I’d like to share with you a beautiful note sent by my friend Patsy, from Gabriola Island, about dealing with the death of a parent, and about being just a guest in the world.
One of the hospice nurses who came to the house when my father was dying, advised us kids, all six of his grown children who were tending him through his last five days, to sit with him and thank him for something he had done or given or said to us, to forgive him for something he had done or neglected to do for us, to ask his forgiveness for something we had done or failed to do for him, and to say goodbye. It was good advice, and it still is.
In the Awakening Joy course, we’re advised to write a letter to someone to express our gratitude to them – a friend, a mentor, a colleague, a child – whether the person is living or not, and to read it aloud to them. I find that there is something in the act of finding words that frees something, helps me to understand it better.
You’ve been very articulate in your blog during this last passage, but I wonder if there is something below the surface that hasn’t yet found its true expression. Give it space, and time, and solitude, and a place of refuge that is your very own: you have made a home, for yourself and your kids and their friends, and a community in which you are known and valued, and an extended family of friends who celebrate with you. You’ve done that yourself; it’s your true wealth and achievement and the legacy you leave to the world. You are not simply a guest in this world: you’ve made connections of many kinds, which will endure. That, surely, is what is meant by a home.
The luck to have such a wise friend, who also happen to be a writer, skilled in the act of finding words.
Speaking of connections of many kinds, Severn Cullis-Suzuki was in Toronto last weekend and stayed here. My father and David S. were great friends and colleagues, scientists in the fight for peace and justice, and David’s accomplished wife Tara and I have continued the friendship. I honour the entire Suzuki clan, tireless in the good fight. Severn was here with her 13-month old for several speaking engagements; my daughter brought Eli to play with Tiisaan while his mother was out encouraging young people to join the struggle to save the world. It’s the first time I’ve seen Eli with a companion, and it was hilarious – two very small young men trying to figure out – who’s that other creature at eye level?
Severn is as fine as a human being can be – kind, open, engaged, beautiful. And her younger sister Sarika is as well. Thank you to Tara and David, not just for the work they’ve done on behalf of the planet, but for providing another generation to keep going.
And then, yesterday, the moving truck arrived from Ottawa with my share of my mother’s possessions. It was recycling night, and I became obsessed with getting everything out of the boxes so I could recycle them. Now there are stacks of dishes, pots and pans, bowls, framed art, books and records, in my already full house. I spent hours moving pictures and rugs and lamps around; my body aches from head to toe. And my heart too – important bits of my mother’s life, now infused into mine, and one day, into my childrens’. I now own the set of dishes given to my British grandparents on their wedding day in 1918. Among many other things.
Joy: some inheritance money came in today, enough to do what I have long dreamed of doing. I went immediately to the bank and paid off my mortgage. This house is now entirely mine and not the Royal Bank of Canada’s. Thank you, Uncle Edgar, for not having children of your own, and being good enough to leave some money in trust, after my mother’s death, for me.
A toast to family and friends, to writers who find the words, to the magnificent young people who fight to fix our world, and to my very own house, overflowing with very old stuff and a crabby cat. From one very happy writer, on her third glass of wine.
PS. Speaking of which – I just found a greeting card in my mother’s papers. Over a drawing of a smiling woman holding two large bottles, it says, “Focus on the important decisions: red or white wine?” Inside: “You’re my kind of friend.” On the envelope, she’d written my name.