Never Enough – Part 1

Something that I have learned in my journey is that no matter how many questions you ask, no matter how many times you tell someone how you feel, it is never enough.  And this is much stronger now that I have lost my Mother but having had the experience of loss before she got sick helped me immensely because I knew not to squander my time with her, instead take every minute I could get.

Sitting at the kitchen table with the lights on low, the warmth of familiarity, the cuckoo clock reminding us how late it was getting whether we wanted it to or not.  Empty coffee cups sitting in front of us waiting to be refilled.  And the smell, the smell of Grandma’s kitchen; it changed slightly with the seasons – gas stove in the winter and fresh cut flowers in the summer – but it was always sweet and reassuringly constant.

My Grandma T and I used to sit for hours talking into the night.  We talked about everything; her faith, childhood, children, struggles, regrets, loves and experiences.  I learned so much from her.  I knew that whatever I was going through she would have advice or a story that would put things in perspective.  When I was getting married and the plans weren’t coming out just how I thought they should she stopped me and told me very bluntly to stop whining and how she got married in a grey dress in the depression and they barely had enough money to survive.  Well, that puts things into perspective pretty quick.

Those conversations were some of the best moments of my life and I would give anything to have them again.  And even when those conversations were happening I had the presence of mind to know that I would treasure those moments.  I tried to soak in every word and every story because I knew that those moments wouldn’t last forever.  I knew that it would have to come to an end.  I just wanted to hang on as long as I could.  I loved her very much.  I relied on her and trusted her wisdom.

She taught me about regrets and how to avoid them.  Grandma had always wanted to learn to oil paint and write stories.  But developed macular degeneration before she did the things she wanted and was partially blind when she passed away.  With those regrets in her life she told me many times to not put off my dreams because the time will come when you are no longer able to do them.  She was a woman of immense faith that I thought could do no wrong.  Of course, now I know differently but I still like to hold on to that image of her.  She seemed impenetrable.  I had the privilege of sitting next to her at my cousin’s funeral one year before my Grandma passed.  I held her warm hand and I could feel her strength.  At one point I asked her if she was ok.   She said, “This is the 17th funeral I’ve been to in this church, including my husband’s.  I’m ok.”  I knew that she missed her granddaughter very much and never stopped grieving for her.

I can understand why there were times that people didn’t appreciate her bluntness and her honesty.  She always seemed to know the things that you didn’t want her to know.  She seemed to see right through you.  But what she said was always out of love and caring and you could take it as that or leave it.  She loved you either way.

When she passed away I was sure that I had asked and said everything that there could be.  It didn’t take long before I had the urge to call her up and ask her a question or go to her and ask her to tell some of the stories that she had shared, just to hear them one more time.  And now almost 7 years later there are so many things that I would love to talk to her about.  I need her wisdom.  I need her guidance.  I miss her so much.  How wonderful it would be to visit around that table just one more time.

Fine Line of Justice

Life is full of fine lines.  I am learning more and more about balancing the fine line of Justice.  Now Justice is a very heavy subject that I am not yet prepared to debate or define.  But I do have a perspective to share.

Justice is normally thought of as “in the favor of the victim”; which I agree with wholeheartedly.  But there is another component to it that I am exploring.  I think there is also Justice with society in mind.  Which favors society?  Angry, vilified, dehumanized people trapped behind doors just waiting for the opportunity to get out and reoffend?  Or humanized, rehabilitated members of society who understand choice; positive and negative?  I would like to think that the second option is the best option.  I also know that it is a Utopian ideal that is not necessarily realistic.  But it is the possibility of creating change in just one person that will prevent one more victim.  That is what interests me.  But I also know too well that there are exceptions to every rule.  We are all human but there are at times limitations on how much a person can be rehabilitated.  I feel the attempt, for the sake of all humanity, is what is ultimately important.

