Monthly Archives: May 2013

Rising to Significance

My neighbour, Barb, and I walk every Saturday morning.  It is not a long walk, but it is always “significant”.  There is a word / concept that we focus on during our walk and begin on one end of the spectrum with it and explore it until we are on the other side. Yesterday, our topic was the difference between success and significance. 

I found it very easy to wrap my head around this word when I began to think about what it would look like to be insignificant.  This concept was easy to explore as just the previous day I overheard a couple of my students talking about their childhoods.  Their conversation was so sad that I became quickly overwhelmed with emotion.  Both young men had been abused and neglected by their parents.  What had happened to them, when they were at a time in their lives when their families should have been supporting their development of self-worth, traumatized them into believing they were not significant in this world.  Consequently, their lives had been spent looking for significance – but in the wrong way. 

At school, both boys demonstrated they were, in fact, very significant.  Their thinking was deep – their understanding of issues was deep – their contributions were deep. They were far, far, far away from being “in”significant.  I remarked to both of them how impressed I had been with their thinking and that they were very wise for their years.  I had no idea what power this one little comment would be.  One young man responded, “That is the first time in my life I have ever had anyone tell me that.  If I had had encouragement as a kid – someone to tell me that I was smart – someone to tell me I was worthwhile, I would not have had so many problems in my life.  I have never thought I was smart.  I have always felt insignificant.”  As a teacher, I now expect great things from these young people – and I fully expect them to rise to the occasion. 

Another young lady in my class struggled with her life.  She did not have an easy childhood either.  Her role models were more impressed with a bottle of booze than they were with her.  Again, did she feel significant in her life?  Throughout the year while attending school, however, she found her value.  It was not an easy thing to find as it was almost like having to cut through impenetrable layers of insults her parents had wrapped her in.  I wouldn’t imagine her parents set out to make her feel insignificant – but it would seem that insignificance breeds insignificance – it is a culture.  Over the course of the school year, this young woman was made aware of her contributions to her own life, her son’s life, and her school life.  She gave more of herself to the school community and the community responded.  She became a leader.  She became significant.  She was invited to be the valedictorian. 

What are we to learn from this?  As a teacher, I feel like I can finally put a name to what I do in the classroom; I help people to see their own self-worth — to see that they are significant.  I help people to see they have value. 

Where do we first begin to realize our own worth?  How significant are we to ourselves, our partners, our families, our county, our planet?  When we can find our place in each of these levels – will we be more likely to feel a greater sense of empowerment?  If every person in the world rose to significance – maybe the world would be a better place to live.  Maybe government would be less corrupt, maybe the environment would be less stressed, maybe individuals would suffer from good mental health?

One thing I do know, however, is that one gets what one gives. Those young men and that young woman made a difference in my life.  When they began to realize their own significance, it became more clear to me what my role was as a teacher – and that I too, am significant. 

Categories: Life's Lessons, Teaching | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

The Gift

Dad's 89th birthday 010

It has been a long journey – three years since we lost Mom and nearly one year since we lost Dad.  I have l learned to be patient, to breathe, and to accept.  It was the final “acceptance”  that has been the most difficult. 

I have now, however:

– accepted that I am now the one who must take up the role of the family elder

– accepted that life carries on even when it changes

– accepted that things always work out of the best

– accepted that there is a season for everything

– accepted that I cannot always get what I want – but I tend to get what I need

– accepted that true friends are always there to support and guide

– accepted that it can be difficult to age and lose your friends

– accepted there is a difference between growing old and being old

– accepted that it is important to accept gifts – as much as to give gifts

The greatest gift Mom and Dad could give to my brother and I was to be raised in the culture of family they crafted for us.  Our culture is unique; We cry at the drop of a hat.  We can be so terribly sentimental and attached to things. We can be sad when meals are not shared with our children or partners.  We have faith in each other. We like to use good dishes.  We like to cook from scratch.  We like to quote Robbie Burns. We recognize celebrations and we celebrate – any occasion can become a celebration.  We value life.  We respect others.  We always say please and thank-you.  We like to make frugal purchases.  We love being outside with our hands in the dirt.  This is our culture.  This was our gift. 


Categories: Family and Friends, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons, Mom | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

It’s been a pleasure working with you…

…said the voicemail from the lady at lawyer’s office.  The estate is closed.  It is all done. 

Wow – wow – wow.

You would think that after nearly a year that I wold be ready to draw a close to this – but the words hit me like a ton of bricks.  It was almost insulting to think that Mom and Dad had been reduced to those words… the “estate”.  Since the estate was closed, therefore, they were too?

