Category Archives: Reflections

Is There Life After Death?

A friend told me recently she wasn’t sure if she believed in a life after death. I said I wasn’t sure either but I wasn’t worried about it.

With my sons and daughters-in-law

I’ve had a really good life. I’ve loved and been loved. I have children and grandchildren who will live on after me and I take immense joy and pride in the people they have become and are becoming.

With my very first class of students

I have had a rewarding career.

I have been lucky enough to see a great deal of the world.

With Starry Night by Van Gogh at the Museum of Modern Art in New York

I’ve been able to explore all kinds of interests of mine.

I’ve been fortunate to have many things I’ve written published and put out there into the world.

I’ve been blessed with great friends.

I have terrific siblings I can count on.

Sure there have been hard times in my life, times of profound loss, terrible frustration, deep disappointment and heartbreaking grief but often that was because I’d loved, cared, hoped or dreamed and I’m not sorry about taking those chances even though things didn’t end up as I wished or wanted.

If there is a life after death that would be an adventure, but honestly taken as a whole my life has been a pretty good adventure too so if there is something after death it will be a bonus.

Of course, I’d like to believe the idea that we are mysteriously reunited with those we love after death. Maybe our souls or spirits do merge in some way and we become part of an eternal force, at one with the divine. I can’t imagine how that might happen- it is beyond my ability to fathom- but I don’t discount the possibility.

Photographed in 1954 – me and my mother

I still feel really connected to some of the people who have predeceased me. I think of my mother nearly every day, the things she taught me and role-modelled for me are still a big part of my life. I think of my grandparents often and the unconditional love they gave me. My mother-in-law was a very inspirational woman.

When my new granddaughter was born last week my brother sent me a message saying that he was happy the continuum of love passed on to us by our mother was alive in a new generation. In a very real way I think my mother’s love lives on and in that way so does she.

Religious writer Nadia Bolz Weber puts it this way…… because God is love, the love we shared here on Earth is the connective tissue that unites us eternally with everyone who loved us.

I told my friend who wondered if there was life after death that even if we die and that’s final- there’s nothing else- we all still live on. My friend was a healthcare professional and I told her a little bit of her would live on in every patient she cared for and helped.

Paint party I attended

I follow author and life coach Heather Plett on social media and she wrote recently that our lives are like a canvas on which a painting is being created for each one of us. When we have relationships or even short interactions with people we leave a little dab of paint on their canvas. The dabs we’ve left on other people’s life canvases will live on even after we’ve died.

Is there life after death? I’m not sure. There might be and that could be an exciting experience.

I do think however, that no matter what happens we do live on after we die……… through the love we’ve given, the example we’ve been, the lives we’ve touched, the dabs of paint we’ve left on other people’s life canvases.

Other posts……..

The Purpose of Life

Life is Messy

Three Actions For A Good Life


Filed under Reflections, Religion

April -Memory Lane

April 2005- With my sister on a boat in Halong Bay Vietnam

April 2006- In Savannah Georgia with our friends Alan and Simone
April 2007- Attending our son’s graduation from university in Winnipeg
April 2008- With my husband Dave on a mountain in Bali
April 2009- In Japan with our friends Rudy and Sue
April 2010- Easter breakfast in Winnipeg with my daughter-in-law Karen
April 2011- On Victoria Peak in Hong Kong with my brother Mark and his colleague
April 2012- Holding my first grandchild for the first time
April 2015- Visiting in Winnipeg with Meena my Hong Kong teaching colleague and dear friend
April 2016- A tea party with my friend group the T-4s in Steinbach
April 2017- At the Manitoba Book Awards Gala in Winnipeg with three friends and members of my writing group Pat, Jodi and Larry
April 2018- Watching Winnipeg Jets playoff hockey in Winnipeg with my brother Mark and sister-in-law Kathy
April 2019- Meeting my first granddaughter for the first time in Saskatoon
April 2022- Coloring Easter eggs in Winnipeg with my second granddaughter

Other posts……….

