Dad is Nowhere. Dad is Everywhere

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Dad is nowhere. Dad is everywhere.
I don’t hear anymore, “Hey Kiddo how you doing? Or “What the hell you talking about,” or “Any more ice cream?” I don’t hear the clink of bottle on glass as we pour ourselves another red wine. I don’t hear the scratch of turning pages as I read to him from Colm Tobin’s novel, Norah Webster; I don’t feel the punch of numbers as I dial his number and I don’t hear his voice, “call you back.” I don’t taste shared butterscotch pudding or hear his hahaha laugh or the soft static of his razor; I don’t admire his gnarly well worn hands, or smell the mild lingering aftershave; I don’t anticipate his, “Did you pay your visa yet?” Cause Dad is nowhere.
And then
Dad is everywhere. He is the cinnamon red fox tearing across sea rocks, leaping up a hillside bordering woods and then sitting and scratching his shoulder; he is the tiny red cardinal sitting in the middle of a small white plate; he is the red top singular mushroom sitting in the middle of our radiant green yard; he is the eagle Janey and I saw last week swaying on the tip of a pine tree; he is the rooster calling as we reach from airport to village to home; he is the funeral director tapping my shoulder just before they are getting ready to carry him out of the church, “Do you want to say something?”; he is the maple walnut ice cream, the waffle cone maya and I devour and he is the gigantic rock we are sitting on while watching the sun melt into the sea.
Dad is nowhere. Dad is everywhere.

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A Multitude of Grief

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I am reminded that grief comes in many forms and teachings. I recognize my own grief witnessing my dad lose majority of his physical capacities while his mind slips into dementia. I recognize my own grief witnessing long term relationships shift and change; I recognize my own grief in the destruction of mama earth due to ignorance, sense of helplessness, lack of political and personal will and resources; I recognize my own grief in the violence committed to youth existing on the margins; I witness my own grief not being able to do more and be more in the fight for social justice; I recognize my own grief in letting go of expectations of wanting others to be and do more. There is a multitude of grief upon me and I know I am not alone and I know this is the practice and these are the teachings.
Thank you adrienne maree brown for this:

If there happens to be a multitude of grief upon you, individual and collective, or fast and slow, or small and large add equal parts of these considerations:
That the broken heart can cover more territory.
That perhaps love can only be as large as grief demands.
That grief is the growing up of the hear that bursts boundaries like an old skin or a finished life.
That grief is gratitude.
That water seeks scale, that even your own tears seek the recognition of community.
That the heart is frontline and the fight is to feel in a world of distraction.
That death might be the only freedom.
That your grief is a worthwhile use of your time.
That your body wil feel only as much as it is able to.
That the ones you grieve may be grieving you.
That the sacred comes from the limitations.
That you are excellent at loving.

Emergent Strategy
adrienne maree brown

This is a White Privilege Issue

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May we, white folks find the courage to watch ‘When They See Us’ a powerful heart wrenching true story that depicts what systematic and structural racism looks like and the atrocities its placed on five young innocent black youth, their families and communities. Systematic racial harm and injury is not a people of colour issue, it’s a white privilege issue. We too belong to a racial group and we must confront this and the privileges we hold in order to work fiercely, in solidarity and side by side to change systems that continue to violently downpress people of color. We need to claim ourselves as a race too and engage one another in our history, our power, and impact we hold on each other and other races. Please don’t shy away from this film. Watch it. Find other white folks to be brave and vulnerable with and use the film as a springboard to uncomfortable critical conversations and work towards taking action and standing up to systems and structures that violently rob so many people of their humanity.
Doing nothing is a white folk privilege. I am open to forming a circle here on fb to do the work with one another. Lets commit To live a divided life no longer!! A powerful book to help with this process is Ruth King’s Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out.

You Got this Dad. You Got this.

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Giving thanks and praise to so many friends who reach out and support me on this journey of letting go, surrendering to life and death, knowing both these transitions need to be held with courage and gentleness.

This is the journey and you are on it, I am told over and over by friends who too have gone through watching a parent labour towards death. “Its hard work, just as birth is hard work,” I am told by my dear friend Dominique who laboured alongside both her parents who made the passage earlier this year.

I am coached and guided by my dear friend Bara who checks in daily, breathing with and for me, dad, mom and my brother. I hold memories of being in community with dear friend David while he labored towards death; I reflect on unexpected deaths like Denis and Oken John Arthur and Paul whose labours were sudden, taking seconds or came instantly; or dear friends like Jacqlyn who at such a young age battled an illness that had her laboring for months upon months before death was birthed.

My dad is still with us. Sometimes it feels like he is travelling as Theo calls it, travelling between here and there. And then he comes back to us with both feet still in this world. Yesterday I was blessed with “Hows it going Kiddo?” when two days previous I was sure I would not hear his voice again.

I am deeply grateful for the 6 weeks I had with him as he transitioned from hospital to full care residence. I am grateful for my mom and brother who are his main supports presently, grateful to community: friends and family, to personal support workers who work under such stressful conditions, to Janet Band who came into our lives two days before I left and who loves dad like he is her own, to technology allowing me to pop in and out of Dad’s room, to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s classic teachings on Death and Dying, to the Buddhist teachings and practices to you Dad brave and humble warrior labouring towards birthing your own death. I love you. I am here for you. You got this Dad. You got this.

