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.
Yesterday was a perfect day. I had no idea that it was going to be when it started out. In fact in the morning I was a little miffed that I had to go to Treherne with Cecil when he went for lab work. I'd gone to Portage the day before to get a criminal record check, only to be told there that I had to get it in my own area, the Treherne office. So I begrudgingly headed into town with him.
As we got that done, we headed on a drive to Elm Creek to pick up the tarp for the boat, then had lunch in St. Claude and headed for home. It was a beautiful, sunny day, the first we've had for ages with all the smoke that has filled our skies from the wildfires across the country. I decided if I was going to get any pictures of the canola fields that were in bloom, today would be the day, as the smoke and haze is supposed to come back in the next day or so.
When we got home, we both decided that we'd go to our day's projects on the quads. He would ride with me to the field I wanted to photograph, and then we'd carry on in our separate directions. I'd intended to just go to the one field and head for home...but I got sidetracked. More than sidetracked...I got lost in the day...and it was glorious.
I ended up going from one field to another up along PR242. Then headed for home past Mom and Dad's old place. Some of the back-roads I took were so overgrown with clover, you could barely see the trail through, but the sweet smell of the clover was captivating. I'd forgotten how those sights and smells can take you away from your everyday into something magical.
I made stop after stop, turning of the quad, listening to the sounds around me and photographing the wild flowers in the ditches. As I was about to head for home, I ran into a neighbor that told me the pink lady-slippers were in bloom over by the cemetery, so I changed directions again and headed off in search of them, the wind in my hair, the dragonflies surrounding me.
In the end, four hours just disappeared. I never once took my cell phone out of my bag to check for messages, or Facebook or anything else. The time was just mine, capturing the beauty of nature, preserving it's magnificence digitally for days to come when that kind of escape might not be possible.
Back at home, I had to reflect on why I don't allow myself to do that more often than I do. Our days of summer are so limited. Our days are limited, period. Why not grab on to those moments when they appear and go be with nature, with no regrets or excuses..to yourself or others.
I look at all that is going on in the world. All the pain, the wars, the anger. I wonder when was the last time, if ever, that some people have had the opportunity to be lost in the timelessness that I was blessed with yesterday. Have the had the chance to sit in the grass, stare at the sky, explore the wildflowers and just breathe. Even more important...Just BE. If people had more opportunities to commune with Mother Earth, would there be that anger and disconnect that is so prevalent today? I don't thing so, and I know that it's not easy or possible for everyone. Most of the world does not live in the boon-docks as I do...but what if they could find a way to just spend some time away from it all. All the noise, all the buildings, all the other people who are also in that space. I wonder and I wish that opportunity for all, just every now and then.
I found this video just at the perfect time, and it resonates to deeply with the things I'm feeling these days. My husband will tell you and confirm, that I am as guilty as anyone of multi-tasking...especially when it's just he and I. Why do we do that, why do we work so hard to keep connected with people and groups and causes around the world, at the neglect of the one who is sitting here right within reach. I know I'm not the only one, but I am the only one I can make change this habit.
We all find it so easy to get distracted. To keep checking for texts and facebook notices and instagram pictures...that we miss out on the connection that is right in front of us. To be Truly Me, I have to get better at that. This video was a great reminder to me to be more present especially here at home, where at the end of the day, it's where your presence is most valued, most appreciated and most remembered.
Take a moment to watch the video, then tell me it doesn't strike a chord! This season I hope more of us can commit to #GivePresence in our homes, our communities and in all places where we have an opportunity to make an impact!
WARNING: It does manage to drop an f-bomb, that I'd prefer they hadn't, because I think we can get messages across to people without resorting to that , but I do like the underlying message.
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!