(I am writing this at the very end of summer, mid/late September 2022, a bit more than 2 months after the passing of our precious daughter, Robyn, and the passing two days later of my husband, Lionel’s, beloved sister, Kathy. Some of what I am writing here is drawn from my journal entries since then; some from memories and the constant thoughts going through my mind and heart as I process these events and my responses. Much of what I am writing relates to my developing spiritual understandings [and misunderstandings of the past, too; this kind of experience forces one to dig deep spiritually]. For anyone reading this, you may agree or disagree, that is your privilege, but while I am willing to thoughtfully converse, I will not be drawn into arguments. My relationship with my loving Creator is a lifelong “work in progress,” a “journey,” an “adventure,” and through the past months I have come to the realization that I can trust the Creator’s guidance and path and timing and Love far more than that of humans, though their love is also appreciated greatly. There is much I do not understand or know about all this, but that’s okay; I have an eternity of relationship and learning to look forward to. Meanwhile, as I reflect on the past short while, I see so many ways in which the One who Loves me has been involved, preparing me for this part of the Journey, upholding me through it, and leading and Loving me each day as we move forward together. Thank You, Lord!)
Thank You for being with me in the past summer and bringing us comfort and hope … and joy!
You know I’ve been putting off and putting off writing about how You (What do I call You? Creator? God? Lord? Father, Son, Holy Spirit? Papa, Jesus, Sarayu? Jehovah Jireh my Provider? Source of All Love and Truth and Life? Do You have a preference? Does it really matter to You? Perhaps different names at different times in my journey/adventure/relationship with You?). Anyway, I’ve really wanted to write about how You prepared and carried me through the loss of my precious daughter Robyn, and my dear sister-in-law Kathy, too, this past summer.
But, yes, it is time to write now. Still, I don’t want it to be just my writing. I want this to be Your words, Your heart, Your love, Your guidance. Please.
You have been preparing me for a long time, maybe all my life, though I did not know these losses would happen (and just two days apart). In the past few days, I’ve been going through my journal of the past 4 months and have seen so many ways You have been with me, with us.
Back in May, Peter and Jo offered to fly us out to Alberta in August for a visit, to meet Jo and the children, and to spend time with Taryn and Sarah and their families, too. It was a lovely idea; we hadn’t seen our family very much these past couple years due to Covid. We’ve been blessed to have Wendy and family living next door, and we had a good visit with Robyn and family in August last year at their home. The others had dropped in from time to time, so we weren’t overly lonely … but happy as we were with the invitation, we had no idea how important and comforting it would be for us this August. But, of course, You knew.
And Lionel was really longing to visit his sister Kathy and her family, but we didn’t have a vehicle that could make the trip, so he was just going to fly up to Massett alone. Still, I’d had good income from my business the past couple years, and so we started looking for a vehicle we could afford with the money we’d been able to save. We thought it would be awesome to have a minivan with stow-and-go seats so we could use it as a camper, but we also wanted it to have less than 75,000 km, preferably just be one-owner, be no older than 2017, and cost no more than $25,000. We finally decided that we’d be willing to buy a Dodge Grand Caravan, Crew. We did a lot of searching, but it seemed like that combination of wishes just wasn’t possible.
Robyn phoned a week before the May long weekend and asked if she and Thomas could come up for the weekend. They could get a ride to Kamloops with the boys’ dad Alex and her son William, who were going to a soccer tournament. But our old car wasn’t safe to go all the way to Kamloops to pick Robyn & Thomas up. At the last minute, a high school friend of Robyn’s offered to pick them up in Merritt and bring them here. So, we got to see them! Robyn spent quite a bit of the weekend with old friends from high school in Keremeos, so we didn’t see her very much, but it was good when we did, and we had such a good time with Thomas. Tsinni (Grandpa) Lionel and Thomas had some special bonding time, which of course You knew would be important very soon, though we had no idea. And at the end of the weekend, we had a lovely outdoor dinner with Robyn and Thomas, and Wendy’s family. Thomas’s grandpa Kevin and dad Alex kindly came and picked up Robyn and Thomas to take them home. So, it was an unexpected, surprise visit. Who would have known it was the last time we’d see Robyn? Thank You for arranging that.
Some of our children had been having financial difficulties, and extended family were, too, so we were so blessed that I’d had that extra unexpected tutoring and editing work over the past couple years, and we were able to help them out, but it meant we really had to keep within our limit for a vehicle (we wanted to pay cash, not borrow, not get into debt). Lionel had received some money from the Indian Day School settlement, which we put into mutual funds for future possible needs, but due to the economic downturn, some of that was lost. In mid-June we applied to switch to TFSAs but wouldn’t be able to access them until later in August. So, we had to be very careful of our spending.
