Categotry Archives: Just for You

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…when you look at it

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Categories: Just for You, True Stories, Tags:

image "old photograph" used royalty-free with permission from freeimages.com

image “old photograph” used royalty-free with permission from freeimages.com

So after yesterday’s Debbie Downer post, I thought I’d just say another thing along the same vein. And that is, that while there is a very important role that grief plays in dealing with loss, where the actual MAGIC happens is somewhere else. What that mourning stage does is gets some of the sadness and hurt out – you know, when you cry so hard, and so long that you’re exhausted afterward and fall in to a deep, deep sleep? It’s a powerful purging. That expression of longing and loss and sadness makes way for something that I’m sure the Germans have a long, awesome-sounding word for.

And it’s this kind of happysad memory invocation, also usually spurred on by stories, where we actually can and do “celebrate” the life of someone we’ve lost. Yesterday I had a bee in my bonnet about the whole thing and here’s why: I was at a wake two years ago, and the MC stood up and said “we don’t want to see tears today; we want to remember him fondly and remember all the wonderful and amazing things he did and the great man he was”. And that’s great; that’s important to do. But it stuck in my craw because at that moment, that day, what we actually did need to do was to cry like banshees. And we did.

I remember the first funeral I went to, when I was eight, and the minister was talking about how wonderful it was that my Gramps got to hang out with God, and I thought, “yeah! Actually, that is pretty awesome, because he totally believes that’s going to happen. GOOD FOR YOU, GRAMPS!” And so I did have this moment of joy knowing that Gramps was getting to hang out with God. This was, of course, immediately followed by my own selfish knowledge that that meant that *I* didn’t ever get to see him again, and let me tell you, that knowledge has pretty much shaped my entire life.

But there is good, comfort, and even sometimes joy to be had in peoples’ passing, especially so if their death is an end to their suffering. And if you have faith in an afterlife, there are all kinds of awesome things a soul can go on to do! Honestly, that’s the kind of comfort that some people need. I think that’s wonderful, that you can find comfort there. There are many ways to find comfort whether you’re religious or nonreligious, theist or atheist.

Death is a very inward-looking thing. There’s nothing wrong with that. And honestly, one of the things that gets me the most at death services/celebrations/whatevers is that my heart breaks for the pain that everyone is in. I mean, whether or not I even knew the person. This one time, Drang and I went on a date to a funeral. I know that sounds weird, and trust me, it gets weirder. It was my cousin’s funeral; a young man who’d been murdered at a house party for trying to defend his ex girlfriend from her then-boyfriend. That branch of the family was pretty much destitute, and it was the first time I’d ever seen an actual cardboard box coffin and the little chapel filled with his peers and his parents and brother, none of whom could rub together two nickels to get a dime between them.

I wouldn’t have known my cousin if I’d have passed him in the street; I’d only met him once, and that was in passing and is a whoooole other story. But I watched my great aunt, his mum, come apart. I felt how heavy and melting people’s grief was, and I wanted to make it better, but of course, I couldn’t. Nobody could. Helplessness really blows. I remember walking up the street afterward, surprised at how emotional I’d become over someone I didn’t even know, whose life never touched mine except in the story of his, if not noble, then at least somewhat heroic death.

Kay. You know what? This was supposed to be a more UPBEAT post. I meant to say that there is a place for happiness and laughter at memorial services. There’s a HUGE place for all of that. I think the (rather abstruse) point I’m trying to make here is that we oughtn’t deny the power of grieving together to …well, to help.

So at my funeral I ALSO want you to laugh and fight and throw shit and cause a ruckus. A joyful ruckus (this might be the name of my next poetry book), a tearful ruckus (maybe a combination of those two things). I want you to do whatever you need to do to send me off. Fireworks ought to be involved. And possibly a New Orleans-style brass band. And filthy poetry. PLEASE promise me there will be filthy poetry. [Note: I don’t intend on dying anytime soon. I still have at LEAST 40 more good years in me, so you’re going to have to wait rather a long time for this awesome shindig.]

 

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Not with a whimper

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Categories: Just for You, True Stories, Tags: ,

I thought I would be much, much older before so many of my friends died. I thought I had more time. That’s the thing, isn’t it? We always think we have more time.

Well, we don’t. That’s just the thing. Cherish every single moment because while time is not finite, our lives are. We are so delicately, so miserably, so beautifully finite.

I am sad to say I have had more experience with funerals* and wakes and ‘celebrations of life’ than I would really like to have had at this point in my own life. And I have something to say about it right now. It’s not politically correct. It’s not going to make anyone feel any better. If you’re the sort of person who needs trigger warnings, well, there are probably triggers all over the damned place in what I’m going to say.

