Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dealing with Death

I recently watched a film that stirred a very powerful moment of deja vu.
I'm going to share this because I need to.
Rails and Ties is a movie I picked out of the bargain bin of previously viewed movies at my local video store. Hubby and I were about to set off for a few days of down time including golf (his pick) and some reading/movie watching (my pick).

Here's commentary I found online that describes it better than I can, but beware - it's a thorough review and if you prefer to have a story unfold itself unspoilt - don't read the stuff in blue.

RAILS & TIES, under the guidance of first time director Alison Eastwood, tackles an implausible subject of multiple tragedies resulting in repairing personal breaks and with the able assistance of a group of excellent actors, makes a finely tuned, sensitive study of little lives struggling against major odds. It is well conceived, well written (Micky Levy), well acted and sincerely moving.

Tom Stark (Kevin Bacon) is a train engineer, married to his job as well as being married to his nurse wife Megan (Marcia Gay Harden) who is facing the ugly fact that her breast cancer is terminal. The cancer has spread beyond Megan's body into the tenuous space that keeps a marriage glued: Megan attempts to hide her desperate need for emotional support by continuing to work as a nurse and Tom takes on extra train runs to avoid the reality that face him at home. The other side of the story is equally sad: young Davey cares of his psychologically shattered mother and unknowingly accompanies her on a jaunt to 'see the train' - a ploy well planned by the suicidal mother to drive in front of an oncoming train to end her life along with Davey's. The conductor of the train is of course Tom Stark, and when Tom first sees the car on the tracks, he keeps to company policy that recommends gradual slowing rather than the danger of an abrupt stop: the result is the death of Davey's mother but Davey escapes the crash while trying to pull his mother from the car.
The tragedies mount: Davey is left homeless, being placed in a foster home run by the cruel 'mom' only to escape to find the 'killer' of his mother; Tom is put on leave for the incident; Megan gets the final word that she has very little time left and is ready to leave the distant Tom. It is this inadvertent entrance of Davey into the lives of Tom and Megan that results in a healing of three souls who are desperate for the connection of love.

While some may find the story implausible and saccharine, others will appreciate the manner in which Eastwood holds rein on the story, playing it for quiet honesty instead of explosive situations. Both Bacon and Harden deliver the quality of sophisticated performances that have marked their careers, and the remainder of the cast gives strong support.
This is a tough story to tell but the film holds an indelible mark on the viewer.

There are very few of us that will never have to face the death of a loved one before our own. That said, it is remarkable how ill-prepared we often find ourselves in dealing with it.
I think it must be particularly difficult for those who have (for whatever reason) not made the effort/time to ponder the three realities of life itself:
How did I get here?
What am I doing here?
Where am I going from here?
My deja vu moment? It happens at precisely 85:00 into the film.
Megan has collapsed and is rushed to hospital by Tom and Davey.
The attending physician finds the two in the hallway anxiously waiting to see her.
The doctor shakes his head and gently tells Tom that his wife wants to go home.
She wants to die at home.
Tom hasn't yet accepted that she is indeed dying and has been preparing herself to say goodbye.
His face falls and he looks away.
No words are spoken but the look on his face! Somehow, he has to find the strength and courage to honour her wish despite the abject horror he feels.
The look on his face jarred a vivid recall from deep within - and this is where I burst abruptly in a fit of tears as the memory of a very similar moment washed over me
like an emotional tsunami.
My beloved knew instinctively what this was all about and had the blessed sense to simply
pass the kleenex box and offer me a long quiet hug.
One never forgets those excruciating moments of testing - I don't think we're supposed to forget. I think we're meant to be changed and grow from them regardless of how we handle it.
But this feeling of wanting to cover my ears with my hands and run screaming from the room?
I get that totally. Yvonne was very young. It was very unnatural to watch her die - and even more unnatural to help her get to that place where she was okay with it. It was very hard and I want her husband and her daughter to know...
I get that - we all understand.

Chesley Orchestra

My sister-in-law Sue is an extraordinary musician/violinist gifted with a passion for teaching others the craft. She has single-handedly started off every string player in the extended family and managed to bring out the best in each one of them as well.
Consequently - our family gatherings and celebrations are often tended with an in-house full scale orchestra. Some sing, play the flute or clarinet, violin, cello, viola, piano or CD player.
We actually have quite a few Ipod players as well :)
I think if we'd been born a couple millennium ago we may have found ourselves in the tribe of the Levites.
We've been going to the same vacation spot en masse for the past 30 years or more and this year, Susie negotiated a plan to accompany both morning worship services ... all the pre, post and during service music. What a blast!
I asked my son to get some video coverage which regrettably, he took from the furthest back corner of the sanctuary. *sigh* Boys are so yucky.
So here's a snippet of what happens when Susie orders up a last minute rehearsal and tells you to pack your instrument for a gig at Chesley!
I love that girl.

