Friday, March 30, 2012

A Sense of The Holy

By Belinda

At last a moment when I have time and my brain cells are still up for putting a few words on a page. I have so much to write about; such a sense of The Holy concerning the events of the past three months.

Mum's 85th birthday was on December 15th, and even though it was  an insane time of year to think of adding a transatlantic trip to the chaos of Christmas, I had planned to be in England to celebrate that special milestone with her. But Brenda and Kevin set their wedding date as December 17th. I might be crazy but not crazy enough to think I could be in both places at once, so instead I planned a trip to England as soon as possible in the New Year and Paul surprised me by deciding on the spur of the moment to come with me on January 13th for two weeks.

Those who read here the chronicle of those two weeks, will know of the many special moments that we brought back as treasured memories from that trip.

On February 6th I wrote a post entitled: Afterglow, where Mum said that our time together had been "the best time; better than all the other ones."

I think it was because of Paul's presence, and the prayer I prayed on January 23, while still there, and recorded in my journal. Here is what I wrote:

We have five precious days left of our 13 day stay with Mum and Rob in Alvechurch and I want to make them a blessing to them both. 

Last night as I lay in bed, reflecting on our time here so far, I was convicted by God. I have divided my focus; sitting beside Mum and Rob but reading, or on-line, or even distracted by a TV program. Not that there is anything wrong with these things as a pastime, but my main focus is all too often the thing I have become momentarily absorbed in and find myself not cherishing first that human contact that is the real reason I am here. Words on a page, or a computer screen--images on television--these are things I can enjoy anytime. 

Dear Lord, I ask forgiveness for putting focus on things that are of so little worth--even shifting my affection slightly from those I came to show love and support to.
And other people too, seeing them less precious individually than Jesus did. Dear Lord, I thank you so much for the promptings of the Holy Spirit, gently correcting, forming him in me. I am thankful for five precious days to do better--to live less selfishly.

The next day; January 24; I wrote:
Yesterday I did my best to pay attention to the people around me first and foremost, and only allow myself the distraction of reading or writing in the quiet moments here or there that would take nothing away from those I love.... 

How glad I am that I listened to that still small voice of the Holy Spirit.

About ten days after I wrote the first post I mentioned, on February 16, I wrote a post entitled Forgotten Gifts where I described knocking over a CD tower and stumbling upon a forgotten CD made by my cousin Deb, from a tape Mum had made in 1978. On it she was talking to her mother, my Omie, in Dutch, laughing, and chatting about this and that--a cup of coffee, the socks Omie was knitting, a visit from Deb and her son Olivier, going shopping etc. etc. It was so wonderful to hear her 53 year old voice, strong and beautiful, the words flowing fluently, skillfully coaxing Omie to speak and laugh, so that tante Adrie in Holland, Deb's mum, would be able to enjoy hearing their voices.

After listening to it, and pinning Susan down to listen to it too after cell group, I put the CD upstairs near my suitcase, ready to take with me on my next trip to England, so that Mum could hear her own mother's voice again.

Mum was not to hear it after all, but I still took it with me so that Rob could. It meant so much to Rob to listen to it. He said that he wants to recapture in his mind, Mum at a younger age. The CD is helping him do that, and I left it with him.

As usual I spoke with Mum and Rob on Saturday, February 18, but then, Monday the 20, was Family Day in Canada, so I called again--a surprise extra call. When I asked how she was, Mum answered, "Oh, I am very well, thank you." 

The next day Mum's carers called Rob to say that she didn't want to get out of bed, and she stayed there until Saturday the 25, when Rob made the decision to call an ambulance because she wasn't able to drink.

God gave me the gift of talking to Mum on the last day that she was well enough to be up beside the phone. 

So many sweet gifts, God gave to me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grace and Peace Abound

By Belinda 

I have a few quiet moments in the lounge of Guelph Bible Conference Centre. Soon the colleagues who are here with me attending the three day Mediation Training from Conrad Grebel College;University of Waterloo, will begin to drift in as the scent of breakfast cooking lures them down, but I have these moments to share with you, dear readers.

As I have reconnected with coworkers working throughout the province of Ontario with our agency, over the past two days, sitting beside different people at breaks, breakfasts, lunches and dinners, the topic of Mum's death has surfaced many times.

People knew of her death and had been praying at work, and wanted to share their caring and concern as we met here. One by one they tenderly broached the subject and it has been so good to share the many blessings associated with her passing from this world to the next. People's eyes have moistened as many of them recounted their own stories of losing a parent. It has been an honour and blessing to hear those precious stories. There is still one that I'm hoping to hear over lunch today. 

