Archives for the month of: August, 2020

In grade seven I found myself in a new school where I didn’t know anyone. I met Julie that year. We quickly became the best of friends. I spent A LOT of time in Julie’s home, so much so that her father famously (and lovingly) referred to me as part of their furniture.

I remember first hearing that Julie was pregnant. I think any time one becomes pregnant it is both scary and exhilarating news, and the announcement of this impending arrival was no different. I was just 16 at the time, a year younger than my best friend. I got to journey alongside Julie through her pregnancy. I remember shaving her legs when she could no longer reach them, feeling the flutter of kicks, and even experiencing some sympathy nausea.

Jessica was born on September 4th, 1991. I got a phone call telling me that she had been born, a healthy child who bore a striking resemblance to her Mom, including the auburn hair. The first time I met Jessica was just inside the door of what had become my second home, now her first. I would often walk around with her in my arms, loving when she would grab one of my fingers with her whole tiny hand. Sometimes I would sit at the piano and serenade Jessica with Edelweiss from The Sound of Music, “blossoms of snow may you bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever…” I called her “Boof” more than I called her Jessica, and she would eventually call me “Auntie Ernin”.

I recently wrote a letter to Jessica where I shared many of these thoughts, including recalling one of my favourite outings with her to the zoo. Jessica, Julie, another friend, and I went. We were so excited to show Jessica all of the animals, especially the big ones like elephants and giraffes. Instead, Jessica was enthralled with one big rock. The picture I have included here is from the zoo. Jessica loved being outdoors and reminded us that day of how simple things can provide the most fun. 

Life did not remain as simple as that for Jessica. Through it all I desperately wanted to hold her again like I did when she was small and tell her again and again, “you are loved”. Julie once called me in a panic because Jessica seemed to be missing. I immediately began to search for her, reaching out to anyone (most of them strangers to me) about her whereabouts. I drove for hours one day to try and find her, eventually discovering that she was miraculously okay.

Just days ago Julie read my letter to Jessica. I don’t know how much she could hear, given that she was so near the end of her life, but I desperately wanted her to hear all of it, including this:

“There is much that I wish I could take from you: the cancer, the pain, the limited time. Since I can’t, I want to say that I will always love you Boof. I hope you can find rest and that as you do so, seeing the faces of your children and your family will remind you of your legacy. Jessica, you were created in the image of the Creator, one who calls you Beloved. I am praying that in this valley you will never feel alone. I am going to find a nice rock to sit on in your honour. Maybe I’ll hum Edelweiss at the same time.”

Jessica died last night. My understanding is that she had come to peace with dying, having spent much of her walk with cancer reconnecting and reconciling with family. My heart is with those she has left behind. I will never forget my time with the Stammis family; I will never forget Jessica. She will always remain Boof, and I, her Auntie Ernin.

I am outside of the city, alone. Due to the generosity of some dear friends, I am staying in a cabin by a lake, a perfect spot to seek the solitude that I need. It is quiet. The sun is slowly setting, making the water glisten and sparkle with the last of its light. Every once in a while, I hear the hum of hummingbirds and the groan of frogs. 

This is not the first time I have been here. I am reminded of this as I scan the guest book that I have repeatedly inscribed. More often than not I expect to spend at least some of each visit journaling, praying, and working things out that have been huddling in my heart. I am not usually at a loss for words. In fact, I can be spinning with them: writing in a flurry, talking out loud to myself and to God, catching thoughts as they swirl around my head. 

For the last number of days I have been struck by this: I have no idea what to say. I’m surprised that I am even compelled to sit and type right now. Since mid-March life has looked extraordinarily different. As I got in the van to drive here, I kept thinking, “now I will finally begin to process 2020.” That thought now makes me smirk. But maybe it shouldn’t. 

Processing can take on various forms. Just because I find myself mute doesn’t mean I’m not working things out. I think I’m listening- to the wind, the grasshoppers, the sound of the clock on the wall, and the water as it laps against the shore. I have always loved John O’Donahue’s turn of phrase, “the great poise of the trees” and so I’m considering it as I stare at the trunks that sprout out of the ground and reach up to the sky. I am reading a book a day, voraciously interested in other people’s words. 

There is something comforting about being in a place where it is easy to feel connected to the earth just doing its thing. The sun rises in the east, slowly moves across the sky until it sets in the west. Whether I’m watching or not, dragonflies zoom through the air, chipmunks scurry along the ground, and minnows glide through the water. While sitting in a kayak today, just watching my surroundings, a figurative dam opened in my heart and I began to weep. 

For those who know me, tears typically come quickly and easily, though strangely not to the same degree over the last number of months. As someone who has experienced repeated crisis, I kind of know how to “manage” it. I do what needs to be done because it has to get done. What I can forget in the middle of it is to slow down, to stop. Scripture invites me to be still and know that God is God, both because of and in spite of whatever circumstances I find myself in. 

It is dark now. The stars are making an appearance. I hear a trio of loons. I will read a little more, and then turn in for the night. The weight of everything going on in the world remains heavy. There is much to process, learn, and go and do. I trust the words will come. But first I will sit, enveloped in silence.