A History in Photos 12 (FGK 169)

Today marks 4 years since mom passed. I started sharing these stories last year in the hopes that I would get to understand her better, to know who she really was. I’m not sure I found what I was originally looking for, but this process has helped me in ways I never could have imagined. I was still feeling pretty broken in my own life from the challenges of recent years and I was seeking guidance and support, although I didn’t know that at the time. I think I have a better understanding of the strength and courage the entire family had to get through what they were faced with . Polio didn’t just impact mom, but her entire family. And the faith Grandma carried, the grace and humility she showed in her letters and memories have left me with gratitude for the incredibly strong line of women that I come from. The letters helped me see how Grandma was held steady by her faith in God during what must have been an unbelievably challenging time. It’s one thing reading the letters on this side of history – knowing that mom survived and knowing how things turned out. But at the time…. There would have been no way to know, no guarantees, and everything was just blind faith. As someone who really struggles with trusting that God has my back even when I can’t see it – this has been very comforting.

Look at how dressed up Grandma and Grandpa got to go visit mom at the hospital! And the garden in the background!! I remember as a kid playing with the snapdragons in this flower garden. It’s gone now, and there’s a deck near here – but I really miss the flowers growing along the side of the house. Grandma really had a green thumb.

Percy and Edna going to visit Margie who was in hospital
Margie and Len Carrol on the horse (I think this is “Slim”??)
Sheila, Margi, and Mother (Grandma/Edna)
Aileen, Sheila, Margie 1949
Sheila and Mother (Edna Copithorne)

Crocuses and memories

Yesterday my aunt headed home to be with Jesus. Although I will miss her here, she was a woman who held true to her faith and I know she was welcomed with open arms.

When we were kids, my cousin and I would go spend a week or so in the summer at my aunt and uncle’s farm, splitting our time between VBS and scaring the crap out of ourselves with whatever fun things we could find to get into. Sometimes our cousins would take us to the nearby “haunted house”, once we found a two headed grasshopper, but a lot of our time was spent playing in the yard and generally enjoying ourselves.

When I went away to school, my aunt sent me cards regularly so that I wouldn’t feel too lonely. She even came once and took me out for lunch which meant so much to me (I really was lonely).

After Grandma died, we were all sitting in the kitchen when my aunt returned from a walk in the field. It was early April, but she had found some crocuses growing in the field and brought them into the house. It seemed very fitting to have there for Grandma, but it also seemed fitting that my aunt would have gone out and found something that provided us all with a bit of comfort when we were all sad.

For some reason, after everyone left, I grabbed those crocuses and dried them in one of my books. The crocuses came with me as we moved around, and every once in a while I would open the book and look at that memory of love from home.

I opened the book at Christmas time and again looked at the crocuses with so much gratitude that we were back in the same home where they had sat in their vase (actually, in our home crocuses always go in a small juice glass), steps away from the field that had grown them. Grandma will be gone 17 years this spring, and it’s always amazed me that these crocuses held their shape. This time, though, the crocuses were disintegrating and as soon as I touched them they crumbled into little pieces.

It was like they knew they’d done their job well and were ready to go. Hopefully they’re a centrepiece at a beautiful tea table in heaven.

Love lasts for eternity. Everything else is noise.


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.


What a year brings

A year ago this morning at 2am I got the call from Tanya at the hospital that mom had let go and gone to join dad in heaven.

I remember our middle of the night drive in when I turned to my sister and said we are orphans! And she responded with Im too young to be an orphan! I totally agreed. I don’t feel equipped to not have parents.

But what a lot I’ve learned in a year.

First I learned how much mom did, how much she helped us grieve, and how much estate work she did when dad died. I felt like my sister and I were a part of that process, but now what we’ve been doing it ourselves I realize how much mom did. And how she was there to lean on when we grieved.

I’ve learned how important my sister is to me. I don’t know how I would have made it through without her to cry and laugh with. I feel like our friendship has deepened in a way it wouldn’t have without sharing this grief together.

I’ve learned how fortunate I am to come from this tribe. My family and my friends have carried me through some dark days and brightened my smile on some lighter ones. We cannot do this thing called life alone.

I’ve learned how incredibly important my faith is.

I’ve learned how to say goodbye whether I want to or not.

And I’ve learned that at the end of the day all there is is love 💕. The rest is just noise.


Cranberry juice

We were grocery shopping this afternoon and I had a loud request for cranberry juice. Mom always kept the stuff by the gallon here when she was alive, it was her favourite drink, and so it was also that of my children. The boy (as he was pleading for me to buy some) said that one of his first memories was of sitting in the chair and Nana bringing him a glass of cranberry juice so they could sit and watch Mary Poppins.