When I die, I goddamned well want people to be sad. I want you to mourn. I want you to grieve. I want you to sob and to wail and to gnash your teeth. Because grief and sadness have a place, an *important* place in our lives. We have to learn to let go of hurt, and the only way to do this – seriously, the *only* way to do this – is to grieve. To let that sadness wash over you in wave after wave of throat-stabbing, chest-heaving wave. To cry so bloody hard your tears dry out and your nose is raw from wiping away all the snot.

Grief is raw, it’s visceral. It’s not *pretty*. But it’s beautiful. Grief is one of those things that bind us to one another. It’s one of those things we have all experienced. Every one of us has lost a friend, or a pet, or a family member, or, what the hell, a beloved gewgaw, gadget, or toy. It’s okay to grieve for lost things. It’s okay to be sad. The purpose of grief, then, is to embrace that sadness fully in order that we can move past it. To experience it so that we don’t drown in it. To learn to swim, in other words.

I get what we’re trying to do when we say we’re going to have a “celebration of his/her life”. I know we’re trying to focus on all the great things our loved one did; all the awesome ways they made us feel good. We’re trying to focus on the good memories in order to ameliorate the heavy, bleak white and scarred landscape that our souls become when we lose someone. But at some level, that’s completely missing the point.

A while ago, for reasons that I only understand in terms of listening to what the universe is saying (I will not beg forgiveness for my understanding of how the universe works. I’ve done enough of that, frankly.), I wrote my father’s obituary. My father isn’t dead. I am terrified of having to face my father’s death, and I woke in the middle of the night and thought, “I’d better jot something down now because God knows I won’t be able to when the time comes, and since I’m the last member of his family alive (other than the kids, of course), I’d better do this now.” So I did. And I wept the whole time. My sobs shook the bed. I also haven’t…told my father that I’ve written his obituary. That would probably weird him out, so maybe let’s just keep this between you and me, okay?

You are bloody well right that I expect people to be upset at my father’s wake. He is a great man, with a great many friends, and his life has touched many, many others. He is a giving, caring soul, despite his many ‘accidents’ with my (former) pets, and I expect he will be mourned. He is utterly irreplaceable. What we will be grieving is that we will no longer have the chance to sit with him and hear his laughter. We won’t be able to make any new memories. The only way we’ll be able to be with him will be to tell stories.

Now, stories are powerful strong, and a good story can bring a man back until you can damn near see him. But not strong enough to feel his arms around you or to just sit at the table and talk. And that’s why we grieve. That’s why we NEED to grieve. And wakes and memorials are the time when we all grieve together. Where it’s okay to show our vulnerability. Our sadness. We are strong together in our weakness.

So when I die, you motherfuckers better be sad. You had better grieve and mourn and for those of you who don’t, well, I probably pissed you off right good and never got the chance to figure out what I did wrong. I do plenty wrong, and I do wrong things often. We all do.

I love having you in my life. I love spending time with you, or chatting with you or talking to you, or reading your words. You are important. You are brilliant. You are worth it. I have no idea if I’ll miss you when I croak. But when I do, I want you to be sad *together*. If there’s one thing I want my life to have done, it’s to have brought people together (with or without Very Awkward Verb Tenses). I want to have made a difference, however small.

So. Just so’s you know. I don’t want any of this “come and celebrate cenobyte’s life at blah-blah-blah”. I want “look, we’re all pretty miserable about this, so let’s all be miserable about it together, okay?”

And of course, part of this is spurred by the possibility (however real or imagined) that there will be five non-family members at my wake, and three of them will have been hired according to the tenets of my will, as traditional keeners. YOU KNOW I’LL DO THAT.

*I want to note here that the purpose of religious funerals is very specific, and that is to note and celebrate (in the sense of the word that means ‘observe in a religious rite’) the journey of one’s soul to whichever nirvana to which your religion adheres. So I’m kind of not talking about religion-based funerals in this little rant, although I’m sure I have something like that burbling away somewhere.

 

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I don’t know why she’s leaving, or where she’s going to go

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Categories: Just for You, True Stories, Tags: , ,

Alice Through the Looking Glass

First, there was Alice.

http://nac-cna.ca/englishtheatre/event/8444You have lived your whole life in the lap of storytellers; everything you have learned, everything you remember, is from stories told over and over. The reason we tell stories is because this is how we learn. History is nothing without the narrative; every religion began as a story – some way of shaping what’s around us, some way of making sense of who we are and why we are the way we are.