In my family’s case, the offenders were captured, put on trial and convicted in a pretty quick timeframe, within 8 months of my Dad’s death.  My Mom and the rest of the family have always been thankful for the quick resolution.  But, for my Mom they were not only offenders, they were, and are, human beings.  And that was how I was raised to think of them.  At the time of my Dad’s death there were many people in the community and in the family that thought that the death penalty may be a good option in our case.  I completely understand the anger and the emotion.  I just can’t see it that way.  I see that these young men had a future and possibilities with the right guidance.  I see that they made bad choices, but they still had and have a choice.  They can still make positive choices for others and themselves.  Their lives were not over at 19 and 21.  If I have to find reason in what happened to my Dad I would like to hope that these men were stopped from much worse.  And that they were put in prison on a path to rehabilitation and healing for themselves so that they might be able to help others.  No matter how long the journey is.  I know that this all sounds idealistic and most likely naïve but I just know that I can’t accept the alternative.  How many choices have we all been from being in these situations at one time or another – if we are honest?  How far have we all been from being “thrown away” by society?

But, I also know that no matter what the childhood, no matter what the circumstances at the time, they had choice.  I, nor my family, excuse what these men did or anyone else that is guilty of a crime.  I do see a few of the “outs” that God gave these men on that fateful night.  After they stole the motorcycle it stalled.  It could have stopped right there.   But they made the choice to keep going.  When one of them was getting gas from my Dad in the yard all he had to say was, “We need to get the police.”  Crimes were still committed, including the rape of my Grandmother which is horrific, but it would have changed some of the outcomes.  And I think these 6 words would have saved that man from a lifetime of guilt and pain.  These men chose not to take the “outs”.  And they have paid dearly for those choices and they will continue to for the rest of their lives.  I would love to see a day where we can realize as a community and society that rehabilitation is not a showing of weakness on crime but strength of humanity.

My Parents At Peace

My parents are both finally at peace.  I am sitting under a tree at the South Cemetery in Moosomin a few feet from my parent’s final resting place.  This is the closest I have ever been to having them together in my lifetime.   And even though it has to be in a cemetery, I’ll take it.  Just knowing that they are together in any way is wonderful to me.  I do also know that they are together in heaven.   But this physical representation of them together is a little easier for my little human brain to comprehend.  This is such a peaceful place for them.  The neighbors seem to be pretty quiet.  There are a lot of birds chirping and a few squirrels running around.  My Dad has a beautiful yet simple black granite memorial and you can tell that he has been here awhile.  His spot looks quite comfortable.  My Mom has just a small marker close to the ground with her name on it and the bare dirt.  We are hoping to have a matching stone made for her soon.  I’m sure her spot will settle in just fine over time.

There is no doubt that this is where my Mom belongs.  I had heard her talk about the plot beside my Dad several times growing up and in the last few years; she wanted to be buried next to my Dad.  My sister and I had discussed that we wanted to fulfill her wish and had spoken with my Mom’s family members to let them know of our plans; knowing that they would support us.  And then when it came time to make funeral plans with Mom she said that she no longer wanted to be buried out here.  It would be too much trouble and might cost too much.  Well, we quickly told her that we knew how she felt about this and that it wouldn’t be any trouble and the cost was not any of her concern.  She had enough worries, leave this to us.  She didn’t argue any further.  And it wasn’t any trouble at all.  The funeral director who had known my Mom for almost 30 years considered it an honor to drive her here himself.

Moosomin had become my Mom’s town.  She had left the town but part of her heart was left behind.  When you move 6 or 7 hours to another country, get married, plan and start a family, start renovating a home and meet friends your heart has no choice but to stay behind.  She thought she would most likely be living here the rest of her life.  She was settling in and enjoying herself.  She loved her neighbors and she loved the farm.  So, when she left it wasn’t of her choosing.  It was a necessity of her new reality.  She felt she needed to be closer to her family and the memories were just too painful.  But we came back several times a year even after we moved away.  She did her best to keep up with family and friends but with some the memories were just too painful.  Her dream, her future as she had known it was gone.  But Moosomin kept a piece of her heart.  And now her body has finally joined her heart.

My Mother is Dying

I wrote the following about 2 months before my Mom’s death.  She finally did find acceptance a few weeks later but that is for another blog….

