Ten Years

It is ten years today since my sister Joanne died suddenly and all too young.  We talk about her fondly and miss her deeply. In the time that has passed since she would have been proud of her husband and how he cared for their daughters as a single parent. She would marvelled at their daughters as they forged their way in the world.  She would have been in her glory to attend her daughter’s wedding and to watch her newly minted son-in-law snag a home run ball on his wedding day.  

After she died it struck me I had assumed we would all grow old together. 

It can’t be ten years.  It was only yesterday and at the same time it was a lifetime ago.  

Death Cafe

There is something a little chilling in the phrase “Death Cafe”.  Much of our society has difficulty in dealing with and speaking about dying and death.  I went to a seminar once where a palliative care worker asked the audience “Who among you has lost a loved one”.  Most hands went up.  He went on to ask “Where did you lose him/her?  Did you find them again?”.  In other words we use phrases that mean death (passed on, passed away or just plain passed) but keep us from having to say the word itself.

A movement known as Death Cafes are popping up in cities across the world.  I had never heard of the events until I read an article in the Ottawa Citizen today. From the article “Their (the Cafes) stated purpose is to “increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.” Underwood (who started the movement) held his first one in the basement of his home in September 2011, and since then more than 100 have taken place in homes, cafés and other spaces in Britain, Europe, Canada, the U.S., Australia and elsewhere, with more than 40 hosts and 1,000 guests participating.

 I am interested in what these events have to offer.  They are very small gatherings.  The one in Ottawa has a capacity of 30 people.  You can see though that 1,000 people gathering across many nations is really not that many, is it?

I like the idea of celebrating someone’s life regularly after someone has died (as noted in the article above).  It helps keep memories alive, pass them on to younger generations and to deal with the permanent loss.  

And so I signed up to attend.  My husband said (after he asked if our life insurance was paid up) he’d join me.  

What do you think of the concept of a Death Cafe?  Would you attend if one came to your neighbourhood?



A Rose Inside a Teardrop

I wear a necklace, a rose inside a tear drop.  It was given to me eight years ago and is said to be a symbol of love that never dies.

Eight years ago on this date, September 11th, my sister died.  She began feeling ill on Thursday and by Saturday night she was gone.  It was a very rare condition but that’s beside the point for it doesn’t much matter, rare or common, does it.  She was not yet 50 years old and by the dawn on the Sunday, the lives of her husband, two beloved teenage daughters and the rest of us were forever changed.

She was a loving mother, wife, daughter, aunt, sister, friend, colleague, nurse and salt of the earth.  

You’d be rare if you have never had someone close to you die.  There’s no rhyme or reason, no equitable formula where grief is spread equally across families or friends.  Some people, some families seem to have such loss.  I wonder at times how some manage.

Our thoughts and reactions in grief are unique.  I remember thinking it felt as if our family had been walking along, all arm in arm, all marching in time and collectively we fell flat, face first.  The wind was knocked from our lungs.  We couldn’t breathe.  I remember wondering (just as I did when each of my parents died) why the world hadn’t stood still, at least for a while.  

Time has a way of taking some of the edge off the sharpness of the days, weeks and months and now years that follow the death of a loved one.   Her place in our family endures, I see her in her daughters.  They are vibrant, accomplished and enjoy so many of the interests she instilled in them in their young lives.  Her husband has been a strong, caring and dedicated single parent.  

I have tested the strength of that gift, the necklace.  Many times I have forgotten I was wearing the chain and yanked an article of clothing over my head, the necklace flying across the room.  The chain has never broken.  It has occasionally fallen off, gone missing and somehow re-surfaces.  The necklace endures, as does its symbolism of love that never dies.  

Love you, Joanne.