This past weekend, families everywhere celebrated Mother’s Day. As you probably know, I am not a mother. My own mom lives out West, and Roger’s mom lives down East, so celebrations this year consisted of some phone calls.
Sunday was not only Mother’s Day, it was also what would have been my father’s 74th birthday. Growing up, Mother’s Day often fell right around his May 8th birthday, and some years it fell directly on it. No matter what, my Dad would make Mother’s Day the priority; celebrating my Mom and making the reservations, presenting her with something beautiful and often sparkly. He was a master at making other people feel special, and he adored my mother.
On Sunday, I spent several hours talking on the phone with my mom. Some of that time was spent talking about my Dad.
After we hung up, I called my Aunt, my Dad's sister. She lost her partner to his battle with cancer last week, and so I wanted to make sure I reached out to her on Mother's Day, her brother's birthday, and May 8th is also her own daughter's birthday, as well. My Dad always said that his niece was his best birthday gift.
My Aunt and I talked for a while...we cried together...we reminisced a little, and our conversation ran her a little late getting to my cousin's place in the afternoon.
She knew they would understand.
After I spoke with my Aunt, I realized I had forgotten to tell my Mom a few things, and so I called her back and we talked some more.
I didn't have time. I don't have time right now for calls like these.
I am trying to finish my book. I have been writing and developing recipes and cooking and editing; working on it every waking moment, staying up to all hours of the night. I need to get it done and I want it to be excellent.
I am in the final stages.
I have also been invited to speak at a Management conference in P.E.I next month and am gathering material and preparing my talk as well as generating a viable business plan for some retreats we envision doing there.
I didn't have time to talk to my mom for 3 hours.
I didn't have time to talk to my Aunt for an hour.
I don't have any extra time.
But when I asked myself the question "Is it worth my time?", there was only one answer.
Time is precious; you can't get more time, but what I know for sure is that when our loved ones are gone, we won't regret the time we spent with them; we will only wish for more time with them.
In life, what I've found is that we are more heartbroken by the loss of an opportunity to offer love than by almost anything else. This is the truth for me.
If only I had told my Dad how much I loved him every time I talked to him. If only I'd hugged him like it was the last time I would see him. If only I had taken the time to call more often.
So in honour of my father, I will make those opportunities to offer love.
And those opportunities require time.
I am glad I spent time with these women in my life whom I love and adore. I want them to know while they are living just how much they mean to me.
Because I know that in the blink of an eye, they will be gone.
One day, they will be gone and I will no longer be able to call them and talk to them and cry with them.
So, I didn't have time.
But I made time.
I used time to strengthen the bond of love that I have with the people I care about.
Before I can't hear their voices anymore.
Missing His Voice
My Dad was always my biggest fan and losing him meant I had to become my own cheerleader.
When he died, I took a recording of the voice mail message at my parents' house before we re-recorded my mom saying "Sorry I've missed your call...please leave a message after the tone..."
I wanted to time-capsule his voice. I listened to it a hundred times. Maybe more.
"Hi. You've reached John and Carol. Sorry we can't come to the phone right now, but if you leave your name and number after the tone, we'll call you back as soon as we can. Thanks for calling! Bye!"
I memorized every word and have the sound of it etched on my brain; his tone, the cadence of his voice; the way he sings "bye!"
I miss him.
I realize now that I will always miss him.
When our loved ones die, what I've come to learn is we don't really miss things about them; what we miss most is them. Their physical presence around us; walking beside us, hugging us, talking to us.
But what I've also come to believe without a shadow of a doubt, is that our loved ones are never really gone. The bond of love that ties us together here on earth continues to wrap itself around us when we can no longer see them. And what they continue to mean to us after they die is what they meant to us while they were alive.
The same goes for them.
We continue to mean to them what we meant to them while they were here.
Feeling His Presence
Last weekend, I worked the Fredericton Women's Show, where every year, world renowned psychic and medium Michelle Russell donates her time to offer a group session for attendees of the show.
It is always packed to the rafters and we have to turn away hundreds of people who simply can't fit into the auditorium. Michelle has been approached by OWN network, she is working with Jack Canfield on a new project, and she has assisted police on countless occasions to help solve cases. Her track record is stellar.
I first met Michelle five years ago at our first Women's Show and I have seen her change the lives of so many people whose loved ones have "come through". If there are any skeptics in the room, they leave either scratching their heads or deciding they now believe.
We were over halfway through the session when she said "I have a male figure, a father figure coming through." There are lots of people with father figures, so I wasn't immediately thinking this message was for me. But when she said "I am having a hard time catching my breath. I can't take a whole breath", my curiosity was piqued.
My father was diagnosed with bulbar-onset ALS only a few days before his death on September 17th, 2012.
