I Used to Be Scared of Living in a Small Town.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

I think I'm a city girl, but I'm not sure anymore.

It's quiet here, on the acreage. I love it more than I ever imagined. I wish it was mine to keep, but even so; I revel, still, in the space around me that is mine-for-now. It's peaceful here, un-rushed and spread out. We can be loud and wild, or secluded and soft without irritating, or worrying, the neighbours. Our indoors and outdoors are homey and uninspected by anyone except the wildlife.

Yet there is home in the anonymity of the city, too. People need people and I see that in the crowds and the space-sharing, though everyone rushes about and pretends it isn't so. I like watching other humans being, imagining what their lives are like as I watch them walk down the sidewalks, hurry to their vehicles, mow their lawns. Even if they catch me being curious about them before I glance away, chances are pretty good they don't know who I am anyway; I won't earn a reputation. I even like that people don't care about the details of my life too much. I like that everyone has too many of their own details in this busy place to concern themselves with mine.

I used to be scared of small towns. Everyone knew each other, but didn't actually really know each other, too. I heard my relatives and their friends in small towns talk about fellow town members and their business, knowing things I only knew about my very closest friends, maybe. These people knew each other through their shared history, but not well enough to hug them in the pain of their divorce, of which everyone seemed to know every gruesome detail. It was startling to realize it was hypothetically possible for someone to know all my quiet, painful secrets like that...but not love me and know me well enough to hold me through them. I could not see how that could feel comfortable and safe at all.

I imagined myself in a small town. But in my daydreams, I couldn't keep my mystery and I didn't like it. In the big city, I could be a kind stranger in those few minutes in a grocery store line, disappearing into the parking lot with no other expectations. In a town where everyone remembers the time you lost your temper in public...could they be sure of your kindness? Or would they count it as feigned because, throughout the time they've known you, they have seen your unkindness, too? It scared me that I wouldn't be able to try on different personalities for size, just for fun, or that I couldn't wear my pyjamas and smeared makeup to Wal-Mart and not worry about seeing people I knew.

I was scared of the Big Fish in the Small Pond, the people who everyone admired because they did admirable things, worthy of fanfare, of congratulations. It seemed like it gave them an uncanny power over the community. It worried me that this influence never seemed tempered by the reality of many people around you being able to do similar admirable things, with no one fussing over it, no one feeling submissive to their awe of you. It felt like the definitions of someone worth admiring were too narrow.

It scared me how new people could move in and feel like shiny new toys held at a distance. How they could try and attach themselves to neighbours who weren't sure how to start fresh, who were nervous about making room for people who didn't share their history and who smelled like change?

I saw these things clearly, I was sure of it, and they scared me. I never wanted to live in a small town, ever. Too close, too much knowing, too familiar with each other without being careful and tender with all the information. No, thanks.

But in my youth I missed things.

I mean, I saw the way things sometimes played out like people had never outgrown their high school drama, still juvenile in their grown-up wrinkles, beer guts, and mom bodies. But I missed the ones who had outgrown it and were brave enough to stay anyways. I also missed the ones who had left and seen the world, and come back. Both were the ones who knew the limitations of their small town, but endured the small things with grace and forgiveness, the way a wise grandma finally understands and appreciates the childishness of her grandchildren and loves them deeply...albeit sometimes with rolled eyes. These people lived bigger and deeper, lives full of meaning, happy with exactly who they were, unshackled from the expectations they had once endured, bit by bit. I can see them now.

I initially saw the ones who were afraid to leave and afraid of change and afraid of being someone different than who everyone expected them to be, but I only felt afraid and sorry for them. I didn't have the maturity to feel compassion and hope for them yet. Didn't I feel afraid of things, too, sometimes? Don't we all? Sure, I saw the ones who hated the smallness and felt trapped, but I didn't see the ones who had hated it and had the courage to change their story, either through getting up and leaving or simply changing their perspective. I didn't see the ones who were able to appreciate and experience the depth of history, of love, of human relationships that grow and change, the ones who knew the secret: that we all build our own small towns, no matter where we live.

