DD entered my life when I was six years old, two years after we’d moved back to the prairies so that I could start school, leaving behind the coastal world that had been my life up until that time.
It was a very difficult time for me, a chubby little outsider, as I entered the walls of that system not knowing any other children, not knowing until then that I was ‘fat’, not knowing it wasn’t okay to be too smart or even talented because that made you a teacher’s pet in the eyes of the other children, not knowing how tough life could be just being a kid.
DD was Mr. Dobbin to me then, the principal of the school. He was a different Mr. Dobbin on weekends, as one of my Grandfather’s best friends. We’d often venture into the hills on Sundays to visit him and his wife Doris. That relationship put him in an awkward position the first time I was sent to his office when I was in Grade 2. I had blurted out the F word in a fit of anger at another 7-year-old who was tormenting me with teasing and hair pulling. I’d only just learned the word days before when I’d seen it written on the school wall and had been told it was a very bad word that you only used when you were really, really mad at someone. At that moment I was really, really mad. Standing in the principal’s office I waited for the strap that everyone had said was inevitable if you ended up being sent there. It didn’t come, instead I received a stern but compassionate explanation that even when you are really, really mad in grade two, using that word still wasn’t a good idea.
Fast forward 30 years, and Mr. Dobbin became DD, my father-in-law. He remained in that role until the day of his death in April, for although I had been widowed when his son passed and I had remarried in the years following, there was never another father-in-law. He, in return, never let me forget I was his favorite daughter-in-law, and even created a day in June to celebrate that sending a card amended to read just that each year. We had a deep and special friendship for many, many years as he supported my continued farming of the land that had once been his. He embraced the new people that came into my life as a result of my own remarrying, and he was a kind and patient confident for so many of my life’s events.
When I decided to make the move back out to the coast last year, I worried about how I was going to tell him that we were selling much of the farmland that had once been his, and that the house he’d built would be lived in by a renter while we explored other possibilities for our lives elsewhere. When I visited to tell him, it turned out he already knew about that, as people who felt it was their duty to relay all that they ‘thought’ I was doing had already been busy on phone calls to him. His words to me were that he knew that we loved the water and fishing, and we were young and should be exploring other things in life while we had our health and energy. His words regarding those that had meddled in the business that should have been between he and I were not so kind. It wasn’t often you saw DD angered by people, but he had little tolerance for those that chose to stir pots in an attempt to cause unnecessary trouble for others.
One of my fears about moving away was that I’d be so far away from him, but we kept in touch bi-weekly through phone calls, and I made sure we had good, meaningful visits when I was back in the province. I also promised him that I’d be there when needed, and when his daughter called to tell me that things were not good and that he was being put on comfort care, I was on the next plane east to be there for him.
He was the fifth loved one that I would sit vigil with as his days wound down. I’d learned much from the previous deaths I’d walked alongside and through the interest I have in reading end of life support books. Still, with every new death, much of what is forgotten resurrects itself, and new learning takes place. As had happened previous times, in being there, I found myself becoming more present and responsive to the hours and needs of this man who had been a part of my life for so long, and was grateful that I had the means and the support to be with him on this last leg of his 98-year journey.
The first night I arrived I feared I was already too late to enjoy that small, last window of time where communication and sharing was possible, as he was so unresponsive when I arrived at the care-home at midnight. But the next morning when I returned at 7 he was wide awake and so happy that I was there. We spent much of the next few days reminiscing about the loved ones lost, and I was grateful that I had memories of many that so few are left to remember now. He shared more stories of his childhood and his family. He relished moments with his wife, daughter and grandchildren, as life had blessed him with a second family late in life, and you could see the adoration he had for the little ones that were so important to him.
We took turns as a family spelling each other off when needed, and being there together for support when that seemed the more important choice to make. Throughout the days, I started to be reminded of things that often only the dying can remind us about. These are some of those things.
Have you ever read Mitch Albom’s ‘The Five People you Meet in Heaven’? Its one of my favourite books…well, maybe I should really say most of his books are ‘one of my’ favourites! But that one I love, mostly because in it Mitch proposes that heaven will be whatever we really, really want it to be, based on our life experience, our favourite moments and places, and what our perfect place would be. What a wonderful idea!
What is most incredible about is is how blessed I am that I am living in my heaven as I write. I’ve always loved and cherished this little nook in the world, but every year I think I cherish it more. We’ve created a little campground, up on the hill, in back of the main yard. It’s got the most beautiful sunsets over the Assiniboine River Valley. It’s so quiet, you could literally hear a pin drop, except when the generator is running to charge up the batteries in the 5th wheel. When it’s off, there isn’t a sound. Not the hum of a furnace, or traffic, or anything. What there is are birds, insects, the gentle breeze and occasionally the howl of coyotes in the distance.
We put our camper up here early in the year, and take advantage of as many moments as we can. I can tether my cell to get a little wifi reception, to work on things that I’m passionate about pursuing. The cell phone might ring, but most times not. And for the most part it is absolute, blissful peace and tranquility. It feeds my soul and nourishes my spirit like nothing else seems to be able to do. Time at the ocean comes close, but that always comes at a cost…the price of energy expended to share that space with the hundreds of other people who have chosen that as their get away of choice. This is different. This is ours, and the only other people that might be here in this little niche are those we’ve invited to embrace this with us.