By early June I was feeling very tired and stressed from my tutoring and editing work, which convinced me that I was right to plan to change my business plans in the fall to make my work lighter and less stressful (I am retirement age, after all!). I also planned to relax in the summer, and just do some personal French study and memoir writing, but no business. I was also feeling worried about Robyn as she was phoning frequently, very upset, and she had started to have seizures and some hospitalization. Robyn was bipolar from a young age, and over the years had gone through a number of times when she’d been in deep depression and would self-medicate with alcohol. But these seizures were a new thing, and the self-medication seemed to have really spiraled out of control. I didn’t know how to help, and the stress led me to having total laryngitis for 2 weeks in June (I have a history of developing laryngitis when I am overly stressed).
We kept searching for a vehicle but without success. I was wondering if the laryngitis was sent by You to keep us from car shopping until Your choice of car for us was available. And indeed, that happened. A local car dealer was able to locate a suitable car which filled our requirements from another dealer in Victoria, and had it transported to Penticton. So, we started to research how to camperize minivans, and we started to look for ferry reservations to Haida Gwaii, hoping we could go there as soon as we could get the car. But it seemed like all the reservations were filled until into September, so I was still thinking Lionel might have to fly there alone, especially as I wasn’t well. I wrote in my journal, “Maybe it’s Your way of telling me to rest in You and wait for Your timing.” I was “wishing I could just live day by day and not worry about future plans.” I was so exhausted I thought maybe I should just shut down my business and fully retire. “Help me to trust You, Lord. Please.” On June 14 I wrote, “Wondering where You are taking me these days with these unexpected health issues, etc. Well, I guess I should just rest and wait and see…. Thankfully (gratefully, Lord), I really don’t have the energy these days to worry….”
And on June 18 I wrote, “Thank You, Lord, for your Love. Thank You that I can turn Robyn over to you. Please bless her friend for the efforts she is making to help her. And give her comfort.” Her friend was trying to find her a placement in a treatment program, but nothing was working out, and Robyn wasn’t really willing to go anyway. I wrote, “I am so relieved to pass it over to You. I’m feeling so sad about Robyn …. But, Your timing and purposes.” I had no idea what those might be. They are rarely the same as mine (Oh, Thank You, Lord!).
On June 20 we got our new car. We ordered a few things to use for camping. Kathy’s husband, Alvin, had become ill so we were holding off on going to Haida Gwaii until we heard how he was doing, though we wanted to leave right away if we could get a ferry reservation. Robyn was back in hospital with more seizures, and we were hoping she’d change her mind and go for treatment. But again, “Lord, Your will be done, please.”
Finally, at the end of June we were able to get reservations to go on the ferry to Haida Gwaii on July 9 and return on July 18, after we’d checked out many possible dates. Even these two dates were only available because there had been ferry cancellations by others, and we were able to get them right when they suddenly became available. I had planned to not take my laptop with us (and we don’t have a cell phone), but at the last minute I felt I should take it just to check email messages from time to time; it turned out to be important, even though I still tried to use it as little as possible. I checked my emails, and Robyn’s friend said Robyn was staying with her and not drinking, so we felt it was okay for us to travel to Haida Gwaii.
On July 5 we left on our trip. We decided to take a few relaxing days of camping until our ferry reservation on the 9th. It really was a nice time, and we felt much less stressful and more rested. Our new vehicle worked beautifully, as a car and as a camper. We met up with some of Lionel’s relatives and friends in Prince Rupert, which was really enjoyable. On July 9th we went on the ferry to Haida Gwaii, and arrived at Kathy and Alvin’s that evening in Old Massett. On July 10th we visited some friends and drove around the village. We had a wonderful visit with Daphne and Martin, and while we were there, Bruce and Adeline Brown, our former Haida pastors, who were also visiting the village from their home in the Lower Mainland, dropped in. Everyone was having such a happy time telling stories from childhood days. On July 11th, we spent the whole day with Kathy and Alvin. Lionel and Kathy had such a good time watching old Western movies together.
But then I got an email from Robyn’s friend, saying she was drinking heavily again, and had gone home and wasn’t responding to phone calls or emails. I just didn’t know what to do. I wrote in my journal, “Lord, Your Will Be Done. I almost feel as though You have planned the dates for this trip to coincide with her situation. Lord?!?!” While I was sad and worried about Robyn, I also noted how happy Kathy was to have Lionel with her and how happy he was to be with his beloved sister. And I knew there wasn’t really anything we could do right then, anyway, as it was still a week until our ferry reservation to leave the island (with no other reservations available meantime). So, all I could do was pray for her and trust God to look after her.