We Need Each Other Fiercely

i thought i would share a recent note sent to a beloved community of co creators i belong to.
“i am sorry i cannot share inspirational space with you all on this day due to technical glitches and family challenges. i am here in Ottawa helping my Dad transition into full care residency. For the past month i have been working hard to build community around dad both in the hospital and here in his new Home. Learning lots. Teachings that crack my heart wide open and teachings that make me want to curl up and weep for this money making world at the costs of our wise lived Elders.
Dad is in a care facility owned by a multi national with underpaid, overworked and stressed staff, caught in this capitalist racist system. His care community is the World! and i am honoured to be in community with folks from the Mother Continent and other parts of the world for this short time and i also recognize how frustrating it must be for care workers not to have the time or energy to provide what we all long for, what we all need CONNECTION and BELONGING especially when majority of the care workers are coming from cultures where Elders are revered and honoured.
Dad has been stoic and participatory! as he goes along with me buzzing him up and down the halls giving attention and presence to those we meet: residents and care workers, cleaning and maintenance staff, managers and directors, other visitors of beloved family. Dad and i building relations, building beloved community in elevators, lounges, dining rooms, hallways and smoking areas! Reconfirming over and over….. the way forward is through finding, building, nurturing beloved community!! We need each other fiercely!

Friends Like This

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Deeply grateful for this wise and tender Friend. Oh that old familiar saying “it takes a village…” realizing over and over that it is not just children needing a village. And this dear blessed friend reminds me each day, as she walks hand in hand with so many of us. simple and forward. compassionate and steady. Thank you dear Bara. I love you. We love you.

Notes from the Ground Floor

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I set up camp in the Ottawa General Hospital to be with my Dad. Everyday is different. I leave every night and arrive every morning not knowing what the day will bring for my dad and for the other folks I meet each day.

Some days I read to my Dad from Alistair Macleod’s short stories other days I feed him strawberries and chocolate milk. Some days I sketch him as he sleeps, and other days I simply hang out while he struggles in and out of sleep.

When I am not in his room I am riding the elevator with the world, with humanity raw and tender, with a billion human stories in that small miraculous contraption taking us up and down each day.

I tell dad he is not alone in his suffering. And I wonder if this is comforting to him or not. Sometimes I share with him some of the stories I am told and hear all around me and sometimes I don’t tell him. Like I didn’t tell him about the youth man I met who is in the hospital after a suicide attempt and I don’t tell him about the young woman speaking into the phone describing the large jelly fish mass in her mother’s belly that the doctors could do nothing about.

I did tell him about the young woman outside the hospital doors vomiting and people walking right by her and the purse I picked up and the cigarette she begged me to light and the smile she gave me as she took the first pull. I do tell him about the woman pulling her IV stand into the stairwell and seconds later hearing Sinead Oconnor’s, Nothing Compares to U belting from underneath the stairwell door. “My therapy,” she tells me. I don’t tell him about the cancer that has invaded her gallbladder and piece of her liver and I don’t tell him her mother’s residential school story or the atrocious and tender survival stories of her own life. I do tell him about the long strong hug we shared and the blessings we swapped. I do tell him about the Syrian Elder woman walking the halls with a baby doll wedged in the crook of her arm conversing out loud in her beautiful rolling Arabic tongue, how she stopped me and gave two gentle slaps to my shoulder and smiled.

I do tell him how honoured and blessed i am to be here with him and with all the other folks here in Ottawa’s General Hospital connected by the elevators we ride, the sitting rooms we wait, the stairwells we meet, the hallways we smile, the humanity we share.

I Just Told a Man Not to Cry

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Last night I told a young man not to cry. “Don’t cry,” I said, “you will be reunited soon.“ This said to a young man whose wife is leaving Sunday for the UK on a nursing contract for three years. I told the man not to cry. Damn. I didn’t even realize I had done this but then I walked into the house after saying good by (please note: I did not tell the young woman not to cry who was leaving behind not only a husband but three of her children) and found Maya in the middle of the room with her arms crossed watching me. She says, “You do realize you just told a man not to cry!” Woooooh I thought. “What the what?” I said. Damn how deep this gendered conditioning is. Me, who believes the wrongs of this world are the self and societally-imposed prison men live in, a prison of narcissistic rage and emotional denial resulting in so much violence on so many levels. And me reinforcing through my own deeply ingrained conditioning of what it means to be man. Don’t cry. Men don’t cry. And yet I hear me saying over and over in different spaces formal and informal that we must let men own and display all their emotions, not just the acceptable anger of toxic masculinity. i want to run back down the stairs, run to catch up with husband and wife and say, “Cry man cry. You have every right to cry because you will be lonely and sad and lost without her!”

revolutionary love

We gather to celebrate
and honour revolutionary love,
replace the love we’ve grown up on
a hallmark kinda love;
a love defined by man loving woman,
woman loving man love;
a chocolate, flowers and champagne love;
a dinner for two love;
get the kids a babysitter love;
damn its valentines and I didn’t get a gift love;
alone and not enough love.

Instead we gather.
and call our names,
mirror and move,
embody the other.
Instead we listen to our stories:
love, rage, hope, forgiveness, freedom;
we request more, listen deeper, witness further.

Instead we dance.
We dance on behalf of each other,
the wounded and wonderful
Instead we lay out on the floor and drink up
Civil Rights Activist,
Valerie Kaur,‘Revolutionary Love in a Time of Rage’
and we snap our fingers,sigh,and whisper
yes, yes, yes;
push and labour,labour and push

Instead we let the magic of the talking circle
witness one another
holy silences,
revered pauses,
courageous considerations.

Instead we break bread together;
sorrel and fruit cake,
curried rice and cucumber,
fruit salad and pumpkin bread,
devilish eggs and dal.

Instead we leave one another
with embraces lasting longer
then a second,
I love you’s
lingering
in mouths and minds
and we embody
this kinda love,
revolutionary love.

written by Maureen St.Clair