Full Circle Moment

Once upon a time, a little boy invited all his friends in his neighbourhood to come to his house on his birthday. The date was set and his friends promised to come.

The day of the event rolled around. All of the children from the neighbourhood arrived at the allotted time, dressed for a party with gifts in hand.

The only problem was, it wasn’t the little boy’s birthday at all. And he hadn’t told his parents about his guests. His mother, mortified, sent the children home. With their presents.

This took place approximately 70 years ago.

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Last week, First Born Son came home told and told me about a conversation he had with the young son of a family friend. His birthday was coming up and he wanted to invite FBS to his party.

“You can bring your Mom too!” he stated, and FBS recounted with a laugh.

Touched by the young man’s thoughtfulness, and chuckling over his precociousness, I headed out to find the perfect gift. Two John Deere T shirts for a “hard working” young man.

Although FBS couldn’t join me due to his work schedule, I took the gift to the wee lad’s house. There was no party. His parents weren’t even home from work. His grandmother, who is a caregiver for him and his older sister, was taken aback to when she came to the door. The boy and his sister were delighted to see me, and he gleefully took the gift and shredded the colourful paper. The grandmother sputtered appreciation for the gift, how kind the gesture was, how unexpected, how her daughter and son-in-law would be surprised to learn their son, the birthday boy, had made such a bold invitation.

This boy’s birthday was June 10.

The first story is about my father. His birthday was June 9.

The only thing more striking is the resemblance between this little boy and his grandson at the same age.

The only thing more striking is the resemblance between this little boy and his grandson at the same age.

Although it’s been two years since he passed, I found it somewhat comforting that this story, that he told us many times, came to me in the moment that I realized that I was invited to a party that wasn’t happening; for a young man who just wanted to have some people over to celebrate.

Happy Birthday Duddy!

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I Wish…

I wish we didn’t have to have a tragedy to make us aware of how precious every day truly is.

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I wish children didn’t have to lose their parents.

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I wish parents never had to bury their children.

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I wish husbands only buried their wives after many long and happy years together.

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I wish that anyone who got behind the wheel of a car while impaired only hurt themselves.

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I wish there was a way to turn back time.

“Live every day as if it were going to be your last; for one day you’re sure to be right.”
~Harry “Breaker” Harbord Morant

The “Easy” Way Out?

Today is Samson’s birthday.

In a couple of weeks, it will be a year since we put him down.  This random combination of thoughts came to me last week when a certain new item caught my eye.

Gloria Taylor is a British Columbian woman who lives with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). She was the face of five plaintiffs who went to the Supreme Court to strike down the ban on assisted suicide in that province. The grounds were that the ban discriminated against the disabled because, get this, they cannot commit suicide on their own.

The argument was that an able-bodied individual could end their own life without assistance. For those dealing with terminal conditions, there comes a point in time when this is no longer an option. It’s usually at this later stage that the idea of suicide is much more appealing than the years, months, weeks, days, the individual has left as a prisoner of their own bodies.

Now I toyed with the idea of not writing this column, simply because it falls under one of those contentious issues, like abortion, religion and hockey. But I feel strongly about this myself and to be honest, I was excited when I heard the news.

When Samson was suffering, we could tell. It was as obvious as if he could verbalize the pain he was in. Most people would say they would not allow an animal to suffer, they would have the “put to sleep.”

I have watched loved ones die. I have heard some of them wish for death to come. I have heard of people whose family members have asked them to help them bring their end to them. How is ok for a dog to be euthanized, but I couldn’t do it for a family member?

To be fair, there are differences between euthanasia and assisted suicide.

1. Euthanasia –

: the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured

individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for

reasons of mercy. The word is Greek and means “easy death.”

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This can be a simple as someone withholding care or taking part

in the act of ending someone’s life. Notice how people and animals are lumped

together?

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2. Assisted Suicide –

: suicide committed by someone with assistance from another person;

especially : physician-assisted suicide

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This is a specific plan where a doctor provides the means for a person to administer

drugs or an act that will allow the individual to end their own life. Something

they could not otherwise do on their own.

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Thank you Merriam-Webster.

Immediately the battle cries were out for an appeal of this decision.

How can we allow these people who have suffered so much the “easy” way out???

Well I’ve got a thought for you. If you are saying the Court will not allow

anyone to take part in an action that will result in the death of another person, then they better get a lot more vigilant about methamphetamine dealers and producers, because THAT, my friend, is how a lot more people are going to die at the hand of another person.

It’s not like I don’t have a grasp on the concept of suicide. It has come close enough to me to know that there are times when I can see it is not the right option. There is pain and suffering for the family members left behind. But when we are looking at cases like this, how can it be a bad thing? Instead of an indefinite period of time where your family stands vigil for you, watches you waste away, is forced to have their last memories of you be tainted by the ravages of the disease that will ultimately claim you, you can have your time, prepare and allow a more humane procedure take place. Less drugs. Less hospital time. Less drama. Less trauma.

This topic first came to light in a big way back in 1992 when Sue Rodriguez, also suffering from ALS and living in Victoria, B.C., challenged the ban. She was denied the right to an assisted suicide, but in 1994, she was successful in finding an anonymous doctor who would help and she was given her assisted suicide that year.

“If I cannot give consent to my own death, whose body is this? Who owns my life?” she asked. (cbc.com June 15, 2012)

Indeed. Who?

The Shroud of Mystery

As I mentioned before, The Bowery Girl is the latest version of The Bowery – a column I wrote for a community newspaper a lifetime ago.