On July 12 Kathy was wishing for huckleberries, which were late this summer. So, we drove around and found a patch. They were just getting ripe, and we picked as many as were ready and took them to her. She was so happy and ate them all herself, enjoying them so much. We also were able to visit and chat with many friends at the stores and at a couple homes, again having a good visit talking about old times. We went to bed in our minivan about 11:30 pm, and just a few minutes later, Ben (Kathy’s great grandson, Samantha’s son) came out and told us there was a phone call. We took the call and found out that Robyn had passed away, taking her own life. We knew she must have been unusually deep into the alcohol and depression, because she loved her boys so much and would never have otherwise done anything like that to them. Of course, we were in deep shock; we went into the house, and I was sitting on the couch and just shaking and shaking. Kathy and Alvin sat with us, and their presence was such a comfort. We knew they knew from personal experience what we were going through. They didn’t say much, just sat quietly with us until finally we went back out to our vehicle and went to sleep.
The next morning, July 13, I wrote in my journal, “Our precious Robyn passed into the arms of Jesus on July 12. At last she will be in peace.” We contacted family and close friends and relatives. Lionel was broken-hearted, but he was in the midst of his Haida people, and they gathered around and supported him—supported both of us—in a way that we would never have experienced if we’d been home in Penticton when it happened. Bruce Brown, our former Haida pastor, prayed with Lionel and comforted him. As Lionel’s men friends gathered around him, they cried with him, and he was finally able to let his tears flow, too.
Kathy’s granddaughter, Samantha, who has had a lot of personal experience with medical emergencies, knew exactly who to call and what to say in order to get our ferry reservation changed to leave on the night of the 14th, even though we’d been told there were no vacancies. She was also able to get us on a waiting list for a cabin as it was a night ferry, but the chances of actually getting a cabin were very slim. She had, in fact, been away from the island for her own medical needs, and she just got back in time to help us with that. A miracle.
Another miracle: we had very little money, and we didn’t know how we would be able to afford to travel home, then travel to Vancouver Island where Robyn lived in Campbell River. But the Haida people brought us so many loving donations, of both money and gifts of canned fish and seafoods, beautiful mugs for our children, and more. That evening of the 13th, we were able to phone and talk to our other children. Kathy, their dearly beloved auntie, spoke with each of them, comforting them, and cheering them up. Even in their time of sorrow, they were laughing with their auntie who, even with her own illnesses and sorrows, has always had the gift of bringing happiness and comfort in times of trouble.
On July 14th, I woke up and started humming that song, “O Lord, You know I have no friend like You; If heaven’s not my home, then Lord, what can I do? The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” And I wrote in my journal, “This has been Robyn’s longing for so long. Now she is finally at peace and rest, safe in the arms of Jesus. And the arms of my mom and dad and others gone before.” Although Kathy had been so positive and cheerful and comforting the night before, she wasn’t feeling at all well in the morning, and was in fact quite sick. But Lionel wanted to go for a drive, as that is how he handles feeling deep emotion. So, we drove around and visited a couple of his closest friends and Lionel’s brother-in-law, Mike.
We dropped into Sarah’s Longhouse store, and Judy Smith, who works there, took us outside and sang us the Haida Prayer Song in the Haida language. It was so comforting, again something we would not have experienced at home. She also gave us two “All Children Matter” shirts for Robyn’s sons. We went back to Kathy and Alvin’s, to discover that Alvin had taken her to the hospital. We drove to the hospital, and just before we got there, Kathy passed away. Lionel was devastated, as now he had lost, in two days, not only his precious daughter but also his dear sister.
In Haida tradition, relatives washed her body and dressed her. She looked so peaceful and calm and had a smile on her face. Even though she had suffered for so many years with ill health, she had always been so cheerful and so her face had a beautiful smile. The Haida minister, Lily Bell, and Lay Reader, Marina Jones, gathered the family together around Kathy. Marina started to sing, “My beautiful Home, my beautiful Home, where the glorified ever shall roam; where angels bright wear robes of white, my Home is there, my Home is there.” Then she started to pray, and in her prayer, she thanked the Creator for taking Kathy home where she would never again be in pain and sorrow—and then she added, “and where she will be able to take care of her precious niece, Robyn.” And she added that Kathy had waited to see her brother Lionel, and now could go Home in peace. That’s when I was finally able to cry … tears of sorrow, yes, but also tears of joy. Lily prayed too, and I was assured that Robyn and Kathy were both together with their Creator.
Even though Robyn had gone through so much with her bipolar illness, and Kathy so much with her illness from her strokes and other sicknesses, they both loved their Creator, and so the song and prayers were a great comfort for us. We were surrounded by so many Haida family and friends, and their love was wrapped around us. Yes, Lord, You are in control of everything. You know all things and love all Your children. Your ways are perfect. Our world has much evil in it, but You turn all things to your loving purposes in ways we would never expect or imagine. Thank You so much.
