Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Dad's Couch

 Once my husband's parents had moved out of their house -- forced by ailment and age to leave and never return -- Dwayne's conversations with them often included a mention of belongings. 

Dwayne always wanted the dining room table but his father insisted the sideboard, lovely but large, had to go with it, and we don't have room or need of that sideboard. So Dwayne let that go. Even though his father died last summer, Dwayne still honoured his wish. 

I was looking for a curio cabinet and his mother's would have suited but it's still full of seventy years of ... curios... so we bought one ourselves (and it has the rounded glass sides I prefer). 

After his brother passed away suddenly, in January, the future of the old farmhouse changed quickly. Funny how plans bandied about as ideas and dreams, as "some day", drop into high gear forward when someone dies. All of a sudden, the plans for a grandson to renovate the farmhouse and move in with his family are taking place now, rather than in a few years. This is happening because Dwayne's sister-in-law is all alone on the property. 

So there was a visit to the old house, Dwayne and I, to pick out things we wanted. Dwayne looked at a lot of things and I'd say, "Do you want this?" but ultimately he'd put it down and say, "No, I don't want it."

This befuddled me; I'm all about trinkets and tokens and memorabilia -- for the memories, for the connection. Still, I put his dad's wallet and some notepads with his dad's name on them in my pocket. I have my father's wallet; I felt Dwayne (now the only living son) should keep his own father's wallet, too. 

Last fall, we got rid of the couch after we installed a fireplace insert; we couldn't have the couch blocking the fireplace and I didn't want the big picture window blocked either. So I spent the winter trying to figure out what to do and I settled on the idea of a daybed, something we could sleep on but wouldn't block the window. At the time, I suggested bringing over the daybed from his parents' kitchen, but Dwayne quickly nixed that idea. 

Until it worked away at him. Until one day he said, "Let's use the daybed from the house." 

It's old; it's VINTAGE. And it's shorter and narrower than a modern daybed so thankfully, the original mattress is still in good shape -- they built things to last back then, didn't they? -- so we have the whole ensemble in our house now. My intention all along has been to cover it in blankets and pillows, and I keep adding them. 

Every so often, Dwayne lies down on "Dad's couch" and has a nap. Just like his father did in the kitchen of the house Dwayne grew up in. A lifetime ago. 

I have his father's wallet. He has his father's daybed. Memories and connections reminding us of who we are and who we came from. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

A Poem: Words To Speak

Memorial - Photo by Robert Short, from website

by Sara Jewell

I keep coming back to a set of words spoken 
by a woman in Ottawa in October 2014
as Corporal Nathan Cirillo 
lay bleeding to death beneath our national war memorial
after being shot by a lone gunman on a rampage

Barbara Winters was walking to work
when she heard the shots
when she ran towards the danger
when she lay down alongside Corporal Cirillo 
and whispered to him, over and over,  
“You are loved. You are brave. You are good.”

Today we remember and honour and mourn 
the first anniversary of the mass killings in rural Nova Scotia
that took 22 people –
parents, spouses, children, siblings, neighbours, friends, colleagues – 
loved ones
cherished ones – 
from their families and communities 

We remember those who rushed out of the safety of their homes 
and lost their lives trying to help, to save:
“You are loved. You are brave. You are good.” 

We remember those whose little peace of heaven 
fuelled roaring flames that reached towards the stars:
“You are loved. You are brave. You are good.”

We remember those who started their day 
with a walk or a drive to work but did not return home:
“You are loved. You are brave. You are good.”

We remember Constable Heidi Stevenson 
who lost her life confronting evil masquerading as good:
“You are loved. You are brave. You are good.”

If those are words we speak to the dying, 
what words do we speak to the survivors, 
those who lived and worked through that terror? 
those who live with the loss of people they loved?

We honour the police officers and firefighters and paramedics 
who ran toward the danger because it is their work: 
“You are loved. You are brave. You are good.” 

We honour the leaders – municipal and spiritual –
who offered comfort and support with their own broken hearts:
“You are loved. You are brave. You are good.”
We honour the families and neighbours and friends
who seek answers that will never change what happened:
“You are loved. You are brave. You are good.”

We mourn with them as we remember: 
You are loved. You are brave. You are good. 
You are not alone. 

Those are the only words there are

There are no other words 
for their grief
for their disbelief
for their despair, their rage, their if-onlys
There are no other words
for their loss
for their isolation
for their memories, their wishes, their what-ifs

We can only lay down alongside them today 
as they bleed from reopened wounds
and whisper over and over, 
“You are loved. You are brave. You are good. 
We are here. We are strong.
You are not alone.”

In memory of:
Tom Bagley – Kristen Beaton – Jamie Blair – Greg Blair – Joy Bond – Peter Bond – Corrie Ellison – Gina Goulet – Dawn Madsen Gulenchyn – Frank Gulenchyn – Lillian Hyslop – Alanna Jenkins – Lisa McCully – Sean McLeod – Heather O’Brien – Jolene Oliver – Heidi Stevenson – Emily Tuck – Aaron Tuck – E. Joanne Thomas – Joey Webber – John Zahl 

April 18 & 19, 2020

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Hallelujah! I sold a book!

 I've been a lay worship leader since 2013, and since 2015, I've been working almost every Sunday at the United Church in Oxford, Nova Scotia. 

It's work I enjoy doing, and seem to have an aptitude for, as it uses my training in teaching, broadcasting and journalism, and my skills in researching, planning, writing and presenting. I have never aspired to be more than a lay worship leader, never wanted to become a minister. What I enjoy doing is creating worship services -- planning the words and music for worship -- and that's what I'm satisfied doing. 

So it's interesting that this church I serve has a huge stained glass window at the front of the church, over the choir loft, that features a traditional (and rather fancy) Jesus Christ in the centre, while all the people around him are modern to the time of the window's creation, likely the 1940s. (If you look at most stained glass windows in the churches, they usually depict Jesus during his lifetime.) It's rather remarkable to have this modern stained glass depiction of men and women and children as labourers and managers and parents, etc. (There's no diversity, of course; everyone, including Jesus, is white and falling into traditional gender roles).

My point is: There is a writer in the stained glass window. A journalist. Someone struggling to write a novel. Someone rewriting their memoir for the fifth time. I've always felt this was "a sign" I was in the right place doing the right work. 

And once you hear my news, you may agree. 

Because I have sold my second book. After four years of pitching a memoir, a collection of essays and a novel, after four years writing and editing and submitting, after four years of not hearing back or getting rejected, I sold a book in a month. In one year, I did the work, pitched the idea and sold the book. 

Last year, from January to June, I did a sermon series called "The Alphabet of Faith". 26 Sundays, 26 letters. 

And next year, those 26 sermons will be published as 26 essays in a book called "The Alphabet of Faith". It will be published by Wood Lake Books, a Canadian publisher based in British Columbia who has been publishing books about faith for over 70 years. They are a progressive Christian publisher which is why my second book and I are a great fit. I'm really looking forward to this new publishing experience. 

I'm delighted. I'm relieved. I'm excited. I'm apprehensive. This is really going to put my spiritual writing out there in the world in a way I've never been brave and daring enough to do. But there's no point in holding back or being scared -- I've made enough mistakes in the past ten years that I've learned important lessons (double-checking EVERYTHING being one of them!) so I'm going to head out onto this new path with trust and joy and total confidence I can do this. And more. 

Amen to that!