I loved having a Canadian family growing up. My dad was born on a farm in Brigden, Ontario, the third of seventeen children of a Scottish mother and English/Scotch father. Dad quit school after 8th grade to go to work and help the family. He eventually landed a union job at Chrysler in Detroit and became an American citizen. My grandparents later retired to a house on Lake Erie, where my family often spent weekends. We used an outhouse and as kids, my brother and I found that was fun. In fact, my mother’s Slovak parents had a farm upstate near Vassar that had an outhouse, too!
In June, I finally traveled back to the Bear Creek Cemetery to visit the grave of my parents and my dad’s parents – along with other relatives. I used to travel there with my brothers when I first returned from New York. We always took the ferry from Marine City across Lake St. Clair, then traveled along the river on the Canadian side to Brigden. It has been several years since my older brother Gil died and I stopped the trips.
This year I went with my friend Bob and we had to take a longer trip to the Blue Water Bridge that links Port Huron and Sarnia, since the ferry has been discontinued. The adventure seemed gone. The ferry never had long lines, although you might need to wait 20 minutes for it to return from the other shore. Once on the way, you were allowed to get out of the car briefly. It was fun to enjoy the breeze and look for other ships further up the river.
After driving off the ferry, we rode up a highway north along the river, sometimes pulling over when we saw a huge ship coming in order to take photos. Eventually we had to turn away from the river and drive inwards to Brigden, passing a museum that included a wing named in honor of the Shaw family. My grandmother was born Mary Alice Shaw and was close to her brother Francis Shaw, who became a successful communications entrepreneur.
My stay at the Bear Creek Cemetery was brief this year, just long enough to honor my parents and grandparents – and also to walk around to view some of the other Shaw gravestones. I still have many cousins in the Sarnia area and we have promised to stay in touch, even though it could mean long waits now in line to cross back and forth across the bridge.
Remember me when flowers bloom early in the spring
Remember me on sunny days in the fun that summer brings
Remember me in the fall as you walk through leaves of gold
And remember me in the wintertime in the stories that are told
But most of all remember Each day, right from the start
I will be forever near For I live within your heart
Over the Memorial holiday this year, my nieces and other family gathered in a Cemetery Chapel to remember and bury a very special mother and relative – Carol McFarland, who had passed away peacefully in hospice of end stage Parkinson’s Disease. A retired teacher, Carol had always rejoiced in her love of music and her beautiful soprano voice. On Sundays, I attended Church of Christ services at the nursing home with her, my beloved sister-in-law, where she loved singing gospel music. At the funeral, relatives sang a verse of Amazing Grace with the Chaplain. I read the poem “Remember Me.” And yes, we felt her in our hearts.
For the last few years, I’ve written on the unwelcome surprises of modern April showers. Two years ago, it was the intensity of showers that started in February and threatened leaks in my basement. Last year it was the April ice storms and the lingering snow flurries.
Well, in 2019 the rain storms have been milder and later and the ice storms stopped in February, but the back and forth of temperature patterns in April meant lingering snow flurries again this year. Once again, I am struggling with the continued winter weather interrupting my yearnings for more sunshine mixed with warming rains.
Last year I shared one remedy for the April blues – daily meditations to accept dark clouds as readily as we welcome sunshine into our lives. Yes, embrace the clouds and snow. It works to decrease the stress, day by day! But what about changing the future?
This year I wanted to suggest reading books that challenge us to rethink our purpose in life and consider expanding our ambitions to include becoming one of the healers needed to get through the challenges ahead. I have been reading The Path Made Clear, by Oprah Winfrey and just published by Flatiron books. Oprah maintains all of us have a purpose and your real job in life is to figure it out as soon as possible. The second is one I intend to read soon, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life by David Brooks, published by Random House. I just saw an interview with Brooks who talked about his own need to refocus beyond work after his personal life collapsed.
It’s spring and while nature may be struggling, we can choose to find new ways to grow and embrace change to ensure the world also evolves with love.
A first for women in space?
What better timing than March 29th, during Women’s History Month.
That’s when astronauts aboard the International Space Station are scheduled to conduct the first all-
female space walk. Yes, it just so happens the astronauts venturing out together about 240 miles above
Earth are finally women – Anne McClain and Christina Koch. Women will be at the controls as well – Mary
Lawrence will serve as lead flight director and Jackie Kagey will be the lead spacewalk controller.
Turns out it wasn’t orchestrated to be this way. According to NASA, these spacewalks were originally
scheduled to take place in the fall and are meant to upgrade batteries on the space station. Astronaut
Christina Koch noted the importance of conducting her mission during Women’s History Month, calling
it a unique opportunity…”and I hope that I’m able to inspire folks that might be watching.”
Read more on the mission at https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2019/03/07/first-all-female-spacewalk-will-take-place-during-womens-history-month/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.55ecd57027e5
For additional background on women’s history month, click on https://nationalwomenshistoryalliance.org/2019-theme-and-nomination/
My father’s side of the family is Canadian and when the polar vortex hit both Michigan and Ontario hard in late January, I expected similar reactions in both countries. After all, I spent a lot of cold winters as a child in both countries and never noticed a difference in reactions. When Governor Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Michigan, it seemed a wise strategy for temperatures expected to run as low as -14, with wind chills up to -40 or more for two days. Then as the vortex eased, I read an article in the Detroit Free Press noting that our Canadian neighbors had only one modest weather story in the Windsor, Ontario paper, the Windsor Star – while schools and businesses remained open.
Columnist Nancy Kaffer of the Free Press decided to investigate. An expat friend told her “The school has closed once in the 11 years my kids have been going. “ The friend added that buses are shut down for fog or snow, but the schools don’t close. When Kaffer talked to a Wayne County official about the different responses in Canada, he first said “it’s all what you’re used to.” And when reminded that Windsor was just across the Detroit River, he added that “it really would be a great conversation to have with Windsor officials on why their responses are so different.”
I also remembered that as a child, we never cancelled trips either upstate or to relatives in Canada due to the cold, which was sometimes sub-zero. Friends told me similar stories. Guess I also think it may be time for conversations with our Canadian friends!
This year I discovered the TV comedy The Big Bang Theory – and was saddened recently to realize that the
show’s Inspiration, British scientist Stephen Hawking had died in March at the age of 76. I first learned
about his genius by reading his bestseller “ A Brief History of Time” when it came out in 1988 and later
saw the film “The Theory of Everything” in 2014.
Hawking was one of the world’s best-known scientists, with a talent for bringing
complex theoretical physics to the general public. Hawking also was as recognized for
his wheelchair and synthetic speaking voice as for his work in the sciences. Diagnosed with
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease at 21, he achieved greatness
even while his condition eventually all but paralyzed him. He also married twice and had three devoted
Hawking was one of the figures who constantly reminded me that I had no excuses for not realizing my
own dreams. As we celebrate the holidays and make our resolutions for 2019, it’s always good to
remember our challenges only make us stronger. Dream big.