Yesterday I sat beside Mark at lunch; one of the pastors on our staff and this young man; young enough to be my son; asked how I was doing, his brown eyes pools of  caring and concern.

"Am I missing something?" I asked, "I just feel such peace and gratitude in all the details of Mum's death."

I didn't want to be avoiding grief, but "grief" doesn't seem an appropriate word to apply to how I feel. I don't want to dishonour Mum in any way, but feels as though someone "full of years," as Abraham was, reached the finish line of her race and crossed it. It feels such a natural and grace filled thing.

Mark put my mind at rest. He said that grieving jumps all over the place, doesn't follow a neat pattern, and affirmed accepting and going with the feelings as they come.

As if to confirm the verse that has been on my mind over the past days; it appeared in this evening's Daily Light:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
New International Version (NIV)
Believers Who Have Died
 13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I The Lord of Sea and Sky

By Belinda

The past couple of days have been recovery days. The journey back from England to Canada was tiring and the weekend full--and now I am on a three day course away from home. 

I am processing so much....God is good.

But my dear cousin Deborah who lives in Spain, received the copy of Mum's funeral order of service that I sent to all friends and family who could not attend the funeral, and she looked up the song that was played by the organist at the beginning and end of the service, then sent me this You Tube version. It is so lovely, I am sharing it here.

Mum first heard this hymn years ago at Alvechurch Baptist Church. She loved it so much that she wrote out all the words and sent them to me in Canada where I taught it to our congregation in Tottenham, Ontario.

On the weekend after she died, Sunday March 11, when I was already in England, our worship team at Hillside, led the congregation in singing the song in her honour, as she was known and loved there.

I thought while in England of how apt the song was for her because of the many times she crossed the sea and sky to be with those she loved.

So although I have no time to write more this morning. I share this song with love from Mum.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Holy Ground

By Belinda

I sit in the quiet of a Saturday morning in Bond Head; the rest of the household still asleep and the silver gray curtain of 
morning is slowly raising on another good day.

Just over 12 hours ago I arrived home from an unplanned two weeks in Alvechurch, Mum having died on March 6th. Let me rephrase that: Her body wore out and her heart stopped beating; she is still very much alive and with us; I think that we can all feel that.

I am overwhelmed by the events of the past three months. I must write it them down as they are filled with so much of God's grace. I hardly know how to begin, but I will yield my fingers on the keyboard to God, and begin over the next few days, hoping and praying that I do not miss one important instance of the many signs of love that God gave, lavishly and continuously; mysteriously weaving together so many details that I am left shaking my head in amazement.

In attempting to write it out, I will be retelling some details shared earlier, but now in a different context.

My heart cries out with the angels:
Luke 2:14
New International Version (NIV)
 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Lord, help me tell my story of your grace in the journey of Mum's leaving us for now. I know that all over the world there are other  wonderful stories going on which you are involved, but this one I was in the middle of, and you gave me eyes to see. Please also give me the words to write. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Remembering tante Nelly

By Belinda

My cousin Deborah in Spain, sent me this beautiful photograph of her candle lit for Mum, which she entitled, "Remembering tante Nelly."

My Tribute

By Belinda

Today; the day of Mum's funeral is coming to an end here in England. 

I can't adequately  thank all who were praying that I would be able to speak out the words I wanted to share in tribute to her.

God answered those prayers, and although emotion filled my voice at times, I didn't choke up completely and I was able to honour her as I wanted so much to do. I am so grateful!

I will write more in the days ahead as I am able; but for tonight, here is my tribute to Mum:

As a family, we want to thank everyone who has come to share this day with us. Some have traveled a very long way and your presence and support means so much.

There are many members of our family in Canada, Holland and Spain; as well as friends; who were unable to be here, but are with us in thought and prayer today.

We are here to celebrate someone who was a wonderful mother, loving Omie and treasured friend.

The most important thing in Mum's life was the people she loved. Her many trips across the North Sea to Holland and the Atlantic Ocean to Canada were because of her deep love of family. She taught us that distance is just something to be crossed in order to be with those you love. As a result, Rob and I grew up knowing and loving our large extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins in Holland. 

Later, our Canadian family and friends also knew and loved Mum and she kept in touch with us all between visits, with long and frequent letters!

Mum showed us that friendships can last for a lifetime. Her friends from the 1940's: Auntie May and tante Mies; have been special people in our lives and their friendships flowed into a second generation of treasured relationships, which continue.

Cheerfulness, a positive outlook and a great sense of humour were key ingredients of Mum's personality. Her life was not without challenges, but throughout, we laughed a lot and when we think of her we will smile at the memory of many funny stories. We learned from her that while circumstances are not always in our control, we can always choose our perspective and attitude.

