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all that we love deeply becomes a part of us

Two weeks ago, upon returning home from work, my Mom informed me that my Grandmother was not doing well. Over a decade ago my Grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. At first she lived with one of my Aunts who cared for her, but as the disease progressed, the decision was made to put her in a nursing home. A difficult decision for any child to make on behalf of their parents, but it was the best option for her as she would receive 24/7 care, and she had 12 children making the decision together. She was visited all the time.

Anytime I have visited Toronto I always would visit my Nanny at the home. It was always somewhat shocking for me as I wasn’t able to see her day after day, so the stages of her Alzheimer’s were shocking, harsh and very painful. Before she was in the home she was just “forgetful”. I would tell her who I was and walk out of the room only to hear her asking my Mom “where the pretty little girl went”. I was in my twenties…. Fast forward a couple years, I’m sitting with her and she asks me if I am her mother …. fast forward again a couple of years and she has started to walk the halls aided by her walker repeating “ta ta ta, tia ta ta ta, tia ta ta” …. fast forward again a couple years and she no longer speaks ….. and again …. unrecognizable – her cheeks sunken in, her eyes vacant, a cloth placed in her right hand to keep her nails from digging into her palm as her hand is atrophied and permanently clenched. She is existing; trapped in her own body; unable to do anything for herself. It was absolutely heartbreaking.

Wednesday, January 15th I got up, went to work for 10am. Ten minutes into my shift I received a call from my Mom telling me we were booked on a flight at 4:00 that afternoon. I left work in a hurry, picked my Mom up and we packed like maniacs, praying fervently that we would make it to Toronto before she passed. We arrived at the nursing home at 8pm. In the hallway outside of her room were a few of my Aunts & Uncles, cousins, etc. sitting, pacing, talking, resting, and drinking coffee. Inside her room there were probably 15 family members packed in like sardines. They had been there around the clock since the previous Saturday. My mom and I rushed to her bedside and she opened her eyes for the first time that day upon hearing our voices. The weeping commenced. She looked so small and fragile; so tired and lost. Her eyes were wide as I cried and said to her, “We’re here Nanny, we made it. Thank you for waiting for us. We love you. We love you so much”. We thought at any moment she would go, but she surprised us and pushed on. Some family napped on the floor by her bed, some slept fitfully sitting in chairs. Most of us didn’t sleep at all. We held her hand, spoke to her words of comfort, smoothed her hair, held her hands, kissed her cheeks, her forehead, her nose…. We told her it was okay, we told her she didn’t have to hold on anymore. But hold on she did.

In the following 3 days there would be many moments we truly thought she was a few breaths away from being gone. We would sing her favourite hymns to her, pray for her, talk to her, cry and hold each other. And still she would push on.

We never left her side. While some would try to get an hour nap in, others would stay beside her bed. Though she was unable to communicate with us and recognize us, I don’t just believe, I KNOW she felt and heard us in her spirit. The Nurses, Dr’s, and all nursing home staff were blown away by the fact that for her last week, there were at all times 15 family members, give or take, by her side. We saw so many staff come in and say their goodbyes, leaving with tears streaming down their faces, only to show up for their shift the next day in shock that she was still with us. They were blown away by the love of her family and we were equally blown away by their love for our Mom/Grandmother. The nurses would come in every couple of hours and give her pain medication and reposition her to keep bed sores to a minimum. She had a very high fever.

The third night we were there, the nurse came in and checked her vitals. She couldn’t get a reading. She tried and tried to get an oxygen reading to no avail. She checked her blood pressure….nothing. You couldn’t even find a pulse. But her heart was still beating away. We knew it would be soon.

Another day came and went. All of us going on a few hours of sleep in days. I wouldn’t go to sleep. I didn’t want to leave her side. Around 2am, the nurse came in to give her more pain meds and said, “It’s going to be soon”. Her breathing had become so shallow and slow. We would sit and count the seconds between breaths. One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, four-one thousand….is how it went for a few breaths and then we’d get up to seventeen-one thousand and higher. We’d sit there staring at her chest, waiting for it to rise, tears beginning to spill down our cheeks; exhaling as she took another breath. It felt like I was being torn in two. I prayed desperately for God to take her as it was so painful to watch her hang on, but at the same time I felt broken imagining her gone.

Every time the nurse or staff person would come in, they would just shake their head in amazement that she was still fighting so hard. Finally one asked us, “Is there anyone else coming?”. We replied, “Yes, the youngest of her 12 children is flying in from New Brunswick at 8am this morning”. The nurse replied, “She’s waiting for her.” Now this is something that had crossed our minds. But she had NO VITALS FOR 2 DAYS! How would she last?! Her breathing started to sound scary and bad. The death rattle had begun. I would jump out of my skin and tears would jump out of my eyes every time she would make those sounds. I was starting to feel like I couldn’t handle it anymore, but felt selfish feeling that way, as she was the one laying there dying.

