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Thursday March 11, 2021
Saturday March 13 marks one year since my wife’s death. Originally, we planned to have her memorial service a week after she died.
Joan had worked with our minister at the time to plan a service that reflected her preferences.
In the 15 years she spent working at the United Church of Canada’s national offices in Toronto, the most inspiring were as administrative assistant in the worship portfolio. She developed a deep appreciation for the church’s sacraments. Even though it is not normally included in memorial services, she wanted to have communion at her service.
She couldn’t have anticipated that the day after her death, the province would go into Covid-19 lockdown.
Somehow, I thought that the new rules would not apply to anything as earth-shaking as Joan’s death. We would have a service at our church, regardless.
Grief tends to over-react that way.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: death, memorial services
Driving to town the other day, I ran into a patch of valley fog.
Suddenly, clear air and bright sky vanished. I was swaddled in translucent cheesecloth. The centreline’s yellow tape scrolled out ahead of me, measuring time and distance to nowhere. The paved road, grey and gritty close up, merged into mist, dissolving into invisibility.
I felt as if I was driving down a metaphor.
Because, only moments before, I had been pondering the process of aging. Another colleague from former years had died.
The road ahead felt uncertain, unsure.
Tags: future, death, fog, rear-view mirror, road
The dogwood tree stood as a pillar of creamy white blossom. The hawthorn tree celebrated with a joyful chorus of deep pink flowers. Azaleas flamed fluorescent -- white, orange, red, violet, yellow. Purple allium heads tried to look like computer visualizations of a coronavirus. The rhododendrons toasted the morning in deep claret and white.
Lilacs, shaded from Ming to Wedgewood, ensured that this was not a fragrance-free zone.
Tiny yellow, white, and blue flowers cascaded down the rock garden. A septet of humming birds danced around their feeders. A great blue heron rose lazily from the lake below, trailing his legs behind him.
And there was evening and there was morning, in the four billionth year, and God saw that it was good.
Joan would have loved it. She would have rejoiced in her garden. I could not imagine how she could willingly leave it.
Tags: heaven, death, Joan Taylor
I'll use this space for an event I don't want to, and can't, ignore.
My wife Joan died Friday evening, March 13. She had wanted to die at home, but on Thursday morning she realized that her illness was getting beyond my ability to look after her. Hiring staff to come in was a possibility, but Joan herself felt that she needed to change her mind and check into a hospice.
We moved her into Hospice House in Kelowna Thursday afternoon. Although she was very tired and very weak, she was able to take part in conversations with her visitors that afternoon.
The next morning she was unconscious, having great difficulty breathing, with no indication that she could respond at all to us or to other visitors. Just before 11:00 she took her last breath and was at peace. If you go now to the full page, you can read her obituary, and the eulogy that Sharon would have given at Joan's memorial service -- which of course cannot happen during this corona virus shutdown of all services.
Tags: eulogy, death, Joan Taylor, obituary
My wife Joan has been handling the gradual decline of her life with astonishing composure. But occasionally, the veneer cracks, and I realize how fragile she is, physically and emotionally. I try to imagine myself into her experience, and can’t – inevitably, I drift off into my story, not hers.
So as once before, I’ve chosen the ruthless structure of classical haiku – three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables – to enforce some discipline on my monkey mind.
Walking on water
ice fractures under my feet
fall into nothing
Tags: dying, death, unknown
’m not sure what I believe about life after death. I’m quite sure that I don’t believe in life before life.
When I was about ten, my mother told me that my father had proposed to another woman, before he met my mother.
He had finished his Master’s degree. He had signed up to go to India as a missionary with the United Church of Canada. He invited this other woman to go with him.
She said no.
By a fortunate coincidence for me, my mother went to India about the same time, as a Presbyterian missionary from Northern Ireland. My parents met at language school. Six years later they had me.
Even at the age of ten, it occurred to me that if that other woman had said “Yes,” I wouldn’t be who I was. I would be someone else. Maybe even –horrors – a girl!
Tags: birth, death, Souls, conception, predestination
I lost my closest friend a week ago. Although we don’t normally describe a dog as a friend.
But over the last 12 years, I probably spent more time with her than with any human being. She was always happy to take part in whatever I might be doing. Always ready for a walk or a hike, a swim or a car ride. To anywhere. She listened to my
musings without contradicting me or correcting me. She seemed to prefer my company to anyone else on earth.
“Friend” almost seems too weak a word for her.
Her name was Phoebe. A Chesapeake Bay Retriever. She adopted my wife and me when she was two. And from then on gave us total devotion.
But age caught up with her. Joints that once could run and swim all day developed painful arthritis. By the end of her life, she couldn’t put any weight on her left front paw. Her right hind leg tended to collapse without warning, leaving her sprawled awkwardly on the road, or tumbling down the stairs on her back.
We knew her time had run out. We made an appointment with the vet.
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: dog, death, Phoebe
I woke during the night, a while ago, with my mind racing. It was very dark. Heavy clouds hid the moon and stars. Our rural area has no street lights. And at 3:00 a.m., no neighbouring houses had any lights on.
Rather than tossing and turning, and probably waking Joan, I got out of bed, and went to our living room where I could look out the front windows.
I could see a few lights across the lake. I could make out the vague reflective sheen of the lake, the darker bulk of the hills on the far side, some humps that might be bushes in our garden.
Nothing moved. It was very peaceful. Almost holy.
` After a while, calmed and quieted, I decided I could go back to bed.
Tags: darkness, dying, death, doorways
When it’s time for me to go,
I drift to the edges
of the bubbling broth
and then I slip
into the night outside.
Tags: death, departure
“All the leaves have gone,” sang The Mamas and the Papas in their short but brilliant musical career.
Their words come to mind as I look out my office window. Joan and I planted a Japanese red maple out there, 20 years ago. All its leaves have gone.
Except for two lonely twigs that still have bright red leaves clinging to their tips. The twigs lash about in winter winds. But those last leaves won’t let go.
Perhaps I should go outside and say a prayer for the last leaves on my maple tree. So that they can let go too.
Tags: life, death, autumn, leaves, atonement