My Mother is dying.  I know that my Mother is not the first to die.  I know that she is not the first to die of cancer.  But, my Mother is still dying.  The emotions connected to it are overwhelming.  I don’t even know if I can adequately express them.  I also know that every family and every death has its historical and familial complications that are unavoidable.  The complications in my situation are different than most but when it comes down to it, my Mother is dying.  I repeat this statement because, as others who have been through it know, the human instinct is to not want to acknowledge or accept this fact about a family member.  Even for me, I have been through death in many different forms and many different times and I know the steps, I know the psychology, I know the instincts – in my head.  But accepting it in your heart is completely different.

I gave my Mom a hug a few weeks ago and ran my hand down her back.  That simple act shook me into reality.  My Mother has battled her weight for as long as I know.  Over the last year all of her clothes have gotten baggy.  Even when she has bought new clothes they seem to continue to be baggy, disguising how much she has really lost.  So, when I ran my hand over her back and all I felt was bone I was heartbroken.  I could feel every vertebra, her shoulder blades, just skin and bone through 2 layers of clothing.  It was a statement stronger than if it had been spoken.

It has been more difficult for us as family to come to a place of acceptance because my Mom hasn’t come to acceptance.  She is fighting, which is good, but she is also in denial not wanting to accept the inevitable.  I don’t judge her on this fact because none of us know until we are in the situation.  But, it definitely has made it more difficult on the rest of us and for the doctors trying to help.  My Mom is so insistent that she is going to fight and beat this even when she has been told a dozen times that it is only a matter of time.  I’m glad she isn’t giving up but, for us it is very difficult to determine where she is really at physically and what plans or precautions we need to take.  I’m afraid that she is going to be strong and insistent right to the very end not enabling us to make the transition easier and less painful for her.  The last thing I want for her is a painful or lonely death and I’m afraid that her determination is going to lead to just that.

Cancer is also a tease; an evil tease.  Cancer lulls you into a false sense of security sitting dormant or slowly growing unknown.  Just to hit you harder in the next round.  And then puts you on a roller coaster that is so confusing and painful you don’t know if you are up or down.  Just when you think you know where you are – it jumps out and says boo!  Or veers off in the opposite direction.  There is no security in what you are told.  I have heard many times how people are told that they are in remission and at their 3 month checkup they are told they have weeks or months to live.  There are no guarantees in life in general but cancer pushes that statement to the limit.

All I have hoped for my Mom since her diagnosis is peace, no miracles, just peace.  She says she has peace but her actions show something very different.  I am still holding out hope for peace, but now for all of us.

The Big Goodbye Part 2

Unfortunately, the experience with my Grandma T. prepared me for when my Grandma Pearce was very ill almost exactly 5 years later.  We had seen Grandma at my Uncle’s funeral in August of 2009 and then again about a week later on a planned trip to visit her at my Aunt’s in Ontario.  She seemed to be doing remarkably well for 95 ½.  She was falling asleep quite often and needed help walking but her mind was very sharp.  She handled her son’s passing quite well, I believe partly because she knew it wouldn’t be long before she saw him again.  Grandma and I had some good conversations over those few days; just simple things but so nice to just talk.  We peeled and cut up apples for apple crisp together, the first time we had ever cooked together.  I will hang onto that memory and the pictures.  After we left for home I told Pasith that I felt that she would be gone by summer, possibly by her birthday.  This may have been my last time seeing her.

Thanksgiving Day we got a call that Grandma wasn’t feeling well, not to be too concerned but just to be aware.  The next Saturday we got the call that she had gone into the hospital.  She was suffering from Congestive Heart Failure and they weren’t sure if she would make it past 2 weeks.  I lost it.  We had been through a year of cancer and death with Pasith’s Dad in May, and then my Uncle died in August and just as I felt I was getting back to life I was thrown to the ground again.  It wasn’t that I didn’t see it coming I just didn’t want to lose her.  We were just getting to know each other.  I had so much to ask her and tell her.  There was just so much unsaid and undone.  Could I live with what little had been between us?  What could I do now?  Time was up.  I wasn’t ready.  I came to the conclusion that I was giving in to the basic selfish human resistance to death and letting go and I didn’t care.