Because that is what I have learned, finally: even when we live in a city with millions of people, even if we live in the middle of nowhere, we still build our own small towns. We build it with the friends we choose, the teachers and classmates and coworkers we don't, the family we belong to, the other communities of people we gather to us that may have nothing to do with proximity or city limits. The internet lets us build our small town with increasingly distant pieces of people, all added to our own small towns. We are not immune to the petty; we are not shut out from the ability to be known and loved completely.

We eventually see that in order to live a deeply fulfilling life, we cannot help but endure human relationships that change. We still must face our own history eventually so that we can take charge of our future; we will need to stand up to the people that don't seem to let us change. We still must learn to endure and resist the influence of the "Big Fish" and find our ability to go our own way despite what others think, even those who think they know us best and know what is best for us. We still must learn to have patience, grace, forgiveness, and even love for the people we cannot escape. We will need to recognize our own fears and challenge them in our own ways and in our own time. We may need to completely change everything around us and walk down strange streets and smell air foreign to our lungs for a fresh perspective, a new tenderness for where we came from. And we all must learn to appreciate what we have in our own hand-made village collage simply for what it is, with all its quirks and limitations, because it's ours: strangely, endearingly, our own.

I'm still a city girl, I think. I still like the mystery, the anonymity, people not paying attention to me. A childhood of moving frequently and lots of change has made that familiar and reassuring to me. But I'm also not afraid of living in a small town anymore. I am practicing being okay with all the things that scared me about living in a small town in the first place: being seen, being widely misunderstood, feeling limited and controlled, allowing myself to be held back by my own fears, being angry with people I also love dearly, feeling powerless, and being wise and compassionate when faced with small minds and loud opinions...even when it's my own, on occasion.

Because now I know that all of those things aren't limited to the boundaries of a small town at all. They're just easier to hide from, to run from, to ignore in a big city or in the middle of nowhere. And what's startled me most is that my fears about ending up in a small town were, perhaps, simply me fearing my own humanity all along. I feared being real and vulnerable for everyone to see and remember, being known by imperfect people and while we all struggle to love each other through our mistakes.

When I was young, I saw all the characters in a small town, the parts they played. But I missed all the humans, the humanity, all magnified and caricatured on their small patch of earth. I know now that no matter where we live, we are all a familiar character in a small town to someone.

A Farewell to Winter

Thursday, 30 March 2017

It must have been a long winter.

I realized the other day, sun warm on my face and breeze whispering of change, that I felt genuinely surprised at the thought of Spring creeping in. It actually caught me off-guard that it will eventually arrive...just like literally every single year before this one. I shook my head and marvelled at both my surprise (because Winter had me under its very long, very cold spell this time, apparently) and at the simple, reliable miracle of the seasons changing.

I made an effort to settle deep into the dark and cold months this year. I was reminded by people wiser than me that the seasons have purpose in their rhythm...that they help us slow down, rev up, dig in, and then rest again. I felt the wisdom in her phrase, "Winter is for stories."

So I tried to let our busy-ness melt away as we cozied up around books and fires in our fireplace, calmed our schedule so hunkering and huddling could happen at will. We had dance parties and movie nights to warm up the walls of the house that kept out the cold. We made snow suits and toques so casually and temptingly available that kids couldn't resist their daily morning tumble through the powdery snow. Even on the crispy-cold days, the days that freeze your snot at first sniff, they needed to check their frozen puddles to see how the ice had changed overnight. I let more meats and creamy things feel at home in our dinners, made bread, and soothed any pouty feelings about the frigid temperatures with human stories on the pages of books and in the hum of audiobooks and podcasts.

I bought spinach the past couple weeks on grocery trips, intentionally and with great meaning and flourish. And strawberries. Because spinach and strawberries and asparagus mean Spring. I mean, I bought spinach in the dead of winter sometimes, too, but it wasn't the same. I'm eating SPRING spinach now. And it tastes like life. Like new grass (literally...) and baby animals and newness. Never mind, actually. Even metaphorically, spinach should never taste like baby animals. Even SPRING spinach. Ahem, moving on.

So I'm ready, is what I mean. Winter might not be prepared to fade out quite yet because it's Canada after all...but we are in a good place, he and I, and I'm ready for a surprisingly fond farewell.

Until the squash and kale feel new again, Winter; I say good-bye.

