Mother’s Day Thoughts …. Mug a Mother

She gave you life, and you’re getting her a coffee mug?

Oprah’s Headline next to the rumoured fear that Prince Harry’s wedding would be canceled due to bridal fears. It’s the Mother’s Day weekend and I know this can be a day of mixed emotions. It would be wonderful to share a special coffee mug with my mother, but this will be the first Mother’s Day without her … while it is easier to saintify your mother’s once she’s have passed on; I’m sharing a tribute my daughter sent for the funeral ten weeks ago.

From this granddaughter’s perspective, we need a little more Margaret on this earth…

In MY world—of juggling a hundred commitments to a thousand people in a million places,

We need people who just Show Up and are fully present. Right here, right now, every time.

     That’s what my grandma did.

In my world—of dreaming big dreams, traveling to exotic places and achieving amazing feats,

We need people who can delight in the mundane and find joy in the ordinary.

     That’s what my grandma did.

In my world—where me-time, introspective self-analysis and often-hasty critique of others consumes heaps of our head space,

We need people who can breathe deep gulps of faith and just get on with it.

     That’s what my grandma did.

In my world—where my dreams and my goals and my vacations and house and opinions and achievements and my, my, my, my… are the accepted life-goals of the day,

We need people who graciously shine the spotlight on others and enthusiastically elevate those around them.

     That’s what my grandma did.

In my world—where dodging discomfort and avoiding suffering has become a pursuit at all costs,

We need people who grope for gratitude in the darkness and make the hard choice to stick it out for the benefit of others.

     That’s what my grandma did.

In my world—of unprecedented affluence and options and any-dream-can-be-your-reality,

We need people who sometimes just pull up their raggedy boots of courage and walk the path in front of them.

     That’s what my grandma did.

In my world where finding oneself has become of utmost importance,

We need people who are OK with just being themselves.

     That’s who my grandma was.

From this granddaughter’s perspective, we need a little more Margaret on this earth…

Happy Mother’s Day for those of you mothers … if you still have a mother on the planet, I hope you have a chance to talk to her.

Motherhood is a high calling.

Lessons from Crutches

Lessons from Crutches …

Riding up the ski slopes on a snowmobile had never been on my bucket list. But being pro-active in life, I check-marked that experience even before it got on the list. The beauty of the mountains were subdued by a ski induced knee fracture. And now crutches, and other devices are temporarily part of my day to day activity.

When I was sixteen, my five-years-older-than-I sister headed back to university after a weekend at home. I worried for her safety because she was traveling an hour and a half in a severe prairie snowstorm. My stomach twisted tight as visibility reduced, and I was afraid because I had recently been saved at an evangelistic meeting. As my sister drove into the city, I bargained with God promising that if she would make it safely, I would send her a letter. I don’t remember my exact words, but I’m fairly certain I included a salvation option with the fire insurance policy. Likely I tossed in a four spiritual laws gospel tract for good measure. I’m not sure if she responded by mail, or in person the next time we met. But, bolstered by her university secular insight, she suggested that she was fine and if I needed religion as my crutch that was also fine. She assured me she did not. Nearly forty-seven years later I recall that reference to a crutch as I am hobbling about the house after my ski injury.

And I have come to appreciate the value of a crutch. Technically I’m not even supposed to let my left big toe touch the ground, and I am not strong enough to stand on one foot all day. In fact I need two crutches. By definition crutch means:

a long stick with a crosspiece at the top, used as a support under the armpit by a lame [yes they use the word lame] person, a thing used for support or reassurance.

And I am feeling rather lame. It’s lame that I can’t brush my teeth without wobbling. It’s lame that going up three stairs causes me to rethink where I will go. It’s lame that the auto doors at the grocery store almost knocked out my left crutch, causing a near face plant into bananas. But, I am glad that I have some thing for support and reassurance. I’m also kind of curious as to what kinds of things people use as crutches to prop them up. Drugs, alcohol, religion and technology appear the easy ones to pick on. What about our over busy-ness? That might not be a crutch, it might just be a way of avoiding ourselves. Why does the idea of a crutch carry a negative undertone? 

