Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Allow Some Their Grief

Years ago, when I first started officiating at funerals and shiva services, a rabbi I worked with gave me some sage advice. He said let the mourners dictate the grieving process. Listening and watching is the key. Speak when necessary, respond accordingly, touch when appropriate, and above all understand that every person grieves differently. I have tried to emulate him ever since whenever I find myself in those most difficult of situations. I may not always have the right words or the appropriate hugs of comfort, but I certainly know when silence is golden and timing is everything. Which is why I was so taken aback by Christie Blatchford''s column this morning concerning the death of Jack Layton.

To be certain, neither Ms. Blatchford nor the paper she works for have ever been a fan of Mr. Layton's or his politics. This is certainly understandable and actually important in the world of political discourse. And while I might agree that the media, including Ms. Blatchford's own publication, might be going overboard in their coverage of Mr. Layton's untimely death, there is some thought that they might be taking their cues from the millions across the country who are mourning his death, just as my rabbi taught me to do all those years ago. Ms. Blatchford's column, while true to her thoughts and convictions, is ill-timed and incendiary to all of those mourning. 

I wonder if this column might have been better placed in a few days from now. It still would have offended some, but at least it wouldn't have felt so opportunistically vicious. The sting of death is keen for those touched by it, and Ms. Blatchford almost seems to revel in cutting the wound deeper. 

I must admit, that when I first read the piece I was struck by the similarities to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Act 3 Scene 2.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest--
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men--
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

Many years ago, while preparing for a funeral, I remember the mourners respectfully asking the rabbi not to sugarcoat his description of the deceased in his eulogy. They wanted their loved one remember for who she was and not some fairytale version. My guess is Mr. Layton would want that too, but Ms. Blatchford forgot that timing is everything. 

May his memory be for blessing.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

New Country Rehab

Live concert at Yonge/Dundas Square on Friday August 12/11. These local guys are the real deal. This cover of John Fogerty's Effigy was their finale. The dancing in front of the stage was spontaneous. Old and young together. What a great night!!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Random Thoughts from Stratford

I am writing this while sitting on the sofa in our beautifully appointed suite at the Arden Park Hotel in beautiful downtown Stratford. Yup! The Husband sprang for the upgrade. Fireplace, full kitchenette, 2 (count em!!) 2 flat screens and a king-sized bed that will probably swallow me up whole and I won't care one whit because I will die in ease and comfort! Too bad we are only here for the night. I could learn to love it here.

The Husband and I attempt to sojourn out this way at least once a summer to catch the very best of the annual festival. This year due to time constraints we have been limited to a single performance, but we will make up for that disappointment with a stop at the St. Jacob's market on the return trip. In the meantime, here are some random thoughts from our day.

1. The average age in Stratford rises precipitously on a Wednesday. It must have something to do with the myriad of matinee performances and buses shipping in the seniors from all over the Great Lakes Region, but The Husband and I found ourselves amongst the youngest in town today. The blue-haired set was surely on display along with a variety of walkers, wheelchairs, scooters, hear aides and visual aid devices. Nothing like a matinee in Stratford to make one feel young again!

2. Stratford must be the last bastion for the independent book store.

This was one of several that are still open and doing a fairly brisk business. I truly believe in about 50 years, my great-grandchildren are going to ask "What was a bookstore?" Hopefully somebody can answer them by pointing the way to Stratford.

3. This town is internationally known as home to one of the greatest theatre festivals, except this seems to have usurped that distinction as the number one industry.

Oy! A whole f@&*ing store dedicated to that twerp just because he was born here.

4.Overheard conversation between husband and wife exiting The Scottish Store.

Husband: "I am going into that store across the street!.

Wife: "Ok-Just don't buy a whole lot of junk that we don't need!"

Me: (Laughing hysterically) "I think that just defined every single marriage in history!!

5. Coming out of the men's room, The Husband runs into Rabbi E from the GTA. This isn't the first time that we have run into the Rabbi and his wife at the theatre, usually musicals. What was extraordinarily ironic is that we were all there to see Jesus Christ Superstar. He was there as part of a larger group from his synagogue. He and I joked that we were going to sing along and how it was kind of creepy that both of us could actually do just that. Jews of Toronto united in their passion for the Passion.

6. It has been brutally hot all summer except that today it feels like fall! What is up with that?? Honestly if I hadn't seen green leaves still on the trees down by the river, I would have sworn it was October!

