The Pain that Waits in Quiet Corners

The hospice room is quiet

I can hear my dad breathing steadily in his sleep.

Not wanting to disturb him

I sit there in the half light coming from the bathroom door

clutch my hot tea

and try not to flee the stillness—

the pain that waits in quiet corners

to roll in hot tears down my cheeks.

After I eat the cookies that the sweet care attendant gave me

there’s nothing to do but sit and listen to him sleep

the way he must have so often listened to me sleep

when I was a blond and rosy baby.

Back then, all he had to do was hold me

and I was safe.

Now, all I have to do is let him go

and he is safe, too.

Both times

both hearts

aching with love.

The father-daughter trip of a lifetime: visiting the Holy Land

One good thing about my dear old friend insomnia is that when the days are way too busy and chaotic to find moments to write, the quiet of night is a secret refuge…moments stolen from sleep to find myself again, and to reach out and reconnect with you, my readers. So in this much overdue post I will finally tell you where my daughter and husband James went on holiday recently! The Holy Land!

IMG_1406.JPG

Last time I posted a few pictures with palm trees and rocky desert but no one ventured to guess where they were…so now you know! My husband has always wanted to go, and recently that desire had increased even more. As he is such a hard-working accountant and really needed a break, I finally relented…having been reluctant to have him so far away. To make the trip even more special, he wanted to bring our 10-year-old daughter with him, to make memories for a lifetime. When I was 12 my Dad took me on a train trip to California to the San Diego zoo and Disney Land, and it was so wonderful, and such a bonding experience, so this partly gave us the idea. At first that really scared me, but the more we researched and learned about the trip and their great tour company, Tours 206, the better it felt…security there it pretty top-notch now, and Tel Aviv airport is said to be the safest in the world. Apparently Norway is more dangerous…and what is there to worry about there…perhaps falling tree or grumpy gnome? 😉

A few of my closest friends encouraged me to not make decisions and live life based on fear, and to let them go as it was such an amazing opportunity to see the world, especially while she is young enough to still want to hang out with her Daddy. My daughter really wanted to go as well. “Please, Mummy? I want to see where Jesus lived!” So after weeks of crazy passport preparations, paperwork and shopping for desert gear like giant sun hats, off they went! Now here is the fun part: some more pictures!

soft arms scented with cinnamon and sugar

My big sister—

the poet, the editor, the mediator

the strong survivor,  the loving mother

the beautiful woman

my inspiration, my friend—

gave me this Dutch cake mix for appeltaart

when she last came to visit us.

And though she’s a province away,

when I make it with my girls—

carefully chopping the apples together,

blending in the butter,

brushing with egg to finish the masterpiece—

I am with her, too.

“Lekker gezellig!” deliciously cosy…

The love of my sister

wraps around me like these strips of dough

around the nested apples,

soft arms scented with cinnamon and sugar.

  

Woman: part, parcel, or person?

The other night after dinner I let my kids watch a bedtime movie so I could clean the kitchen. First we chose a Jim Carry comedy about a superhero, as the kids had heard it was really funny. I gave a hesitant ok and popped in and out of the living room to make sure it was suitable.

At a certain point there was scene in a lounge with a female singer in a sparkly dress “purring” a little to confidentially to the men in the audience. My 9 year old daughter said right away, “Mom, her dress is too short.” “Yeah, kinda more like pajamas,” I agreed. “She’s being inappropriate,” stated my 7 year old bluntly, as the woman continued in the manner of an overly friendly cat, rubbing up against people. “Let’s change it,” concluded my 9 year old. So we did. 

Figuring it would be a safer bet, especially for the younger ones, we switched to a cartoon. An adventure story about archeologists. Surely this would be fine, right? Again I popped in and out to make sure while tidying the kitchen. I came in to the following scene: 

A slightly nerdy looking guy, the main character, having a discussion with a slim woman with glasses and a pony tale. There was some dangerous adventure to be had, and he objected to her going alone. Then from the other room she asked if he was offering to come along. He hummed and hawed until she reappeared, now in her “archeology outfit” which consisted of little jean shorts and a small, revealing tank top. Her glasses were also removed. All his hesitation disappeared, and no surprise: of course, he was coming!

Perhaps kids won’t really notice this subtly sexual joke, likely put in there for the adults watching, but what message does it actually send to girls? Guys won’t be willing to make sacrifices for you because of your friendship or your brains, but you can be sure they’ll do anything for your boobs. Great! And we really think feminism has advanced so far…

Whether or not women’s bodies are being presented as sources of power and control over men (again, this is a manipulative rather than healthy message), the fact is what seems to matter about women is their parts…the pieces of their bodies that interest men. Perhaps brains are also presented as a good thing, but only as long as they come in a pretty package. 

Parts. Packages. Juicy bits. What are we talking about here? Cars, internet bundles, steaks? Things. We are still talking about women as if they were things instead of people. This is objectification. Do we want our daughters to be objectified? 

 
What really matters about women is that they are people, and like men, each one of them is unique, irreplaceable, and worthy of love and respect. Tell me Hollywood, when are you going to grow up enough to share this message? It is one of true beauty and of hope for relationships that actually respect each person as a person, and just not a set of spare parts to be used for fun…until a better model comes along. 

Earthbound

Tonight my Dad and I were having
one of those great philosophical conversations
over dinner, salad dressing with fresh garlic
and ideas full of flavour
We talked about Pope Francis’ words
about the earth our sister, our mother, our home

Dad remembered the story of the first astronaut
who spent 4 hours out in space
two circles around the earth
and came home sick and depressed 
away from the earth’s heartbeat
the electromagnetic pulse all we require to stay alive
Now spacesuits have this little beat built in
the heart of our home
pulsing close to her children in space

As for me, I have no desire to see
the outside of my mother’s womb
the shining blue roundness of the earth
gleaming against the blackness of space

I am happy to be a child of the earth
bare feet on the dirt
toes in the grass
A humble creature made of dust
and living among the flowers

I know, without seeing the stars up close
that I’ve got a spark of that eternal fire within me
My soul travels to realms afar
within the confines of this blue egg
this delicate haven of life
in the blackness

I have no desire to leave my mother’s house
until I travel to see my Father
A journey without fear
a coming home from home
a further blossoming
into Life.

  

Honouring International Bereaved Mother’s Day

May 3rd is international bereaved Mother’s Day. It is an important and beautiful opportunity to acknowledge all the mothers around the world who have suffered loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, child loss or painful struggles with infertility. 

It is a chance to share grief and hope, to reach out and be vulnerable, to connect, to encourage, and to honour the women whose mother’s hearts are suffering deeply. 

 
Every baby is, in the words of Still Life Canada, “a unique and irreplaceable individual.” It is fitting that we honour their passing with our whole hearts. Sometimes sharing your grief is the first step to allowing others to share theirs, too, and beginning to heal. Let’s break the silence with gentle words of love.     Also, the Mothering Your Heart program is a lovely way to connect with other bereaved moms, be encouraged and supported in your journey of grief and healing. There is a Facebook page to share with other moms if you like, and a series of helpful emails you can receive each day leading up to Mother’s Day, with gentle ideas on self-care and nurturing your wounded heart, honouring your baby and seeking the stillness in which to discover the still, small voice of hope….    Wishing you all peace, strength, healing and hope…

With all my heart,

Anna

Mummy of Josephine, my little star in Heaven