Today was Family Day here in Ontario. A day to spend with your family and get a long weekend in February. It’s awesome.
I spent the entire day with these jokers and their other genetic contributor and his family. It was delightful. We ate a big breakfast, went for a hike, ate lunch with family and played outside. It was sunny and beautiful. Too warm to really count as February in southwestern Ontario. A wonderful gift.
Let’s talk about family. Mine is on the smaller, more regular North American side. Two adults, two kids, and the possibility of a pet one day. We live in a nice sized lower apartment and we bed share. We eat together, sleep together, and sometimes it seems to end there. I don’t like that. I don’t like that at least three days a week we ALL seem to go different directions; Hubs to work, Boy#1 to school, Boy#2 to daycare, and me to appointments, work, vulonteering and social engagements. Sometimes I look at my husband and say “let’s buy some property with a creek, build a tiny house, buy some goats, chickens, a donkey, and homeschool while living almost self-sufficient.” I sometimes desire the ability that lifestyle would give me, the chance to cocoon. I also know that I am a people pleasing, self comparing, extrovert who just needs to learn when enough is enough. I need to learn balance in the now before I can truly live my dream.
Today was awesome. Just family fun. Just hanging out, no big pressure, no giant schedule. I cleaned up this morning, made breakfast, got dressed, found out our deepfreeze was unplugged and unfrozen, cleaned it out, threw out $300 worth of meat, put on my hiking shoes and went out. Yes. That was lovely.
There always seem to be hiccups in our lives when we think we’ve nailed it. Like God or the Universe is reminding us “Hey! Fancy Pants!! You’re still human! Shit happens!” I cried as I mopped up meat juice and threw out chicken that cost me two weeks earnings. But I straightened my shoulders and my cap and carried on.
I think that seems to be something we do. I grieved the meat, my loss of meat. I moved on after drying and mopping up. I will deal with the results of the loss later. It’s a thing.
Well this week I lost way more than the contents of my freezer. This past Friday I lost a very dear friend to cancer. She fought hard for three long years. Through her fight she was gracious, kind, thoughtful, raw, and always selfless. She would offer me help and drop off little gifts while she was the one heading for treatment the next day. This gorgeous woman is the one who sat with me in her Oasis, during recovery in between chemo treatments, me eight months pregnant, and SHE gets up to get me a drink. This delightful soul was waiting for her nurse to come check her stint, and SHE jumps up to serve me. Our Convo was like this:
Col: want a drink?
Me: sure. What can I grab for you?
Col: no. You’re pregnant and it’s hot. Let me grab you something.
Me: you have cancer!!! Let me get it!!
Unfortunately, even battling cancer and chemo, this lady was faster than pregnant me and got me a drink. That was her. She’d beat you to being kind first and make you want to level up your kindness game. I know I learned so much about giving from her. She always thought of others first.
Her whit and charm were on point. Her sense of humour perfect in timing. This woman knew how to party and how to listen. As I cut her hair she’d listen to me complain about my marriage, my kids, my self identity and everything else. She’d complain back, but she’d always remember what I’d said last time. She would always ask about Hubs, or kids, or my own battles. She is the woman responsible for sending me to the amazing marriage counselor we have. I credit her with helping save my marriage. She has kept myself and my boys in clothing. This faithful friend would always be there for a walk, a coffee, a hug, a smile. I’m missing that smile. The knowledge that I can walk up her steps and get a big hug. My heart is wrecked with pain knowing that the next time I see her kids she won’t be walking behind them. That my three year old can’t run into her arms for a hug and a cookie. Tonight he asked me why she died. My only answer was inadequate. “Because her body couldn’t keep going buddy”. He asked why and I couldn’t figure it out any more than him. In my head I wanted to say “Because death is a stealer. Cancer is a thief. Life sucks. The best people go first. Because sin and death entered this world and we can’t stop it on our own.” All of those are inadequate to explain the loss of a great woman, a loved human being, a lover of life. They all miss the mark. So I just kind of cried into him and hugged him close.
I cried a lot. I’m crying now. My heart breaks. Grief over lost meat in a freezer is fleeting. You clean up and you move on. Grief over a lost friend is forever. I lost my best friend to a farm accident when I was seven and I still think of her and how my life was different. I think of my Grandma Rodgers every day. She is imprinted in my skin, on my heart, my DNA. I grieve her often. I know I will carry Colleen with me for the rest of my life. Her life and spirit will be imprinted on my soul, and her early departure will be imprinted in my heart. I will carry her with me and her memory and spirit will change my life and those around me. I learned a great deal about mindfulness, presence and kindness from Colleen. These lessons will make me a better mother, daughter, wife and friend. Her fierce love for her husband, her kids, her family, and her friend will live on in so many ways.
Grief cannot, and should not, be washed away by a bucket of water and some baking soda. It cannot be ignored, silenced or shelved, without severe damage being dealt to the bereaved. No. Grief must be lived out, felt, cried, hugged, and used for growth. I celebrate my dear Colleen with laughter, happiness, life and joy, but I also celebrate and acknowledge her huge contribution to our lives by allowing her loss to be evident with my grief. Tears, heartbreak and confusion in loss are ok. They give evidence to the hole left in our heart, our lives and our community.
I think of Colleen’s beautiful family right now. The grief that is going to hit in waves for years, for the rest of life. I can’t even begin to identify with losing a spouse, mother or daughter. I can only pray for these beautiful people in pain over losing a beautiful mom, wife and daughter.
Tonight I will lay in my bed, I will think of her smile, her kids, her husband, and I will grieve. I will grieve, pray, and grieve some more.
Sunday I will be celebrating our dear Colleen with many many people. We will share, we will celebrate her, and we will cry. That is grief, and that is growth, that is saluting a life full of love, joy, kindness, fierce passion, and real grit.
I salute you my fabulous, fierce friend. You make me better. Thank you. Live on in us.