 

At the beginning of a small self pity episode, my husband kindly reminded me that prior to the G-2 knee brace (that has become my new best friend) I would have been in a full leg cast, from upper thigh to ankle for six to eight weeks. Try that on for size. Over a decade ago after a profound loss, in a time of deep grieving, I expressed to those around me, that people with a physical injury knew what type and length of recovery process to expect. But, neither grief, nor long term illness has the benefit of a well defined time period. I am very aware that I can expect a full return to activity, granted I am in my sixties and likely will have a stiff knee, but I still hope to ski again. Shattered dreams this is not, by comparison to what some Canadian hockey families are going through. Many crutches and supportive communities are needed for restoration of that magnitude. We often don’t know what to say other than that: Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

Spring is in the air, although with reluctance. On a day like today, I breathe deep, feeling very grateful that there is much to be thankful for, many moments to laugh at myself and most importantly, that it is okay to use crutches for this crazy thing we call life. We all need somebody to lean on.

Here’s the lean on me song … Playing for change, song around the world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiouJsnYytI

In the month of April, Jocelyn is offering a complimentary copy of her book on grief: Who is Talking Out of My Head, Grief as an Out of Body Experience.  Contact her at jbmarietalking@gmail.com

 

The EASTER STING

My church background did not focus on the Lent season … other than the passion week, or Holy week, where my fasting attempts usually left me feeling a little less holy. This year I’m out of the chocolate bunny’s reach and left to ponder anew the central meaning of the old story. Does it translate into reality in the wanderings of faith?

Recently on a fast paced walk with my sister-in-law, I told her I needed a poem for Easter … I’d already purchased two new poetry books at the thrift store. A cup of coffee and further conversation at her house followed that walk. As the last drops were sipped, she went to get something and said, Here I think this is for you, as she handed me Malcolm Guite’s book of Poetry and Lenten readings; a poem-a-day with explanations. Reading these daily poems has brought a new freshness to the Lent season for me. Not only that, some poetic writing happened … my apologies to those who are less likely to read poetry. Many of these thoughts originated while walking along an Ontario spring river where thin sheets of ice break into pieces, these pieces rise up and for a brief moment the broken edges shine brilliantly. The topic of reflections initiated ideas both as mirror images and of bending back what has been sent to the recipient. I appreciate the idea that a mirror image on water reflects what it is shown, while a prism bends the light.

Reflections

Do I reflect back to you what you reflect to me?
And if not, why not?
Can the fractured glass hold back its prismatic beauty?
Catching the rainbows
as the Light shines upon it.
Waters dark and deep glisten in the rays
The echo returns not a new song,
but a muted variation of what has been heard.
If the truth be that I only know what I’ve been shown,
would there be a point to the search,
or is the journey of the question,
the quest that causes our hearts to burn within us?

John Donne said in his poem:
… and mysteries
Are like the sun, dazzling, yet plain to all eyes.

Death and resurrection are powerful and painful thoughts focused on before Easter. This next poem recalls the first Easter when that resurrection promise did little to alleviate the painful loss of two children. I have long given up the giving up for the lent season. For people bereaved, the Lent is too long. I admit I was happy to receive Lent readings halfway through the forty days. I do not feel a need to manufacture any more heaviness in my Lenten contemplations. I long to experience the joy and hope that Easter brings, the busting out of new life after the frozenness of winter.

The EASTER STING

That Easter years ago
When thoughts that the promise of resurrection
would be the comfort, the
Power to overcome the weight of grief …
     Vanity of vanities, all is vanity

Death, where is thy sting?
Where is thy sting?
Who dares ask me that question?
That sting
Is in my heart
It relentlessly courses down my cheeks
It darkens a sunny day
It knots my stomach tight
It robs my sleep of dreams by day or night.
Powerfully absent that Victory o’er the grave,
The grave too fresh, too wrong, two young the spirit
My numbed heart shrouded in death’s dark vale.
     Vanity of Vanities, all was vanity

And so as time heals all wounds,
It also wounds all heals
As it wears down the sharp edge of the grave
It also mutes the vibrancy of the spring flowers
Victory, when will you come?
When will you thaw grieved hearts
When will spring resurrect dreams of life?
     Is it all vanity? …

(The silent church pause)
The heavens remained quiet
Victory comes in battle, it skirmishes the mind
It cries out in the night, cries out to those seemingly silent heavens
It pleads the prayers of resurrection.
Greater things than these shall we also do …
Overcoming sorrow by
Hope-filled prayers in the night,
by candles lit, by songs sung
by moments of awareness as our
  H-hearts are
     O-open and the
       P-power of the risen Christ
         E-envelops our stricken souls

May it be as you have said … (I believe) help me in my unbelief …

Wishing you Hope for this spring season.

