Sunday on the park bench

October 11, 2016

mandarinorangesUnexpectedly — because they’d never been a favourite or something we kept in the house — my dad asked for mandarin oranges, the kind in segments in syrup. I couldn’t have exited the hospital faster had I had wings. The only explanation for the nearest gas store convenience store having them has to be my grandmother’s celestial intervention. I carried them to the counter with delight. In hours upon hours of discomfort, he’d asked for nothing; there was nothing he could imagine that would offer him a bit of pleasure. Until the oranges. And I had them in my hands to give to him.

He was sleeping when I returned. I peeled off the foil top. Maybe the scent would make the room a little sweeter? I felt JOY that I had these oranges for him. And when he awoke, and brought one small segment to his lips, it was then that he discovered he could no longer swallow, he could no longer eat. And he cried.

I couldn’t say it to him because he wouldn’t have wanted to hear it, plus, I’d probably sound sanctimonious, and my voice would break, but here’s what I wanted to tell the man beside me on the park bench on Sunday, the man who was annoyed that his older mother wanted him to make an hour-drive to help her with something at her home: One day, you will long with all the cells of your body, with all the atoms of your spirit, to be able to give your parent something desired. Whatever your relationship is or has been, whatever the disappointments between you, it will drop away and what you will know is that this person gave you life and loved you as best they could, and you will want to offer something — anything — that says you’re grateful, that you understand. And you won’t know, when it happens, that the last chance for that offering has passed.

square of carrieCarrie Klassen writes about (and sometimes photographs) things she finds beautiful. She ghost-writes for thoughtful people with something important to say at PinkElephantCreative.com, teaches writing for small business at PinkElephantAcademy.com, and she shares her own words at CarrieKlassen.com. Carrie is currently working on a series of personal essays.

 

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Spire of light

September 26, 2016

black cohosh

I understand now that my father became distant in the months before his death because he was preparing to let go of this life. It was very painful to have him take himself from me before I thought he needed to. I was arrogant to think I could hold any opinion on the matter. But, I am his kid, his child, whatever my age, and I wanted my father’s comfort, love, and approval for every moment I could have it. And I wanted to offer mine to him, but it was hard.

My father loved a good tomato, and as a way of loving him, this summer, with our daughter, I grew tomatoes for the first time. Every time I watered those plants, I thought of my dad, and I looked forward to giving them to him. If we couldn’t love each other in the ways we always had, I was going to love him through produce.

I brought a quart the last time I saw him at home. He didn’t thank me. We didn’t know then that he would be gone not long later. I hope that he ate one, but I don’t know.

All the days in the hospital with him, my garden was left to languish, being watered only by rare drought rains. I haven’t wanted to see it. But today I steeled myself to go out and pick some Riesentraubes for E’s lunch. Most of what was left was rotted on the vine, unpicked, ungiven, uneaten.

There was still so much I wanted to offer my father in this life together.

In the end, all was beauty between us, all was whole. I should tell you that so you know we were okay, we were perfect. But, still, there were tomatoes left to rot on the vine and I am sad.

As a person approaches death, the body, breaking down, begins to smell sweet. And when he died, my father’s mouth was slightly open, and inside was darkest dark, as though he’d been lit from within and someone had turned off the lights one last time, but first, scattered warmed sugar. I had a vision in that moment of all of space within his mouth. Holy heavens with recessed stars. It was the strangest beauty.

This morning, a few small tomatoes in hand and sad-so-sad, I opened the gate to go back into our yard and into our house, when the sweetest fragrance stopped me, and I followed it back to our shade garden.

These flowers are what was blossoming on the other side of my dead tomatoes. They are tiny purple buds bursting into a 100,000 petaled stars. They are the tallest flower in our garden, “spires of light” as my friend Deb describes them, growing in the darkest patch. I think they are my father’s unspoken thank-you for the tomatoes. I think they are his love for me, alive. I think they are the songs of angels, reminding me what is true.

Just love.

My father died in the full bloom of black cohosh.


square of carrieCarrie Klassen writes about (and sometimes photographs) things she finds beautiful. She ghost-writes for thoughtful people with something important to say at PinkElephantCreative.com, teaches writing for small business at PinkElephantAcademy.com, and she shares her own words at CarrieKlassen.com. Carrie is currently working on a series of personal essays.

