Life Has to End, Love Doesn’t

My uncle died suddenly on Saturday. He was not just any uncle; he was my last uncle. When my mother died a little over two years ago, Uncle Eddie was the last living of her family, the last of the Martha Boulos (my sitty, my grandmother) family of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The house on 90 LeMarchant Road in St John’s is where they all grew up, Uncle Eddie, my mother and all nine siblings. The house is still there and it is still majestic and beautiful.

You know, we take things and people for granted, thinking they will always be there, and when they are not, there is a hole left in the fabric of the family. Uncle Eddie was there for many important seasons of my life and I will miss him. When I almost flunked out of university and wanted to just go get a job, Uncle Eddie did not let up on all the reasons why I should stay in school and finish what I had started. I listened.

I remember the day Uncle Eddie taught my sisters and me how to make baklava in my mother’s kitchen. He was in his element as we all stood around while he did the demonstration. It was the best time and I still make baklava a couple of times a year just like he showed us.

I remember going to his house in Mississauga and him putting on the loudest Lebanese music imaginable. He was kind of deaf; actually I think he was selectively deaf because sometimes I would say something in a low voice to Nazha and he would hear it; and just a few minutes later I would say something in a normal tone of voice and he would keep saying, “I can’t hear you.” And so I would repeat louder and louder, never really getting it that he was teasing me.

My uncle was there when Dave and I got married in 2009; it was a difficult trip for him, but he came anyway to take part in the celebration. I am so grateful for that.

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Mom and Uncle Eddie at my wedding.

He was there for two weeks in Corner Brook while my mother spent her last days in the hospital. He and my aunt Nazha walked every day from the hotel to the hospital to spend time with his last living sibling.

And then when I was going through a difficult time shortly after my mother’s death, I spent a week in Toronto with Uncle Eddie and Aunt Nazha, a time of love and healing. I’ll never forget their kindness.

I am eternally grateful for all the time I had with Eddie and I am happy that he is now out of pain. I’m sure that he’s in heaven right now dancing a happy dance with my mom and the rest of the family. That thought makes me smile.

You will live on in us Eddie. Rest in peace.

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Taken from The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Do you have someone in your life like Uncle Eddie? Make sure you tell him that you love and appreciate him before its too late. Life is short, shorter than you think.

EnJOYing Peaceful Calm

Often Joy comes from just being present in the moment. Instead of ‘searching’ for joy, trying to figure out what it is, and how it differs from happiness, this morning I just decided to let it happen. I brought my camera for our early walk on the beach and decided to take a couple of photos of things that brought me joy and made me feel at one with God and my world.

Down there on the beach there is no traffic, no noise other than the surf, and no reason to fret. We walked about four miles with the sun on our backs and just enJOYing the peaceful calm of it all.

And along the way I did take a couple of pics that brought a smile to my soul.

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Making Joy Palpable

Yesterday was a great day! We met up with some friends for a nice restaurant meal and then came back to our place for a game of cards. We had an absolutely fun evening! Laughter, good conversation and a carefree outlook was the order of the day.

It got me thinking back to a time many years ago when I was homeschooling my young family. One day I woke up happy, and my husband was astounded.

The source of my joy was that there were two books waiting for me at the post office and all I had to do was to go pick them up. I actually awakened with a smile on my face that day. Usually it was quite different–I’d wake up with a sense of dread and incompetence– at my abilities as a wife and as a homeschooling mom. I remembered later on that day, after getting a flat tire and my books being delivered to the wrong post office, we went to Tim Horton’s for a coffee.

My husband said to me, “I have a question for you. This morning you woke up happy. You never wake up happy. What’s going on?”

The answer was so simple, but the reason for the depression and bad mood on all the other days was not. I remember telling him that I hated my life and felt pressured all the time to be someone I was not capable of being. I felt that I could never measure up. Never.

The truth was that I could not experience joy as long as I was living a life that was contrary to everything I believed. I was not able to be true to myself because the cult we were in at the time obliged me to dress a certain way, act a certain way, live a certain way and even to speak in a specified manner. My children had to be perfect and neither I nor anyone else was ever able to make that happen. Children are not perfect, miniature adults. They are learning machines, messy, loud, fun, defiant, dirty, snotty, cuddly, transparent bundles of energy that are ready for anything.