Biking in Bali


Missing Sue

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Filed under People, Reflections

Three Funerals

I was at a memorial service yesterday for a former teaching colleague of mine Roxanne Klassen. Roxanne died of cancer. She was a few years younger than I am. Roxanne was a wonderful musician who played the organ and piano in the church in Steinbach we attended for several decades. She was at the keyboard for my mother’s funeral, incorporating all of Mom’s favourite pieces into the prelude and postlude music.

Mitchell School Staff – Roxanne is at the far left in the first row and I am fourth from the left

Roxanne and I taught at Mitchell School together for many years and I remember her as a caring colleague and dedicated professional with an eye for detail and unmatched organizational skills.

The funeral for my former neighbour Reg Penner was also this month. Reg died of cancer. He was two years younger than I am. Reg was a very successful businessman who contributed to the local community and his church in all kinds of ways.

Our children often played together since our houses backed one another on Westwood Street in Steinbach and there was no fence between our yards. Reg and his wife Ingrid set up the swing set for the kids in their yard and my husband Dave built the tree house and sandbox for them in ours.

Dinner with Reg and his family on Prince Edward Island

We moved to Eagle Place in Steinbach later and Reg and Ingrid were our neighbours again. We enjoyed drinks in summer on our respective decks, occasional golf rounds together and once spent a few days together on Prince Edward Island.

Last month I watched the funeral of my former pastor John Lemond online. John died of cancer. He was just a little older than I am. John was a teacher at a Lutheran seminary but also served as the pastor at Tao Fong Shan the church we attended during our six years in Hong Kong. John and his wife Barb became good friends of ours.

Visiting John and Barb in Florida

We enjoyed going to movies together, going out for dinner and visiting one another’s homes. John was a great listener. His sermons were always short and never failed to make you think. We were fortunate enough to pay a visit to John and Barb in Florida a few years ago where they had retired.

In the last little while, I’ve attended funerals for three people around my age who lost their lives to cancer. Reg and John and Roxanne were all people of faith who lived rich and meaningful lives and blessed their families and their communities with love and care.

But in my mind, each of them was too young to die and their passing makes me stop and think about how fleeting our lives are and how important it is to make the most of every day we are granted on this earth.

Other posts……….

In Praise of Church Organists

Historic Churches Continents Apart

He Made Things Tick


Filed under Health, Reflections

Putting the Donkey Center Stage

Over the last few years, theologian Kate Bowler has posted a series of reflections for today, Palm Sunday, and they all focus on the donkey in the familiar Biblical scene.

Entry of Christ into Jerusalem by Anthony van Dyck – 1617

In one Kate writes about the plodding steps of the donkey on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem. He didn’t speed into town in a chariot pulled by galloping powerful horses. No, he moved forward in slow small steps on an ordinary animal.

The dedicated work of doctors moves humanity forward. My Dad delivered thousands of babies during his long medical career. – Photo credit- Jim Peters

Kate reminds us on Palm Sunday to think about all those who move humanity slowly forward with their dedicated work in hospitals, schools, homes, grocery stores and transportation services. The crowds may be shouting “Save us” in a loud and garish way as they did on Palm Sunday but the dedication of these ordinary people plodding forward like the donkey with their important work may hold the key to humanity’s salvation.

The Donkey, an illustration by John Vernon Lord for GK Chesterton’s poem ‘The Donkey’ 

In another reflection on Palm Sunday Kate quotes a poem by C. K. Chesterton called The Donkey. It describes how ugly the donkey looks with his “monstrous head and sickening cry and ears like errant wings.” People often deride the donkey and doubt its intelligence.

But Chesterton reminds us that a donkey was the mode of transportation Jesus used to enter Jerusalem. The animal we might least expect to do so stepped centre stage and played an important role as Jesus moved towards his destiny.

Who would have expected a young schoolgirl disfigured by bullets in Pakistan to win the Nobel Prize and be a leading advocate for girls’ education and world peace? photo of Malala Yousafzai from the cover of her autobiography – I Am Malala

In her reflection on Chesterton’s poem Kate Bowler uses the donkey as a symbol of the upside-down kingdom Jesus talked about as he championed the poor, the outcast, the marginalized, and the grieving. He called them blessed. He said someday they’d come first.

We never know what unlikely candidate will step centre stage to provide hope and healing to the world.

