Thursday, June 30, 2016

water on a summer's eve

If I was an element I would definitely be water.   I am drawn to water.

The few days in my life  I have spent walking alongside the ocean's shore have been the days I most deeply have  known myself.  One day I will move to live by the ocean!  I don't know how or when, but it is one of my goals.

Watering a bush on a June evening
Tonight I took note of the water spraying out of the garden hose.  It was so pretty.   It makes me want to be a water droplet flying through the air                                             of a summer evening.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dancing in the night

It was the last time I would drive my daughter to her hip hop dance class, but on that dark winter evening I had no way of knowing that.  Maybe if I had known, things would have been different.

It was the kind of evening where shadows were long and the temperatures low: in the minus twenties. On most dance nights  I normally  liked to go for walks around the studio's historic, artsy neighbourhood while I waited for Sam's class to finish,  but on that January night it was just so cold and dark and slippery with black ice that I decided to wait in the lobby of the studio.

Tapping my toes impatiently for the class to end, I found myself drawn to a picture window tucked neatly into the far end of the studio.  Through the window I could see an ongoing ballet class of young dancers: it was so gorgeous to watch my breath caught.  Several very skilled teen girls (the kind who'd probably been dancing since age three) twirled and spun together in time to the music, the litheness of their movements telling its own story of hope and promise.

As I watched, mesmerized by the music and the  movements, emotion hit me as forcefully as it was sudden. It was all I could  do to duck my head so the other dance moms (the kind whose kids had been in dance since age three)  at the other end of the studio couldn't see my face before silent tears began their own dance down my cheeks.  I wish I could tell you I was crying because I was so moved by music or the dance or even the beauty of young girls as they danced  on the precipice of adulthood. But these were tears of grief and self pity.   Maybe even a little envy.

 I cried because even then I couldn't dance. At least I thought I couldn't.

At that point in my life,  although I could still walk easily, my many years battle against chronic health issues had made more advanced movements (ie running, jumping and dancing)  impossible. And so I stood watching a class of young ballerinas leap and twirl and dance with joy- in a way I could not.  And I grieved.

What I didn't realise was just two days later I would hurt my knee, and (when combined with my chronic health issues) lose the ability to walk. At that moment  I had no insight into the months and months of mobility issues and pain ahead, months when I would have done anything to be able to stand in a dance studio watching ballerinas.

It was a hard, very humbling lesson to learn, later, as I looked back, wishing so badly to return to the previous state I had felt so hard done by in.

It brought me to a realization I didn't really understand on that sad, cold night of shadows and tears.  A realization that has become a precious gift.

I realized that dancing is so much more than the ability to leap and twirl and pirouette to music. Every breath we take in our bodies, every  movement we make, every friend we meet,  every action we take: that's dancing.  Dancing through life.  Even the hardships, they are the part of our lives that resemble the dramatic parts of a ballet dance.

That January  night when I cried because I couldn't dance like the ballerinas,  I disregarded completely that I'd had the abilities to  drive my teen to her class,  easily navigate the many stairs to the basement dance studio, and stand watching the ballerinas. Most of  all, I didn't realize that in doing these things- driving, stair descending, walking, and standing, as well as loving my child- I WAS dancing.  Not dancing to music, but  dancing through life.  Dancing on the earth God made.  Dancing through the life God created. Dancing.

Its a lesson I hope I never lose sight of, that life is what we make of it.   There will always be things we long for that are out of our grasp.   That's part of life. The choice offered us is to mourn what we don't have...or to be grateful for what we do.  To focus with joy on the beauty and goodness and love and life we have been given.   We get to choose our focus and perspective, and that in itself is a gift.

I used to take the ability to be easily mobile completely for granted.  Not any more. As I relearn to walk, every step is precious now.

These past months I've longed for another chance and today I was granted a big one. I saw my physiotherapist  this afternoon and he was thrilled with how my walking looked as I pushed a walker several feet across my back deck.

 The best part of all is that he sees a good prognosis for my walking abilities ...his hope is that over the coming months I will continue to regain strength, balance and mobility until I am able to walk independent of support and even regain driving abilities.

He estimates that   8 months from now I will be able to: walk down my front steps without help,  walk down the sidewalk to my vehicle, get in, drive somewhere,  get out,  and walk a medium distance (ie into a store or into church).   I still might need the wheelchair for longer trips (ie walking through a big mall) but to be able to walk at all is just the most wonderful idea..

 This time I  had to reign in my (happy) tears at the idea of regaining such freedom.  I'm going in the right direction. ... dancing all the way.

(Note, photos taken at Sam's dance recital a few weeks ago).

Monday, June 20, 2016

Arch of roses

A few springs ago, after a long winter of devouring library books on Victorian and cottage style gardens, I went off to my favourite greenhouse (the Canadian Tire nursery).  After walking up and down and yonder through the aisles looking at more rose varieties than I knew existed, I carefully selected two little rose bushes. Planting them beside our side door, my heart was full with visions of the beautiful  arch of roses I hoped would grow.

What I didn't consider,  however, were the harsh conditions the poor little bushes would endure,  from the terrible cold of a Canadian prairie winter to how the door would  continuously hit them as it opened, to how years later I would often snag one as I awkwardly attempted to clamber on the power wheelchair I now park by the door.