My joy had been long ago been squashed. My light had gone out with the oppression and demands made on my life by the homeschooling cult we were in. I was not able to be spontaneous, not able to be myself. It has actually been thirteen years since I lived that life and it has only been in the last two that I have finally started to rediscover who I really am and to find my old self.

I kind of like my old self.

I know that ‘finding myself’ is a used out cliché of our times, but during those years I had really become lost as to who I was, where I came from, my roots, but most of all I had lost my Joie de vivre. My parents and siblings couldn’t understand who I had become.

Joy of living, huh? Joy of the Lord, saywhatt? It was kind of hard to have the Joy of the Lord when I was dying inside. I wondered why God would have me live a life that made me question how I was raised and my core values.

Back then I don’t think I had any idea what real joy was because I didn’t really know who God was. But I’m starting to figure it out now.

The saying, “You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.”, is helpful here. Perhaps remembering the tough times in my past will make joy more palpable in my present.

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The Joy of Listening

“You’re not listening to me.”

“You are not hearing what I am saying.”

“I feel like no one understands me.”

Have you ever said any of those things while trying to tell someone what happened to you? You’re trying to tell your story and you can see by the other person’s body language that they are not listening.

Either they are waiting to interrupt and tell you that they had a similar experience; or they want to tell you what you should do; or they are more interested in looking at their phone.

You feel unheard, invalidated and frustrated. A stranger on a plane or a psychologist might listen more. Perhaps that’s why there are so many counselors and psychologists out there; because sometimes people that are close to us don’t listen with both ears any more.

I have noticed this phenomenon for a long time. I’ve experienced it myself, and I wondered why nobody listens. When I was younger I remember sitting around the table after a meal with family, aunts, uncles, cousins, and everyone was telling stories and talking about their lives. Each person would put in his two cents worth and at the end of it, people would go away feeling understood and appreciated.

We don’t sit around the table chatting any more. We don’t tell stories to real live people- we tell them to the psychologist or some faceless person on the Internet. And when we do talk face to face with the people in our lives, we are so busy thinking of what we will say next that we don’t listen to what they are actually saying.

We don’t communicate much any more and that creates a whole lot of loneliness and misunderstanding. We need to have compassion. To have compassion is to be concerned with the suffering of other people and wanting to see that suffering relieved. It is the bridge between empathy and kindness. So when we want to help other people overcome their suffering, first of all, we help make their world a better place; but also our own suffering becomes less. However in order for that to happen we have to listen to really hear what the other person is saying and feeling.

When we have compassion and really listen, letting another person truly express what is on his mind, we begin to experience Joy. So does he.

But listening is not easy. You have to forget about your own issues, forget about giving solutions and suggestions to the person, and just be 100% present with them, as they trust you enough to tell you their story.

I remember, a little over a year after my mother died, some friends were visiting and Bob asked me the question, “Christine, what was your experience of your mother’s death?”

No one had ever asked me that before, but without preamble, I started talking and Bob listened. I talked for quite awhile and he listened, completely focused on what I was saying. I told about my fears when she got sick, her last days in the hospital, her dying and my mortality, and the horror of a slow cancer death. I talked about what it was like to watch someone I loved die, reduced to nothing but her spirit at the end.

I filled up a few times, and still he listened. I had never put those feelings into words before, and saying them was powerful medicine for both of us. Bob and his wife had lost three of their parents in a very short time, and I knew they understood.

That day I felt their compassion and acceptance, all because they listened. If you can imagine, I felt Joy on that day and I will never forget it.

Listening is not always easy but it will calm down your entire life. It will change your relationships with your friends, your spouse and your children, because they will be able to talk and you will be present. Then people see that you are really listening with a heartfelt presence. It makes people happy to see that.

How about you? Do you listen with your whole heart and mind, or do you wait for the other person to stop talking so that you can say your thing?

Conversely, do people listen to you when you have something to say? Or do you feel that no one understands you?

Let’s watch our listening during the next week. When someone is telling you something, where is your mind? Try to focus on what they are saying and let them feel your presence.

Do you feel Joy when you do that?

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