 

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Empty shoes

September 23, 2016

img_6558

I remember how thick my throat got watching E so carefully line up her shoes with her Grandpa’s. When I took this picture last summer, I knew my dad was sick. I knew one day these old loafers would really be empty. We had reason to believe that day wouldn’t be for a while. Depending how he responded to the stem cell transplant and chemotherapy and radiation and the drug protocols after that, we might even have 20 more years.

That wasn’t to be. Our beloved father left this world yesterday, before E could outgrow these pink shoes.

I want to tell you more about him. I want to tell you everything. But, today, I haven’t the words.


CKCarrie Klassen writes about (and sometimes photographs) things she finds beautiful. She helps others find their words at PinkElephantCreative.com, teaches writing for small business at PinkElephantAcademy.com, and she shares her own at CarrieKlassen.com. Carrie is currently working on a series of personal essays, and she’d love your psychic nod of encouragement.

 

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A night like this

September 8, 2016

window-sunset

“I’ve never seen a night like this! It’s so pinky. I can see pink so so so far. The moon is so bright! Have you ever seen a night like this, Mumma?”


CKCarrie Klassen writes about (and sometimes photographs) things she finds beautiful. She helps others find their words at PinkElephantCreative.com, teaches writing for small business at PinkElephantAcademy.com, and she shares her own at CarrieKlassen.com. Carrie is currently working on a series of personal essays, and she’d love your psychic nod of encouragement.

 

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Dear daughter,

September 6, 2016

a little girl with large backpack and face covered with small chalkboard that says first day of junior kindergarten

I know. I know. I took a lot of pictures of you this morning. One day you will ask, and I want to be able to show you: This is who you were on this day. This is how high your pink runners dangled above the sidewalk when you sat on our front stoop. This is where the red and purple elastics of your braids bounced against your collarbones. This is the outfit you chose for your first day of school because “it has hearts!” This is how big you opened your mouth to bite the apple, leaving the outline of baby teeth grooves all over the core.

This is how little you were.

Your class marched off to form a circle in the yard before we understood what was happening. When you got far enough to not see me, I cried to the dirt because we didn’t get to say goodbye. Your dad said he’d stay as long as I wanted so we could watch awhile. You held hands with Maureen, the ECE, at first. I said a special prayer of thanks for her good heart that she saw in you your tenderness and reached for you. Your dad squeezed my hand. And then you ran with the other children. We watched you dance around a big tree, braids in the air. Even from behind, I could tell you were singing.

On the drive home, I thought to myself, I’ll cut up another apple for your lunch. And then remembered. Today, I will be at the kitchen table alone. So I’m looking at the pictures I took and I’m filling our bigger-feeling house now with how much I love you.


square of carrieCarrie Klassen writes about (and sometimes photographs) things she finds beautiful. She ghost-writes for thoughtful people with something important to say at PinkElephantCreative.com, teaches writing for small business at PinkElephantAcademy.com, and she shares her own words at CarrieKlassen.com. Carrie is currently working on a series of personal essays.

 

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A three-year-old’s first labyrinth walk

August 6, 2016

labyrinth walk

At the end, I asked what she had thought about. “A dandelion.”


square of carrieCarrie Klassen writes about (and sometimes photographs) things she finds beautiful. She ghost-writes for thoughtful people with something important to say at PinkElephantCreative.com, teaches writing for small business at PinkElephantAcademy.com, and she shares her own words at CarrieKlassen.com. Carrie is currently working on a series of personal essays.

 

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I will continue the remembering.

July 2, 2016

It is odd, I know, to feel like I’ve lost a grandfather because I read a book 24 years ago, but I do. I feel that.

I first read Night when I was 15, a very young woman who wanted to know the world and figured herself capable of knowing its worst. I think fifteen is a magical age where the books you read become part of you. Elie Wiesel changed how I saw …everything. Horror of horrors, the Holocaust, so plainly and truly told, gave me what I’d sought – an exploration of shadow, the dark outlines of humanity, but he also gave me a place within his experience to know gentleness and beauty.

He wanted to be a witness for those who did not live and, through the effort of his words (which, poetry that they were, seemed also effortless), he made me a witness too. A more whole person. And one charged, now, with remembering. Because we must.

I am afraid, I admit, that without an Elie Wiesel still here to grandfather us all, we might forget how to see and remember. It’s as though I’ve believed the miracle of his existence — his beating heart and breathing lungs — could keep us, humanity, skewing towards honest and open-eyed. And there is so much in the world now, as ever, that needs faithful witnessing.

Today we lost a most honourable elder. I hope that we will carry on what he showed us to do.

