful happiness to come tonight as my sister and her family join us for a family supper at home.


The road I know 

A whole season has come and gone in the 4 months minus 6 days since Dad died. When he left to go to the hospice (the day before he died) the blossoms were brilliant on the trees and the birds were singing songs of spring. 

Now the leaves have turned and are starting to fall. They’re beautiful now but we all know we are one big wind away from them all coming off. All the more reason to celebrate the beauty of now. 

We have been missing Dad more the past few days. Jacob is talking about him a lot on our drives. I’m thinking of him as I’m walking through the yard. Jenna got in the car this afternoon and burst into tears because I miss grandpa. He always would do things with me.  I miss doing things with him. 

He was always so good about joining us in whatever activities we were interested in. And in doing it with enthusiasm. 

But, this is the road we are on now.  

It’s weird because we have come full circle and in some ways are back on old roads. Old roads with some new twists and  turns. 

I think often how blessed we are to be back where we belong. Where, out here, every road I roam has bits of past Melissa left on it. It’s very comforting to be surrounded with memories and with familiar landmarks. Pieces of my soul live out here. Pieces of Dad’s do too. There is also a lot of comfort in that. 

Today’s happiness moment was looking at the mountains as we drove to and from school. Everything is so crisp and brilliant. I feel like we are mourning the loss of one season and celebrating the turn of another (even though fall here lasts only a hot minute). 


I celebrate driving down the road I know


Tears from heaven 

I’m finding as I move further into my understanding of who I am (with the help of my Ayurvedic studies, my meditation, my yoga, my increasingly closer relationship with The Source) that I am loving my sacred quiet morning times more and more. They are what gets me on my path for the day ahead and the more relaxed and at peace I can be when I start off, the better my entire day is.

This is how we started the morning on our terrace at the Tamaya Resort, so quiet and peaceful and warm

After helping Mom get ready for her course I headed back out along my Sunflower Path to clear my head and stretch my legs. As I began walking I was impressed with how quiet my head was. I was congratulating myself on how unstressed and uncluttered I was as I strolled along. Of course, no sooner did those thoughts come than my emotions were all like oh yeah? You think you’re all zen? Here, let me show you what’s really going on inside. And suddenly I was filled with rage.

By the time I realized how completely angry I was, I was at the halfway mark which looks out over the river towards the mountains and towards one of Dad’s sunflowers. So, I stood there and mind raged at the Dad-sunflower. 

Now, it was cloudy when I left for my walk, but I’d been out for about a half hour and although it was a bit chillier than I had thought, it was just overcast.

As I reached the peak of my mind-yelling at sunflower-Dad I started crying. Thank goodness I’m getting more comfortable with this whole bawling my eyes out in public thing (it helped that the path was quiet and I had this space to myself) because my eyes really let ‘er rip with those wet tears.

I was standing there bawling with a huge rock on my chest and a big lump in my throat as my mind-yelling turned into deep sorrow and I realized I was more really sad than really angry. At this exact moment it started to rain. Tears from heaven I stood there crying in the rain for a few minutes just allowing all the emotion to flow out of me and into the rain, into the river, and towards sunflower-Dad.

Then I was done and so was the rain. I felt the weight leave my heart and clear my throat. As these grief and sorrow feelings flowed away, the rain stopped. I waved to sunflower-Dad and walked back to the path to finish my walk. The second half of my walk was lined with the rest of the sunflowers and I had the strong feeling it was Dad reminding me that I wasn’t alone.

When I came back to the room I turned on the TV to listen to while I organized things. The channel was on The Doctors and they had some guy on talking with Vicki from RHOBH. She lost her mother a few months ago and she was getting messages from her through this medium. Then he went on say that so often people who have passed on are trying to contact us, but that we have to remain aware of the signs.

I smiled and thought how much I appreciated that Dad made his signs pretty easy for me to see. But, he loved us like that – he would try and make it as easy as possible for us.

I turned off the TV, rolled out my yoga mat and spent some time in quiet body stretching reflection.

