A guiding light

Sambro Lighthouse (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

 

“Lighthouses are endlessly suggestive signifiers of both human isolation and our ultimate connectedness to each other. ”   

Virginia Woolf 

My grandfather was a lighthouse keeper… almost a century ago and on the other side of the ocean… far, far away. I wonder what he thought, all by himself – day after day –  in the middle of an endless sea.

Twelve years ago, my mother and her sister (my aunt) died within two months of each other. My mother was 79, my Aunt, 86. According to their express instructions, they wanted to be cremated and requested that I scatter their ashes in the open sea – so that they would go back home to Europe. It was an honour and a privilege to fulfill their wishes. One of the most peaceful and serene moments in my life was when I leaned across the fishing boat, said a prayer and – one-by-one – scattered each beloved woman’s ashes. I said my goodbyes and wished them a safe journey. Despite the moody sky and the very (very) rocky waves, time stood still.  I knew, in my heart, that the steady gaze of the lighthouse would guide them home.

“I can think of no other edifice constructed by man as altruistic as a lighthouse. They were built only to serve.”    

George Bernard Shaw

—– Photo Cerdit: By Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Remembering Yesterday

keithFebruary 28, 1953 – June 30, 2015

Photo: Copyright © 2016 by Heather Joan Marinos. All Rights Reserved.

“To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.”– Clara Luz Zúñiga Ortega, Spanish author

When a sibling dies unexpectedly, it reminds us (acutely so) of our own mortality – of how precious life is, how finite our journey really is. The sorrow we feel… not only for the loss itself, but also for the words left unsaid… sears the heart. It’s hard to wrap our minds around the fact that there will never be another dinner together, or stories and jokes to tell, or confidences to share.

But amidst all the uncertainty of what life has in store for us, one thing remains fixed and certain: the memory of our loved ones will be etched forever in our thoughts and hearts.

 

2015 Tribute

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2015

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Keep That Lens Focused

Following from my May 16th blog, Maximize Your Five Senses, I will be writing (all week) about each of the five senses (and the sixth sense) and sharing with you some of the wisdom that my mother imparted to me.

This series of blogs is dedicated to her.

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“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way.  Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see.  To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion – all in one.”
―  John Ruskin,  Modern Painters

My mother always spoke to me with her eyes.  She was most definitely not mute, but she nevertheless  preferred to communicate via her eyes.  Oh, the conversations we used to have!  Just a glance ― grey-green eyes meeting grey-green eyes ― message sent and received.  I knew exactly what she was thinking.

She taught me how to be quiet, stay still and watch.  Observe.  Focus. Notice every detail.  See beyond the obvious. 

She taught me that a person’s eyes tell a story.  In a flash, she could tell when someone was lying or when someone was trying to hide some emotional scar.  She was able to see beneath the surface. Her eyes missed nothing. 

She taught me well.

What I know now, that I didn’t know then, is that my mother was training me to be a writer. 

With this heightened sense of sight  (a great feat for me, since I’ve been wearing  very thick eyeglasses,  since the age of two!), I observe everything keenly and then, I write.

Our sense of sight is one of the most  – if not the most – precious of the five senses.  It is so important to take care of it.  I nearly caused some serious damage to my eyes when I went through a phase where I would sleep with my contact lenses in, for days on end.   Foolish vanity.  I now wear  my eyeglasses 99% of the time.  And my lenses are perfectly focused.

When my mother was in hospice care, she – along with many of the other patients – would be wheeled into  a lounging area.  She was often confused as to where she was (and why).  Her confusion, however, did not extend to me.  She knew exactly who I was. One of my last memories of her was when I was walking down the corridor towards the lounge and, from about a hundred feet away, she spotted me instantly. Her eyes danced, as she clapped her hands with joy.  Her eyes followed me as I came closer – grey-green eyes locked onto  grey-green eyes.   We embraced and I held her small, frail body as tightly as I could, without hurting her.

That was eight years ago this week.  Not a day goes by without me remembering her expressive, mischievous eyes.  And when I look into the mirror, there they are.

Her Eyes

by VALARIE M. SHEA

Gone are the eyes that watched me grow
The eyes that were able to see into my soul
Together we climbed mountains and made it through the pain
Only to find out that someday it would be forever changed

As you’ve gotten weaker, I’ve gotten stronger
Able to take care of myself even though I didn’t want to

You’d be proud of my wit, my confidence and my charm
People say I’m just like you and I know all about your charms
The eyes are in my heart, the eyes that saw my soul
But gone are the beautiful eyes, the eyes that watched me grow

Fare thee well, fair Iron Lady

“If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.

―  Margaret Thatcher 

Today, we pay tribute to a brilliant woman who ― from 1979-1990 ― led her country with an iron fist, and was the first female to hold the position of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.  Her conservative politics, known as Thatcherism,  received mixed reaction  – domestically and abroad.  She was revered by many, yet also reviled ― but  never did she inspire indifference.  

Today, with deep respect, we mourn her passing at the age of 87.

In Memoriam

Baroness Margaret Thatcher

1462880506Margaret_ThatcherOctober 13, 1925 – April 8, 2013

R.I.P.