But as I had time to think I realized that this was not the end of me.  I would make it through.  She wasn’t gone yet, there was still time.  The quickest I could go see her was November 1st.  So, again I would have to take the chance that my Grandma would make it till I could see her one more time.  This was a familiarly painful place to be.  Since we didn’t know how long it would be before we had to travel for a funeral I decided to take a friend with me on the 4 hour drive and leave Pasith and the kids at home.

I had tried to prepare something that I would say to Grandma when I got to her.  I had even written a letter that I could send just in case I couldn’t get there in time.  I was so worried that she didn’t know how I felt about her.  We had been separate for so many years.  I wanted her to know that I loved her.  That I had wished for something different, that I was sorry for all of her pain in life and to forgive me if I had added to it in any way.  In the days before I went and even while I was walking into her room I asked God to provide the words and the time if I was meant to have this conversation with her.  We had discussed quite a few of these issues over the last few years as we had gotten to know each other but it never feels enough.  I questioned whether she really knew.

Grandma was awake but not feeling very well and was kind of down.  The nurses brought her supper and my Aunt and I encouraged her to eat.  She just didn’t seem interested.  Then as we were all sitting quietly Grandma finally said that this was the day that Grandpa had died 30 years before.  She was thinking of her husband after all these years.  We were quiet and let her talk a little.  Then I decided to start asking questions.  It always worked with Grandma T.  If she was feeling down I would start to ask her about things from her childhood or just anything to get her mind off of what was upsetting her.  So, I asked Grandma how old she was when they came to Canada from England.  She didn’t understand at first why I was asking but she answered politely.  Then my Aunt and I kept the questions coming until she was telling us about her childhood without us even asking.  Before she knew it she had eaten all of her supper and was sitting up straight on the edge of the bed, her voice stronger and her eyes bright.  I was so happy to be a part of making her day a little brighter.  I guess God knew that this conversation was more important for us on that day.  And sometimes showing how you feel isn’t done in a prepared “speech” but in simple acts of kindness and caring.

I went back to the hospital in the morning before we left for home.  My cousin, who is a nurse, and my Uncle were there.  My cousin is about 8 years younger than me so I don’t know her well, but that weekend I saw that she was born to be a nurse.  She was so caring and wonderful for Grandma.  After the 4 of us talked for a while Grandma said she was getting tired and was ready to lie down.  So, my cousin helped her lay down and get comfortable; plumping pillows, arranging tubes and wires, checking her machines, teaching me how to safely help her get Grandma into the right position.  It was touching to see the youngest grandchild helping her Grandma in such a personal and compassionate way.  My cousin left the room and I stayed behind for a few minutes to say a private goodbye.  The Big Goodbye.  Again I was faced with the questions, what do you say?  How many hugs are enough?  How do I leave?  Have I done enough?  Am I sure she knows how I feel?   This time, Grandma was awake and lucid.  This Grandma wasn’t drugged and unaware.  She knew that I was leaving.   That didn’t make it any easier.  I still knew this was the last time I would see her.  We didn’t speak with words but we understood each other.  I will never forget the sadness in her eyes.  I hugged her as she lay in her hospital bed and held on to her hand as long as I could.  But finally I had to say goodbye.  I could barely get the words out.  And as I let go of her hand and turned to walk away everything in me was screaming to stay just another 5 minutes.  I barely made it down the short hallway and out the door.

Grandma Pearce passed away on February 12th, 2009 peacefully in her sleep.

And again the family gathered for a funeral in the small Moosomin church.  I couldn’t help but look at the spot where my Grandma had sat in a wheelchair at my Uncle’s funeral just 6 months before.  This was a celebration of a woman who missed her 96th birthday by one month; a woman who had seen so many changes in the world and so many tragedies.  It was time whether we wanted it to be or not.

Soul Under Siege

I wrote the following a week or two before my Mom passed away last December.  At that point her illness felt like a never ending emotional, mental, spiritual and physical marathon.  We were all drained and pushed to what felt like our end.  When I read this it takes me back to the nights spent in her apartment, waiting and listening to her breathing.  Counting the seconds between each breath.  Not knowing how many more nights there would be.  Hoping for and dreading the end.

