Three Family Funerals

Several weeks ago my husband’s cousin called to tell us that their twenty-year-old granddaughter Hannah had passed away rather suddenly of an infection of the blood. When Hannah was born, she was missing the main artery to her heart, so within months she had her first of many surgeries to deal with this serious issue, mainly ballooning the smaller arteries into her heart to allow the blood to flow as freely as possible. The doctors guessed she’d live maybe six years.
Though she had a portable oxygen tank for most of her life, she was a lively girl with lots of dreams for the future and a ready smile. She’d had a heart valve replacement about six months prior and it took her a long time to recover from that — and she said, “No more.” Still, she seemed to be doing okay lately, but this infection came suddenly and took her within few days. She never had to go through another operation. Her funeral was May 21st in Saskatoon.

Last Nov 28th my sister Wilma left me a voice message: “Chris, we have to talk.” Our sister Donna, who’d just turned 66, had died of a drug overdose. She was living with some friends in Regina at the time. She moved often, often had no phone, and I hadn’t been able to get in touch with her for several years.
Her middle son, James, had her cremated that week; since then it’s taken some time to set a date for burying the urn with her ashes. We did that last Saturday at noon in Moose Jaw with close family and a few friends present. Afterward we met at a pavilion in the park for a lovely simple picnic lunch. I was really glad we went; visiting with the family brought closure to her death.

My sister Rose died at the end of Dec 2019 and her husband wasn’t well. Both of them smokers since their teens, Rose had contracted lung cancer, was treated, but it spread and then she got an infection that took her.
I can’t say we knew her husband very well. We lived in the East for twenty of their married years and haven’t meet him very often since we’re back. Plus, Butch was the type that never has so much to say. But we knew his health hasn’t been good for some years; he suffered from serious emphysema and also was treated for bladder cancer in 2019. Now both problems have risen up to overwhelm him; last Saturday we all knew it wouldn’t be long until there’d be another funeral. We received word Tuesday evening that Butch had passed. He’d have been 69 in September.

So this month seems to especially be our “season” for funerals and/or “Celebrations of life.”

The Neighborly Man

Recently I started reading a book titled EMBRACING OBSCURITY. The author, Anonymous, writes about how, in today's society, we're apt to feel we must be a SOMEBODY if we want to count at all. I haven't read far, but I gather he's saying we need to abandon dreams of being Big Names and settle for  being ordinary people. As Edgar Guest aspires to in this verse...
The Neighborly Man

Some are eager to be famous, some are striving to be great,
some are toiling to be leaders of their nation or their state,
and in every man’s ambition, if we only understood,
there is much that’s fine and splendid; every hope is mostly good.
So I cling unto the notion that contented I will be
if the men upon life’s pathway find a needed friend in me.

I rather like to putter ‘round the walks and yards of life,
to spray at night the roses that are burned and browned with strife;
to eat a frugal dinner, but always to have a chair
for the unexpected stranger that my simple meal would share.
I don’t care to be a traveler, I would rather be the one
sitting calmly by the roadside helping weary travelers on.

I’d like to be a neighbor in the good old-fashioned way,
finding much to do for others, but not over much to say.
I like to read the papers, but I do not years to see
what the journal of the morning has been moved to say of me;
in the silences and shadows I would live my life and die
and depend for fond remembrance on some grateful passers-by.

I guess I wasn’t fashioned for the brilliant things of earth,
wasn’t gifted much with talent or designed for special worth,
but was just sent here to putter with life’s little odds and ends
and keep a simple corner where the stirring highway bends,
and if folks should chance to linger, warn and weary through the day,
to do some needed service and to cheer them on their way.

From his book,  Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
© 1934 by The Reilly & Lee Company
Image from Pixabay

Travel By The Book

I subscribe to BookBub so this morning I received my daily list of suggestions for possibilities that might interest me. Frank Zappa once said, “So many books; so little time!” I can definitely identify.

The book suggestions completely crossed the planet, going from Fatal North by Bruce Henderson–about the 1871 Polaris expedition–clear down to Antarctica by Gabrielle Walker. Everything you ever wanted to know about the South Pole explorations. Then we have The Art of the Compliment by Christie Matheson. probably something everyone should read. 🙂 And Peter Singer writes about The Most Good You Can Do.

The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert Kennedy by David Halberstam would be a book for US political history buffs. The blurb says: “An in-depth examination of the political career, personal life, and untimely demise of Robert Kennedy.” Like most everyone during those years, I heard & read about the Kennedy family tragedies but now it’s “water under the bridge” and not high priority reading for me.

One writer has decided to time-travel, literally, to Victorian England. The Victorian Life by Sarah A Chrisman. Blurb: “Fascinated by the 19th century, one couple decided to fully commit to a Victorian way of life. From tending oil lamps to wrestling with corset laces, this charming and insightful read chronicles a modern exploration of a bygone era.”