That afternoon we drove down the island to the ferry. Our car was the first one to get on board. When we got on, we met more friends who we hadn’t been able to visit in the few days we’d been on the island. And then an announcement came on, calling Lionel (and two of his friends who were also on the waiting list) to the purser’s office for cabins. Two of the cabins were on the outer sides of the ferry, but one cabin was on the inner, center part, where there would be very little movement from the waves. This, too, was a gift to us, as Lionel gets seasick very easily. And we were so exhausted after the past two days of sorrow. We were able to sleep deep and soundly and have a refreshing shower in the morning before getting off the ferry. We stopped for breakfast at Tim Horton’s in Prince Rupert, and a number of Lionel’s friends and relatives were there to comfort us. One of them, Irvin, gave us cedar headbands he had woven, along with feathers, for us and also for Robyn’s sons.
We travelled that day, July 15th, as far as Quesnel. It was a long drive, and twice along the way there were a couple very close calls, as other cars did some very dangerous driving, and we were literally within inches of being in serious accidents—and yet we were safe. More gifts from You—and, no doubt, from Your angel guardians and messengers you send to us in our times of need. Along the way, songs kept running through my mind: “Because He lives I can face tomorrow…” and “My beautiful home…” and “I’ll fly away to glory…” and more.
It was quite late when we got to Quesnel, and we were too tired to camp. We checked hotels and motels, but they were all full. Finally, we tried the Travel Lodge and they had one room left. It was a lovely suite, and we were able to have another good sleep. It turned out that it was “Billy Barker Days” in Quesnel, and every room in the town was taken for their annual big summer festival. The monetary gifts we had received made it possible for us to have a nice hotel room. What a blessing. While we were there, I was checking my emails, since the Lodge had good internet wifi, and I ended up having a long chat on Facebook with Robyn’s friend, Cherie, who had tried so hard to help her. She was feeling so devastated, and even in my own sorrow and loss of words to express myself, it was You who gave me words of comfort and assurance to share with her. Thank You, yet again.
On July 16, we drove the rest of the way home to Penticton, arriving early afternoon. We cleaned out the car, did some business, and visited our daughter Wendy and her children, all comforting each other. We unloaded the many jars of fish and seafood we had been gifted with, and the mugs, and as it unexpectedly turned out, each of our children were able, in the next couple of weeks, to pick some up to take home with them. While we were home, we were given gifts from local friends, and received a phone call from my Uncle Preston, the last of my mom’s family. Even though he has dementia, he was able to speak clearly and was so comforting. We were also receiving more monetary gifts from friends and family far and wide. We had feared that with the economic situation our family would not be able to gather together at Campbell River, but as gifts kept arriving, that fear was turned to joy as we were able to share those monetary gifts with them.
We left for Vancouver Island early on July 17 and arrived in Campbell River late that afternoon. We had not been able to get reservations on the ferry but still, we only had to wait a couple hours before being able to get on the ferry. We went to Alex’s house to visit with him, and with William and Thomas. We gave the boys their gifts from Haida friends and family, and they were very happy to receive them. Alex’s parents graciously invited us to spend the night in their guest room at their house. They all welcomed us so lovingly and were so kind and generous.
On July 18 we woke to sunshine. There had been mostly gray skies and quite a lot of rain the entire time we were on Haida Gwaii, and even while travelling to Vancouver Island, but now the sun had come out, and it felt like You were shining down on us. We were wondering where we could stay, a campground or low-cost motel or even in our car on the street. But that wasn’t Your plan. In the morning, Gail took us over to Melissa and Dave’s home (Alex’s sister, Gail’s daughter). They had just left for a week of holidays and let us stay in their beautiful home. What a blessing! Meantime, Alex’s friends loaned campers for our family members, one set up at Alex’s place and one at Melissa’s place, for other family members to stay in. Without those, none of us could have afforded to pay for a place to stay. A friend of Wendy’s husband invited them to stay at their home with them. And Peter stayed at Alex’s. So, we all had a good place to stay as each arrived later in the week.
That morning I also had phone conversations with the police and coroner. They were so kind and helpful. As her parents, we were next of kin, as Alex and Robyn were legally separated due to the effect of Robyn’s bipolar illness on their relationship, but Alex so kindly offered to take care of the many legal issues surrounding her death, and we okayed it so her body could be released to the funeral home, and so he could deal with legalities. Alex was so amazing and caring; we would have been lost without him. And he is such a wonderful dad, helping their boys work through the loss of their mom even as he was dealing with his own sense of loss; he is an amazing and loving man. Alex had a good friend at one of the funeral homes, and that friend was also so helpful. The police, coroner, and funeral director, and the two people who had found Robyn’s body, advised us that we would be wise not to view her body but to keep our memories of our beautiful daughter in our hearts and minds, so that is what we did.
Over the next few days, we went daily to Robyn’s apartment to help clean and sort through her things. Robyn, from the time she was very young, had been so neat and tidy. Yet her place was a terrible mess now, and it was obvious she had been hanging on to everything for a very long time (no doubt giving her a sense of security) and rarely cleaning up—another sure sign of her mental illness that she had hidden from us, even as she did her best to care for her children and continue to work in her profession as an LPN and as a teacher of new care aides at a local college. Alex was taking care of sorting through the boys’ things, and good friends—wonderful friends—of his were helping him out with the sorting as well as taking items to suitable places such as his house, thrift stores, or the dump.
