Tag Archives: grief

He was a Terrible Cat, and I Loved Him

 

Near the end of February, my sweet and terrible Orange Cat died. It was sudden and swift, and utterly unexpected. It is amazing what a huge space that little cat took up in my heart and in my home.

 

He’s been with me since he was eight weeks old. He and his brother came from the Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter, where they were dumped off in a box in the middle of winter along with their mom and another kitten. When my now-ex and I went to the shelter looking for one short-haired kitten, the mom and one sibling had already been adopted. These two remaining kittens were tiny fuzzy balls, one orange face and one grey with a vertical white stripe along his nose.  Apart from their color, they were identical in shape and movement: their little tails twitched simultaneously, their sweet heads tilted at the same angle; they moved and reacted in unison.  They were adorable! Continue reading

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Say Something

The news is terrible everywhere.

Sunday night it was a shooting in a mosque in Quebec City. Six people dead, nineteen injured. The shooter was a white guy, a Trump supporter.

Monday night I was supposed to go out for dinner with an old friend from high school, Joanne. She texted me to ask what time I wanted to meet up. I was torn. I love getting together with her, but I really felt the need to go to that evening’s vigil for the victims of the shooting.

After a bit of texting back and forth, Joanne and I agreed that she and her daughter would pick me up and we would all go to the vigil together.

The vigil was… like any other. Some hundreds of us huddled with our toques and mittens, clutching our jars and glasses containing lit candles, rocking on our feet and curling our toes to keep them warm during the sad and inspiring and heartfelt speeches.

At one point, two protestors interrupted the speech with their signs to condemn Canada for having removed and endangered their children, and at first it looked like they were going to be ushered off the steps of the Legislature, but ultimately they were allowed to speak. I felt sorry for them and moved by their family’s plight, and I was grateful to them for interrupting the “wishful thinking” thread running through most the vigil in which speaker after speaker almost unanimously praised Canada as being a safe haven and a place where diversity is welcome and celebrated.

Because that wishful thinking lets us off the hook. If it was that safe here, those parents wouldn’t be mourning the disappearance of their children. That mosque wouldn’t have been shot up by a racist. Our jails wouldn’t be overwhelmingly filled with non-white people, particularly Indigenous people. Companies wouldn’t be bringing up migrant labour from Mexico and housing them twelve to a trailer for the summer. Women wouldn’t be getting raped and then blamed for it. No one would be trying to degay anyone or murder trans people.

But we keep giving those speeches and we keep repeating it to each other. Because we want to believe that’s not us. We’re not homophobic or misogynist or racist or classist or ableist or transphobic or in any way discriminatory. We would never (shoot Muslims) (rape anyone) (disown a queer family member).

It’s not enough. It’s not enough to stand at a vigil with a candle on a winter’s evening, no matter how comforting it is to mourn in community, no matter how important it is to be a body in the street, to stand up and be counted, to be another face in the lake of faces when the TV cameras pan across the crowd. These are important, but they are only a small step. Showing up at a vigil does not challenge anything or change much.

It’s hard to change. Hard to change within ourselves and hard to change our behaviour to intervene when we should. There’s so much work to do to unlearn all the crap we’ve been taught and fed, the lies we breathe in, the stereotypes we drink like water.

And there’s also so much work to do to learn how to interrupt others. It’s not necessarily our job to change people’s minds, but it IS our job to clearly express what language and behaviour we will or will not tolerate. It IS our job to not remain silent. We, especially if we embody multiple sites of privilege, have no “right” to remain comfortable and safe. The idea that this is a “right” is a facet of our privilege. Say something. Say anything.

A couple of years ago, I stumbled across Captain Awkward’s blog. Since then, I have read every single post, and probably 90% of the comments. The blog and the community that has built up there is very supportive and insightful in terms of articulating boundaries, taking responsibility for one’s own feelings and actions, dealing with annoying or abusive people, and holding others accountable for their own behaviour.

Captain Awkward is not perfect, but she owns it. She corrects her mistakes, apologises when necessary, and is responsive to feedback from her commenters. Most of the regular commenters are the same way. It’s an interesting place and I am sharing this with you in the hopes that hanging out there for a while over time might be as helpful to you as it is to me.

Some of Captain Awkward’s posts are specifically geared to how to deal with racism and Trumpism and sexism and other forms of discrimination. Others are more about dealing with difficult people and situations in other contexts. But there are lots of recurring themes: Use your words. “No” is a complete sentence. Let it be awkward. Build and maintain good boundaries. These are valuable skills and concepts for changing the world, bit by bit.

