Sunday, February 24, 2013

By God's Grace...

Grace is 8 and is one of the sweetest kids I know. Recently, she wrote a letter to Jesus and drew Him some pictures.

Janet, Gracie's mum, asked me to write back, as Gracie would recognize her parents' handwriting. I agreed happily, despite the weirdness of "playing God"....

Dear Jesus,

Hi! It's me, Grace and right now I am anywere. I could be at my home, at the grocery store. And I just need to tell you somthing. I just wanna go to church to listen to Father Whalen and to go downstairs and to see Father Whalen and to to say hi to him and Im sooooooooooooooooooooo sorry about that. Please forgive me.

 Please write back soon and that is all I ask from you in return.

And thank you for everything.

Oh and can you say Hi to Papa M., Uncle John, Great Grandma and Great Grandpa.

And my tooth is out and it's a top one.

You are the Best ever.

Grace M.

Dear Grace,

I love receiving letters - thank you, Grace, for yours.

 It pleases me very much that you enjoy going to church and listening to Father Whalen. I like listening to him as well. I also like listening in on your lessons at the Good Shepherd program during Mass - it makes My heart happy, hearing children learn about My love.

I'll tell you a secret, shall I, Grace? For as long as you live, I will always love you. I will forgive you anything, as long as you're really and truly feeling bad about it. So don't worry about making mistakes - they help us all to learn, don't they?

I have passed your "Hello!" to Papa M, Uncle John and your Great-Grandparents. They send their love back to you and want to tell you that you are often in their loving thoughts. Papa M wanted me to tell you that he loves your singing best of all and hearing it makes him smile.

A tooth out is very exciting, indeed! It's another sign of growing up, isn't it? What a pleasure it will be to continue to watch you grow into yourself and discover the incredible beauty of the world.

Who do you think you'll be, when you've grown? I have an idea, but I'll keep it to Myself for now. It's such fun, watching people figure it all out for themselves!

Would you like to know another secret? Of all the people in the world, you are My favourite. When you're feeling hurt or doubtful or you just need a happy thought, you remember that, OK?

I love you, sweet Grace. Please write again, soon.


And you, dear reader?
What would you like God to know?
What would you like to hear from Him?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

To Jack, With Love

Last Monday, I had the pleasure of meeting a man named Jack.

He was nearing 80 and though his eyes were still a vivid blue against thinning hair of white, the spark in them was fading.

Though his mind could still process how to walk and talk, sometimes his limbs would not obey and sometimes the words formed by his mouth were garbled and confusing.

Jack had an intellectual disability - the specifics of which I do not know, but don't think matter.

Jack's face, though clearly aged, was free of the lines that often adorn the faces of those who've lived and loved well. There is a kind of beauty to an old face belonging to someone who's beloved, don't you think?

But in Jack's face, though I spied beauty, I saw no love. In fact, all I could see clearly was that Jack had lived a long, long life of being unloved.

Unlovedness is state of being, a place of longing, a wary gaze, a blank look where knowing should be.

Unlovedness is not just the loss of love, it is never having known it.

Unlovedness is what you see before you avert your eyes from the huddled form on a snowy street, homemade sign propped against a crumpled coffee cup. Unlovedness is a plea written in shaky block letters which reads: I am homeless. I am hungry. Please help.

Shelter me. Feed me. Love me.

Unlovedness is what you read about in your local paper, where the headline screams: "Townsfolk Fear For Safety, Call For Tougher Laws!" and the piece goes on to describe some boys who wreaked havoc on the houses that border their "home" - a residential facility where they have lived since "graduating" from the foster care system six months ago.

Want me. Know me. Love me.

Unlovedness is what you see when you tiptoe into a nursing home that smells like loneliness and regret, where residents sit listlessly in the chairs on either side of  the entrance way, waiting.

Remember me. Miss me. Love me. 

Unlovedness reads like this, when I tried to capture the essence of Jack's life, in a journal entry this past Monday, a mere seven days after meeting him:

After he left here last Thursday, he was trundled over to a local nursing home, because the people
he was home-cared by felt that his needs (dementia, wandering, forgetfulness, rages) were beyond their comfort and care abilities.
Jack spent Thursday and Friday night(s) in the nursing home, locked in his room.
On Saturday, nurses reported that he was lethargic and difficult to engage.
On Sunday, Jack refused breakfast.
And then he refused lunch.
That afternoon, Jack curled up in his strange new bed...and died.
Most here believe that he died of a heart attack.
I think he died of a broken heart.
Today is Valentine's Day, Jack.
 I can only hope that today, now that your entire lifetime has passed, you will know love.
This one's for you:
"John Doe #24" by Mary Chapin Carpenter

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Nature of Grief

I thought I was ready. This year, the fourth one marking my brother's death, I thought I had this whole Grief thing sussed out.



