Today I received some very hard news: my Auntie Laurie has died.

We are at our beloved camp, which in many ways feels fitting, because Laurie, Bob and their girls spent years living in Parry Sound, just a ten minute car ride away. The trees, water and rock all feel comfortingly familiar. The smell of the air is good. I looked up at the carpet of stars tonight and stood in awe and deep sadness.

As I’ve said before and am sure to say again, death sucks. I am reminded of those that have already gone and struck by the reality that more will go, including me. I long for the day that death is eradicated and all is made whole.

Life will be different for people without Laurie. In many ways the grief began a while ago, though now it takes on a new fullness.
I am relieved to know that today was peaceful for her- I know that is something which provides some comfort.

Family, friends…May the peace that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds. Let’s remember and celebrate Laurie. Let’s laugh. And let’s sing- Laurie made sure to ask that we sing.

Trying for Balance

I have been a little quieter here of late. It is not out of lack of desire to write and share, but more out of a general lack of time as I cope with the many things happening in life these days. Time seems to be spinning by and I am doing the quick step in order to keep up. I long to create healthy balance in my life. My apologies if I have missed your call or failed to respond to an e-mail. I am catching up and truly want to meaningfully engage.

PNC is settling in to our new drop-in space. The spacious, air-conditioned (!) room is making for some very calm gatherings. I am grateful.

I am trying to figure out a way to invite people to support us financially. No easy task I tell you. All I know is that our place needs to continue.

I sat with someone at a picnic table in the park today. She has become a regular at PNC over the last number of months, but this was the first time we had the chance to talk just the two of us. She told me of her challenging upbringing and her interest in breaking the cycle of poverty and addiction in her own life. Her eyes show her determination. I felt so pleased and proud of her in that moment and so humbled to be invited into the journey.

I have been admittedly feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things that I have to do around PNC. It’s not that I can’t delegate certain things (I have) or that I feel alone (I don’t). It’s that some things are just for me to do. I have been charged with a lot of responsibility and I long to hold it well. I desire to walk humbly, knowing always that this is not all about me. In fact, it’s not about me at all. It’s about creating a community of people built on a foundation of rock, not shifting sand. The only personality that PNC is about is God’s. And God is love.

In the spirit of love I must go deal with the pile of dishes in my kitchen and the heap of laundry waiting to be folded. A life in balance is such a challenge, no?

Good thing love is patient and kind and full of forgiveness.

Our Town

Yesterday I accompanied my mom to a beautiful old Toronto home turned hospice. Her youngest sister Laurie is there because of the cancer that has invaded her body. Pardon me while I shake a fist at damn cancer.

Much of our family gathered: my other aunts and uncles, some cousins, my brother and sister-in-law and of course Laurie’s three girls and her husband. Dion had the opportunity to visit earlier in the day. We took turns being with Laurie- sometimes many of us filling her room, sometimes but a few. Always, always right there are Bob, Meghan, Kate and Emma, clearly knowing exactly what is needed.

The veil of tears is thick. This all feels surreal and so very sad. I will never get used to death drawing close.

What a remarkable privilege it is though to be present at a time such as this. I can’t imagine having been anywhere else, except in the company of Laurie and my family. I’m grateful the opportunity was and is there.

I have many wonderful memories of us all being together and certainly of Laurie. When I was small my aunt would take me for a day during March Break: we would wander Kensington Market, eat fresh bagels, buy a little trinket and go back to her place to make art. There was always lots of art making. I recall the time Laurie and my three or four-year old self were walking on the ice of Lake Ramsey in Sudbury- as we got close to Grandpa Bill’s boathouse Laurie fell through, fortunately it wasn’t deep, but oh so cold. I remember Laurie and Bob dancing in the kitchen. I have always admired the way Laurie gives gifts and now seek to do the same. She reads. She makes good salad. Maybe what I love most is Laurie’s ability to both laugh and cry with such ease.

