- by Sabrina Friesen
I was woken up early this morning.
5:38am to be exact, which
is an hour where I am often far from
pleasant—but when it’s your 5 year old at the side of your bed asking if you
could come to her room for a minute, you muster up some gusto and go.
I know what a can you come to my room request usually means. It’s my girl’s way of letting me know she’s had a bad dream and wants to tell me about it.
And so I go. Every time.
As a kid crossing
the threshold of my parents’ bedroom door was an event that would take a pretty
significant night time crisis—and I am sure I navigated many a scary dream on
my own, deciding that it wasn’t worth the courage it’d take to ask for comfort.
So with my two kids we have been intentional about making sure they know we are
available. Even at 5:38am.
As we walked across the hall into her room my daughter told me about her dream. “Mom, I had a dream that my teacher said I had to go home and couldn’t come to school anymore.” Woah. For my little keener who absolutely loves school—this sounded devastating. I crawled into bed with her and wrapped her up in a big snuggle. She was stuffy and her little body was racked with giant sobs, and she sputtered out a bit more of her nightmare...”He said I was great, but not great enough.”
Cue: Mom. Heart. Sink.
She cried harder after she spit out those words and clung
tightly to the arm that was wrapped around her chest. It is heartbreaking to see my small person
fight shame in her dreams. “You don’t get
to pick your dreams, right mom?” she asked.
But her dream spoke of things that we all experience. Things I see daily at work. Emotions that we navigate on a regular basis. Feeling not enough. Feeling rejected. Feeling left out and excluded. Everything in me would love to buffer her from these experiences, would love for her to never question her worthiness. But even in her dreams she is wondering, am I enough?
These are things she is going to need to know how to navigate, because they aren’t going anywhere.
We were up together for quite a while, and apparently talking loudly enough that my husband had to come and close her door so we didn’t wake up her brother too. As we snuggled and made sense of her awful dream I named rejection—and talked about how it doesn’t feel good, not for kids and not for grown ups. She talked about how her BFF sometimes says, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore”, and how that feels awful too—and my girl was able to say that it’s probably that she’s just mad and doesn’t know how to say it.
I assured her that grown ups do this
too, and some may say, “I want a divorce”
when they really mean, “You hurt me
and I’m devastated.”
As we chatted I realized the profundity of these conversations.
We spoke of worthiness, enoughness, and how I would march into the principal’s office and let her know if a teacher ever said anything even a little bit like that.
We talked about a family member with special needs and how he is totally enough even though he doesn’t do a thing. And how he would be enough even if he were an adult who needed help with every life task.
And I continued to affirm to my sweet girl that enoughness has nothing to do with what we do or produce or can achieve, but that it has everything to do with who we are. I fundamentally believe people matter because they are, not because they do.
Even if she was the worst at math, or the slowest
runner, or got left out, or when I fail
at completing small tasks on my to-do list, or burn something on the barbecue
(again), none of these things have anything to do with our enoughness in the
And I told her she’ll probably forget from time to time. That she might question her enoughness when her feelings get hurt, or if she doesn’t make the team, or is excluded from a party. And I told her that if she ever forgets if she’s enough, that I will always be there to remind her of her enoughness in the world.
It’s rare that a 5:38am wake up would be something I am grateful for, but today, I am.
As I heard her recount her dream to her brother before school it
was just as heartbreaking to hear the second time around, but this time there
weren’t tears—just her telling her brother how mom would make sure a teacher
who did that got in trouble for being so rude.
Oh, that she would know she is enough.
Oh, that we would know we are enough. Not because of what we do, but because the space we occupy in the world matters.
That we are significant simply because we are.
- by Carolyn Klassen
Husband and I have been married a year.
We told guests at the wedding that their "presence was the present". Many didn't listen, and gave us tickets to the Gold Eyes, a board game, coupons for a "jailhouse break", gift cards for restaurants, etc.
Family building time is best present anyone can get!
When I tell Husband something like, "I'm senstive to being teased about that," Husband simply responds with, "Thank you! That's good to know."
It's a line I've used several times myself now, after he let me experience it. A brilliant line that welcomes teaching and guidance as we figure out this "being married" thing. Or any relationship, for that matter.
It's amazing how a non-defensive response like this creates closeness. It's not an apology--one isn't necessary. It's not explaining himself--that's not why I bring it up. It's not justifying himself...I already know he didn't do it to be malicious.
It's a simple, "I hear you, and I want to use this moment to love you better" message.
