Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Weep with those who weep

Two years ago in January I got an email from a friend saying "can you call me please." That email was in response to a message I had sent simply saying "???????????????????"

A month or so earlier she had gone for her annual mammogram and had been called back because of some anomalies in the scan. They told her 'don't worry, it's very common' and yet we had worried. And so, on the scheduled day I waited and wondered and I sent the '???' email asking for the update. Of course, what I wanted to hear - what we had both convinced ourselves we would hear - was 'everything is fine; it was a false alarm; no worries' but what I got was 'can you call me please'. I knew then, of course, that it wasn't good news. You don't give bad news over email. You share bad news in person - or at least 'in voice'. And so I called. And we talked. And talked. And talked.

That was two years ago January. This January she was given a very positive report - following the surgery and treatment that she'd endured back in 2007 - and told 'see you next year'. The best words possible.

My friend is - apart from me maybe - the most private person I know. She told 7 people that she had breast cancer. Her partner (who was overseas for most of that year), me and 3 other friends, her sister, and her boss. That was it. She went for her appointments - grudgingly agreeing to have one of her friends accompany her to the first one - had her surgery and her treatments and continued her day to day work. Amazing. She never told her staff, her co-workers, her peers - no one outside of those 7 people. For weeks she went to Princess Margaret in the morning and then arrived late at work. She's sure her staff wondered about her absences; gossiped; made up stuff; whatever. And yet she was adamant that no one know. She didn't want anyone to feel sorry for her, to cut her any slack because she was 'sick', to know her personal life. She faced her dark night of the soul almost entirely alone. Doing housework to keep her mind occupied; talking, albeit briefly, to her four closest friends; working extra hours.

I often wondered - considering now pathologically private I am as well - how I might react in a similar circumstance. I expect that I would do this same thing. I expect that I would be even more private. In fact, I know that I would.

I so admire people who have a network they can reach out to. Friends they can commiserate with. In the words of St. Paul 'rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep'

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The common cup

At tonight's Ash Wednesday service I was reminded of something that happened to me many, many years ago at another parish.

One of the couple's in the church were getting married and, because the bride was Spanish speaking, had requested that Fr. Hernan Astudillo from the parish of San Lorenzo co-officiate at their wedding.

The first time I saw Fr. Hernan was at the altar rail when he came to church to meet with the couple. I was administering the chalice and when I offered it to Fr. Hernan - although at the time I had NO idea who he was - he placed both of his hands over mine and took the cup to his mouth. It was as if his hands enveloped mine and we shared the cup in a personal and somewhat intimate manner. It connected us and yet we had never met. I found myself captivated ......I never forgot.

I've always appreciated when a hand is placed over mine when I receive the host because I think it matters. It's a personal connection that establishes a bond. A tender, gentle, fleeting - yet at the same time lasting - bond.

I thought of Fr. Hernan tonight; I think I'll put into practice what so charmed me those many years ago.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Stuff, stuff, stuff ................


My son is moving back to Toronto after having lived in Saskatoon for two years. My son and Buddy, his 2 1/2 year old Labrador, that is.

And so, in order to get ready to have him with us until they get settled, get a job and an apartment of his own (one that will take him AND Buddy) we began to move things around. And discovered – as if we didn’t already know it – that we have WAY TOO MUCH STUFF.

It’s not as if the stuff we have is of great value. The massive newel posts that my husband always thought would make a great four poster bed (yeah, sure if you live in a castle!); dresser drawers that neither son wanted to take when they left home and so we kept – and filled the drawers with, you got it, more stuff; pieces of marble that the boys were given in lieu of payment for a construction job they did several years ago; a chess table that my husband made for me before we were married - and when I say ‘table’ I mean TABLE. It’s a coffee table sized chess board. The chess men are gone (actually only went into the recycle last year when he accepted how badly deteriorated they had become) but the table remains. Sentimental? Sure – but take a picture for heavens sake and let’s move on. But I digress. He has enough tools to put Ty Pennington and ‘This Old House’ to shame and enough DVD’s to open his own Blockbuster. But to be fair it’s not all his stuff. I have more books than many small town libraries; had to pack some of them into 4 large bins to make space in my son’s room. We still have my mother-in-laws old kitchen dishes – she died in 1987. We have at least a half dozen coolers and we hate picnics. We have enough wine glasses to cater a formal wedding and we seldom entertain. I’m sure you get my drift.

We have WAY too much stuff. My view is to get rid of much of it. The coolers, the wine glasses, the chess table – things we haven’t seen or thought of for 10 years. The space saved from getting rid of that stuff will mean that the things we’re keeping won’t seem so overwhelming. At least they’ll have a place to be kept. It’s really hard for my husband to give up things – to get rid of anything. After all, he may just make that four poster bed some day. It’s a challenge and more stuff comes in every day. He has trouble resisting a bargain – came home last week with a gravy separator, a scale and new kitchen silverware (which came in a large wooden box) and so the stuff continues to grow. And then you get stuff in the mail. Today I got an ‘appreciation’ gift from a company that I found myself thinking ‘hmmm, this may come in handy some day’…..arghhh ….. throw it away!


Gonna starting culling.

Will keep you posted.