Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Grief...

*I actually wrote this yesterday and then questioned whether or not I should post it, but this is the reality I've been living and this is about documenting the hard times along with all the good as it's both that make us who we are...


I think the biggest reason I haven't been blogging much is that the last few years have been full of tons of amazing little moments, but have also meant a lot of loss for me. It's really only recently that I've begun to fully realize the extent of that and what it means and has meant for me that last few years.

It began in the latter part of 2012 when I found out that a friend, Jason, had cancer. This seemed unfathomable to me as he was only a couple of years older than I was. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I didn't understand that people of all ages get cancer, but it just hits so much harder when it's closer to home.


Jason was so full of life and loved travel, his family, and friends and so much more. I could go on for ages about him, but it was that SMILE... Yes, that smile is how everyone knew him! When he got sick, they went through all the usual processes and things looked relatively good in the beginning, but that didn't last long and within months, he was gone. I didn't know how to wrap my head around it and maybe I still don't in some ways.


At almost exactly the time (the same week) Jason passed away, we were waiting for some test results for my mum. As it turned out, they weren't good. My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer (after having had a serious bout with melanoma more than 20 years earlier). She simply took it a day at a time and listened to what people had to say about her treatment and followed through as she and her doctors saw fit. Her attitude was that every day was a new day and she was going to live in that moment putting one foot in front of the other. Never once heard her complain or ask why me? I don't really have the words to describe the love, respect and admiration I have for her.


Now, while all of this is happening, we had more loss of some of the most amazing women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and who were role models for me. We lost my great Aunt Edith (my grandma's sister) first. I remember spending Christmases at her house as we would have separate family dinners and then everyone would end up there for dessert. My cousins, sister and I would run around her old farmhouse and explore the creaky, old rooms upstairs. I have so many good memories of annual family barbeques and the amazing gardens she kept. Everyone brought something for the potluck and we all shared, laughed and just spent time together. She was so lovely, but yet she could certainly make her opinion known too as I found out one Christmas. I had come home from Japan for the holidays and had brought pictures with me so Aunt Edith, my grandma and a few other people were sitting around chatting and looking at pictures when the two of them got into a very heated discussion about the Japanese internment camps in Canada. I admit that I developed a whole different perspective of these woman after this discussion - each so passionate about their opinions. An amazing woman...


While my mum was fighting her cancer in the absolute bravest of ways, she faced one of the greatest losses a person can have - the loss of a parent. My grandma became sicker over time with growing health concerns and eventually my mum got the call that no one wants to get that my grandma didn't have much time and that she should come now. She and my dad went over to see her and thankfully mum got to spend the last day or so with her before she passed. She was one of the feistiest women I have had the pleasure of knowing. She was passionate and opinionated. I have so many wonderful memories of spending time with her on Gabriola Island where she lived for many years. Tracy and I would go pick blackberries and she would make apple and blackberry pie. She was a foodie and made the most delicious meals when we'd go visit. So many good memories... Tracy and I went out to mum and dad's after she passed and took apple blackberry pie and reminisced. I can only imagine how hard it really was for mum...


And it kept getting harder, as then one of the women I was closest to got quite sick. It was in the latter part of 2013 and she was 97. We all knew that as feisty as she was that she couldn't live forever. I can hardly put into words how I feel about her. I grew up in the town that she lived in and spent countless hours with her - probably making her crazy sometimes! She looked after Tracy and I at times when mum and dad would go out. We had sleepovers and she made us watch Lawrence Welk with her, but the upside to that was that she'd then let us watch Love Boat and Fantasy Island! It's funny all the little things I remember about her. For some reason, I feel like I can still picture her hands in my mind's eye... those hands that raised 6 kids and worked in the public library for many years. When I started high school, I would often walk the couple of blocks to her place and she would make me a warm lunch and we would chat. I'm so very grateful for those chats. She finally passed in January 2014 only hours before her 98th birthday. She was simply one of a kind and I'm so thankful for having had her in my life for so long.


And then... there are no words really. I find it hard to know where to begin as I once again sit here crying. Grief is a funny thing as it comes and goes at times when you least expect it and just when you think things are getting better, they aren't. I'm not going to dwell on her death other than to say I'm thankful that only weeks before she passed that she was vacationing in Hawaii with dad.What I want to do every day is celebrate her life and the life she gave me. As her brother said at our family get together after she passed, it wasn't through her day to day life that she taught us how to die, but how to live and be present with the people you love. He also described her as having "grace and grit" and I think that sums her up perfectly. Always a smile and a hug, but always there to listen and tell it like it was when you needed to hear it. Maybe those are the things I miss most.. just the long chats we'd have - sometimes about seemingly nothing at all and then sometimes about things crucial to our lives. We were always able to talk for hours given the chance!


Sometimes too, I think we get so wrapped up in our own grief (and understandably so!) that we forget the impact that it has on all of the people that love those that are no longer with us. I'm learning more and more how important it is to reach out to those people as well. We've all suffered the same loss even though the relationships may be different.


So, as you can see, life has been both amazingly wonderful and heartachingly difficult as we have gone through this crazy life in the last few years. My family and support system have been truly wonderful and I'm once again grateful every single day for the people I have in my life. I think we sometimes forget on a day to day basis how important all of these people are, but give someone a call or thank one of them today. And just try to remember that everyone you encounter is going through something, so let's just try and be a little kinder to each other as well.


   

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