I like having a lit candle or three in our home during our waking hours. Done it for years.
When I moved in, and the littlest JTM asked why a candle was lit in the middle of summer in the day time.
A logical question with no logical answer.
I didn't know what to say. I blurted: "A candle is what makes a house a home." He turned his head to the side and raised his eyebrows. The line has become a classic in our home.
But it turns out it's not a lit candle that makes a house a home. It's said-lit candle being blown out...often as fast as it is re-lit. (And to be noted, the littlest JTM is often the one that re-lights it).
The wisp of smoke created by an impish kid--now, that's home!
Watching grown JTM's hunt for Easter Eggs...some for the first time in many years, while other JTM's insisting on this ritual...was rich.
Participating in the annual Klassen March Madness basketball draft was a first for me...but the winner was excused from supper clean up for a week.
Sigh...it's a beautiful thing to not clean up supper for a week.
Really beautiful. (I plan on winning again next year.)
We do Tuesday family suppers now. Treasure hunts at Christmas. We celebrate Birthday Eve, Birthday, Birthday Boxing Day. We find reasons and excuses to celebrate and learn each other's family traditions, and create some unique "Kla-Berg" traditions.
Celebrating ritual creates memories.
And when you're a new family, you need to be in the memory-making business.
Don't need to say anything about this.
But getting that backboard done late the night before it is due, still gives a burst of adrenaline like little else.
Science fair completion is it's own drug.
My name is virtually inconsequential, because I now know that my name doesn't define me. Who I am defines me.
I had a blast at my wedding because what was important was the people, not the details. I wore pink sneakers because they were comfortable and let me visit without blisters or aching toes...even tho they were decidedly un-elegant.
I know now that what is important in the first year of marriage is cementing my relationship with Husband. I said no to lots of important opportunities to say yes to what was vital. Friends of mine (who are also older and wiser) were completely compassionate on giving me a pass on being a faithful friend. They understood that being married with lots of JTM's who need some support with adjustments, and a new husband, and running my own business still, meant that I was busy. Not meeting with them as often didn't mean they weren't important...it meant I was spread thin.
I know now that I don't have to prove myself with being a "super-wife" in ways that leave me exhausted, frustrated and resentful. Husband offers me compassion and I work to accept it. I'm a better wife if I have a nap on the weekend, even if that means that the closet didn't get sorted.
They both belong there. Together.
"I have been at the bedside of many, many deaths in my nursing career. But that was some good-bye. I've seen a lot of good-byes at death...but never one like that. That was clearly some sort of incredible love between them. I've never been married...but that's the sort of good-bye every person would dream of. It was a holy moment."
Then the nurse gave me a hug, and told us how special she thought we were, and how good it seemed we were for each other. She asked to give me a hug...a warm and kind embrace. The woman that sat with Husband in the most painful hour of his life is a special woman in my life.
The depth of love and loss that she saw Husband and Car experience that night was profound for her.
The day before she died, Car told Husband she freed him to marry again. Amazing foresight, that woman, to give him a gift like that in the midst all of the thinking and planning that is involved in leaving this world while incredibly sick. He tells me that this was the one and only time in their marriage that he (gently) told her to "shut up".
The thought of remarrying for him at that point was nothing but absurd crazy talk. He couldn't have imagined us.
Husband is wiser, gentler, more loving for the experience of being loved by, and then losing Car. This first year of marriage has him offering to help me and hold me and heal me in ways that stagger me. He treasures me because of how very aware he is of the preciousness of life...my life, our lives. He pays attention to what's important to me, to what I read, to what I like to drink, and when I drink it--so that he can show me he's attuned to me.
- by Michael Quiring
Carolyn here: Michael Quiring, one of the therapists here, is one of my favourite people. His dad has been struggling...I've been asking him about his dad's health for years. Michael's dad became acutely ill a few weeks ago. I spoke to him early last week...the situation was grave, and the odds were stacked against recovery, but his dad had already remarkably made it through extremely difficult days. It was just a day or two later that we found out that Michael's dad, Henry Quiring, died. I went to the funeral on Sunday and was struck at the profound way in which the family honoured and remembered their dad fondly and honestly. I asked Michael if he would share his story, and if I could share his story on my weekly chat with Dahlia on 680CJOB. It's complicated to grieve the death of your dad, when alcohol was already stealing parts of him for decades. The compassion they had for him was evident too.
