John Lennon’s observation that “Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans,” was an apt mantra for me during the last 4 weeks. Nobody plans a concussion, but life happens. The holiday schedule had included conducting a family Christmas, hosting a post-Christmas gathering of neighbors at the cottage, celebrating a three day family New Year’s event, and then finishing off with a reading on January 4th at the Hamilton Lit Live Reading Series. Nothing went quite as planned.
My amazing husband and sons stepped in to to make Christmas happen; our sons hosted the neighbors up north on the 27th; and my wonderful family (husband, sons, mother, sister, nieces, and brother) made New Year’s an example of team effort.
With more than a little trepidation, I did manage to read at the Lit Live event in Hamilton. What you will see in the attached photo are the very big, and very red Vuarnet sunglasses (circa 1985). They have been perched on my nose for the past 4 weeks even as I lay in a dark bedroom. It’s not possible to overstate the sensitivity to light that one experiences with a concussion.
The Lit Live Committee has recorded the last two months of readings. Click Lit Live Reading Series – Sunday January 4th, 2015 for the audio. Do listen to the clips from the poets. Their readings ranged from quirky and funny, to cerebral and spiritual. One of the delights of this series is the exposure to poetry.
What you will hear when you get to my clip is a rather strained voice. I was anxious for the better part of the day about the lighting, and about my ability to stand for 15 minutes. If I had thought about it, I would also have fretted about multi-tasking: holding a binder, reading words, and turning the pages. So… in the clip you will hear me fumbling at the end of the first page as I try to speak, read, hold the notes and turn the page. Fortunately my brain found an ‘e’ word (extemporaneous) before it found the ‘f’ word.
I dedicated the reading to the memory of Eric McGuiness, the Hamilton journalist who reported on environmental issues for the Hamilton Spectator. Eric provided an informed external voice to our community’s fight in north Flamborough. As we battled a quarry, he was fighting cancer. This past October he wrote:
I’m resigned to the fact that it [cancer] will kill me. What worries me most is how I will die.
If I wind up in a hospice rather than a hospital and if the symptoms can be controlled, perhaps a dignified, quick and peaceful death is possible. Or I could be one of the people who die slowly and painfully: unable to care for myself, pleading for an end to my suffering. Some people who are terminally ill see no choice but violent forms of death that are horrific to contemplate.
Eric died in Switzerland this past month where he could be assured of dying “as easily and humanely as a beloved family pet.”
I started writing Autumn’s Grace in the early 2000’s because I was profoundly disturbed by the state of palliative care in Canada. Fifteen years later, not much has happened to ease my worry. We talk about the subject, but I have yet to see substantive systemic change. Until end of life care is considered as important a public health issue as preparation and support for pregnancy and child birth, people will be faced with challenging choices at end of life.
Photo credit: Gary Barwin