Have you ever felt that your very essence, your very soul was under siege?  For me it’s a quiet burning of cells.  Some cells just melt away, some pop like a balloon.  Some attacks you see coming, you try desperately to hang on only to have the cells melt through your fingers.  Some attacks happen while you sleep when your guard is down.  You wake up in the morning feeling profoundly different.  Not sure what has happened but knowing that something has changed.

The siege will end someday, and then what?  And when?  How much will you lose of yourself before it stops?  You know you will be forever changed by what has occurred.  There is no doubt.  But, there are questions: Did you need the pieces that you lost?  Were they extras?  Did they have to melt away to make way for better cells?  Is something better going to replace them?  Will you be a new and improved you?  Or will you be left with big holes in your soul?

It is your choice how you will fill those holes.  Will you fill them with drugs, alcohol, gambling, or eating?  Or will you fill them with love, hope, and family?

I am in the middle of a siege on my soul.  I feel the effects of the burning every day.  Some nights I lose so many pieces l don’t know if I can get out of bed.   I’m not sure if words will form if I open my mouth.  I have to focus on the simplest things to complete them.

I know that the siege on my soul will end, but I don’t know when and what will be left behind.  The burning in my soul is on God’s time.  I guess He isn’t finished trimming yet.  Just when I think I have had all I can take more melts away and I have to adjust to my new surroundings again.  Who will I be when this is done?  Will I survive?  Will I be a better me?  Or will I lose so much that I crumble?  Will I be a better wife and mother?  Will I be a better friend?

I am the same age almost to the week, 34 1/2 years old, that my Mother was when her soul was under siege; her husband was murdered and she was left to raise 2 babies.  What did she fill the holes with?  Did she make the right decisions?  There are a lot of opinions on the subject.  As difficult as it is to leave it to God, it is up to God to judge and decide.  To be honest, I’m very thankful that it is His job to do the judging because I don’t have time or energy to judge right now.   I’m in the middle of a siege on my own soul.

When this siege is over it will be my choice how I will fill the holes left behind.  I hope I have enough left to make the right decision.  And I hope God judges me kindly.

7 months later I know the siege is over and I can feel the holes left behind.  Some are larger than others.  And it is a challenge every day to fill them with the positive and healthy.  But it is a challenge I am determined to win.

Laughing Lisa

Almost a year ago I went to a conference on Forgiveness for family of murder victims.  It was an amazing experience and I learned so much and a few things I hadn’t expected.  I came in straight from work across the city a few minutes late and everyone was seated for dinner.  So I picked the closest chair trying not to be too obvious.  I had been looking forward to this conference but between house, kids, work and my Mom I hadn’t had time to really look at the brochure.  They were all going around the tables identifying themselves and adding a descriptive word to their name.   I had about 10 seconds, or at least it felt like it, to decide my name and description.  My mind was blank.  The man that I was sitting beside quickly said, “Laughing Lisa”.  And I laughed.  How did he know?  I had never met this man.  I didn’t realize at the time that he was one of the speakers and in fact all three speakers were sitting at my table.  How did this man see right through me in about 30 seconds?

Nicknames have never really stuck with me, thankfully.  My Grandma T. called me her “Little Lamb” as a baby but that was the last nickname I’ve had.  But Laughing Lisa has stuck with me personally for the last year.  It reminds me how important laughter and joy are even in the tough times.  My laughter is not always out of pure joy.  Sometimes it is to cover up anxiety, nervousness and even pain.  But for about a year it was even hard to laugh through the pain.  And this man gave me these words at the right time because the months ahead were only going to get more and more difficult closer to my Mom’s death.  I needed the reminder to keep joy and laughter in my life.  And I am grateful to him.

In high school people knew where I was in the school because they could hear me laughing.  And some people only knew me because of my laugh.  Now as an adult I get complimented on my laugh and told that it is very contagious.  I always say if you think mine is good you should hear my kids.  They have the best belly laughs.

I come by my laugh very honestly.   Both my Mom’s and Dad’s side of the family love to laugh.  My Grandma T. believed in the health of laughter.  She believed fully in having a belly laugh a day to stay healthy.  So if she hadn’t had her laugh for the day she would call her sister and they would tell German jokes until they were in tears.   Let’s just say the first time in my lifetime she had so much as a cough I was married and had a child.  Maybe she was on to something.