She taught us by her example to appreciate the many small things that have excitement potential. In fact, "Isn't it exciting?" was an expression we heard often. And with Mum--it was!

She gave her heart completely to those she loved--unconditionally and unselfishly. She accepted people as they were and believed the best of them. She was kind, gentle and a peacemaker. Her warmth drew people to her.

Mum had a strong faith that comforted and strengthened her throughout her life and she prayed for us faithfully. As Rob and I have slowly gone through the many bits of paper Mum saved over the years, we found many footprints of faith: hymns that were special to her, or scriptures, tucked away.

I'm so grateful that Paul and I were able to spend two perfect weeks here in January, in which we shared some very special moments.

Towards the end of our time here, I thought of all of the partings we had over the years. It was sometimes painful to say goodbye when we loved each other so much, even though we always chose to focus on gratitude and looking forward to when we would meet again.

On January 26, I wrote in my journal about saying goodbye:
"Now it is different. I leave Mum in loving hands; those of Rob and her carers. I know that she is loved and cherished. We still focus on gratitude for what we have been given and there is still "next time;" we can count on that; whether God grants it here, or whether it's at heaven's gates, where one of us will one day wait for the other." I had no idea that just six weeks later, Mum would beat me there!

It seems fitting to close these thoughts with words from a note I left for Mum after one of my visits here:

Dearest Mum
I can't begin to thank you for all that you are to us. Our time together has gone so fast, but the happy memories will remain. I will be cherishing many in my heart until we meet again. Remember how much we love you...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gifts from Afar

By Belinda

Rob and I are about to leave for Birmingham Airport to pick up my dear friend Susan, who is giving me the precious gift of support and presence during this time in England.  I am so grateful to Susan's husband Ron, who didn't hesitate when she said that she wanted to be here.

Below Susan's photo is one of Jane and Barb, two other dear friends, retired Salvation Army officers, who also wanted so much to be here but it was too difficult. That they even considered it is amazing to me and means as much as if they had made it! 

The Smile Goes On

By Belinda

This is the photo of Brenda, which is beside the photo below of Mum, and in which I could see her lovely smile!

Friday, March 16, 2012

By Belinda 

The internet connection I'm using has been very intermittent over the last few days, but is working for this minute at least! This photo of Mum and Dad was taken in Holland in 1966. 

 Rob thought Mum looked especially beautiful in it, but of course she was always very beautiful. 

Tonight we looked at a photo of Brenda that happened to be next to the photo I posted a day or two ago, of Mum with Rob and me. Their smile was identical. That made me so happy...Mum's lovely smile and laughter lives on in her. 

There is so much to write but this is not the time. My focus has to be on other things at the moment. Sharing photos is something I can do--at least if the internet connection cooperates!
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

By Belinda

Just a few of the photos of Rob and I through the years that I came across here. The first is in England, the second in Holland and the third in Canada in the 1970's during my brief platinum blond phase--actually I've had a few of those! :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

One of the Best

By Belinda

This Sunday in England is Mothering Sunday. The signs are all around: the boxes of chocolates prominently displayed in the local Co-op convenience shop; the cards in the window of a local gift shop--and the Mothering Sunday service planned at St. Laurence church. And we will be celebrating ours, even though she has gone on ahead of us on the journey. We were born to one of the best. Rob and I have been looking through old photos and here we are, brother and sister, with our precious Mum. I just had to share an image of her as we knew her in childhood.

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Monday, March 12, 2012


By Belinda

I found my seat on the plane, between two already seated passengers. The man in the aisle seat got up and said, "Can I put that in the overhead for you?" nodding to my weighty backpack, and I gratefully accepted his offer. "And what about your coat, shall I put that up there too?" he asked. His accent was English, so not one of the" Newark Nice," but the trend was continuing. Are people praying? I think so! :)

The flight was comfortable and I slept for several hours. The time flew by and in no time we had landed and I had cleared passport control. I found my suitcase on the baggage carousel and gave thanks to God that it had made all the right connections. 

The Birmingham morning was as sunny as Newark had been. It was 7.30 a.m. when I rounded the corner of the arrivals corridor and walked out towards the line of waiting welcomers. From not far away I saw a hand waving at me, and Rob's smiling face, followed by John, my nephew not far behind. A big hug each were filled with more feelings than words could ever express. We were family; together; walking a journey that being together made so much easier.

The drive from the airport to Alvechurch, through the rolling hills of Worcestershire, always beautiful; had never been as lovely. The soft green meadows, the sun shining through an early morning  mist, made me think of Robert Browning's famous poem,Oh,To Be In England , even though this is March and not April.