At some point, you read Lewis Carroll. Maybe you were just little. Maybe you were older, in University, and a girl you liked read Alice Through the Looking Glass. That girl liked you too. An awful lot. She won’t remember, years from then, which of you most resembled the White King, but she will think it is you, because she…SHE…is the one who sometimes believes a half dozen impossible things before breakfast. You were one of them.

Later, a different boy would hear her read Alice in Wonderland and would give her both stories bound in cloth, cuddled together in a sturdy red box with foil reproductions of the woodcut illustrations on the cover. That would be the moment she knew she was in love with him.

Look, verbs are difficult. Tenses muck everything up. Because even later than THAT, the girl would be in a far-away city (relatively speaking), and she would go and see Alice, on stage.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Alice Through the Looking Glass

And it would be the most magical, the most achingly beautiful thing she will ever have seen. Better yet, she will have gone to a dress rehearsal, and she will have been one of the first people to see the performance on stage; on this stage. On the chessboard.

It will have started with Alice. Then, two Alices, as the mirror rotated in a complete circle, over and over and over. Where did that other Alice come from? The girl will have spent the evening full of so much joy she wept. She laughed and wept and laughed and cheered and there will have been jellybeans. JELLYBEANS FALLING FROM THE SKY FOR EVERYONE. And the jellybeans made it rain on stage and verbs. Verbs are tricksy things. Very slippery. Very verby.

Alice.

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Signs, signs…

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Categories: Just for You, Tags: ,

I was tagged more than five consecutive days ago by my friend Julian (@saskajules) to post five photos for five days.

There’s a reason I am the way I am. I have no idea what that reason is, but there’s some speculation it may have something to do with my mother’s strict diet of beer and sunflower seeds when she was pregnant. At any rate, when #TheTeen was wee, I decided that rather than trying to prevent him from colouring on the walls and stuff, I’d paper the walls with art paper so that if he got the hankering to do so, he’d not ruin the wallpaper or paint or whatever.

I had this huge roll of brown paper, and I used to just tack it up as high as he could reach, and that was fine. For painting, I did what mum used to do, and I covered the walls of the bathtub with newsprint and then tacked up painting paper overtop. Mess = contained. Art = awesome.

When #TheNipper asked me to repaint his room, I painted a couple of spots of whiteboard paint, and then I did a big one in The Captain’s room. The Nipper loves the white board drawing areas – he even made up a game to play with His Nibs that involves drawing a picture and then trying to solve a mystery based on the picture.

None of this will explain what I did tonight on the white board in The Captain’s room:

B3gC4MlCMAEsY9Y

It ain’t easy, life with me.

I challenge Jason F. (@jasondfedorchuk) to post five pictures for five days. And to tag someone new each day.

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Despite all my rage

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Categories: Just for You, Stories, Tags: ,

I was tagged by my friend Julian (@saskajules) to post five photos for five consecutive days. Actually, the challenge didn’t say anything about consecutive days; it just said five days. We *assume* it means consecutive days. But really, one could post five photos during five arbitrarily chosen days.

IMG_8610 Most of the time when people say ‘random’, they mean ‘arbitrary’. “Random” basically means something that’s chosen or done or made without thought. In the field of statistics, it means there is an equal chance that each option will be selected. “Randomness” is a lack of predictability. Most of the time we mean “arbitrary”, which means a choice that’s made or something that is selected due to whimsy, or because of random selection (which means a non-predictable selection). In mathematics, it’s a quantity of unspecified value. This is a complete diversion from what I was going to say.

This is what I was going to say:

Look up. Break your attention from the road at your feet; stop looking at your hands. Look up. Pay attention to the vast space above you, and let your thoughts soar.

I’m going to challenge my friend Lori-Anne (@ladida83) to post five pictures for five *consecutive* days, and to tag someone new each day.

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The Whole Wide World

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Categories: Just for You, Stories, Tags: ,

IMG_7501

I was tagged by my friend Julian (@saskajules) to post five photos for five days in a row.

Look there.IMG_7501

Look right there, in the palm of my hand. What do you see?

Nothing

Look again.

Just dirt, I guess.

There in the palm of my hand is promise. There is history. There is hope. What else do you see?

Nothing. There’s nothing there.

This is an invitation for you to see.

I’m going to tag my friend @SoupSimply to post five photos for five days, and to tag someone new in each post. I bet she’s going to post a lot of pictures of food. THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST WEEK EVER.

