As Life Rolls On

As a friend of mine always says, "We plan, God laughs." You never know what life will bring, but the ride can be a blast!

Friday, June 29, 2007

May Reflections: On Family

I have been somewhat remiss is posting on my blog over the past month. No excuses, it's just a testament to the busyness of my life. It has not stopped me from reflecting on the issues and thoughts that I have closely entertained since the month of May however. This is especially true around my reflections on family.

Families can be a blessing, or they can be a curse. Families can build up the individuals that make the whole, or either intentionally or unintentionally cause hurt that fragments the whole. Families can pull together during times of stress and/or tragedy, or they can splinter. Families can support and rejoice with each other during times of joy, or they can not see the importance of doing so.

I have seen some of my own family members be disappointed and very hurt by those who are their family. There has been tears from the hurt, there has been anger over the constant disappointments and let downs, there has been righteous indignation over "how could someone who's supposed to be family do something like that...........THAT'S NOT WHAT FAMILY SHOULD DO!" I am saddened to say, there has been some deletion of phone numbers from speed dial and phone books. I also consider us fortunate, as that is NOT reflective of who WE are and what we stand for as a family.

The importance of family is at the very core of who I am. I have had excellent role models with this, in that my parents always ensured the family was central (with God as the number 1 priority). My children (which includes my in law children) and my husband are the centre of my world. My parents are my mentors. My brothers and sisters (which includes my many in law sisters and brothers) are my closest friends. I love my many nieces and nephews as if they were my own and would not hesitate to support them in any way when necessary. We are not a "huggy kissy, sit on top of each other" kind of family, but boy are we there for each other when needed.

The closeness of my family has never been so apparent than the last many months. Jennifer thinks nothing of giving her brothers a place to crash when they need it, or dishing out "sisterly advise" when needed. The boys just have to look at each other, and they burst into giggles without saying anything. As Jason put it at his wedding.........brothers forever. When I recently flew home for my Nana's funeral at the last minute, the kids all made sure I was well taken care of. When Bruce and I flew home for the wedding (yes, Ontario will always be home), Kevin & Jenn thought nothing of asking Bruce to help build a deck while we were there. They just knew it wasn't an issue, after all, that's what family's for, to help each other.

My own brothers and sisters display that same quality. As soon as everyone heard about Jason & Alyson's wedding, trips were booked. Representation from every family was present. Some of those individuals who could not make it called Jason during the reception and spoke to him via cell. That little gesture had a huge impact on both he and Aly. Between the family shower, the rehersal dinner and the wedding, different family members stepped forward to help in whatever way they could. The icing on the cake for me was when we all hooked up for breakfast the morning following the wedding. Although due to distance we don't physically see each other very often, when we are together, it's as if we all see each other daily. It's always a hoot.

I don't think I was ever as proud of my family as I was 2 weeks ago with Nana's death. All my siblings made it home (for some it was a comedy of errors, but we all made it). Dad was a rock, and might I say a "hero" under the circumstances. Mom did a very difficult and brave thing by staying with Nana full time to ensure her wishes were fulfilled. Dad put out to everyone that Nana wanted a band to play at her funeral. 14 grandchildren and great grandchildren showed up with instruments. 2 of her grandsons and 3 great grandsons took their instruments to the internment to play. I could go on and on.

Needless to say, the more that time goes on, the more I realize how fortunate that I am. My children who are married have each married into families where family is key. I truly am blessed, as I have a family that has always been, is still, and will always be supportive of each other. In a world that has become increasingly more global, increasingly more self centred, and in a North American culture that does not promote extended family closeness and support, we are becoming a rarity.

Here's some of my recent family pictures since July (oh ya, I cheated a bit, I have some of Cathy's in here as well)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

May Reflections: On Goodbyes

As I drove to work the morning we were leaving for Toronto (I worked 1/2 a day), I got the call from Dad letting me know that my Nana had been diagnosed with lung cancer and the prognosis was that we would have about 6 more months with her, if that. It was not a call I ever expected to get. Nana is 91 years old. She almost seemed invincible, however I expected to get a call at some point to say that she had passed away quietly in her sleep of old age, not that she would have to suffer due to cancer in her final days. I was surprised by my reaction to the news, as it was quite strong. I had to pull over to the side of the road for a minute to get over the shock.

I would not say that I am, or ever was overly close to my Nana. There has always been a bit of a distance there, not just geographically, but for many reasons, especially as an adult, I have kept myself at a bit of a distance from her emotionally as well. I believe that that comes out of my nature to be very protective of those I love most and feel closest to. I do however love my Nana dearly and have great respect for her and recognize that she has not always had an easy life. As such, I have always ensured that I have kept contact with her and that my children had a love and respect for her as a great grandmother as well.

As we were going "home" for Jason & Alyson's wedding, Bruce & I took a day to drive north to spend a day with Nana. We had a wonderful visit. Nana was dressed to the hilt in her red suit and dressy blouse. Although she has become physically frail, she was bright and coherent. We went for a walk around the neighbourhood. We spent some time talking about some of her memories of her own childhood, as well as some of her memories of me, my brothers and sisters as children. Nana shared some family history stuff with me that I never knew before. She made connections for me where some gaps once were. She continually asked about her great grand children, Jennifer, James, & Jason and what they were doing. She kept saying how proud she was that all three of them had completed university. She also kept grabbing my hand saying that she was so glad we came, "I though when you moved, I'd never see you again. I prayed I would, and it happened." Amazing that God knows exactly what we need.