My Mom continued the theory of laughter with my sister and me.  Even when she was sick over her last year and a half we laughed about most things.  She just kept saying, “If we don’t have humor now what do we have?”  I think it kept her sane during some very dark days.  The first time Mom was in the hospital she had a roommate that was a gift from God.  She was amazing.  The doctors came one day and told my Mom that her situation was not looking good.  They didn’t know what or if they could do anything for her.  Unfortunately, she was alone at the hospital at the time, which upset me.  But one of the nurses told Mom’s roommate to keep Mom laughing.  She was going to need it.  So she made it her mission and I have to say she succeeded.  The nurses wanted to be in their room.  It was so cheerful and so peaceful.  Everyone noticed how “good” it felt in that room on the 7th floor.  Mom’s attitude was amazing for her condition.  And her condition improved over those 5 weeks.  She had a new resolve.  The surgery took care of the tumors but the laughter took care of her mind.

From the time she got home from the hospital until she passed away humor was very important to her.  We joked about everything.  Something negative we made it smaller by making fun of it.  Like colostomy bags.  Nurses, like “The General”, that were less than perfect, chemo, loss of hair, morphine.  She even made us laugh while we discussed her funeral wishes.  Oh do I have stories to tell and I will tell them.  The home care workers had the same reaction as the nurses.  They all wanted to be at my Mom’s.  It was so peaceful.  It was rare that my Mom didn’t have a joke or a funny story to tell.  My Mom was joking with everyone till the evening before she went into a light coma the day before she died.  She was hardly able to open her eyes or speak more than a few words but she could wink, smile or make a quick snide remark.

So I have to ask myself, if she could make people laugh and feel good as she lay dying in a hospital bed in her living room.  What reason do I have to not laugh through whatever comes?

The Summer Piece

We love road trips.  Pasith and I have taken lots of short ones and a few long ones.  Almost five years ago, in 2006, we had our son and knew that we would have to put off road trips for a while.  When our son was 10 months old, 2007, my father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and we didn’t feel comfortable going too far in case of an emergency.  After a year he passed away and it seemed that the only trips we took for the next year were for last goodbyes and funerals when I lost my Uncle and my Grandma.  The next summer, in 2009, when our son was turning 3 we finally felt like we were ready for a small road trip and had one planned when my Mom was diagnosed with cancer.  We went anyway even though I had a bad feeling.  The story of that trip is a whole other blog but let’s just say it was the last one for a while.  And I missed two family weddings that fall partly because I was too scared to travel.  Last summer we stuck very close to home just going away for one or two days at a time.  Just in case.

When my Mom was sick I had a very difficult time making plans and that has continued since her death.  I am slowly getting past it but it is taking me a while.  Even making dentist or doctor appointments have been difficult because when my Mom was sick I never knew when I would have to go at a moment’s notice.  I cancelled one doctor’s appointment 4 times because it continually conflicted with her schedule.  That hesitation is hard to part with.

So, here we are in the summer of 2011.  We finally feel like we can travel without worrying about a family emergency and we have a few trips planned; a few long weekends and one week to see family.  This past weekend we were out for Father’s Day and we got to talking about our summer while we were having ice cream.  My daughter was so excited and asking so many questions.  And I suddenly had a memory of doing that with my Mom and sister.

In May or June we would go out for supper or evening snack and bring a calendar with us.  We would decide when we were going where over the summer holidays.  Moosomin and Warroad were always at the top of the list among others.  The planning was almost as much fun as the trips.  We didn’t go anywhere extravagant or even on a plane.  But those summer trips are some of the best childhood memories I have.  My Mom’s sister came on a few trips with us when I was a teenager.  We went to New York State for a single parent conference and to BC for a family wedding.  Separate years of course.  My Mom did not like driving in the cities and liked the idea of having another adult along.  And my Aunt loves road trips as much as we do so she was more than happy to come along.  We stopped at little motels, got up too early for breakfast, for my liking, and we all had our particular menu item that we liked to eat at almost every restaurant along the way.  We stepped in all but one Great Lake on our way to New York.

