COVID-19 · Faith · Loss · Vulnerability

The Things I Miss

I don’t write a lot these days, because I feel like my heart is grieving. It’s hard to share grief sometimes. I’m letting go of more and more things that I love, and today, I’m deeply missing these things:

I miss writing on my blog. The past few months have been a whirlwind of babysitting, homeschooling, respite, leading women’s ministry, driving kids to sports, gardening, canning, etc. Writing here was the first thing to go. After all, it takes up so much effort and time, and seems to have so little reward. Seeing four or five likes and even fewer comments can be disheartening. I’m constantly wondering, is anyone reading these posts anymore? If not, why bother?

But then I ask myself, why did I start in the first place? Was it not for my own emotional healing? Writing heals my heart. It allows me to share the deepest things that I often don’t have the opportunity to say. It helps me process the world around me. It relieves me of the burden that I often carry around. It brings me joy.

I miss running. Especially in fall. Nothing compares to the sweet smell of leaves and the cool breeze that compliments the last warm rays of the sun. I miss having the energy to run and the strength that I had built up over years of keeping it in my routine. I’ve lost it now. Crazy how something like muscle takes so long to build, but dissolves in mere weeks. The lack of motivation to get there again – to retrain my body – it’s disheartening. Running was rewarding but SO much work.

Will I ever get to that place of strength and endurance again?

I miss learning. I wish I could go back to school. For fifteen long years, I have desired this. I want to be a nurse. But life. The kids need my presence. Our finances with the mortgage and the children’s private schooling, and trying to do it all on one income makes money tight sometimes. Them first. Me last. Will I ever get the chance to be what I really wanted to be? Were all these dreams for nothing? Am I to lay them down forever? Or will I one day get my chance?

And then, there are the big things I miss. The things that aren’t just unique to me, but that are effecting everyone around me.

I miss the carefree, pre-covid life. I miss crowds and brushing past people in a busy room. I miss not trying to hide my cough when I sip my coffee too fast. Or singing in church without a mask – where now I feel breathless after every song. I miss the world, where we all seemed a little bit friendlier. Maybe it was because we could see each other smile. Which reminds me, I miss seeing people’s faces. I miss not second guessing every time someone in my family has a runny nose or a minor cough – wondering if we should stay home. I miss assuming that everyone was welcome everywhere, because that was the kind of country I lived in. Where for the most part, our biggest differences were the cars that we drove and clothes that we wore.

I remember a time when hating someone for the choices they made (or did not make) was seen as unacceptable. Tolerance. Ha! When was the last time I heard that word? Certainly not for quite some time.

I miss kindness and unity being more important than political and health opinions. Families refusing to meet together over divisive regulations and restrictions. Churches and family gatherings turning certain people away and calling it “love.”

These are everyday, good people – people who have given their time and care to their community, people who have volunteered and loved on “the least of these” without expecting anything in return. People who would give you the shirt off their own backs. These people are being expected to confirm to the popular beliefs or be shut out of society.

And we are shrugging it off as if it is no big deal.

This is not the world I grew up in. This is not the world I want my kids to grow up in.

But perhaps the greatest thing I’ve missed is the purpose behind it all.

Why I wrote.

Why I ran.

Why I learned.

Why we lived freely.

Why we valued love and kindness.

Because these things brought joy.

Unity.

Family.

Kindness.

Love.

Freedom.

What is life without these things?

I think it’s time we asked ourselves if this past year of “saving lives” has been worth all that we have lost. Great men and women in the past have willingly laid down their lives for these very values. And these past two years we have all too willingly given these things up. For what? For the need for everyone to survive at all costs?

I know this is an extremely unpopular view – I’ve heard all the arguments.

Yet I can’t help but ask myself, when did we start believing that we could control sickness?

When did we start blaming people for spreading viruses? This is a new thing. In the past it was always seen as unpreventable. Unavoidable. It brought people together to care – sadly, and to mourn.

Now we call people who leave their house with a cough “selfish”and we rain judgment down on them. Bizarrely enough, we even feel anger toward healthy people. Our society loses their minds over a mask worn incorrectly, or a person who feels uncomfortable with getting vaccinated. I’ve seen the cold hearted comments all over social media that they deserve to die of Covid, or lose their jobs or that they don’t deserve to enjoy the luxuries of restaurants, museums, movie theatres, and concerts.

How did we get here so fast?

I miss the world I used to live in. When kindness came before fear. When we could agree to disagree.

The monster of division looms over my nation, spurred on by my own political leaders. It’s being echoed loud and clear by the media: Do as we say or lose everything. Conform to our beliefs or be shut out. Shun all those who do not comply. It creeps into people’s hearts and minds until they think this attitude is normal. Acceptable even.

