Thursday, March 28, 2019


I'm just plain tired today. This week has zapped my energy. I woke up with no reserves left so I'm doing my best to put self care front and center today.

Two of us waited together while our friend got fluid drained from her abdomen yesterday. We cried. Then we cried some more with our friend when she was done. We have no crystal ball but we sense that time is short. It was hard.

I spent the evening with my mother in law last night. She is a bit confused but her long term memory is good. I don't waste energy correcting her in times such as when she introduces me as her sister in law. We visit and have long silences. I am grateful to have cultivated the patience for silence. I don't have to fill empty space.

She has no idea that her time is short. She muses aloud for where she might go live next. She asks my opinion on how to cover her bald head when she goes to church. I don't bother telling her that there will be no more trips to her church where church rules insist that she cover her head. She worries that the flowers on her little cap will be seen as too much by some people. She told me that some of the people she worships with, the ones who think they will be the only ones in heaven, are stupid. I never know what's going to come out of her mouth.

I tiptoed out of her room once she had been asleep for a while. Mercifully she stayed sleeping. Earlier this week, when I was trying to leave while she slept, she woke up and called my name. I went back and she told me to say hello to Dearest One and my children from her. There is a propriety that is lovely in her generation. Manners. My mother on her death bed thanked her sister for coming to visit.

I am (perhaps too much so) a stickler when it comes to my grandchildren learning manners. They have no idea it's because I struggle to remember to use those basic social niceties. I've tended to bark orders and be demanding. That has softened with age and healing, really. But I still have to work at it.

Years ago, when my children were small, my brother in law was staying with us for a while. I came downstairs to the breakfast table and starting barking out something or other to one of my kids. He took a sip of his coffee, put down his cup and said to me, "Good morning to you, too."

Today I am grateful for being given enough days to grow and change. And tonight I will definitely be grateful for my bed.

Monday, March 25, 2019


What a grueling weekend. So much travel compressed in what felt like, a short amount of time. One of Dearest One and my favourite things to do together is go on a road trip so that part was lovely. We talked deep things. We belly laughed. There were tears. Sad about the death that happened. Sad about my mother in law and her health. Inside her nearly 90 year old body she is that little girl over there jumping rope.

This morning I will go sit with her. She was moved unexpectedly to hospice over the weekend. I suspect that the hospital needed her bed just as she desperately needed a bed after spending 3 nights in ER. She is waiting to hear about the funeral of her son in law and so we will chat and I will ask her for memories to be written down on special cards I brought home from the funeral for that purpose. In speaking with my sister in law she is very much looking forward to reading these memories of her husband.

My sister in law and I held hands across the lunch table with our arms outstretched towards one another for a good while. It was the closest we were going to get to a hug due to space limitations and the situation. We then had a conversation while mostly oblivious to people around us. We were interrupted several times and I watched her face as people squeezed in between chairs to get to her in order to offer condolences. I watched as she dealt with the onslaught of well meaning and good hearted people. It looked exhausting.

We are blessed with oodles of nieces and nephews and it worked out that we sat among some of them at the post service meal. Mostly we encourage them in their parenting. That they are likely doing better than they give themselves credit for. I often share the story of a friend telling me, when I was the parent of young children, that there is no A given in parenting, only E for effort. At the time I desperately wanted an A and felt I was getting an F. So many parents do.

This generation is more relaxed than the one Dearest One grew up in. He was raised in an ultra conservative religion where you can be in a congregation numbering in the hundreds and never hear a peep out of an infant or a child. We talked with a niece and her husband yesterday about the kind of parenting that matters so much more than if your two year old can sit quietly in church. We listened to their struggles. We did our best to make inner space to hear what was on their heart. I'd like to think we connected.

And so here it is Monday morning. A full week ahead. My heart hurting for my sick friend who was in such pain and despair last night that, had it not been pitch black and her home over 2 hours away, I would've gotten in my car to go to her. We were both crying miles apart. I was scared she wouldn't be here this morning.

This week has some heavy stuff in it. I hope for the grace to walk lightly.

Friday, March 22, 2019


This is my second day of quiet after a busy start to the week and ahead of a busy weekend. I chose to do nothing yesterday except make supper. It was a relief not to get in the car and go anywhere. I read. I listened to a podcast. I crocheted some more on a blanket I'm making for a charity auction.

I cried this week with my friend when she found out that chemo is not working and her cancer has spread. There are moments when it feels like the world stands still.

Yesterday family met with the palliative care doctor and plans were made to move my mother in law to hospice next week. She cried. She has always said she is 16 years old inside. She has been young at heart the whole time I've known her. We hadn't told her about the death of her son in law because she was supposed to have a risky procedure and we wanted to spare her the stress beforehand. They went to do it and found what they think is cancer on her heart. The risks outweighed the benefit of the procedure. She was told yesterday about her son in law. She cried.

I had to stop writing for a few minutes because typing all that made me cry. I love my mother in law. She is the last one living of our parents. There was a long time when she felt like more of a mother to me than my own mother did. She dug deep and loved me when I was not particularly lovable in words or actions. She showed me there could be loving mother in laws in this world.

We will head out to see youngest son and his wife tomorrow. No baby yet. Maybe not for a while. I finished this baby's blanket this week. It's not quite a record but there was one grand baby who was three before I finished her blanket.

We will then go to the funeral of Dearest One's brother in law. His sister lost her husband and welcomed a new grand baby within the space of two days this week. Often this world makes no sense.

