Even if you survive 12 years with a brain tumour it is most certainly not long enough especially when there are small children to raise. I’ve grieved the past week with a new and dear friend of mine, Sue who lost her husband and best friend of 20 years to the same brain tumour as Matt. She, like her husband, Kris, are young (under 40) and have two small children who are friends with Ellie through an incredible facility called Gilda’s Club. It is a hub for families and children who either have cancer or, who like Ellie, is a small victim when cancer strikes the family. We take Ellie to Gilda’s weekly and she has gained much more of an understanding about tumours, radiation, chemotherapy, surgeries and now death than any small child should ever have to know. Gilda’s has provided us a place of solace and has allowed us to know that we are most definitely not alone with such a frightening diagnosis.
Yesterday, Kris passed at home with Sue and his family around him. We mourn with them. We feel their loss significantly because he, like Matt, was a wonderful guy who faced incredible and devastating challenges over the past several years while his wife and children were helplessly caught up in the familial struggles which is cancer. We wish them peace, much love and a hope to find laughter again when the days seem too dark to go on.
Some properties are like members of the family. A cherished property encompasses the development of a family. It is a place to gather, exchange ideas, provide comfort, laugh and find peace. We cook, eat and invite friends to share our divine space. They help us build memories and deepen bonds. Certain properties can become such a part of our lives that we walk through them as though they reside within our subconscious. They only jolt us to our deepest senses when they are threatened to depart our lives. Then each room, each tree, every angle pulls at our heart and wrenches our gut. It is never easy to say, “goodbye” because to do so is a threat to our memories, our building blocks of who we believe we are because for without that space we become separated and distanced from the life we knew and our house of cards will need to be built again.
Year One done. Packed up and put away. We were fortunate to have this year in all it’s confusion, heartache, struggle and unyielding love. Relationships are stronger. Friendships tightened. Family drawn close. Matt moves on with optimism, resilience and a fortitude for Year Two. He pushed through this year with self-discipline and determination. We never expected anything less. We believed in him and rallied around him. So loved, so cherished and so grateful.
Baseball, huh? Grandpa said, “It’s like watching paint dry,” but when you live with true baseball fans those words are just fuzz in the background; unnoticed and lost behind the voice of the announcer. Despite his dry comments he faithfully followed Grandma to every game she wanted to see and smiled through it because names of players and all the teams were part of his consciousness. It was impossible for it not to seep into his psyche. Also, he loved to make her happy and he did for 33 years.
During this time he agreed to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York; listen to games over the radio on car trips and conversations about who was traded where during Christmas dinner. He endured his step-son’s crazy obsession with the Angels. He watched with pride as she went on the Blue Jays field on Community Living Day. He understood that baseball was a connection which bound her to her father in her childhood and made for a mutual interest with her son.
Now he is gone but the roar of the Blue Jays grows louder each day. While she sat in the stadium during game 5, hailed the best game ever in her eyes, I could not help but believe he had joined the Angels by shining down on her with pure love and a little baseball mischief. He kept her distracted from grief and gave her a chance to remember that life can still hold excitement. Sports fans have always carried strange beliefs and superstitions and finally I have mine.
It took 3 Dads to raise me: my biological Dad, my step father, George and my uncle Bob. George Beard became my step father the year I turned 11, in December of 1982. I was overwhelmed and distrusting of Dads so was not easy on him but George maintained great patience with me. He was a steady support through my development; from turbulent youth into my adventurous to finally settled adulthood. Through it all George was unwavering and solid. His character was clear and reliable.
For you, he was Grandpa George and each of you adore him beyond words. Emma, your first response when you see Grandma is, “Where’s Grandpa George?” and James, one of your first distinguishable words was “Anpa” after spending several days at the condo while Daddy and I were in New Orleans. You were only 9 months at the time and very heavy to lift but George persevered. Ellie, you have many more memories shared with Grandpa. You spent time at the cottage and had countless visits with him at the condo or driving around in the “Subaru” listening to Grandpa music such as Artie Shaw and Pavarotti. “Hey, I know this song! I listened to it in the Subaru with Grandpa George!”
I wish Grandpa George could be a steady force for your future as he was for mine, especially in these uncertain and scary days. I will channel as much of him as I can for you and he will be shared with you in memories and stories from each of us that are left behind to process this quick and painful passing.
May you Rest in Peace, George. We will miss you dearly. Xo
I want to call you. Every night I do. I think of you all the time and wonder what is making you smile? What is occupying that brain of yours? You’re so full of humour, intelligence and wisdom. I want to record it all down. Soak it in. I wish you could answer all my questions. It makes me feel safe when you do but it’s hard to call. The kids don’t go to bed easily and I get so tired. It takes time to pick up and go; to pick up and call.
We all pack in the car to drive Daddy to his therapy downtown. There’s a lot of back and forth. There’s a lot of up and down. We work hard to steady the wild emotions and keep on. The trick is to keep our slow and keep together. We don’t participate extendedly like we used to. He gets tired so easily. He needs to hibernate and sleep and our lives move like heated molasses. Some days are more active than others but there is always a limit to his exertion. He’s just not the same as he once was and now we all slow to the timing of the patriarch.
I wanted to understand but maybe I never would. You didn’t get to close your door. It was left open and you were pulled away. It’s silent. It’s cold. Where did that long life go? Let me back into the dream. I want to venture into a far off destiny but only if it’s with you.
licking the honey, May 2015
Tolstoy had A Confession including a Traveler which drew me into his thoughts of life and death many years ago when my life was young, irresponsible and selfish. When I didn’t have to think about finality and pain. This ancient Eastern parable stayed with me more than much of what I studied while at University in St Paul. It was often discussed around Uncle Bob’s studious dining table for he is the educator on Death and Dying. He lectured and taught the first North American course on the subject in the 60s. And now here I am still learning, still thoughtful of Russian philosophy.
The Traveler “There is an old Eastern fable about a traveler who is taken unawares on the steppes by a ferocious wild animal. In order to escape the beast the traveler hides in an empty well, but at the bottom of the well he sees a dragon with its jaws open, ready to devour him. The poor fellow does not dare to climb out because he is afraid of being eaten by the rapacious beast, neither does he dare drop to the bottom of the well for fear of being eaten by the dragon. So he seizes hold of a branch of a bush that is growing in the crevices of the well and clings on to it. His arms grow weak and he knows that he will soon have to resign himself to the death that awaits him on either side. Yet he still clings on, and while he is holding on to the branch he looks around and sees that two mice, one black and one white, are steadily working their way round the bush he is hanging from, gnawing away at it. Sooner or later they will eat through it and the branch will snap, and he will fall into the jaws of the dragon. The traveler sees this and knows that he will inevitably perish. But while he is still hanging there he sees some drops of honey on the leaves of the bush, stretches out his tongue and licks them.”