I’m feeling as refined as I’ll ever feel, sitting here at Starbucks in Dawson Creek, looking out at Shoppers Drug Mart’s red and grey front with white lettering, having just eaten a chicken chipotle panini and an Almond Coconut Cashew Chai fruit and nut bar. I am drinking a caramelized honey latte and wearing a circus red scarf, a gift from my sister-in-law Kim. I don’t really do Starbucks, but then again I guess I do once in a while. I planned to spend the day at home, putting sheets through the washer, sitting in the big chair and actually remembering my dad, calling Mom, catching up on my diary, folding jeans and towels if I felt like it. But Dan had cheques to deposit and bills to pay and I knew that my help would help to make up for the day he took off yesterday to take Bryant to an auction. So I went to the bank and gift shopped for Hannah, my niece (I’m so excited about my find for her at Faking Sanity, the used bookstore. But I’d better not say what it is because she might read this.) I ran into my friend Carol at Safeway when I stopped there to get Nabob coffee on sale for 9.99. And being at Safeway, I grabbed a plant with orange flowers and a card in honour of the newest Peachey baby. I got to see the new little guy for just a minute…and his precious young parents so brave and proud.
Life has been such an overwhelming muddle of death and birth and marriage and death and lovely music and death and engagement announcements. I feel breathless from trying to keep up, tired from being stetched thin washing clothes and packing and preparing and planning and crying and scrubbing mud boots and singing in the choir and making floor beds and flying to Portland.
To try to write of the last month feels insane, narcissistic, a veritable marathon of events that could make us appear super human, which we definitely aren’t. Just ask our children, whom I lost my temper on the other night-the first night there finally wasn’t something that had to be done-for the simple reason that I get tired of them Always Having to Have a Bedtime Snack.
And if we’re comparing hard things, my life is a breeze compared to Job, my sister Twila, or the young woman whose cancer journey I read last night on Caringbridge. To name just a few of the people my addled brain can think of. Nothing heroic or super human here. Just a lot of grace and kind support of friends and family.
I guess if you read only here and not on Facebook, I should insert into this muddle that my dad passed away on March 29. He is Home and at peace. The chain of events since then are only part of this defective world the rest of us still call home.
I’ve been wishing to write again, to write real things. But I don’t know where to start. This quote by E.M. Forster guides me: “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”
It also makes me laugh, describing the many long conversations Dan and I had while driving the road between here and Edmonton. At one point he looked at me and said, “Did you know you talk too much?” But talking or writing is my way of thinking. It’s an annoying habit, I’m sure, one that needs to be seasoned with a sense of otherness.
One thing that I want to say is this: I have been a judgmental human a lot of my life. I have often been judgmental of people and their words, especially as expressed to people who are grieving. I remember when my brother Kevin died at age 27 that I felt like laughing bitterly when people said, “I know how you feel. We lost our baby after she lived for only two days.” Or: “I know what you’re going through. We buried my grandma a year ago.”
Kevin was in the prime of life and it was taken. There is no comparison, I felt like saying. But there is, actually. Death hits us all deep and hard. It causes guilt if we don’t love the person who left us like we know we should have. It causes loneliness and deep holes and weird emotions and unexplainable aches.
And planning funerals is Just Hard Work. With a wedding, you plan in anticipation for three or six months, taking care to honour the people you care most about with important positions, thinking about flowers and colours and time honoured traditions. Funerals give you about five days in a state of blurred shock or unseeing tear-filled eyes to try to bring together something just as beautiful and meaningful and honouring to the people the person who died cared most about.
I am starting to cry here in Starbucks just thinking about all of these things again. Don’t look at me, man with the white cell phone case and grey sweatshirt and black bill cap.
I have become a stuck CD it seems, speaking so often of the beauty of life in the midst of pain. But the last month truly made that real again to me. So I guess you get to keep hearing it if you bother reading here.
We had a wedding that Dan officiated at and we sang at on the Saturday after Dad passed away. It was pretty, simple, and happy.
After the whirlwind of viewing and funeral for Dad down south, memorial service up here in the Peace Country he loved so well, burial at the little cemetery just down the road beside Kevin, hugs, songs, cards, flowers, friends, family I-love-you’s said…. After that Dan and I went to Oregon to support my sister Twila and her family at another funeral. Twila’s husband Brian lost his father and stepmother to a fatal accident. So Twila’s five girls lost both grandfathers in four day’s time and then their grandma on the day they buried their Grandpa Peachey. The grandma was taken off of life support (as per wishes in her will) and died shortly after. Twila and Brian’s daughter Hannah lives with us this school year, teaching special ed at our church school. It was fun to walk in and surprise them on that sad day. And I got to meet Dorcas Smucker. She is tiny. I was wearing heels that day and I’m average height, but when I hugged her, I felt like I was overwhelming her. She has kind eyes.
Oregon in springtime is delicious, full of wild color and gentle green. I saw so many good friends in our brief stay there. And made a few new ones. And I started to eat again. Poor Dan, having to pay for airport food for his ravenous wife. Everything tasted SO good, starting with the fajita bowl at Chili’s in Denver. Zesty Ranch snack mix on United Airlines, heuvo ranchero (eggs, taco chips, zesty beans, salsa) in Portland airport on the way home, fruit crepes at Elmer’s across from our Portland hotel, Asian cashew chicken cabbage salad, cheeseburger soup at the funeral, a parfait in San Francisco, Wendy’s Asian cashew chicken salad, bacon cheese baked potato, and frosties in Whitecourt, Alberta. Everything Tastes Good again. My legs feel strong again.
After we were home, we got ready for SMBI (Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute) from the hills of Pennsylvania, who graced us by coming north to sing for us. We slept ten girls in our basement and it was so much fun. Black and green choir dresses hung all over the house that night, drying after their midnight washing. And the music? Awesome and beautiful.
The day SMBI left, our little Peace River Community Choir sang at one more celebration of life for a well-respected man we didn’t know well, but who was very well loved and honoured by all who knew him. I tell you, funeraled out as we were, it was a privilege to sing there and all the memories touched us in deeper ways than we knew existed because of fresh grief of our own.
I might write about being with Dad when he left this world, of our messed up family and the ways death brings us closer, of Mom in her quiet house, going through Dad’s footwear.
Or maybe I’ll just write about other things. Like Natalia saying, “Grown up ladies always say, (insert prissy voice) “Oh my! It’s already 2016. And it’s already the fourth month. And we’re already halfway through it.” And they say things like “My! You’ve grown so much!”
Ain’t that the truth, said Luci cliché-ly.
I must get home to my children and towel folding! Tomorrow there is another wedding to attend! Life goes on!!!
Said Luci like her expressive friend Sharon whose letters are adorned with exclamations. Life is really full of them, isn’t it?
I am publishing this without proofreading. Because it’s 4:01 and I said I’d be home by 4:00 and it’s a 15 minute drive home. 😦