Palm Sunday by Chinese artist He Qi

The donkey might not be the first thing that draws our eye in Palm Sunday scenes. But maybe it should be.

Other posts………

Easter – A Time of New Beginnings

Easter Retrospective


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Filed under Reflections, Religion

Talking and Listening

“Miriam Toews wrote an essential novel about a radical act of democracy in which people who don’t agree on every single issue managed to sit together in a room and carve out a way forward together, free of violence. They do so not just by talking but also by listening.”

That’s a quote from the acceptance speech Sarah Polley gave at the Oscar ceremony when she won an Academy Award for adapting Miriam Toews’ novel Women Talking into a movie script. I loved it and I can’t stop thinking about it. She went on……

The last line of our film is delivered by a young woman to a new baby and she says, “your story will be different from ours. It’s a promise, a commitment, and an anchor and it’s what I would like to say with all of my might to my three incredible kids Eve, Isla, and Amy as they make their way through this complicated, beautiful world.”

Sarah Polley accepting her award- photo from the Toronto Star

I’ve been reading Sarah’s words over and over. I want to believe they are true. I want to believe that by genuinely talking and listening to those who have very different views of the world than we do there is a chance to make forward progress towards a more peaceful planet.

Sarah also expresses her belief in a future world that will be better for the next generation than it was for ours. I hope that fervently too. Sarah named her three children in the speech but I think we can probably all think of names to substitute personally. I would list my incredible grandchildren.

Sometimes when I read the news I have a hard time believing that people will ever stop to talk and listen to each other long enough to end the killing and harming of children by gun violence, war, malnutrition, abuse and disease.

We know it’s possible to do it but can we put aside our differences long enough to talk and listen to each other and come up with workable solutions we can all support?

Sarah Polley seems to have faith we can. I want to have that kind of faith in humanity too.

Other posts…………

Treat the World Better Than It Treated You

Run Towards the Danger

What Will You Be Building When You Have to Go?


Filed under Reflections

What Will You Be Building When You Have To Go?

What will you be building when you have to go?”  Newfoundland musician Amelia Curran has a song that begins with those lyrics.

In the last few weeks, I’ve learned about four people I know around my age who are facing a terminal diagnosis or have passed away.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve been thinking so much about the question in Amelia’s song. “What will you be building when you have to go?”

I hope that right up til’ the moment I die I will still be building things whether it’s relationships, stories, a fit body, a new skill, or memories.  

Amelia’s thought-provoking question reminded me of our visit to architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arizona house called Taliesin West. We saw a photo of him at his desk in the last weeks of his life. 

Frank Lloyd Wright passed away when he was 91.  There were 166 projects in progress sitting on his desk when he died. The last decade of his life was his most productive. He did a third of his life’s work in that period.

Frank Lloyd Wright was definitely still building when he had to go.  

Author Margaret Atwood has a new book of short stories coming out called Old Babes in the Woods. In a lovely interview with Jenna Bush from the Today Show recorded in the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library Margaret talked not only about Old Babes in the Woods but the next book she is working on.

Margaret Atwood is 83 and although she says she is well aware, especially since the death of her partner in 2019, that her own end could come soon, she is busy writing.

She definitely wants to still be building new books when she has to go.

What will you be building when you have to go?

Other posts……………

Taliesin West in Arizona

It Isn’t the Handmaid’s Tale

All Those Famous Canadian Writers

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Grandma and Grandpa Are Being Children

When our family was together over Christmas we all walked to a neighbourhood park near our son and daughter-in-law’s Winnipeg home to play in the snow with the children. My husband Dave and I spied a pair of swings and promptly sat down and started pumping till we were quite high in the air.

“Oh look,” our ten-year-old grandson said pointing to us and calling out to the rest of the family, “Grandma and Grandpa are being children.”

Our grandson’s comment got me thinking about whether it was a good thing that we were ‘being children’ because adults are sometimes chastised for ‘behaving like a child.’

My husband acting like a kid with some refugee kids we worked with in Hong Kong

A little online research revealed that sometimes ‘acting like a kid’ is good for you no matter how old you are.

British therapist Adam Eason says being playful and childlike can relieve stress, help you feel younger, stimulate your imagination, enrich interpersonal relationships, and give you more energy.