The closer we get to this final internment the more I realize how far I have still to go in the grieving process for my mom. I mean, I’m still in the middle of grieving my dad. Yet here we are, and I’m glad they will be buried together as they belong together. I’m also glad we have all of these memories to share of the love they blessed us with.

Because it was so much more than cranberry juice. It was the gift of time and love that she gave the kids (and us). She loved having us all around, she loved sharing time with her grandchildren, she loved how they enjoyed doing things with her.

I’ve been thinking a lot about love, unconditional love, true love, lately. Whatever ups and downs, bumps in the road, or issues we had – I always knew that my parents loved me unconditionally. It’s a rare gift to grow up knowing that you are loved no matter what, and one that I am able to pass onto my kids because I know how to do it, because I was shown it and I was taught it. And the kids have the memories of that in little things like cranberry juice.


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.


Murchie’s, Munro’s, Memories

My soul was called back out to Sidney and I had to follow. The girl and I are spending a few days on Vancouver Island to be near the ocean, renew our souls, visit old memories, and make new ones.

This place has always felt like my second home, we spent so much time here when I was a kid. My parents had a house we all loved here for a few years, but before and after that we would come and stay in the exact same hotel the girl and I are in now.

There are memory imprints of us walking on the logs along the water with grandma, of Easter egg hunts in the courtyard, of lunch at Lunns, and of trips into Victoria.

Victoria for me always centers around the triangle of Murchie’s, Munro’s, and Roger’s – and today we hit all three of them. Mom used to spend hours in the bookstore gathering a new stash of reading material, and dad and my sister and I would run between the other stores.

I needed to touch base with some different family memories. Mom and Dad were never sick here, this place doesn’t hold divorce pain or death pain. It holds memories of us riding bikes, gathering seashells, and running free.

As I watched the girl pick shells in the rain while grinning from ear to ear, I remembered we are not only visiting old memories but making new ones.

Life does always go on. I need to hold onto these happy memories, remember when mom and dad were alive, when they weren’t sick, when life was easier. But I need to hold onto this moment when I’m here with my girl and we are alive and healthy. And I need to embrace the changes the future will bring.


Let’s do that 81 more times

Today was another one of those days filled with joy and sadness. After having such a great day yesterday I woke up feeling fine (and then I giggled thinking of laughing about feeling fine with my relative the night before. Fine we use as an acronym: F*ckedup, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional).

I realized today marked 2 months since Mom died. I think I am more in denial about that than I was 2 months ago.

But that same relative has said to me life goes on and it truly does. It’s ok to be sad, but life goes on and I don’t want to miss it all.

Today also marked the birthday of my uncle. He and my aunt have always been like extra parents to my sister and I – and today I really needed to be with my tribe. So I was extremely thankful we were included in on the celebration and I could get out of my head (or my heart)  and really put myself in the present moment.

My connection to my tribe grounds me and keeps me sane. I depend on that feeling of knowing there is a soft place to land – I think we all do.




Chin Chopper

One of my favourite games that Dad used to play with us was the Chin Chopper Game. No idea where it came from – I assume maybe it was one he learned as a child – I should have asked him. But it was guaranteed to give my sister and I (and whatever cousins were around) many many giggles. Then we we went on to have kids of our own Grandpa did Chin Chopper with them. Dad really loved his family and playing with us kids (or our kids) was something he did really well.

I was sorting out some photos on my computer today and came across a couple of old Chin Chopper videos from 2013 – two years before he died. Sometimes I feel our technology gets in the way of our relationships, but sometimes it gives us gem memories like these ones.

I miss both Mom and Dad so much – but we have so many good memories, and most importantly the memory of being loved unconditionally. That is a real gift. It is true happiness.


Love letters

I was looking for printer paper in the filing cabinet at my parents’ house today and I came across some unexpected treasures. Apparently my parents wrote each other little love notes over the years, and they kept them in a file next to where the paper was stored. It was so unexpected it took my breath away and I had to stop and spend the next hour looking through their messages of love.

My parents had their issues like every other couple did, but at the heart of it they were two halves of a whole. They loved each other fiercely, and as a result they loved us all unconditionally. I’m so grateful for that because it taught me how to love fiercely and unconditionally as well.

As I looked at their photos and little love moments I was reminded that although I miss mom terribly, in many ways it feels more “right” that they are back together again.

Today was one month since she died. I can’t believe it’s been so long, I can’t believe it’s been only a month.

I went to my cousin’s for supper tonight and as the family laughed as we played Apples to Apples I thought how fortunate I am that we are surrounded with love.

Laughter makes everything seem so much more bearable – it’s the perfect antidote to sadness. I’m lucky I’ve got someone who makes me laugh, who is helping bring my smile back.