(This is your cue to leave, now. XOXO)

7 Ways to Help Someone Who is Grieving

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

This is the fifth (and final) post in a series this past week in honour of the three year anniversary of my sister Jocelyn's death. I'll share writing from a variety of places (old blog posts from here, from other personal blogs, writing never shared), but all things that I've written about her death and my grieving. While not the most cheerful stuff to read about, my writing about losing her has been pivotal in my healing process. Thanks for allowing me to share with you this week!

This post is one of the most popular on my blog, so may be familiar to many of you here. I've updated it a bit for clarity now that it's been a few years.


Note: we deal with loss in as many different ways as there are people...so these are just 7 things that I, personally, found particularly helpful and worth mentioning.

ALSO... please don't feel like this is a mandatory list of must-do's either! This is simply a list to refer to if you are desperate to help and need ideas.

7 Ways to Help Someone Who is Grieving

1) Reach out. Just do it.
   Whether there's awkwardness between you, it's been a while, or you think you have nothing to say, just reach out anyways.  I was so touched when people I hadn't heard from in forever cared enough to reach out to me with a simple "I'm so sorry to hear" or "thinking about you." Tragedies have a way of making all the distances between hearts disappear.

2) You don't need to make them feel better.
   This one is tricky to explain out-loud, so bear with me.
   There is nothing that you can say that will make them feel better right now. Nothing. What they are going through is just 100% crappy and that is it. The end. It is just hard and it hurts, regardless of anythinganythinganything. Reminding them of their beliefs in an after-life, saying someone is in a better place, telling them anything that starts with "at least...", or anything else that is intended to lessen the pain is off-limits. For now, at first. Let them take the lead on seeing whatever silver lining they can, when they're ready...and, even then, maybe just listen and nod.
   People are so good and caring and kind...and it's only natural to want to cheer someone up! One of the (many!) things that surprised me about experiencing the loss of a loved one was how little I wanted people to make me feel better...like, not at all. When you try, you run the risk of trivializing their pain, and coming across like you're trying to make it not-such-a-big-deal...even though that is not your intention at all, I know. 
With all that said, however, the effort to be kind was always appreciated, on some level...so (as a disclaimer) don't feel so stressed about saying the "right" thing, that you end up saying/doing nothing at all.

3) Validate
   So maybe you can't make them feel better, but you can validate how they must be feeling right now. Defend and protect their right to be in agony, and let them know that however they're feeling is okay. Do give your condolences, tell them how you can't imagine how hard this must be, let them know you're thinking of them...anything, really, that will let them know that yes, this is awful, and you love them.

4) Give Specific Help
   ...instead of offering the too-general "if there's anything I can do...."  (which we are ALL guilty of!) If you really want to help somehow, just do something. Don't necessarily rely on the person grieving to tell you what they need because 1) It's hard to even fathom exactly what you need when everything aches...and 2) When you experience a great loss, ALL of the normal things like eating, showering, parenting are overwhelmingly difficult and exhausting! It's really the little, day-to-day things that help the most. Take them a meal. Mow their lawn. Steal their kids for a couple hours. Bring them a movie you know they'd like. Give them a bath bomb and tea. Send them a gift card for some guilt-free retail therapy...or a restaurant so they don't have to make food themselves. Go clean their bathroom, or send a cleaning service over. Bring them a bag of groceries. Drop a favourite chocolate bar in their mailbox. Anything is something.

5) Keep Reaching Out...But With No Expectations
   Send them a note that doesn't necessitate a reply. Stop by with a treat, but don't expect them to visit and chat like usual. Keep sending love out even if it seems there is nothing coming back for a while. Invite them for a walk, for dinner, for hot chocolate...but understand if they decline. And keep inviting them anyways, no pressure. They need the reassurances that they have all the space they need, but they are also not forgotten.