Jocelyn is the author of Who is Talking Out of My Head? Grief as an out of body Experience, during the month of March and April she is offering a free copy of her book to those who ask. If interested please contact me at jbmarietalking@gmail.com and I will mail you a copy. People that bought the book, have told me it has been a powerful help for understanding deep grief and how to support someone in that time.

Riding the Moving Wave

 

Moving Day is coming!!

There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation. Madeleine L’Engle 

Moving in and of itself does not seem to be a very holy event, in fact packingtrtimages brings out some of my least holy language. It would feel more sacred to be transported supernaturally to the next location. The advice column tells me to be decisive. Handle every item only once-decide do you take it, donate it or junk it? How can it be that I have collected so much stuff in my time of living next to the Rocky Mountains? An oversized van and my mother’s small car, both with tire rims bulging transported all the carefully selected items across three provinces in order for me to commence a new life. A bed, a chair, a lamp, pictures, some books and clothing buoyed my anticipated new beginning. Not one face was familiar to me on my arrival and now, half a decade later, both the stuff and my relationships have mushroomed exponentially into a beautiful life developed in this region. The mountain’s grandeur present in my every day has reshaped my soul to look upwards, to breathe deep of clear fresh air, and to take the time to process life.

e20ef70cc41f5bf00d498c2af86f2976What the experts don’t tell me, is how to pack up the benefits reaped while living here? How does one box up the richness of relationships to take to the next location? And in the relocation process I wonder what does it mean to be at home? My soul has found a resting place, a nesting place here. Can I find that again? I firmly believe so.

When people asked what brought me to Cochrane … I said it was a series of events. Now another series of events, fuelled by cupid’s arrow, draws me back to my prairie home province. While there has been a longing in my soul to move on, many times I felt at home living in the identity of a grief survivor, although as a survivor I wanted to live, not just exist. Can I now allow myself to live in this new land of dreams? It seemed unthinkable to imagine that I could experience deep joy again. And now I am in the wonder phase … I have been given the gift of a fantastic relationship of a lifetime.

Eric Clapton sings—Nobody knows you when you’re down and out—not true, I had many people walk alongside the grief journey … and now many more are clapping their hands with this turn of events … They tell me, I deserve this … and I wonder, do I deserve to get to be so happy? That begs the question, did I deserve the tragedy? While it is true that we often reap what we sow, no one sows seeds of earthquake, floods, accidents, and disaster. One wall hanging that is packed to make the move reminds me that:

In the end, what matters most is how well did you live, how well did you love, how well did you learn to let go?

img_4489As I pack I am letting go of stuff. I will pack up fond memories, rich friendships and lessons learned. I will move to this next phase of life a better person for having spent five years near the Rockies exploring what it means to be at home in my own life. And the mountains will continue to unfold, even from the Prairies. 

 

Jocelyn is author of Who is Talking out of My Head, Grief as an Out of Body Experience.

 

It’s All About the Shoes!!

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.IMG_2136 Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. Anaïs Nin

For the past decade the concept of The Journey has intrigued me. Foot shots in over a dozen countries have been a way for me to keep track of the pilgrimage and to say: I was here, I have walked in this place. In many ways the journey of the spirit has been a parallel trek.

IMG_2456Any journey of significance begins with the step of daring to dream, followed closely by the courage step. Courage ties the laces of desire’s boots to provide stability to wavering ankles.

Those boots help us walk the path we have been called to, or the path that has chosen us.
While Psalm 37 tells us that the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, we still have to pay heed to those orders and get up off the chair to move, or pick up the pen to write, or sign up for that class, make that phone call, or book that flight.
In 2009, after a series of events in life, I began to pursue a long time dream to IMG_9218live in another country. What began as a longing to relocate to Australia, needed courage to make the inquiries to pursue the goal and file the paperwork. The pursuit of that dream has changed my life and helped me realize that I can do things I had not believed possible for me. While in the land down under, I also took my first writing class.
I realize relocating countries is a major step, and many smaller steps are needed to make that happen. Life is full of daily decisions to choose courage, to choose to conquer the fear that would hold us back.