It felt as though Alvechurch had rolled out a special welcome mat of beauty as we entered the village and soon, drove intoTanyard Close. Seeing the windows of Mum's flat and knowing that she wasn't inside was hard, but I knew that the hardest part would be going in, and rounding the corner from the hallway to her sitting room, where she would always be waiting. That was always my first action, to go there and hug her. It took my breath away to do it. 

Rob had left some things, some very important things, just as she left them. Her cushion and little leg blanket looked as though they were waiting for her to come back.

Rob and John were a little behind me unloading the case and back pack, but as they caught up with me they saw and understood my tears at the empty place left behind by someone we all loved so very much.

I found the T.V. Guide, folded and put by Mum between the two seat cushions on her couch on the last day I spoke with her, February 20th; Family Day in Canada. Mum was always methodical and had a place and routine for everything. It was a characteristic that supported her in the disabilities she lived with in the last years of her life. At a certain time in the evening she would turn the page of the T.V. Guide to the next day's page, fold it and put it down between the cushions, where she could find it the next day. She would neatly fold Kleenex tissues into squares and put them on the tray of her trolley so that they would be near at hand if needed in the night.

The next morning though, Mum's carers called Rob and told him that she didn't want to get out of bed, and she stayed there for four days until Saturday, when Rob and I together made the decision that he should call the paramedics to take Mum to hospital as she had been unable to drink for three days.

The fact that Monday had been Family Day in Canada and I had called her on a day between our normal Saturday calls meant that I surprised Mum with an extra call. I had asked her as always, how she was, and she replied with characteristic determination in her voice, "Oh, I am well, thank you." Of course she was becoming unwell, but God gave me a very precious gift in the timing of that call in between Saturdays, for it was the last time I would hear her voice. 

She spent the next ten days in hospital, with Robert there each day. She was comfortable, and not in pain. Her death certificate says that she died of pneumonia and kidney failure, but she was tired and gently drifted away.

Rob had folded up Mum's loaned hospital bed for pick up, and brought down another bed into her room for me to use. So I don't have to pull out the couch and make up a bed each night on this trip. Her room looks so different.

Bruce made sure that I felt very welcome and remains a constant joy and comfort to Rob. I believe that dogs are God's special agents. He did his best to fill Mum's spot on the couch!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Adjust Your Expectations to the Upright Position

By Belinda

I had woken shortly before landing, after an approximately ninety minute flight from Toronto to New Jersey. In between conversation with my seatmate, I glanced down with interest on the terrain below. The massive Passaic River river wound through brown swampy land below, which I since learned from Wikipedia is called The Great Swamp.  I wished that my camera was handy, but it was in the overhead luggage rack in my backpack.

I disembarked from the small De Havilland Dash 8, squinting my eyes against the bright morning sunshine and walked through a short portal from the plane to the airport, where I would be spending the next 11 hours before my flight to Birmingham, England. There was lots of time; a commodity that I treasured after several days of working hard on many levels to get to this point.

The first thing I noticed were the signs in the airport. They were bi-lingual, but Spanish and English--not French and English as in Canada. Right away I sat down to unpack my camera, I wanted to chronicle my day in the airport, recording the things I noticed and  tell people about them. Since I got my first camera at the age of 11, a camera has become almost an extension of my body, along with a compulsion to record life in words and pictures. To tell the stories around me.

I dropped to the nearest seat, unzipped my bag, clipped the lens onto my camera, took aim...and nothing happened. What could be wrong? I had packed it carefully. I checked it over, opened the battery compartment and saw an empty hole. With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach I remembered that the battery was still in the charger, plugged in where I had left it in my kitchen wall outlet the previous night. Wise advice given in a photography course, "Always pack a spare battery;" had been procrastinated on and now I felt like a painter without a brush. I still had words to use, but I couldn't imagine going on this trip without a camera, so the problem needed solving.

I walked up a hallway to the busy main concourse, bustling with early morning activity. I approached a cleaning lady, small of stature, with dark brown hair, and eyes, who was working hard, sweeping the floor. 

"Excuse me" I said, she stopped sweeping, and explained what I needed. English was her second language, but she grasped my need for a camera store and with smiling eyes, she said, "Yes, you go there!" and pointed towards some distant stores. 

"You see? Orange sign!" she said,  nodding reassuringly.

I saw it. I thanked her profusely, and she seemed so happy to have helped.

The store was Gadget Express and I was greeted by a young man named Junior, who greeted my tale of woe with a, "No problem!" and a determination to get my camera up and running that lifted my spirits. When he couldn't find  the right battery in the store, he looked so sorry  about his failed mission but didn't give up. He told me that there was a mall nearby and explained how to take the shuttle from the airport and catch a bus or take a taxi to the mall. 
I was so encouraged by the kindness of the cleaning lady and Junior. I really didn't feel brave enough to leave the airport and venture out into Newark on my own, but it seemed I would have to and for that I would need American dollars. 

