Category Archives: Healing

A penny for your thoughts…

Life in the past year and half has been measured by BC and AD, BC meaning “before crash” and AD as in “after Dad”, it used to be “after death” but that sounds much too true…I mean harsh.

The penny has been around my whole life.  From the time I was a little girl I was “collecting” pennies to fill my piggy bank.  The very first stock I ever “bought” was when I was about twelve and it was a “penny” stock.  Now as an adult, I curse the penny eating up space in my wallet and along with most Canadians I happily bid it farewell, or at least I thought it did.

The news has been talking about ending the pennies life for a while now, last week the government announced they are no longer producing pennies and in the very near future the penny will be phased out of businesses.  I read the news quite happy to be getting rid of the littlest pain-in-the-neck brother to the change in my wallet and two hours later I found myself a puddle of tears in bed.

I remember going on a family road trip to somewhere in America as a small Child.  My Dad was on a mission to find a fifty cent coin to show us girls.  We went into small gas stations to ask if they had any, little corner stores, and even asked at restaurants.  Sometimes, if you were really lucky, you would be able to still get your hands on these fifty cent coins.  We never did find any of those coins that trip, but I did find something…I found out how OLD my Dad was!  I mean he was ANCIENT.  Here we were bombing around the US searching for coins for our senior Dad (or so it felt) that surely went out of production a hundred years ago.  In reality it took until 1999 before the fifty cent coin went out of circulation but STILL, my Dad was old enough to know what the coin even was and that made him OLD.

So here I am lying in bed, crying over the end of the penny and I realize, not only will my kids eventually think I am ANCIENT since I lived through the days of pennies and two dollar bills, but it has been FOREVER since my Dad was alive.  My Dad has been gone so long we don’t even use pennies anymore.  Pennies BC, penniless country AD.  It is funny the small things that happen in life that smack you right in the forehead and remind you of your lose.  The penny ending feels like a bully on the playground saying “na-na-na-boo-boo your Dad isn’t a part of this”.  Who knew something so insignificant would bring up so many feelings?

Tomorrow, I am going to search my Dads coin bag for a penny, it will be my memory penny, my last “lucky” penny, my reminder among many of how long it really has been.  A year and a half…slow motion.

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The Sun Will Freeze Before I Do

I promised a lot.
But never that I wouldn’t get back up after you knocked me down.
Never that my broken remains wouldn’t catch fire.
Never that I wouldn’t burn through the ice and snow one more time.
And you can slam your glaciers into to me, so slowly, and even though they hurt, I will not go numb from the cold, I will not pass out from the pain, I will look up at you and the world and whisper through bloody teeth
“More…”

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The Map

I remember.  I forget.  It changes, every day it changes.

I remember so much from those last twenty-four hours with my Dad, yet so little.  I remember the night before his passing, him sitting at his desk downstairs with Sadie on his lap.  He was preparing for his meeting with the buyers of the plane in the morning.  I was helping him clean.  I was off in my own world vacuuming away and Dad starting talking to Sadie “look how good my Jenny is at cleaning those carpets.  She puts the perfect lines in just like her Mom”.  I was proud.  My Dad always made me feel proud of myself, even if it was just for putting vacuum lines in the carpet.  I remember him coming into the room in the basement and complaining about the lighting, the house was new and he was unimpressed with the sparse lighting in the bedrooms downstairs.  I remember him heading out for dinner that night, jealous I couldn’t come along.  One of my favourite things to do with my Dad was to go out and eat, I always enjoyed his company over a big piece of steak.

The next morning, the morning of his death, I remember the conversations we had.  I remember standing around upstairs and chatting with the guys about dating a Saskatchewan boy.  I can still hear the compliments my Dad was giving about me to the other men.  Again, proud.  I remember him looking for a sheet, talking to my Mom on the phone from the office upstairs.  I remember wearing my “gangster-ish” t-shirt and my black cropped sweats.  I cannot remember what he was wearing but I do know it was not the same thing that he died in.  It bothers me I don’t remember this.  I remember his jacket left hanging on the kitchen table.  The same jacket I smelled immediately when I walked through the door of our home after learning he was killed.  Through all the shock, my brain still allowed me the consciousness to smell him in order for the pain to ease.  I wanted to know exactly what he smelt like that morning, I wanted I want, to remember what he was wearing.

I left that morning to head to Saskatchewan.  I had driven that drive many times in my life, but each time, about three hours in, I always felt like I was lost.  I would phone my Dad every time “Dad, I think Im lost”, his response was always the same “Jenelle, you are not”.  I said my goodbyes to the men that morning, I told my Dad I loved him and I would see him in a few days.  I walked out to my car, got inside and thought I should grab a map cause I knew my Dad would be busy that afternoon and I didn’t want to bother him by calling.  I headed back in the house and opened the door “hey Dad, do you mind if I take your map”?  He laughed, “sure you can take my map, you’re going to need it” with another chuckle.  Those were the last words my Dad said to me.

