Valerie Sheils (August 11, 1936 - March 28, 2019)
Barbara Harrison (April 11, 1944 - April 4, 2019)
We lead our lives like water flowing down a hill,
going more or less in one direction until we splash
into something that forces us to find a new course.
Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
My life drastically changed direction in recent weeks with the death of a friend in Belfast, and unexpectedly a week later, that of my sister, Barbara. One had journeyed with me for 64 years, and my sister for almost 75 years. Needless to say, I am being forced to find a new course, and go down a new learning path with their void in my life, and now in the role of executrix. Even with my many years of grief training and Hospice volunteering, when something becomes personal its impact is fierce.
At some time life hands us challenges that seem insurmountable, which we each handle in our own way. Yet, moments of gratitude are uplifting, and I have experienced many in just a couple of weeks, in part: grateful that Valerie is no longer in discomfort, and for the mutual friend who dissuaded me from attending her service days later in Belfast, went in my stead, and took my stories to Andrew, her husband; that Barb died peacefully, as she always hoped she would; the kindness of first responders and the two RCMP officers who remained with me, walked me home hours later and followed up next day; my two nephews who joined me and completed the herculean task of clearing her apartment in a week, in between meetings and transferring her car; for the continuing offers of kindness and huge support from friends; for adrenaline and energy to keep going step by step, and the symbol of hope outside my window, a beautiful tree with its bright pink blossoms.
Reflecting on the lives of these two special people I see how each left a legacy by being who they were and in using their individual talents. One was outgoing and one very private, but each in their own way turned on a light that they shared with others. And what they shared of themselves has become precious memories that those close to them will remember, at times with tears and other times with laughter, but always fond remembrances.
Decades ago, when we lived miles apart, my sister said that we didn't have to live close to be close (which just came to mind). When she moved out to BC we eventually lived at the same complexes, with the last in apartments across the courtyard from each other, developing a morning ritual so we knew the other was up. That, and the many things we did together like grocery shopping, walking to our local park, was part of how we cared. Very different in outlook and interests as we were, there never was any doubt that we had each other's back.
The movie, Shadowlands, the late-in-life love story of Belfast born C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham, who was dying, has a line: The pain then is part of the happiness now. Life is fleeting, regardless of chronological years. Let's continue to create cherished moments, so that even in the pain of our sadness we can bring them to mind, without regrets for what we might or could have done.
Thank you for allowing me to share some personal thoughts. The next Innisfree Moment will be in June.
Blessings and Namasté!
Rev. Dorothy Blandford, Ph.D
Apt. 202 - 1655 Martin Drive
Surrey, BC, V4A 6E1, Canada