Posts

Say It Now

I’ve said this before but the message isn’t getting through.

I was again struck by the outpouring when a celebrity dies. A mass amount of tributes and stories takes over social media. It happened last week when Tom Petty died. If the death is unexpected the jolt is real. One day you’re dreaming about seeing him in concert, the next you’re listening to all his old songs with tears running down your face.

What always surprises me is that people talk about all the memories they have, all the moments a song has gotten them through a tough time. Maybe the music reminds them of the best time of their life.

People reminisced about what Tom meant to them.

My advice is always the same.

Don’t wait, say it now.

Tonight, go through your record collection, your bookcase, and if you still have them, your old VHS tapes. Even better, think about that special teacher or neighbour that helped you when you were a kid. Recount the times in your life when someone did something that formed your world.

Then find that person and send them a note. Do it now. Tell them how much their song meant to you or how much what they said mattered when you were in pain.

We all have those memories. Don’t wait until the person is dead and tell everyone else what they meant to you. Tell THEM.

And before I forget…include your friends and family members on that list.

Days ago the legendary broadcaster, Rafe Mair passed away. The tributes started soon after the notice circulated. As I mourned the loss, I was thankful for an email conversation years ago. Rafe didn’t know me, but for a few moments, he did know how much I appreciated him.

Tom would have loved this but maybe we should have done it sooner.

 

Charles Hillman

“Charles Hillman was a true gentleman.”

That was the comment most heard at Charles’ memorial service this past weekend.

Saturday would have been his 100th birthday and Charles would have loved the hoopla!

Charles passed away on June 28, 2017 (obituary)

In August of 2013 I wrote a blog about this great man.

Today, as I read it again, I can still hear his laughter.

 

Charles

“I wish Winifred was here listening to this.”

It was the only time during the evening I thought I might cry.

My oldest client will turn 96 next week.  A truly lovely man and an iconic Vancouverite.  Winifred was his beloved wife.  I am his personal trainer.  We met in the elevator in his building. He hired me on the spot. He wanted to keep physically fit. We laughed at our first meeting and have laughed during every workout session since.

During the past year things have become more difficult for Charles.  The aging process is horrendous and cruel. Even music has slipped from his life.  He has not played his ukulele and sang to me for months.

There is a pallor of sadness and resignation filling his room.

“I have a friend staying with me, he’s just moved here from the UK, he’s a musician and actor. I’ll bring him over to sing with you.”

Charles agreed.

So last week I got to sit with Charles as Andrew pulled out his guitar and started to play.  With the first notes Andrew sang I witnessed Charles’ face light up. And I swear I watched the colour return to the room.

At the end of that first song Charles applauded the performance and proclaimed, “He’s marvelous!”

Andrew coxed Charles to join him and before I could have predicted there were both strumming along together. Sheet music appeared and the concert began.  The joy oozed from Charles even though his voice was weak. Andrew was the perfect catalyst to make the songs singable.  They sang together for the next hour.

When Charles said, “I wish Winifred was here”, I knew Andrew had made magic happen.

It’s rare to get the chance to bring someone true happiness.

And I got to witness it all.

A Religious Week

This has been a very religious week.

Yesterday I attended an Anglican memorial service for my dear client and friend, Anne Brailey. I wrote about her in a blog a few weeks ago.  Link to blog

We called each other secret sisters because our sense of humour was both alike and very inappropriate. This led to many uncontrollable fits of laughter.

Anne and I often talked about my religion and she knew I would do Buddhist prayers for her after her passing to mark the day of her predicted rebirth. She enjoyed the concept. I also told her about one of my favourite teachers, Mingyur Rinpoche. She loved that he was always laughing and looked so happy.

Anne had a soft spot for joyful people.

How interesting that this week he was teaching in Vancouver after a seven year hiatus.

I was able to attend four of Mingyur Rinpoche talks and teachings.

My weekend was a blur of his smiling face!