My job, besides doing some cleaning, was to sort through Robyn’s personal belongings. In some ways it was hard to see and handle and organize these tangible reminders of her, but I think it was also a way of letting go. I organized her clothes (she loved beautiful clothes) and jewelry, her sewing machine and other related items such as knitting and embroidery supplies, etc. so that Alex and the boys and our other four children could go through them and take reminders of their sister when they arrived. Lionel and I took just a few small items; it seemed overwhelming to choose anything more.
Alex also asked me to take boxes of paperwork and go through them—all kinds of records—and organize them for him to deal with, as well as dispose of those he would not need to see. I spent evenings going through them where we were staying; some of them were difficult to see. Robyn had hidden much of the dark side of her illness and its effects on her life from us; I am sure she did not want to burden us more than what we heard her say when she would sometimes phone us, deep in depression and self-medicating, dark and painful things that could only have come from the effect of the bipolar illness she was suffering from, not from the beautiful, loving daughter we knew she truly was.
Another “gift” we had while we were dealing with all these things was that Lionel discovered the entire “Young Sheldon” television series on a TV channel where we were staying, and over a few days we watched and laughed; it was kind of silly, but at the same time was a pleasant relief that kept us going. Truly, laughter is good medicine, even at (perhaps especially at) the worst of times. We also went for walks along the beautiful ocean beaches in Campbell River, one of Robyn’s favorite activities, which we always had done with her when we were able to visit with her in past years.
And we spent time by phone and by email and Facebook chats with our other children, figuring out what to do next. They each decided they really wanted to come out—from Alberta and from Penticton—to Vancouver Island, though they could not afford it. But because of the generous gifts of family and friends that kept arriving, along with the last of our money in our bank account, we were able to help them with traveling expenses, and then when they arrived, people in Campbell River provided campers or homes for them to stay in. We decided that instead of having a formal funeral, we would all gather at a local beach for a picnic and beach activities to honor Robyn’s memory; we were sure that is what she would have been most happy for us to do. We sent out a message to her friends inviting them to join us.
On July 22, our children and some of our grandchildren started to arrive, meeting at Alex’s home. Even though some had not been able to get ferry reservations to the island, they all were able to get on the ferries with little time waiting in line. Another blessing. That evening we had dinner together, and the girls went to Robyn’s place to choose some items from the things I had sorted and organized, to remember her by. Lionel and I took William and Thomas to the town pier in the evening for ice cream treats and we had a happy time together. The boys teased Lionel for driving slowly like an old man and holding up traffic! That day and the next morning, July 23, we spent time together in Alex’s house and big back yard, soaking up sunshine, sharing good food, talking and laughing about good memories of the past, and just generally being together as a family. The grandchildren had fun together, playing video games and spending lots of time on the trampoline.
In the afternoon of the 23rd, we all gathered at the beach as we’d planned. Alex’s parents and some of Robyn’s friends also joined us, and her friends told us of what a wonderful influence she had been on their lives with her caring nature. Besides picnicking and visiting, some of the family went swimming and took walks on the beach. Our youngest granddaughter “beachcombed,” gathering seashells and other small items for her collection. I went on a lovely walk along the shore with my oldest daughter. Some of the men and boys went for a walk along the beach sidewalk. Thomas was missing his mom terribly (as I’m sure William was also, though he was trying to be strong), and he and Tsinni Lionel spent time together—that May long weekend bonding time less than two months prior had prepared a connection between them that was so needed at this moment.
Melissa and Dave had arrived home from holidays that evening, so we spent that night at Kevin and Gail’s home again. In the morning, Kevin took some of the boys out fishing in his boat. Lionel relaxed in front of the TV at Alex’s house while Taryn and I went for a long walk.
About noon time, Lionel and I got in our vehicle and drove south down the island to Victoria to visit with his sister, Rose, and her family. Lionel had six sisters, and now that Kathy had passed away (the others having all passed in recent years, which made Kathy’s passing even harder for him), Rose is his only sister still living (as well as his brother Reynold). We wanted to spend time with Rose and comfort her on the loss of both Kathy and Robyn. Rose had been so close to her sisters, and also to Robyn during the years they both lived on Vancouver Island (Rose had 4 sons, so Robyn was like a daughter to her), so their passing was very sad for her. We arrived there in late afternoon, and had a wonderful visit into the evening, and then again in the early morning, with Rose and her sons, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren (Rose’s husband had also passed not long before). We looked at pictures and shared memories of so many happy family events over the years. July 24th was also my birthday, and while it was not the way I’d have looked forward to celebrating it (I love birthdays!), it was a blessed day, nonetheless.
