I’m hanging in. That is generally my response when people ask how I am. What does “hanging in” mean? All sorts of things really. It means: I’m able to give expression to my deep sadness; I’m putting one foot in front of the other; I’m encouraged by all the support being offered; I’m consumed with trying to figure out how to make good decisions; I’m tired, but not the kind of tired that is solved with a nap; I’m praying, but usually with groans instead of words. This is a very trying time.
One evening Cate looked at me and earnestly asked, “do you think going to work a bit might help?” A good question, especially coming from one who knows that going to school has helped maintain a sense of normalcy. I began to consider what parts of my usual routine would be worth resuming and decided that I needed to 1) connect more with friends and 2) go to work (even if just a little). And so, last Tuesday I arrived in Parkdale for the first time since Dion was hospitalized in January.
People greeted me with concern and love. Hardly anyone asked a lot of questions. Most simply acknowledged how difficult things must be. One woman who likes to greet me as ‘Ms Padre-ess’, hugged me and repeatedly said, “I’ve been worried about you. I want to help. You’re here for me and I’m here for you. That’s how we do things.” Other friends stopped panhandling long enough to give me knowing looks about how hard life is and offer words of encouragement.
Today was our morning breakfast and art drop-in. A community member, who also happens to be a refugee from Syria, cooked pancakes and bacon for everyone. A group of us had a pretty hilarious conversation about…squirrels (I still don’t know how it started). One person was beading, another colouring, another sketching. A friend hovered around me while I did dishes, telling me about what it’s like living outside in the rain and the nasty cold that he caught while there. Before he left though he said, “mama, I’m gonna give you a hug”.
One of my folks recently got moved to Bridgepoint, the same facility Dion is in. This afternoon a group of the nomadic tribe which is The Dale gathered with him and Dion in order to share communion, pray, and sing the gospel song, ‘Soon and Very Soon’. And then tonight our Dinner Shuffle had pizza together in a lounge at the hospital, so that we could all be together. In both cases, it was a sweet merging of worlds.
This period of life feels like an in between place, neither here nor there. What will be is not yet clear. In the midst of a lot of change, there is something grounding about returning to some regular rhythms, like being at The Dale and gathering with our Dinner Shuffle friends. I have no illusions of being self-sufficient. If anything, this is all causing me to more fully surrender to my/our need for support. Through my helplessness, the door to grace is again opening.