Cakewalk – Hope and love in the face of anger and loss

Esther Darlington MacDonald's monthly column on life in a small town in BC's Interior.

The Typhoon tragedy

Thankfully, aid is pouring into the Philippines from all over the world. Food and water, medical supplies, just about everything was needed. Still, seeing people desperately needing water and food, and having to wait for days and weeks even, without shelter as well, makes you wonder about the human capacity to endure. The Philippines is a collection of islands strung out along the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Thousands are dead in the rubble of villages and towns. Resilient as the people are, the tragedy is difficult to comprehend. The magnitude and destruction of that typhoon, said to be the worst in their history, is just one of many disasters that have struck in the past few decades.  Listening to the BBC news on KCTS at 5:30 pm week nights, I am struck by the empathy shown by broadcaster, Cathy Kay. She just doesn’t relay the news mechanically, she makes a very brief comment after. Too many in the industry here related the news without comment, gesture, or word. Canadians in particular. I guess they must hurry through the news so they can wedge in another commercial. Public broadcasting can afford to spare a moment or two with a humane gesture. Much appreciated!

Dark November

In our Ashcroft valley, fog, mist, cloud and rain are the norm for November. It is the month of Scorpio, the sign that is of steadfastness and sustainability. Scorpios are also said to be artistic and emotional. There seems to be a darker element in the sign that might reflect the weather. I think of the people I know or knew who were born in November, notably, my father, who seems a classic Scorpio. Whether you hold much stock in astrology or not, the weather in November speaks for itself. It is a good month to “hole in”, do some reading, some meditation, and perhaps, make a list of all the things that you have to be grateful for.

Gearing up for Christmas

Yes, the inventory for Halloween is barely stowed away when it is time to bring out the tinsel and coloured lights. In the wake of so much tragedy in the world, our holiday time of gift giving and sharing, of family reunions, good food and laughter, seems out of harmony. Yet, it is just that contrast, made so vivid by the media, that should make us all so much more grateful for the abundance, safety and security we have. You can refrain from listening to the news. I’ve heard the odd person say, “I don’t listen to it. It is so depressing”. Yeh. Well, that’s life. But for some reason, I think about that recent news item about the East Indian cabbie in Vancouver, who found a package in the back seat, after he’d dropped off his fare. He returned to the place, found the person, and handed him the package. There was $10,000 in cash in that envelope. The grateful customer offered a $1,000 to the cabbie. He declined. It’s news items like this that are not only worth reading about, but seem to teach us what we need to know.

The funniest book

The funniest book I have read in a long time is Alex McCall Smith’s, The Dog Who Came In From The Cold. I think it is his latest (2010). I laughed out loud in several places, and chuckled in other sections.  The dog, the owner, and the people McCall Smith is able to so graphically create are so real you feel you know them, or have met them before. That is the  hallmark of a not merely “good” writer, but a great one. I heartily recommend this one from our local library. And isn’t laughter, the best medicine around?

Hope and Love Conquers All

At Soups On last Friday, an item on the front page of the Anglican Journal caught my eye. The church is involved with the Truth and Reconciliation process being conducted across Canada. I learned that a Holocaust survivor named Robert Waisman spoke to a large audience of former Indian Residential School Survivors. He did so at the invitation of a large number of aboriginal chiefs. Waisman was just a boy of 8 when he was incarcerated at Buchenwald. He was used as slave labour until the U.S. Army came in 1945. The questions put to Waisman were, “How were you able to move on with your life?”  and “How does one overcome hatred?” Waisman confesses, “We were so full of hatred” when they were released. What had kept him going was the hope to be reunited with his parents and family. Only to realize after the war, that they had perished. Waisman and a group of other Jewish orphans were taken to France where a professor at the Sorbonne took them in hand. The support of this man and others, helped the children, who were now in their teens, to overcome the violent emotions they felt in the aftermath of their suffering. It stuck me, how appropriate it was for a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust to speak to the native people about how reason, love, and understanding, can triumph over hatred and abiding resentment.