6) Support Healthy Mourning
   Grief and mourning are different, I've learned. Grief is your ailment, mourning is how you deal with it or "let it out." Mourning is essential to learning to live with grief in a healthy way, to healing. Allow and encourage the person grieving to talk about it, cry about it, just sit with the pain, feel it. Support things like music, writing, creative projects, running, tributes in honour of the person lost, goals made in the wake of new realizations, etc....anything that allows the person to "let it out" in a healthy way and/or acknowledge the person who's loss they are mourning. 
   I know some of us are uncomfortable when people cry in front of us...feeling like we've ruined everything, that it's an intensely meaningful moment we are unprepared for, or (because we asked them about it) it's our fault they're sad...but chances are that they've cried so much already, it's not weird to them anymore (you know, like how when you have a baby, you get over the embarrassment of people looking between your legs real fast? Like that.). So you don't need to feel weird either. Just let them get a few tears out, without making it into a big deal, or trying to fix it, or feeling stressed like this means you are the only person they can trust now, or ever. Just be there and let them feel what they're feeling.
   It's also okay if they are okay. Losing someone is difficult, but some are just better equipped to handle the fallout. And that is okay.

7) Be patient
   Grief and mourning are not just emotional burdens; they actually have mental and physical symptoms/side effects as well, like fatigue, short-term memory issues, attention and focus difficulties, etc. They are processing something HUGE, and that takes a lot of physical resources and energy. 
   Most people are resilient and get through the worst of it okay, so take heart. However, some spiral into longer-term issues like depression and anxiety (especially if the loss is not dealt with in healthy ways or bottled up)..and even something called "complicated grief" which may require professional counselling to get through. Grief never goes away, though the waves do become less intense over time. You just learn how to live with it...and it takes longer for some than others. Let your person have their time. 

Dear Jocelyn (6 Months Later)

Friday, 10 February 2017

This is the fourth post in a series this week in honour of the three year anniversary of my sister Jocelyn's death. I'll share writing from a variety of places (old blog posts from here, from other personal blogs, writing never shared), but all things that I've written about her death and my grieving. While not the most cheerful stuff to read about, my writing about losing her has been pivotal in my healing process. Thanks for allowing me to share with you this week!

This post was originally posted here, on this blog, a while back. In the 6 months following Jocelyn's death, every member of my immediate family had something in their life explode...all seemingly unrelated to her death, though I'm sure each of them probably came to a head because of our collective emotional fragility...just to give you some context.

Other posts in this series:


Hi, sweet sissy.

It's been 6 months since you died. 6 months! I wish we could sit in Mom's living room to stay up late and talk about that. As in, what is it even like, dying? How are things on the other side? Does it feel like 6 months over there? Now that your life on earth is done, did you have any premonitions that your life would be short? Hindsight, they say, right? I can't wait to talk to you again.

Have you been watching us a lot? Or is there lots to do over there? Are you busy and happy and peaceful? Because that's how I imagine you. But I also imagine that there might be a part of you worrying about us, just because you're...well, you, still. Ha.

So...I know there's been lots of really hard things you've had to watch happen with our family lately. It feels like your death was the first of many really heavy dominoes that starting crashing through all these dreams and expectations our family has held with almost cavalier confidence. Can you even believe some of the things that have happened!? And how they ALL had to happen within the same six months?? JEEPERS, right!? Well, maybe you're not as bewildered as I am about the timing. Maybe you've been let in on the secret, a little bit, about some of the ultimate purposes and reasons behind the rapid-fire catastrophes that have left us crawling through the ruins and sifting through the ashes, trying to figure out what's left of Life-As-We-Expected-It...and Who-We-Thought-We-Were...and, most importantly, What-We-Thought-We-Could-Endure. That last one has been the most surprising of them all so far.

We may be crawling, stumbling, sitting there catatonically shocked...or just laying there breathing, afraid to move lest we reopen a tender, slow-healing wound...but I want you to know, sister friend, that we still are holding on, so tightly, to each other. Sometimes it hurts because we feel your absence sharply when we're huddling so close. But in those moments where it feels like it would just be easier to run away, and push away, and avoid...there is this exquisite truth that we are learning to embrace, a little at a time: that we cannot experience great joy without first experiencing great pain: how would we recognize it, appreciate it, otherwise? I can confidently say that I'm pretty sure we're good now, on the pain front, that we've had quite enough and are ready to just focus on the joy part, ONLY. 

I wish it was actually up to me.

