It was one hell of a good run while it lasted. It is with a huge void, big hole in my heart and ultimately resigned acceptance that I finally got it together to organize a celebration of life for my husband Don. Just short of three months after he passed, and on Remembrance Day no less.
He didn’t want a service, big hoopla or anything pretentious. Just a gathering of people closest to him at home with food, music and memories. He never mentioned a slideshow although with help from a friend we managed to put together a lovely showing of images from past travels and our life together and some heartfelt words from those who treasured him. Hooked up by computer to TV, it continued to loop around while people mingled. My dear friend Ryoko, who is responsible for us meeting was here and gave an unrehearsed funny speech and managed to sum up in a few short minutes what Don was all about. It was perfect in it’s simplicity, warmth and endearment. Just like Don himself.
Be what you want to be (or better still; who you want to be).Change your future. Sometimes the future makes changes without your consent. Makes changes you didn’t want or hope for. But you can still make some changes that will make a difference.
Do things differently.
Enrich others’ lives.
Face your fears.
Get out of neutral.
Knock the “t” off can’t.
Be Nonjudgmental (try, try hard!)
Orchestrate your legacy.
Plan for tomorrow.
Question your priorities.
Reinvent yourself (even if you’re not Madonna or David Bowie).
Stop keeping score (unless you have money on the game of course).
Take a leap of faith.
Uncork your mind (maybe along with a good bottle of wine).
Value who you are.
Wake up your luck.
Explore your spirituality.
Yearn for fulfillment.
Zoom in on love.
Source: Meiji Stewart – A taste of Chicken Soup to Inspire a Woman’s Soul.
At the beginning of October 2016, Het wrote a list of his life lessons. Sadly, he died unexpectedly and suddenly two weeks later at the age of 37. The one year anniversary of his passing is coming up this month. I would like to share with you a selection from his 34 philosophical quotes on living. His life was cut short and he had so much more to give. But even in times of mourning there are moments to feel good about. Think about it:
Our brains are our greatest asset and our worst enemy.
A smile can hide the deepest pain.
The fabric of life is change. We can’t often stop it. We can’t always fight it. Acceptance is, most of the time, the best way to deal with change.
We barely understand ourselves, yet we’re confident that we can understand others. That’s kind of silly when you think about it.
The best moments in life are spent in the company of loved ones – regardless of what you’re doing.
Nothing in life has meaning, other than the meaning we put on it.
Accepting that we will die one day, is key to knowing how to live. – Het Patel
Life Lessons from Dogs
Living moment to moment, no worries whatsoever, an innocence, acceptance, playfulness and trust that escapes most of us humans. Refreshing! If only we could live like that!
We can all cope with the battles of today. It’s when we add the worry of tomorrow, and the regret of yesterday, that we break down. – Het Patel.
What lies beneath the waves falls on silent shores
The very first time I went scuba diving was in the Bahamas. Fascinated with what lay beneath the sea, I was lucky enough to go out with a team from National Geographic and swam with sea turtles and lots of Grouper. I was hooked! Since that time, and in other locales, I noticed it getting rarer and rarer to spot certain fish and especially sea turtles. A lot of these creatures have been around much longer than me, and sharks have been around since the time dinosaurs roamed the earth. Which is a lot longer than me.
Karina Holden’s Blueis an important and timely documentary for everyone living on planet Earth. Filmed on location in Australia, Hawaii, the South Pacific, Philippines and Indonesia, it’s a very tough closeup look at our oceans and all disappearing marine life.
It really hits home, as it should. It makes you consider your choices and makes you question how you can make a difference. How even one person can help make a difference. Think about it.
Why on earth, in this day and age, are people still cutting off shark fins and throwing shark bodies back into the ocean? It’s sickening and it made me cry. Seabirds who rely on fish to sustain them are also in rapid decline. We, as a whole, have to do something about it. But there is a chain reaction because uneducated people who have no money and who live in small fishing villages in third world countries thrive on the livelihood of this industry. And $100 per shark fin is a lot of money. It is wasteful and horrific.
WARNING: More than half of all marine life has been lost due to plastic pollution, over fishing, habitat destruction and the expansion of industrialization.
While we get closer to a trek to Mars, why not concentrate first on what we can do here on Earth to make our planet a better place for all living species?
Because a healthy ocean is key to a healthy planet.