Nana was very open in her talk about death. She continually said, "I never thought it would happen this way, but you have to deal with what you get." She talked about being able to see her mom and dad when she goes to "glory". She also become somewhat melancholy at one point as she talked about the way she wanted to die, not in a hospital, but at home, in her space, where she was comfortable. She didn't know if that would happen, "after all who would take care of me." I assured her that mom and dad would do everything in their power to make her wishes happen. I never did tell mom and dad about that conversation, I just had complete trust and faith that they would "step up to the bat" as it were. Mom and dad have moved north now for as long as they need to. Nana is at home, set up in her own living room, being well cared for.

I realize that I have many of the same qualities and characteristics as my Nana. Nana has always had a green thumb and loved to garden. I learned from our visit that for her it was therapeutic as it was a stress reliever. Me too. Although some people in her own life have not always been as supportive of her as to what they could be, she continually wants to see them in a positive light. I am that way with people in my life as well. To Nana, her family is key. Me too. Nana sees northern Ontario (Muskoka and north) as being "God's country", and would never have considered living anywhere else. Bruce & I love that area so much, that our plan is to retire there if possible. Nana loves her Swiss Chalet..............ME TOO!

As we left Nana, she insisted I make some promises to her. As she was not well enough to make the trip to Jason & Alyson's wedding, she made me promise that she would see pictures from it. Dad has made sure that promise was kept. She made me promise that my kids would get up to see her so she could say goodbye. They all went to visit the week after Jason got back from his honeymoon. Another promise kept. She also asked me again if mom and dad really would do what they can to allow her to die at home. Yes Nana, they will, and they have.

If I had all the years to do over again, I would have let my guard down so that we could have been closer. That was my issue, not hers. I am glad that Bruce & I took the time to go north to spend time with her. I got to know more about her than I had permitted myself to do in the past. She is a survivor, and in many ways an aspiration.

As we said goodbye, both Nana & I looked at each other and said "goodbye for now". She said "I'll see you again, maybe not here, but in Glory." She's right. I love you, I'll see you in Glory Nana!

Bruce & Nana on our walk

Me and Nana

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Wedding Pictures Are In

The site is back up!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have uploaded my picture from the wedding (Finally!). Have a booo

Saturday, June 16, 2007

May Reflections: On New Beginnings

No matter how hard you try to hold back time, no matter how much you wish things would stay the same, life marches on. It would seem that the older we get, the faster life goes. New doors continually open, and new opportunities present themselves for new beginnings. We have choices to make when the doors open. We have choices to make when new opportunities present themselves. Do we play it safe and keep things status quo? Do we take a risk and jump in head first? Do we take the middle road and bide our time to see what will happen, then make the choice? Ultimately, the new beginnings are always present.

Jason and Alyson have moved forward and taken great risks over the past several months. There was the decision for Alyson as to what universities to apply to for Teacher's College and which one to attend once accepted, although it would mean having to move to another city, possibly without Jason for a while. Jason when presented with the opportunity to run a painting business for the summer instead of painting for someone else jumped at it, although it means many extra responsibilities and many extra hours, with very little free time. Jason has accepted the challenge of going off on a mission to Afghanistan some time next winter, ..............'nuf said. To top it all off, there was the biggest decision of get married. WOW, talk about taking risks and new beginnings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Some have cautioned they are awfully young to be making such life altering decisions (they are each 22). I say that they are very mature, focused young adults who have shown over and over again that they have their head on straight, who know the direction they wish their lives to go, that they completely understand the ramifications of their decisions, and when they are unsure, they wisely seek the council of trusted mentors. This was never more clear on the day they were married when Jason and Alyson made it very clear to everyone that the day was all about celebrating their future together, not celebrating the day itself.

So the month of May openned many doors for Jason & Alyson. They thought things through and have not been afraid to step forward to take the risks. They have ensured they have mentors around them to guide them when necessary. They have embraced the opportunities for new beginnings with gusto. What a wonderful way to begin a life together.

NOTE: The internet site I use to upload pictures in an album has been down for a bit, so here are a few more pictures from the wedding. I'll post the album when things are running again.

Prayer for guidance

The Coutch Family

The Young Family

The Wedding Party

The day just wouldn't have been the same without a fishing picture

Dancing the night away

Sunday, June 03, 2007

May Reflections and Retrospect

I can't believe the month of May has come and gone. It flew by! It was a month of great happiness and exhilaration, yet also a month of sadness, and might I say some disappointment. There is much to reflect much to deal with in one blog alone. So, for the next several blogs, I will take the lead of my brother, and break it down into manageable chunks.

I will start with addressing the photo challenge for the month of May...........ya, ya..........I know I'm a little late, but give me a break, I've had a busy month! What follows are my favorite photos around the theme "Family" that I took over the month of May. There are several:

I love this one. James took time away from wedding photos to play by the river with his younger cousins

Jenn posted a picture showing you don't have to be family by DNA to be family. This is Liz, my dearest friend since we were 10 years old............that's almost 39 years (you do the math). Although I have wonderful sisters by birth who are wonderful friends, Liz is my sister by choice.

I call this one "All My Children". I am not only very blessed to have 3 amazing children that I raised, love dearly and am exteremely proud of, I am also blessed to have two wonderful, caring in law children whom I cherish and love as if they were my own.

Nathan can't get enough of his "big boy" cousins

"Like father, like son" Bruce & James walking through High Park together