Saturday, December 28, 2013

Gabriola in Winter

I must admit that I have been very hesitant to get into doing landscapes here on Gabriola.   But they are very compelling and can be seen everywhere it seems if you have the right attitude.

Mischa and Gracie see this place as a giant playground.   They are so happy when we set out for a walk, it seems they can hardly contain themselves.  They race through the bush , chasing each other or following some scent left earlier by another animal.   It is a great experience to take a minute and think like a dog.  To see the world from their vantage point, to imagine their exuberance as they race through the woods, leaping and running as fast as they can.

Here is a magic place where the trees and the light complement each other, it's at the side of a road that we drive past almost every day.  It changes all the time, the light, the colour, the depth of the foliage, living in such beauty and harmony.

Watching a fog bank as it moves inexorably toward us promising mystery in our evening hours...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

It's the Little Things...

The older I get the more important little things become for me.   Our neighbour Robin, brought these beautiful little Paperwhites the other day and they have been sitting in front of Heather's beautiful wall hangings.   Today these blossoms opened and I swear I would have missed them on any other day.  But because it is Christmas and I'm spending the day at home, I noticed this tiny cluster was in full celebration.

It has been foggy here lately and I swear that sometimes the clock just stops.  This is my view from the upstairs window.  It has a bit of fog and some distortion in it. It makes me feel suspended in time.  I often have that feeling here.

We took the dogs for a walk yesterday on a typical Gabriola path through the woods.  I must admit that I am not a nature kind of guy but there were moments when I felt we might run into Frodo and Sam as they set out on their journey.   One thing I really enjoy is seeing Mischa and Gracie as they flow through the woods, at speed.  I am so aware of them as they are of me.  I love to call them occasionally and watch their heads pop up to see what I want.  Heather gives them way too many treats by the way, so they are especially concerned about keeping us in sight so they can fly back as quickly as possible.   Watching them run, jumping over logs and dodging around trees is one of the joys that this island gives us anytime we go out together.

I often arrive home to find new little groupings of stones and other things on the window ledges, usually in the kitchen, sometimes elsewhere.   These little things make such a difference in life.  They cost nothing and yet they speak to me in quiet tones on what life is about.  Sometimes it's important to stop, look around and appreciate how rich life can be.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Well Done Westjet

Heather just told me a story about her mother who flew Westjet to Kingston to visit her sister, Laura.

Apparently, there was a bit of a mix-up with dates, one thing led to another and Laura discovered that her mom had missed her return flight as she noted it on the wrong day in her calendar.

Laura immediately called Westjet to see if they could book a seat for the next day.   The cost she was told would be around $500 for the ticket.   She asked if it might be possible to get a discount whereupon the agent asked her to hold while she spoke to her supervisor.

She returned to say that a new ticket would not be necessary, that the airline would honour the return ticket for the flight she had missed.

WAY TO GO WESTJET!   A company with heart, how rare is that!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Post by Robyn Ward - My Niece

Fran sent this to me by email.  It is such a beautiful testament to my sweet Jacquie, I asked if I might share it on my blog.