Please WATCH this short Trailer:
The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is on until Friday, October 13th. For tickets and information please visit: https://www.viff.org/
Donald James Wilson (June 19, 1943 – August 15, 2017)
The beginning, the middle and the end.
I believe in the laws of attraction. I believe that people, places and things come into your life when you need or manifest them, or to teach you a lesson. I’m not sure about the ending. That’s a big question mark that I’ll never understand. But my husband, like my dog, just showed up at my door one day and changed my life forever and for better.
When I first met Don he was wearing a pale yellow shirt with a front button missing and carrying a paperback novel. His demeanor was the exact opposite of the crazy whirlwind relationship I ended months prior with an extroverted, creative, complicated guy with a gambling problem from NYC. At first glance Don was more down to earth, reserved, relaxed but solid. I was immediately attracted. Of course he turned out to be a lot more than that. A disciplined hard working, well-traveled, intelligent, caring, kind and philosophical man with utmost integrity. A man of his word as well as someone you could trust. On the down side, quite stubborn, but I was always happy when I could change his mind about something he was very set on not changing.
At the time we met, before Don started his own company as a consultant engineer for telecommunications, he was managing an office in Toronto. He kept a condo in Vancouver, always with the intention of moving back here. A mutual friend from Toronto asked him to deliver photos from another friend’s wedding we had just attended in San Francisco instead of putting them in the mail. I forgot to bring my camera to San Francisco and I often wonder what my life would have been like had I taken it. So he brought them to me, and right after he left I called my mom and said this “I just met someone who showed up at my door and don’t know why but I’m pretty sure this is the man I’m going to spend my life with.” Crazy, right?
But true. That was 27 short years ago and we were married for 25 of them.
In between we created a life well lived.
A life filled with travel, adventure, a few rocky patches but overall, more good times than bad, up until the very end. He was my advisor and my best friend. That’s why I decided to do whatever in my power to try to make him well when he got sick with kidney cancer. He was re-diagnosed a little over two years ago and it was starting to spread.
Even during that time filled with uncertainty he managed to surprise me with his strong will several times. We were able to make a few memorable trips even though his health was not good. He would not give up easily. The past several months were the hardest. The last two were the worst. I borrowed a hospital bed from the Red Cross with the most comfortable inflatable mattress cover for Don so he could be downstairs at home on one level because it would be easier. But it was not. I was his nurse until I had to get weekly, then daily help. My life was not my own. He gave me the biggest compliment by saying that there was nothing a nurse could do that I could not do. But I don’t believe that. I was just trying to cope as well as make nutritious meals before deciding to just make whatever he craved be it macaroni & cheese to ceviche. And believe me, it was all over the map. He was craving food from his childhood to when he worked in the desert in Saudi. A meal from a can to Sablefish. Never a dull moment or at least, meal.
Then I found out about Vancouver Hospice Society with their incredible staff and volunteers. A place in a reconverted house in Shaugnessey with only 8 beds and a wait list. I went there, and after meeting the director and looking around at the home like atmosphere, decided it would be the best place for care and to free up quality time for me to spend with Don. Luckily a bed became available within a few days. The private room was lovely overlooking an outdoor patio with plants, a flat screen TV and a pull-out sofa bed which my dog and I slept on every night. Don was only there for 10 days.
The night before he went into Vancouver Hospice he told me he wanted to give me something personal. I won’t say what it was but it was meaningful and very moving. At that stage I knew that he knew he was dying. Before that, he was always optimistic and full of hope. Nobody mentioned the actual dying part, so it was extremely sad and I could not stop crying. He then said “there is a beginning, a middle and an end to everything. My end is coming and now you can have a new beginning.” He was very thankful to me for all I had done to try and help him. He said all this in a matter of fact way and I could feel that he now wanted the humility and discomfort to finally come to a finish. His mind was good right up until the very end.
I will forever be grateful for having Don in my life. No other person has done so much for me in so many areas. I am a much better person for having known him. He was also a true friend to my sister and they had become very close. He was a mentor to many people. Well respected and trusted. It was important for my brother to spend a few minutes explaining how he felt near the end. He shared something special and I have to say that since my mom passed away, I have never seen my brother cry so hard. He was close to his brother George who lives in Toronto, and who gave him a much needed surprise visit in July. I had no idea the influence Don had on so many, although I’m not surprised.
