Thursday, October 23, 2014

To every thing there is a season.

It seems that most of my posts of late are posts dedicated to someone or other. This isn't something I intended to do, but the series of events that have unfolded lately have led to this point. I've had a number of funerals, weddings, and life changes in the past year, and my life has been affected by a lot of important people.

This is another one of those posts.

My Nana, known better as Dr. Stella Muriel Cooper (or just "Muriel" to her friends and family), passed on just a little over three weeks ago, and though the funeral has come and gone, I have still found myself saying goodbye every day since--sometimes in ways that surprise me.

In the days leading up to her death, I went in to visit her several times. One night, my mother decided to start reading her some of her own poetry. She wrote a beautiful book of poems called the Music of Memory, and I found a poem in there entitled "Spring". I had remembered hearing it read years ago, but it struck me more than ever on this day. This poem was about me.

"Spring" by Muriel Cooper
At sunrise,
the mourning doves
cooed outside my bedroom window.
I could almost hear the daffodils
pushing their green higher
through the dark bark mulch.
One small patch of snow
outside on the balcony has refused
for days to melt more than a few drops.
* * *
Musing, I hear light footsteps
moving nearer
from down the hall.
A small blonde head
around the half-open door.
"Nana," she says,
"I just had
a bad dream!"
She holds me close
pulls back the covers and
climbs in beside me.
For just a few minutes all is quiet.
I doze, grateful that I have
a granddaughter eight years old.
Questions, questions
time passes too quickly
slow down.      Then
one ear buried in my pillow
I hear her whisper, "Can we go down now and
make the oatmeal porridge?"

How could I forget our morning oatmeal ritual? Nana hadn't been living at home for fourteen years, but before that, when I was young, we would make oatmeal together every morning that I stayed with her. It was plain oatmeal, but she would sprinkle brown sugar on top and pour cold milk over while the porridge was still hot. Years of eating pre-packaged garbage--flavoured instant oats full of unnecessary sugar and sodium--made me forget how perfect plain oatmeal could be. In the days after I read that poem, I would make myself oatmeal for breakfast. I've continued to do this most mornings, now, and I always try to reflect on memories I shared with Nana as I was growing up.

One of my favourite memories happened one time while Nana came to visit me. It was winter, and she and I were alone in the house. Snow was coming down steadily, and it was that coveted packy snow that made perfect snowballs and snowmen. I challenged Nana to a snowball fight, and she accepted. The two of us went outside together and started lobbing snow balls at each other. She successfully hit me more times than I hit her, and not only was her aim true, but she hit me in the face--twice!--with a snowball. I remembered laughing incredulously as she struggled to withhold her own laughter and stammered out an apology. She also went with me many years ago on my first day of kindergarten.

A picture of me and my Nana on the day she obtained her
doctorate from Dalhousie University.
Nana was an incredibly intelligent woman, and on top of that, she had an extensive career and impressive curriculum vitae. I didn't know that side of her well, but have gotten to know it better since her death. I hadn't realized, growing up, how accomplished she was, or how her accomplishments would come to inspire me later on. At the age of 70, for instance, she received her doctorate from Dalhousie University--the oldest student, at the time, to receive it. I was three.

Though I don't have the same level of dedication to my studies as she did, she emphasized the importance that I receive an excellent education nevertheless. She has been an inspiration to me all through my university life--she even put some money aside for me when I was very young to ensure my ability to pursue my education. Though I took a five-year break between my studies, I am finally finishing my degree this fall. I dedicate this degree, in part, to her, for giving me an opportunity that so many people cannot have and wish they could. I'll always be grateful to her for contributing so vitally to my ability.

This particular quote from the Bible was read at both my Nana's and my Uncle Gordon's funerals, and it's fitting, given the last two months. In fact, at Uncle Gordon's funeral, I read from his Bible. When I was looking at the verse, I noticed that he had actually ticked it off with a pen. We had chosen this verse without looking into Uncle Gordon's own personal Bible, and as I opened it up to read from it at his funeral, I had noticed that he had placed little check marks next to the verses. An interesting coincidence, at the very least.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I'd been re-listening to Nightwish's Imaginaerum album of late, particularly around the time of Nana's passing, and this song in particular stuck with me. The lyrics should reveal why.

This fall has certainly been the season of good-byes, between Nana and Uncle Gordon. I'm grateful to have had both of them in my life for so long.

*Footnote: if you're interested in purchasing a copy of my Nana's poetry book, please send me an e-mail and I will happily discuss the details with you.

**"Spring" has been shared with the publisher's permission.

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