I am adjusting

I am asked how I am coping with life without Sherman. As readers know, he is now in Kelowna with family, and enjoying the wonderful experience of their company after so many years of brief visits and telephone calls. It is a new life, very definitely, for us both. I miss that spirit, that laugh, that smile, that wave he gave everyone passing. But life moves on. We must adjust to new circumstances. Prayer and meditation helps. I didn’t know about meditation as a tool toward tranquility, until my sister-in-law, (Sherman’s older sister), told me about an experience she had years ago. Meditation was offered, and she took the program. It helped enormously. I am also grateful beyond words for the understanding of friends and neighbours. A visit in particular, I will never forget. When Debbie Thompson came to my home that fateful day, and held my hand and spoke words of reassurance and comfort. Thank you all.

I am a freelance writer

I am sometimes asked, or even chastised, when there is no article in the Journal written by me. On the one hand, I am pleased that my writing is missed. On the other hand, I have to remind readers, that I am not a paid employee of the Journal. I write freelance articles, and this column. Another thing that may be noted is, I do not cover the news of the community. That is the job of the reporter of any newspaper, not a freelancer.

Family reunion

My great grandchildren are coming Christmas week to spend some time with me. My granddaughter, Ayisha (pronounced I-sha) and her husband Cobir (pronounced Ko-Beer) with their two children, Zhangu, 6, and Salma, 4, will have a truly new experience. They have converted from Islam to Christianity. This is a dramatic change for them. They are studying the Bible, and want to know as much as possible about their new faith. So, this will be their first family Christmas. Cobir is from Sierra Leone – one of the worst countries in the world, according to a recent news item, for bribery and corruption. The government is practically non-existent. Cobir is a hard working family man. Very common sense. The children are very bright and lively, so they will keep me on my toes. “I hope you have an easel up,” says Ayisha, so the kids will see how an artist works.


Now I am going to tell you a true story. One which was passed on to me just yesterday by my old friend Una Godau. Una was born in Britain and so was her father and her aunt, her father’s sister. They lived for a brief time in Ashcroft, and Una’s father died in the hospital here. His body was cremated, and Una’s aunt was to take the ashes back to Britain and have them buried there. Una’s father was a First World War veteran. The aunt took her seat in the plane, and she put the urn of ashes on her lap. The stewardess came and asked that the urn be placed on the floor. Una’s aunt explained that she could not, as the urn contained her brother’s ashes. She explained to the stewardess that her brother had been a pilot in the First World War. Well, as everyone knows, air combat had just become a pioneering venture in that War. The stewardess went to the cockpit and told the pilots. The captain then asked that the urn be placed alongside him in the cockpit. There it remained, all the way back to England. “My father would have been so pleased!” Una told me.

Living on little

I have been struck for years now, how difficult it is for single women in their mid life who, for one reason or another, are unable to work for wages and whom, must live on either disability pensions or social assistance. If you are between the ages of say, 45-65, it is particularly difficult. Of course, it is equally true for men. It boils down to a very difficult time. Without a pension to rely on, like OAP or CPP, a woman must rely on any skills or talents she possesses to help her get by. The miracle is, that they do.

“I am living on $700 a month,” one woman told me. I have lived on the same amount myself for a time. I know how difficult it can be. You have to watch every dollar. The reliance on the food banks has become increasingly widespread. And here we are, one of the richest nations on earth. With the most solid banking system in the world we are told. Yes, our government is in debt, and the debt is formidable. But we are a country rich in resources. Yet the distribution of our wealth has become increasingly, The Rich are getting Richer and the Poor are Getting Poorer.

I don’t suppose I will see it in my life time. But I hope the day will come in the not too distant future, that a more concerted effort will be made by our governments to assure that the distribution of wealth is more equitable. When you hear, for example, about some of the salaries of CEOs and executives in every sphere, you are shocked by the contrast between the average wage and theirs.

Give a little more

On this note, I wish you all the most pleasant of Christmas weeks. Please donate to your local food banks.

Esther Darlington MacDonald