For your benefit Nicole, I will identify the members of your family orchestra:
From L to R: Cousin Kelsey (violin) Aunt Jo (piano)
Aunt Sue (violin/concert mistress)
Cousin Megan (cello) Cousin Brittany (flute)
Cousin Kayla & Jamie (violins)
Cousin Julia and Emily (violins) on the far right of the stage with
Cousin Amy (violin) in the foreground
Not shown in this particular set:
Cousin Heather (clarinet)
Cousin Brian (piano and solo voice)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Procrastinator Redeemed

I finally kept an ancient promise to myself to submit a box full of video coverage (no less than 35 tapes - 120's and mini's) that hold various vignettes of our life over the past 20 years. They are in the laborious process of being transferred to DVD - and perhaps in a months time, if all goes well, my family and I can enjoy looking at the 'Way We Were'.
One item of major interest is the inaugural tape of our daughter and sister Yvonne with her daughter Nicole, filmed in the three weeks before her death. It was December 1988 that we treated ourselves to the purchase of our first ever video machine with the express intention of helping my dying sister record her thoughts, wishes and final farewells to her little girl.
I remember distinctly what a nuisance my hubby made of himself, (enamoured as he was with this new toy) sneaking up on us at the most inopportune times to capture moments of life significant or otherwise.
But I must say, I am forever grateful for his wise forethought and generosity of heart that made the making of this memory possible.
The anticipation of seeing it again is both sweet and painful. Bittersweet is the word I suppose.
....not to be confused with 'bitter' in any shape or form.
God has graciously spared us from the ill of THAT cancerous response to difficulty. He is Capital G Good!

Friday, September 18, 2009


I follow in my mom's footsteps with a love for being in my kitchen, cooking up a storm and feeding the masses. I've also learned her peculiar renegade style of doing my own thing and ditching the recipe book.
Yes I love food, but what truly appeals to me, is the anticipation of fellowship that a big 'sit down dinner' often delivers.
A few years ago during our big kitchen reno, it was determined that the new family table would have to be round to accommodate exactly that kind of objective. Enough of this hollering down the left to the person outside periphery to pass this or that!
My baby sister brought me a beautiful gift yesterday that might just propel me to make a few changes in my 'style' - probably long over-due anyway...

I recently confessed to being smitten with the new Meryll Streep movie Julie & Julia right?
I admitted that I might even go and see it a third time?
Well I did.
This time accompanied by my sister Catherine, who in turn went straight off to Indigo to find the cookbook which she delivered to me as a gift of familial love and understanding.
If you've seen the movie you'll get the bit about the pearls but my portraiture also conveys my impression of this 'jewel of a gift' from my sis.
Thanks from my heart Cath!
If I ever find the courage to steam a live lobster to death or debone a dead duck - you will be personally escorted to the front row seat. I will even let you video tape it for posterity :)
Love you.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Three awesome things...

Number One:
I recently went to see Julie & Julia with a good friend and LOVED it for several reasons....
Meryl Streep is an incredible actress and she played Julia Childs to a perfect tee.
Julia Childs is the household name for great cooking and left us (she just died in 2005?) with the winsome cookbook: Mastering the Art of French Cooking - for servantless Americans.
I adored this movie so much I went to see it AGAIN with my sister and am toying with the idea of watching it a third time, this time with my hubby? LOL.
It was about the love of cooking and fellowshipping over a meal but it also ended up being a tender, inspiring look at great marriages and beautiful relationships.
Here's a brief synopsis: Based on two true stories, Julie & Julia intertwines the lives of two women who, though separated by time and space, are both at loose ends...until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter, anything is possible

*sigh* I'd recommend it.

A few nights ago, feeling recklessly inspired, I donned my pearls, (a fundamental detail to be sure!) wrapped an apron around me and searched out her famous recipe for Beef Bourguignon - I know I shouldn't be the one to say it but, YUM!! the leftovers are still being drooled over.
I think I could get into this in a serious, addictive way.

Number Two: Our two first born grand-daughters came over for a two-night sleepover including a Sunday morning worship service. We unveiled the Playmobil Mansion which has been collecting dust in Grandpa's closet for ten years waiting for such a moment as this....

It was a big hit with my girlie girls. Shucks, who's highlight was this anyway??

Little coin purses I found that doubled nicely as Sunday condiment (i.e. filled with YoGo bites) for the worship service on Sunday morning.

Quiet Time on Aunt Catherine's bed.

Trying to identify their own baby portraits. LOL.

Number Three: Spending the weekend with my JuneBug and the Rachinator. We love you guys SO much it almost hurts!