On the morning of the 25th, we drove back north to catch the ferry at Nanaimo, and we arrived home in Penticton in the early evening. In the past 20 days or so, we had put several thousand miles on our vehicle, and never once did we have any kind of car trouble—though it was the peak of high gas prices and we did put about $1000 on our credit card for gas, not knowing how we’d pay it off when we got home. But that was taken care of by You, too, as the credit card bill didn’t come till late August and finally, by then, we were able to access our TFSA funds. Meanwhile, over the next couple weeks, we rested a lot, cleaned up our house, took care of business, and were treated to restaurant meals by family and friends. My granddaughter, Hailey, had done her best to take care of our garden, watering it daily while we were gone; otherwise, it would have been completely dried out and dead. Sarah and her children, and our son Peter, had been able to stay in our house coming from and returning to Alberta and our grandchildren had fun together playing video games on Tsinni Lionel’s gaming sets. Taryn and family visited on their way back to Alberta, and we had a joint birthday part with them and Wendy’s family, as Wendy, Taryn, and I all have July birthdays.
During the two weeks or so before we were to fly out to Alberta, I set up a “Memory” page on one of my websites (where you all may be reading this right now) and posted writings that helped me deal with the loss of my beautiful daughter. I posted a story I had written 15 years ago called “R is for Robyn” and, as I went through Robyn’s things, I had found a letter I wrote to her when she was just 13 and she had saved it all those years, so I posted that, too. I wrote about the hymns and songs that had comforted me so much in the past weeks. And I wrote a thank you post to all the people who had provided us with so much love and so many gifts. I also bought a new scanner and went through Robyn’s photo albums (which I then shipped back to Alex and their boys) as well as photos I had from all of Robyn’s life. It ended up with 1200 scanned pictures! I put copies on flash drives for Robyn’s siblings and Alex and her boys. It was so comforting to look through all the photos of her life, from the day of her birth to the last time we’d seen her on the May long weekend. I also saved all the pictures and notes that family and friends had posted on Facebook. I had brought home a few of Robyn’s lovely scarves and I made a hanging display of them, and I also made a display of other small items we had kept, putting them on the top of our piano; it seemed like an appropriate place, as Robyn loved music, and had learned to play instruments in her teens. I also created 3 photo albums on Facebook of our time on Haida Gwaii and on Vancouver Island. My grandchildren next door came by nearly every day to play table games with me and video games with Tsinni, and they helped us out around the house and truly shared their love and made sure we were okay.
One day, while I was in the middle of scanning, a strange, even inexplicable thing happened. I put one of my photos in the scanner and pressed the button. But instead of just that picture turning up on my computer, another one also came up with it—a picture I had never seen before of a child’s Valentine “mailbox” made of two paper plates put together and painted red, and on the front, three hearts that looked like little Valentine cookies—and on them the three letters, MOM. I showed it to Lionel and, after he gasped, he said, “It is a gift to us.” A friend who is a computer tech said he had never heard of such a thing happening and that it is technically not possible. Another miracle.
The same day, a friend called and told us he had seen a vision of Robyn in heaven with Jesus, working on making beautiful wooden furniture. This friend did not know that Robyn had been the top woodworking student in her graduating class and that several items of furniture in our home were designed and built by her. Yet in the vision he saw her doing that—with the Master Carpenter and Creator Himself. He sat down and wrote us a description of what he saw. Along with this story I am writing now, I will be adding the story he wrote, and the story and picture of the Valentine gift, to the other items on my website.
During all this time, though, except for when we were at the hospital when Kathy passed away, I hardly ever cried. I wrote in my journal, “I keep wondering why, when it comes to deaths, especially of dear family and friends close to us, I actually mostly feel relieved rather than sad and grief-stricken. Is it a defense mechanism? Or am I really just happy for them to be in a better place (a way better place)? We were brought up in such a narrow way of thinking about death and heaven or hell. But now … people are so much more open to God’s love and compassion, rather than fearing so much judgment. Too open? I don’t know. I’m sure death is not the end …. I know Robyn always loved the Lord, in spite of all her troubles. Even Pastor Bruce told Lionel that he believes God is a lot more loving and compassionate that we’ve often been led to believe. Anyway, I’m not worried about her at all…. I’m just sad to think of all the pain and sorrow Robyn expressed over the years, her fear that even though she loved Jesus, she would go to hell because of things she did under the influence of her bipolar illness…. She felt she was hopeless.” But I know her Creator knew her heart and never stopped loving her, and I know she is with Him now, her pain and tears wiped away, and we will see each other with great joy.
On August 10th, my sister Marilyn came from her home at the coast to visit with us, and to take us to the airport in Kelowna on the 13th for the flight to Alberta, which Peter and Jo had arranged months previous, paying for it with their airmiles. Then she spent a few quiet days in our home, looking after it and watering the garden; after she went home our next-door grandchildren continued to do the watering, and the garden was in good shape when we returned home two weeks later. Thank You for all these wonderful provisions!