When the wheelchair taxi arrived to get my mom home much of the family walked outside to see us off. As we drove away the driver kept saying, “look at all of you, you have the same smile. Nice family. Big, just like my family in Africa”.

With those words echoing in my head I now sit here writing, crying and occasionally laughing. I can’t stop singing “Our Town”, the song that was so sweetly sung, with ukulele accompaniment to Laurie by her girls and Bob, while we all stood in the hall…

Now I sit on the porch and watch the lightning-bugs fly.
But I can’t see too good, I got tears in my eyes.
I’m leaving tomorrow but I don’t wanna go.
I love you, my town, you’ll always live in my soul.

But I can see the sun’s settin’ fast,
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on, I gotta kiss you goodbye,
But I’ll hold to my lover,
‘Cause my heart’s ’bout to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to my town, to my town.
I can see the sun has gone down on my town, on my town, 

Summer Camp

I went to summer camp as a kid. There I got a significant amount of sun and mosquito bites; learned how to steer a canoe and play capture the flag; discovered how to make new friends in less than a day; created crafts that yes, I still have; developed an ability and desire to sit around a camp fire for a long time, sing songs and roast the perfect marshmallows for s’mores; and gained a deepened sense of faith and love for God.

I loved it. I loved the people, the smell of the air, the sound of the loons in the morning, the mist on the lake and the stars at night. I even appreciated the lack of sleep, the aloe vera needed to soothe sunburnt shoulders and stumbling around in the dark trying to find the outhouse (you know what I mean)- being the klutz that I am I would inevitably trip over some big tree root. *Ahem*

Cate is off to camp today for a week. This is not her first time, nor do I expect it to be the last. She already swims like a fish, adores jumping off the deep end dock over and over and over again, is keen to craft, sing and learn, and has an affinity for roasting marshmallows. I’m thrilled for her and admittedly a little misty-eyed: my little constant companion is going away and growing up. In many ways camp feels like a rite of passage.

I’m quite certain that Cate will return full of stories, sand, sun and s,mores: the stuff that memories are made of.

Oh, sweet summer camp.


Bring It On

I had to pull down the PNC sign from both the gate and door at 201 Cowan Avenue on the weekend. For me, this made the move official. PNC no longer has its own building.

To be honest, I am relieved that the move is finally done. It was The amount of “stuff” that accumulated in our space was, at least for me, astonishing. I found things that clearly were made with some purpose and yet I have no idea what for. I discovered things squirreled away in corners and cupboards. As we purged and packed I became thankful for the freedom from things. I also became admittedly overwhelmed, occasionally stressed and rather emotional.

Moving, as right as I believe it is, means entering a time of unknown, of in between, of newness. In response to the question, “what is something that makes you sad?” one of our youngest community members drew a picture on Sunday of many stick people carrying a large box. She said she felt sad that the people were carrying away her church. For this little person that is indeed what is happening. Oh my.

I want to honour the sadness. I don’t want to belittle the magnitude of this change. I will join with others in weeping. I also want to persist in announcing that we are a community that exists outside of a building. We will continue to gather; to support; to create; to question; to pray; to dance; to love. I have come to enjoy describing us as a community that is spilling out into the hood. We are going to be present and very visible as we wander the streets, hold a drop-in at Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian, tend the plot in the community garden, etc, etc.

It is also time for me to focus on developing good structure and new process. I need to find even more opportunity to share PNC’s story and invite people in. I need to raise funds. These are not small tasks. I pray for wisdom, discernment, humility and strength. I pray that I will remember that I am not alone. Because I really am not.

I have a little book of readings that I try to look at daily. The latest entry contained this: “You gain confidence through knowing that I am with you- that you face nothing alone. Anxiety stems from asking the wrong question: ‘If such and such happens, can I handle it?’ The true question is not whether you can cope with whatever happens, but whether you and I can handle anything that occurs.”

Bring it on.