My relationship with God has been unusually complicated these past 6 months. I haven't known what to make of it, so I've just tried to let it be, whatever that means. However, deep down in the rare, invincible parts of my heart I know Heavenly Father has a plan for you, for me, for our family. When I am being honest, and very untheatrical, I realize that I trust Him; He has this remarkable, unknowable way of weaving threads of joy and peace through times like these. I keep trying to remember to look for those sparkling flecks of hope. Sometimes I find them, sometimes I'm too dark to see anything except fog. But through it all, I ultimately feel His patience with me; I don't feel He is displeased with my finite mortal perspective, even when I'm having a temper tantrum about things not going the way I think they should; I just feel His perfect understanding and acceptance of my current state...and my potential. When I was learning to drive a car, my instructor was going through strategies to remember in crisis situations: "when you're hyrdroplaning, just take your foot off the gas...when you've lost control on the ice, just look where you want to go and your car will follow." That's the only message I've felt coming through this last little while of losing traction, spinning and sliding: wherever you are at...it's okay, you are loved.  Just look where you want to go, the rest will follow.

If there's any one resounding lesson that I've learned so far, even if it's just from your example alone, Jake, it's to be gentle with people...to just love them. You were so good at that down here. Now, with every face I look into, I can't help but wonder if their sister died, too. I wonder if they are feeling crumbly today. I wonder what hard things they have endured, are enduring, and whether they are finding the tiny flecks of hope. It makes me want to be a bright spot for someone, anyone, everyone. Because everyone battling their way through something that is their own brand of difficult...and trying to figure it out loudly, silently, or a little of both. This new depth of sheer feeling for everyone I see often has me feeling raw and straight-up staggered...but hopeful. At least there's that.

I miss you...so, so much. I want to shrug my shoulders with you about parenting, and pool our memories to try and figure out how mom and dad did it so successfully. I want to complain a little (with love, of course) about our sweetly stubborn husbands. I want to roll my eyes at your effusive, over-the-top praise and affection, and snort at your unbelievable ability to pull a pun right out of thin air. I want to have that singing group us sisters were going to have, and watch you have a near panic-attack about children running around near water without life-jackets on ("You're so safety-conscious..."). There are so many people who will never see how alike we occasionally look.

I'm not sure why we are all simply shards and pieces right now, but I've got to believe that it's because there's something new to be built here, out of all of this. We will be okay. Stay close, sis. We need all the help we can get.

Love you more than chocolate,
Your Favourite Oldest Sister.

On Life After Her Death

Thursday, 9 February 2017

This is the third post in a series this week in honour of the three year anniversary of my sister Jocelyn's death. I'll share writing from a variety of places (old blog posts from here, from other personal blogs, writing never shared), but all things that I've written about her death and my grieving. While not the most cheerful stuff to read about, my writing about losing her has been pivotal in my healing process. Thanks for allowing me to share with you this week!

This was originally posted on our (now neglected) family blog just shy of a month after Jocelyn died.

Other posts in this series:
Stop and Take the Call
Dear Jocelyn (Six Months Later)


I have waffled on whether or not to write a post like this, one where I tell you how things are going with us since my sister Jocelyn passed away about a month ago. Sometimes it's really just easier to keep it close, pretend no one is wondering anyways, and march on. And how do I put it into words again? I don't really know. But I'm going to try... because SO many people have been SO perfectly available and aware and caring that I want to be able to answer your questions about how I am doing...answer them with more than the honest, but vague, "I'm okay."
So... just, thank you, whoever you may be, for being there for me and my family.

We got to say goodbye to Jocelyn, over the phone, before they unplugged the machines. She was sedated, but we knew she could hear us...and we each had a chance to tell her how much we loved her, how proud we were of her, and promise to take care of her hubby and babies. 

When the call came that she was gone, it was the last thing I heard for days and days, and it felt the way movies portray the moments following an explosion; all I could hear, mentally and emotionally, was ringing, ringing, ringing. Everything else felt so far away, fuzzy and unclear. Everything was in slow-motion, with lots of stumbling and shock and not-enough and too-much.

The night before her funeral, I got to help my mom dress Jocelyn's body for burial. It was the most beautiful and brutal experience of my life. Jocelyn was there; I felt her so, so close. It was the first time I felt fully, intensely present since her death.

The funeral was surreal. People were there, and they loved her, and they loved our family, and I was so amazed at all of the love hanging in the air. I was feeling so, so many things that day. I have a hard time catching my breath thinking about it. Thank you for your presence and/or prayers that day. 

