Reflection

Spring & Summer Hiatus by Leslie Fandrich

I've got big plans for this summer and almost all of it is offline work. I am in serious need of uninterrupted studio time to experiment and play with my writing and my art. I need to slow down, simplify and contemplate. I don't want any deadlines or expectations for myself and so I decided that the best thing I can do is put my blog on a hiatus until September so I can FOCUS. Remember that was my word of the year? It's time to get back to that.

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Finding Strength by Leslie Fandrich

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There is nothing more soothing for me than taking out my camera and looking for things to photograph. This week all the trees are blooming and my favorite are the magnolias. I found one today with a very deep shade of pink, it was so pretty.

Nearby were also some horses, so I went to say hello, because, why not? I stood by the fence calling at them while they ate grass and they happily ignored me until all of a sudden they both rushed up to the fence and sniffed at me. I put out my hand and the black one let me touch him, even though I think he was disappointed that I didn't have a  carrot. Horses are awesome.

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Nothing can make you feel better than an animal blissfully unaware and unconcerned with our human condition. You can look deep into an animal's eyes and what is reflected back at you is so simple. So easy. Eat, drink, run. The same with flowers. It's just pure, uncomplicated. They bloom, they die. Done.

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I was afraid I had missed this, while I was in Canada with my Mom. it would have been fine if I had, I took pictures last year and I will take pictures next year, but I was really glad that I didn't miss it, that after the departure of my mother, I am still able to experience the arrival of spring. Together, it is somehow more bearable for me. All is not lost. There is still spring.

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I'm doing fine, by the way. Happy to be home and sorting through my Mom's things that I got to keep. I've got her sewing kit, some of her jewelry and a bunch of personal papers, plus all the notes and message that she's given me over the years. I pulled off five voicemails from my phone (three cheers for an iPhone that saves every message for as long as you have the phone!) and I was so comforted by the fact that each one started exactly the same, "Hi sweetheart, it's Mum." Every single one. So consistent, so dependable. 

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened. ― Dr. Seuss

The books I am reading tell me that I am looking for her. It's a normal part of the process. Actually, almost everything is a normal part of the process. We all grieve so differently. Cry, don't cry. Talk, don't talk. Pretty much whatever you need to do, it's ok to do it. I've been reading two books by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross that I really like. On Death and Dying was written in 1969 and is still one of the best books out there on the topic. Her book On Grief and Grieving was written while she herself was dying in 2004. Her co-author experienced her death before completing the book in 2007.

For something that each of us will experience multiple time in our lives, to those that we love and to our own selves, death is not something people like to talk about. Our brains are so good at tricking us into thinking that death is not possible, that it will not happen to us. We deny this truth our entire lives and it leaves us woefully unprepared to deal with loss and to face our own demise. Think about it, plan for it, accept that someday, it will happen.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do. ― Eleanor Roosevelt

Facing death allows us to live our lives more fully. Accepting death as a part of life makes our time here sweeter and more precious. I'm not saying this is easy. It's not. I will miss my Mom every single day for the rest of my life, but this isn't going to break me. Life must go on. And it must go on even better than before. It must go on with even more love and more living. She would want that, as I think all of those leaving us do.

Someday you're gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You'll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing... ― Elizabeth Gilbert

My greatest assets during this time has been my independence and my willingness to accept change. If you can draw on those things when you are facing something like this, it will be easier. If you realize that despite all our loving relationships, we are really the only constant in our lives. Also, when things like this happen, it's not about mourning and then moving on, it's about integrating the experience into our lives, letting it change us and growing stronger and more capable.

Some people, they can't just move on, you know, mourn and cry and be done with it. Or at least seem to be. But for me... I don't know. I didn't want to fix it, to forget. It wasn't something that was broken. It's just...something that happened. And like that hole, I'm just finding ways, every day, of working around it. Respecting and remembering and getting on at the same time. ― Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

Have you experienced loss in your life? Have you faced death yourself? I'd love to hear about how you have coped with it and what you have learned.

xo

My Mom's Celebration of Life by Leslie Fandrich

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Yesterday, our family and friends gathered to celebrate and remember my Mom's life. Yes, it was a funeral, but it was so much more than that. This wasn't a sombre religious affair. Sure, there were tears, but the focus was on my Mom. Who she was, what she brought to all of our lives, and what her life meant to all of us. It was a wonderful day.

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 Inside three panel spread of the Service Card.

Inside three panel spread of the Service Card.

 Inside fold, back and front of the Service Card.

Inside fold, back and front of the Service Card.

 Our first family picture without my Mom. The new normal. In most of the pictures we took of our family, you could see circles of light, usually over my sister and her husband. Call them dust particles if you want, but I'm going to believe that my Mom was close by.

Our first family picture without my Mom. The new normal. In most of the pictures we took of our family, you could see circles of light, usually over my sister and her husband. Call them dust particles if you want, but I'm going to believe that my Mom was close by.

I made the memorial video, with the help of my sister and aunt and uncle. We searched though dozens of old family photo albums and picked from hundreds of digital images. When I asked my Mom what her favorite song was, she said "It's My Life" by Bon Jovi, so I put it in. The lyrics were perfect. We were lucky enough to be able to show her the video before she died. She cried the whole way through, in a good way, and commented that she thought she blossomed when she became a mother. My Dad said it gave him some perspective. I love all the pictures from the Eighties.

