Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Manner of his Passing

After a lovely Thanksgiving weekend at Shekinah Retreat Centre which was special to Bill, he delivered me to the Saskatoon airport. Our time together was becoming more and more precious as we felt our age and mortality - probably normal for people in their 70's. It was getting harder and harder to part. When I waved at him after passing through security, I wondered how much longer I would be able to say goodbye at an airport. This was not how I thought it would end.

I was in the North in Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay) for work when I called a neighbour to check on Bill because I hadn’t heard from him for 36 hours. The neighbour told me "it looked as though Bill just went to sleep and forgot to wake up”. The nurses helped me organize to leave immediately.

One of the advantages to traveling for two days to get home was that by the time I had reached home on Friday, Oct 16th, I knew what I needed and wanted to do to mourn. Within six hours of reaching home (his body was in a cooler but we couldn’t wait indefinitely - it was likely that he died during the Monday 12th night) - we met with the funeral director. As he started to roll out the sales pitch for his pamphlets, we were able to inform him that we wanted to fulfill Bill's wishes of a green burial. In fact, Bill wanted to be placed in the compost pile so we did have to make a compromise! I wanted to prepare his body - the thought of any one else handling his body upset me - it turned out that the girls wanted to share as well. We also sewed a shroud and tested a means of lowering. (For those who seem concerned, his modesty was preserved; the undertaker and I put him into his bathing suit). We washed his body and cleaned his fingernails to Mavis Staples’ music and sewed the shroud to our own singing.

On Sunday, my family came and they plus four special friends sat in worship on Sunday morning - those that had never been to a Meeting for Worship caught on real fast. We followed the hearse to the little country cemetery where there was a viewing of his face for those who so wished. Bill’s body was lowered into the consecrated grave as a group effort and to the beat of a drum played by a Dene friend who also provided sweet grass for a fold in the front of his shroud. Three eagles circled us at the farm and followed to the burial. My brother-in-law brought compost to add, that followed by the closing of the grave as a six-shovel participatory act.

And then on Monday, the 19th - we quipped that you could come to vote, attend the memorial service and then get your flu shot - Bill would like that it was efficient!

One of the funeral attendees blurted out, "That's the best funeral service I've ever been to" and then put his hands across
his mouth, clearly embarrassed. We thought that it honoured Bill as much as we could in our sorrow - some weepy, some uplifting with great music.

The church was decorated with Bill's garden produce - tomatoes in baskets, pumpkins, squash, calendula, a sheaf of grass. (I filled the back of the truck with stuff - Erin (Beth's partner) and a friend, Shayna, mostly set up the tasteful tableau). Elizabeth had chosen a playlist of his favourite music for the settling as people came into the church. All great choices but mostly not the usual funereal music. (Available for sharing).

From Saskatoon - Frank, Sharon, Jessica, Isaac, and Ahren Klaassen-Wright - led the singing of the songs: Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Galway Bay, I will fly Away, Amazing Grace. The audience really did participate as did we - that Unitarian church, I’m confident, had never had its roof lifted like it was on the 19th. Quaker Friends came from Saskatoon and Regina, also participating were Elizabeth’s music friends, the girls' high school friends from the community, my former patients, friends and co-workers.

The celebrant (from the funeral home) led the service and wove Bill’s eulogy around the music, the poems, and the Bible verses. Ntara read the Hafiz poem, "Love is a Funeral Pyre", Sharon Wright read the scriptures (Bill and she had shared a very special time at Western Half Yearly). His girls, Shauna, Ntara and Elizabeth, went to the front and said/read “Baba Bishmaya” - the Lord’s prayer in Assyrian which was followed by the same prayer in English by everyone. Bill must have been leaning over the celebrant because she chose two of his favourite e. e. cummings poems. 

All in all, it was a pretty ordinary service done in a remarkable way for the fascinating guy that was my partner, friend and lover. 

There will be a special celebration of his life at the farm on July 31st, 2016 starting at 2:00 pm. Hopefully we will be able to host friends, family and Quakers from far away. 

Love, dale


Love is the Funeral Pyre

Love is
The funeral pyre
Where I have laid my living body.

All the false notions of myself
That once caused fear, pain,

Have turned to ash
As I neared God.

What has risen
From the tangled web of thought and sinew

Now shines with jubilation
Through the eyes of angels

And screams from the guts of
Infinite existence

Love is the funeral pyre
Where the heart must lay
 Its body.