My happiness moment: my tears joining with Dad’s tears from heaven. Because happiness isn’t always rolling on the floor belly laughing. Sometimes it comes from a deeper place in the soul.


Sunflowers and memories 

Sunflowers always make me think of Dad. All wildflowers do – he spent hours and hours taking us out in the fields as children and then as adults (as well as his grandchildren) and patiently teaching us over and over again the names of the local flowers.

But sunflowers…. it seemed every time he saw a sunflower growing in the garden he was dashing off to get his camera and take the perfect photo.

This trip to New Mexico has been so much more difficult than I anticipated.  Last summer when I was home, I watched Mom and Dad spend a great deal of thoughtful time on their applications for Richard Rohr’s Living School for Action and Contemplation. Mom was accepted, Dad was not. With that,  the hope still was that he would accompany her here. Because Dad so wanted her to take this course and thrive in its growth. By the time I moved back home in March, we knew he wouldn’t be coming here, but the dream was that he would be home and mom could share her trip in the evenings on the phone with him while I was along in person to help her out.

And then he died.

After a summer of the family prodding and pushing and lovingly supporting mom, she bravely decided to come here.

And even with all that as background, I still didn’t think this would be so hard. 

I dropped mom off at her session this afternoon still thinking I was ok. I had a few minutes of sadness this morning, but in general had felt pretty stable. But, as soon as she went into the conference room I felt like pulling a Sadness moment from Inside Out and lying on my back with my leg up in the air for Joy to pull me around while I coloured all my memory balls blue. However after standing there in the (public) hall leaking grief from my eyes I realized I also had to be my own Joy. 

I took myself outside for a walk. It’s beautiful here at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa. Not only that, but it’s so soul warming and peaceful. You can see the effect of the place on the smiles of the people as they move around.

As I was walking down the path all I could think was I miss Dad so much. I wish we were walking here together. We loved walking together, it made us so happy. I miss him… I miss him… I miss him.

I came around a turn and I saw this:

  Sunflowers. Just hanging out in the desert. As I stopped to look they were  everywhere.

Every time I turned…    There was the spirit of Dad walking along with me.

(A tree of sunflowers!! A tree – how cool is that??)
  I got to the banks of the Rio Grande (yet another one of those cool places I thought I would never get to) I stood there with Dad in my heart and looked across to the mountains. My happiness moment.

I knew I had to turn around and come back, but as I stood there in joyful sorrow I felt peace and love. Look in the left corner – there’s sunflowers there too. 

There’s a lot of healing that could happen in a place like this. I’m not sure how to describe it, or even exactly what it is. But this is the kind of place that can help heal your soul.  I’m grateful Dad came along for my afternoon walk so I could share this with him.

Even with the sorrow and grief of today, I am so grateful that we are here. Life does go on, and no one loved to really live life more than Dad did. He would want us to live, laugh, cry, love, experience all that life has to offer. I deeply feel the best way to honour his memory is to keep stepping ahead. Sometimes with smiles and sometimes with tears, but living and loving with a full heart.


Melissa means honeybee 

Today was a missing Dad kind of day. I’m not really sure why – it was no different than any other day. 

I woke up at 3am because the house is 10 million degrees and we can’t open windows because Ella the Cat tries to jump out the second story (no screens). So I lay there thinking how ironic that it was probably only 10C outside and yet I was sweating away. Remind me of that in a couple of months when it’s -30 and I can’t get warm enough. 

I started thinking about Dad in the present tense and then had that terrible reminder that Dad in the present tense exists as an angel. That was a horrifying moment. I lay there thinking how surreal  the last few months have been. I even wished that I could go back to that afternoon in the hospice after he died when we were all gathered together. Not because I want to relive that moment, but because in that moment I knew it was real and now I keep pretending that it’s not. 