I went to the money exchange counter to change some Canadian dollars. A young woman with dark blond hair was helping a couple who were traveling to Taiwan, with their decisions on how much money to change into Taiwanese dollars. It was a lengthy process, involving much counting as $400 U.S. converted to over 11,000 Taiwan dollars. Strands of hair fell over her earnest face, as she maintained a pleasant, calm demeanour, although obviously feeling the pressure of a line of waiting customers. Her name was Maria.

I turned to the woman behind me in the lineup m who wore a dark blue, short sleeved dress, and looked like flight personnel. I commented on the ethos in the airport--the pleasantness of everyone I had met so far. In a Texan drawl, with warmth and her eyes smiling like everyone else's so far that day, "That's  so nice." 

As we waited I told her the story of my long wait for my next plane as well as my camera problem. She wore the uniform of some sort of flight personnel, and she said, "You know, you can pay for a day pass to the United Club Lounge and spend the day in a more comfortable place." I would have had no idea of that possibility but it seemed like a wonderful plan! And next she suggested another store I might try for my camera equipment--and pointed further into the airport near gate 130.

Maria had finished with the customers in front  of me by then. "Thank you for your patience," she said, "I've only been doing this for a month." She too, was outstandingly polite and quickly exchanged my money for American.

I headed for the store my fellow customer had pointed me to, where another young man, named Jason, immediately hustled into action. By now I was loving Newark and its lovely people. He looked up my camera online, then pulled out a small, sharp knife and started cutting the hard plastic around a packaged battery with speed and precision. "I want to make sure this fits your camera," he said. And it did! I was SO grateful. Then he started the hunt for a charger. This time he had no compatible charger, but, "I'm going to the head office at lunchtime," he said, "and if I can't find one there, I'll stop at Wal Mart and get you one." And he took my email address to send me an email when he got back.

I had done all that I could, so I decided to go for breakfast at Ruby's. Coffee was going to taste very good by this point. To my delight, when I tried the camera, the battery was already quite well charged and I was able to use it all that day and beyond. 

After breakfast I bought my ticket into the United Club Lounge and entered a world of relaxation with unlimited wi fi and snacks which I used for my base for the rest of the day, venturing in and out to check on the status of Jason's search for a charger. 

In the end Jason was replaced at the desk before getting the charger, by a young woman named Shinmar. She right away said, "Oh, I can get that for you from our other store in ten minutes," and made the call. I came back a little later and she had the charger. She also opened the package to make sure it would fit the battery, and showed me how to use it. She was "pleasant" personified! 

Back in the lounge, happy with all my parts in place; my camera truly feels like an extension of my body :); I got down to some unfinished work, on my laptop for the next couple of hours. 

I had a conversation with a nice man from Tel-Aviv, and told him all about my trip to Israel last year.  He asked for my email address so that he could send me his (which he did right away.) He said if we ever came back to Israel, he would show us Tel-Aviv. We talked about the survival of the Jewish people and what a miracle that was and how it could only be God that could make such a thing happen. "I agree," he said.

I was beginning to think I was turning into my dear Mum, who would always disembark from plane trips with a host of new friends. She always embarrassed her more introverted daughter by talking to strangers left and right. Yes, a little more of her would not be a bad thing, in fact I was enjoying my day with a sense that she was with me, and her freedom with people was a gift she was passing on.

At the end of the day I actually felt sad to be leaving Newark Liberty Airport. (Hey, how cool--"Liberty" airport!!) As I boarded the United Airlines flight to Birmingham, I noticed and loved, their slogan, which could have described my day:

Adjust Your Expectations to the Upright Position

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Breakfast at Ruby's

By Belinda

I have much to say about Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey, where I had an 11 hour layover between a connecting flight from Toronto to Birmingham in the U.K., yesterday, but I thought that Ruby’s Diner deserved a post all of it's own. I'm telling you, they are America's hot competition for our Canadian Cora’s  in terms of a cultural experience.

It caught my eye right away; its 1940's soda fountain decor beckoned to me from the airport corridor. The waitresses wore candy striped red and white dresses with red cardigans and bobby socks; strains of jazz/swing music allured me irresistibly, and when I peered through the window and saw the plates of scrambled eggs and turkey sausage, it was game over. I knew I'd be having breakfast at Ruby's.

When I toiled away on Wednesday evening, planning my last minute flight to Birmingham, I could have had connecting flights from many different airports. I regretfully chose Newark Liberty, because it had the shortest over all travel time. What I would have missed had I not gone there!  And it wasn't just Ruby's. .But more about  in the next post!

