When I started thinking about composing my Christmas epistle, I considered writing several pages detailing all the challenges I have faced since I sold my house in Terrace Bay and moved into Thunder Bay. The experience has confirmed that I am not a happy city dweller. The traffic, the air, and the multitude of strangers all push my emotional reserves to the limit. There were some compensations, especially when there were medical crises, but overall, I was pining for the intimacy of the community I had left, even if the mill sometimes made the air unbreathable.
My mother knew I was unhappy here, and offered to pay for my next move. I was considering my options when she had her stroke. At that time, I was grateful to be living nearby.
Dear fellow pilgrims,
Welcome to the season of Advent! I hope that you will enjoy every minute of this magical time of year.
I am in transition now. The Northern Ontario chapter of my life is drawing to a close, and I will be returning to the West this coming spring. It won’t be the same as I remember, because there have been a lot of changes since I headed off to Hearst in June 1996.
Katinka suffered a catastrophic stroke and died in the early hours of July 25, right after my 71st birthday. She was the one remaining person who has known me all my life. I will miss her every day until I see her again. It was probably the right time for her to go, since her quality of life was slowly spiralling downwards, but I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was. I am now the oldest surviving female in my family line – a matriarch. I hope some special privileges go with that.
My call now, as I see it, is to be a grandmother. I have never had as much time with my grandchildren as I would have liked. I am sure other activities will present themselves after my move, when I am ready for them. For now, downsizing is the primary theme of my life. I have been taking a load to the Salvation Army thrift shop almost every week. Sometimes I can’t resist bringing something else home, but it is always less than I brought.
I visited my descendants in Edmonton twice this year, in the spring and in the fall. Beth and I managed a brief escape to Miette Hot Springs.
When Katinka died, I seemed to inherit her aches and pains. I had a lot of trouble with my right leg, and was not able to resume my line dancing classes. That was a big disappointment. Fortunately, I am slowly healing.
Weather permitting, I will be spending Christmas in Terrace Bay this year. I am very grateful for the invitation. This will allow me to go to church with my former parishioners at St. Andrew’s United Church. They are very special to me. Three of them have died since I left, reminding me that nothing is permanent except change, and we must make the most of whatever life offers each day.
My situation resonates with the Christmas story. When Mary became pregnant, she and Joseph had to leave their old life behind and undertake parenthood and a new lifestyle as a married couple. As if that was not challenge enough, they were forced to flee their homeland and become refugees in the nation that had enslaved their people many years before. When they finally returned home, both agony and glory awaited them. There is no way of knowing or controlling what our future life will look like. The best we can do is take one step at a time, in faith. Even if we don’t have the road map or the GPS, we know Somebody who does.
May you all experience the glory of Christmas, and give and receive love, joy and peace.