Have these folks chosen an upper class lifestyle or do they give glimpses of life for the rest of society in that era? I have a book of written records made by various people back in Victorian England, describing the living conditions they observed among the working class and the destitute. The average George Brown, victim of the Industrial revolution, who had only a cup of tea yesterday, nothing today. Homeless men spending nights in a poor-house. Women doing men’s jobs–cheaper labour costs, you know–working hard in a factory for twelve hours a day, with a nursing baby strapped to their chest and a toddler or two beside them. Or a family in London’s East end in a slum where landlords rented by the day and if you couldn’t pay, your belongings–what few you had–were thrown out in the street so your apartment could be rented to someone who could. Corset laces were the least of their worries.

I’ve noticed that people who claim to be reincarnated weren’t, in their former life, an average Joe, Pedro the galley slave, Lizzy the overworked scullery maid, or Piers the crippled soldier. History is full of unknowns barely surviving, but the folks who claim to remember a past life were usually a famous/notorious SOMEONE. Biblical character, prophet, Rajah, Prince or Princess, doctor or scientist. I don’t know as anyone’s ever claimed a past life as a writer. 🙂

Time travel books work the same. The traveler’s dropped into an intriguing time in history and accepted by the locals. These from-the-future visitors always have the means to keep from fatal accident, starvation, or execution as a heretic or witch, until they head home again. Well, I suppose that’s fiction for you: writers have complete control of their character’s fate.

I believe that now and then we all need an accurate picture of life as it was way back when. Last night I was listening to the audio-book about Nicholas Nickleby and his life at Dotheboys Hall. Kudos to Charles Dickens, an author who gives us a realistic view of life for the lower classes of his day — and through his novels actually managed to change society’s attitude toward the poor. If we only knew it, we still benefit very much from what he accomplished.

BookBub, Book Cave, Reading Deals and various other outlets are ways for writers to advertise and get their books out to readers. There are lots more book deals but I have a very restricted list of interest. Subscribers can tailor their selections to their own interests when they sign up.

Creative Minds

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is CREATIVITY. I can hardly let that pass without comment.

It amazes me what all people can come up with when they set their mind to it. Creativity takes so many forms: art of all kinds, food preparation, decor, music, creative writing. And we certainly owe a lot to past inventors for the good life we enjoy today.

Here are a few examples of creativity:

Briam Cute — Pixabay
Jill Wellington — Pixabay

And this cutie:

Michel 89320 — Pixabay

I’ve been fairly creative myself; at different times I’ve enjoyed writing, drawing & painting, sewing and piecing quilts.

Now here’s a verse of mine that suggests we need creativity when responding to someone whose mind is slipping.

WIND CHIMES

Ever notice how
the constant tinkle of wind chimes
on a windy day?
can rub your nerves raw
after an hour or two?

I pray for more patience
as Dad asks the same question
every half hour. I say “Sorry,
we haven't found your car keys yet.
Better stay home anyway. 
Price of gas so high now.”

“The Cause of Problems Is Solutions”

In this post I’m sharing a few more thoughts on Idealism

Ideals are wonderful things as long as they are securely linked to reality.

One day a speaker mentioned that in Ireland, a Catholic country, divorce is illegal. (He didn’t mention annulments.) Afterwards another lady commented, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were that way here?”

I said, “The murder rate would go up.” Perhaps I’m too much of a realist, but…

My sister Donna was married at fifteen, with a baby on the way, and suffered a number of beatings from her drunken husband. Six years and three children later she left him. He’d come home drunk, they’d fight and he’d start choking her until she passed out. True, there was fault on both sides but she had good reason to fear.

Though she’d divorced him, being a Catholic he had their marriage annulled later so he could marry again.

“The cause of problems is solutions,” some sage once said.

The price of gas here in SK shot up last month. (Shall we attribute that to Biden or Putin?) Last week a friend commented, “Well, we’ll all have to go back to a horse and buggy.”

Simplistic. Idealistic. Nostalgic, maybe even romantic? But how feasible?

From her perspective this might be, seeing she lives in a farmyard with barns and sheds that could accommodate a horse and buggy. They’d have some pasture for a horse and hay-making equipment wouldn’t be hard to come by. But can you imagine the folks in ten- or fifteen-storey apartment buildings in the city, thousands of families trying to feed and house horses? Can you imagine all the horse manure on the city streets!

City-dwellers might just walk or use public transport (which also uses fuel) but my friend’s brothers use gas, oil and diesel in their farming operation and seed cleaning plant. Farm production – and consequently food supply – would be limited if crops need to be seeded and harvested by horses.( Being soft-heated myself, I’m so thankful farmers don’t use horses anymore. Some of those poor animals were horribly mistreated.)

