We’ve been in Saskatoon this week helping my 94-year-old aunt move into a personal care residence. We had two days to sort through all her belongings and pick and choose just a few things to go into her new small living quarters.
My aunt was a record keeper. She had a journal for every year noting interesting or good things about each day. She had ledgers where she tracked virtually every penny she’d spent since she got her first teaching pay cheque in 1943. She had journals and photograph albums cataloguing her travels around the world. She had a stack of guest books signed by the hundreds of people who visited her home. She had folder upon folder with notes pertaining to speeches she had given, volunteer work she had done, committees she had served on and events she had planned. She had photo albums chronicling the life of her family, her friends, her plants and her needlework projects. We even found boxes full of notecards where she recorded the meals she made for people so she didn’t ever serve them the same thing twice on their visits to her home. She had autograph books, address books, year books, birthday books and boxes and boxes full of cards she had received.
Me and Aunt Vi 1957
Of course it was impossible to keep all of these items for space reasons and even if we could have, my aunt’s eyesight has become very poor and the tiny written script in most of her notebooks and journals and the old small black and white photos in many of her albums would not be accessible to her.
My aunt looks at one of her autograph books
I felt very sad and somewhat guilty about having to get rid of this record of my aunt’s life but someone wisely reminded me that all those journals and albums had already served their purpose. My aunt had enjoyed compiling them and she had enjoyed reminiscing whenever she read them and reread them and looked at them. In 2011 she used them to write and publish a detailed illustrated history of her life.
I too am a record keeper and chronicler but for many years already my journalling has been done electronically on this blog and in computer files. So when it is my turn to go into the personal care home my children will not need to spend days and days getting rid of my records. They will just need to press delete.
Aunt Vi’s Autograph Book
Visiting Aunt Vi
Monday I was at the art gallery for a professional development meeting. My colleagues and I tried out one of the new art projects we are going to do with our school age groups. It was lots of fun!
Tuesday two of my aunties and a cousin came over for supper. Lots of good visiting. They brought me these beautiful flowers.
Wednesday I gave a tour to grade ones at the art gallery. They loved looking for signs of the passing storm in Near the Close of A Stormy Day by Homer Watson. We had fun creating a noisy storm of our own with the art gallery’s cart full of musical instruments.
Thursday I hosted a luncheon at one of the schools where I’ve been visiting student teachers. What a great bunch! We had a lovely lunch and a good visit.
This morning we have a 6 am. departure time for Saskatoon to celebrate our grandson’s fourth birthday. I’m ready!!
Where has the week gone?
Lynch Family and Lead Belly
Early Morning Walk in Saskatoon
Elizabeth Gilbert author of a new book on being creative called Big Magic, just did a Facebook post about the fact that people stop drawing at the point where their artistic abilities were first shamed or ridiculed. I’ve blogged before about how that happened to me in grade eight when a teacher made fun of my art in front of the whole class.
Elizabeth quotes Lynda Barry who says when people who have been “non-artists” for a long time start drawing again, their images will look like they were made by a child the same age as the person was when they stopped drawing. That means we can pick up where we left off and start moving forward in our process of learning and growing creatively.
In her Facebook posts about her new book Elizabeth has been encouraging people to embrace their creativity and try dancing, or writing or singing or drawing even if they haven’t done it for decades. She encourages us to stop denying our creative inheritance as human beings and not be scared or embarrassed about nurturing our creative instincts.
With the help of my friend Esther I’ve been trying to do that over the last year. She gave me the courage to take a drawing class and since then she and I have been getting together every month to sketch. I’ve illustrated this post with the results of our October drawing outing at the Mayberry Gallery where I tried to re-create a portion of the work of Bill Brownridge. With Esther’s help I’m going back to my younger art self and have started drawing again. By showing my work here I am trying to get over the embarrassment of my 13-year-old self and celebrate the chance to be creative in a way I thought was closed to me.
Using the Other Side of My Brain
Finding my Inner Artist
Finding Wayan of Eat Pray Love
My husband Dave is now a member of the Faith and Life male choir and I joined him when he gave his first performance at a fundraising banquet for a Mennonite nursing home this week. I was seated beside a delightful woman named Marian who told me all about her years living in Berlin during the Cold War, the four-year old orphan she and her husband had adopted from Vietnam, and the wine tasting fundraiser she is hosting in her home in November for the Winnipeg Singers choir. We found we had endless connections. She and her late husband were good friends with the former editors of the Mennonite Mirror, a magazine for which I was a staff writer for many years. Marian’s husband was born in Gnadenthal where my Dad was born. Marian had lived in Newton, Kansas and knew my aunt and uncle there. She had been a nurse in the hemodialysis unit at St. Boniface Hospital where my mother was an out-patient and Marian had visited Hong Kong where I lived for six years.
I really enjoyed the talks at the banquet by the nursing home chaplains who described some of the things they try to do to enrich the spiritual journey of people nearing the end of their lives. This included assisting them in writing their memoirs, planning meaningful worship experiences, listening to their stories, helping them reconcile with their children, singing with them, guiding them down the path of forgiveness with people who may have hurt them, and in one case helping a woman find and reunite with the child she had given up for adoption.
It was an interesting evening. My husband’s choir sounded great and I got to bring home this beautiful table centerpiece. I took the Henderson Highway bus there and had the pleasure of walking the last kilometer or so to the Douglas Mennonite Church down the beautiful Chief Peguis greenway pedestrian trail.
Musicians Encountered World Wide
What Will You Be Building?
“Growing old is not for cowards.” My mother-in-law said that a number of times to me in the last years of her life. It is something I thought of over and over again as I watched the beautifully filmed Mr. Holmes on Friday night. As we witness the character growth of Sherlock Holmes, who exhibits exemplary courage in the face of his imminent death, we learn valuable lessons about growing old.
Never stop searching for answers.
Writing helps us remember.
Personal relationships are life’s greatest value.
Sometimes we need to fictionalize our past to some degree in order to live in the present.
Connections with nature enrich us, ground us and give us perspective.
Teaching something to someone else is energizing and rewarding.
Bees play a prominent role in Mr. Holmes and the life lessons the film teaches drip like honey from a comb into your heart- sweet and to be savoured.
Other posts about movies and relationships……...
A Sure Fire Way To Make Your Day
The Parent Child Connection
Love in a Lunchbox
Pastor Chester Wenger of Lancaster Pennsylvania is 97 years old and recently had his credentials as a Mennonite minister removed. He is helping to create a new view of marriage for the church denomination he has served for over 65 years. His pastoral credentials were terminated because he chose to perform a marriage ceremony for his son and the partner with whom his son has lived faithfully for nearly three decades. Their marriage became possible when the state of Pennyslvania made same sex marriage legal.
Mr. Wenger has not only written about his decision to officiate at his son’s wedding in the Mennonite media, but also submitted an op-ed piece to the newspaper in his home city of Lancaster. You can read it here.
Awhile ago I wrote about hearing Amelia Curran singing What Will You Be Building When You Have to Go? Since then I’ve been discovering more and more people who are taking the lyrics of her song quite literally. They have not stopped ‘building’ even though they are nearing the end of their life. Chester Wenger certainly hasn’t. He is still busy building a supportive relationship with his son and working to make an institution he loves, more open and accepting.
What Will You Be Building? Part 1
Letter from the Mother of a Gay Son