Playing in the mud with sister-in-law and brother-in-law in Costa Rica

Dr Stuart Brown has written a book called Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. He says playing isn’t just for children. We all need to play like kids at times if we are going to flourish.

Dr Brown has interviewed thousands of people about the role of play in their lives. He says playing with the passion and fun-loving spirit of a child helps foster social skills, intelligence, creativity and problem-solving.

According to him adults especially need to play like children during challenging times in their lives because it helps them remain optimistic.

Marelisa Fabrega is a lawyer and entrepreneur with a blog called Daring to Live Fully. She has some good suggestions for adding child-like fun to your life.

My son and his wife puzzling with my parents

One is to have a play drawer where you keep jigsaw puzzles, colouring books, paper and paints, adult playdoh (yes there is such a thing) and Lego. She encourages adults to take time to indulge in an activity from their play drawer regularly.

Mini-golfing with my friends

She suggests play dates with friends where you visit a playground, go mini-golfing, go tobogganing or ride your bikes.

Giving my grandson an ‘aeroplane ride’ when he was two

Marelisa also recommends hanging out with kids as a surefire way to start ‘acting like a kid’ yourself.

I LOVE the fact that our grandson thought his grandpa and I were being children on those swings. We probably need to do that more often.

Other posts……….

Have You Played Ladder Ball?

Tree Children

Fun Times With Paul and Shirley

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Filed under Childhood, Family, Reflections, Retirement

2022 in Photos

January- We began a six-month stint of providing regular childcare for our one-year-old granddaughter. What a privilege and a joy!!

Our oldest and youngest grandchildren heading down the hill on a sled together.

February- We enjoyed a belated Christmas gathering in Saskatoon at our son and daughter-in-law’s lovely new home. They were great hosts! We had a wonderful time being outdoors together and enjoying good food, music, games and visiting as a family.

March- I was working on one of the more than a dozen jigsaw puzzles I completed this year. Puzzles were my meditation practice and my therapy in 2022.

April- We enjoyed another fabulous meal at the Amsterdam Tea Room one of our favourite restaurants in the Exchange District of Winnipeg where we live.

It was so lovely this year to return to dining out at all the diverse and excellent eateries in our neighbourhood after a hiatus during the pandemic when we had to be satisfied with ordering take-out from local establishments.

May- We went crocus hunting on an ATV in the Sandilands as guests of our good friends Bill and Marie. We have been friends for more than twenty years.

We had so many terrific times with friends in 2022. We feel blessed and lucky to have all of them in our lives.

June- I attended a lovely luncheon hosted by my friend Marge. Marge organizes a group of Bethel Church attendees who volunteer on a regular basis at the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Store on Selkirk Avenue, cleaning, organizing and pricing goods for sale. I so enjoy both the work I do there and the company of these women.

July- Our son helps his nephew check out some birds during a family vacation at a house we rented in Oak Lake Manitoba.

August – We went to Leamington, Ontario for our niece’s wedding. Here I am celebrating with my four wonderful sisters-in-law.

September- Standing on the southern tip of Canada with my sister during a week-long cycling/wine trip in Essex County Ontario, including a four-day stint on Pelee Island.

October- We celebrated my Dad’s 94th birthday at our home. A big part of my 2022 was spending time several days a week, with Dad, at his nursing home.

November- On Mondays, I taught a course about women in the Bible and how they have been portrayed in art across the centuries in the McNally Robinson Community classroom. I had such an enriching time with the participants.

On Tuesdays in November I presented sessions on the same topic to the residents of Bethel Place, a seniors home connected to my church. It was lovely to connect with these folks and hear their stories.

With my aunt Viola and my son at her birthday party.

December – I flew to Saskatoon to celebrate my aunt’s 100th birthday with her. I have been uniquely blessed in the aunt department on both sides of my family. My eight aunties have been role models, encouragers, supporters and an inspiration to me throughout my life.

With my Aunt Nettie celebrating her 80th birthday
My Aunt Louise with the five copies of my novel she bought
With my Aunt Mary whose name I share as well as her love for family history and good books.