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My husband also wrote a song after he visited with my Mom last month. He got home, without me, and it just came pouring out of his heart all at once. It's called Paper Airplane.

If you are just tuning in, here are all the earlier posts about what's been going on:

Finally, if you wished you could have been there, I have a video of the complete service. It's a full hour (I cut out the 15 minutes of the Memorial Video up above), but if you have the time and interest, you may like to listen to my Eulogy and the tributes from family and friends. Everyone who spoke brought something different to the picture of who my Mom was and I really appreciated hearing about my Mom from another perspective.

It was a great day. After the service, we all gathered at the reception center for a few hours and then a large group of family and friends went over to my sister's place. It was so nice, huddling with my family, sharing stories and being close with so many who loved my Mom. It was comforting, fun, and special. Returning home will be hard, but it will bring about a new phase of this process for me. Alone with my thoughts, I expect to be reliving these last two months and feeling it more deeply than ever. Now, the grieving really begins.

In Memoriam // Bonny Fandrich // 1950 - 2013 by Leslie Fandrich

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Mrs. Bonny Fandrich (nee Bouchard), beloved wife of Bryan Fandrich, passed away peacefully at the Carmel Hospice in Medicine Hat on Thursday, April 11, 2013, at the age of 62 years from a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor.

Bonny leaves to cherish her memory; two daughters, Leslie Fandrich (Chris Janata) of Warwick, New York and Jill (Mark) Braithwaite of Calgary, Alberta; one step daughter, Tracy (Allen) Woloshyniuk of Coalhurst, Alberta; and four grandchildren, Milo and Quinn Janata and William and Nicole Woloshyniuk. Bonny is also survived by three dear sisters, Shirley, Alita and Vicki, three sisters-in-law, six brothers-in-law and 31 nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents Roland and Mary Bouchard of Red Deer, and her parents-in-law Edward and Iris Fandrich of Medicine Hat.

Bonny was born June 10, 1950 in Red Deer, Alberta. She moved to Medicine Hat with her family when she was 16, excelled at Track and Field in school and loved playing the accordion. Her love affair with Bryan began in 1968. After she built a house with him, they got married in 1972 and their two daughters were born soon after. In 1981, when “the girls” were six and four they moved up to a grand old house on “the Hill” with a view of the cliffs, where they raised their family and lived until just last year. Bonny worked hard in every aspect of her life. Her home and garden were her pride and joy, there was a home cooked meal on the table almost every night and she assisted Bryan in the refrigeration business as well as helping maintain and manage several rental properties. She was devoted to her family and her relationship with her two daughters was always very close. She loved riding horses as a young girl, aerobics and bike riding were her passions in the 80’s and 90’s and she always took pride in looking her best. She was still wearing sexy heels at age 60. The family grew up camping in “the van” and travelling all over Southern Alberta and into the United States. Memorable trips included Yellowstone, the Lewis & Clark Caverns and into British Columbia. Bonny laughed easily, loved deeply and enjoyed her life immensely. In her later life she loved travelling to New York to visit her daughter’s family and with Bryan she completed a life long dream when they travelled to Hawaii in 2010 to attend a dear friend’s wedding. That trip happened right before she was diagnosed with cancer and it would sadly be her last. She bravely faced her cancer diagnosis and fought as hard as she could, living with the challenges it brought her with strength and determination.

Bonny’s family would like to thank all the doctors, nurses and staff at Tom Baker Cancer Center in Calgary and the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital and give a special heartfelt thanks to everyone at the Carmel Hospice in Medicine Hat for the tireless and devoted care they provided to all of us during this most vulnerable time. Cremation has taken place and a Memorial Celebration of Bonny’s life will be held in Calgary at McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes, Fish Creek Chapel 14441 Bannister Road Southeast, Calgary, Alberta on Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 2:00pm with a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in Bonny’s name can be made directly to the Carmel Hospice, St. Joseph’s Home, 156 - 3rd Street NE, Medicine Hat, Alberta, T1A 5M1.

She's Gone by Leslie Fandrich

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The words are hard to find right now. For all the writing I've done about my Mom's journey, right now in this moment knowing she is really gone leaves me speechless. I can't believe it even though I know it's true.

I'll write more about the last week that I spent with her in a few days, but for now all I can say is that when I saw her tonight she was finally calm and at peace and that made me feel better. She was still and perfect and her pain was gone. 

I'm still so sad though. I cried more in an hour and a half tonight than I have all week with her, finally able to let go of the tears and deeply feel this immense loss. And now? Shock. Disbelief. Exhaustion. The process gets dialed back to zero and I start grieving all over again in a new way.

This sucks. But it is life. It is love. And it's all we've really got. I'm so grateful for every moment I had with her. It wasn't enough, but it never is when you really love someone. Cherish every moment.

Big hugs to everyone who has been touched by my Mom's strength, bright light and love. I cannot tell you all how much your love and support has meant to me at this time. This note that she wrote is addressed to me and my sister, but it's for you too. So simple, so sweet and so wise. "Be Happy. Be Loved. Try Something Magical."

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I'm going to miss her so much.

Bonny Fandrich: June 10, 1950 - April 11, 2013