And in the days since, we've been experiencing the fallout; we've been watching where the pieces have landed, the wounded shuffling around to the wounded, and trying to attend to the everyday needs that suddenly feel really, really exhausting.

Right now, it feels like I am a computer with a heavy program called Grieving running in the background, making everything else run slow and inefficiently, with frequent glitches and the occasional full-on crash. I can't really do anything to speed up Grieving or make it go away, so I just have to let it run its course. 

And, really, things get a little better every day. We talk about her all the time. We talk about her like she's there with us, and like we're going to see her again soon (...just not soon enough!). And we cry together, leaking out of our new cracks and fissures, slowly coming to terms that things are different now; we are trying to heal our way to our new normal. It's slow and stumbly, but we're doing the best we can.

My kids have been so great. They stop at least once a day, mid-play, and tell me that they miss Auntie Jocelyn, and give me the chance to say the same, out loud. It's therapeutic. My sweet Darren has carried me and cared for me, taking care of all of us with strength and compassion. 

And it's going to sound so cliche, but what these past few weeks have left me with, most of all, is an appreciation for the beautiful things in my life. I better savour moments like these ones that I have taken pictures of lately. It has forced me to the sidelines of my life for a while, and from here I have been able to see things a little differently. I feel like this is not only true of experiencing the death of a loved one, but for any tragedy...I want to let this change me.

I know I will feel her absence for the rest of my life; when I have clothes I want to pass on, when I want to sing with her, when I want to share recipes I know she'd appreciate, when I want to rejoice in a great deal on cloth diapering supplies, or a stellar find on Kijiji, when I want to hear her take on situations in my life, roll my eyes at her non-stop puns. This is losing my sister to cancer. This is what it means to have to go through this life without her. 

I have faith in God and His perfect plan. I may not understand The Why, but I trust that He does, and that is enough for now. This doesn't take away the hurt. This does give me a place to go when I am hurting. I know He is there.

Plus, these sweet faces I see every day soothe my soul. I am so grateful to have them. 

Stop and Take the Call

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

This is the second post in a series this week in honour of the three year anniversary of my sister Jocelyn's death. I'll share writing from a variety of places (old blog posts from here, from other personal blogs, writing never shared), but all things that I've written about her death and my grieving. While not the most cheerful stuff to read about, my writing about losing her has been pivotal in my healing process. Thanks for allowing me to share with you this week!

Other posts in this series:
On Life After Her Death
Dear Jocelyn (Six Months Later)


Shortly before she was intubated, my sister Jocelyn called---Facetimed, actually--- from the hospital in Switzerland. Switzerland because it held hope for beating The Cancer; the hospital because her body had been fighting to breathe and was losing the battle. I was shopping at Target.

She was in good spirits, smiling at me in her gentle way through my cell phone screen, face to face through that little rectangle. My little family and I were wandering aisles together, shopping for nothing important: a case for my iPad, a few household items we needed. It was mostly just an outing together, the kids clothed in hopeful pajamas that suggested they fall asleep on the short drive home.

I almost answered just to ask if I could call her back when we got home. I was trying to choose an iPad case alongside an increasingly restless crew of a husband and three little kids; it wasn't really an ideal situation for a good chat. But there was something that compelled me to answer and not rush through it. She was calling from Switzerland after all: the time difference, calling from the hospital, having been a while since we'd chatted...could have been those things that stayed my first inclination. Although the fear of her dying wasn't deep and cold and real yet---I was still pretty confident she'd be okay after the antibiotics, the anti-fungals, the hospital things ---she was still calling from the hospital and it surprised me, just enough to jar me out of my own practical thoughts and hear the voice from elsewhere saying, "you need to take this call."