He recently returned from a four year retreat when he left all his worldly goods behind and led the life of a wandering yogi. He walked the walk. I highly recommend you watch some of his internet content. His practical advice on meditation is in itself enlightening. I bet he makes you laugh.

Now he is back to teaching and luckily Vancouver was one of his stops.

We met on his first visit to Vancouver back in 2001. We both looked so young!

Me with Mingyur’s translator

Years later he encouraged me to take a vow that I had been contemplating for a couple of years. That blessing changed the direction of my life. The vow went hand-in-hand with the work I do for my clients at the end of their lives.

And that brings me back to Anne.

On June 28th I will light a candle for her at the monastery where Mingyur Rinpoche spoke on Monday night.

In my heart I will recite one of our favourite jokes…

And we will both laugh.

13 Reasons Why

When my friend told me to watch the new Netflix hit 13 Reasons Why I asked him for one reason why I should. He told me it was the best thing he’d ever watched. When a 16 year old says that you need to listen.

His brief summary sold me, “A girl makes 13 tapes and sends them to the people that are responsible for her suicide.”

A few days later, a friend and extensive reader said, “The Netflix show is really good, but the book was better.”

Nothing more was required; I sat down for a 13 hour binge.

As I watched the closing credits I sent my friends each a thank you note. They were right.

13 Reasons Why has restored my faith that people can make shows that matter. This Is Us, the NBC show that debuted this year, gave me hope that we would go back to making shows that didn’t rely on fluff. 13 Reasons Why crossed the finish line.

The story covers many topics as it delves into why Hannah would make the ultimate decision. Bullying, rape, the social media frenzy, neglect, words left unspoken. I think most people can see a glimmer of themselves in one of the 13 scenarios. It’s hard to watch. Yes, devastating in places, but I have recommended it to everyone I know.

What shocked me were the media reports about the Vancouver School Board coming out with a warning about the series. The airwaves were filled with experts talking about how the show glamorized suicide. I yelled at the radio, “Have you even watched it?” I could tell most of them hadn’t. I read the VSB message to parents; it said the show should be a part of a conversation. Talk to the young people around you. Watch the show together. Talk about the Reasons Why.

The show reminded me what is was like to be 16 years old again. Did my parents know anything I was doing? The big difference between then and now, when I was young we had no social media. There was everything else, but we had no way to flame the fire into an unstoppable frenzy.

Thank God. I may not have survived.

Here are 13 reasons why I want you to watch…

1.  The writing is perfect.

2.  The actors become the characters. You will never forget them.

3.  The simple devise to indicate the flashbacks is clever and pure genius.

4.  This is happening with teenagers right now.

5.  The violence is not gratuitous.

6.  You can watch the series and then read the book.

7.  You can read the book and then watch the series.

8.  My young friend will know his opinion matters and I’ve told everyone.

9.  The soundtrack is brilliant.

10.  The characters are diverse without trumpeting the fact.

11.  You never know what will change someone’s mind.

12.  Because kids are dying and we can do something about it.

13.  Stop reading this blog, go watch the show, then talk to someone.

Glass Half Full

Really… 2016 is the worst year ever? Really?

It’s not only the media spouting the mantra but most everyone I chat with.

This leads me to think I either have a very sheltered life, or I’m a little bit too “glass half full.”

I’m just not buying into the 2016 negative hype.

My life isn’t perfect, but I do have the tendency of looking at the bright side.  Or maybe when you’re like me and battle with depression, you appreciate the good days. When you’re often at the bottom of a hole you can enjoy the smallest bit on sunlight that shines down. It’s all in the perspective.

A few times this year, when a tweet has appeared about another celebrity death, I’ve said, “Oh no, how sad!” Then I’ve read the onslaught of condolences and memories. I’m a quasi fan-girl and know how the frenzy can get out of hand. But quickly my interest dies. I’m old and people are passing. It’s just a fact.

Good people die every year.

I do hope 2016 will be a wake-up call to the horrors of drug abuse.