- Hafiz

Psalm 121: 1-8
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whereon cometh my help.
2.  My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
3.  He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4.  Behold, he that keepeth Isreal shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5.  The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6.  The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7.  They Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8.  The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Habakkuk 2:3
For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end – it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay

Isaiah 40:31 
“…they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Memorial Music Lyrics (in order of service):

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

I was standing by the window
On a cold and cloudy day
When I saw the hearse come rolling
For to carry my mother away

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by?
There's a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

Lord, I told that undertaker
“Undertaker, please drive slow
For this lady you are carrying
Lord, I hate to see her go”


I followed close behind her
Tried to hold up and be brave
But I could not hide my sorrow
When they laid her in the grave


Went back home, Lord, my home was lonesome
‘Cause my mother, she was gone
All my brothers, sisters cryin’
What a home, so sad and alone


One by one the seats were emptied,
One by one, they went away
Now the family, they are parted.
Will they meet again someday?


Galway Bay
If you ever go across the sea to Ireland,
then maybe at the closing of your day,
you can sit and watch the moon rise over Claddagh,
and see the sun go down on Galway Bay.

For the breezes blowing cross the sea from Ireland,
Are perfumed by the heather as they blow,
And the women in the uplands digging praties,
Speak a language that the strangers do not know.

Yet the strangers came and tried to teach us their ways,
And they scorned us just for being what we are,
But they might as well go chasing after moon beams,
or light a penny candle from a star.

And if there's going be a life here after,
And somehow I'm sure there's going to be,
I will ask my God to let me make my Heaven,
In that dear land across the Irish sea.

I will ask my God to let me make my Heaven,
In that dear land across the Irish sea.
In that dear land across the Irish sea.

I'll Fly Away

Some bright morning when this life is o’er
I'll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore
I'll fly away

I'll fly away, Oh Lordy,
I'll fly away (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I'll fly away

When the shadows of this life have grown,
I'll fly away
Like a bird that prison walls have flown
I'll fly away


Just a few more weary days and then
I'll fly away
To a land where joys will never end
I'll fly away


Oh how glad and happy when we meet
I'll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I'll fly away

Amazing Grace

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Tick Talk

Wood Ticks

How introduce ticks to visitors without creating mortal fear? Everything our visitors knew, or thought they knew, about ticks was really terrible – rocky mountain spotted disease, lyme disease, they crawl under your skin and get to your liver, unusual and special techniques are required to remove them or you can’t even remove them and the bites get infected.

Neither rocky mountain spotted disease or lyme disease is carried by Saskatchewan ticks – yet. Climate change may alter the spectrum of types of ticks and disease that they carry.

Eliminate such bizarre stories as migrating under the skin, heads breaking off under the skin and serious infections. The head of a tick is actually quite difficult to remove. In the thousands of ticks that we’ve removed in our house, the head has never been left behind. Sometimes a small scab could be mistaken for a head.

The tick latches onto skin and injects a slightly anaesthetic blood thinner. It then proceeds to suck blood through two small puncture wounds in the skin, its abdomen swelling with the blood. If it is not noticed, it can swell to the size of a bloated raisin. It looks utterly gross.

Most ticks are found on people before they become attached. In tick season it is recommended to have a nightly “tick check” in front of a mirror or with a friend. Ticks seem to survey the territory before settling on a site so usually picking it tick off is all that is needed. If it is attached to skin, the most effective method is to simply use thumb and forefinger like a pincer and pull it off – usually with a small quick jerk. It is extremely rare for the head to break off but when you run water and/or antiseptic over the bite, you can look closely at it*. This method works even with bloated ticks.

Bites rarely get infected. The itchiness of the bite might cause scratching and introduce germs so cover it or use calamine or benadryl on it so that you avoid scratching. Depending upon the sensitivity a person has to the tick blood thinner (the stuff injected by the tick), the swelling can be quite extensive. If there are red streaks extending from the bite, you have a fever or the swelling continues to spread beyond a few centimetres, see a trusted health care worker.

If the idea of picking a tick up between thumb and forefinger turns your stomach, you might like to try something more complicated. Eyebrow tweezers are awkward but can be used. Applications of vaseline, oil, vinegar, salt, or rubbing alcohol might be put onto the tick and after a period of waiting (five or ten minutes), with a tissue between your fingers and the tick, it is dislodged more readily. Don’t use cigarettes or matches or anything that might injure the victim.

Prevention involves pulling socks high over the bottoms of pant legs, cuffs on shirts and head gear that protects the hair and neck (a good place for hejab) would be useful. Insecticidal spray is not 100% effective. Of course, staying indoors prevents tick accumulation almost entirely – but it makes for a boring life. Prevention is helpful in tick season but still don’t forego the “tick check”. Ticks are annoying but rarely life-threatening.

*Since I have never been required to remove anything left behind, my advice would be to either use a sterile needle to pick it out as you would a sliver or leave it in place, disinfect and cover – the body will usually make a pustule around organic material and then you squeeze it out.