Seventeen years ago today, on June 16, 1995, Mike’s sister Liz passed away in hospital from acute liver failure. She was not a candidate for transplant. She was not yet 39 years old. The whys and hows of this aren’t important at the moment, because today we want to celebrate her life and not her untimely demise.
Liz was 2½ years older than me, and growing up she was my teacher, my tormentor (on occasion), my protector and my friend. Our lives were filled with complications, but through it all we maintained the bonds of love that some never realize and those who do, cherish. Among other things Liz was an excellent writer and while I don’t have access to many of her poems I thought I’d share a couple of them with you here.
The cougar paces,
back and forth frantically.
The crowds gather closer,
constantly watching him.
He longs to break free,
of this place of confinement.
He paces in front of the bars,
looking for an avenue of escape.
They are made of steel.
Too strong to break through.
The anxiety mounts,
Tension builds to a frenzy.
Still he paces,
of finding a broken spot,
or a forgotten escape route.
Finally he lies down,
closing his eyes as if in slumber.
The Crowd thinks him asleep,
Where does he really Escape too?
3 March, 1994
I have seen the four cardinal directions,
It is time to return home.
I have spoken with the Grandparents,
I have returned the red wool of life.
Please do not put my empty shell
Under the dark cold ground.
Rather raise me up on a Platform,
Up High, reaching for the Sky.
Let the Wind continue to blow,
Through my hair, and caress my brow.
Let the Sun shine upon my face,
Let me smell the rain and the meadow flowers.
Let me hear the songs of the birds,
And the waves on the ocean.
Let me see both the clouds, the sun, and the stars.
Let me taste all the goodness you provide us from your bounty.
And finally give my Soul PEACE!
21 March, 1994
(both of those were written in the year before she left us. The two below are undated)
We make so many each day.
Do we take the time to consider,
The consequences of our decisions?
So many choices are made,
During the course of our lifetime.
Some bring us much joy and happiness,
Some bring pain to ourselves and others.
While some choices linger on,
Dwelling with us in our memories,
Others are inconsequential choices,
And the memories fade quickly.
What may seem to be,
The right choice for one,
Will be totally wrong ,
For yet another.
So when deliberating upon,
Your many daily choices.
Remember this old saying well.
“To thine own self be true.”
The dawn of each new day bring many new choices to us. Some of these choices have become almost like second nature to us and we make them without even being aware that we have made a conscious choice. That we have chosen one option over another.
Things like getting up and getting ready to go to work, for some of us has become a habit. You get up at a set time, you get ready, you go to work. Already a minimum of three choices have been made. Change any one choice and the outcome will be different. Get up later, or not at all and you will be late for work. We all need to realize that when we exercise our options, make our choices there are always consequences to our decisions.
Some of the choices we make are good and lead to happiness for us and sometimes the benefit of others. Some of our choices are not so good and can be detrimental to both ourselves and others.
Robert Fulghrum once said that all he really needed to know, he learned in Kindergarten. Let us use the wisdom we had then, in making the choices we must make today. Let us chose to always share, be a friend and to always strive to do the best of which we are capable.
I also wanted to share a story with you regarding Liz – one of my favourites as it’s still ongoing. I’ve always liked butterflies, and among them swallowtails have always been my favourites. However, before that day in June, 1995 I’d only seen maybe three swallowtails in my life. After Liz left, however, I started seeing them everywhere. Marcia and I were living in Ontario at the time, and the family flew out to BC, both to see Liz at the end and to make arrangements afterward. In the three weeks we were here it seemed Marcia and I were surrounded by swallowtails. We’d sit in my aunt’s back yard and a pair would come cavorting across the grass. We’d go for a walk and a swallowtail would follow us down the street. We’d get in the car and go somewhere, and when we stopped there would be a swallowtail waiting for us. It was incredible. When we got back to Ontario I saw three swallowtails within the first 48 hours. I’ve seen them every year since. I wrote the following in honour of Liz:
(Tiger Swallowtail Comes to Flowers)
Carolyn and Jennifer,
your mother is not gone,
she sees the world through your eyes now.
You can hear her voice
in the quiet whispers of the wind
or in the soft
Her eyes sparkle
with the twinkling reflections
of the morning sun on every still pond
and her touch is still present,
delicately caressing the downy presence
of every new chick that hatches.
She is everything that is beautiful and kind.
She will always be.
Hug someone you love today!
P.S. This is Marcia’s honorarium to Liz: Angel on My Finger