Looking back, seventeen long months later, he was right, I needed his map.  I needed HIS map.  There are times I am lost and I talk to my Dad (who clearly isn’t there) and I say “Dad, I think I am lost” and although he cant respond I know if he could he would say “Jen, you are not”.  When those pretend conversations arise in my mind, I remember my Dad left me a map.  He left me a map of Jesus, a map of navigating through pain, a map of being a good person, a map of loving deeply and not selling myself short with anger, useless questions, and bitterness.  He left me a map of succeeding regardless of the circumstances, a map of being the best me I can be, a map of deep family connection, a map of good choices, a map of pride in who I am.

For each time my mind tricks me into feeling lost, my Dad reminds me I am not…he even gave me a map to prove it.

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

If you havent seen this movie yet, you must…

“If the sun were to explode, you wouldn’t even know about it for eight minutes, because that’s how long it takes for light to travel to us. For eight minutes, the world would still be bright, and it would still feel warm. It was a year since my dad died and I could feel my eight minutes with him running out…”

 

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Memories…

Missing my Dad comes in waves right now.  Sometimes I miss him till it hurts, other times I force myself not to think of him to avoid the pain.  Today, it was as if my every thought was focused on him.  Quinn and I headed off this morning for a busy day of diving.  The water was quite choppy so I closed my eyes and tried to rest.  Within minutes I felt as if I was sitting in the back of my Dads plane.  The rumble of the engines, the wind gusts pushing you from side to side, the way the water lifted you up and then dropped you down leaving your stomach behind.  As long as I kept my eyes closed I felt like I was flying with my Dad again.  I remember the morning he passed away we were sitting around chatting and Dad was talking about how much I liked the plane.  “Jenny Wren just cuddles up in the back and lets the plane rock her to sleep.  She never gets worried, never gets sick, she loves being up in that plane with me”.  I miss flying with my Dad so much, I’m glad today I was able to simulate that feeling again. 

After a big boat ride we headed into the water for our first dive.  We weren’t under the water for more than five minutes before we saw a huge shark swimming alongside of us.  Somehow, I felt like if I turned around my Dad would be right there sharing that moment with me.  We would be swimming through the water together, holding hands and pointing at all the magic we could see.  A few months after my Dad passed Quinn and I decided to get scuba certified.  I called to one company to inquire about their prices and when I told the lady my name she said, “Oh, is the second diver going to be your Dad Chuck”?  I had no clue what she was talking about?  How did she know me or my Dad?  When I asked her what she meant she said almost a year ago my Dad called inquiring about getting scuba certified with his daughter.  He mentioned we would be going to Hawaii that year and it was something we wanted to do together.  Tears filled my mask as I thought of that conversation today.  My Dad and I did talk about getting certified before Hawaii a couple times but I had no clue he had called around to look into it.  I wish so badly we could have shared that together. 

Today I could picture Dad swimming with me.  In my mind I turned around and there he was, wearing his red swim shorts and for some reason his scars seemed very predominate.  My Dad had quite a few scars all over his stomach from the robotics surgery they did to remove his cancer.  Those scars always made me a touch uncomfortable.  When I looked at his scars they seemed like a visible reminder of a separation between him and I.  I never understood what cancer meant to my Dad.  Typically he was an open book; with cancer he was more closed than I had ever known him to be.  He never once divulged with me the depth of fear his cancer brought, he never spoke about the pain of his surgery, and although we discussed many of the consequences after the fact, there was a missing piece that was unspoken until he was treated.  My Dad protected us from the details of his cancer, sometimes it was something I appreciated, sometimes it was something I resented.  I wanted to understand what cancer meant to him but I did not, his scars reminded me of this.  Those scars also were a symbol that my Dad was not untouchable like I had always believed.  Each mark represented the deifying of cancer but they also represented the possibility of harm.  I had always looked at my Dad as big and strong, as someone who was beyond the reach of harm but the scars reminded me that wasn’t the case; I hated them and loved them all at once.  Today, when I pictured my Dad swimming beside me, I pictured his scars.  As I got out of the water I began crying.  The boat swayed me back and forth as memories filled my mind and tears filled my face.  Suddenly a pod of dolphins began dancing around us and I was filled with gratitude as a huge smile of wonder filled my face.  I silently whispered a prayer:  “Thank-you God for allowing me the room to feel through my pain, thank-you for inviting me to grieve without timelines or judgment, thank-you for continually showing me beauty every time my heart aches, thank-you for reminding me this life is still full of so much good.  Thank-you.”

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Merry Christmas

With only a few days away from Christmas my heart begins to weigh more as the countdown to my favourite holiday arrives.  The words above reverberate around in my mind.  This season hurts.  I wish it didn’t, I wish I could change this, but I cannot.

Grace…not perfection.
Grace…not perfection.