And if you haven’t yet, I do hope you will read Night.


square of carrieCarrie Klassen writes about (and sometimes photographs) things she finds beautiful. She ghost-writes for thoughtful people with something important to say at PinkElephantCreative.com, teaches writing for small business at PinkElephantAcademy.com, and she shares her own words at CarrieKlassen.com. Carrie is currently working on a series of personal essays.

 

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Silk floated down the banister.

June 12, 2016

A silk scarf in rainbow colours is draped over our stairway banister

I was reading the news when our three year old came down the stairs dancing with her rainbow scarf. It gave me reason to feel hopeful for us all, even in despair.


square of carrieCarrie Klassen writes about (and sometimes photographs) things she finds beautiful. She ghost-writes for thoughtful people with something important to say at PinkElephantCreative.com, teaches writing for small business at PinkElephantAcademy.com, and she shares her own words at CarrieKlassen.com. Carrie is currently working on a series of personal essays.

 

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My heart is in Orlando.

June 12, 2016

I am thinking about privilege. I can hold my lover’s hand in public without ever considering where I am or who is watching. I married the person I love and it didn’t violate our baker’s morality to make us a cake. When planning a holiday, I get to consider the art galleries and colour of sand, not whether my relationship is legal there, whether it might be safer to book separate rooms. When I make a new friend, I don’t have to figure out the best time and way to tell them who I sleep with because it might matter. The places I like to hang out socially have never been subject to police raids. I’m allowed to be proud of myself, and could even be flamboyant about it and that’d be cool. If blonde women were getting sick and dying in large numbers, finding a cure would get funded fast, and no one would call the disease “God’s will.”

Most of all, I am privileged because I woke up this morning beside my spouse with our daughter singing in the next room, and neither were dead on a club floor waiting to be identified.

Oh, god, I think of the parents and spouses and friends in the hours before they knew for sure, and I think of the mothers, especially, the mothers who would have prayed against their own knowing, the mothers who would have known as mothers know, that their babies were gone gone gone. The mothers who are wailing into floor tiles this very moment.

My dear friends in the LGBTQ community, I know I can’t know the full depth and complexity of your grief and loss and fear. I cannot know what it feels like to have your last sanctuary burned to the ground, to have begun to wonder if maybe-just-maybe you are safer now because people keep saying things are changing… and to find that you are not. I will do my best to be a good friend. I will support more LGBTQ organizations financially. I will see more plays and films and read more books that tell LGBTQ stories and will share the kids’ ones with our daughter. I will celebrate Pride month and I will learn more about its history. I don’t know how to change other hearts and other religions but I will never let a hateful word go unchallenged in my presence. And I will keep thinking of ways I can make sure my privileges are yours too. I am sorry it is all so wrong. I am sorry you’ve ever been hurt or judged or cast out or lost one moment’s peace because you love.


square of carrieCarrie Klassen writes about (and sometimes photographs) things she finds beautiful. She ghost-writes for thoughtful people with something important to say at PinkElephantCreative.com, teaches writing for small business at PinkElephantAcademy.com, and she shares her own words at CarrieKlassen.com. Carrie is currently working on a series of personal essays.

 

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Ah, Gord…

May 24, 2016

There are certain things that make me feel Canadian, like singing along with Gord Downie, bottle of 50 in my hand. Maybe it’s those certain things that *make* me Canadian.

I wish every country and every generation their Hip. A man to sing them into adulthood, a man to tell them where they live.

One summer night in 1997, my friend Lesley and I were walking home from a university bar and followed the sound of Gord Downie’s voice to a house near hers where we knew no one. We walked up their driveway and asked if we could listen and, strangers, we all mellowed to Wheat Kings. I remember thinking about prairies as I drifted to sleep that night.

I think every middle-aged person in Canada has their own Gord Downie story. This is Keith’s. He was in the Coffee Time on Broadview – if you don’t know the place, you’d be hard pressed to find somewhere less pretentious in the city – and he left a tip in the cup after saying thanks for his coffee. Like everyone else. Like everyone we know.

Dear Gord, I’m so sorry to know you’re leaving and I’m glad to know it before you’re gone. A lot of us want our chance to say thanks.


square of carrieCarrie Klassen writes about (and sometimes photographs) things she finds beautiful. She ghost-writes for thoughtful people with something important to say at PinkElephantCreative.com, teaches writing for small business at PinkElephantAcademy.com, and she shares her own words at CarrieKlassen.com. Carrie is currently working on a series of personal essays.

 

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