“How Are You?”

The question “How are you?” seems probing to me lately because it’s not one that I feel I can answer simply or truthfully. My mother died less than two months ago. I miss her. I want to hear her voice. There are things I want to tell her. While it was an honour and a privilege to be there for mom in the last week of her life, I was painfully aware that I was witnessing all her “lasts.” The last time she walked, talked, and fed herself, for example. In many ways, when I was caring for her, I felt like a mother with a newborn. I slept less than 20 hours that week. I spent countless hours by mom’s side—holding her hand and quietly encouraging her. “You’re so brave.” “You’re almost there!” “Everyone loves you!” For the most part, I felt calm and purposeful. One of the last things my mom said to me was, “I’m sorry you have to see this.” I assured her that there was no place I would rather be. I told her I loved her and she told me she loved me. Although it was intense and sad, there was a certain grace in her transition.
In less than two weeks, my daughter Hope will be having her second heart surgery. We learned about its inevitability just over two years ago. We’ve had time to wrap our heads around it and accept it, but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying. Occasionally at night, it will weigh heavy on Hope’s mind and she will tearfully ask me existential questions like, “Why are we here [on earth]?” and “Did we choose to be here or are we forced to be here?” Of course I don’t have any answers because these are profound and fundamental questions. Questions that sensitive humans have probably been asking for as long as we have roamed this planet. It’s heartbreaking to me that she is asking them at the tender age of 11. In a way though, I am delighted and proud because I know from Hope’s ruminations that she is deep, intelligent, and spiritual. Is there anything more important than pondering the reason for existence?
How am I? When I think about the uncertain future, I get lightheaded and nauseous. So I try to refrain from mental time travel and remain in the present. It’s not at all easy, but mindfulness brings my attention back to the simple things that I’m grateful for. Like the changing seasons, crunching maple leaves underfoot, a latte sweetened with maple syrup, fresh linens, snuggles, a compelling memoir, and the magic of watching monarch butterflies migrate. For now, my enjoyment of these things is my gauge for wellness. When caring family or friends ask how I am doing, I guess I’m not being dishonest when I reservedly reply, “I’m alright.”

Thoughtful Gestures

I’ll Be Seeing You

On July 31 at 1:46 a.m. I heard my dear mother take her last breath. She was at home in bed lying next to my dadher life partner and soulmate. I was in the next room.
Because he is so heartbroken, I have been staying with dad for the last two nights as he sleeps. For comfort, my dad falls asleep listening to talk radio and last night, around the time of moms death, the song Ill Be Seeing You came on. A sign to me that mom is at peace and still very much with us. 
I dedicate this song to my mother and father. May you be reunited again soon. I love you with all my heart. Always.

A Prayer

spare me 
from the desire 
for love, approval, 
and appreciation. 

Byron Katie


The 4:30 p.m. lesson has ended. Now the juvenile robin sits quietly in the sunlit lower branches of the catalpa tree waiting for its next instruction. Every so often it sharpens its beak on the limb beneath it.

Earlier, on the grass outside my bedroom window, the young robin stood observing its father. The older robin cocked its head to the side listening and then jabbed at the damp grass to pull out a fat worm. The younger robin squawked expectantly, until its father broke the worm up into smaller pieces that it could place in its offspring’s gaping mouth.

A quick snap. I didn't want to disturb her.
Directly across from the catalpa, a female robin has chosen the downspout against our house to construct a beautiful nest for her three cyan coloured eggs. For several mornings, she gathered and arranged twigs, mud and grasses—using her breast to firmly press these bits and pieces down. Amazing! She knows that you need the correct ratio of wet/dry materials to build a proper nest. I noticed that she has even woven in a pretty piece of baby blue plastic. Although she is more exposed than if she had nested in a tree, I think she has chosen wisely. It was quite blustery before dawn this morning and her nest weathered it well.

Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing here in the suburbs. But then I remember that like the robin who built her fine nest beneath the eaves, I also chose this house. Where the yard is green and peaceful, the leaves on the tall trees tremble, and the peonies and lilacs smell sweet in the spring. This house made of brick where I felt at home and safe enough to bring my own child into this world.

Little Reasons

“There are no big reasons to live. Just little reasons.”

—Kyo Maclear