Bulbar-onset ALS is an aggressive form of the disease that affects the respiratory system, which explained why, since that summer, his speech had become slurred and he was sounding increasingly "breathy".
Although he certainly had the disease for much longer, doctors had yet to diagnose him. By process of elimination, they delivered the news on the Friday that it was ALS.
By Monday night, he was gone.
He couldn't breathe.
So when Michelle said she had a father figure who couldn't catch his breath, I raised my hand. She said she was hearing Rob, Robert....I said my last name was Roberts. My father was well-known for introducing himself not as John, but as John Roberts. She looked into my eyes and said. "He is telling me that you are doing things now in your career that are getting you 'out there'...that you're doing things to share yourself and be more visible...does that make sense?"
I nodded my head.
She said he was talking about me being an "introverted extrovert", which is a topic I have come to discuss regularly over the last several months as I've realized that is exactly what I am. I nodded again. She said "there is a birthday coming soon..." I said his birthday was the following weekend. She said "he wants you to know how proud he is of you. He wants you to know how much he loves you". Tears welled up in my eyes.
I nodded. "Thank you".
Always my biggest fan.
While some may believe that Michelle could say these things and sooner or later a nerve would be hit by just about anyone in the room, I choose to believe otherwise.
And that's the beautiful part of belief.
We all get to choose whatever we want to believe. It's our choice.
I choose to believe my father was speaking through her and that he is here.
Always. With me.
And I find comfort in that.
Hearing His Voice
When my brother was 4 and I was 2 years old, my father was offered an opportunity to take a a position in the UK. It was a one-year contract, and my mother was excited about the opportunity. He accepted, and it was a wonderful experience; I have many special memories from that time. In fact, we enjoyed it so much, my Dad extended his contract for 2 more years.
During the three years we lived abroad, my Dad had us audiotape ourselves as a family doing things, going on outings, singing songs, talking about our days and then we'd mail the tapes to our grandparents to keep them up to date on what the Roberts family was up to. Remember, this was the 70's, before the Internet or Skype, before Facetime and cellphones and during a time where phone calls were cherished and kept short due to the exorbitant long-distance charges.
He knew it was important to take the time to stay connected with family, and we all loved making these special tapes.
When my Mom's parents lost everything in a fire, their tapes perished. But when we moved to Waterloo, Ontario as teenagers, my brother and I were in our Grandfather's kitchen. We lifted up the banquette and found a stack of tapes. We recognized our Dad's handwriting and asked my parents what "UK Tape" meant, and to their surprise, our grandfather had kept our England tapes all those years! We popped one in the tape deck and sat around to listen to our much younger selves...British accents and all!
Last Christmas, my sister-in-law had those tapes converted to CDs as a special family gift, and so now, instead of hearing my Dad say "sorry we can't come to the phone right now...", I get to hear him tell me what a lovely job I did singing the ABCs...even after hearing the same song about a million times.
And I like that.
I don't want to forget.
But even without those tapes, I hear his voice. I choose to believe he is with me. I talk to him like he is still here. I ask him advice and I ask him for help. I know he is there and I feel his gentle guidance as I make decisions in my life. And I am so happy to know that I am making him proud.
Death Is Nothing At All
I have shared this poem, written by Henry Scott-Holland, with people who have lost loved ones. It is my intention that it will provide comfort and a reminder that our loved ones are never truly gone.
But I also realize that when they pass, things do change. We can't feel their arms around us; we can't look into their eyes; we can't laugh and cry the same way with them; we can't pick up the phone and spend 3 hours even when we don't have time.
One day, we will beg for one more hug, one more laugh, one more cry...one more minute with them.
After my experience with Michelle, this piece has become even more meaningful. I shared it with my Aunt, who continues to talk to her partner who is now at peace. She is able to do so because their sign is a cardinal. She wanted to have a sign, and so before he died, they decided on a cardinal. After he passed, she drove to the cottage and sat on the dock that he built.
And the cardinal came around. He's been around every time since, as well. And so she talks to him. She can still feel her loved one close.
Michelle reminded the crowd that when we see the signs, trust them! Know that it is our loved ones showing us they are still with us.
"Don't decide you need a sign to prove the sign is a sign!"
So let's remember to tell our loved ones how we feel. Let's use time to connect with them and show them how precious they are. Time is our most valuable commodity, and although we are all busy, let's remember what we will want more of when our loved ones are gone.
Just a little more time...
And if they are already gone, know that you can still be with them; it is different, but it is also the same.
Happy birthday, Dad. I love you.
Death is nothing at all...It does not count...I have just slipped away into the next room.
Talk to the cardinal or the butterfly.
Hear their voice in the rain or the wind.
You can still make time to feel them close.
Because I want you to love your life one bite at a time.
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