A Time of Solitude

I forgot that quiet like this existed. I’m retreating in a cabin owned by long-time friends. The property is situated on a lake, far from the winding gravel road one must travel to get to it. I’m alone, a rarity these days, which is why the quiet has taken me by surprise. It’s dark. The kind of pitch black I don’t experience much in the city.

I sat for nearly the entire day on the dock, only breaking to either dip in the water, or get another drink. The bag at my side contained the following: three books, a journal, one pen, sunscreen, a large beach towel, and a container of corn chips, a treat that I don’t think I’ve had in years but had the sudden urge to get on the drive up from Toronto.

Memories are flooding my mind. Everything from picking warm blueberries in Sudbury with my cousins when we were all little, to my mom sitting on a dock indulging in wine and chips, to my dad helping Cate make a fishing rod out of a stick, a bobber and a bit of line. Many of these recollections make me both smile and wince with grief.

With all that has happened this year, it has been hard to really stop and let my emotions play catch-up. I don’t mean cry, as that’s something I do nearly every day (and not exclusively out of sadness). I mean really sit with the magnitude of illness, care-giving, death, loss, and upheaval. Doesn’t sound like much fun, I know, and yet ignoring it is simply not an option. I choose to grieve.

As I lay in the sun, a unique sense of calm came to rest upon me. I can’t think of another way to describe it and don’t think it was something I could conjure up for myself. I allowed myself to fluctuate being reading, being still, and praying. I listened to a loon. I broke my rhythm of sitting and dipping by taking out a kayak and paddling around the lake. I wrote in my journal. I expressed my sadness and anger, gratitude and joy, longing and hope, all punctuated with tears that periodically welled up and spilled out.

The processing is far from done. I suppose that will always be true. This journey I’m on, one that has been so marked with challenging AND remarkable things, promises to continue being a wild ride. Maybe ironically, I have been reassured in this time of solitude, that I am not alone.


Saying Goodbye to Mike

Just yesterday, on August 6th 2018, our friend Michael DeWolfe died. Even as I type, I find myself in disbelief. It’s not that Mike was well. He had struggled with a variety of health issues for a long time. Somehow though he always seemed to pull through and rather miraculously be out and about in the neighbourhood. I guess my brain got tricked into believing he would always beat the odds.

Mike was one of the first people I met when I began working in Parkdale. At the time he was known as “Iron Mike”, a clear leader and known by most. He always spoke with a gentle authority, liking to claim that he never raised his voice or swore, which in my experience proved true. He usually substituted the word ‘Christmas’ where one might have used a more typical expletive.

I learned early on that Mike was from Nova Scotia. He spoke of it often. With time I came to understand how complicated a life Mike had led, one that caused him both joy and regret. The east coast held many memories and often seemed to be calling out to him. Years ago Mike was able to move to Newfoundland. I still remember how big a deal it was: for him, and for those from Parkdale who watched him go. He even came for a visit once, asking to address everyone at our Monday Drop-In, where he encouraged people to see how change is possible. Mike had found a job, was in a relationship and healthier than he’d been in years, which gave others hope that it might happen for them.

Over time Mike returned to Parkdale. During the last few years he was a constant presence. He would always make sure to talk to me, whether it was in a drop-in or outside. Usually Mike would express concern about the many challenges I was going through, asking if there was anything he could do to help. Almost always he would talk about his family, specifically his children. More often than not Mike would cry freely during those conversations, wiping his eyes with the palms of both hands.

Just months ago, Joanna, Meagan and I had the opportunity to meet Mike’s son, daughter, and their mother. They had travelled a great distance to be with Mike who was in hospital. I always count it such a privilege to connect with the families of people we are walking alongside at The Dale. We have been in touch since, sharing concern about Mike’s health. It was Mike’s son who confirmed that his dad was now gone. To the whole of Mike’s family and friends, on behalf of The Dale, our deepest condolences.

Mike: thank you for being my friend. I will miss your laugh, your words of encouragement, and your presence. You know that at times you drove me crazy, and I will even miss that. The ‘block’ certainly won’t be the same without you. The last time I saw you was on the steps outside the church on Dunn Avenue, and it was because you sent someone in to the drop-in to get me. Thank you for that last visit. We said goodbye saying, “loves ya”. Loves ya I do.


September 12th, 1962 – August 6th, 2018