June has been an exceptionally busy month, but this past week was a little over the top and I’ve been feeling physically and emotionally drained. I was pretty tired yesterday when I arrived home after an unusually busy Saturday morning. I went upstairs to have a bath but laid on the bed instead – for just a second. “Just a second” became many seconds. After about ten or fifteen minutes, I remembered I needed to text my sister about something but had left my phone downstairs. Chris gave me his phone to use. While Elanna and I were texting back and forth, a notification came across his screen. It said, “Tomorrow: Nadine and Mike’s anniversary.”
I was aware on and off throughout the month that our anniversary was coming up, but I have a tendency to lose track of the date. When I saw that reminder on Chris’ phone, it kind of took my breath away. Even though Chris and I were talking, he had no idea I was all choked up because he was outside in the hall folding laundry.
Thirty years ago today, Mike and I got hitched. I can still see my young self—just a kid, oblivious to the journey of love ahead. It feels like yesterday, but at the same time, a world away – a world of love, grief, joy, pain and restoration. It’s been exceptional, incredible, amazing!
I’ve just completed chapter five of my next book. I’m not under the same pressure to get it done as I was with the first one, so it’s slower going than I’d like. I need to be more disciplined with my time. Having said that though, I put it on hold while I write this piece. I look at this as a little reprieve and an opportunity to connect with whoever takes the time to read it.
This new book, like the first one – ‘Hold On, Let Go’ includes my blog posts. I don’t have as many this time, so there will be more fresh writing. This book also includes some journal entries from the journal I kept when Mike was first diagnosed with ALS. I treasure that journal of course but reading it isn’t easy and I’ve had to be more vulnerable than ever sharing some of it. I always envisioned me reading it to Mike years later – dreaming he’d either be healed of ALS or long outlive the statistics.
Something I’m noticing as I go through that journal, is the regular (maybe monthly) sleepovers with our granddaughter Leah. Here’s mention of one: Fri July 22, 2011 – “When Nathan dropped Leah off, Elanna was over. We all went for a walk. Leah slept between me and Mike. I just love watching her sleep…” Sat July 23 – “I woke up early and got up, leaving Leah and Mike in bed. I read and prayed for a while and then Mike came down and joined me. Leah followed shortly after. We had the usual for breakfast – smoothies. We sat on the front porch and listened to the birds and played with [our dog] Molly.”
Leah was two at the time. She is nine now and throughout this school year, she’s had regular overnight stays on Wednesdays. She has stayed other nights a few times as well, which is a bonus, sometimes with her little brother, which is another bonus. But Wednesdays are our nights!
Chris picks Leah up from school on Wednesday afternoons and I meet them at our place shortly after when I get home from work. She spends time on my iPad. She loves to make movies, play games and watch videos (she and Chris enjoy the funny cat/dog videos, I enjoy the laughter). We have painted on numerous occasions, watching YouTube tutorials, as well as directive drawings. We go for walks with the dog(s) and sometimes go to the playground at the school down the road or in our complex. She’s teaching me to crochet – that’s what we did last week. We have gone a few times to visit the residents where Elanna works – it’s a senior’s long term care facility, where Leo and Glen (our “therapy” dogs) volunteer. And we almost always go for dinner with my dad to Tim Hortons. Bed time is lovely. She usually plays a little more on the iPad while I get ready. Then we read a book, say our prayers and say good night (sometimes, while she drifts off to sleep, I sit up beside her and read or write).
I know I am lucky. I know I am incredibly blessed. I don’t take this time for granted. Wednesdays with Leah are a gift!
We still have the “usual” for breakfast and Chris typically takes her to school while I get ready for work, but sometimes I take her too. A couple of weeks ago, when I dropped her off, as soon as I said, “Good bye, I love you!” I thought to myself, soon she’ll be graduating from high school. It goes so fast. I felt sad. My niece Michaela was graduating that weekend, so maybe that’s why I had that thought. I occasionally picked Michaela and Luke up from elementary school when Elanna worked and now they are almost all grown up. I say to myself what I said when my children graduated, “You shouldn’t have blinked.”
When I dropped Leah off and had that split second graduation thought, I asked myself if I was savouring every moment – unlike with my own children – time seemed to slip right though my fingers. I’m not as busy now, and more wise; I know more than ever how time flies.
Along with Michaela’s graduation, June included birthdays, the ALS walk, a few friend’s book launches, many appointments (for my ongoing whip lash injury), a memorial service, a bridal shower for my Auntie Marguerite, and the list goes on.
But then everything comes to a halt. Last week, after a class I was teaching, I got the message my cousin Shelley’s husband Bruce had passed away that morning from a heart attack. And the whirl wind stops for a while as you try to wrap your head around that one. As Elanna and I made our way over to Shelley’s place, we wondered if at this stage of life, that’s what the rest of it will be like: trying to comfort each other in our losses, illnesses, grief, shock? That was last Wednesday (June 20).