When we arrived in Alberta at the big Edmonton airport, Peter picked us up and took us to his and Jo’s place in Leduc. We were welcomed by Jo and her five children—now the five children of them both. Peter was so happy to introduce us to his big instant family. We also met his next-door neighbor, Suzanne. Peter had lived in her room-and-board home for several years when he was single and working building and repairing cell phone towers. He had met Jo and the kids a number of times, and we learned that the youngest one had once told her mom, “Some day Peter will be my dad!” More of Your planning, Lord?
All of the family were so happy together. Over the next few days, Taryn and Sarah and their families, and Tony and Amy, came over to visit and for meals. Jo is from Texas and is a wonderful cook of Mexican foods—real Mexican foods, the best we ever tasted! She also, along with her oldest daughter, has a successful photography career, and Peter is being a great house-husband, taking care of the house and their children. He fits right in; after all, he is the youngest of five children in our family, so he is totally used to being part of a big family. One afternoon there was a short thunderstorm, and immediately after, a beautiful double rainbow filled the sky over their neighborhood.
We had a great time getting to know our new daughter-in-law, Jo, and our five new grandchildren. Taryn and Sarah already had gotten to know them over the past months, and they totally love them, too. It had been at least 4 or 5 years since we’d seen our oldest grandchild, Tony, and it was so nice to see him again and meet his girlfriend, Amy. They are so happy with each other, and we are so happy for them, too. While it is very sad that we have lost one of our own precious children on this earth, You have been growing our family with wonderful new grandchildren and in-law children. We now have 8 direct descendants as grandchildren, plus 9 more “adopted” ones! Sarah’s children have a half-sister, Taryn’s son Tony has his girlfriend, Wendy has two dear step-children, and then there are Peter and Jo’s five children—with perhaps more to come some day? Wouldn’t that be something! When we came home, I posted 3 albums on Facebook of our time there, and if you all would like, you can see our beautiful Alberta family there.
And, after all, Robyn isn’t totally lost from us. She is in our hearts every day, and as I wrote in my journal, “Life sometimes separates us for a while, but we’ll see each other again down the road, so it’s okay…. I really do feel calm and certain that Robyn ‘is safe in the arms of Jesus,’ and that I’ll see her again…. I’ve gotten past that fear of not ever ‘knowing for sure’ if loved ones (and especially our children and grandchildren) are ‘saved’ or not. Thank You, Lord, for looking after them, for giving me ‘calm assurance’ that You love them and that their future is indeed in Your hands. I did do the best I knew how, as their mother, to point them toward You, though for much of their childhood I myself didn’t really understand Your love, as I had been brought up to know You mostly as a judge, and I know they have suffered from teachings, from me, yes, and from ‘church people’ who themselves really didn’t know You and Your love very well. When my children grew up, I kept praying for them and loving them, and sometimes worrying about them which I’m sure they have felt in a negative way…. But in the end, I have come to realize all I can do is give them over to You. All the ‘worrying’ in the world doesn’t change things. Only Your Love can truly heal and change us.” And in eternity You are there for those who have loved and sought You, following You in whatever way You have reached out to them, and have revealed Yourself to them, and have shown them Your love. And forever they will be with You where burdens and tears are wiped away and replaced with Your love and joy. (Though sometimes “voices” natter in my head about all this … but no, I’m not going to fall into that worry trap or feel guilty, whoever you are, voices; after all, as I wrote in my journal, “Why should I feel guilty about trusting Jesus? About trusting the loving God of the universe?”).
I also wrote, “I just know You do know people’s innermost hearts and that You judge justly, and that … Jesus is ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ and the path to the Father – but also that God is Love and Wisdom, and that He is Just, so I trust our Creator will take care of all of this … in whatever way he leads and draws each person, knowing their unique, individual situations and hearts … and so I can leave others in His Love and Wisdom” (and I am so grateful that I am not called to judge—in fact, I am called to not judge! He knows all, He is Love. So that is that. Period). Meanwhile, “please make me more open to Your leading when being in relationship with others,” and help me share Your Love with them as You share it with me. “So, maybe I am relaxing in You again. Feeling open enough to record my thoughts about all this at least a little.” (So long I have been afraid to do that, afraid of what people might say or think [or judge] … but Your Love does cast out fear! Another lesson I’m learning through this part of my Journey with You!)
Anyway, we had a wonderful two weeks in Alberta, spending some of our time at Peter and Jo’s, some at Sarah and Daryl’s, and some at Taryn and Andrew’s … and everyone going back and forth, enjoying each other’s presence, caring for and comforting each other in tough moments, and yes, having a lot of fun and laughter together—which is so healing. Good food, good companionship, good conversation … all reflections of Your Love for all of us in this time of our very human need. (Even if I sometimes found all those dogs and cats and chickens and mosquitoes a bit overwhelming, LOL!).