If you’ve been devastated by a hero’s passing in 2016, I highly recommend you look through your movie and music collection and write a letter to all the people you love. Thank them for the joy they’ve given you. Tell them what their music has meant to you. Explain how a movie changed your life.

Let 2016 be the time when you started a share your thoughts with people before they die.

Then do the same thing for all the people around you that you love and cherish.

Start today. Start in 2016.

And yes, I know about 2016 and the whole Trump, Aleppo, pipelines… everything we’ve been shocked about this year. But they will all be here in 2017. 2016 is not to blame.

As for my view on 2016…

Two of my favourite clients died this year. I miss them dearly. But I find comfort knowing I was part of the team that made their last month’s endurable and even enjoyable.

I will remember 2016 as the year I became better at helping people when they needed me most.

Another client was rushed to the hospital today. She may not survive. It’s not 2016’s fault. Her time is approaching. 2016 has been the best year for all the hours we’ve spent laughing together.

2016 was the year I was diagnosed with cancer. But then again, 2016 was also the year I beat cancer.

2016 was the year I finally realized I’ll never be considered part of my Dad’s second family. Luckily, 2016 was the year I reconnected with my little brother and had the joy of spending Christmas with him and his family.

Give 2016 a break.

It’s not the year, it’s only a state of mind.

 

Goodbye Bob

There was an old world charm about him. Decent, respectful and kind.  He spoke and thought in measured tones. You don’t see this type of man around much anymore. Old school, pragmatic and honourable to the core.

And his best quality? Bob Calder loved his family.

And hockey, Bob loved hockey.

He wore a plaid shirt many Tuesdays and Fridays. I know this because those were the days we trained together and waged a war against the Parkinson’s that tried to control Bob’s life. When I’d comment on the tartan, Bob would give a little nod. It touched my heart to think he wore something Scottish for me.

I followed the Canucks so we could chat about the team during our workouts. Bob knew I wasn’t really a fan. I couldn’t wait to discuss the latest Olympic Russian doping scam with him! We had plans to compete at the 2018 Winter Games (that crazy story is covered in this previous blog Olympic Gold Medal). No doubt Bob would have had something profound to say about the Olympic committee. I bought an Olympic Bobsled t-shirt from the Whistler Slide Centre as a Christmas gift for Bob. He would have called me an idiot but I think he would have loved it.

Bob passed away on Thursday. When his wife, Florence, called with the news, I cried.

This was not supposed to happen.  Bob was winning.

I will miss him. Our time was precious and I wanted more.

A couple months ago I thought of taking a selfie of us. Then quickly realized no picture could ever capture the joyful glint in Bob’s eyes. I’ve never seen someone laugh so much with their eyes. I promised myself to always remember that magical little sparkle.

I wish you’d had the chance to meet Bob. I bet you would have liked him as much as I did.

A true gentleman.

Later that evening, after getting the devastating news and trying to come to terms that I would never see Bob again, I made a trek through the snow to Canuck Place. I thought he would approve. It was a long, cold walk and gave me time to think. I found solace in the magical sparkle.

At the end of each training session, Florence and Bob would walk me to the door. She would say “bye bye” and Bob would give me a wave.

Just like my Dad.

 

With Malice

Wherever your summer holidays find you, take along Eileen Cook’s WITH MALICE and I can guarantee you a journey you will never forget.

This is one of my favourite books of the year, but the title rated number one. “WITH MALICE” I love when an uncommon word jumps into my sphere. I’m left wondering how I can sprinkle it into my daily conversations.

If I was a book reviewer, my headline for WITH MALICE would be “Denial, Escape and Awe.”

Denial… because for me, that is a theme of WITH MALICE. Everyone seemed to be in denial of what the characters’ true intentions could be.

On a personal level, there’s denial because this summer I’m not taking a holiday break. There will be no downtime. This means my reading will be grabbed between clients, various projects and fast approaching deadlines. I’m in denial of how important taking time off is for one’s well-being.

Luckily at the end of a packed day, I was carried along by the rush of friends from the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and attended Eileen’s book launch. Even though the book sold out I was fortunate to grab a copy. There was no denial that this was being in the right place at the right time.