My father would have been sixty years old today. I wish we got to celebrate his birthday one more time. Although, this is that chance, isn’t it, to celebrate him? Celebrate my Dad’s life...It’s bittersweet. I want to honour my father...and let the light of his life flare before all of you. I hope to do him justice.
My father’s tale begins far from here on a farm in Russia. Born into what would become a large Mennonite family with six siblings. Dad had many stories to share from that time that always left my brother and I wide-eyed and bewildered: how Dad lived in an allegedly real fear of gypsies finding them alone and kidnapping them. The time that my dad was fatally ill as a child, the doctor said he couldn’t do anything, and so my Opa ventured to try a seemingly insane alternative medicine route - he slaughtered a calf and placed my Dad’s naked body inside the still-warm stomach for a few hours – miraculously it worked. He talked about how the family had to keep their Christian faith very secretive – one of Dad’s aunts was once caught and imprisoned for several years by the government for merely teaching Sunday school.
My Dad and some other kids would sometimes run out into the starlit Russian fields in their underwear under the cover of night in a sort of primal revelry. We used to have a vast, untouched field beyond our backyard several years ago. My Dad used to walk it late at night and remember his early years.
When Dad was 11 years old, the whole family uprooted and came to Canada to find a better life. That transition was difficult for everyone. Dad could barely speak any English and yet was thrown into a fully English education system. As I understand it, my Dad took it particularly hard and fell into a bad crowd. I was shocked in my later years when Dad chuckled and shared with me that he used to be one of those guys who lifted car stereos. He even spent a few hours in a cell due to his mischievousness and defiant attitude towards the authorities. Dad was quite the rebel in his teens and early adulthood. The why still puzzles me a bit – I think there are parts to my Dad’s story that he never wanted me to hear – and I am okay with that.
What I am grateful for is that there were people who had an unassailable love for him in that time. In my Dad’s most reckless days, Gary absolutely refused to give up on my father. Dad told me recently that he once had a vision of himself surrounded by a ring of light with the revelation that Gary was interceding for him. This mentorship left a deep impact on my father – it left a mark that never would leave him until his dying day. I know this to be true because I always grew up knowing my Dad as someone who tried to pay that forward.
It seemed like there was always a younger fellow in Dad’s life who was struggling to get their life on track that Dad was trying to steer towards God and a virtuous life. Even in the hospital in this last week, I saw him bonding with one of the health care aides who was exhausted in his own walk of life. Not only did Dad have many examples from his own mistakes to draw from, he had much wisdom to offer out of his deeply introspective nature; but what really drew people to my father was his gentleness. His gentleness was born out of the grace of God that he knew so well.
Fatherhood was an extension of this mentoring heart. I’m not sure I have ever met a more sincere father. We had a happy childhood because of how much Dad strived to become a good father. Dad loved to watch his boys play sports, help us with school projects, take us camping, teach us how to frame a house. In elementary school, I remember being a little inventor, and would come to my Dad with blueprints to make a peddled go-kart or a secret escape rope-line from our tree house – Dad was always there to help my dreams become reality. Henry poured out himself into Chris and I, out of his deep love for us. We are the fruit of his love and dedication, and he continues to live on inside of us – his gentle/loving/reassuring voice is an anchor to us when the storms of life bear down on us.
Every son desires to know that their father is proud of them: Chris and I were lucky enough to have never doubted this.
My Mom always told me that she was looking for a man who would love her and never leave her. She chose well. Dad was faithful to her and never failed, every anniversary, to buy her one rose for every year they were together – 38 years together. My mother told me that Henry’s legacy with her is that, he taught me the true meaning of how to love and be loved.
I cannot tell Henry’s story without mentioning his love of building. He completed post-secondary schooling in carpentry and spent the better part of three decades in the craft. He was the type of man who liked to do a quality job and take pride in the work of his hands. I marvelled at those hands as a boy, so powerful and calloused – as tough as leather.
I was fortunate enough to work alongside him last autumn as we installed new flooring in our home. “Mike, the master carpenter!” he would say to me. “I learned from the best,” I would reply. Of course, by this time my father’s health was waning, his vision blurred, and his energy a tenth of what it once was. I become his hands and eyes, while he guided me with his seasoned knowledge and gentle reassurance.
It is hard to see your father’s strength fade.
If there was one regret that Henry had it would be that he never found the strength to completely conquer his addiction to alcohol. My Dad used to drink pretty hard in his early adulthood, and for the love of his family, he set aside his habit for over 15 years. Sadly, in these last several years, my Dad lost the will to keep it at bay. Eventually it cost him dearly.