I dropped Jenna off at her camp at the SPCA and as I was getting ready to leave I ran into the mom of an old friend. They were a family we did Pony Club with and we spent a lot of time together in my teen years. She asked (naturally enough) how my family was doing and my brain responded with well, dad is dead so I’m not sure how he is, the rest of us are doing ok I suppose. I think my mouth gave a more politically correct version of that truth. 

I find I can write about it here, I can tell the banker about Dad, but when I have to tell someone close to me, I completely lose my shit. I really enjoyed the rest of our visit, but the entire time I felt totally shaken by having to say those words. 

So, thoughts of Dad hung around the rest of the day. When Jenna and I went to Community Natural Foods to do some shopping after camp I saw this:

Dad took a family favourite photo of a bee flying out of a sunflower that we have hanging over the door at their place. This doesn’t do justice to his photo (I don’t have the mad skills he did and this was taken with my iPhone) but it grounded me. For a few moments Jenna and I just stood there and stared at the bee in the sunflower and felt peace. It was a powerful little moment and I felt like I was being reminded of all the love and good times we shared and all the wonderful things to come. My happiness moment. 

Staring at the bee – in Greek, Melissa means honeybee – I felt loved and safe. 


Forgive us our trespasses. 

My cousin invited us to go to her church this morning. They have been studying the Lord’s Prayer and today she was doing the sermon based on forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. 

Heavy stuff. 

That forgiveness thing is hard work. I think by a certain age we have all been hurt or betrayed by someone we love, and learning how to come to terms with that can be excruciating. As she said, when you are hurt by someone you love and trust you feel like one of the laws of life have been broken.  Our inner circle of trusted people aren’t supposed to betray us, and when they do it is a life altering experience. 

I struggle with the knowledge that I need to forgive. That the anger I hold towards the betrayer is really only damaging me. But forgiveness is such a complex thing. I feel like we have been taught (or maybe just I was taught) that what we need to do is just forgive and move on. But sometimes the hurt has cut so deep that it’s not that simple. Then I feel like a failure when I have tried to forgive but I just can’t do it.

But forgiveness is a process. And when it’s a deep hurt sometimes that process takes time. Like a lot of time. I need to honour that process. 

Then there is the whole turn the other cheek idea that also seems to be a part of this forgiveness path. My cousin talked (and even had it acted out) about what turning the other cheek really means. How it’s not about continuing to be a victim to the person who is hurting   you, but rather a non violent means of regaining your power and your dignity. 

Which I needed to hear, because  when I get hurt my gut instinct is to make that person feel hurt back – or at the very least let other people know what an ass they have been. But, there is a dignity that is gained by taking the high road and not dropping to their level. Honestly, if it’s a personality trait in the other person, eventually other people see it as well and there is no point in you having also become someone inflicting pain. Easier said than done, but more rewarding in the end. There’s also that small fact that we are all imperfect people trying to do our best – this does not mean that I need to let that forgiven betrayer back into my inner circle of trusted people. But it’s important to remember that if I’m a loved child of God, then so are they. 

I believe that things come to you when you need them. I really needed to her her sermon today. I need to actively continue my process of forgiveness. For my own soul and health, to make me a better person. Hearing these wise and well thought out words from someone I love and respect made them have all the more impact. 

I need to keep working and allowing that process. Listening to her sermon was my spiritual happiness moment today. 

My other joyful happiness moment was this afternoon. The kids and I went to the creek for a swim. It’s still warm water in our mountain creek – huge bonus- and the swimming holes are so deep the kids brought snorkels and flippers. I watched them swim up and down for hours. 


When they were done we sat on the shore staring at the water in silence. Jacob sighed and said I miss grandpa. Being at the creek was something he loved so much, and he was always so good about playing with the kids. But then instead of just sitting and crying (ok I admit I sat and cried) we shared memories of fun things we had done with him, memories of things he’d told us, and then moved into the present and future and talked about when we would swim next and which hill looked good for tobogganing this winter. Which is what Dad would want I think – for us to keep loving and living and looking ahead while remembering the past. I miss him so much, especially at times like that. But he gave us a lot of good things to hold onto and move forward with. 

We are very blessed.