I like the camper, because that is ‘my space’. Cecil prefers the quiet and the rustic life he can enjoy in his cabin, just feet away from where our camper is sitting. On the deck of the cabin, we’ve got the greatest swing that was given to us by friends who were moving and decided not to take it with them. We can sit and swing and just stare out into the beauty of the valley for hours, without the need for a word to be spoken. Just drinking in the beauty and the quiet that is this place.
We all need that ‘place’ that is ours to go to. To gather our spirits, reboot and reenergize our souls and ground ourselves for all that the world throws at us. I know how lucky I am to have this, and hope that you have a place of your own that does that for you. It doesn’t have to be large, or remote or even space that is your own, if it’s somewhere that allows you to breathe more deeply and connect more solidly with the source of what keeps you going day after day. If you don’t have that space for you….you need to find one. Honor yourself by making finding that space that is yours a priority, not something that you’ll do one day. Something you will do now, before the world pulls any more from you that you don’t have a chance to replenish.
Some people are pulled to nature, as I am. Others find that in a sacred building, a sanctuary, a coffee house that affords them a corner to themselves, or a museum. It can be on a bench along a small strip of greenspace, or a walkway along the water’s edge. It can be whatever your idea of Heaven might be, even if it’s a sacred space you’ve created in your own home that is yours to go to and be undisturbed for the time needed to replenish yourself. The where is as individual as each of us are, but the need to find this and gift it to ourselves is universal. Have you found your little peace of ‘heaven’ here on earth that nourishes you? If not, what are you waiting for….because you know it’s waiting for you.
As the first long day of 2015, and #IWD draw to a close, I've had much to reflect on. Earlier today, my friend Kubeketerya from Uganda asked the question, what am I and the other elite women doing to celebrate the day. I was very quick to respond that we are by no means elite, but we are very blessed. But this evening as I soaked in a long hot bath, made luxurious thanks to the bath salts from @SajeNaturalWellness that my friend Lisa sent me, I realized that in this broken, struggling world, my friends, family and I may be considered among the elite. We have safe homes, hot water, loving relationships and all the comforts that make for an amazing life. On this same day, so many other women are struggling just to get through the day, feed their children, have safe drinking water, and freedom from persecution. We do not live in the fear and heartache that our #MMIW sisters and their families are walking through on this very same day. So how do we turn this extraordinary, privileged status that we are graced with into action that will make our world a better, more compassionate place for all? As I contemplate my own next steps, I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.
It can be hard. It can be really hard to figure out who you are in this life. Especially after years, and years of being the 'roles' that you've lived. We become so lost in those roles. Whether its the work we do, the gifts we have, our station in a family or a community, we become so much of what we do, that we forget just who it is that we are. It happens to almost all of us.
I get that. I live it just like you do, but I am intent on continuing my growth towards who I am and how I want to be spending my time. That can be difficult and it can be scary.
I have recently taken a big step back from the work that I have been doing for the last twelve years. It was time, and I knew that, because the joy that filled my heart in doing that work was no longer present. And if we don't have joy in our lives, what else is there?
It is frightening when you step away from the security of knowing what your income will be, what the expectations of the role you play are, what is familiar. But there is a there is a comfortable peace that comes with those big decisions if your heart knows that they are right for you. And my heart seems to know.
Cancer was definitely the catalyst to make the decision, but only a catalyst. So now at 54 the real work begins, the work of ensuring that I remain authentic to what fires me up, brings me to joy and breaths life into my spirit. I know that I cannot support others to do that, if I am not living those values myself.
Initially there was a certain amount of guilt in that I am spending so much of my days doing the things that I love to do! Playing more deeply with my photography, learning more about social media and website development, writing...writing, writing, writing. And expanding my coaching business and what it can offer others. But the funny thing about doing what it is you are meant to be doing is that things begin to flow, and they begin to fall into place in some most unexpected ways. They days go by and if someone asks what you did, it's hard to explain because on one level it could be seen as nothing really, but on a level that really matters you did everything! It's a wonderful place to be.
The one thing I am very intentional about is that whatever I am doing, it is aligned with my passions. My list is always close at hand, and if I question something as to whether it is moving me closer to my vision and my passion I pull that list out and read it through one more time. If the answer is no, then I put the request or the activity aside, and return to what fuels my spirit. That can be challenging in it's own right, because so many of us live our lives as people pleasers that have spent decades saying yes to what matters least, sacrificing what matters most, in an effort to please others in our lives. To not let others down. To not be considered selfish or self-centered by those we love.
But the truth is, that those that love us are going to keep loving us. They will begin to see those actions not as an insult, but as you making self-care a priority in your life, and respecting that. And in an ideal world, they will see the value of doing that for themselves as well when they see you lead by example.
So here's to always growing and to growing all ways. Here's to taking the leap of faith that this is what is meant to happen at this stage of life, and trusting that the net will be there to catch you. Here's to knowing that the universe will provide for you when you are aligned and living the life that you were intended to live. Sharing the gifts that only you have to share, doing the 'work' that your gifts and passions were intended to do. And spreading the light that is YOU into this world. Here's to each of us being who we truly are...being Truly You!
Note to my readers: I need you to know that if you do decide to click on any of the advertisements on my site, I may receive compensation as an affiliate of these businesses that I support...but I hope you know that in doing so you are supporting my own vision of living life on my own passionate terms and being truly me!
It takes time and energy to become who we truly are! In life, so many things can get in the way of our figuring that out..but the time comes in each of our lives where we need to be able to do that if we're going to live happy fulfilling lives that are authentic reflections of our best selves. These are just things I've learned along the way. I hope that they might help you in your own journey into being Truly You!