Addiction is a thief. It steals your very self from you.
An ardent prayer of my family for the last while has been that Henry would regain his integrity in his last days. The irony of his passing is that my Dad actually quit drinking six weeks before finding himself at the ICU in St Boniface Hospital a couple days after Easter Sunday.
The timing of it all is meaningful to me.
It means that Dad was sober for about 40 days leading up to Easter, which roughly coincides with the Christian season of Lent, where one abstains from a habit of their choice leading up to Easter in the same way Jesus fasted in the dessert for 40 days. Wittingly or not, my Dad participated in this season.
In this time, an old familiar light rekindled in his eyes. He started making exciting plans for the future, and showed renewed vigour for life. In the last few weeks my Dad repaired relationships and brought our family closer than it has been in a very long time. Just as in the Easter story, my Dad seemed to come back to life for awhile.
For that, my family and I are eternally grateful.
- by Sabrina Friesen
The magnitude of this work
is not lost on me.
Four and a half years after beginning as a therapist I still find myself utterly awed at the courage and tenacity of the folks who plunk down on the couch and whisper words that have never made it outside their heads or hearts.
55 months of stories have graced my ears, and the wonder of change and
brilliance of raw courage still moves me deeply. The act of being entrusted
with the most tender and most vulnerable places of another is something that
words cannot adequately describe...it is this mindblowing experience that
happens on repeat each day within our sacred walls.
Sometimes the nature of this work really hits me. As I left the office last night I noticed it, a wordless ache deep in my chest that I could feel with each exhale. It was a full night of sessions and as I drove home in the late evening a deep sense of overwhelm settled into my bones as I reflected on all that transpired.
There was nothing particularly out of the ordinary in the evening compared to other days of this extraordinary work, yet the gravity and magnitude and privilege of journeying with people struck me afresh. As I cruised along lonely streets under the cover of night I searched for words that could clothe the feeling in my heart.
I think of how delighted I am to watch my kids learn new things, and grow into who they are more and more...and I realize that this is the same sense of delight and wonder and pride I feel in the brave work my clients do.
I crawled into bed and
found myself teary eyed and full of reverence for the holiness and privilege of
sitting with clients each week and being given a front row seat as their lives
take on new shapes and depths.
So to you brave souls out there who reach out in times of struggle or stuckness and give us therapists space to enter in, thank you.
Thank you for the privilege of being invited into your experience, of seeing all parts of who you are, of bearing witness to your stories.
It is a gift to see you, a gift to journey with you, and a gift to celebrate with and delight in the shifts that you have worked so hard for.
We truly are wired for connection, and it is such an
incredible privilege to be invited to support you in the hard and brave and
courageous work that you do.
- by Carolyn Klassen
April 11th, 2005 was a Monday, too.
After months of awkward silence, where I was desperate to understand what was happening under my roof, and hearing almost nothing, he asked me to have a conversation with him that evening. It's odd when your family looks the same, but the foundation has been rocked, is likely crumbling, certainly not being rebuilt, and there are no status updates.
I was gonna get what I'd been hoping for...some information. But I wasn't excited..the sense of dread overwhelmed me.
The void of information would be filled somehow, that day. I didn't have a good feeling about it. The months of waiting to hear how this husband of mine was doing, where he was at on this inner journey that I knew very little of...were brutally hard. And now to know? Would that be harder?
I went to work, a full day of clients ahead. I stewed and wondered, almost beside myself with wondering what would happen.
Monday was full, but Tuesday was scheduled to be even busier.
I feared the worst, that day on April 11, 2005...and in preparation for that, sent my first love an email. I told him that I had worked hard to maintain normalcy during the long hard winter that had passed, but I was stretched and tired. I told him that I had 6 hours of class at the university the next day to facilitate and lead. If he was leaving, I needed him to contact the course coordinators for the two classes I was leading to let them know of a family emergency. I didn't think I could be with students for 6 hours the day after my husband would tell me he was leaving.
I didn't want to know if he was contacting the university. I had clients that evening...couples working to save their marriages, ironically. I wanted to have my head in the therapy room with my clients.
I needed to not know until I finished my clients for the day. I just needed to have my teaching load cancelled the next day if I was gonna find out I'd be facing life without him.
At 2:24 pm on April 11, I got an email from L at the university:
I received the phone message from your husband this afternoon about being unable to attend the tutorial session tomorrow morning. No worries, we will figure something out. Hope everything works out OK with your family member!
