This past Valentine’s Day had me thinking about love, as it should. Love of family, friends and things I hold dear. In Canada, we also celebrated Family Day the same weekend. It’s a happy coincidence.

Most of us find it easy to spend heart day with family or others who we love. It got me thinking about those I love who are gone, like my Mom, Grandma and my oldest, dearest pal Maggie. It also got me wondering about a cherished family member, the “Black Sheep” who in her selfishness, walks a road of self-destruction via drug and alcohol abuse.

After many years of late night phone calls for help, a bail out, collections and copious amounts of money loaned and wasted, I decided to accept what I had always known. You can extend a hand of help but you cannot make someone take it. Help is but a step from others and real change comes from internal strength and determination within.


This revelation helped me to unburden myself from taking the responsibility for the life of another. It is hard, damn hard to watch someone you love struggle with their demons. It’s harder still when no matter what you do, no matter what love, assistance, guidance and lies you overlook, the charade continues. It is hard to bear witness and stand back. It is difficult to watch someone you love endure pain, without feeling and in some respects, share their pain.

In the end, all that is left is love, hope and prayer. I have found nothing detracts from the love. The humanness of struggle has in fact increased my love for her and myself and provided clarity for which to see the fissures and solutions without prejudice. I am still blind to her deceit as  love does blind but now I can help through love, which is a better way.

Many folks are hard-core adapters and devotees of life’s societal norms and while I have never fit into this category, I understand the rules of the game. Those dark horses who refuse to learn and scoff will always be outside the circle of candy, roses and epicurean delights. They are perhaps the ones who need love the most. They are the adult children shyly clutching the barbed wire fence looking to others for succor on Valentine’s Day. They are the dogs baying at the family door, waiting to be let in.

I have never been one to look away or ignore the pleas in their eyes. I’m a sucker for a tin cup and a hard luck story. Stories are who we are, singularly and collectively. If we choose to look away and turn our backs on those in need, this tells our story too.

During that frosty, sunny weekend of celebration for love and family,  I felt it should have been impossible to exclude those who need us the most. Those who are the most vulnerable need us to be vulnerable and be the love. Be their Valentine.

If your family, like mine has dysfunction, love and embrace that too. Valentine’s and Family Day are not always filled with pink hearts and pretty pictures. The key to loving is in the acceptance of another’s ability for impropriety, their fragility, imperfections, foolish hearts and yes, their selfishness.  It is the essence of Valentine’s and Family Day. It is the heart and soul of every day.

I am single this year so no roses, chocolates or champagne. Instead, I choose to flow with my profound love of family and spent part of the weekend with them and as usual, my cup was overflowing. I hope yours was too.

When you learn to accept instead of expect, you’ll have fewer disappointments.



Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see. ~ Helen Keller

Death is weird. We think we know it, and accept it. We think we know and accept one day it will happen to us. We don’t, not really. We understand the concept but not the reality. Why is that? Many have come back from near-death experiences and have glorious reports. Death often seems lovelier, less brutal than the daily news served on a dark dreary platter of ugliness yet it’s still one of our greatest fears.

Death has power, great power. Death instantaneously places us in a frosty, firm stasis and effortlessly finds our frailty and holds tight and fast until we acknowledge its power. There is no life without death, period. We all know this but yet we don’t. Why don’t we get it? And in getting it, why don’t we hold life more precious still? Only death gives us a sharp, crisp, clean pinpoint focus on how precious all life is, not just our own. Perhaps we’ll never know. Perhaps we really don’t want to. What we do know is that when our time comes we want it to be peaceful and painless.

I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. My New Year’s resolution to post weekly was halted by my Mom’s unexpected death January 12th. Yes, I knew she was going to die. One day yes, I knew she would die but not that day. I didn’t want her to die. Not on that day, not on any day, but she did. Her thoughts have ceased, her breath still, her body is gone, never to be warm, feel warm and I never, to feel her warmth again. Death….. yours, mine and those we love will one day, someday come to pass.

Grim Reaper, art by Anne Stokes at

The image most people associate with death is the Grim Reaper. I don’t see death as grim and final. Yes we are overwhelmed with sadness and no longer can we caress those we care for but death for me is simply a status update. I was brought up to believe and still believe that energy never dissipates but transforms. Since you and I are pure energy, when the electrical connections mainly our brain synapses stop telling our lungs to breathe and our heart to pump blood, we cease to exist in human form. We migrate into something else, something far less tangible to the human mind and almost unperceivable to the human eye.

From the millisecond your Dad’s sperm entered your Mom’s egg, you’ve been changing. From the miracle of birth to the silence of death we all go. So I ask again, where does this fear of death come from? Why does death have such power over us? Why is it our deepest, dreaded fear? I think it’s because we want more time to fill the space from miracle to silence with all the joys of life, love and experience all the beauty in others, ourselves and our glorious planet. We fear death when we fail to achieve our purpose. We fear we won’t get all the love we have to give out and receive love in kind. We won’t get to see all the wonders of the world. We won’t get to finish that project we started to help others, or leave a mark, a historical reference showing we lived, that we meant something. Never again to feel and see the joy in our children’s, grandchildren’s, lovers, friends faces when we embrace takes my breath away. Yet, if we live fully, deeply, without compromise, full of integrity, honour we have nothing to fear, not even death.

Death takes away but it also teaches us the most important lesson. When someone we love dies we remember. We remember to love, love, love, love, love. Live today, loving. Love as if it is the only thing you know how to do. You cannot fear death when your heart is full of love. You can mourn it, respect it, accept it and then move on and when you move on, rest assured you will take all the love of each person with you.

This piece was started March 14th but I never got around to posting it for one reason or another. I dallied because it’s not a topic many want to discuss let alone read during their leisure hours. Another reason was because death was all around me, wrapping me in a blanket of porcupine quills. Almost daily someone shared their news of the passing of a person they cherished. I’m still shocked and saddened at the unexpected loss of one of the best men I knew. My dear boss was buried April 14 leaving behind his wonderful, charming wife and three children, all of them people you’d wish to call your own family. My best and dearest friend was told two weeks ago her dear Mom had at most a year to live. My beloved friend celebrates her birthday March 2nd followed March 5th by the sudden and tragic death of her favourite brother. Her father’s death, which has never left her, is March 14th. With no time left to breathe she recalls the memory of her dear, dear friend who after a lengthy, hard-fought battle with AIDS died on March 25th. Sadly I pray that when her Mom leaves us, she does so in March so she can strike this month off as normal, wear black daily and render it the month of mourning with no pretence on her grief. She can then celebrate the remaining eleven months with full vigour as if to make up for the lost month which holds her greatest losses of all.

But life and death is not like that. It does not give us our way. It reminds us only that we are here to live, and live we must so when we die, as we all must do, it will be without regret.

However you view, celebrate, fear or attempt to ignore the thought of death, you cannot deny it. You cannot stop it. You cannot avoid it. You cannot control it or how it will happen. You can only control how you live.

I wish you all a life of love, without regrets, or too many regrets at best and throughout your long days and years, my best hope is that you strive to live your life with an open heart. A grand, humongous heart perhaps as large as a dwarf planet. Yes, live your life with a heart so big and full of love for yourself and others than when the feared, foreboding call of death beckons; you almost welcome a change in conversation.