At around 7:45 that morning I was so beyond tired that I sat down in a chair at the foot of her bed, put a blanket on me and was out like a light. I woke at around 8:25am to my family surrounding the bed and the sound of someone crying. I immediately jumped out of my chair to find my Aunt Bev (the youngest child from New Brunswick who hadn’t been to Toronto in over a decade) beside my Nanny, holding her hand. She managed to squeak out between sobs, “Mom, it’s me – Beverly, I’m here. I love you Mom”. I will never forget this moment as long as I live: my grandmothers mouth started moving back and forth like crazy (something I don’t believe she had done  in the late stages of her disease) as if she wanted to say something, her legs were kicking, her arms were going….and as soon as Bev said “I love you”, my Nan took her last breath.

We were awestruck. Literally dumbfounded. It was the most moving moment. She was waiting for her baby. At that moment, we knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was aware of everything that had been going on around her in her final days. Maybe not in her diseased mind, but in her spirit. There was one daughter who couldn’t be there and she had talked to my Nanny – in the days previous -over the phone while one of her brothers held the phone to her ear. She knew who she was waiting for and she fought so hard to stay until she arrived.

I am sad and miss my Nanny. She was my last living grandparent. But my happiness is greater than my sadness as I know where she is now. I know she can speak, that her mind and body are healthy and whole, that she’s with my Poppy (Grandpa) and my aunt Lorriane (deceased over 20 years ago) and the thing she lived her life for and talked about endlessly – seeing Jesus. She is at peace. More than that, she has joy she’s never known.

I know that here on earth no one is without flaw. But to me, she was an angel long before Heaven, and a true Saint.

Thank You to the staff of The Village of Erin Meadows in Mississauga, ON. who went above and beyond in loving and caring for my Nanny and to my Aunt Florence who has been her primary caregiver over the past decade.

For my Nanny: Olive Gladys Barrett 1923-2014

“What we have once enjoyed, we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes part of us.”  – Helen Keller 

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an old blog entry stolen from one of my old blogs . .

It’s that time again – where I shall write something that holds just a little more meaning than a blog on poolside tales of summers bliss.  Because there have indeed been moments of bliss – this is truth – but there have also been moments of great confusion, frustration and hopelessness.  And sitting here, tonight, I feel slightly angered by my own tears.  Not tears I cry at this moment (my eyes are dry and my heart is calm), but tears I have cried in the past months.

I often get myself totally tangled up in this idea that I have somehow not “succeeded” in life; that because I chose to get involved with YWAM back when I was barely 19 and I spent most of my time living between the USA and Canada and traveling all over the place until I was nearly 27, that I have missed out on life. MISSED OUT ON LIFE!? Yep. It’s true. I think this all the time. I’ve cried big, giant, pathetic tears because I have apparently missed out on life? Good grief! I wish someone would just smack me across the face good and hard… and I’m not joking.

For my sake, which, let’s be honest here – this blog is really only for my sake – let me just spend a smallish paragraph giving a more detailed account of how I have “missed out” (I am not doing this in effort to toot my own horn, but in effort to give myself a little bit of perspective):

I lived in Lakeside, Montana for approximately 4ish years on the side of Blacktail Mountain (on which a ski resort resides) which overlooked an absolutely picturesque, Flathead Lake. During which time I made friends from literally all over the world, traveled to Newcastle, England for 2 months and spent New Years 2000 on a huge ship (now the Africa Mercy)on the River Tyne, got to sing, make and record albums with my friends, tour, lead music in tenderloin district of San Francisco, lead a team of teenagers through the crazy Moscow Airport to Krygyzstan for a month of playing concerts to Afghan Refugees, old and young Krygz people and on a military base for the troupes fighting the “war on terror” (uh, let’s not get into that). I also lived in Seattle (the best city in the world) for a couple of years where I got to spend time with both youth and adult people living on the streets, attend and be a part of running “refugee simulations” through World Relief as well as help in a classroom of Turkish Refugees learning English, took  teams of young people to Thailand, Costa Rica and Zambia where we had life changing experiences and the opportunity to hopefully make a small difference in the lives of those we got to know and care for while we were there. Along the way I had the opportunity to ride elephants, hold a 2o0lb python, experience living in a remote village where dog is a delicacy and and breakfast looks the same as dinner, swim in the Indian Ocean, go zip lining in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, go on a walking safari (this means you walk around a game park with 2 guides with AK47′s…and that is it) in Livingstone, Zambia as well as visit one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the world – Victoria Falls, spent a day in Seoul, South Korea, a weekend in Scotland and had many, many road trips in the USA.

As it turns out, that smallish paragraph ended up being a little on the biggish side. And I’m sure there were many things forgotten along the way!

I have certainly, NOT missed out on life. Oh, I know many people have done way more traveling than myself, but I certainly cannot complain and I really do not need to feel like I’ve wasted my time or missed out on anything. So what if that’s put me behind the rest of my friends in terms of education, job security and marriage?!?!?! I can go to school anytime and have,  finding a good job is difficult in any circumstance and I cannot and never could control when I fall in love and get married.  The truth is, I wouldn’t change the last 10 years of my life. I have had some of the best experiences, have the best memories and the best friends now!

