Sunday, June 26, 2016

Closed Doors and Open Mindedness

Our last few weeks have thrown a lot at our family and yet we're keeping our heads above water. There have been some of the lowest lows and some of the sweetest moments as well...and I guess that just summarizes the whole life experience. You just walk through the worst until somehow you can breathe again and get to a place where routine starts to take over and you find your way back to some sense of "normal".

We experienced "the worst" when we lost our nephew, Mac, to cancer just three weeks ago tonight. It's still pretty raw at times but we certainly have a lifetime of memories that we often talk about and laugh through, in spite of how hard it is missing him.  This weekend, I spent some hours out on the lake on a paddle board, just trying to breathe through the "missing" and hang on to as much of the "memory" as I could. It comes in waves, I swear...and it can be a song or some guy walking down the street whose gait reminds you or some weird sense of overhearing his voice.


We are back to being a family of four but even that is a bit tainted by the events of the weeks since Jason finished his course to be a Certified Harley Davidson Technician. We're really proud of him finishing so well and so happy to have him back home. This week will be the first week of just being home and having time together as the four of us. I'm looking forward to having the boys around more and Jason being home somewhere in the mix.

This past Wednesday, I walked into a meeting at work and learned that my position with the church was being cut. It was a tough few days at first and no small process to get my head and heart around the fact that I was expendable.  I wanted to crawl into bed and stay there but that's not going to change anything so I just continued on with a head full of questions and an aching heart and I think I can say with some sense of optimism, that this too, isn't really something that I am going to let myself lose sleep over.

If I believe what I say I believe, then this is one of those instances where I'm going to believe that there is something out there that will make sense of the timing, if only in hindsight. I will say, however, that I reserve the right to change my optimism to pessimism at will, and I may not feel as resilient in the coming days or weeks.  (Just in case you're keeping track, this means that the only employed person in our household at the moment is our 17 year old, Aidan.)

The thing is...the things I loved about my work are the things I am still able to do. That was the beauty of the past four years though, I was getting paid to do what I really am passionate about.  So, I think, in the scheme of things... losing my job may mean I have less time to do what I am passionate about, but it won't keep me from it. And, on the positive side, some of the most amazing messages of encouragement and affirmation have come from the people in the community that I have been able to get to know and work alongside over the past four years.  I love that they don't feel that anything has to change simply because I'm not employed by a church any longer.


I don't know what's next. I do know that I've gathered an amazing group of friends and family over the years who are able to encourage me to dream, to lament for me and even to offer to go ballistic on my behalf, God love them.... and it's those things that foster the belief that everything really will work out.  Regardless of whether I find the next "dream job" or just find the best way to pay the bills...I'm incredibly aware that I am surrounded by people near and far who are willing to stand, once again, on the cliffs of the valley I have to walk through...and be right there waiting when I come out the other side.  I just spent a weekend with a handful of exactly these kind of people...and it was just what I needed. So, tonight, I unpack what was a great weekend and tomorrow, I pack up an office...and figure out where the next chapter begins. Stay tuned.









Closed Doors and Open Mindedness

Our last few weeks have thrown a lot at our family and yet we're keeping our heads above water. There have been some of the lowest lows and some of the sweetest moments as well...and I guess that just summarizes the whole life experience. You just walk through the worst until somehow you can breathe again and get to a place where routine starts to take over and you find your way back to some sense of "normal".  

We experienced "the worst" when we lost our nephew, Mac, to cancer just three weeks ago tonight. It's still pretty raw at times but we certainly have a lifetime of memories that we often talk about and laugh through, in spite of how hard it is missing him.  This weekend, I spent some hours out on the lake on a paddle board, just trying to breathe through the "missing" and hang on to as much of the "memory" as I could. It comes in waves, I swear...and it can be a song or some guy walking down the street whose gait reminds you or some weird sense of overhearing his voice.


We are back to being a family of four but even that is a bit tainted by the events of the weeks since Jason finished his course to be a Certified Harley Davidson Technician. We're really proud of him finishing so well and so happy to have him back home. This week will be the first week of just being home and having time together as the four of us. I'm looking forward to having the boys around more and Jason being home somewhere in the mix.