Friday, March 09, 2012

A Conversation

By Belinda

Booking a flight to Birmingham, England, at short notice on the weekend the March Break starts, took hours on Wednesday evening. 

There were no direct flights, and other choices included flying with  multiple airlines or one, with one or two stops and from various cities in either the United States or Europe. All of them had startlingly long layovers.

I laboriously droned through the options, and narrowed my choice to flying with one airline (United,) which I have never flown before; with one stop (in Newark, New Jersey,) and having "only" an 11 hour layover in Newark, before catching my connecting flight to Birmingham. All told--by the time I get to Birmingham, about a 24 hour journey, from 2.30 a.m. on Friday morning, to the same time on Saturday morning (which will be 7.30 a.m. in England.)

I decided that God must be giving me another one of those gifts in strange wrapping paper and I couldn't wait to unwrap it. The unwrapping has already begun!

I had wanted Paul to just drop me outside the departures at midnight so that he, at least, could get some of the night to sleep, but instead he snoozed on the couch and insisted on taking me just after 2.00 (the flight to Newark left at around 6.00 am.) And he parked the car and made sure I got to the right place to check in before kissing me goodbye; to the fascination of an adorable pair of 4 year old twin girls, who stared up at us, wide eyed, so that their mother admonished them not to stare at people. 

One had a mass of shoulder length dark curls and the other had straight, lighter brown hair, but both had similar features, with wide brown eyes and slightly upturned noses and they both wore pink pants, white tops, with pink hoodies. An older brother helped their mom watch over them and keep them safe in the crowds of travelers quickly filling the airport.

Harried airline employees herded the hordes of humans, patiently but firmly, through those man made rabbit warrens designed to keep a line in order. They managed to keep the mass confusion from the tipping point.

After 3 hours of weaving through lineups for getting boarding passes; for checking in; and for U.S. Customs, I was on the plane at 6.00 a.m. and promptly fell asleep for most of the hour and a half flight to Newark. I had no real idea of what to expect of Liberty Airport, (Newark,) but I did have a secret regret that I wasn't flying through my beloved Schiphol, Amsterdam--but more on what I found in my next post.

I woke up about 15 minutes before landing. Seated next to me was a man about our son Peter's age. His three sons and wife were seated in the rows in front. Maybe because his seatmate was no longer comatose, he engaged me in animated conversation, peppering me with questions: Where was I from? Where was I going? How long had I been in Canada? What did I do for a living? etc! 

I managed to fire a few back at my gregarious neighbour and found that he was from a small town in Ontario and owned three dental practices; was Irish-Italian, and usually gets home at 4.00 a.m. on Thursday mornings because that is "boy's night out," therefore he was quite sleep deprived. But he seemed to have lots of energy for an engaging conversation.

As I told him about my reason for going to England, I said that Mum was Dutch. He asked a strange question, "Was she from the Catholic or Reformed part of Holland?"

I gave a brief synopsis of her faith background, steering away from the issue of denomination, and told him how our shared faith had formed a deep bond that cannot be broken by death. I asked him about himself. He looked...guilty and hesitant. 

"I'm a 'poor' Catholic," he said, "I guess if we were talking soccer, they would be my team."

"But it's not about 'religion,' or denominations," I said, "faith is about a relationship." 

He nodded as though he understood, but I will never know if he did, or why he pressed the topic. The plane had taxied to a halt. He got up as suddenly and energetically as he had started the conversation and strode down the aisle of the plane. Their connecting flight to Aruba had been changed to one with very little time between flights and he said that his wife was nervous about that. 

Just before he left, his wife leaned over the seat to ask if she could put something in the roomy bag he was carrying. Warm brown, curls were swept back into a barette and chocolate brown eyes smiled from an olive toned face. Around her neck she wore a silver chain, and from it hung an intricate Jerusalem cross.  

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Heaven and Earth

By Belinda

We sat at the breakfast table this morning, reading today's Daily Light--and I glanced up at the calendar  on our kitchen wall. 

The calendar was my daughter-in-law Sue's special Christmas present to me. At first when I tore off the wrapping paper and saw that it was a calendar I thought, "Oh, that's handy--a lovely calendar." But then I looked closer, and the photos were all my own! She had carefully selected them from my photo blog and Face Book photo albums and added them and all of our family's birthdays to the calendar.

I realized as I looked at the calendar that in all of the busyness of the past week, I had not turned the page over to the month of March. I got up and turned the page with the beautiful close up photo of one of my prize orchid blooms--the ones that drive Sue wild because she just can't grow them :), and I gasped at the next photo--the one that God chose for March. It's a photo I took in November 2010. The sky was dark and stormy, but right in the middle was an opening that looked like the gate to heaven.