I don’t want to always be looking back and wishing I was still doing this, that or the other thing. I just want to think back on how fortunate I was to have had those experiences and be thankful for the friends I’ve made along the way. We all make sacrifices throughout our lives. Mine just looked different and perhaps were slightly atypical. I haven’t missed out. I’m doing just fine. I have a wonderful life, a fantastic family, and fabulous friends. I don’t want to step into tomorrow with hesitance, I just want to walk forward knowing that what’s behind me has lead me to where I am now and has made me more than capable to continue living a life of adventure and passion.

As the wise Bono once penned – walk on . . .

hey, it’s 2013!

Happy (very belated) New Year! It’s been quite the hiatus on my part, but I’ve had a bit of a mind shift and perspective change. Both were much needed and I’m so thankful for the head/heart-space I’m in right now.

This past fall has not been easy for me and at some point I really wasn’t sure that I would ever be anything other than an emotional mess, relational screw-up and just plain miserable. I find myself wanting to say that I don’t know what has changed, but I know that those closest to me have been praying their little hearts out with my lovely parents leading the pack. I too have been praying that something would change; pleading with God to give me some small amount of grace to work with and I cannot attribute the peace I’ve felt as of late to anyone other than Him.

It’s always the dark times that force us to engage in much self reflection. One thing I have recognized is my deep desire for happiness. Not a bad desire! I think most people desire to be truly happy, it’s just where we look for it that can be problematic. I have realized that I have quite high expectations that my relationships will bring me happiness. More specifically, romantic relationships. I’ve heard it said once or twice or you know, one hundred times that hind sight is 20/20. HA! Because it’s true! Obviously now I see how unfair it is to look to other people to bring us happiness. I need to be happy with myself and learn how to have a balanced perspective on life encompassing all it’s highs and lows. And it’s funny, because now that I’m not looking to others to bring me happiness, I’m finding it so much easier to come by. I actually feel happy sometimes for no particular reason.

This year my “resolution” (though I’m nervous to call it that because of the fact that resolutions seem to be forgotten by the time February rolls around…) is to appreciate each moment; each day for what it is and to remember to be thankful for all that I do have, which is so much.

there’s beauty in the breakdown

neglect.

i have not blogged. i guess it’s been the summer and i’ve had a lot of family in and a lot of thoughts swirling around my head and heart matters to deal with.

stumbled upon this short behind the scenes vogue shoot with ADELE, whom i adore. even more so when i listen to her speak in interviews. there’s something so inspiring and beautiful about her that goes beyond her voice and gorgeous face.

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beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and sometimes in the eye of the beholdee…

It is summer. Therefore, I shall halfheartedly apologize for the my delinquency to blog.

Things to note about the summer thus far:

  • I have eaten a lot of hamburgers and ice cream
  • I have already had a week & a half of vacation
  • I went to Regina (of all places) to get out of the city
  • I have eaten a lot of pizza and m&m’s (the pretzel kind, the raspberry kind, the coconut kind, the regular kind……etc.)
  • My two Aunties from Toronto are in visiting and we have gotten waterlogged in the pool and sun tanned. We are going for fish and chips tomorrow (which is really today because it’s already tomorrow, get me?)
  • I had 8 inches lopped of my locks after years of growing it. It was sad and liberating. And no one noticed…well, okay, a couple people have, but…when you get like a foot cut off your hair it’s kind of a big deal. Ah well…
  • I have probably gained 10 lbs. No lie. And also, to be expected due to all the eating.

I was at work today and in my wandering around I kept catching glimpses of myself in whatever mirror or reflective surface I came upon. Most of my friends would laugh and find this completely typical of me as I’m a tiny bit over concerned that one hair on my head has changed position. Now you see, as per my list above I have gained weight. Summer, bathing suits, poolside living….yeah, not the best time to be adding ten pounds more. I have been very critical of myself, experienced a lot of self loathing and continued to eat those damn m&m’s!!!

Today, when I walked past the mirror I was worried about what my newly shorn hair looked like in a tiny little pony-tail. I thought to myself: “you know what, I don’t look half bad. I actually look pretty”. You know how people always say that if you say one negative thing about yourself you should follow it by like ten good things about yourself? Or whatever it is “those people” say. It’s something like that anyways. I decided to just keep telling myself that I’m pretty until I start to believe it. I’m just so tired of hating myself and picking myself apart. I don’t want to compare myself to other girls because those girls hate things about themselves too. Everyone seems too, even the ones we think are perfect.

So ladies, (if there are a few out there reading this blog) do yourself a favour and tell yourself you’re pretty. Find something you appreciate about your looks and compliment yourself. Do it as many times as you want until you really start to believe it. And don’t be cocky about it. A cocky girl is pretty on the outside but needs some adjusting on the inside. I’m learning the lesson of confidence slowly but surely.

I’m pretty.