Monday, 23 June 2014

And the Celebratons continue....

A dear friend of mine, who has accompanied through the highs and lows of the last decade, travelled with me to the Kitchener/Stratford area.  We decided back in the late winter that we would celebrate our decade birthdays together by attending the Stratford Festival.  We ordered our tickets back in March, made arrangements to stay with my brother and his wife in Kitchener and eagerly awaited the arrival of this past weekend.

What a glorious weekend it was!  The warmth of friendship made the drive very delightful as we travelled.  When we arrived at my brother's home, we were met by the joyous tail wagging bundle of energy called Maxi.  She is 11 years old but she still has the energy of a puppy.  Next to meet us was my sister-in-law with a huge smile on her face as she welcomed the weary travellers into her home.  This is what I love about my brother and sister-in-law.  They welcome friends and family into their home with grace, laughter and love.  My brother had met my friend once before about 10 years or so ago.  My sister-in-law had never met my friend but that didn't matter.  Her arms were open wide to receive us with all our belongings.  Due to my brother's work schedule, we didn't see him when we arrived.  Regardless of this ,my sister-in-law took us downstairs where we enjoyed some snacks, water and getting to know each other.  The television was on as we started watching an old movie with Errol Flynn and Maureen O'Hara.  I was so tired, I don't even remember the name of the movie!  And you know what?  The movie didn't matter.  What sticks in my memory is the warmth and love of friendship and family.  As my friend and I were quite tired (I was nodding off during the conversation and movie watching), we retired to our beds earlier than I normally would.

Saturday morning dawned nice and bright.  We three women again enjoyed each others' company as we had our cups of tea and coffee and then breakfast.  My friend and I then enjoyed a leisurely walk with Maxi around the neighbourhood.  We heard the birds singing, saw lots of other people walking or jogging with their dogs and children playing at the local playground.  All the happy sounds and bird songs made for a very relaxing start to the day.  Unfortunately, there was a phone call from my mom with some sad news.  A good family friend had passed on in the night from a heart attack. Outwardly, I continued on but inwardly, my heart was burdened.  This family friend was a man of great faith and I have no doubt that he is with his Saviour. He is also reunited with his own parents and his daughter who tragically died many years ago when she was in her early twenties. My heart has been aching for his widow although she will also be comforted with her own faith in Jesus. My prayers continue to be with this family. As I said, outwardly I continued on with my day. My friend and I drove to Stratford for the matinee showing of "King Lear" starring Colm Feore as King Lear.  As we arrived at the Festival Theatre with time to spare, we enjoyed a stroll alongside the Avon River and over the pedestrian bridge to the island and back.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time together and the show was spectacular. The time passed very quickly.  Then we hopped in the car and drove downtown to the Avon Theatre where we found parking.  A quick walk of a block or so and we were at our dinner destination which was The Annex Room.  I loved how our day was entwined with threads of affection, friendship and appreciation of the "finer things in life".  We enjoyed lots of conversation and laughter as we dined on some fabulous food.  Within, I had decided that I would not have dessert.  But....when the dessert options were listed from memory by our friendly waiter, I could not pass up my favourite dessert of crème brulee.  I have not found one that comes close to the crème brulee offered up at Chez Piggy but at The Annex Room it was just as good. This is a huge compliment!  My friend and I enjoyed our desserts (she had a trio of sorbets) along with cups of peppermint tea.  We did not feel rushed but our waiter was certainly unobtrusively attentive.  After our dinner, we made our way to the Avon Theatre.  We still had time so we browsed through the Theatre Store.  Then off we went to see "Man of La Mancha".  Again, it was a tremendous show.  Just before the first act ended, there was a scene that was so intense, it shot like an arrow right through to my core.  I felt anxiety, fear, and worry about the female lead.  What a well done job of acting and choreography.  As the lights went to black and then the house lights came up for intermission, I felt very unsettled.  I truly believe it is a true compliment to all who work on the or in the show that I would feel so deeply.

My friend and I were both weary and tired by the end of the day.  Thank goodness, my brother's home was only a 30 minute drive away.  As we drove down the highway through a rural area, we could see an orange glow to the right. Oh no....this is never a good thing to see in the country!  My heart plummeted.  Then I remembered that we had seen a controlled brush fire on the way to the Stratford Festival earlier in the day.  I've watched the internet for new regarding a barn fire but there's been nothing.  I hope it was only the brush fire which had raged out of control.  As we drove by, I could see the silhouette of the barn back lit by the flames.  There were fire trucks and personnel there battling the flames. My friend was driving, so I was able to see all this in an instant as we drove by. We arrived at my brother's home and again we were welcome with open arms, warm love and the excited wagging of Maxi's tail.  My brother was awake and it was the first time we saw him.  My friend had a cup of peppermint tea and I shared a glass of red wine with my brother and sister-in-law. It was an emotional day and I was glad it had started with the love of family and friends and then ended with the same positive warmth of love.

