Today I’m Reminded…

Today – and most days –, I’m reminded of a woman who I was fortunate to know in my lifetime: She was my Great Aunt M and she was one of the most kind and loving people I’ve ever known. Today is the day she was born and I prefer remembering it than dwelling on the day I witnessed her passing away. Even though I live thousands of miles away from where she once lived, and can’t place yellow flowers on her grave, I pay homage to her memory as often as I can because I learned so much about compassion and unconditional love from her.

She was the kind of person who, although quiet, was strong. Not everyone can survive being put on a ship alone as a young adult and sent thousands of miles away from your family to make your mark in the world. Not everyone would have been able to thrive in a place where they knew no one, but had to prove themselves knowledgeable and capable of saving lives from the very first moment they reported to a new job, but she did. Every person whose life she touched, in even the smallest way, still remembers her. The goodwill of her deeds still lives on in the community where she lived, eventually married, and raised her children.

I’ve been the beneficiary of that goodwill each time I’ve visited her small town and someone has made the connection between who she was and who I am. The pride felt in those moments is overwhelming, and added to the love and respect I already felt for the woman who loved me my whole life. It also made me feel more fortunate that what I know of her came to me, not from her professional life, but from moments that are more intimate. Times where I was fed favourite meals by her, walking with her through the streets of her town on cool summer mornings, sharing cups of tea with her dearest friends after shopping in the local market, or receiving small gifts that always arrived in time for my birthday.

Her memory keeps me positive because every time I think of her I know that somewhere inside me lives the things she taught simply by living her life. I know that I can be strong and survive anything life throws my way. When I am fearful, I know that the courage I need to overcome whatever I’m facing is within me. I know a smile and words of kindness can go a long way to make another person’s day or life better. When I am sad, I have wonderful happy memories in which she lives that I can recall. I know the value of doing good in the world because her work and its legacy live on. Most importantly, I know what it is to be loved unconditionally and what can come of giving love in the same way.

Today I honour the memory of my Great Aunt M and I am grateful I had the opportunity to know her.




My Home Is Quiet Once More

After two weeks of lots of activity and chatter, my home is quiet once more. My cousins returned home, overseas, on Sunday and they left me with great memories and a gaping silence. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up the pace of activity needed to show them a good time and, more importantly, to occupy the attention span of a six-year-old, while still managing to take care of my health, but I somehow managed to do it; and I had fun in the process. Now that they’ve left, my home feels oddly still and quiet, unlike it never has before. To tell the truth I started missing them before they left for the airport.

I didn’t know that having constant company could be so good for my health – emotionally and physically. While my cousins were here, I had a few days of terribly intense pain, but because I wasn’t alone with it, I think I was able to cope better with it than I usually do. I had the foresight to plan rest days in between activity days that involved taking them out to see city sights and some attractions that took us out of the city for the day. Although those days were hard, not missing any pain medication doses and the distraction of chatter and laughter, helped me deal with all the movement and long drives. I also took full advantage of the days that I scheduled for rest, whether it was sleeping in or taking afternoon naps, that my body made it clear I needed – and still do need.

Surprisingly, I was able to cook many of our meals, which I did with pleasure. I think I might have forgotten how much I enjoy cooking for people these past few years while I’ve been ill and, at times, barely able to cook for myself. My cousin was a big help in the kitchen, doing the after-dinner cleanup and helping with some of the prep when I needed it. I don’t think I would have been able to do as much for as many days, if she hadn’t been so supportive. I didn’t even mind getting up early some mornings to make breakfast for my finicky youngest guest, who was very particular about what she would eat for which meals, and how precisely some items had to be prepared. Children’s food preferences don’t always make sense, but I was thrilled when we finally hit on a few items that became acceptable daily staples for her.

Not everything went smoothly for the visit, but nothing ever does in life. They were able to connect with some other family and meet some of my close friends, but most of the 14-day visit was just the three of us. The only hiccups were due to bad weather (rain or extreme heat) that kept us indoors, the odd event not proceeding as planned, or my body making it impossible for me to do much. There were also playdates that never materialized with the children and grandchildren of friends and family, which I had organized in advance to make sure my cousin’s daughter had company close to her age as often as possible to play with, but it was hard getting everyone’s schedules to sync up with so much happening every day.

My Home Is Quiet Once More

With all that activity going on, I didn’t have any time for the anxiety that had gripped me ahead of their arrival to set in again. I also didn’t have much time to myself to do much of the creative things I usually spend my time doing. Before they arrived, I bought my cousin’s little girl crayons, pencils, and markers, and matching sketchbooks for the two of us, thinking that would be a clever way to get us to do something together. Until yesterday, I didn’t drawn a single line in my sketchbook. There was so much activity to plan, whether it was our meals or what attraction or event I had planned for us to do – and I desperately needed the rest days in between – that drawing or doing anything creative was impossible. My cousin’s little girl, however, had plenty of time to play and draw, so my refrigerator is now covered in drawings and handmade birthday cards for which I am truly grateful. When I look at them, my home feels a little less quiet because their bright colours evoke memories of laughter and good company.


A Fortnight Of Busyness

Last year, when my much younger cousin said she wanted to come for a visit with her young daughter, I didn’t give it much thought because they are cousins from a favoured branch of my family tree with whom I enjoy spending my time. When I agreed that they could come, she immediately started scouring the internet for flights she could afford. As soon as she found one, she booked it and there was no going back.

However, as the day of their arrival approached, my anxiety level increased. What was I thinking inviting them – or anyone for that matter – to come stay with me when I know how limited my activity levels can be because of my pain? How am I supposed to handle daily outings to my city’s tourist magnets when some days I can barely handle going from my couch to my kitchen? Not to mention my body’s intolerance of high heat and the back-to-back weather warnings we’ve been getting because of extreme heat over the past few weeks.

Well, the year flew by and they arrived from overseas for their two-week visit yesterday afternoon. When I saw them walk out of the baggage claim area I was so excited to see them that the anxiety that had built up in me was forgotten. I gave my cousin’s little girl a huge hug, then embraced my cousin tightly. It was four years since I last saw them – not including our frequent video calls. It feels good to have them here, in my home, with me. I have activities planned to cover the span of time that they are here, but I’ve included rest days to make sure I don’t overdo it and land in the ER because of my eagerness to make sure they have a good time.

I know my cousin’s main reason for wanting to visit was to spend time with me regardless of my health, but I don’t want them to go home feeling disappointed in any way because of my limited ability do things. I also don’t want to have to resort to sending them out on their own every day or with people they hardly know because I’m in too much pain to move after a few hours out and about. These are some of the many thoughts that contribute to my anxiety. There are more – worse thoughts – but writing them all down means thinking about them, and I much prefer thinking about two of my favourite people in the world being here, just to hang out with me, for two weeks.


“Fly Away” – Lenny Kravitz