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Showing posts from November, 2012

The Next Day

By Belinda

The next day in Mum's story of 2003/04...

Rob and I had visited Mum at the hospital the day before--my first time with her since her stroke. This had been so different from all of our previous reunions. She expressed resignation and acceptance and I saw sadness in her eyes and on her face. 

Before going to see her again we went shopping for a new pillow, duvet, and sheets for Mum's bed, and then we headed for the hospital.

We found her asleep again, as she had been the day before when we arrived, but this time she was sitting up in a chair, and she woke as soon as I touched her arm. Her eyes were sunken and tired, and she said that she hadn't slept at all that night.

Even so, I was struck by how beautiful her dear face was; those beautiful eyes; looking more like her own mothers' with every passing year; and her lovely complexion, and her abundant silver gray hair, simply combed back. 

I grieved for what she and we had lost, but was so grateful for what and who we…

Voting Almost Over in the Canadian Blog Awards

December 1st Voting is DONE! Only 4 days left to vote in the Canadian Blog Awards

If you enjoy reading here, PLEASE click the link above to vote for this blog under the Best Religion Philosophy category.

And  please consider voting for faithful reader, fellow writer and blogger, Dave Hingsburger's blog, Rolling Around in My Headin the categories of Best Personal Blog and Best Health Blog,

You can only vote once, but do not have to be Canadian to vote.

Best Before

By Belinda

I grew up post-war Britain and rationing did not end until 4 years after I was born. I absorbed a sense of food's value, learned not to waste it and also love to cook. 

This combination of factors is my excuse for the fact that we have two fridges in our home--both usually packed to the gills with left overs from dinners I have cooked for family or friends. 

Since  I work full time, cleaning out both fridges usually only happens at crisis point, when food items begin to ambush unsuspecting people when the door is opened.

At this busy time of the year, fridge cleaning slides more than usual, but rose to the top of my To Do list on a recent Saturday morning when I could stand the food commando raids no longer.

This was just after I told a friend that there was some applesauce in the fridge that would go with the pork we were having for lunch and she asked, "Belinda did you want to serve this?" when she opened it. 

Let's just say, it must have passed its "best…

There

By Belinda

I arrived in England for a four week stay, late on a cold January evening in 2004. After a 25 hour long journey, due to closed airports in England, when I finally got to Mum's empty house in Alvechurch, I slept deeply and woke up the next morning feeling well rested and refreshed.

Rob had to go to work, and I spent the day quietly, waiting impatiently for him to come home so that we could go to the hospital together. It felt like I had waited so long through the months since October and her stroke, and I just couldn't wait any longer to see her.

Night falls early in the winter in England and we arrived at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch in the dark.

A sense of deja vu flowed over me. A year ago to the month, I had made many visits to this very hospital as Dad lay dying of pneumonia. The beeping of life support machinery; the very hallways I had walked at that time; and the smell of the place, all were part of my memories of "then."

I had already asked Rob if…

The Bridge from There to Here

By Belinda

And so it came to pass that a year that contained more than its fair share of losses ended, and new year began: 2004. 

On the 28th day of January, I boarded a plane for England, hardly able to believe that at last I would be seeing Mum.

I couldn't get a direct flight to Birmingham so I flew via Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. When the flight landed in France however, we were told that there were no flights leaving for England; a snowfall had caused chaos on the roads and the airports were closed. Passengers were given meal coupons for an airport lounge. There was nothing to do but wait.

If I have a book to read and journal to write in I will be content for hours and so the eleven hours until England pulled itself together and cleared away the snow felt like a kind of comfortable limbo.

I wasn't in a hurry, I realized, now that I was on my way. Maybe I was a little scared. I had said goodbye to Mum when she boarded the plane for England in October, but so much had hap…

The Blue Christmas

By Belinda

Late on the night of Mum's sudden return to the hospital, Rob called me with good news. He had arrived half expecting her to be still waiting to be seen, just as I had worried, but instead he found her settled into bed, wearing a warm, pink and yellow nightie, with a cream blanket tucked up around her. She was comfortable, and said that she felt "at home," and was laughing and happy. Such a relief.

Mum spent a week in the hospital and then was brought home again on December 10th to the house on Snake Lane. Rob found this time that she was not quite herself, and seemed depressed.

Feeling so very far away, our lives went on, caught up with the gathering intensity of Christmas activities. The evening of December 10th, Paul and I went to the community carol service at our church.