7. I had the best veggie burger ever for lunch, but it totally screwed up dinner. We decided to buy some hummous, veggies, and chocolate for dinner and eat in the room. Too bad. I was really looking forward to Indian tonight, but if I eat anything right now I just might explode.

8. Finally, the show was outstanding. The cast first rate, the choreography, musicianship, vocal quality, and direction superb. I still think that it is kind of creepy that a majority of people in the world worship this truly scary and gruesome story, but clearly I am a heathen. There were people crying at the end and it was because they were religiously moved. Me? I was enthralled with Mary Magdalene and the excitement I felt recalling her luminous performance as Maria in West Side Story 2 seasons ago. Once again she shone!! This girl is a star! I told you I was a heathen. The audience is crying for Jesus and I am in awe of the hooker! Just another day in Stratford.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Not a 24 Hour City

Before I go any further with this post, I want to emphasize that I have The Husband's full permission and cooperation to tell this story. Please don't get all bent out of shape by privacy concerns. He is fine with it.

The Husband is a chronic sufferer of kidney stones. As one who has never had the full displeasure of experiencing this condition, I am told that the pain endured is kind of like birthing triplets, surgery without anaesthesia, and full contact dentistry all rolled up into one massive shooting, excruciating, hot branding iron of torment. It is that bad. Over the years, The Husband and his physician have kept a watchful eye on his kidneys to be on the lookout for stones in the night. Ultrasounds, x-rays, visits to specialists, and ridiculous diets that are impossible to adhere to have all been prophylactically attempted in order to stay one step ahead of the dreaded stone. Several years ago, The Husband was referred to the Kidney Stone Centre at St. Michael's Hospital here in Toronto. (Yes, there is such a clinic and they are really on the cutting edge of kidney care-no pun intended.) It was recommend to him at the time that he undergo a non-invasive procedure called a lithotripsy. Using shock waves to target the stones from outside the body, the stones are broken up into smaller pieces so that they might easily pass. My man did undergo this procedure with excellent results and returned to his vigilant ways to reduce the occurrence. Sadly, nothing seems to really prevent their presence, and three weeks ago, knowing that several stones had recurred, he underwent another lithotripsy.

This is where the story gets interesting. At the time of the procedure, they gave The Husband a prescription for Percocet, a narcotic so strong that it would make Rush Limbaugh blush. The nurse told us that we should immediately fill the script so that if the stones began to pass, the medication would only make him wish he were dead instead of actually attempting Hari Kari. My Husband has an issue with immediacy. Procrastination is his mantra. He figured that since he was fine the last time out, he could handle any and all pain with a couple of Tylenol. Two weeks passed and no movement. He knew that he wasn't yet in the clear, so back to the clinic he went for another x-ray and another appointment. While the stones were smaller and broken, the urologist insisted on booking yet another procedure two weeks hence. That appointment was on Friday. Last night I actually saw my husband cry tears of pain.

At midnight he began writhing in bed. He thought it was nothing, but by 2:30 am he begged me for relief. I suggested a Tylenol 3 knowing full well that he hadn't filled the script for the oxycontin. Nope. It wasn't going to be nearly enough. He wanted to go to the hospital, but we knew that all they would do is prescribe the same medication and tell him to wait for it to pass. After throwing on a track suit and searching aimlessly for my glasses, I headed out with the script in hand to where I knew was a 24 hour pharmacy. Wrong again. They changed the one in our neighbourhood to a mere 12 hour location. I had no choice but to call The Husband and have him search the internet through his searing pain for the closest 24 hour spot. (The only good thing about driving in the suburbs at 3 in the morning is that there is literally no traffic. I made a U-turn on Bathurst without a thought.) 20 minutes later I was in Richmond Hill dealing with a pharmacist named Olga who thought that I was on a drug mule mission. She grilled me on the need for such a powerful narcotic and asked me if the patient was an addictive. Can you believe that I actually had to wait behind a guy getting the morning after pill for his lady friend too embarrassed to come in? True story!!

When I called The Husband on my way back south, he actually cried into the phone he was so relieved. I don't think I had experienced that kind of severity in a combined 76 hours of labour. The pills didn't actually dull the pain, but they did allow him some relief to sleep. This morning the stone passed and apart from severe exhaustion he is fine. The second lithotripsy is still scheduled.

York Region-you suck at 24 hour service. Try finding a gas station, pharmacy, or food location at 3 in the morning. There are people who require service in the middle of the night and I would suggest that our leaders do a better job of informing us where these are located. Driving around at that hour is stupid and dangerous, not to mention time-wasting. The good news? All is right in my world again and we have Percocet on hand now-just in case.