I cannot understand why some things resonate with me in such a way.  It was a normal progression of which I was fully informed, not to mention the master behind.  It is like point A leads to point B and yes, of course, there you must follow.  Yet – there is an element of surprise that knocks the socks off you when you are least expecting.

To close an estate is a heck of a lot of blood, sweat, and mostly tears.  But it was a journey that I feel prepared me for the final destination more than had I not been able to take it.  It was a road that had never been travelled before.  Robert Frost sure did get it right in his poem, ‘Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”. 

“Whose woods these are, I think I know.  His house is in the village, though.  I’m sure he won’t mind if I stop for a while to see his woods fill up with snow.”  (or something to that nature)  How ephemeral it must have all seemed then – as it does now.  What a temporal existence we live – to end with a phone message indicating it is all done. 

I look up from my computer screen to see an image of Mom and Dad smiling… those were happier times for them.  They were healthy – not a care about health issues or finances or death benefits.  They really had their eyes set on their own future.  I remember Mom often breaking into silent tears of her own to mourn the loss of her own mother – so, so many years before.  I thought how odd it was that one could feel such strong emotion nearly 50 years, then 55 years, then 60, and then some,  years after a loss.  I don’t look forward to that  – but what an honour it would be at the same time.  Bitter – sweet is the way I guess some would describe the feeling.

Several of my colleagues at work are going through the motions I once went through.  And although their pain is palpable, I am pleased to see the loyalty and dedication to their parents is as strong as mine was to my own parents.  It is heart-breaking and I feel the emotions all over again living through their own piece-by-piece loss.  A very wise friend of mine always said that, “the degree to which you grieve is a measure of the degree to which you have loved.”  I find comfort in that statement – knowing that the price I pay for the loss of my parents has great value measured in love … not money. 

Money, indeed, cannot buy happiness and I would exchange it all to have them back.  I know that if I actually could strike that deal I would feel horrible as I am confident they are in a better place now than when they were here.  It would be selfish of me to wish their return – – yet I dream. 

Tonight would be a good night to have them visit me in a dream.  I always take great comfort in their visits – although it has been a while since their last visit. 

Meanwhile, the dishes need doing, the floor needs vacuuming, and the family needs a Mom – in real time.  So, my friends at the lawyers office… I will bid you adieu and reply back, “It has been a pleasure working with you too.”



Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Thanks for the Chat, Dad

Stacey:  Dad, its been a long time since you and I chatted. 

Dad:  Well, officially.  I know I have met you in your dreams. 

Stacey:  I visited you and Mom the other day – and David asked if I wanted to be buried in the wall.  Honestly, Dad, I did not hesitate to agree – and thought Id sure like to be close to you and Mom.  I dont think Kevin wants that final end, though, so we have some thinking to do.

Dad:  Well, dont think about it too much, Stacey, you have too much living to do to think about dying. 

Stacey:  I know, Dad.  I guess Im speaking to you today as the one-year anniversary is approaching.  Usually, we plan your garden at this time.  

Dad:  Have you planted yours yet?

Stacey:  No – but there is sure a healthy base of compost.  I cannot believe how much my family produces. 

Dad:  Remember the compost pile we had on the farm?  Your mother hated it and loved it at the same time. 

Stacey:  I do remember – I was always careful to avoid going near it.  Funny how now I really quite enjoy mucking about in it.. thinking what great tomatoes it will produce. 

Dad:  Are you going to grow popcorn?  (grin)

Stacey: No.  I was too heart-broken when I was a kid – we waited one day too long and the racoons got all of it. 

Dad:  Yes – and there were sure a lot of puffy racoons that night, eh Stace?

Stacey:  Dad, I sold the condo.  Your estate is almost wrapped up.  You and Mom have been good to all of us.  I am grateful that you were such a good money manager.  Although, I know Mom called you cheap!  Its funny to think there is no more apartment 1001 to go to.  I always went there to talk to you and Mom.  I dont have that place anymore.  It seems odd, but this blog is where I can meet you.  I think others may think me strange – but my words become clear and I feel comforted thinking you may be guiding my writing.  

Dad:  Stacey, you can write to me anytime you like.  I have always wanted to write, as you know, and I think I am finally doing what I always wanted to do through you.  Do you think that is possible?

Stacey:  Dont know, Dad.  But it sure is nice thinking you can still speak through me. 

Dad: Stacey, I think you are rambling now – so maybe it is time to call it a night. Brandy?  

Stacey:  No, I never did acquire a taste for that stuff, Dad.  But Ill pour one for you – and watch to see that it disappears in front of my eyes (grin) 

Dad:  TTFN, Stace.

Stacey:  TTFN, Dad.  Thanks for the chat. 

Categories: Uncategorized | 15 Comments

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