The wind was sucked out of the room. I had two more couples to see before I went home to find out he was leaving me.
It's an odd feeling, it is. To help couples restore their marriage just before I go home to experience the blowup of mine.
But in an odd twist, it was the couples that day, and in the months ahead, that taught me that marriage was still beautiful. That many couples struggle and fight the good fight. That there is hope for making it through if you desire to make it through.
Over the coming years, it was my clients who taught me to stay believing in marriage. That marriage is hard. But so many fight the good fight. Clients showed me so much:
That two imperfect people enter into it, and in the process of living, are gonna step on each other's toes. There will be misunderstandings and hurts, but the beauty of it, is that committed couples can figure it out.
That husband and wife both enter marriage with sharp edges that cut and harm...and over the years, those edges get worn and smooth--but the process to get there isn't always that smooth.
That marriage is a place where grace is extended because of love. Grace, by definition, isn't "deserved" or "given with merit"--but simply offered because to offer it to a loved one feels profoundly right.
That a spouse can mess up, but forgiveness is offered, and relationship restored...not easily or quickly or lightly (at least that's what I see in the office, because we know that forgiveness offered quickly and lightly isn't the real thing) but solidly...often replacing the innocent, often fragile, bonds of new love with a strength of mature bonds that have been forged out of challenges.
He needed to leave our marriage, and I understand that. It wasn't anything to do with us, or me, but who he discovered himself to be. And that wasn't compatible with being married to me at all. I believe it wasn't easy for him. I know it was brutal on me. Often April 11th has been a day that has been full of remembering the horror of that day.
This is my first April 11th to be married again...to Husband. Husband, who loved his late wife, Car, through thick and thin. Because of that, he was a man whom I trusted before I loved. Trusted him to the depths of my belly in the way I wouldn't ever have thought possible. There were lots of ways I healed in the decade after he left, but there was additional healing made only possible when everything in me dared to trust another...and Husband provided me that opportunity.
He woke me up this morning gently. Handed me a latte he had made just for me, and visited with me as we started this day like we start most others.
It's gonna be a great day, this April 11th.
- by Lindsey Walsh
If you’re late for work and your young child refuses to put on her shoes, what happens in your brain?
Do you think, “If I don’t get her shoes on, we’ll be late getting out the door. If we’re late getting out the door, I’ll be late getting her to daycare. And I’ll be late for work. If I’m late for work, I’ll get in trouble with my boss. If I get in trouble, I will lose my job….”
If so, don’t worry, you’re normal. Very normal.
We are built to fear for the worst. That’s how we survived life before indoor heating and supermarkets.
But, I am curious, does your catastrophic thinking lead to:
Now, normal is normal and it probably won’t do that much damage to your kids for you to go a little nutty on occasion. In fact, spazzing out every once in a while in front of our children is probably better than being cold and reserved all the time. At least kids know that their freaking-out parents are human parents.
Freaking-out parents are toddler-human, but still human. A parent who doesn’t over-react some of the time is probably not paying much attention to their child and the world they live in.
Nevertheless, we do need to raise our game above toddler-status, at least most of the time.
And our kid’s nervous systems need us to be mom and dad, rather than raving lunatics.
...at least most of the time.
So, here’s what I propose:
1. Time Cushions:
Build more time into your schedule. Never, ever, let your child run the clock. If it takes 10 minutes to get your little angel’s shoes on in the morning, plan for 20 minutes. I do and it works like magic.
2. Cut the Fat in your Schedule (by sitting on your butt):
If you are perpetually stressed out because your little Sally has stuff to do every night of the week, I bet little Sally is even more stressed out. A little stress is good; a lot of stress is very, very bad. Yes, activity and excersize are necessary, but so is sitting and collecting one’s thoughts. You and your child both need and deserve time off of the clock.
3. Hire a Baby Sitter:
There may be times when you need to not be with your child for the sake of your own sanity. Be prepared for those occasions! Make a list of people to call (possibly with bribes) on those days when you’ve nearly forgotten your partner’s name due to:
- lack of sleep
- lack of sex
- lack of conversation about the parts of your beloved’s day which did not involve childrearing OR
- all of the above.
With time-cushions, a lighter calendar, and baby-sitters we can keep time from crushing our souls. Without them, well, we are likely to keep sledding down the slippery-slope of catastrophic living.
Here’s to being calm (enough), brave (enough), and curious (enough) to create family-sized schedules.
