Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Burying My Mother

Sorry it took so long to write this.
I expected it to be a quiet (if stressful) week in Family Hometown. Not likely! The phone rang nonstop all day, and neighbours stopped by often to offer their condolences. Not that they weren’t appreciated, but MY GOD I was glad to get home for some rest!

Family conflicts rose their weary heads again, but were ignored with the knowledge that my mother’s death were adding to the fire. I have spent the last 20 years thinking that I was a tough teenager to raise. That I was obstinate and somewhat disrespectful to my parents. Now I think that was an incorrect assumption. The same arguments and offenses returned, and with the same results. The difference is that I’m now nearly 40 years old, have lived more than ½ my life outside their home, and understand reality and society’s rules. And I still disagreed with much of what that household did (and how they did it). It reassured me that I was justified in all my teenage rebellion, and that I was not the Royal Pain In The Ass that I’d assumed I’d been. This has nothing to do with the death and funeral, mind you – strictly life in the Hometown House.

The funeral was a mess, but in a way that only my family could expect. We asked an old family friend to perform the ceremony. He was my parents’ first minister when we moved to Canada 30 years ago. I don’t think anyone had seen him in the last decade or so.
When I phoned to tell him of my mum’s passing, instead of focusing on how his friend of three decades had died, he started telling me about the temperature in the Ukraine and how it the poverty there is killing people. Not a good sign… However, he wanted to perform the funeral service and booked a room for the nights before and after. The hotel was a 5-minute walk from the church.

He didn’t phone the family to discuss the service. Nobody could get in touch with him on the morning of the service. Twenty minutes after the service was supposed to start, the in-house minister offered to run things. So 30 minutes late we decided to start with the stand-in. The stranger did a great job under the circumstances, and was ½ way through the final prayer when the Original Minister barged in.
Frothing at the mouth, he grabbed the microphone (without an apology for his timing), and quickly mentioned my mother by name. Then he went on a 45-minute tangent about his running out of gas in Nova Scotia, poverty in Eastern Europe, and something else that I blocked out… But NONE of it had anything to do with the deceased. NONE! The stand-in minister crept up behind me and asked if I was okay with the speech. I mentioned that he was a welcome guest, but was getting quite long-winded. The stand-in calmly approached the pulpit, pulled the microphone from Original Minister’s hand, and announced that we would be ending the service and heading to the burial.

Pure awesome. Completely wrong. But with an inappropriateness that my mother would have found hilarious.

The burial went without a hitch, and we headed to the pub for a few much-needed pints.

The next day Wife and I came back to Toronto to hibernate for a couple of days before rejoining reality.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dirty Work for the Family

Well... I said I'd start writing this again, if at least for therapeutic reasons, so here goes.

Friday morning, I got up reluctantly (as usual).  Showered, shaved, and prepared for another 8 hours in the office.  I picked up my Blackberry, and noted that there had already been 2 phone calls this morning.  Notably, they were both from my family.
I listened to the first message, already knowing what was to come:  My dad's voice saying "mother... dead.  See ya."  He had a stroke and has a VERY limited vocabulary -the 'see ya', although strangely comical, wasn't intentional.
Wife and I quickly got ready and booked the train to my family's hometown.  Other than brief respite Sunday night back in Toronto, i've been in Hometown since then. 
Endless phone calls and drop-ins, while well-meaning, have led to a general state of exhaustion in the house. Surprisingly, most of the funeral and burial arrangements were made within 12 hours of her passing.  It's amazing how smoothly these things are set out.

Since then I've been spending most of my time finding and photoshopping a good photo of my mum, writing a speech, fielding phone calls from everyone in town, and searching for those long-lost family friends that may or may not still be alive or in Canada.

My family is dealing with it quite well for now.  Her illness debilitated her for around a year, so i think we had unconsciously prepared beforehand.

Anyway, my father is shouting for me to go with him to pick out the gravesite.  He knows I like shopping...

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Last August I was having a rough time.
Frustrated with work, stress, and life in general, I was at a low point. I blogged about it, and it was a tough one to write. Racist slurs, hate, it was pretty bad. I’ve read it a few times since then, and noticed that as soon as I wrote it, I started to feel better. Reading the typeface seemed to clarify my position. Every time I read it, I see how bad I was, and have made an effort to not let the bullshit affect me.
I’m doing much better now and am really glad I wrote that tough post. I’m also going to try restarting this blogging thing, as it is obviously therapeutic. And who knows, maybe people will start reading me again…