Blessing upon blessing. My hands are full. I hope they are spilling over!

One More Thing

By Belinda

One more thing about the day Susan wrote about, which was in 1998--a whole 14 years ago! That day on the porch, Mum had said something about having "changed her tune" about something (I can't remember what,) and Susan went home and wrote this poem with that phrase included.

I Simply Haven’t Time!

When I was young and arrogant,
I said some things I should recant.
Like, “Hope I die before I’m old…”
Could I have really been that bold?

The years are quickly passing by.
I check the mirror and find that I
Have wrinkles creeping o’er my face,
And signs of age in every place.

Is it too late to realize
That with the “old” comes also “wise?”
There is so much that’s left to do
So many things of real value.

I’ve lately come to understand
That it’s all part of God’s great plan;
I need to live out all my days;
I need the time to learn His ways!

I still have opportunity
To bless each one I come to meet.
To drop some flowers on the path,
And leave His fragrance where I’ve passed.

I’m old? I’m old! And changed my tune…
I want to live, not go too soon.
And tho’ I am no longer spry,
 I simply haven’t time to die!

Susan Stewart, August 1998

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

One Friend's Memory of Mum

By Belinda

The day Mum went on ahead of the rest of us, Susan sent this beautiful memory of Mum. I remember the day well myself. Mum was visiting here in Bond Head, and Susan and her daughter Jorie had come for tea on our porch. It was a beautiful summer's day. Here is Susan's memory, which I know she won't mind me sharing.
From Susan:

Thank you for calling me this morning to tell me the news that Mum has walked through the gates of heaven and into the strong arms of her beloved Lord and Saviour.  She's safely home! I can't even imagine how much joy there was in heaven this morning... to welcome this one who has loved SO well. 
Your mum will always be an example to me and holds a very special place in my heart. 
Remember the first time I met her?  We had tea on your front porch (with Jorie too).  I remember being struck by her beautiful voice, thicker, richer, deeper, somehow, as though there was a special message of love attached to each word - and there was!  She naturally exuded "acceptance" wherever she would go.  I remember retreating down the driveway to the car, pausing for a last wave.  Your mum leaned slightly toward you as you stood side-by-side and said something that was meant only for you.  But the wind caught it and delivered the message straight to my ears. 
"She's very special." she said.   
Those words wrapped themselves around my heart and stayed.  Any time I've thought of your mum all these years since, or any time her name has come up, I've known that what anyone else might think (including myself), to Mum, I'm very special.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


By Belinda

From somewhere deep in the land of sleep I hear a phone ringing and footsteps running up from downstairs. My wakening brain tries to make sense of the puzzle pieces and I think, "Poor Kevin, he must have a tech support call to answer and is running up to his office in the loft room." He often works all sorts of hours up there.

A knock at our bedroom door, that I stumble from the bed to answer. Brenda is there, phone in her extended hand, her face wet with tears, "It's Uncle Bob," she says, between her soft sobs, "Omie has died."

My brother's gentle, calm, voice. "We were all with her, Belinda," he says, "John, Tim and I. I got the call this morning. It wasn't unexpected."

He has been trying all along to balance out my hope and optimism with realism, always saying, "I hope I'm wrong, Belinda, but I just can't see her pulling out of this."

Just last night Rob told me that she was closing her eyes a lot, even when he was there to visit, and when he asked her if she would like me to be there, she didn't respond. That he asked that question, and that she didn't say, "Yes," is just one of the gifts of her dying. One of God's many tender mercies. He told me that he didn't mind that she had her eyes closed for so much of his visit, "I love to look at that face, to study it, and to look at those hands that worked so hard for us," he said.

Mum was looking well, but had a look in her eyes that Rob recognized from dad's passing. I didn't want to believe that meant what it did, but last night I began rearranging my schedule to go back again at the end of March (how silly of me to think she could wait that long.)

Rob shared each detail with me. The call that had come from the hospital and how his sons rallied to his side, protective suddenly of their big but vulnerable dad. How they had all surrounded the bed, holding her, kissing her and telling her they loved her. Rob gave her kisses for me, as he has done every day that she was in the hospital. 

Mum had a mannerism when being hugged, of raising her shoulders slightly to receive the incoming hug. As her final breath left her body, she raised her shoulders beneath her pink nightgown, ever so slightly. I am sure it was to a hug from someone no one else could see. Rob said you could feel that she was no longer there.

Rob and his boys reached over her and hugged one another, one last embrace with Omie. 