Here’s to facing the clock and the onslaught of time as co-creators rather than as frantic and powerless minions.
It ain’t easy, but it’s doable.
- by Carolyn Klassen
"There's no cracks in the outside foundation," they said.
"Well, if it was the window leaking, it would be running down the drywall...and it's not, so it's not the window," they said.
"It doesn't seem like there is a standing water issue outside by the building," they said.
It was almost like they were trying to explain away why the carpet got wet every spring, and once or twice during the summer.
If the cause wasn't easily apparent, then it must not be happening.
Last spring, they vacuumed the water up and cleaned the carpets. But because the problem wasn't obvious, they hoped it wouldn't reoccur. And we all breathed a sigh of relief when water didn't squish under our shoes for the rest of the summer.
It happened again this spring. No surprise.
As it had for several years.
This time, I don't know why, they took us more seriously. My family and I moved the office furniture down the hallway and set the offices up in an empty office a few steps away from ours.
They took out the bottom two feet of dry wall on the outside wall...no problem apparent. I was wondering if they thought the wet carpets were all in our head.
Then the concrete guy came...and took out the bottom 6 feet, pulled back the vapour barrier and insulation.
The slow leak was coming through the concrete foundation--always affected behind the wall...and when sufficiently wet, it would make it's way to the floor, soaking the carpet along the wall.
When he reached to touch the two by four studs with his hands, the rotten wood crumbled and disintegrated in his hand.
On Monday, they will inject a substance that swells when it comes in contact with moisture to seal the crack. Then rebuilding the studs, and reinsulation, and dry-walling, and painting. Then finally, moving the office furniture back from down the hall.
We've been out of our space for a week...and it may be another week before we are back in. This is a significant hassle for us and our clients.
I'm grateful for Riley at Colliers for making the time and the phone calls to do this right.
What we are doing with the walls to stop the wet carpet is what our clients are doing within the walls to stop the barriers to disconnection in their lives.
As humans, our first response is to judge a situation just by it's surface...if there is no obvious problem, we breath a sigh of relief and move on. If others can't see an obvious issue, they we just wish it away.
Even if underneath, there are problems with rotting and erosion...and there are signs something pretty serious is going on. We just want to ignore the situation, and desperately hope it won't bring us down.
In short, our clients get brave. In counselling, our clients get curious. They dig deep and they get powerful.
They're going deep to look for the root of the problem and deal with it once and for all. They aren't willing to mop up the damage and hope it goes away anymore. They recognize that it's a hassle to look for the source of the problem...but that, in the long run, this creates a situation where repeated issues don't keep re-occuring.
Thanx to our clients for being so kind to tolerate the inconvenience of the room changes. But, we like you, believe in dealing with the issues at their core.
And sometimes, that means a hassle.
We're looking forward to being back in our offices, this time with walls that won't leak, and carpets that will stay dry.
Being brave and curious pays off.
That's what our clients have told us.
- by Carolyn Klassen
I remember my brother-in-law talking about driving his wife and brand new baby home from the hospital. He said he was nervous. And tentative. And he thought about every turn of the wheel leading to a potential car crash, and he babied the gas pedal like a nervous grandma. Suddenly every car on the road was an impending threat to his child's safety.
He said it was like he was driving for the first time.
All of a sudden, with his infant daughter in the back seat, he saw danger at every intersection. He had been driving for well over a decade before he became a father, and had become immune to the inherent vulnerability we all have all the time driving. Any of us can get rear ended or T-Boned at any time...but we don't live in fear of that...unless the vulnerability of a child reminds us of the possibilities.
I spoke with Brittany Greenslade earlier today about the vulnerability we as a larger community feel when a child goes missing. We have seen the child's beautiful face in a picture, we have watched their panicked parents on TV, and there is a measure in which we feel we have come to know and care for the child...we become invested as our friends help in the search, and we help with the prayers.
We hate to know that Chase Martens died. And Cooper Nemeth. And Delaine Copenance.
After we finished filming for the news clip, Brittany asked me about the huge wave of social media that was accusatory and cruel towards Chase's parents--implying, or even stating, that they were careless and inattentive parents. She and the camera man wondered aloud why folks would kick a family when they are down.
I don't think the critical folk got up in the morning intending to be mean. I don't think their intent was to be cruel.
