Friday, July 1, 2011

WWMD and why I'm here

I first came to Nova Scotia in early September or late August, 1973. My husband and I drove here from Toronto with our two kids in a red Dodge van. A bit of a long story as to why, but basically we were following friends from Vancouver who had moved here the previous year. I remember though, as we crossed the border from New Brunswick into Nova Scotia, the distinct feeling of having come home. I had never been to Nova Scotia before, knew next to nothing about it.

In 2005 I was living in New Westminster BC, just outside of Vancouver. I was out walking along the Quay one day, thinking about this that and t'other thing while enjoying the scenery along the Fraser River there, and the question popped into my mind, Where did I want to die?

I know, odd thing to be thinking of for no good reason. My excuse is that one of the people I hung out with in New West was a geriatric social worker and she was constantly reminding us that we should be thinking about and planning for our old age. So perhaps that question was her fault.

In any case, the answer was immediate: Nova Scotia. And the next thought was, Well, I guess I'd better get on it because you just never know when things might happen, and New Westminster is about as far away from Nova Scotia as you can get and still be in the same country.

It took a bit of doing, I had a condo to sell and also wanted to spend some time living in Toronto, my birthplace and now home to one of my sons. So five years later, I bought my old home in Nova Scotia back. What brought me back is probably the same thing that brought me here the first time, old friends.

There's something about that time in your life, the first years of adulthood. The connections you make, the things you do, the places you go, the music you listen to. A certain vividness that outlasts all else. Those first years in Nova Scotia were hardly idyllic, involving as it did the breakdown of my brief marriage and the loss of a son. But they were formative. And like it or not I was part of a community of heads/freaks/hippies/back-to-the-landers going through similarly intense experiences. A lot happened.

I left Nova Scotia in 1985 kind of burned out on the whole thing and more than ready to start over anywhere but here. Arriving in the Big City of Ottawa I was delighted to be in a place where I knew no one and nobody knew me. I can't say that delight lasted, but it was certainly refreshing at the time.

I don't know when Midge arrived in Nova Scotia, it was certainly before I left because when I met her in 2008? 2009? she remembered me from those days. I really only knew her a short time but she was someone I would have liked to have spent more time with, an interesting and fun person to be around. On June 20 she died of cancer at age 57, at home surrounded by family. Last night was her Celebration of Life.

In the last weeks of Midge's life her many many friends came together to support her family with whatever was needed. She helped plan her Celebration, suggesting music and general conduct (wine, beer, catered food and bright clothing) and stipulating no g-words. I'm guessing over 200 people came. Local musicians played some of her favourite tunes, including Loreena McKennit's Beltaine Fire. There were a couple of community songs for all of us to sing along. Family members and a couple of close friends spoke a few words describing her impact in their lives. In particular Midge's strong common sensical ethics were referenced, and WWMD (What Would Midge Do) repeated several times.

For the first part of the Celebration were seated in a half-moon facing a small table with three small boxes, Midge's ashes, on it. One for Dorset, her birth home and still the homeplace of her birth family, one for Blomidon so that all of her Nova Scotia family can look out on Cape Blomidon and know that she is there, and one for her daughter to take to Black Rock where they lived as a family and grew up there.

The second part of the Celebration was the mingling with food and drinks to remember and reconnect. I looked out and saw many many faces of friends and acquaintances, some of whom I could not remember names for, but all part of that community I grew up in. This is what I came home for, this is where I belong, like it or not.

A few days before Lin and I were out shopping and we picked up Sympathy cards at one store we were in. Lin said she always bought them in threes, one for now and two to save because we are at that stage in life now when Sympathy cards may come in handy. As we left the Celebration Lin's husband waved at someone else that was leaving and hollered out, See you at the next funeral! Lin made noises to hush him, Don't say that!

But I guess it's true. We're almost through the weddings of our kids, we're into the births of our grandkids and the deaths of our parents and friends. It's all downhill from here. It's good not to go alone.

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