I shudder now, to think how close I came to not seeing her and talking with her then, how close I came to brushing it off until later when it was more convenient and appropriate for a chat, the kind of chat I thought we should be having, the kind I wanted to have with my sick sister and her faithful husband. I thank God that I did answer, that I could joke about the hospital equipment she was wearing to help her breathe being a great-looking necklace, that I could make her smile. I'm so grateful I got to take her shopping for iPad covers with me, showing her the ones I was thinking of. She liked one, but I picked the other because we were like that: my style a little wilder, hers more reserved. We started chatting about movies and shows they'd been watching to kill time, but she starting coughing and having trouble and had to go. At some point in the conversation, I remember feeling the need to tell her something---anything---tender. I don't remember what it was, probably something like "you've got this" or "you're doing so good, keep fighting" or "hang in there," but I do remember that I said something, fumbling a bit to communicate what was in my heart in just a few words. But I do remember something said in earnest warmth, and witnessing that it made it through that screen, across the ocean, to her sitting upright in her Swiss hotel room...her small nod, smile, kind eyes glowing.

Our conversation wasn't long, maybe five, seven minutes. It wasn't really unusual that I stayed with the call and said heart-felt things, but they were actions made significant because it would be the last conversation we had here in this life. They had to put her under to intubate her soon after that, an "under" she would never recover from. Years of fighting cancer had left her body too weak to fend off the infections that eventually claimed her life two weeks later.

And now, when the experience comes to mind, it reminds me of the importance of stopping to just take the call. To just take the time, take the deep breath, stop the whirlwind and look and pay attention to what's important.

To just stop and take the call.


Tuesday, 7 February 2017

This is the first post in a series this week in honour of the three year anniversary of my sister Jocelyn's death. I'll share writing from a variety of places (old blog posts from here, from other personal blogs, writing never shared), but all things that I've written about her death and my grieving. While not the most cheerful stuff to read about, my writing about losing her has been pivotal in my healing process. Thanks for allowing me to share with you this week!

(Jocelyn passed away on a Friday...the following post was written on the Tuesday prior to her passing.)

Other posts in this series:

Stop and Take the Call
On Life After Her Death
Dear Jocelyn (Six Months Later)


My sister has been battling lymphoma for the past two years. In the past three weeks she has contracted pneumonia, and is currently hovering precariously on the brink of leaving this life behind.

It's just The Waiting right now. Any phone call could be "THE" phone call. Our family is huddled together, both literally and figuratively....just waiting.

And I think to myself, So, this is what this feels like....facing the possibility of continuing this life without the presence of someone you expected to get to keep close for a lot longer. It feels surreal, like a bad dream. I keep waiting to wake up, with relief flooding over me, so grateful it was just a nightmare. But instead I just keep waking up to check my phone, again, with my heartbeat quickening at every message, email, call.

My thoughts are consumed by this, swinging from wildly desperate hope that she will make it... to the crippling consideration of what it might feel like without her here, to hug, laugh with...for her babies to grow up without their mommy.

I feel like I'm on a roller coaster...how you hop on, get a few ups, downs, and turns...just to get you started. But, in the distance, you see the huge hill and the massive drop. These past couple years have been the initial ups and downs...and these past few weeks have been climbing, climbing, climbing straight up this big hill where the only thing left seems to be The Drop. I feel like I'm reaching the summit, where something is about to give, the bottom inevitably about to fall from under me...and the only thing you can think is "Well...here we go. Here it comes."

I think about my kids. I think about what they know about death. The only frame of reference they have are fairy tales, where death is cured with a magical kiss or special potion. I watch them when they are playing and pretending, and every time someone "dies," they are soon kissed awake and restored. We have talked about how their auntie is sick, and might have to go home to Heavenly Father. Baby-Rae, now four, asked only "How does Heavenly Father carry her?" Very carefully, is all I can think to say through the lump in my throat.

I have never appreciated friends bringing meals over so much. It is just that much less to think about, that much more love to feel, and that much more comfort by way of eating my feelings. I don't feel even a little guilty about it in a time like this. I'm finding little joys where I can, be it in my sweet-smelling baby's neck, or in the warmth of a cheesy lasagna.

I've been walking around in a fog, simultaneously lost in my thoughts and hiding from them. But it is amazing to me that the things that can pierce the fog are how pretty my slices of apples look in the morning light, the way my baby's eye sparkle when she sees me, the lovely steam curling peacefully from a rooftop into the sky. I know that it is my God whispering, for only He can cut through these clouds. He is reminding me that even in the darkest sorrow, He is there, and there is beauty.

"Each of us will have our own Fridays---those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.

But I testify to you in the name of the one who conquered death---Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.

No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come."

-Joseph B. Wirthlin