Malice blog 2

Escape… because I haven’t had this type of pure escapism with a book for a long time. Eileen tells a story about a girl and her friend and what might be a murder. She makes it all so believable and so very unbelievable. In today’s world you can imagine this happening but so want it not to be true. It reminds me of that saying, “Expect the unexpected.” With my life, having a few hours to lose myself in a great story is as good as any holiday. Well almost… sleeping in then opting to start drinking at noon and then reading the great book would be a perfect escape.

But what about escaping murder?

Awe… because this book will become a classic. It is crafted so well I can imagine workshops in the future being based on the way it’s written. If you’re a writer and want to see how it’s done well, race to your local bookstore, pick up a copy, and start to read it now. The hours you spend devouring WITH MALICE will be a masterclass.

At Eileen’s book launch she talked about how she wrote the book. She’s an engaging speaker and her humble humour is deceiving. Luckily she will be speaking again at the Chapter Indigo in North Van on August 6. Go. I guarantee you will be inspired.

eileen chapters

With malice means evil intent.

WITH MALICE means summertime reading has finally arrived.

malice blog 3

 

 

 

 

Behind The Smile

I just got back from the doctor’s office. His last words to me were, “Now you can stop worrying.” Dr. Ho knew I had been going crazy with the stress of “what if…”  Dr. Ho can sometimes read my mind.

I hadn’t shared my health scare with the people around me. Right now it seems that everyone is dealing with some sort of loss, so there was no sense in adding in my little issue.

But this did remind me of a blog I wrote a couple years ago… and since I’m sore from today’s very minor medical procedure, I thought I would just re-post one of my favourite blogs…

Raise Your Hand

The only good thing about a loss is what it might teach you. I hate that we are meant to look for the lesson when things go bad. Fuck that. When things go bad there is nothing good to say. Bad is bad.

While you wallow, it might dawn on you how much crap there is all around us. There is pain behind so many smiles. People go through shit all the time. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with and sometimes the pain will cripple forever.

I watch myself cry each day. And I’ve done that for the last 97 days. No one else knows. The world only sees me carry on. I work, I play, I write, I even laugh. Then when I least expect it there is a flash of what I’ve lost and the tears come. My grief has become a silent pursuit. It’s not that I believe no one cares but I believe no one needs to be a witness. My story has become boring and not worth the counsel or examination people offered three months ago.

I inwardly cringe when asked how I am. There is no need to tell the truth. Lying is the way to cover the grief. On my worst days I feel anger at having to carry on and pretend all is fine. Quit asking me questions and forcing me to lie to you. Please stop. My wave of self-pity can easily turn to thoughts of hate and revenge.

When is the line, “I will never be happy again” not a cry for help but a simple statement?

So what am I learning? I am not alone. At least I’m not alone in what I’m going through. Now when I look at people I try to grasp what devastation is behind their smiling face. I can’t stop taking the extra second to search for a glimmer of truth of what is really going on inside each person I meet. What pain are you hiding? Have you had to cry today? Is your heart so broken you may never be whole? Is your loss stealing every ounce of joy? How are you surviving? And what the hell do you answer when asked “How are you today?”

One day I’ll ask for a show of hands of who is hiding their pain.

Behind the Smile Blog

A Funeral

I went to a funeral today.

I promised I wouldn’t blog about the death.

We all have secrets. We all tell lies.

I looked around the room and wondered how many know the truth.

You may think you know, but are you just kidding yourself?

Do we have any sense of what someone else is really thinking?

I don’t think so.

I know I don’t know.

Even if the person closest to you whispers in your ear… aren’t they just telling you what you want to hear?

Aren’t you doing the same?

Death is a great equalizer. And as much as I hate it, I love the clarity it brings.

Life is much easier if you don’t fear death.

Start that discussion and you might edge closer to the truth.

I promised I wouldn’t blog about this death.

But I can’t think of anything else.

I went to a funeral today.

elayne trees