Some of our electricity comes from hydro turbines, a bit from wind-power, but most of our businesses, factories, greenhouses, power-generating plants – indirectly all our utilities – depend mainly on gas, propane, and/or oil. We’ve built ourselves a society dependent on gas + oil. This is our reality. If we suddenly found ourselves low on gas and power, I can see some folks starving and/or freezing to death. We can find ways to cut back on consumption but there’s no going back to the good old days.

A Simple Solution?

One way to cut back on fuel consumption would be to ground all airplanes. Jets use a terrific amount of fuel, right? And for sure, dry-dock those diesel-guzzling, pollution-generating behemoths that lumber across the oceans taking rich people on completely unnecessary exotic cruises. People don’t need all this virus-spreading international travel. Stay home. That’s what we do. Er…unless we want to go some distance…and we’re in a hurry. 😉

What do you think…are my solutions feasible? What if pilots, stewards, various traffic controllers and business people all over the world start protesting the loss of their jobs? Try taking away people’s income and the lifestyle they’ve come to rely on and you have a huge problem.

True, people who call themselves “realistic” can be downright pessimistic. However, the reality of a situation or of human behavior in general – our fondness for money in particular – can scuttle the best ideals. Idealists don’t always get this.

Idealism Takes A Hit

Occasionally I read an article posted on POCKET, historical articles or some journalist’s take on a recent news story. I’ve read about the newest wave of CENSORSHIP, an issue that often boils down to an idealistic approach versus a realistic one. I read about one young man who responded to the many PROTESTS and CONSPIRACY THEORIES by starting his own. Others said, “Hey, why not?” and the crazy thing went viral.

I’ve heard about the social upheaval massive immigration has caused in Texas. Last night I started reading J D Vance’s HILLBILLY ELEGY, describing the “hollowing out” and desperate poverty in the US Midwest — “the Rust Belt.” All this input rattling around in my mind, plus my own experience, has produced cogitations I’m going to share in several upcoming posts. Starting with…

Idealism In a Real World

A few years after we were married we were discussing a politician of our day and my husband commented, “He’s too much of an idealist. I’d rather see a crook elected to run the country than an idealist.”

I understood where he was coming from. A crook usually has a good handle on how things really work. A dreamer who isn’t facing reality can be dangerous when handed the reins. Now, with almost fifty years of practical observations as well as a keen interest in history, I understand that sentiment so much better. Especially after I read a number of accounts of how the ultimate idealism, PROHIBITION, worked, especially in the US.

An elderly friend once told me about Nellie McClung’s sad observation on being hit by reality. McClung (1873-1951) was one of Canada’s original suffragettes and women writers. She worked hard to get the vote for women; once women had the vote she was elected to the Alberta Legislature. Being all for home and family, and opposed to the demon drink that destroyed homes and left wives and families destitute, she was totally in support of Prohibition.

The sad remark she made in her old age, according to my friend, was: “We thought when women got the vote, we’d outlaw liquor. But we never thought we’d see the day when women would take to drinking!”

I could have told her that. When I was young most of the women I knew drank. My own mother, according to my sisters, “spent half her life in the beer parlour.” My younger sister, Donna, unsuccessfully fought a lifelong battle with alcohol, though it was finally a drug overdose that took her out. Always a feisty kid, I think she would have loved a swig of bootleg booze.

Evangelical Christians have always leaned heavily toward idealism, thinking they know what’s good for the rest of the country. But there’s a whole ‘nother world in their midst – my own non-religious people – that Protestant Evangelicals haven’t really been able to acknowledge. And when those citizens rise up and start following their inclinations, idealism will crash.

Bootleg booze, rum-runners, organized crime: the Christian Women’s Temperance League never foresaw how these would flourish.

Now for a secular example…

Breast-feeding Is A Natural Act

Definitely it is. However, there’s a reason why North American women have been hesitant – some may say “inhibited” – from breast-feeding openly in public places. In fact, one weekend in Saskatoon a group of zealous women set up a display in the Midtown Mall promoting the natural act of breast-feeding. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” they claimed, “Nursing a baby should be allowed openly anywhere with no embarrassment or legal questions.”

In an ideal world, it would work. In this awfully real world…

In the course of shopping, I passed by their display several times. They’d set up a prominent booth and hung huge posters above it showing mothers nursing their babies. Lots of posters and pamphlets displayed around the booth. But reality lingered in the shadows. Each time I noticed a number of fascinated men strolling, or lingering by walls and in corners, so obviously drinking in the visual stimulation.

Yeah, it’s awful – but are you surprised? In a society where respect for women, consideration for motherhood, respect and decency in general, ran the show, this blatant display of lechery wouldn’t be. Pardon me, but I hope those ladies so inspired by their rosy ideals had their eyes opened to the reality of lust. Nursing openly may work in a different, more accustomed, less sex-focused society. But in ours, I believe this peeping is something nursing mothers in our society will deal with if they start to bare it all in public places.

Goals and ideals are great, but a person — especially a leader — needs a clear understanding of what will actually work in our imperfect world.