Robyn's Post
My Auntie Jacquie was like a mother to me. When I was a child she always made me feel immensely loved. She would give warming hugs and tell the funniest stories that always ended in a full room of echoing laughter. She was by far, my favourite teacher as well. Her first lesson that I remember was about love. When I was 5, my Auntie Jacquie fell in love with my Uncle Zia. At the wedding reception I remember witnessing the connection they shared. My Uncle Zia said something like “come here Robyn, let me show you what a real kiss looks like.” Then he gave her the most loving, sweet kiss. “That’s a real kiss he said, none of that hollywood nonsense.” My heart understood the lesson long before my mind could catch up to it. Hollywood love is often a story of irrational choices, huge sacrifices, and large risks. I witnessed a love that was mixed with reason, clarity, devotion, loyalty and a side of humor. It wasn’t all or nothing, it was woven, carefully, lovingly into every part of your day. The next lesson was one of protection. When I was in grade 6 I was bullied and beaten by a group of girls. My Auntie Jacque and Uncle Zia took me into their home to live. They were my sanctuary in a time of fear. They let me live with them without a hesitation, even though they had a full home with three other children. I remember a few days before school started, my Auntie Jacquie took me aside for a quiet moment. She had known how nervous I was, starting a new school and having had such a hard year before. She asked if she could give me some advice, she said don’t make friends right away. Don’t let fate decide who your friends will be. Spend the first week getting to know everyone. Be nice to everyone, be friendly to everyone. After the first week, after you get to know the fellow classmates, then choose who you think has the best character in the class, the best integrity and be friends with them. This idea caused a shift in my thinking. The idea of surrounding yourself with like minded people. Surrounding yourself with people that strengthen your character, people that lift you up, people that make you better. Surrounding yourself with like minded friends offered me a blanket of protection. In addition to that advice, in order to keep me safe, she taught me the power of faith. First, subtly by example, I would see the choices she made, that lead to a better life. Then over time, I was able to see that the driving force behind her amazing character was her relationship with God and the Baha’i Faith. The relationship with God that I’ve gotten through being a Baha’i has kept me safe from all sorts of harm in the world and gives me strength when I need it to overcome difficulties. It has been the strongest form of protection one can have in this world. The next lesson was one of belief. One of the most brilliant effects of love, is that if you are loved and truly believed in, every once in awhile you can get a glimpse of what that person sees in you. Like a reflection in a mirror of hope. You can see a picture of what you could be, of what you could become if only you believed in yourself. My Auntie Jacquie embodied that mirror, not just for me, but for everyone she loves. She showed us all a better, more loving, more spiritual, more caring versions of ourselves. For me, she saw an educated, spiritual woman living a happily ever after. I would never have had the confidence, courage or strength to seek those dreams if she hadn't shown me, with beautiful clarity, what that life could look like. I would never have thought it even possible. She taught me to believe in myself, because she had so much confidence that I could accomplish great things. She opened her home to me again for my first two years of university. Gently guiding me down a path to a better life, because of how much she believed in me and the potential she saw in that mirror of hope. While I lived with her, when I going to university, I was able to learn the last lesson I want to share. The lesson she taught me about motherhood. She shared with me the secrets of motherhood. That is was an endless role of joy, love, support, guidance, laughter and sometimes even heart ache. It’s impossible to keep the ones we love most from harm, though we can wish it with every fiber of our being. She role modeled motherhood with grace, love, humor, devotion and even more humor. I use this lesson everyday of my life. When I sit with my children and I choose to find teachable moments in our conversation, or play Red Grammar to sing along to, or play video games with them and savour the moments that we get together. Her lesson reminds me that each moment is a gift, and above all, to make those moments count. There will never be enough thank you's in the world for what she has given me and will continue to give to me and my family through all these lessons. That kind of pure love ripples it's effects across generations. It is always present, everyday, like the sun, you can depend on it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jacqueline Ann Emler - January 28, 1952 to December 5, 2013

I am so sad to say that my sister Jacquie passed away this morning.    She did her very best to fight her cancer but some battles cannot be won.   Jacquie was an extremely brave and very loving woman.

She was very sick.

I think one of the greatest losses during times like these is personal dignity.   Jacquie was always covered on bruises, puncture marks, tape, tubes, and various bits, she was weak all the time.   She took so many drugs and was subjected to sometimes violent reactions to them yet somehow, she always managed to be a lady.   She was always thoughtful, warm and loving despite the misery of her condition.  She wielded her sense of humour like a shield.   Her smile warmed people's days.   She rarely complained.

I want to acknowledge my brother in law Zia who has been so dedicated, fierce and steadfast in looking after her.  He has used every ounce of his energy in fighting to keep my dear sister alive.  Zia is formidable, he was by her side constantly, gave every bit of himself to her and fought bravely right to the end to protect her from harm.  One could ask no more of any man.

I have been to California four times this year.  We have all wanted to be there for her and I count my time there as precious in every sense.  Leukaemia is a nasty, insidious disease that attacks the very core of our existence and during my times with her, I was struck by how bravely she fought.  There were days when she could hardly walk down the hall, she'd be all bundled up, face mask, floppy hat, dark sunglasses, gloves, and big coat.   We always joked though, and I would imagine her smile as she chuckled through the mask.  We had some very special times together and though we were always aware of the threat surrounding her, managed to make the best of every situation.

Even in the last days, Jacquie was joking with us, teasing Zia, and admonishing everyone to "sit down" where she could see us.

I am lucky, I have a particularly wonderful family.   We would do anything for each other it seems and when called, we will drop everything to do what needs to be done.   This last time, I got a call from Gerry around noon saying that they were going to suspend Jacquie's treatments and didn't expect her to last more than a few days.  I called Paul at work and we arranged to meet in Duncan at 3:00pm so that we could catch the Coho from Victoria to Port Angeles at 5:00pm.   Well it turned out that the ferry was actually scheduled to leave at 4:00pm!   So we hustled for Duncan to Victoria in the hope that we would make the sailing.

Unfortunately, by 4:00pm we were still in on Douglas Street and 5 minutes from the ferry.   Paul phoned them from the car and without any hesitation, they held the ferry for us.   We were there by 4:05 but I must say that I have never even heard of anyone holding a ferry like that.  I will never forget it.   We were last on and because of that connection, were able to get to the hospital in Mountainview, California by 10:30 the next morning.

