I anticipated those challenges, but I also knew that I could be inviting more personal challenges into my life, the challenge of demonstrating how to continue to be a love warrior through some very difficult events.
This year has proven quite challenging in that regard. To begin with, not long before I opened this blog up to a wider audience (hey, I have at least 5 followers now! I had none before), my eldest brother shared some heavy news with us; he had colon cancer and was going to be having surgery very soon.
In January, just two weeks after the launch of the reinvented blog, my Mother-in-law passed away quite unexpectedly after an acute illness. April came, and we lost our cat. Not the same as losing a parent, parent-in-law, or grandmother, but still a tough blow for us, as he was 14, and we'd had him since he was a small kitten.
My brother continued his cancer treatments, although the news wasn't as good as we'd first hoped. Challenges came up; the chemotherapy treatment he was on stopped working for him. They started a second line of treatment, this was June.
About a month later, the word came down that this second treatment did not appear to be helping at all. There was a 3rd option, but some tests had to be performed to see if he was even eligible.
That phone call from my sister-in-law still plays in my mind like a CD track on repeat. "If you wanted to come and visit, now would be a good time" ... "sooner would be better ..."
The next day, we learned that one of my younger cousins had been diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma, this news was clearly not well received either.
My other brother (Al) and I boarded a plane on August 5th. We managed to get in a visit with our brother (who was in hospital when we got there); he told us he would not be choosing the third option of treatment. As hard as it was to hear what he was saying, I understood. It was obvious he was at peace with the decision.
I had known, when I left home, that this was a good-bye trip. Even so, when I heard he was being moved to palliative care the next day, it was quite a blow. Al and I stayed behind at the house with our nephews for the move from one facility to the other. Our nephews are 9 & 4, and cannot have half-attention (particularly the 4 year old!), which was really a good thing, as we could not dwell on our brother's iminent passing. Instead, we got to know these two wonderous little men, who were all but unknown to us prior to this visit.
(I could say more about them, but those boys could each take up a dozen posts, and I still couldn't adequately express how amazing they are- and I feel the same way about my nephews and nieces on Himself's side of the family)
My brother passed away August 8th. Originally, we were to return home on the 11th, but now with a funeral to sort out and attend, we extended our stay another week. The upside of this was that it meant we were present for both boys' birthdays. Yes, they are both August babies, their birthdays are 5 days shy of 5 years apart :-). Sadly, We had to have their Daddy's funeral right between their birthdays, but that couldn't be helped.
My brother's death was, to say the least, very hard. Please Stand By.
The day after he passed away, Himself called me to let me know that his Aunt had passed.
The week after I got back from the funeral, our (ex) brother-in-law (our youngest nieces' dad) passed away, and a cousin lost his wife. Another ten days passed, and there was another death. Then another. And another. Some older people, others younger. Expected or not, at some point, it just gets ridiculous.
Then in October, a woman who I have always thought of as the Matriarch of the Irish community of Winnipeg, and a good friend to my parents (who showed them especial kindness when they first came to Canada) passed away. Another tie to my parents lost.
But wait, there's MORE!
Sorry, I know that probably comes off as tacky, but at this point, inappropriate humour is the only way to stay sane. Seriously.
Ten days or so ago, my Grand Aunt (my Grandfather's sister) also passed away. She was 96 and had lived a long and happy life, most of it as a Nun. Not a tragic death, but so sad to lose her, all the same.
The following day, the world cried when 26 people were gunned down in an elementary school. Believe me, even without losing all the people we have lost this year, that one is a challenge.
And then, about 48 hours ago (as I type this), my Mum* took her last breath, and she too, passed away.
Yeah. Both my mothers, birth and 'in-law", in the same year. Total cheap shot there, universe.
Dia Duit, Mum. I miss you.
PS: The only lesson I can so far take from this year is this: Life is too short and too precious for us to waste our time being angry. Whatever your challenges are with other people in your life, acknowledge the hurt, try to forgive the other person and/or yourself, and try to let go of the anger. Anger has its place, but it's meant to be a shortlived feeling, something which helps to spur us to action. Hanging onto it for too long tends to be poisonous.
*this link is to a post that I wrote during the summer, but was not previously viewable by the world at large. As I've said before, I kept writing, but didn't post much of what I wrote ... more to come, I am sure.