2022 was not all happiness and light. I could readily make a list of the challenges, difficulties and sad events that also marked this year, but I am choosing today to focus on what made this last year a joy and perhaps this post can help you to do that too.

Other posts……….

She’s Lived For a Century

Conversation and Memories

Join My Class At McNallys

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Treat the World Better Than It Treated You

On my last visit to Saskatoon I noticed this quotation written on the blackboard in the back hallway in my son and daughter-in-law’s home.

When you have a bad day, a really bad day, try to treat the world better than it treated you. -Patrick Stump

My daughter-in-law told me it was a mantra often used by her twenty-two-year old cousin, a nurse, who was tragically killed in a car accident in October.

Those words on the blackboard reminded me of something the great American poet Maya Angelou once said……….

Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.

Anyone who has read Maya’s books knows the world was incredibly cruel to her particularly in her childhood, yet she went on to inspire millions with the power of her poetry and its message of love and resilience.

And then there are the words of Michelle Obama spoken at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. When they go low – we go high.

In her new book The Light We Carry she explains that phrase a little more. It means being committed to decency and dignity in everything you do- how you treat others and how you act especially when your back is up against the wall. Some people will always want to take you down but don’t stoop to their level. Go high.

All three phrases remind us to be kind even when others aren’t kind to us.

It’s a tall order but wouldn’t our world be a different place if we all acted on it.

Other posts………

I Almost Saw Maya Angelou in Person

It’s Harder to Hate Up Close

Acts of Kindness and Love

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Run Towards the Danger

I was thinking a lot about Canadian film director Sarah Polley last weekend.

A few days before I flew to Saskatoon on Friday I watched Sarah Polley being interviewed on the Stephen Colbert show about her new book Run Towards the Danger. She talked about experiencing a concussion in 2015 after a very large fire extinguisher fell on her head.

Sarah Polley on the Stephen Colbert show- image from You Tube

For three and half years Sarah had brain fog, headaches, sensitivity to light, anxiety and could not multi-task. Sarah is an award winning Canadian film director. After her concussion she thought she would never direct a film again.

All the medical experts she consulted told her to avoid stress, spend time resting, dim the lights, essentially retreat from life so her brain could heal. It wasn’t working.

Then she went to see a Dr. Michael Collins in Pittsburgh who gave her completely contrary advice- run towards the danger. Don’t retreat. Go out boldly and confront the very things that scare you, that cause you stress.

Writing the essays in her book was one way for her to do just that- honestly and openly sharing some of the most difficult experiences of her life.

It worked! Sarah recovered and is now being lauded by critics for directing the brand new film Women Talking.

I was thinking a lot about Sarah’s book as I boarded a plane for Saskatoon last weekend. I was headed there to help my aunt celebrate her 100th birthday.

In October when I was in Saskatoon I was in an accident that totalled our car. I was driving and alone in the vehicle when a truck crashed into me. The accident was my fault. I made a hasty turn at an intersection where the truck had the right of way.

The people in the truck were unharmed. I was pretty bruised and shaken up. It took me more than a month to summon the courage to drive again after my accident. In light of that my husband suggested I take taxis or ubers while in Saskatoon last weekend rather than rent a car.

I desperately wanted to follow his advice but knew I shouldn’t. I needed to confront my fears and drive in Saskatoon where I’d had my accident. So I rented a car. I ran towards the danger in my own way just like Sarah had.

Was I scared? You bet. I was terrified every time I stepped into that rented car all weekend and when I finally pulled it safely into its spot at the airport on Sunday night just before I flew home I nearly wept with relief.

But I was glad I’d done it. I even went back to the intersection where I’d had the accident and made the same right turn that had been so disasterous for me.

I find as I am getting older I am letting my fears and anxieties direct my life more than I should. I know I am going to have to push myself much harder to be like Sarah Polley and run towards the danger as I age.

When I got on the plane on Friday night to fly to Saskatoon the woman who was sitting beside me asked me to hold the book she was reading while she buckled her seat belt.

Guess what book it was? Sarah Polley’s Run Towards the Danger.

Other posts………

What’s Your Mouse in the Chest?

Don’t Be Scared to be Creative

Terrified Times Three


Filed under Books, Reflections