I was by his side holding his left hand when he took his very last breath. Lisa (my sister) was holding his right hand. He looked peaceful. Lisa didn’t leave my side for three days following. My dear friend Margeaux left her business and drove eight hours to spend the next four days/nights with me. I’m forever grateful.
The peculiar circle of lifeTake a clue from an interesting read called “Curtains.” Why leave your life up to chance? Choreograph it, script it…like the film you always thought you were starring in anyway. Lives just don’t happen! They are projects. This is what gives them meaning. You are responsible for the contents. You must fill up your dash. The dash being the short time in between the day you were born until the very end (1989 – ????) And there are books to help you do it. Books like 1,000 things to do before you die. Which in reality only makes you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything. Although it’s a start for those who don’t know where to begin. It’s all about living with purpose. It’s important to live each day as if it’s your last because one day you will be right.
A friend of mine lent me a book to read entitled “Curtains”. A book that I have to preface by saying I would never have chosen to read if I knew what it was about. Because it has a lot to do with death and I didn’t want to go there. So this is somewhat of a book review and an overview of the meaning of life taken from what I read and my thoughts.
Why this book?
As it so happens the person who lent it to me used to be a professional curtain maker. He made beautiful curtains for a living and so the title jumped out at him at the library. I know; who goes to libraries anymore? Anyway it makes sense; he thought it was about curtains and was curious.
At the time he lent it to me I was just starting a book called Tango, a Love Story that another friend gave me because she knows that I love tango, the dance. A light feel-good true story that was very timely. Let me tell you; Curtains is the furthest away from tango…maybe closer to Last Tango (in Paris or elsewhere). But it is about the dance of life.
My friend assured me that he had not intended to read Curtains when he figured out what it was about but once he started he could not put it down and everyone he lent it to… same story. I was intrigued and said I’d give it a go. At least one chapter. So I put my beautiful tango book on hold to read a book about life coming around full circle to ultimately…death. In a nutshell I found it morbidly fascinating, well written, extremely tongue in cheek, lots of wit but not without the gorey details.
Curtains was written by Tom Jokinen, a veteran radio producer (Morningside, Definitely Not the Opera + more) and a video-journalist at the CBC. He set his career aside in 2006 to be an apprentice undertaker at a small third generation family-run funeral home and crematorium in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This drastic vocational change at the age of 44 resulted with him writing this book. Why? Mostly he did it because he wanted to find out first-hand what goes in that gap between death and burial at a time when our relationship with the dead is radically changing. What he found is from the mundane to the macabre, to the completely comic to the totally heartfelt. It delves into religion, different beliefs, customs and beyond. It is a fascinating read. It’s about humanity and an exploration of our culture’s relationship with the dead, dying and those left behind. It prompts a question: Why do we each spend up to $10,000 – for most, the third-biggest cash outlay in our lives after a house and a car, according to Jessica Mitford, who wrote The American Way of Death – on funerals?
It may have been the prelude to the widely popular Netflix series 6 ft. under (which I hear was really well done but have never watched). What it basically comes down to is we don’t want to know; we do want to know; we’re confused; we’re better off not knowing, but we’re curious, sorry to know; not sorry; a little sorry! I’m not sure but I read the whole book anyway. Too late! But it’s something we will all ultimately be dealing with whether we like it or not. From the book:
A modern take is that a man is now defined not by his faith but by his hobbies and quirks. Did he golf? Was she an avid gardener? Everyone is an avid something: an avid bowler, drinker, sailor or snake charmer. Avidity is the key to unlocking your story.
Having faith doesn’t mean you have to be religious but religious faith, when it comes to death, is a fairy tale that soothes. It doesn’t deny there’s a monster in the closet or a wolf in the woods but it tames them. A study at Yale, published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, found that “bereaved individuals who relied on religion to cope generally used outpatient services less frequently compared to non-believers.
Epicurus said that there’s no need to fear the oblivion after we’re gone if we never cared about the oblivion that came before we were born.
“Curtains is deft, funny, surprising and above all thought-provoking. Benjamin Franklin said that to know a society you only had to visit its cemeteries. Jokinen has taken him up on that, and added in our funeral parlours and crematoria. What emerges is a sharply focused picture of twenty-first-century North America – we’re uncertain about our values, distracted by inessentials but yearning, like every culture, to understand the meaning of death and the dead body, which is just another way of understanding life and humanity.” – Katherine Ashenburg, author of The Mourner’s Dance.