This past Wednesday, I walked into a meeting at work and learned that my position with the church was being cut. It was a tough few days at first and no small process to get my head and heart around the fact that I was expendable.  I wanted to crawl into bed and stay there but that's not going to change anything so I just continued on with a head full of questions and an aching heart and I think I can say with some sense of optimism, that this too, isn't really something that I am going to let myself lose sleep over.

If I believe what I say I believe, then this is one of those instances where I'm going to believe that there is something out there that will make sense of the timing, if only in hindsight. I will say, however, that I reserve the right to change my optimism to pessimism at will, and I may not feel as resilient in the coming days or weeks.  (Just in case you're keeping track, this means that the only employed person in our household at the moment is our 17 year old, Aidan.)

The thing is...the things I loved about my work are the things I am still able to do. That was the beauty of the past four years though, I was getting paid to do what I really am passionate about.  So, I think, in the scheme of things... losing my job may mean I have less time to do what I am passionate about, but it won't keep me from it. And, on the positive side, some of the most amazing messages of encouragement and affirmation have come from the people in the community that I have been able to get to know and work alongside over the past four years.  I love that they don't feel that anything has to change simply because I'm not employed by a church any longer.


I don't know what's next. I do know that I've gathered an amazing group of friends and family over the years who are able to encourage me to dream, to lament for me and even to offer to go ballistic on my behalf, God love them.... and it's those things that foster the belief that everything really will work out.  Regardless of whether I find the next "dream job" or just find the best way to pay the bills...I'm incredibly aware that I am surrounded by people near and far who are willing to stand, once again, on the cliffs of the valley I have to walk through...and be right there waiting when I come out the other side.  I just spent a weekend with a handful of exactly these kind of people...and it was just what I needed. So, tonight, I unpack what was a great weekend and tomorrow, I pack up an office...and figure out where the next chapter begins. Stay tuned.









Thursday, June 16, 2016

Wise Choices

I know that many people consider family to be something they treasure above all else. For most of our married life, Jason and I have lived more than just a few hours away from our extended family and so, while the four of us have carved out our own little gang, we know that we belong to a larger group of people. Our peeps. The Fam. But, in the days in between, we know too, that our friends have moved into the space a close by family would normally fill. Watching the boys when they were small. Vacationing with us in those early days when a camping trip meant waking up at 4 am with the birds and sleeping in the Jeep because the ground was just too chilly for a toddler in a pull-up. Figuring out the phases and stages of life and assuring us that they would pass...and then celebrating them with us when they did.  Watching our boys play sports. Buying the cookie dough, perogies and whatever else they were selling to fundraise for whatever they were up to and giving up their bottles and cans for whatever else they were up to. Our friends and neighbours watched as Aidan's height surpassed the fence line and he drove his first car home. Our friends pick up and drop off our boys on nights to babysit their own kids, as they begin the stages and phases that we assure them will pass. When we're young our parents try to impress on us how important it is to choose our friends wisely. Sometimes friends choose you against their better judgement and it all works out beautifully as well.

When you lose someone you love, whether they are related by blood or not, you begin to understand that "family" doesn't always mean related. As intensely as we have felt the loss of our nephew this week, we know that there are a group of friends and teammates that feel it equally. This weekend, I was so moved by the way that Mac's friends came together and really celebrated who he was. We sat in the service and I looked over to my left where the room was filled with teenagers and I noticed the front row filled with Toronto Maple Leaf jerseys, worn by his closest friends. When they got up and shared stories of Mac, I realized that they knew the Mac that we knew. Sometimes when you go to a memorial service or funeral, it seems as though those speaking are trying to gloss over the parts of life that are less appealing, sometimes it seems they don't know the person. These kids knew Mac. Isn't that what we all search for in life, whether knowingly or not? To be known so well and loved as much?