Just two days before that, on Monday while I was at work, I had a 911 message from a good friend. She asked if there was anyway I could go sit with her son who was having emergency surgery that day; she was out of town and couldn’t get there until much later. He had got himself to the hospital just in time. He almost died.
There are constant reminders that life is so fragile and that tomorrow is not a given. Today is to be embraced and savoured. Some get more time than they expect, like my friend Karen’s dad who outlived his prognosis by a year. Then there’s Bruce, he was young, three boys still at home, no warning and he’s gone. Shelley’s mom, auntie Vicki greets us at the door and tells us there’s just one question on her mind, “Why?”
We all ask why from time to time. Lots of things just don’t seem right … things don’t always make sense. I find the older I get and the more knowledge and wisdom I gain, the less knowledgeable and wise I am … about life, about God, about everything. The mysteries are bigger, but you know what? So is God!
“Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, And how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?” Job 26:14 (NKJV)
This past Wednesday, we went to McDonalds for dinner instead of Tims. Dad has a gift card from there he wanted to use, plus Tims has been out of chilli a few too many times lately. Leah brought a card for him that she made at school. It was a thank you card. It had lovely words, a drawing of a horse and a loonie she found, taped to the inside. He loved it! What a beautiful scene it was, the two of them sitting side by side, with the homemade card proudly displayed on the table in front of them. He kept offering her his fries – even though she had her own – and his drink. He also slipped her a little cash in there at some point. The thing is, he’d give her the world if he could. But here’s another thing, he’s giving her more than that. He’s giving her his time and attention. He’s telling her stories and imparting wisdom. He’s speaking to her words of praise and encouragement. He’s sharing his food, money, his life, his love. My dad who recently turned eighty with his precious great-granddaughter, sharing food at McDonalds, was the most beautiful sight to behold. Not everyone gets that kind of gift and I know they know it, especially him.
(Finishing this piece on Friday, June 29)
Today, Leo, Glen and I had so much fun at Elanna’s work going around and visiting the residents with her. Elanna eventually had to get back to her routine and went on her way. I told her that before we left, we’d have one last visit with our good friend Jean. Jean is always so happy to see us. She loves to sing and while Glen sat on her tummy and Leo at the end of her bed, she sang a few songs for us. I asked her if she knew the song, ‘Jean’, from the movie ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ (1969). I explained it was my late husband Mike’s favourite song and we listened to it often. She wasn’t sure, so I found it on YouTube and played it for her. We sang along a little. She asked me to print out the lyrics and bring them next time. I said I would. She asked me to also bring the lyrics to ‘Moon River’. I responded, “Wow Jean, Mike and I loved that song and we also listened to that one a lot.” I told her I’d bring the lyrics for both songs next time. She thanked me for coming and said that it was the best visit. I agreed. She didn’t need a thing from me, just a little bit of my time was the greatest gift she could receive … and I treasure her time as well! (I wouldn’t normally mention a resident’s name for confidentiality sake, but Jean is the mom of an old friend)
After Chris wished me a Happy Anniversary last Sunday, he went off to church. He was on power point and had to leave early. I went to Nathan’s church to hear him drum. It was unusual that I beat Chris home. Soon after though, he came through the door with two lovely bouquets of flowers. He handed me one, gorgeous with brilliant colours and said, “These are from Mike.” He handed me another, smaller bouquet of daisies, “These are from me.” Later, he explained that he knew I liked daisies and that those daisies might not be real daisies but they looked like daisies and well, the price was to his liking. I replied, “Oh, so that’s why the more extravagant ones are from Mike?” He said, “Yah!” Then after a pause, he continued, “Do you think it’s possible to get reimbursed?” We both laughed. Mike would probably say, “It’s okay, I’ll give her the daisies.”
Not everyone gets this kind of gift and we both know it! I will hold on to it for as long as I can and do my best to savour every moment!
“Collect moments not things. Treasure time together. Value love above all else. Be grateful.” Happy Wives Club.com
To my dear cousin Shelley and your boys, auntie Vicki and cousin Larry, I am so so sorry for your loss. You are in my prayers and thoughts. Bruce was an exceptional man and I end with a few lessons we could all learn from him: Be exceedingly kind and give generously of your time. Lend a helping hand as much as you can. Pour yourself out!
PS – Project Wellness has a new website! You can check it out at projectwellness.ca You can watch the video there of our local MP, Dan Ruimy honouring dad in Parliament on his 80th birthday (just scroll down on the first page). It’s awesome! See pictures of Dad’s and Chris’ latest trips to Malawi, including the recently drilled wells (42 to date) and other news.
Leah with Leo and Glen