I was chatting with a woman at the office today after my conversation with the TV reporter about the whole idea of wanting to think our children are safe--of needing to believe that they are safe. Her now-young-adult-child has suffered a serious life threatening illness for a long time, and she has spent the night sleepless on several occasions waiting to see if he would be alive at sunrise. She scoffs at the idea--the fantasy--that we can keep our children safe.
She told me that years ago, her son was to be part of a school trip to the Middle East. It was threatened to be cancelled because of political unrest in that part of the world. She told me she said to the school: "You think keeping them home will keep them safe? You think they are safe here?" Danger is everywhere, and cannot be avoided.
She and her son decided long ago to live life large. To know that life is fragile, and because it is fragile, to squeeze it for all it is worth. To grab the little and the big moments and squeeze them hard. To treasure time together. To not squander all of life's resources on staying safe. To treasure the extraordinariness of all the ordinary experiences of life. To know that there was no guarantee of tomorrow--and so to live life to the full today.
It wouldn't occur to this mother, who may well yet lose her own son to illness, to blame a parent. Her only thought: compassion.
I think she's onto something.
To Chase's mommy and daddy:
We are all a part of your community. In a world where we all love our children desperately, your loss takes our breath away. We miss your Chase...and we are terrified knowing our worst nightmare is your reality. We see your sobs on TV and we weep with you. It is almost more than many can stand.
So...there are those that can't stand the discomfort that you are in. They seek to distance themselves from your distress. The only way they know to cope is to judge.
Sometimes, sadly, judgement trumps compassion. That's not fair to you. It so not.
But to feel compassion for you right now, is to feel with you. It would be to sit with you in your pain...and that might have some of us feel our own...and for some that would be simply intolerable.
Pema Chödrön says that, "Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others."
Your pain presents a crucial dilemma for the rest of us...compassion extended to you can only happen when we get in touch with our own vulnerability, our own terror at the tragedy that is possible for our own children, our own nieces and nephews, our own grandchildren.
It would be too hard for some to get in touch with their own pain, which is what is required to feel compassion for you in yours.
Criticizing you is a way of having the terrified among us feel safer, because they risk drowning in their own fear, contemplating your experience as something that could happen to them. That doesn't make it right, but it does inspire compassion for those that hide their struggle behind their criticism.
I hope you have friends and family shielding you from the unfair and cruel accusations on social media as you work to survive, moment by moment, in a world that doesn't have your precious Chase in it. These are lonely, agonizing days, and we, as a culture, apologize for any actions that increase your already enormous pain.
During those days he was missing, and we were all hoping and praying, your Chase because our Chase, too. We are so very, very sad that he died.
Our hearts are broken for you...
Our hearts are broken with you.
Postscript 1: CBC News wrote about this very topic a day after I wrote this, and wrote in ways that contrasted and complemented the above thoughts, including this blog in the article.
Postscript: I chatted with Dahlia Kurtz on 680CJOB a few days later about the propensity of folks to be blaming on social media as an interesting follow up conversation to the reactions and discourse this blog created.
- by Carolyn Klassen
Today is the anniversary of your death--which I think is much more appropriately known as the "crapiversary" of your death. You didn't want "to leave the party early", and so death was most unwelcome, even as it was accepted peacefully as you looked forward to the life hereafter.
I remember how devastating your death was to so many who were important to me even then. The day of your death was a brutal day--and to remember it will be hard for so many.
Today is the day when Husband will spend time at your grave. He will spend supper with the children. You are often on his mind...but even more so these last days. Husband will spend the day with your memory...I have made commitments all day that keep me busy and out of the house
Today is a day for me to create space for Husband to turn his thoughts towards you, his first love.
In these last days, friends have approached Husband to tell him that they remember that this is the anniversary of your death. One friend gave him a big hug and she cried, remembering your death. The pastor who did your funeral took him out for coffee. Another friend brought by tulips in your memory. Bright red, of course--you would have loved them.
So often, when Husband is talking about you, his face gets this twisted look, and he exclaims that he is so glad you aren't in pain anymore. He shakes his head and his whole body pulls back (picture someone tasting horrible cough syrup) when he talks about the memories of watching you in pain.
It's like he is willing to endure the pain of your death because that means you don't have to endure the pain of your cancered body. I know you think you hid your pain from him...and he tried his best to let you think you had. But he knew.
He always knew.
Your ability to continue living even as cancer ravaged your body is something that has been admired often around here. You didn't like being the centre of attention, and would not tolerate cancer getting any attention at all. You sent a Junior Tribe Member out of town for a sports tournament the week you were sent home to die...and he went, because of your encouragement to stay living.