Another holiday season without him.  Our first Christmas not masked by intense amounts of grief and shock.  A season of reality.

Grace…not perfection.

I will rehearse these words this holiday season.  I will say them until I mean them.  I will offer my heart more grace than it has been given.

Grace.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.  May this holiday season be filled with all that matters.

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He wept….

“I am angry”
“I hurt”
“where are you god”

these words
require

trust
vulnerability
risk

the space to be honest
the space to be genuine

the space to be
in pain
and still believe

that the
god you ask
these questions of

is still there
that the god you ask
these questions of

is safe.

 

I have always been afraid of my sadness.
I have learnt to smother it, to hide it from the world, from the light, from my consciousness.  Christians are supposed to be happy.  We are allowed our moments of grief, but after a designated time, we are supposed to move on.  The gratitude of salvation, the joy of being forgiven – they ultimately give us hope, make us okay again.  We’re supposed to believe that nothing can separate us from the love of God and not admit those times we feel unloved and separated.
“Don’t forget, we have the victory!  We have won the war!” the church said to me.  “Its just this battle that feels so dark and hard and frustrating”.
The church used Bible verses to defend this point of view.  Yanked verbatim from the pages of the King James Bible, they were quoted and requoted and ultimately turned into weapons.
“All things work together for good”.
“Be anxious for nothing”.
Sadness meant lack of faith.  Unbelief.  There was a point at which sadness intertwined with sin, and thats when others shut down, refused to hear me, assigned it as a problem needing forgiveness.
There is a part of me that is in continual pain.  Sometimes I walk through a crowd of people barely able to keep my composure.  I still cry myself to sleep.  My sadness is sometimes bottomless; it wont let me meet my own eyes in the mirror.

….

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled…
Jesus wept”.
~John 11:33, 35

-Taken from, Stumbling toward Faith by Renee Altson

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One year…

This September 24th my family, along with our extended family and some friends went to the site where my Dads plane crashed one year ago.  It was an overwhelming day.  As we got ready in the morning to head out to Sundre I felt as though I was getting ready for the funeral all over again.  My heart was heavy, my fearful anticipation of the day was large, my body screamed once again “go to bed, pretend this isn’t happening”.

The day was difficult, but the days leading up to the one year anniversary were worse.  It was as though my mind was allowing me to go back to that dreadful day, small snippets at a time.  I would catch myself day dreaming about the night I found out, the images I saw, the words I heard, the details that were told to me.  For the first time, I thought about the nightmare I had the first time I fell asleep after hearing the news.  My pain was overwhelming.

I dreaded going back to the crash site.  The only times I had gone out there I was in complete shock and my mind was so numb I could handle just about anything.  This time would be different though, I knew it and I feared it.  A year later the haze that clouded my mind and heart had somewhat lifted and I was going to the crash site for the first time in a cognizant state.  When I pulled up to the site my heart was racing.  What would I find, what would I feel, could I handle this?  As our vehicle parked I could see people smiling, jokes were being told and suddenly I could see more clearly than I ever had before, people were healing.  Blessed.

I got out and looked around.  Little of what I expected remained.  The grass that was once reduced to ashes was now bright and abundant.  The scorched trees had shredded much of their black burnt scars.  The thistles had thrived from the blazed conditions.  The cows had moved back into their home and disregard the tragedy that once took place in that very spot.  It looked so different.  It looked so full of life that you could barely see the reminder of death.  Suddenly I wasn’t just standing in the place where my father was killed, I wasn’t just picturing what the moment looked like for him, miraculously I was also seeing the place where my Dad met the Lord.  Surprisingly there was a peace that came with that thought.

One year has passed since I lost the most important man of my life.  One year doesn’t make things better, and it doesn’t make my pain less – in actuality my pain has deepened in many ways as reality has slowly allowed itself to settle in my bones.  However, one year later I have much more hope than I had one year ago, and hope is an incredible gift to receive.

I have survived the one year mark.  I have grown in beautiful ways, I have became stronger as well.  I have touched the face of death in such an intimate way, and I walked away a survivor.  I found beauty in pain.  I allowed healing to begin taking place.  I smiled….many, many times each and every day.  I survived, and who knew I could?  I sure didn’t think so.  But miracles still happen every day; my family is a testament to that.

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Same same…

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My tiny teacher…

I was looking through my journal the other day and stumbled across a little note I wrote after my niece Kiya passed away.  On January 7th, 2009 I wrote “When I grow up I want to be like Kiya…I want to fight my way through life in the most peaceful and beautiful way possible”.  With 12 days left until we “celebrate” a year since my Dads passing these words couldnt be more true.  This has been a tough journey to “fight” through, but I am praying I continue to fight through it in the most peaceful way I know how, all the while still seeing the beauty through the pain.

Thank you Miss Kiya Jade – you were the tinniest fighter I knew with some of the greatest lessons to teach me.

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