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the writing isn’t on the wall… it’s in the yak shit

29 Dec

Sometimes, no matter what you believe in, whether it’s God or coincidences, or nothing at all, strange things can happen. Strange things happen to me all of the time and I love it.

Lucas and I started our trek in the Himalayan Mountains on an incredibly hot day, ascending 1300m to 3300m by the end of the day. I knew it was going to be difficult. I knew it would push me. I knew, in all of that silence and space, I would think of her.

What I didn’t know is that she would show up. In the form of a tree.

Mom’s favourite tree in the world was the one that sits in her front yard. It blooms every year for a limited time but when it does, it’s rich in pink, soft, exquisite blooms that fall to the ground and leaves bright colour scattered everywhere like an artist gone mad.

We were slowly ascending up a hill (no shit, it’s a mountain), and we turned on a switch back. Lucas saw it first and then I saw it. In the entirety of a forest, dressed in deep greens, ferns, and oak trees, there stood one single tree with pink blooms hugging every inch of branch. It was the only tree without green. The only tree that stood out, dressed in bright pink. The only tree that had well over 100 chick-a-dee like birds in it.

It sang! Oh, did this tree sing, with the lungs of these birds. The vision! The sound! It could not have been more perfectly planned than if it was put there by mom, herself. It had Deborah written all over it and it was like she was there to see me off on my first day.

Naturally, I climbed to the tree’s roots and put some of mom right there under her tree.

It was the only pink tree, in the entire forest and jungle that we came across on our ten day trek. It was the only tree with as many singing birds in it. It was her tree.


Like the tree, she came around in her own way (or is it my way of having her around?) on our second day of trekking. We had just crossed paths with a wild pony and was happily continuing on in the forest. The forest itself was magical in every sense of the word. You could feel every atom in your body tingle with how magic it was. Disney didn’t have shit on it.

Through the forest and out into an open field. The scenery hit me. I felt my body become rigid and I could only think of her and how she deserved this view, this experience. I was stricken with such sorrow in that moment, feeling angry and sad that she would never see what I could see, that I could never share this with her, that I could never bring her to this spot. I was filled with sorrow and stood heartbroken. 

The field was on an incline and at the bottom of a small hill I saw a rock and I pictured her sitting there, looking out towards the mountain edges. I pictured her there with her big, lopsided pointy tail, smiling. The grief started in my stomach and spread itself outward, touching every part of my body. I couldn’t hold it any longer and started to cry.


Now she can enjoy this view from her mossy rock.

I took the tiny container I carry her in out of my bag, held her in my hands and sobbed audibly on the top of this mountain. I held her tight as I marched down to the rocks I pictured her sitting on. I found some soft moss to sprinkle her on and and as I did, the familiar, crushing panic that wells up inside of me when I let the grief come too close, washed over me like a wave. I pictured her sitting there again and my cry become louder.

I slowly got up, closed the container and started walking back to my bag. I reached my bag, put her away and began to catch up with Lucas who was waiting for me just ahead. I was sobbing, and looking pathetic when, in true Deborah fashion, I slipped in a pile of wet mud and Yak shit and fell over right on my ass.

I howled! Here I am, bawling my eyes out, with a snotty, messy nose, on a Himalayan mountain, spreading my mom on moss, just covered in shit and mud. It was hysterical. What bellowed out of me was the hardest laugh I think I have ever had. What a pathetic sight I must have been to Lucas, to anyone who could have seen it. I sat there for a minute, trying to catch my breath from laughing with such fervour, thinking of how utterly silly this looked. I walked away laughing, just waiting for the shit and mud to dry so I could shake it off of my entire right side.

I am more like her than I every thought and if there’s such a thing as “watching over,” then we must have shared this joke. Perfection.


opinion impopulaire: c’est ok de ne pas aimer la ville de l’amour

1 Oct


Lucas and I decided to go to Paris. Ah, oui, ce Paris, the city of lights, la ville de l’amour, the city of the best baguette we have ever tasted.

When I think of Paris, I try to stray from the negative. I mean, the negative within myself. Then I think, no, fuck that, life isn’t alway positive. It’s ok to be down sometimes, as long as I can get myself out of it and see the positive sooner than later. Let that shit out. When I was working with Gilda’s Club, a non-profit in the cancer support community, we told people that it’s ok to say “cancer sucks!” because it does. The people living with cancer don’t always have to have a smile, a positive attitude.  It fucking sucks. And so did Paris.

Let me explain.

