As we approach another season of Festivus I remember those who are no longer with us.
For my family, Christmas was always a time to be together, laugh and eat really delicious food. When we would snuggle up on the couch and spend quality time. Holidays are a time for celebration where traditions are made for our children to pass down to their children.
Now as an adult I can’t stop the immense sadness that comes this time of year for me in my heart. My Mum and I at our Christmas dinner make a toast to my brother who died 26 years ago. His cause of death was heart failure due to a morphine pill overdose. He took this drug at a party and didn’t know it was enough to stop his undiagnosed diseased heart. He was 21. We try to give a toast with a smile on our faces to honour him each Christmas and also recognize all of the other family members that are no longer with us. But it breaks my heart. I just don’t understand death and why it happens sometimes.
Hearing of Chili Thom’s death was such terribly sad new to receive. I walked around in a daze afterwards. I texted my friend “I just don’t understand why good people die. I just don’t get it”. Her response was “Me neither, friend. So sad”.
The Sea to Sky community has had to deal with so much death in the 23 years I have lived here. Loved ones have died from extreme sports, car accidents, suicide and terminal illnesses. How do the living deal with grief over the holidays? Do they light a candle, burn sage, find a magical spot by the river or on a mountain top?
Reading about grief and loss gives me some comfort and understanding of the process. It’s one of my chosen forms of therapy. Recently, another friend just sent me something Jann Ardan had written on her grief and it was so well written.
Grief is a strange thing. It has an actual palpable weight that hangs around your heart and lungs. It makes breathing arduous and nearly impossible. At night that weight increases ten fold and pins you to your bed like an unwanted lover.
I’ve been in a suspended state of grief this past year. It comes and goes like a bratty teenager, oblivious to any kind of caring or responsibility. It moves around in my body silently like a cancer. I come up for air every few days, to see the sun, to return calls and make meals for my mother, and then I seem to slip back into what can only be described as a dull melancholy. It’s perplexing in many ways, because I know better than to let it bother me. I know I’m smarter than it is but still, it finds cracks in my armour and burns me with the end of it’s cigarette.
Losing people is what happens in human life.
Like a constant drip of an old tap.
People come and go like leaves on a tree and to try and avoid that loss, only makes you avoid true happiness. We die. But as snoopy always says, on the rest of the days you live…you only die ONE of the days. I always loved that.
Grief can be a good thing if you let it in.
When you don’t argue with it like a drunk husband, much good can come from it’s stillness. Reflection is so important, time alone, solitude, reckoning. You can’t be your best self when you’re submerged in useless busy-ness.
Most people choose not to stop long enough to ever think about how they feel. Most people move from one relationship to the next, one habit to the next, one job to the next, one friend to the next to avoid ever having to understand how they feel. Instant gratification leads you down a lonely path in my opinion.
I know I’m in an important time in my life. I know that change is taking a hold of me and morphing me into a much better version of myself, and that morphing comes with some discomfort. Instead of telling that discomfort to go away, I’m going to invite it in. It seems to not really like that….it’s seems to want somebody who is reluctant. WE all get caught up in what we don’t have, rather than what we do have. WE all tend to look back a little too often. Wrap your arms around the time you have with the people you care about.
Let fear and grief sit at your table and talk to them.
Give them a cold drink and a sandwich.
They simply want to be acknowledged and not ignored.
When you ignore them, they just hang around.
Mom told me a few months ago that there was an Indian man in her closet- he came and went for a few weeks and he had a baby with him. You can imagine my reaction, I wanted to say, “Mom, there is NO Indian with a baby in your closet.” Instead I asked her what he wanted. She told me he said he wanted to go home.
“What did you say?”
“I told him it was that way…”
“And then what?”
“Off he went and he hasn’t been back since.”
Don’t be afraid to feel things.
That is the whole entire point of all of this.
~ Jann Arden
I sent it to my Mum and her response was “So true. Grief can take you to your knees over & over again. However, I chose to continue to live for you, my dear daughter”.
I guess that’s what we do in the end, we live, we create, make ceremony and ritual and we remember.
Photos by Nic Macphee. Art by Chili Thom.