The nurses were very compassionate and sensitive, Rob said. How sweet kindness feels to a heart that is laid raw.

It would feel so wrong to be anything but grateful for the grace of this gentle journey from earth life to heaven. I often wondered how it would be when the time came that Mum died. I wondered would I fall apart; be torn by the grief of losing such a precious soul? But when that moment came, all I could feel was grateful. 

I am grateful for two perfect weeks with her in January.
I am grateful for the treasured memory of intuitive knowing that I longed for her prayers.
I am grateful for the miraculous prayers she pulled out of the depths of her soul and heart, small in words but huge in significance.
I am grateful that she told me that the time we had was "better than all the other times."
I am grateful God left me with no regrets; nothing left undone.
I am grateful for her life; grateful for her faith; grateful for her love; grateful that all that was so good in her, is stuff that doesn't die, but lives on in those whose lives she left her imprint on.

As I called family and friends after Rob hung up, I couldn't wait to open up the Daily Light for today. Here it is:
Watching over the way of his saints.The Lord your God… went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go.—Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the Lord alone guided him.—The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.—Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.—For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.—And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.—“With us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.”The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with"
I am sure I will have much more to say in the days ahead but probably it will take a while. I leave very early on Friday morning for England and will be very busy until then getting ready to leave and working hard to not leave things undone that are needed by others. I will be writing from Alvechurch. 

Here are some happy memories; photos taken on January 25th, just before we left; a day when we brought Mum home a treat from Drucker's Coffee Shop.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Children of Alvechurch teacher Peter Rippington pay tribute to 'hero' dad at his funeral - Top Stories - News from @birminghammail

Children of Alvechurch teacher Peter Rippington pay tribute to 'hero' dad at his funeral - Top Stories - News from @birminghammail

Weekend Newsflash

By Belinda

After a busy Saturday at the hairdresser, library, and signing up for a fitness membership at our amazing new recreational complex in nearby Bradford, I came home and called Rob for my "Mum Update."

Our friends Chris, Eileen and Nel Rose drove 4 hours from the Lake District to spend an hour with Mum today, so after they first stopped to have a cup of tea with Rob in Alvechurch, he let them visit first, while he picked up his son John in Redditch and got to the hospital just as Mum's first visitors were leaving.

Rob had gone to the room where Mum has been in isolation and found the bed she had been in, stripped, and no sign of Mum. She had been moved into the general ward with other people, which is a great step forward and will make her day so much more interesting as she can see the life going on around her and listen to the conversation and even participate a bit!

John, who had not seen her since last weekend when she was admitted, really saw a big difference and commented on how much better she looked. Her face has filled out again and it looks as though they will be trying Mum sitting up in a chair soon.

While Rob was there a nurse came around with a checklist to complete. It seems to be a new measure by which good standards of care are assured. She had to check off things such as whether the buzzer was in reach of Mum's hand etc. That made Rob feel so good.

Peace reigns in my heart.

Friday, March 02, 2012

This Time Last Week

By Belinda

It seems so long since writing about anything but Mum, who has consumed much of my thoughts this week! Tonight there was little change since yesterday--if anything she was a little less well,--but we are reconciled to the fact that the original doctor's prognosis of, "She could be well enough to come home in three days," was wildly optimistic. It will be a slow process for Mum to regain her strength and we are taking one day at a time, just grateful she is safe and cared for and we are so grateful for loving support in prayer and will share any more breaking news as it happens. :)

So back to the night before this week of anxiety started--this time last Friday...Paul and I headed out into a snow storm to drive the hour to Mansfield, where our friends Brian and Frances and God children, Jake; Summer-Lily and Eden Belle live, on a road aptly named Mountainview.

We drove ever upward in the dark night, peering through swirling curtains of snow, snug in our sturdy little Honda. And when we turned at last onto the high up Mountainview Drive in the hills of Mansfield, we saw the lights twinkling welcome from the windows and big deck that surrounds their home.

We were there to celebrate Brian's 50th birthday with a few other friends. Only Susan and Ron were missing--they making their way home from a trip to Ottawa that day. 

I have no idea what Frances was thinking in this first photo but it begs for a caption. If you have a suggestion, please leave it in the comment box! And enjoy the evening with us in photos. Frances made a delicous bean soup which we ate with slices of bread, followed by a scruptious home made carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Susan and I have a joking rivalry about our carrot cakes. She puts cinnamon in hers but not I. However I had to confess to my friend Cindy that Frances's cake "with cinnamon" was very delicious and that perhaps I should concede that it was a good addition--but don't tell Susan I said so! :)

Scroll down further and you will see my namesake, Eden Belle, playing the harmonica to make Zoosh the dog sing, which he did obligingly, as well as other tricks!