Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wending my way towards the light

Last night I had one of my flying dreams, only this time I was awake.

I soared up through the clouds, lifted by the sultry thundering voice of an unlikely angel...

When k.d. lang was a child, the gods reached down and gifted her with a voice for the ages. The sweet purity and luxuriant power of her stunning voice leaves me struggling for words that aren’t cloying or overwrought.

There are many days when, like Charlie Brown, I walk under a cloud that follows me from place to place but last night was one of those times when light punched through my shadowed world.

I wept silently in awe listening with eyes closed to her sublime rendition of The Valley. This was as close to any divine moments I’ve experienced. Words fail...

The Valley written by Jane Siberry (Issa)

Soaring up into the cool starry night sky, arms outstretched, guiding me over tree tops and turning, turning across wide open fields up towards the limitless stars, surrounded and carried on waves of melody.

What a voice, what a gift... thank you k.d. for those transcendent moments.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Love is a mix tape

Anyone who came of age during the 80's or 90's has no doubt been the creator and/or the recipient of a mix tape. I certainly was, I even have memories of taping songs from the radio onto my funky white plastic portable cassette recorder/player (it was the late 70's, cut me some slack).

Mix tapes heralded the beginning of individuals creating, in effect, soundtracks for their own lives... self-publishing before the world of YouTube existed. The mix tape was the first step towards what we now take for granted in the modern world of 'pick & choose' MP3 music.

Most of you will remember the popular movie High Fidelity, based on Nick Hornby's book of the same title - a classic tribute to music and love and mix tapes. There was even a Friends episode in which Chandler gives Monica a mix tape for Valentine's Day - sufficed to say that despite his good intentions the evening did not end well.

Chris made me several CD compilations over the years. The first he titled Here's Hopin' and gave to me the summer we started going out - apparently he was smitten and wasn't afraid to let me know! Others included one for Valentine's Day entitled Better Than Flowers (hmmm) and a blues-themed one I received for a birthday entitled Don't Nobody Know My Troubles but God. He also made compilations for family and friends - sharing music was his way of telling them he loved them.

A while back a fellow librarian, knowing of Chris' death, recommended a book entitled Love is a Mix Tape by music journalist and life-long creator of mix tapes Rob Sheffield. The autobiographical book recounts his time in Charlottesville, Virginia during the 1990's where he fell head over heels in love with fellow mix tape aficionado Renée Crist "a hell-raising Appalachian punk-rock girl". Not quite six years after their wedding, Renée died very suddenly from a pulmonary embolism at the age of 31.

In many ways this book is Sheffield's tribute to Renée but it's also the story of his slow and sometimes painful musical journey back into the world of light and laughter. It's been described as the happiest, sad story you'll ever read. This is a funny and well-written story - I smiled and laughed throughout this book. Of course I cried as well - how could I not?

I think Chris would have enjoyed the story of Rob and Renée - he would have recognized wry similarities in the 'opposites attract' stories. (Although I'm sure he would have taken issue with some of the musical selections or the way they were put together. Like most music junkies, he was very opinionated about how to put together a great compilation - how the songs worked together was just as important as the songs themselves!)

If you enjoy a good mix tape, you'll enjoy this book. It will bring a smile to your face.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Another kind of family

Last month I attended the annual dialysis memorial service organized by the staff of the hospital dialysis program. This very touching event is becoming more and more common in dialysis clinics as staff come together with families to share their grief at the loss of people who are more than just patients.

Unlike most other healthcare settings, dialysis staff and patients spend many hours together several times a week over the span of months and often years. Despite rotations in shifts and changes to schedules, patients and staff get to know each other well - sharing stories of children and grandchildren, work goals and travel photos, happy news and difficult struggles.

I visited Chris fairly often at dialysis. We would catch up on our day or watch TV together... I once got corralled into refereeing a trivia challenge. Family members are welcome in the unit and I got to meet many of the "other women" in Chris' life - especially the hardworking, kind, generous, funny nurses who took care of his dialysis regime while he was hooked up to the machine. There were also nurse practitioners, doctors, dieticians, and technicians who all played vital roles in maintaining Chris' health - indeed his life.

For these staff, the losses of patients each year must take a difficult toll. Like cancer care, death is sadly an all too common part of dialysis care but the people who choose such a career path seem to be especially resilient and caring individuals who somehow manage to share the burden of chronic illness but also the joys of life.

This year, 44 dialysis patients who passed away last year were honoured at the memorial service. Several staff spoke from their hearts or read poems, their voices thick with emotion. Families and friends were invited to light memorial candles. The theme of this year's service was The Spirit of Transformations and that transformation was represented by butterflies which was especially touching to me... almost like a secret gift. I felt Chris smiling with me at the bittersweet coincidence.

I will be forever grateful to the staff of the dialysis unit who helped Chris live his life to the fullest. There were many other places he would rather have been but if he had to be there, I'm glad he was in such caring and capable hands. Thank you for all you do.

A home of one's own

In case you've been wondering what I've been up to during the last few weeks... I bought a house!!

I guess the hankering to feel grass under my feet was re-awoken once spring began and I realized I was ready to take that step. Last fall I wasn't ready to leave the apartment that Chris and I had shared. I'm excited and nervous but it will be fun (except for the actual moving). And now I can finally have my own backyard swing, just as Chris promised me.