We flew home on August 27 and since then I feel like the “fog” that surrounded me in the depths of sorrow has been lifting, and I’m slowly feeling more alive and creative as the days pass. I’ve been doing some “creative” things like coloring pictures and organizing my art supplies and such, and getting back into my tutoring and editing/coaching business slowly and carefully (not allowing it to overwhelm), and clearing out a lot of unnecessary “stuff” from my home and office, and enjoying the fresh, crisp fall air, and gathering more with friends—and yes, with You, in quiet, personal, thoughtful, conversational ways (rather than “ritual” ways, though, yes, there are times when that is important, too). I am collecting ideas on how to change up my garden next year, doing more “upwards” planting and maybe putting in a drip irrigation system so the garden can better take care of itself if we’re away a lot in the summer (like we were during this one, unexpected though it was). And looking forward to activities and gatherings of my writing friends; and also of friends who want to share in Journey with You.
And oh! Writing, of course—finally, the fog breaking and the sunshine breaking through into my mind, allowing conversation—with You, and with others, both in spoken and written words. I find myself wanting to write alongside my tutoring students as they do the writing exercises I assign them during their lessons, and I’ve made a list of “artists’ dates” I’d like to do, and I’d like to set aside a half hour a day to just sit and write about anything that pops into my mind. And… wow, here I am writing this “reflection” I’ve been wanting to get to working on ever since Robyn went Home, but I couldn’t seem to get started … and now that I have, it really isn’t very much of what I planned. But then, of course, I did ask You to give me the words, not mine, but Yours. Thank You.
(And also, I definitely want to get away from so much TV and computer time-wasting that I got into due to my ‘brain fog’ in the past while). (And I want to spend some intentional daily time with You; and get back to things I’ve been longing to do, like improving my French language skills, and doing some sewing and embroidery and knitting and piano and guitar…).
I’ve been re-reading books that You have placed in my path in the past, and which it seems You have placed in my path again; You know when I need them. “He Loves Me” and “The Secret Garden” and “A Slightly Tilting Planet” and “The Shack” and a book on “Edible Landscaping” and more. Whether they are fictional or nonfiction, written for children or adults, and some of them perhaps a bit questionable theologically according to some folks, through each one You have spoken so clearly to me (maybe another positive aspect of this sad but joyous part of my Journey with You is that I am now perhaps willing to “listen” more willingly and intentionally and intensely for Your voice in the many ways You Speak. And Love. And Reach Out to Your children).
I’ve taken down the display of items related to my Robyn that I’d placed on my piano top, and I’ve tucked most of them away. I’ve been wearing a couple of sweaters of hers on these crisp autumn days and sometimes I bury my nose in a couple of her scarves, feeling her hugging me in these simple ways. Some days I really do miss her and my heart hurts, and I’m also lonely for my family who are scattered here and there. And I wonder how I can help and care for Alex and William and Thomas. But then I remind myself that we are truly connected and wrapped together in Your Love, now … and always.
I had a dream one night, and in it I saw Kathy, young and healthy and lovely (I’d never known her before she had that first devasting stroke so many years ago, so in the dream I wasn’t even sure it was her, but her children believed it was her.). Lionel told me he believes our loved ones can reach out to us in dreams or even in other ways, often inexplicable ones (like that photo of the “MOM” valentine that popped up, out of “nowhere,” when I was scanning those Robyn pictures…) (and that note from Papa to Mack in the mailbox in “The Shack” … yes, I know that’s a fictional story—or is it? Hmm…).
I was thinking about “near death experiences” after Kathy’s husband told us about his own that happened a month or so before she passed away. In my journal I wrote, “…when I hear about people who’ve returned from near-death experiences, and what they describe, I do sometimes wonder how close or far apart we (those who have “passed” and those still “alive”) really are.” And “My own experiences with ‘déjà vu’ also make me wonder about the fragility [the ‘thin veil’] of time and space.” You know. You ARE everywhere and always, eternally Present. Yes. Thank You.
Okay, enough for now. Today is September 22, Fall Equinox, and in a few hours (apparently 6:03 pm, according to the guy on the radio) it will officially be the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. The night temperatures are already falling into the single Celsius digits, and I’ll soon need to bring in the remaining tomatoes and peppers and such from the garden, green as they may still be, so they don’t freeze. Meanwhile, the sun is still shining, and it’s supposed to reach 25 degrees today. I sat in the park yesterday for lunch with one of my students and noticed that one of the trees is finally showing off fall colors on its leaves (a month later than usual, but the weather’s been like that all this spring and summer and now fall. And consequently, the plants, too). Things around us, in our world, are changing. But Your Love never changes. I’m holding on to that. Thank You, once again.