Oldest grandchild will come for a sleepover tonight. There is nothing like learning to live in the present than hanging out with a child. I can look forward to laughter. There is always laughter when life includes grandchildren.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Live It Fully

It's been another full week and now a full weekend. All about people and relationships.

I started typing that yesterday and life got busy and now it's Monday morning. The moon shining through the window woke me up. When we lived in the country the moon would shine directly on my face at one point during the night. I cannot think of a better alarm clock. Except grandchildren.

Yesterday oldest grandson woke me up by crawling into our bed. We turned on the TV and watched some kind of racing (NASCAR?) for a bit before making our way downstairs in anticipation of having brunch with his parents. After we were done our meal, and sitting around the table, I felt a kinship with my mother which made me miss her keenly. Brunch at her house with kids and grandkids most likely did for her spirit what it does for mine.

Later I talked with both granddaughters on the phone. The youngest one is just learning to talk and she loves to say, Hi Nana to me like a record stuck on repeat. I so wish these two lived closer. It's like an ache in my heart not to be able to see them more often. I love that video chats keep us connected in between times.

Youngest grandson is on his way. His parents were visiting us this weekend when it became apparent that he was going to have a March birthday instead of an April one. That necessitated an air ambulance ride to the largest centre many hours south of us. I thought he was going to have a St. Patrick's Day birthday but that didn't happen. He and his parents are in a great hospital and maybe today will be his birth day. I haven't slept with my cell phone beside my bed since my parents were alive. I far prefer anticipating a birth.

My mother in law is very ill in the hospital and I've spent hours at her bedside the past ten days. Pain medication has evaporated her filter so conversation with her is very entertaining. We are getting to hear what she really thinks about life and people. (It makes me glad that I generally speak my mind sans drugs. I don't want to be 90 years old and having people see the real me on my death bed.) She will undergo a procedure this week that has a high risk to it. We are hopeful it will give her some relief. We are almost 130 people counting spouses and several levels of grandchildren. Her room has been full of visitors and there was something special about being among 6 of her adult grandchildren in her hospital room the other day. What better legacy can you leave than one that says you were well loved?

Monday, March 11, 2019


This past week has been so full. People. Circumstances. Sadness. Joy. The days held all of it.

I didn't feel like having company come stay for a few days. For the first time ever I looked around the house and saw the mess that it was and thought to myself  the hell with it and, other than making sure the guest bedroom and bathroom were clean, I welcomed distant relatives into my house as I live in it. Not as I would like them to think I do. There simply wasn't any left over emotional or physical energy to care.

The day they arrived my afternoon had been full with a friend whose days are limited, while she had chemo and then a medical procedure. I'd spent the morning at a psychiatric evaluation. I went into it with an attitude that the psychiatrist was on my side and I had an open mind despite being told by several in-the-know people to avoid this particular doctor if at all possible. He turned out to be kind and caring and attentive. I felt heard. I don't have to see him again. That's a bonus.

I enjoyed our visit with our guests quite a bit. It turned out that it didn't matter in the end that we all had to step over toys and socks and odds and ends. The dining room table was clear and we had comfy chairs to sit in after meals. I didn't plan meals and winged it. If you know me at all you know that is not my style. And it turned out fine. You open cupboards and your fridge and figure it out. We didn't go hungry.

We had a few hours of respite after they left before Dearest One's elderly mom was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. I've spent many hours at the hospital since then. The emergency ward is a busy and interesting place. A baby born right outside the doors of the hospital. Emergencies of all kinds coming and going. At one point there were so many paramedics and I heard one of them ask if the hospital had been put on alert so that no one else could be brought to ER by ambulance until things calmed down.

My mother in law has a wonderful sense of humour. She had 11 of her 12 kids in  not much more than a dozen years. I like to imagine her humour saved her sanity more than once. It has been a privilege to sit at her bedside and visit, including the moments when her mind wanders and her facts are all mixed up. Sometimes that is entertaining and sometimes it is heartbreaking. She has been kind and gracious to me my whole married life despite her trying to talk Dearest One out of marrying me the night before we got married. Once those vows were said she welcomed me as a daughter and treated me as such. I know she must have cried in private and prayed a lot. We have long enjoyed one another's company.

And now as I finish writing this it is Monday morning. There is a full day ahead and then some quiet days following. It is all good. It is all a gift.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Breathing Deeply

The other day my massage therapist was working on my rib cage and man, it sure hurt. She commented that when a person has spent an extended period of time in freeze mode then, due to shallow breathing, muscles and ribs tend to stick to one another. I have 56 years of doing that so no wonder it hurt to have those tissues worked on. She was working on my mastectomy side where there isn't a lot of extra tissue anyway.

I've been working on my breathing. Spending some time daily practicing breathing deeply. I'm hoping there are long term benefits to be had. At the best of times the low oxygen level in my blood is borderline for qualifying for government sponsored oxygen supplementation.

Sometimes in sessions with my therapist big emotions surface and she reminds me to breathe through it and let the feelings flow through. My default is to hold my breath and panic. Disassociate. I am slowly learning that it's really true that I survived a shit ton of trauma and that there is nothing to be afraid of in the here and now.

Since starting medication I can wake in the night now and calm my amygdala down by reminding it there is nothing for me to spend time worrying about so go back to sleep. And most of the time that is exactly what I do. The more times I can remind myself I am safe, either in the night or the day, the more I have a chance of living in the now. The more chance I'll have of redirecting my thoughts when I get triggered by something in the past.

The more I can shift from freeze mode, the more automatic it will become to breathe deeply.