I think your efforts to hide your pain so the family could lead a "normal" life were so very well intentioned. Your kids were plugged into their lives on "full" until the day you died, and jumped back into their routines within a week, and I think that was good for them.
But the flip side of underplaying your pain is in how you were such a good teacher. They watched you and learned, I think. I know you never intended it, but kids learn so much from their parents. And while there are little hints that they miss you terribly, your Junior Tribe Members seemingly handle the pain of missing you just like they learnt from you, which means it is behind the scenes.
You'd be proud of your kids, though. I know it.
They are loving kids with a heart for other people. They care. And they have been nothing short of remarkable in allowing me, and my JTM's to come into their home to live with them. The first morning I woke up in the Klassen household after coming back from the honeymoon, I was almost sick to my stomach. How would they react to me living in the house, when it was you they really wanted? How would they relate to me, since my very presence was only possible because you had died?
They were the ultimate in friendly. I think we've been a little wary of each other, but they have been cooperative to set the table when I ask (with only the usual foot dragging that is a normal part of every boy's behaviour), chat over meals with me, and respond as I ask about their day. I suspect you taught them that.
I'm not their mom, and we all know it. But they have been willing to accept me as a bonus parent around the house. Sometimes, in what I consider a huge compliment, they aren't so polite anymore. They grumble when I ask them do something, or merely grunt when I ask a question. That's a bit of music to this mama's ears when they grunt and grumble...a sign we are getting real with each other, getting past the polite into authentic.
It's an odd thing, isn't it, that we share a husband? I know he loves me...he tells me often and sincerely. But, gosh, he still loves and misses you. Lately, it's been especially your giggle that he recalls...he misses it terribly. Some days more than others...today will definitely be one of the "more" days. He will visit you today at the grave...likely bringing you red flowers.
He has this ability to hold big feelings at the same time in his heart that seem contradictory. He loves you and he loves me...and those don't compete.
I think he can hold these big feelings of loss and love simultaneously because of size of his enormous heart. I think he naturally has a generous and gentle heart...I think that was one of the reasons you chose him.
I think we both have excellent taste in men, Car. J
But I also know that his heart grew over and over again by being married to you. He will often say, when I comment on his kindness and generosity in a situation: "Car taught me that". He cleans up after himself in the kitchen. He puts gas in my car. He asks me when I'm quiet if something is wrong. I watch him call a friend up who has been going through a rough time.
You worked with him really well, and he knows how to be an excellent husband, in large part due to you.
(Though I got after him last week for a laundry basket that was tucked away in the corner of the basement...it was a treasure trove of all manner of things that I had been looking for lately. I let him know that piling odds and ends that are lying around the house into one laundry basket and hiding it doesn't constitute as "cleaning up". He said, with his gentle smile, that I was not the first person to mention this to him. So...thanx for trying to work with him on this...I continue to build on your good efforts, but I'm not sure I'll be any more successful than you were on this this one.)
One of the things I admired best about Husband was how you and he loved each other so richly and deeply; how the two of you outsmarted cancer by using the experience to grow as spiritual human beings, and to grow stronger as a couple. My life is infinitely richer now because you played such an important role in the lives of those that have become so very dear to me.
Thank you for the myriad of ways in which you have positively impacted my life. I am grateful.
But today, I am more aware of sadness, and of the great loss of the world that now exists without you in it...the holes that continue to gape in the lives of your (and now also my) loved ones.
- by Carolyn Bergen
Photo credit: Trinity Western University
Trinity Western University Men's Volleyball team won the national finals this weekend. They are the top university volleyball team in the country this week...and 6 weeks ago they were struggling to make the playoffs. They have a young team--only one athlete was in his final year.
They got to a place that was unfamiliar and important...potentially a place of anxiety and pressure. How to be? What do to with the nerves? How to handle the pressure of the national spotlight? How to handle the raucous noise that would fill the packed house with 99% of the fans cheering for the other team?
And their coach had just one simple piece of advice for them, as he met with them in the locker room before the big game:
"If you don't know what do to, or you don't know how to be, look to the guy beside you...and just be his best friend."
Sabrina's daughter challenges her to explain enough-ness to a five year old...most adults are still struggling to explain and understand the concept.
Reflections on the first year of marriage...
Michael Quiring writes about remembering his dad...on what would have been his 60th birthday...grieving a complicated relationship with a man whom he loved, who was addicted to alcohol.