I burst into tears in the middle of, Oh Holy Night. The thought of Mum and Rob struggling along in Alvechurch and of Mum in the cold empty house, and sad; was just too much of a contrast with…

The Sound of Sirens

By Belinda

A brief pause in the story of our own past harrowing family journey...

One fact not often mentioned about Baby Boomers; my generation; is that we grew up with the shock waves of a war we never knew.

I've written about some of those shock waves at various times here, but I've never mentioned the sound of sirens and the effect they had on Mum. A factory siren sounding the end of a work day, would take her back in a second to the terror of the bombing of Rotterdam. While her street survived, her city was all but demolished on May 14th 1940 during the German invasion of Holland. Second hand, we grew up knowing the terror of war.

Today, listening to updates on the news of the bombing in Gaza and the rockets firing into Israel, I was thinking of a friend in Tel Aviv, a woman I came to know through my friend Dave's blog, and whom I tried to meet up with last year in Israel. We didn't manage to connect face to face due to timing, but we connect occasionally still throug…

The Journey Through the Valley

By Belinda

 Just as our household was stirring awake on a cold winter morning, the phone rang downstairs. It was 7.00 a.m. on Tuesday the 2nd of December, 2003, 8 days after Mum had come back home from hospital.

I heard Rob's voice on the other end of the phone line; he usually called at night to give updates on Mum--I knew this couldn't be good news. He told me that Mum was on her way to hospital in an ambulance.

As he recounted the circumstances, they broke my heart.

The house that Mum and Dad had shared in Snake Lane for their last years together after moving from Bear Hill, was old and very basic. I would guess that it had been built at least 80 years earlier. 

When I visited them in the month of October for the years they were there, I would sleep under layers of blankets because it was so cold. If it was -3 outside, it was not much warmer inside, and I remember once, writing on a postcard to family back in Canada that I felt as though I was sleeping out on the side of a hill.…

The Road to Recovery

By Belinda

Almost four weeks post-stroke, when my nephew Tim visited Mum in the hospital, she greeted him by saying, "Hello darling."  Tim said to his dad, Rob, afterwards, that it was the first thing that Omie had really said to him since she had been ill.

Two simple words suddenly meant so much. They were reported across continents, recorded in my journal, and had the import of the words of the most famous celebrity. 

I could think of no better choice for the blessing of Mum's first "darling" than Tim. Mum meant so much to Rob's two sons, Tim and John. She was loved by everyone, but to them she had been a constant source of stability, love and security over some difficult years.

Exactly four weeks after her stroke, Mum went for a short "home visit" to the empty house on Snake Lane. An occupational therapist went along to make an assessment of the accommodations necessary for her return.

She was able to turn on the gas stove, but had difficulty with t…

So Much Can Happen in a Year

By Belinda

We all know on some level in our heads that life as we know it can change in an instant, but we act as though we ourselves, and those we love are invincible--and we choose to believe it. 

We don't really believe that our parents will ever grow old, or become vulnerable--or dependent. They were the ones who were so big and strong in our eyes as children and they were supposed to look after us.

I remember the shock when I first noticed my parents aging and realized that they whom I had needed, needed me. 

And now, as relentlessly as the increasingly chill winds of oncoming winter gradually stripped bare the trees of their golden leafed glory, what only happened to other people was happening to us.

One October evening in 2003, just after Mum's stroke, I was playing Beatles music in my kitchen while cooking a stir fry, and the music reminded me vividly of our last years together as a family in the 1960's. I found myself mourning the loss of both of my parents. It was a p…

Only a Week Later

By Belinda

Mum had flown home on October 13, Thanksgiving Monday, 2003.

One week later I was just about to leave for a work special staff event, ( a "Time of Refreshing,") when the phone rang.

My brother Rob's deep voice traveled through thousands of miles of telephone wire  with news I tried hard to comprehend. He told me that he was with Mum, waiting for an ambulance. She had had a stroke!

While I had been going about my early morning preparations for the day, far away, on the other side of the ocean, she had collapsed outside the Alvechurch village post office. She had gone there to pick up her pension and mail a letter to me; the last letter she would ever write. 

She had developed a troubling hot spot on her leg after arriving back in England on Tuesday morning and the doctor who had seen her on Friday had urged her to avoid moving more than necessary until Monday,  when a district nurse who knew her well, would come in and check it. But Mum being always a creature of ha…

2003 With Mum Continued

By Belinda

Eight days after Mum's arrival in Canada in September 2003, we were back in Ontario from our trip to BC, for the rest of her vacation with us. We had a few days together before Uncle John also flew in from England for a vacation with us, on the last day of September.