 

Image via commons.wikimedia.org.

Remembering the true ambassador of Montréal: Nick Auf der Maur

RuelleNickAufderMaur1

His “office” ― Winnie’s, on Crescent Street (now named Nick Auf der Maur Street)

Je me souviens, indeed.

I was lucky enough to have been born and raised in Montréal, when the city was in its prime.  I was a child during the 1960s and a teenager during the first three quarters of the 1970s. Whether we were anglophone or francophone, lived to the west of or to the east of Boulevard St-Laurent, politically “engagé” on the left or on the right ―  we all could agree on one thing:  what a vibrant, beautiful and culturally rich city we lived in!  A cornucopia of brilliant intellectuals, musicians, artists, doctors, architects, street entertainers, chefs, business owners, restaurants, cafés and bars.  The city boasted the best nightlife in all of Canada. The world fair (Expo ’67) in Montréal attracted people from every corner of the globe and oh, what a wonderful time we all had! And, over the years, one political drama after another kept everyone talking, debating, philosophizing and, yes, writing.

And at the city’s epicenter was journalist, politician, boulevardier (man about town)  and Montréalais extraordinaire ― Nick Auf der Maur (a man who was true to his surname – translated from Swiss to English as “Off the Wall”).

In last Friday’s Montréal Gazette article, entitled “Remembering Nick: paying tribute to a Montreal original,” Bill Brownstein writes, and I quote:

“Rather, Auf der Maur was simply a former downtown city councillor and Gazette columnist — not normally the stuff of legends. He was also a world-class boulevardier and tippler and indiscriminate butt-pincher with a penchant for Borsalino headwear, Donald Duck ties and stinky Gitane smokes. And he was a friend to so many from so many different walks, as well as being the go-to guy for those from outside Montreal who wanted the goods on the city...

… Most importantly, Auf der Maur embraced all of Montreal. He was one of the precious few anglos whose voice carried well beyond the Main. He had street cred among francos as well as anglos. As the late Liberal leader Claude Ryan once put it: he was the only anglo who could fill a hall east of St. Laurent Blvd, the city’s Mason-Dixon linguistic line to many.

If Ernest Hemingway and Nick Auf der Maur had ever crossed paths, they would ― I am certain ― have become lifelong friends.

Alas, Nick’s life was cut short (by cancer) at the age of 55.  He didn’t live long, but he did live well.  His charisma, humour, kindness and mischievous twinkle captivated many.  His funeral service, held at St. Patrick’s Basilica (in Montréal), was standing room only with 3000+ people in attendance.

Nick died on this day, back in 1998. We remember him with a wistful smile and we raise a glass of our favorite spiritual concoction in his honour.

Yes, those were the days my friend. We thought they’d never end.

IN MEMORIAM

NICK AUF DER MAUR

Nick_Aud_Der_MaurApril 10, 1942 – April 7, 1998

R.I.P.

Click on these links (below), for more on Nick:

An excellent book:  Nick: A Montréal Life

A short film: Man About Town: Boulevardier

 

Images via wikipedia.org.

From sea to shining sea

Seven years ago today, at sunset, the ashes of my mother and my aunt were scattered at sea.  It was a misty evening — with fog and rough waters.  Having grown up by the sea, it was the final request of each sister — with the hope that the waves would guide their ashes from the Atlantic shores of their adopted country to the land of their birth, along their beloved azure Mediterranean coast.

They are deeply missed, but we know — deep in our hearts — that they are Home … and at peace.

“As we return to the earth and sea from whence we came, Divine Creator of all in heaven and on earth, we bring before you these last earthly remains, returned to you, to do with as you will, and to set free for all eternity; and to remind us that forever they shall live in the wind and the waves and on the earth in substance. 

Even though the spirit is already with you, we ask that you receive these ashes of the one that you created, that you might create again from them life anew.”

— Prayer for Scattering

Her Eyes Spoke Volumes

Mother-Daughter relationships can be very complex.  Mine was not.  It was, actually, exceedingly simple.  We understood each other and loved each other — unconditionally and without judgement.  Sure, we fought. But, my God, did we laugh … long, loud and often.

My mother had a beautiful singing voice and a dimpled smile. She was tiny (all 4’11” of her), and yet her natural charisma gave her a towering presence.

She spoke with her eyes. We could have complete conversations, she and I, without ever uttering a word.

Her Eyes

by VALARIE M. SHEA
Gone are the eyes that watched me grow
The eyes that were able to see into my soul
Together we climbed mountains and made it through the pain
Only to find out that someday it would be forever changed
As you’ve gotten weaker, I’ve gotten stronger
Able to take care of myself even though I didn’t want to

You’d be proud of my wit, my confidence and my charm
People say I’m just like you and I know all about your charms
The eyes are in my heart, the eyes that saw my soul
But gone are the beautiful eyes, the eyes that watched me grow

Not a day goes by without me remembering her eyes.

When I look into the mirror, there they are.

MUM2

Evelyn Formosa Blundell (née Alamango Cook)

March 9, 1926 – June 19, 2005

Gone, but definitely Not forgotten.

R.I.P.