We don’t even see what we’ve become. And the worst part is that I don’t see an end.

Unless, of course, we remember.

And we all begin to miss the things we’ve lost… enough to do something about it.

Family · Loss

A Life Worth Remembering

I used to wonder how it would feel to observe my own funeral. How many people would be there to mourn? Would they be sad? Would they be relieved? What kinds of things would they say about me?

What would I be remembered for? My fancy cakes? My blog with a handful of readers? My lame jokes?

And now, I see the funerals of 2020 and 2021.

Five people allowed. Masks, which cover our faces. No hugs permitted.

And I am suddenly glad that the departed don’t have to watch from above. Would they wonder if they were loved? Would they even know how much they are missed? Would they understand that it pains us inside, to say goodbye like this?

My grandpa passed away last week, at the age of 92. As the restrictions are still quite tight here in Manitoba, Canada, my biggest prayer was that we would be able to honour the memory of this very loved man in a way that did justice to his life; a life well-lived.

It looks like these prayers are being answered and my heart is filled with peace, even as I mourn the loss of this very special man.

I got the privilege of putting together a video of our family giving tributes about Grandpa. It was touching to see a large family (he had five children, like we do) with so many different hobbies, careers and personalities all sharing about what “Dad” or “Grandpa” meant to them.

As I wrote mine, I found it hard to sum up all that this amazing man meant to me in just a short, one-minute paragraph. So, of course, I turn here to expand my thoughts. Surely, a one minute tribute doesn’t do justice to how I feel about my grandpa.

“Grandpa Reimer” as I called him, was always very special to me, and I don’t think that I can properly put into words everything I felt for him. I remember my Grandpa from young on, as a man who cared deeply for me. I can still close my eyes and see him jumping up from his chair, with energy beyond his years, rushing to help me with my school projects. He, like myself, loved history and books. He had shelves full of them, many old ones too, including an 800 year old Bible.

Unlike most other grandfathers I knew, my Grandpa was a “techie”. He loved new technology and was somewhat of an inventor himself. I was always impressed with his innovation and willingness to try new things, which most other people his age either feared or rejected altogether. He also collected antiques. I remember his juke box, also a phonograph. I remember his old phone which dialled with a crank and had a long earpiece attached by a cord.

He collected so many odds and ends. I loved looking through his spoon collection, his stamps, his hockey cards and licence plates.

I remember caring so much about what he thought of me. I wanted so badly for him to be proud of me.

Family was a priority for Grandpa Reimer. This was evident in the way that he spent his time and money. I remember often showing up at his house on Sundays. If it was hot, we would swim in my grandparents in-ground swimming pool.

I went on two very memorable trips as a child, which I could very well say are the clearest and best memories of my childhood… you guessed it, he was the one who took us on them. He rode right along on the rides in Disney Land. He dragged us along to flea markets, always searching for new treasures… an old record, a valuable newspaper, a book.

My Grandpa was a man of such diversity himself. He loved music, I remember him playing the accordion at our family gatherings. He was a turkey farmer and a grain farmer. He loved hockey and game shows.

No he was not perfect. He struggled emotionally with anxiety in ways that make me feel all the more love and tenderness for him. I’m sure, like I’ve seen in myself, at times this great storehouse of emotions has hurt or even manipulated the people around him. But the important thing is, he knew this about himself. He would often exclaim, with depth in his eyes, “How God must love us, that he would save a sinner like me!”

If I have inherited even an ounce of his passion, faith, wisdom, authenticity, and gifts, I would be blessed.

My love for Grandpa goes far beyond these few experiences, reaching to feelings expressed in fragments, rather than full thoughts:

-A sparkle in his eye

– The imprint of his body in his favourite spot on the blue couch

-A bright blue can of Pepsi

-A deck of Skip-Bo cards

-A soft heart

-Tears not afraid to fall

-His thumb held up as he says to me with a grin, “Right on!”

-His body curled up, almost childlike, in the hospital bed as he slept.

-A trembling hand, writing shaky words

-His voice as we sang hymns, still remembering all the words

On our last real visit almost a year ago, before Covid restrictions came into effect, I picked up a joke book on his table to read to him. He warned me: “It isn’t very funny,” but I proceeded to read the jokes anyways. Turned out, he was right. As I turned to leave, for my rushed lunch break was over, little knowing that it would be the final one… he grabbed my hand and said: “Thank you for coming.”

I smiled and flippantly said, “I was happy to come! See you again soon!”

Sorry that it was so much longer than I imagined, Grandpa. But I am confident I will see you again.