Grief is stealthy. He has lurked around the corners of my heart for so long, I suppose I imagined he might stay there, in the shadows of my memories. Instead, Grief has been stalking me, waiting for the exact right wrong moment to leap out, grab me by the throat and shove me to my knees, right there in hallway outside the bathroom.

Sometimes, Grief doesn't even wait for me to stumble into the room and shut out the rest of my world, for just one. blessed. moment. He just swoops in from nowhere  and if I'm not fast enough, he'll pull me into his strangely seductive embrace before I've even taken my next breath.

That's how Grief rolls. Grief sucks ass. Grief colours the edges of every happy moment, whether I realize it then or later, remembering.

Grief is like that relative who comes to every family event, invited or not, and who sits so quietly in the corner you forget he's there, until you go to pour a drink and realize he's been helping himself and now your favourite beverage is all but gone.

Oddly, I've discovered that I  can't even get really, really mad at Grief, not like I did a few years ago - PHEW, that was unexpected and uncomfortable for everyone -  because that's just his nature and he's been a part of things for so long, it would actually be weird if he stopped showing up.

I have managed to  mostly ignore Grief this year, instead of letting him simply take over at the beginning of January.

This year, I tried to stand up to Grief. I got all huffy and puffy and wagged my finger in his face: "You know what, Grief? I have things to do and people to love and I refuse to let you drag me through your mire. I have a LIFE to live here, Grief and it's a busy one. I'd appreciate a little bit of breathing room this year, if you don't mind."

Photo courtesy of

For awhile there, it seemed that Grief was listening. I marvelled at my sense of well-being, took occasional stock of my heart, found it strong and full - nary a glimpse of Grief.

Around the end of January though, I began to fret. Grief would be here soon and I needed to be ready, needed to get my house and my heart in order. So, I called him out, late one night. (It's the best time to let Grief in, he's usually eager to visit once the children are sleeping and it's dark and I'm feeling sentimental.)

I decided on a direct, no-nonsense approach: " Listen Grief, I know I'll be seeing you in February - do you know yet whether you're arriving early or will you show up on the 10th exactly?"

Grief didn't answer, which I decided was a good thing. Grief, I thought, was allowing me to set the terms for our relationship, letting me form the boundaries to guard my own heart and giving me a chance to start the new year unbent, whole, not hollow.

And I suppose, in his way, he DID allow me to move through the first 9 days of the shortest month without being too clingy. Oh sure, he accompanied me on a few more car rides than I'd prefer, but he only stuck around through the playing of the songs that remind me of Andrew and I LOVE those songs, so I didn't mind so much.

And he's popped up in unexpected places, too: My parents pinned a photo-button of Uncle Andrew playing hocked onto Luke's lunch pack and though surprised, I was delighted to see it.  For a moment Nostalgia swirled about as I let my fingers move across that button, remarkinghow MUCH Luke reminds me of Andrew, before Grief swooped in stomped out all the happy.


Grief crept into my heart's house yesterday morning. Early, while I slept, defenseless and pliant.  I felt him whisper through my dreams but chased him off - I thought - with a celebration for  two of my favourite mamas, carrying boys in their bellies and dreams in their eyes.

 Ignored Grief peering round the corner as I dressed for a night out with my Across-The-Road-Neighbours and then pretty much slammed the door on Grief's face as we crossed the threshold of a home filled with laughter and friendship and delicious beverages...

Grief - that fucker - snagged me as I wrapped a warm and sleepy Luke in a blanket for the walk across the road to his own waiting bed. I leaned in to kiss his flushed cheek and was struck -  again - by his eerie resemblance to Andrew and suddenly, like a freight train, Grief thundered in.

In fact, Grief draped himself so heavily on my heart, I had to sit on the stairs awhile, cradling my sleeping son, just so I could breath. Grief followed me into sleep, taunting, dancing through my dreams and filling my throat with lumps so huge I could barely swallow.

When I awoke this morning, Grief waved from across the room, eager to greet the day: "It's February 10th! Here I am, despite your best efforts to avoid me. You didn't really think I'd let this date pass without a visit, did you?"


I hate today.

I miss my brother.