Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Out With The Old And In With The New

As 2014 draws to a close, I like so many others have found myself reflecting on the past year. Even though Facebook keeps telling me it was (no Facebook, I don't want to see my year in review) it actually hasn't been a great year. In fact, I'd say it has been an annus horribilis.

I started 2014 off happily married and ended it as a widow and single parent. If someone had told me last January that I would spend the last four months of 2014 in a 200 year old rental house in Canning, Nova Scotia (yes Canning, Nova Scotia), I would have asked them if they were smoking crack with Rob Ford. Really. But here I am, and I'm pretty sure none of you are smoking crack with Rob Ford (I hope).

While 2014 is definitely not a year I will look back on fondly, it was a year in which I learned so much about myself and about the indomitable power of the human spirit.  And this is where I'm going to get sappy and pontificate.  I've tried really hard not to do that, but I figure it's allowed on New Year's Eve. As heartbreaking as this year has been, I still have so much to be thankful for.

I have three amazing, courageous, resilient children. They are my anchors in the stormy sea, and I would be lost without them. I have been surrounded by love from family and friends. I've spent time with my family and my oldest and dearest friends. I've had friends travel across the world to be with me. Me! How crazy is that?  I have had many wonderful people come into my life this year, new friends who have taught me so much, who make me laugh every day, who don't let me run away and join cults or smoke cigarettes and put up with my ceaseless nattering.

I have learned that I am stronger and braver then I ever thought possible. It turns out you never know how strong you can be until you have to be that strong. Tragic, terrible things happen to good people. Things we can never foresee or expect. But even in the face of tragedy and overwhelming loss, we need to choose happiness. Because life is too damn short to waste being miserable, angry, and bitter. Life should be lived, not endured.  Yes it can be cruel and unfair but it can also be awesome and wonderful. The life I have now is very different from the life I had twelve months ago. But that life doesn't have to be bad. It's still full of hope and promise and it's mine to embrace, and to live. And I plan to live it to it's fullest.

 Forty years from now, when I look back on my life, I want to be able to say that I made it the best it could possibly be. That I had a life that in spite of it's ups and downs, trials and tribulations was full of love and laughter, happiness and joy. And yes a life that was touched by sadness and sorrow but made all the richer because of it.

So here's my New Year's wish for you, the people who I hold dear. I hope your gin bottle is never empty and the moose milk flows freely, and you drink coffee with friends. I hope you get to make snow angels and catch snowflakes on your tongue, that you dance in the rain, and feel the sun warm your face, and that you get to smell the ocean (but not rotting seaweed). That you visit somewhere you've never been (Canning, NS is pretty cool), that you laugh often (please don't ever stop laughing), that you embrace old friends and new, that you find happiness and never know sorrow, that you get to be some one's person, and that you are loved more than you can possibly know.

Here's to second chapters and new beginnings. Welcome 2015 and your 365 beautifully blank pages, may you be an annus mirabilis for us all.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Thirty Nine.....

I spent the morning trudging through Willow Bank Cemetery, just me and a few crows. This is the first time I've been completely on my own there (well besides the crows) and I was struck by how quiet it was. I don't do well with quiet (as most of you know). It's away from bustling downtown Wolfville and far enough back from the road that you can't hear any traffic. Normally when I'm there, there are other visitors or I run into the grounds keeper Chris, but he is gone until spring, off preparing for tax season. Chris is an account in the off season for the burial business. He even offered to help me with my taxes.  Seriously, I can't make this shit up.

Chris and I have had some interesting conversations the last few months. I can now tell you everything you never wanted to know about headstone installation (turns out $2500 buys you the headstone but not the base you need to install it), or how many people can fit into one plot ("five or six so long as you don't have big fancy urns"). Chris is a hard man to get away from once he gets started. I'm sure he really enjoys having someone (alive) to talk to once in a while. I almost feel like I should bring him a coffee now when I go to the cemetery.

I asked Chris one day how many military graves were in Willow Bank. He was stumped for an answer, which really surprised me. I expected he would know right away as he has worked there for almost 28 years.  He thought there were maybe five or six. I knew there had to be more than that, there are that many in Dan's section alone. So I went back this morning and counted them.

There are thirty nine. Thirty nine. The first one was buried there in 1919. His name was Blake, and he was a private. There are privates, corporals, and sergeants. A warrant, a major and a colonel. Most died well before their time. Frederick was the oldest when he died, 93, he was born in 1892. He had a long life, I hope it was a good one. Two of them were gunners, George and Arthur. I'm glad there are gunners there (I wonder if they had gunner's ear). Somebody had visited Arthur and left a wreath on Remembrance Day. I'm happy he still has people to visit him. Sadly, I don't think many do.

I had a chat with each of them and read each of their names out loud. Cecil, Stanley, Gordon, John, Vernon, Neil, Ralph, James, Harry, Robert, Dan. They were all somebody's person. Somebody's husband. Somebody's dad. Somebody's son.  Somebody's brother. Somebody's friend. Whether they died in 1919 or 2014, they are not forgotten. Their lives mattered. On Sunday, December 7, the girls and I (and anyone who wants to join us) will place fresh balsam wreaths on each of their headstones. We will read their names and we will know that they were here.  We will thank them, we will honour them and we will remember them. They were somebody's person.

*On Sunday December 7, Wreaths Across Canada will be placing balsam wreaths on every military grave at the National Military Cemetery, Beechwood, in Ottawa. "to remember and honour those who served and teach our youth of Canada, the value of freedom." If you are in the Ottawa area, I encourage you to go to Beechwood and lend a hand placing wreaths. If you can't be there in person, you can sponsor a wreath.  You can also lay a wreath at your local cemetery, there are veterans buried in virtually every cemetery in Canada.

On my honour, we will stand at the place where you rest
and remember you.
On my honour, we will pick up the torch of freedom
and carry it for you.
On my honour, you will not be a silent memory,
we will speak of you often
so the world will know what you have done.
On my honour, as you reach the gates of heaven
you will hear the voices of a grateful nation rise up
and we will honour you.~Kathleen Mills
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