“Love thy neighbour” is a term that’s become almost clichéd over the years. In a time when neighbours, at least in North America, are people we rarely see (thanks to garage door openers and busy lives), or are thought of as nuisances with barking dogs guilty and noisy children, how can we possibly love our neighbours?
Well you know; you don’t have to actually love them, but it’s best if you genuinely like them.
But how close is too close? I’m talking about people you might see on a day to day basis, sometimes only in passing. How do you feel towards them? Them towards you? How important is it to maintain a good relationship with your neighbour? I guess it depends on how much you have in common, how close in proximity you are…but at the very least isn’t it in your best interest to be friendly?
I’ve always had good luck with my neighbours (next door, back door, upstairs + down). In the sense that we seem to genuinely like each other to the point of naturally developing over time a genuine friendship. From the very first time I moved away from home to a place of my own, I’ve been lucky to have had great neighbours. Many have become lifelong friends. One even gave me the best gift of my life, her dog whom I fell in love with from the get-go. She realized we’d be happier together than apart.
Unfortunately last year I lost one of my favourite ones, a woman I rented part of a house from shortly after moving to Vancouver from Montreal. She became like a second mother and we shared a family like relationship over the years. I remember she used to leave homemade food and baked goods outside my door and we used to celebrate holidays together.
Now I have a next door neighbor in Palm Springs who leaves homemade cookies and banana cake on my doorstep. I certainly don’t think that I look like I need to be fed! However, when I think back to past and present neighbors, food is always involved. One used to leave homemade pies, another pyrogies. Just can’t seem to break the mold and that’s okay. Sharing is a nice trait and food is a pleasant ice breaker that brings people together. It means you have to confront the giver to say “thank you.”
I think it’s important to be on friendly terms at the very least. More often than not I’ve stayed in touch over the years with past/present neighbours and we get together from time to time.
Good neighbours can make or break your peaceful enjoyment. It’s just really nice when it turns out you legitimately want to spend time with them or be in their company even temporarily. It makes for better neighbourhoods and people tend to look out for one another (neighbourhood watch or watch out!). I had a neighbour from across the street call to tell me I left my door open one time when traveling and another called the police to report unusual activity. Turns out the unusual activity was me just getting home from a trip. It was nighttime and she didn’t recognize that it was me. So they can be helpful. They also come in handy for watering your plants while away…if they don’t kill them instead by mistake of course not mentioning any names.
And it’s a bonus if they love your music!How do you feel towards yours?
Not a Pig; as formerly thought. I had an expert look into it for me (because I’m born on the cusp it was confusing and if I put my actual birthdate it always came up “pig”) and since my boy Jia Jia was born in China, it makes perfect sense because the stars are aligned – we’re both extremely loyal and commited. We relate to each other perfectly! I always suspected I was a dog – after all, Jia Jia thinks I’m a perfect bitch!
The Dog comes in five types: metal, wood, food, fire & earth each with a specific personality description. Sharing Earth Dog similarities were Winston Churchill, Voltaire, Lady Godiva, Brigitte Bardot, Cher, Mother Teresa, Jacques Cousteau, Elvis Presley, George Gershwin, Judy Garland & Shirley Maclaine. I must say, not a bad lineup.
But enough about me……
Predicting the future by observing the stars and planets was an ancient art long before Europeans discovered/invented the mathematics necessary to make these same predictions. However, the yearly Animal signs bear the much same relationship to Chinese Astrology as Sun Signs have to Western Astrology – a cursory overview, and over simplification. As with Western Sun Signs, the twelve Animals of the Chinese zodiac do represent archetypes useful to writers.
It’s also Jia Jia’s birthday. Today he turns 14 years young!
He offers sound advice for those who ask how come he’s doing so well for his age. His answer: “live in the moment, eat well, sleep well, find time to play, be selective with who you kiss, go for lots of walks, hang around with younger dogs, look like you’re smiling even if you’re not, go with the flow of the waveswhenever possible, when someone throws you a bone just eat it, but most of all make sure you are with someone who loves you for YOU!”
He’s in touch with his feminine side
If you follow your heart you might make a few wrong turns but you’ll never get lost
Happy Birthday my Love on the most LOVELY day of the year!