I’d love to hear what online resources have been helpful to you in learning how to stand up and make change. The more information and strategies we have, the better—as long as we actually put them into practice.

 

 

Holding Grief and Happiness in the Same Hands

A few days ago, I wrote about a retirement party I attended, and talked about the importance of paying attention to life transitions. The past week has been very full of those, with a workplace baby on the way, two funerals, and the ongoing decline of the Brindle Dog. And today in particular is special because it’s the birthday of an amazing woman who is a talented artist and a wonderful friend. (I know you sometimes read my blog, J., so happy birthday to you in yet another public venue–did I do Instagram yet? 🙂 )

It’s been hard. Exhausting. Heartbreaking. But also beautiful and hopeful. Continue reading

Old Dogs: When the News is Bad

With a clump of snow on her adorable nose.

Ten years ago this month, when she was only two years old, the Brindle Dog developed a mast cell tumour in her neck. I remember very clearly the moment I first felt it, when she and I were playing and I was rubbing and tugging at the sides of her neck. She was wiggling and wagging, and I was laughing. Under my fingertips, I felt a lump deep in the left side of her neck and I thought that’s weird, I don’t recall that dogs are supposed to have a bump there, and at the same time I was reaching for the other side to see if it was bilateral. No, it was not. No matter how hard I poked and prodded, I could not find a corresponding lump on the right side, and my heart sank. I felt a deep fear in my belly and called the vet right away to make an appointment.

A veterinary surgical oncologist removed the malignant tumour, but due to the amount of structures in the neck, the margins were not as clean as desired. My then-partner and I were advised to send her to Saskatchewan for a month of radiation treatment during which time she would be fostered, undergo general anaesthetic every day for the radiation treatment, and require intravaenous feeding because her throat would be burned from the radiation. We elected not to do this. Continue reading

F*ck Cancer (or, Another Dog at the Bridge)

Poe's eighth birthday. Taken at Urban Canine by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Poe’s eighth birthday. Taken at Urban Canine by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Remember how my post about Cookie’s death nearly went viral last weekend? That was because Cookie’s mom finally felt ready to read it, and she shared it on Facebook, prompting many of her friends to read and share it.

In a heartbreaking coincidence, another one of her dogs, Poe, died on Friday. Poe was only eight, but he had a haemangiosarcoma on his spleen which ruptured. Haemangiosarcoma is an aggressive cancer more common in dogs than cats or humans. From what I understand, this shitty cancer (aren’t they all) starts in the lining of the blood vessels and leads to large blood-filled tumours which can rupture. That’s what happened to Poe.

Poe comforting his sister Cookie after her diagnosis of osteosarcoma (with my Fluffy Dog in the background comforting Poe). Taken by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Poe comforting his sister Cookie after her diagnosis of osteosarcoma (with my Fluffy Dog in the background comforting Poe). Taken by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Poe was a well-known and much-loved dog, and people who knew him have been sharing their memories and pictures of him on Facebook. Poe was adopted by my friend when he was about eight months old. He and his brother Jack and four of their siblings were running wild down in Ohio, and were live-trapped. The person who caught them remembers that all six of them were so scared that they were piled onto each other in a corner. It seems that the shelter there found them too feral to adopt out, and wanted to euthanise them because it was felt they would never make good pets. Continue reading

Death Visits my Workplace

Someone at work died last night of a heart attack. I barely knew him, even though I’ve worked here for a decade and he’s been here longer (it’s a large institution). But the whole place is walking around in shock. People are talking about him, about his death, and about their past interactions with him.

But I can’t be the listener. I just can’t. I know I have trouble understanding and dealing with attachment. I know I have bad reactions to loss. I know that I have spent so much of my life both ruthlessly suppressing my feelings while simultaneously trying to learn how to understand and express them. All of this is part of it. Also, I’ve been carefully and cruelly trained to always make other people’s feelings more important than my own, as well as to meet other people’s needs at the expense of my own, and I have worked so very hard to try to unlearn this. So to suddenly find myself in the middle of this sea of shock and grief, with people wanting to talk, or even when they don’t, when every instance of eye contact is accompanied by sad faces and head tilts and resigned shrugs and meaningful sighs… I just can’t. Continue reading