One bush died rather rapidly; the other hung on and  struggled through the hardships. However, unlike in fairy tales, the bush that hung on was not rewarded for its commendable efforts with size and plenty: it remains small and rather scraggly to this day.

There is no sign of the beautiful arch of roses I once so proudly envisioned.

Nonetheless, a few nights ago, I discovered that the little bush  has produced one perfect, stunning rose blossom. One bloom so beautiful it takes my breath away.  I could not describe a more perfect rose.
The bush has also produced a few more small buds that will soon be blooms ....they carry the story of hope in their petals.  Staring at them the other night  I could think of no greater form of natural beauty in all the earth.

It got me thinking.  Lately I have felt like the rose bush that hung on.  I have weathered harsh storms from within  my own body.  I've held on through years of endless pain and progressive  physical losses. The result of all that effort of hanging on has not been grand worldly success:  physically I  have become frail before my time.  The many dreams I once had are (for now at least) neatly folded away  like clothing on a shelf.

I ache daily over those lost  dreams. Big dreams, like of resuming the career I loved, or of adopting a house full of kids, or of traveling the world.  Smaller dreams, like being able to walk across the grass in my backyard to plant a pumpkin in my garden, or to drive again, or to have the stamina to throw a party for my closest friends, and laugh the night away.

Right now my energy is saved for only the most important of things. Loving my family.  Loving God.  Loving the earth around me. Trying to regain ground with my health and strength.  There is no arch of roses to be found.

And then..... I open my eyes and heart and I truly see what is before me.  Like the little rose bush who hung on and now is graced with one exquisite bloom (and the promise of a few more) so too have flowers grown in my life.  Perhaps because the flowers haven't exploded into an arch of roses, I cherish each small rose all the more.

I see flowers in the dreams that matter most of all, in the beauty of my daughter's smile, in knowing she is loved and safe and growing. I feel it when hugging my husband and in the friends whose love surrounds us.  I deliberately write little here about my family because they deserve their privacy, but they are my everything.  In the beat of my heart, they are my soul's metronome.

More dreams are realized each morning when the nurse helps me hobble out to my little chair on our back deck. It is then that I breath in sun and flowers and squirrels and the little sparrows that hop across the deck. I  lift my arms as if to hug the sky- and am amazed when the Earth hugs me back.

These are the flowers of my life. It's not the giant arch I dreamed of.  But it is beauty undeniably.  And my heart stops crying over lost arches and instead bends to say thank you for what I've been bestowed.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A meeting in the night

Heavy dark bruises marred her face, yet there was a stateliness to her bearing, an elegance even, that  belied her pain, belied the shakiness of her 85 year old step.  Silvery moonlight streaming through hospital window back lit her strength as she cautiously pushed her walker across the room.

Seeing me silently motion to her as she glided past my bed, she drew near. Even in the exhaustion of a dark hospital night after a life long lived, I could sense the gentle beauty of her spirit.

Her voice hushed so as to not wake the other patients sleeping near us, she grasped my hand in hers. Her hands secreted a story in their soft wrinkles, a tale written by a life of strength and pain and loss and love.

She knew of my pain and I knew of hers....there's little privacy in the tiny walls of a four person shared hospital room. But in that moment as our spirits met on a dark night,  it was not of pain but of strength and sincerity and beauty.

Discovering our shared faith, she began to pray.  It was an unusual prayer.  Trust me, when you've been ill for many years with a disorder that causes severe pain as mine does, you get a lot of people praying for healing.  I cannot count the times people have prayed for me over the years, and I am grateful for their care.  Many have been kind as they prayed,  but it's a rare person who has been truly gentle.

Most often has come the gentle disappointment or sincere bafflement of someone who truly thought if only they could be the one to pray healing prayers over me, anoint me with oil, or lay hands on me then I'd be made well. At worst have been the reactions of anger and accusation: I've  lost friends and relationships over the years when I or they couldn't convince God to make me well or when my pain worsened through the fatigue of hours long strenuous  prayer sessions instead of improved.

But the gentleness of this frail elderly woman bespoke only of love.  Holding my hand in hers she prayed to God, lifting up our lives and struggles and our pain.  There was no expectation of a miracle healing that brought credit to her name.   It was the prayer of an old, hurting woman talking to her Father as she had evidently done many times before over many years.

Her two minute prayer  was one of the most loving experiences of my life, as she quietly conversed with her Friend, asking for not just healing for us both but for strength and mercy and comfort in our pain and time of need.  It was the prayer of an aged, frail saint disguised in a thin hospital gown and bruises.  Her quiet words contrasted against the suffering  of the young patient in the bed next to us as she fought the effects of severe alcohol withdrawal and against the all night long hollering of another patient far down the hall. It was a prayer of love.

Prayer done, it was time for her to shakily return to bed.  Before she left me, my hand still in hers, she tried to encourage me with a Bible verse.  But the exertion of the middle of the night trip across the room was taking its toll.

"God is our strength...." she began, sharing a Bible verse engraved upon her heart many years earlier.  Then her voice wavered: dismayed, her time-worn mind could not recall the rest of the verse.

"God is our great strength!" she said again, louder with emphasis, lifting our hands up toward the ceiling, almost as if in victory.

Then, patting my leg gently,
she left me to try patch together sleep.  I'll never forget her or the gift she gave my life in that long, dark night during a difficult hospital stay.  Some friends last a lifetime.  Some touch your life for minutes, but their impact carries on, long after you say goodbye.