Yesterday, we all had a leisurely start to the morning. As we all arose at various times, we congregated on my brother's deck. It is a wonderful oasis of shade, birds and privacy. As we sat around my brother's patio table, we sipped on coffee and tea as well as just chattered and enjoyed some more warm fellowship. At one point, there was a chickadee hopping around the railing of the deck as we sat and admired him (or her?). Next we were visited by various sparrows. Nearby in the the neighbour's tree, a cardinal sang with a clear beautiful voice. We then decided to rouse ourselves from this beautiful location and go out for breakfast where we enjoyed more laughter and conversation.  The kernel of the idea of celebrating our birthdays by visiting the Stratford Festival, grew and popped into a full fluffy popcorn filled with love, appreciation and so much more than "just" going to a play or two.

My friend and I drove home feeling weary but I was filled with an inner joy and was sad to see the adventure end.  However, now I will be looking forward to the next adventure on the road of life.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

"Companions on the Road"

My church has a theme this month called "Companions on the Road".  For me this has so many meanings!  Of course, there is the physical companions of family, friends and pets who always are there during our times of darkness and brightness, grieving and celebration.  As I thought about this, I realized that my memories and the essences of my deceased family members and childhood friends who I've lost contact with are always companions with me as I travel this journey through life.  Whenever I bake a pie, I truly feel my grandmother's presence as I mix the dough and work it.  I used to watch her when I was a child and she would get working the dough with her hands in her metal enamel-lined bowl.  Her essence travels beside me as I'm an adult and she is physically long gone from this world.  But as I work the pastry dough, she's there beside me, travelling with me.

I don't know if it is turning 50 this year, but I am missing my dad more than ever.  He died of lung cancer when I was 26.  I find his memory is at the fore of my thoughts as I go through each day.  Of course this happens every year on Father's Day but this year, my dad's essence has been with me constantly since just before the anniversary date of his death.  He's walking beside me and I am not alone.  Perhaps this is also God's way of reminding me that I am never alone.

I know that it is much easier to "feel" God's presence when I've had the rough times in life. But when life is going along with no particular bumps in the road, I find it more difficult to keep God close.  That's when I tend to take God for granted.  Just like we do our friends and acquaintances.  As I ponder why I'm being inundated with memories of friends from long ago, I realize that it may be because of the two anniversaries that I went to in April.  One for my Senior Public School and one for my church.  Again, I have "companions on the road" in the form of memories of a former ministers and even student ministers who obviously impacted me as I remember them many, many years later and wonder where they are now or are they even still alive.  Again, various companions that walked physically with me over the years and who may not even know how their lives intersecting with mine made such an impact.  Likewise, I've been remembering friends from my childhood.  I have reconnected with a high school friend in January and we keep in touch sporadically via email.  I also reconnected with another childhood friend from church in April.  I need to call her!  Just this week, I found another childhood friend who I haven't seen in 20 years!  We will be starting to reconnect through email.  These are all friends and people that I have fondly thought of over the years and wondered how we grew apart and lost touch.  Companions.  The warmth of friends, family and people we have known over the years is such a gift.

As we travel through life, we collect "things" and we work hard to afford "things".  In the process, we get caught up in working that we forget the importance and warmth of the intangible "things".  A life altering experience, such as illness or the death of a loved one, can make you change the priorities.  I find that now my focus is on maintaining relationships and enjoying each minute of my journey on this earth.  My challenge is to spend time with all my friends and family either in person or via the internet and spend time enjoying this beautiful planet that we live on.  Companions on the road.  I certainly enjoy this phrase literally with my husband and our friends that have motorcycles.  It is exciting to ride on the back and smell the fresh rain, the fishy smell as we pass by a lake, the smell of fresh cut hay in the country or the smell of somebody barbecuing their dinner as we ride by.

I think that God has provided us with memories and opportunities to meet people so that we have constant companions on our road through life.  Sometimes these companions are there for just a short time such as the lady that I met on our street when we first moved into our neighbourhood 13 years ago.  She invited my children and me to go for walks with her and her children.  She showed me around the neighbourhood.  She showed me where the library was.  She showed me the shortcuts to take to get to the mall.  She showed me the various parks and playgrounds for the children.  Then she  moved away.  She was my companion on my road which led to a new place where I'd never been.  I truly felt like God provided an opportunity for me.  I could choose to take it or ignore it.  In accepting an invitation to go for walks, I had a companion who assisted me on my own road of transition.

Do you have any "companions on the road" from your past who helped you then and maybe inadvertently help you now?