It’s all about the shoes

Cement Blocks
Ill fitting shoes
Doubt on the left
Fear on the right
Laced with guilt
It is hard to walk
Harder to dance
Impossible to fly
Barefoot she skipped ahead.

IMG_9978

Jocelyn is the author of Who is Talking Out of My Head, Grief as an Out of Body Experience.

 

What are you waiting for?

Summer is not waiting for me to catch up, I must catch her. This is the only summer of 2016, realize how precious and fleeting she is. Hold her hand, dance in her flower meadows … laugh with a child, blow bubbles, sprinkle in the water, dip your toes in and get wet. Don’t waste a single moment. When the heart is light, this advice is easy to take, when the heart is heavy, laughing and dancing seem far away.

But I have discovered that as I choose to smile, to dance to dawdle … to breathe in the mountain air,IMG_1541 something happens to me …  a revitalization, a realization that life still has much beauty to unfold. When beauty asks me to dance, I should get off the couch.

Beauty is found everywhere, it is ours for the viewing, ours for participating in. It has a way of enlarging the soul. I was talking to my 92 year old mother, who enjoys the view of two large poplar trees from her deck, that and her flower pots are what make her smile on a summer day as she sits in the sunshine. And then she will say, before you know it, the snow will be coming. Oh yes, so for this day I ask you the question Mary Oliver has in her poem …

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?IMG_0375
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

Breathe in the prayer of summertime and exhale joy … Happy Summer!

IMG_8990“So you must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow.” 

Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

Kayaking photo by Catherine-thanks.

Care for some Tear Soup?

Grief is the guaranteed price you pay for having loved well. (author uncertain)

This blog goes out to the group that met in Dryden, Ontario early June. Friday evening I wondered if hope could support the collective weight of sadness. Several of us belonged to the exclusive club you do not wish to join, because the membership cost is that of losing a child. Everyone was at a different stage of grief. All of us were there because we had lost someone very precious in our lives, lives that had been forever altered by the grief that brought us here. Together we stirred the pot of tear soup.

The setting was picture perfect … large glass windows framed what I had renamed as Lake Woe-Begone … if only the woes could begone. Along the railing of the deck, squirrels and blackbirds fought over the bird feeder seed. And yet there was hope in the group. The question came up-How do you define hope? Good question. A sense of being able to live having something to look forward to again in life. Emily Dickenson defines hope as the thing with feathers. Yes, it takes flight easily.

Similar to the AA meetings, this could be defined as the GG meeting. (What is Good Grief?) There were tears, there was laughter. The laughter is deeper when you have also shared tears. We had a session of proprioceptive writing, which is similar to journaling on steroids, I explained. It’s a formatted way of writing down the thoughts that come to you.  Thank-you to each of you for being brave enough to show up. Thank-you Garth for your journal entry, it spoke to each of us: (shared here with permission)

Here it is, this is pretty much what came out of my heart in that few minutes.

There is a prison that is not of this earth. Outside of it birds fly, squirrels jump and the Jays chase the chickadees. Water moves in waves and gulls ride the current of warm rising air. Inside of this prison are those serving a sentence that has no end. It is a sentence not based on a crime and not given by a judge or jury.

The prison is one where day passes are given freely but revoked without notice. Each person serving a sentence only wants to be free, but to be free means that they may need to forget. Therefore we serve the sentence, but we simply know that we really want to be able to live the life we had.

IMG_3660We deserve to once again enjoy the beauty outside of the prison. We will not settle for less that what we had. We deserve it and we refuse to live a second rate life. It is worth the sorrow. Move onward, move forward.

I don’t know where it came from but I had read a couple books previous (Ghost Rider by Neil Peart and On Grief Hope and Motorcycles by Candyia Mann) so some inspiration may have come from them.
In the end writing that few lines made me come to realize a few things. I really did not deserve second rate, I deserved to live a decent life and that my wife would be saddened if I did not. Our love was fiercely strong and if I were in a prison she would do what ever it took to break me out of it. The next day, June 5, was her birthday. I thought of all the symbolic things that I could do, but in the end my decision was to celebrate through the action of beginning my breakout of that prison.

**Thank-you Kate for hosting, Dorothy for supporting, and each of you that was brave enough to be there to flavour the soup. 

As Grandy says in the end of the book: “I’ve learned that there is something down deep within all of us ready to help us survive the things we think we can’t survive.”