The beginning of October found our house full of people. A bushel of apples that I had bought in nearby Collingwood filled the house with a delicious fragrance and awaited peeling and slicing for pies. 

The whirlwind trip to BC had been wonderful, and I had loved every minute, but I was tired. There was little time for solitude, as essential to me as breathing almost, and the demands of work and caring for additional people on top of my normally busy life was catching up with me. 

I found myself praying for patience, balance and focus, trying to slow down enough to see the precious gifts God gave me in people. I was gripped with a fear that I might miss something because I was always so busy.

One day I was impat…

Remembering

By Belinda

This blog is so often a place of remembrance. Today we remember those who gave so much for so many who think of it so little. The cost was great. 

Let us also remember to honour those who return alive but wounded physically and emotionally from military action today. Many have to fight to have their wounds and compromised health recognized.

The "Viktor and I" Film Premiere

By Belinda

Last week I wrote that I had marked my calendar with events   Holocaust Education Week

In the end I attended one event, last Saturday evening: the premiere presentation of the film, Viktor and I (scroll down for trailer) at Beth Sholom Synagogue in Toronto. 

Alexander Vesely, the grandson of Viktor Frankl, and the filmmaker, was at the premiere in person! 

I read Viktor Frankl's inspiring book, Man's Search for Meaning; Frankl's profound memoir of surviving Auschwitz and finding meaning in suffering; many years ago, at the suggestion of my friend, Dave Hingsburger. The book is inspiring and a life shaper and Viktor Frankl was a unique man. So I set out with Paul for this event with great anticipation.

Never having been in a synagogue before, except the ruins of ancient ones in the Holy Land, I saw the evening as a cultural adventure as well as one of remembrance and education. 

As we followed the crowds of people entering the synagogue, purses and camera bags were s…

Checking In!

By Belinda

I have been missing in action--away at a work conference, but have lots to write about when I have a moment or two to catch my breath!

I just wanted to check in and say that I am alive and well and looking forward to reconnecting. Meanwhile this is a photo taken at beautiful Geneva Park YMCA where the conference was held, on Lake Couchiching. 


Remembering Rainerchen

Introduction by Belinda

Last week I wrote about Holocaust Education Week Coming Up and about the Grand Opening Ceremony of The Maxwell and Ruth Leroy Holocaust Remembrance Garden.

We are in Holocaust Education Week now, and I have permission to share this story, written by a woman of German descent, whose family was swept up in the tragedy that overtook Europe in that dark time.

The story was shared in a speech made at the grand opening, by Fran Kieselstein, the Chair of the Maxwell and Ruth Leroy Holocaust Education Committee. It had been sent to her by the woman who wrote it. I asked her for a copy and permission to share it and you will understand why when you read it. 


Remembering Rainerchen
I knew I had a brother who had died at the age of three. There were a few photos of him in the family album, a blond child sitting on my mother's knee. His name had been "Rainer," but on the rare occasions when she spoke of him, my mother always referred to him by the loving diminutiv…

The Canadian Blog Awards Round 2 Begins!

Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to check out the
Canadian Blog Awards and place a vote! To my excitement, Dave, friend and encouraging writer friend, who writes a blog I never miss reading daily,  Rolling Around In My Head, made it into round two in two categories: Best Personal Blog and Best Health Blog. Your vote counts--please vote again for this excellent blog, which challenges me, makes me laugh, makes me sigh and sometimes cry.

Also, Whatever He Says made it to Round Two too, in the Best Religious Blog Category. Here is where you can't go wrong however you choose to cast your vote. The competing blog is excellent and is in my sidebar in fact, as a blog I read. I can't tell you how to vote but I hope you do!

Thank you for joining in the fun. You get one vote in each category and the voting ends on December 1st!

Awesome God

By Belinda

By Wednesday, September 24th, 2003, Mum and I were airborne and headed back from British Columbia to Ontario. 

Our five days with our friends had flown by. And I could hardly believe that it was just nine days since I had picked up Mum from her journey from England at Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto.We were flying back with many happy memories of being immersed in the large crowd of family and friends of the de Jong family. After the wedding there was time to visit, laugh and enjoy one another's company to the full. It had all been perfectly wonderful.

Before leaving the little cabin where we had been the guests of Ank and Cors de Lint, Ank asked me to write in the guest book that she kept there. It held a record of the many people who had been guests there. Each one had written a personal message about their stay; some short, some long. Writing something in her book was all Ank asked of anyone staying there. 

I wrote about Mum's fall when we arrived; the story of