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Believe it or not, walking on air

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Categories: Family, Just for You, The Nipper, Tags:

I was tagged by Julian (@saskajules) to post five pictures in five days.

IMG_8903.JPGToday is #TheNipper’s birthday party. He wanted to come to the giant warehouse full of trampolines. The WAREHOUSE full of TRAMPOLINES.

And because the parts of my brain that process fun are stuck in the 90s, I’m in love with the blacklights and the cheesy lasers and the whole dance club feel of the place. So who’s up for a drunken trampoline tweetup for my birthday? BLACKLIGHTS, TRAMPOLINES, and SHITTY DANCE MUSIC!! It can’t possibly get any more awesome.

WAIT.

SPARKLE PANTS.

Okay this is totally going to be a thing.

I tag my friend James (@_James_Park) to post five pictures for five days and to tag someone every day.

IMG_8912.JPG and my loot from @CBCSask’s tweetup is glowing.

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La Frileuse / Winter

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Categories: Just for You, Stories, Tags:

IMG_8884.JPGI’ve been challenged to post five pictures in five days by Julian (@saskajules).

Jean-Antoine Houdon’s (not HODOR as I muttered under my breath as I read the tag) “La Frileuse/Winter”. This was taken at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when I was in New York last week. I kind of love her. The curve of her thighs, the serene resolute look on her face. The fact that it’s bronze just made the subject even colder. At the time of its creation the Salon rejected it because they felt a partially draped figure was indecent (fully nude ones were not).

Incidentally, “la frileuse” means “the cautious”, I believe. She certainly looks that as she steps trepidatiously forward.

I quite love this piece.

I challenge my new work neighbour Annabel at @wheeliegoodcoffee to post five pictures in five days and nominate someone new every day.

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It’s been nine long years

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Categories: Children, Family, Just for You, The Captain, Tags:

IMG_1192Not really. Not really long years. Nine ridiculously short years. Nine years that feels like days. Nine years that passed in the blink of an eye.

Your brother was in his stroller. I clutched my go-mug of coffee with one white-knuckled hand and the stroller with the other. We took pictures of you out in front of the garage with your new backpack. Well. Your dad and Papa took those pictures because I couldn’t. We started walking across the street, and you reached up and took my hand as soon as I put my coffee in its holder.

“I’m scared, Mama,” you said.

“I know,” I told you. “I’m scared too. But I think it’s going to be okay.”

You with your round cheeks and your bright eyes. Your hands were still chubby-knuckled and you wore the sweater I’d knit for you with the Irish wool mum sent back from Kilkenny. I thought about how proud she would be of you. Then I pushed that thought as far away as I could because I’d already been sobbing for weeks about your first day of Kindergarten. Of COURSE all of the other parents were crying (well, some of them, who may have been on their fifth kid, pretty much just drove by and slowed down to let the little urchins out of the  car).

You were the only child I could see on that playground. I heard some of your hockey teammates call out to me, and I suppose I must have waved to them.

Your teacher came to greet us at the gate, and she knelt down and said, “I know you’re scared, and that’s okay. Everyone’s a little scared on their first day.”

Then you hugged me tightly and took your teacher’s hand and you walked onto the playground. I stood for just a moment watching you, and in that moment felt so pleased. Yet letting you go was the hardest thing I’ll ever do. It will always be the hardest thing I’ll ever do.

Somewhere there is a place where all of the little pieces of mothers’ hearts go.

 

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A Gift of the Prairie

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Categories: Books, Just for You, poetry, writing, Tags: , , ,

IMG_7577-0.JPG

THE BOOK THAT MY POEMS ARE IN IS HERE! THE BOOK THAT MY POEMS ARE IN IS HERE!!

Extra points if you can name the reference there.

IMG_7577.JPG

It’s called A Gift of the Prairie and it is published by the Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre. This was a project co-ordinated (and edited) by the inimitable Bernadette Wagner. The book features pieces by several kickass writers in the Last Mountain Lake area. I’d say more but I haven’t read the whole book yet!

You can find the book on the web here or here.

Please come to the first launch/reading series at 2pm on Monday, 1st September at the Lumsden Beach Hall, or to my reading on 20th October at 7:00 pm at Crave in Regina. Attend ALL the readings:

2 pm Monday September 1, Lumsden Beach Hall, Lumsden Beach.

2 pm Saturday September 6, Lumsden Library, Lumsden.

2 pm Sunday September 28, Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre, Regina Beach.

7 pm Monday October 20,Vertigo Series, Crave Restaurant, 1925 Victoria Avenue, Regina.

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