Listening to Mac's friends, I was surprised to actually feel happiness.  I heard them tell stories about Mac that made sense to me, knowing him. As they spoke, I could tell that they knew Mac and they loved him deeply. I heard them talk about his quirks and characteristics and they were the same ones we saw and admired and even wondered about. They spoke about Mac with that affection and admiration that only young men and women seem capable of...real love and rolled eyes at the thought of the oddities that friendship with Mac would often involve. They talked about life with Mac in the midst of it and I realized that the hole that Mac has left in our lives is amplified in theirs. Their day to day included Mac. Their driving to and from school. Playing sports. Defending against his goals despite being on the same team. Overcrowded bunk beds and underachieving French scholars.  They knew his laugh. His sly smile. His quiet humour. His uncommon knowledge of sports and statistics. They knew Mac. And they miss him. But, in each of them, I could see that something of Mac remained. Some small light that when they spoke of him, grew in their eyes and spread amongst them. I wish I could have sat with them for hours, and listened and compared notes...because while Mac is gone, his memory will stay with them. They are the ones who will go into the future with their friend internalized in their hearts.

Kelly, Carson, Connor, Mackenzie and Scott...

They say you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends...and given this crew, I'd say Mac made some great choices. 





PS. Caught this tribute to Mac on the Jay and Dan podcast .... these guys were favourites of Mac's. 



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Hole in our Hearts

“Sometimes, only one person is missing, and the whole world seems depopulated.”
–Alphonse de Lamartine, Méditations Poétiques

Mackenzie Wiebe. Mac. Our Mac. 
March 27, 1997 ~ June 5th, 2016
and a million memories in between. 

Rock Lake - Christmas 2015

The cousins. 


Snowball fight on Rock Lake

Mac's 19th birthday...one of a few we got to celebrate with him at our house

Mac and Aidan



Mac and Aidan - road hockey tournament in 2014




This boy. So loved.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Liturgy in Leaving


I haven't been able to post much of what's going on in our lives these days...mostly because it's either mind numbingly mundane or it's heart wrenchingly personal. I will say that that pretty much sums up the lived experience, doesn't it?

Right now, the boys and I are counting down the last few weeks of Jason being out of province. We were happy to catch up with him this past long weekend at his parents' place in Manitoba. We spent three full days of family time as 4+ the dog and it was awesome.

I've never been good at goodbyes and over the years, I have been known to lament a goodbye in advance of the actual event and have given myself added grief when I could have been enjoying the company of those I was loathe to leave. I haven't got much better at this but I have improved somewhat, knowing that it only robs me of the joy in the moment, the good in the togetherness.

I find it easier too, if I know when I will see the person or place again. I mean, we can all hang in for a definite amount of time, as long as we know what it is. We can busy ourselves or distract ourselves in the longing to be back together, as long as we are promised it. When I leave Zambia or Zimbabwe, Ethiopia or even friends just south of the border that I love, I rely on the return date to get me to the airport without shredding my ticket and jumping off the bus.

This time, saying goodbye to Jason was eased a little by the fact that we are in the home stretch of his 4.5 month stint in Alberta. We're down to 3 weeks and some hours and it seems incredibly manageable though still not super enjoyable...but the end is in sight.

One of the reasons we went out to Manitoba this past weekend, was that our nephew, Mac, is declining in health. They were out here in March and we celebrated his 19th birthday with him...one of a few birthday celebrations we've been lucky enough to have with him in our home. His memory of going to the Monster Trucks in Reno, NV with us is a strong one...while Lloyd and I have mixed emotions about our decision to take Mitch, Aidan and Mac to a venue filled with exhaust fumes and passionate-post-9-11 Americans shooting accusing glances at us for not covering our hearts with our hands during the national anthem. (or maybe that was just paranoia on my part...) Either way, who knew the anthem was so long or so awkward?

This birthday, Aidan drove Mac and Kamerin to a Saskatoon Rush game and the three of them had a great time, taking in lacrosse and the equally passionate fans of the game here in our city. 19 seems like a lifetime ago for me but I can remember that it was the year I left for a year on my own in Australia and figured out a whole lot of who I was and what I wanted in life.

19.

And that's where the words leave me.

I know the next few weeks and months are a balance of celebrating the good in every day, something that Kim and Lloyd and their family are exemplifying so beautifully, and anticipating grief. It's hard to stay in the "see the good" moments when the anticipation threatens to plunge you into premature grieving.

"They" say it's a process but I don't know where we're at in it all. I know that there is mediocrity in the midst of the heart wrenching reality, and that it all comes together into a sharp and painful but intensely incredible beauty as well, watching someone so loved, be loved and cared for.  There is a gift in the ability to see it but sometimes there just seems to be too many tears to see anything clearly right now.