Back then, as today, I wrote about pretty much anything I chose to. I think the editor was simply glad to have one less thing to assign me.

Regardless – I have always found humour in the damnedest places. Which is where one of my Mother’s favourite column came from. Since she learned I was “live” with my writing, she’s asked when I would share this one. I actually dove into the tote I stored my newsprint life in, but couldn’t find it.  So….for my Mom, I’m rewriting it….sheesh….

My Granny was my Dad’s mother. She was a tiny, tough, Englishwoman. Around her you WOULD drink tea (hence my life-long aversion to the beverage to this day), and you would be scolded for eating HER chocolate covered graham cracker cookies. Why she would bring these around two young girls and NOT think we would inhale them is beyond me. I’m sure she was distressed that my sister and I were not orderly and well-behaved as young ladies should be. We had the run of a farm with neighbours far enough away that they’d never hear your sister scream when you pounded the crap out of her……..ahem.  Around Granny you did NOT shout and you certainly did not use profanity. There’s a whole other entry on the time she heard my father in the barn over the intercom during a particularly stressful morning of chores…

When I was a teenager, Granny died. It was a blessing since she was suffering from a dementia and the last few years were difficult, especially for my father. Now organizing a funeral for a parent is stressful, but this funeral was becoming BRUTAL. Aside from the regular bureaucracy one has to go through when a hospital and nursing home are involved, there were the stipulations laid out by my Granny. We had to get her in the ground ASAP!

Let me explain….

When my Granny was a younger woman, her mother (my great-granny) would tell her daughters that when she died, she wanted to be buried in nothing but a shroud, “Just like our Lord Jesus.” What ever possessed her to decide this was never fully explained, but it was simply understood that these are her wishes. When Granny’s mother died, her sisters refused to bury the elderly woman naked, in a shroud, pointing out it was not “proper”.  So their mother was buried in a “proper” dress and “proper” pearls. Likely with appropriate shoes that had a modest heel. This outraged my Granny.

Therefore, she took on the concept. SHE would be buried naked in a shroud, “Just like our Lord Jesus.” This would honour her religious convictions, as well as her mother’s legacy.

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Can I point out here that my Granny was ANGLICAN? In anything I have come to understand about religion, there aren’t too many Christian-based beliefs that required wrapping one’s dearly departed in a sheet to honour God. Judaism requires a quick burial, but I am aware of that rule being stretched to 48 and even 72 hours after death. But I only took Religion/Cult/Occult in college as an elective, so I don’t pretend to be an expert…

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When the time came to plan the funeral, my Dad was working as quickly as he could to ensure it was a quick turnaround. My aunt was trying to get back into the country, therefore the little “details” of the funeral were left to my Mother. And she was having some issues. We all knew that Granny wanted to be buried in a shroud “Just like our Lord Jesus”, but was having a really hard time envisioning this tiny frail woman being in the ground with nothing more on her than a bed sheet.

This is when “logic” kicked in.

Mom decides to dress Granny in one of the cozy track suits she wore in the nursing home. She picked the pink one, well, because, well, it’s a visual thing right? She can LOOK like she has nothing on. Then she comes into my room.

“I need a pair of socks,” she said.

“Oh, ok.” I said.

“Make sure it’s a pair you don’t plan on getting back,” she adds.

I give her a couple of pairs, which are deemed unsuitable. Finally I give her a pair of “pom-pom” socks. She picks a pair that are white with pink pom-poms. Even through my Granny is yet to be in the ground, I’m fairly certain she’s spinning.

So with the socks in hand, my mother collects the other items and they are delivered to the funeral home. Oh to be a fly on the wall when the undertaker saw what he’d have to put his latest client in. Thankfully, the casket is closed. Granny is in the ground JUST under the time frame allotted and we are all taking license with the “shroud” concept.

I have since told my mother that her mother-in-law would come back to haunt her for failing to deliver on the final request, and even suggested that she, herself, take on the idea. She’s not interested in being buried “Just like our Lord Jesus.” Guess that takes me off the hook!

We’ve all heard stories young women taken tragically and buried in their wedding dresses, or perhaps a teen who was a cheerleader being laid to rest in her uniform. Men can be buried in military or sport uniforms, or other apparel that has special significance to them.

So I can only imagine what someone might think, years later, if they ever had to open my grandmother’s coffin.

“Look Joe, this one was a GYMNAST!”

Taking A Moment

I had a very funny post planned for today. But I’m afraid I’m not up to funny right now.

We have lost a dear friend. A neighbour of 18 years who was more than the person who lived next door. She was the first person to come see me in the hospital to see our babies, aside from immediate family members. She was the first person to care for First Born Son outside of family. She LOVED every minute of it.

So today, I’m going to take a moment for her. And her family. And her husband.

I wonder about the logic behind taking someone so young – as 57 is far from old. I question how someone can fight and fight and then fight once more – only to lose the battle. I scratch my head as I look around at people who not only don’t give more to this world, but take away from it. She gave so much to so many. She had so much more to give – and would have given it willingly.

Then I sit back and realize none of us gets out of this alive. We will all meet the same fate one way or another. There is a message here – you just have to be still enough to listen for it.

It is grace. Strength. Passion. A woman who could have left this earth last autumn not only persevered, but thrived. She made it to her son’s wedding in February. She WALKED down the aisle, casting aside the wheelchair provided for her. She DANCED at that wedding, after giving a speech to her son and new daughter-in-law. She was the definition of what we can overcome with Faith and Love.

The Human Spirit is a gift from God.

And we are so glad you are free to be with Him tonight.