Saturday, April 15, 2017


I don't often miss my mama in an aching way.  She lived a long and healthy life, kept growing in her person, and died a peaceful death.  It was very, very hard to watch her waste away.  Usually I'm just grateful she didn't have long to suffer, and usually I just enjoy remembering the way she embraced her life after all us kids finally left and she had peace and time to learn to play the piano, talk her walks in peace, and live her life with less chaos and fewer demands.

This spring, I've had mom on my mind.  In part because of our shared joy in seeing things come back to life after our impossible Manitoba winters.  In part because enough time has gone by to distance me a little from the stress of watching mom and dad die.  And because I'm just starting to miss having family gatherings at mom and dad's.  Easter really brings back memories of being at their house.  In 1996 we celebrated Easter in Steinbach on Good Friday.  I remember all of us lined up at a long series of tables in their dining room and we clutching my belly every so many minutes.  My labour with Jane Margaret had begun.  My mom is a pretty tough bird, not given to feeling terribly sorry for anyone who is "getting what they asked for".  But I remember the look on her face, and her nervous suggestions that we start our long drive back to Brandon.  It was the look of affinity.  Mom was always extremely private, and never told us a thing about her nine pregnancies and eight deliveries.   But the look on her face that Good Friday told me that she was remembering.

Growing up, Easter always felt so hopeful.  We got new dresses, and if spring was kind that year, it might be the first time we would go to church wearing just a sweater, or a shawl.  Mom would make us an Easter hunt and we'd get a solid chocolate bunny to eat, which we savoured for weeks. 

This year, mom's hibiscus plant bloomed just before Easter weekend.  This is part of a series of miracles.  A) I adopted the plant after mom died, and I don't do houseplants.  B)  I was pretty sure I would kill said plant in 5 minutes or 5 months, but here we are a year and a half later.  Not only is it not dead, its actually blooming.  C) The plant keeps going through its cycles of growing flowers, letting them die and drop, and then growing new flowers.  This is a miracle, please don't question it.

Watching the hibiscus go through its cycles of letting things die so that new things to grow makes me think about Easter as well.  Just as my yard makes me think about Easter.  My yard gets so super dead in winter.  Heaps and heaps of snow that make walking to the compost bin almost impossible.  So cold that the kids and I simply stay indoors for weeks on end.  Super dead.  And then miraculously-  spring.  The dead stuff comes back to life!  the peony (also my mom's, because she took a cut of our peony plant when we lived in Brandon) will bloom again.  The raspberries, now sad sticks jutting out of the ground, will grow leaves and plentiful berries.  The rhubarb will grow out of apparently nothing.  The grass, now sparse and largely brown will become a demanding force in our lives!

When spring comes to our yard, its a massive cause for celebration.  The kids and I get to come up out of the basement and rediscover the ride on toys and sand box in the back yard.  Every year they excitedly report the bugs they have sighted, and until they know better- the bugs they have squished.  That's before I remind them that bugs are people too, and the bugs are also happy about spring, and haven't done a thing to deserve a premature death by grubby toddler.  While the kids unearth the rusty sand toys, and laugh their way down the slide, I get to sit on the deck stairs with my thermos full of coffee and let my mind wander on the wonder and miracle of spring and Easter.

On that glorious day, a certain fascinating five year old who I spend days with discovered the rusty xylophone in the sandbox and set about making her own band.  She wanted to be the "star" and "not the back up singer", and she quickly got started on creating her own lyrics.  Racing from sandbox to deck, she sang exuberantly-  "We All Get To Die Sometiiiiiiime".

Which of course, is true.

Everything and everyone dies, and that's not scary, its part of the process of rebirth.  The good news is-  what appears to be entirely dead is, in fact, dormant.   That not all is as it appears.  That when you look at me, or my family you actually can't see everything.  That when I look at you, or your family, I actually don't see everything.  That maybe we can let go of our fear, that maybe we can trust the process more than we do.  That maybe when I see fear in your eyes, I can think of it from the place where you currently reside, but that none of our stories are finished yet.

The fact that we all get to die sometime should inform the way we spend our days in this alive part of the cycle.  Not a new concept, I know.  And to be entirely truthful, I'm not holding myself up as an example.  Much of the time I'm just hoping I can pay off my mortgage before I'm dead, keep the hounds of debt at a relative distance, not get so fat that I'd have to pay for two seats on the airline, and hoping that the kids will turn out okay in spite of my tendency towards denial and wishful thinking.

My goal though, is to believe that love wins.  That what looks dead isn't done with its story yet.  That I'm going to do my level best to believe that love could win for you too- regardless of whether you call yourself a Christian, a Muslim, or an orange tabby.  It means I'm going to give money to help the people walking across the US border into Manitoba even though Ted Falk condemns them.  It means I'm going to bake mediocre cookies for the homeless people because its better than not baking for them at all.  It means I'm going to give my change to a random guy and his dog at the intersection of River and Main because I don't get to judge whether he's gonna buy coffee or scotch with it.  It means I'm gonna look him in the eye and smile because I hope that love is gonna win there too.

I'm going to recycle my plastics and boil bones for broth and keep feeding our compost to the worms because I want to at least try to wreck the planet a little less.

It's going to be inadequate.  But I'm not in some sort of competition to see whether I'm being good enough.  (I have to keep reminding myself of this truth).

This Easter season when I saw the lilies in the store, I thought about my mom.  I wished I could buy her one.  I wished I could tell her about her granddaughter learning about permaculture in Guatemala, and hear her laugh about Arianna's first experience in butchering a chicken.  But my mama has died, and it had to be enough to remember when she was alive, and remember our shared joy of seeing things rise again out of the dirt.

This Easter season, someone brought ME a lily.  It got me right in the feels-  not because I'm a houseplant person;  I'm not.  But because the cycle goes on as it ought to.  Birth, death, and rebirth.  I'm the mama now.  I also get to die sometime.  And that's okay.

It's not the end of the story.