Tag Archives: remembrance

Remembering A Captain

24 Jan

A year ago today, a baby named David got his angel wings. After tirelessly staying by his side during his five-month-stay in hospital, his Mom – so brave, so beautiful inside and out, and with a heart bursting with love – held him in her arms as he winged his way into the next world.

During his time on earth, David – known to many of us as Captain Snuggles – changed many lives. He inspired people to appreciate what they had and to live their lives better. Through him, people started donating blood. Because David was here with us, because he fought so bravely, lives have been saved, continue to be saved because of the people who continue to donate blood in his honour.

What an amazing legacy for an eight-month-old baby.

To Captain Snuggles: rest in peace, smile on the people who live because of you, and touch your family with love.

To David’s mom Amy, who fought so hard for her son’s life: I send you vibes of love, strength, and peace. I wish I could be close enough to hug you, but through the bonds of friendship, I am with you tonight. May you and your family find strength in being together, and may all of you feel the loving presence of the brave Cap’n.

 

 

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Remembering Dad – Seven Years On

6 Dec

I was watching The Apprentice when I got the news that my Dad had died. I should have known as soon as I looked on the phone display that something was wrong. Although it was a reasonable enough hour in my own time zone, it was three in the morning in South Africa. Be that as it may, when I answered the phone, I had no idea that I had lost a parent. Even though Dad had been gravely ill in hospital, the news came as a terrible shock.

The story of Dad’s illness and death is all too common these days. He had been sick on and off for a couple of years, but despite numerous visits to the doctor, cancer had only been diagnosed six weeks prior to his death. By then, the tumour in his bladder was too big to remove, and Dad’s only shot at survival was aggressive chemotherapy followed by surgical removal of the entire bladder. He survived the chemotherapy – only just – and he made it through the twelve-hour operation. In the end, though, his body was just too weak to survive all that it had been put through, and a few days after the surgery, he winged his way from this world to the next.

It was December 6th, 2004. Seven years ago today.

When we lose someone close to us, we are supposed to go through the stages of grief. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

I had heard of this theory, of course, but I had never really found it to be of any use. It suggests that these stages happen sequentially, that you cannot ever get to acceptance until you have passed through the other four stages. According to this theory, once you are in the Acceptance stage, you’re done with your grieving.

The reality is that grieving is such a personal, individual process, and everyone does it differently. Denial has definitely been a big part of my own experience, and although I am mostly over that, I still have moments of thinking, “Gone??? What do you mean, gone? That’s impossible!” By contrast, I have not spent a single moment in the Bargaining phase, although that could still be coming.

What about this one, though? Guilt. Where does that fit in with this whole stages of grieving thing? I’m sure I’m not the only one to experience it with the death of a loved one. What could I have done? Why didn’t I travel home to see him before he died? Why am I remembering every argument we ever had, when I should be focusing on the many good times we shared?

The stage of grief that I have the biggest problem with, though, is acceptance. This is supposed to be the pinnacle, the reward we can all look forward to if we can just get through all of the other stuff that comes before it. But is it really truly attainable? Yes, we can get to a point where we can lead our lives without the person we have lost, but can we ever fully accept it? Can my Mom, who was married to Dad for forty years, be reasonably expected to completely reconcile herself with the fact that her husband – her best friend, the man she lived with, travelled with, and raised children with – is no longer by her side?

Here’s the bigger question: what does acceptance really mean? It seems to me that once someone reaches that magical stage, they are expected to be OK. They are not allowed to be sad anymore because their grieving is done. And honestly, there is a part of me that doesn’t really want to reach that stage. Because doesn’t acceptance imply that you are OK with the person not being around anymore? And isn’t that a form of betrayal to them? Like you’re prepared to finally let go of what little you have left of them?

To some people, the stages of grief can be a useful roadmap, a guide to let them know what’s coming next. For me, it’s frustrating. I loop back and forth between the stages too much, and I’m ambivalent about the prize. I mean, how likely am I to strive for acceptance if it’s not what I really want?

So today, seven years after Dad left us, I don’t really know where I am with this whole grieving process.

