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 Bar U 20th Anniversary. 

The kids and I took a trip to Southern Alberta today to attend the 20th anniversary of the Bar U Ranch being a national historic site. Because the kids are Albertans who were not raised in Alberta, I feel an extra responsibility to teach them about their heritage. 

I love the drive south down highway 22 and today was a beautiful, clear, sunny day which made it that much more enjoyable. 

I knew it was going to be a good drive when it started off with Don’t Stop Believin’ on the radio. The kids were chatting away and as soon as the song started they both stopped talking mid sentence and sang the entire song, then went right back into their chatter. 

I love our mountains. Enjoying the scenery made the drive go by so quickly. 

One of the first things we noticed when we were walking around the inside of the Bar U information centre was the brands that were lining the top of the walls. After a little hunting, we found our family ranch brand that had been placed in memory of my Grandpa. That was fun to find, and made the kids feel a bit more connected to what we were doing. 

   Because we were slow we missed the horse drawn wagon that was taking people down the the main ranch area. So we had to hoof it ourselves. An easy stroll downhill lookin at the mountains – what a hardship eh? 

We went into the blacksmith shop and he gave us a little history lesson on how the Bar U came to be and why it was such an important ranch in Alberta. 

  This was the highlight for the kids. Learning how to lasso. They were actually pretty good at it and would have stayed there all day if they could have. 

  I however, wanted to go watch the Blackfoot Dancers. They were amazing. I felt so honoured that they shared this with us. The best part was that at the end they invited the spectators to join them in a dance. It felt so good to move around with the drums beating and them dancing. 

  Of course as soon as they could the kids were back to lassoing. They actually went to the gift shop and bought their own so they could lasso each other. 

Jacob said I should go get one for when they weren’t listening to me and I could just yell and rope them. As the day went on this seemed like a better and better idea. 

  When we left the Bar U I took the kids a bit further west towards the place where my best childhood friend came from. 

First though we had to drive past the littlest church. It was just as small as I remembered it from days of yore. 

  And here we are, birthplace of Pirate Gold – aka my best friend aka my best pony buddy. 

  And honestly, no wonder I enjoyed the time I spent down here learning how to ride him. It’s so breathtaking. 

  By the time we reached Bragg Creek on our drive home we were hangry so we stopped for some Italian food and some intense giggles. I can’t remember when we have laughed harder at a meal. Thank goodness we were outside. 

  One of those wonderful big happiness days. We are having more and more days filled with happiness. I know that this is because we are focusing on bringing happiness into our lives. Even amidst the mourning and the sorrow and the intense feeling of loss we carry about my Dad, we are still finding joy in the days. I know he would want that for us and that knowledge helps motivate me to keep seeking it out even when I want to just curl up in a ball. 

My happiness moment was when we were invited into the Blackfoot dance circle to join them. What an honour and how exciting to get to do something so different.