So here's a tip of my hat to Blackball Ferries;  you've got some really terrific people there,  maybe you could offer some tips to the BC Government on how to run a ferry business.   We could sure use some help up here.

Then there are the people who have made this year bearable in so many ways for me.  I was blessed when Heather Cameron came into my life seven months ago.  Her love, support and understanding have been a solid foundation for these last months.   Thank you Heather, for taking such good care of Mischa while I have been away, for looking after our home and for being there for me every step of the way.

I am also grateful to Gaetanne who has been my partner for so many years.   We separated this year but we remain good friends I am happy to say.   I still love her and it has taken me a while but I do now understand that our separation was the right thing.   I trust and hope that we will remain friends forever.

Finally, Jacquie, I hope you are right and there is another phase beyond the grave.   If so, I'll see you on the other side.  Otherwise, all I can say is that it has been my honour to be your brother.   Your life, you charm, humour, your poise and most of all that loving heart of yours made this world a much better place.

Goodbye my sweet Jacqueline...

Monday, December 2, 2013


This has been a pretty tough year for my family.  This time last year we were all pinning our hopes on a stem cell transplant to combat Jacquie's Leukaemia.  The actual transplant took place on the 22nd of November and the apparent result seemed to be so positive that everyone wanted to believe that our dear sister had been saved.  Well, as you probably know, it failed, Jacquie crashed and has been fighting for her life since April.

Zia, her husband, has been exemplary.   This fight actually started two years ago when Jacquie was diagnosed and started down the long and arduous path toward a hoped for recovery.  One must surrender it seems, to the protocols of the prescribed healing regimen at the cost of freedom and personal dignity to invest in a hope that all will be well.   I have now come to understand how enormous this cost can be, particularly in the United States where health care is only there for those who can afford it.

Fortunately, Jacquie and Zia had excellent health care insurance but that didn't mean it was easy.   Everything has to be approved by the insurer, everything.   The accounting exercise to fighting an illness is formidable and continuous.  The implications of a decision are often insidious.

Canadians need to understand that the fundamental difference between the Canadian and American health care systems is that the American system is a FOR PROFIT system.   The bottom line is that, if you are not in a position to pay for your health care or your health insurance, a serious illness means death.

Even if you are relatively comfortable, with a good income, a serious illness will probably destroy you financially as well as physically.

For me, a five minute visit to an emergency ward resulted in a $1,200 invoice to be followed by another $400 invoice from the doctor who spent 5 minutes with me diagnosing my bronchitis and writing a prescription for a useless antibiotic.   (My bronchitis was viral.)   I can't imagine the costs of my sister's treatments.

What's more, hospitals compete with other hospitals and that means that they don't necessarily share patient information.  We discovered this when my sister was transported by ambulance to a hospital, dictated by her insurance plan, that was closer than the hospital where she was receiving treatment for her leukaemia.   The doctor there, who had never treated anyone with leukaemia before, told her that she would be dead within a week and that he was recommending that she be moved to hospice immediately.

Fortunately, Zia is a fighter and managed to get her home and back to her regular oncologist who saw  things very differently.

When you are fighting for your life, every day is precious.  In Jacquie's case, it seems that she lost weeks due to screw-ups, delays and misunderstandings.  Each day this relentless disease tore away at the foundations of her life process.  Her body developed defences that destroyed the very things that might have saved her.

Do I blame anyone?  No, it's the system that failed her.   A lot of wonderful, dedicated people tried to help, to save her life.

But our reliance on systems will be our downfall.  Not only in healthcare but in so many areas of contemporary life, systems, our greatest invention, will be our destruction.  Our society can not survive without the systems it has developed and frankly, I don't think it will.   We are destroying ourselves and destroying our planet with every passing day.   When I was younger, my belief was that we were working to make the world a better place.   I see now that we are merely servicing our own perversities.

I know that I am in a fairly dark place right now but I don't think that makes me wrong.  In fact, I think that we all know that I am right and that the average person feels trapped and powerless to stop it.

Actually, the most depressing thing I have been exposed to this week was Black Friday where I witnessed the buying frenzy of thousands of people whose response to an idea of personal responsibility was to run to their local shopping centres and perpetuate this disease we call consumerism.

Sometimes, I think humour is the only answer to this ridiculous world.   I worry about what we are doing to this planet, how we will affect our children's futures.  What they will eat, what they will drink.   We seem to be destroying the planet at a breakneck pace.   Fracking, Fukushima, oil spills, genetic engineering, consumerism, corporatism, and whatever new disaster I've read about roll around in my thoughts daily and often keep me awake at night.   But then, when we were driving home from California my brother pointed out a sign on the side of the road that seems to sum it all up.

You can't cure stupidity, but you can vote for it!