What I do know is that Dad was many things to many people. He was a great marathoner in his youth and he fuelled my own love of running. He was an astute businessman who gave me countless tidbits of financial advice and did my taxes every year in exchange for a bag of sugar-coated almonds. He was both reader and storyteller, dramatist and comedian. He had an appreciation for the simple pleasures in life, and would take his time washing the dishes just so he could watch the sunset through the kitchen window while he was doing it. He adored his dogs and cats, and spent many Sundays polishing his car surrounded by family pets. Along with my Mom, he gave me and my brother the opportunity to grow up witnessing what a loving, supportive partnership should look like. To me and my brother, he was Dad – the best one we could have asked for. And during the brief period of time for which he shared a planet with my son George, he was the most loving, doting Granddad any kid could wish for.

I don’t know what happens to us when we die. I choose to believe that Dad is around somewhere, watching fondly over his grandsons, cheering me on when I run races, clicking his tongue impatiently when I make stupid decisions, and having a good old giggle when I get caught in the rain and wind up with a bad hair day.

Rest in peace, Dad. Someday, I’ll see you on the other side.

I Am Canadian

27 Oct

On Monday an odd coincidence occurred to me, that led me to ponder the idea that my trip towards marriage is linked in some cosmic way to my status – my proudly held status – as a Canadian. Some of you already know the story of my engagement, how Gerard prearranged the whole thing with the good folks at Citizenship & Immigration Canada. At my citizenship ceremony, after I had been declared a new Canadian, Gerard got down on one knee and, in front of the judge and all of my fellow new Canadians, he proposed. If you haven’t seen it, check out this video.

On Monday, my personal life and my life as a Canadian were once again linked, by virtue of the fact that two events happened on that day.  First, we got confirmation of our wedding date. This has been quite a journey that has led to us committing to a date on which we will, after ten years of cohabitation, become husband and wife. Ten minutes later, we went together to my younger son’s school, which was set up as a voting station in the Ontario municipal elections.  And there, for the first time since becoming a Canadian citizen, I exercised my democratic right to vote.

This is a right – and a responsibility – that I take very seriously.  I am mindful of the fact that in parts of the world, I as a woman would not have this right. The brave war veterans, both living and dead, fought for my freedom of choice, for my right to vote. It seems only right that Gerard and I, in recognition of those men and women who sacrificed so much, are having our wedding reception at the Royal Canadian Legion. What better place for us to start this new phase of our lives together.

Soon we are going to start seeing the poppies. In Canada, as in other parts of the world, war veterans hand out poppy lapel pins in exchange for donations. The lapel pins are worn every day until November 11th – Remembrance Day – at which time they are placed at a war memorial.  I find that Canadians are very respectful in their attitude towards our soldiers. The wearing of poppies is done with a great deal of pride and a respect that is almost sacred. When a fallen soldier is returned home, having made the ultimate sacrifice, ordinary citizens suspend their lives to gather at overpasses and on bridges to wave flags as they salute the soldier’s hearse as it travels down the Highway of Heroes.  This video is worth watching. Grab the tissues before you click on the link.

Last year, I did something special for Remembrance Day. Along with most of my co-workers, I observed a minute of silence at 11:00 a.m. After that, I solemnly got changed into my running gear, pinned my poppy onto my running jacket, and secured my Metropass in my fuel belt. I went outside into the biting cold, and began my run – a run with a purpose. This run was dedicated to the veterans and the war dead. I ran from the office to the war memorial at Queens Park, where I joined the crowds gathering for a Remembrance Day ceremony.

At the end of the ceremony, I unpinned my poppy and left it at the base of the memorial. I thought of my grandfathers, who were both veterans of World War II. I thought of a friend of mine south of the border, whose son was, at the time, a soldier in Iraq. I thought of the very elderly veteran who had sold me my poppy; I thought of how the lines on his face told a story that I could not begin to comprehend.

Exactly one month after that Remembrance Day, I got my citizenship.  This year, on November 11th, I plan to do what I did last year. Only this time, I will be doing my Remembrance Day run as a Canadian.