Upon arrival I felt like something was wrong. Paris just didn’t sit right in my tummy. No, it wasn’t the crack addict outside of our apartment, they don’t phase me. I got there and it was just like my brain hurt, a fog of, I don’t know how to put it into words, like looking through a foggy window after a shower or trying to run through glue.; it was difficult to see and it was difficult to move.  We were there in Paris,  but we weren’t doing Paris. On our first morning there I was sitting on a terrace and through talking with Lucas, I realized, this is all wrong because this is where my mom was going to meet us with Dan. Paris belonged to my Mom.

A little off topic, but this will relate, I promise. My mom loved Great Big Sea (GBS) and the last time I got to see her beautiful face was in Newfoundland to see them, a trip we took together. We have gone to a number of their concerts together. In fact, my first one was when I was in grade 5. I’m not 27 years old.  This summer I went to GBS for the first time without her to honour her, to remember her, to have a piece of her. My friend Tallie joined me and it turns out, Tallie might be the extent of what I enjoyed about the concert because it was Mom that made GBS what they are. Once GBC got on stage and started their set I thought damn, they are really off tonight. I kept running through what could be wrong; is the treble off? Is the mic not set right? Too much base? Too much lighting? Not enough? In the middle of ‘Consequence Fee,’ which, mom would always yell “This is my song!” I realized that is wasn’t a component of sound or light that was missing, it was Mom.  Paris was like a three day GBS concert.

My mom wanted to go to Paris. She wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower and kiss Dan, her husband, on the top. She was a romantic. The other thing she wanted to cross off of her list was to eat a crossant and drink an espresso on a sidewalk cafe.

I originally wanted to go to  Paris to honour her in a way. I wanted to and then I decided that I didn’t want to. It just didn’t feel right in my gut but when I told Lucas he said we should and that it’s important that we do “this.” Sometimes, believe it or not, your partner knows you a bit better than you know yourself. Lucas is good at this but this time “this” turned into a breakdown in front of the Eiffel Tower on our last night there.

We were walking around after dinner trying to find the “perfect” cafe to have a croissant and an espresso at with the Tower in our view but we couldn’t find the right one. So we began walking even further and looking for another spot, and another spot, and another spot. It was turing into something that it wasn’t supposed to turn into and it began to amplify the fact that mom wasn’t in Paris with us. It was amplified because I just kept wanting to ask her where she thought we should go. She wasn’t there to ask. Would she want a croissant at night? She wasn’t there to ask. Does it need to be in front of the Eiffel Tower? She wan’t there to ask. What about just a drink on the river? Would that be something she would want to do? She wasn’t there to ask. Can you imagine the pain, no, the anguish this would conjure up in someone’s heart? It’s unquestionably horrific.

Finally I just had to stop. I didn’t do it. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Oh, I honoured her, I sure did and there is a butterfly in a tree in a park above where I drank-of-the-bottle wine and cheese and baguette  to show for it.  I didn’t, however, try to recapture her image of Paris because it is with her, in her mind and in her spirit. It is not what is supposed to happen now.  Perhaps, one day,  but for now, it is not right.


grief is a leaky, sneaky bitch

9 Sep

1150790_10153148919135277_2074439964_nI am a part of a club where members want to give their membership back no matter what the penalty is for early cancellation. The grieving club is the worst; it’s not like one of those fancy golf clubs where you have attractive women drive up to you on the course and bring you beer. My club doesn’t have shiny toilets or a newly paved parking garage with valet. My club leaves its members with challenging life lessons, guilt, headaches and heart ache, and the task of finding the person you have lost, in a new way.

I know that grieving for a loss never ends.  Only recently have I learned that it morphs into different shapes and sizes depending on what is happening in my life and traveling has opened up a new kind of wound inside of me that I had no idea could exists: I relive her death again and again in the very first moments of the early mornings.

This is what happens: I wake up in a strange, beautiful place. The warmth from the Portuguese sun streams onto my bed from the window. The ray isn’t on me but, instead, lies beside me like a warm gentle presence that slowly coaxes me awake. I turn my head towards the window and look up to the sky because it’s blue and beautiful and happy. Then I experience that fleeting moment where I think to get ahold of her; to tell her where I am, that I am safe and that I can’t wait to see her in Paris. I become happy at the prospect of hearing her voice talk to me over the phone. Only after a slight, soft moment do I feel the heaviness and sorrow quickly weigh in on me. I get a feeling that starts in my very core and works its way upwards where my heart starts to pound while it sinks deep to the back of my chest. It’s a purging feeling that drains me and I have to realize, again and again, that I will never be able to phone her and hear her voice.

This, by far, is the hardest part of traveling.