I am so thankful for those memories and hope my kids say the same when they grow up.

Two Grandfathers

My children’s grandfather’s had wide differences and shared one incredible irony.

So, there were some differences.  During the 70’s my Dad was a faithful Christian pastor living on a small farm in rural Saskatchewan.  During the same time my Father-in-law was a Laos Buddhist living in a country reeling from war after war fighting for his very existence.

Unfortunately, I don’t know either of them well enough to say if they had much in common.  I would like to think that they would have gotten along.  And I’m sad that they did not get the chance.

But the one irony that they do share is in their major difference.  As I stated in the beginning my Dad lived in probably one of the safest places on earth; outside of a small Saskatchewan farming town where there had never been a known murder.  The most dangerous activity he was involved in was operating farm equipment.  He had no known association with any dangerous persons.  And yet he was killed in a home invasion by an escaped convict.  He was shot with his Dad’s gun.  He died.

My Father-in-law on the other hand was living in Laos.  In the 70’s he was a medic in the army fighting the Communists in a civil war.  He was thought to be dead many times by his family.  At one point after most of his group was dead he and one other soldier lived in the jungle for several weeks hiding during the day and walking through the sleeping enemy at night.  He had guns pointed at him, triggers pulled only to have the guns jam.  My Father-in-law survived beyond explanation.  He swam across the Mekong River with soldiers holding machine guns in towers while search lights panned the river.  He lived.

When my husband and I really talked it through and discovered this extreme irony we were amazed.  I know that these extremes exist in everyday life.  There are many people that would have similar stories, especially in my father-in-laws case.  But, what are the chances that the children of these 2 men would meet and marry?  I find it amazing.  Sometimes our histories seem to become very heavy in our house.  It has sometimes felt too much to have both of these stories collide in one house.  But the incredible family history we have between us for our children is truly amazing.

All I know is that I’m not God and I don’t know all of the intricacies and other paths that could have been taken, but to me it looks like for Pasith and I to be together and our children to be born my Dad had to die and his Dad had to live.  All of those guns jamming and sleeping soldiers.  The decision of Randy Mirwault on which direction he would leave Moosomin and which house they would stop at.  I only traveled four hours to the East to meet up with Pasith.  He had to come halfway around the world.

There are many reasons why I am fascinated by history in my own family and the world in general.  But this much “story” in our little family just puts it in a whole new category.  I am extremely proud to pass this history on.


In the midst of the heartache and pain of the first days, weeks and months after my Dad was killed there were so many incredible people who helped my Mom.  Because my Mom was three days from having a baby she was taken to the hospital right after my Dad was killed and was only allowed to leave to make funeral arrangements and then for my Dad’s funeral on June 15th.  I was due to be born on the 15th but was born on the 25th.  Instead of having a baby my Mom was planning her husband’s funeral.  I can’t imagine how difficult planning the funeral must have been under those circumstances.  I really don’t know how she would have made it through without God and family.

There was the night nurse in the hospital.  I just really found out about her about a year ago.  She is still living in Moosomin and I’m hoping to visit with her this summer.  I have a lot of questions for her.  What does she remember?  What did she feel and think?  What did my Mom say to her?  How did she deal with it?  It was her that brought Auntie D to my Mom.  I am eternally grateful to this nurse.

My Mom’s parents came into Moosomin the evening of the 12th.  They were 7 hours away in Minnesota when they got the call and had to make arrangements for their own home not knowing how long they would be gone.  My Grandma T. stayed with my sister while my Grandpa T. was at the hospital with my Mom when I was born.  He came back to my parent’s house and held up 10 fingers through the window.  I was the 10th granddaughter in a row.  My Grandparents were in Moosomin most of that summer and fall taking care of us.  I became very close with my Grandma during this time.  My sister became close to my Grandpa.

My Dad’s Aunts and Uncles were so important in many different aspects.  My sister stayed with them when my Mom’s parents went home for a few days before my Mom got out of the hospital.  They helped out with paperwork and lawyers.  There weren’t any victim’s services so they took her to Regina and had legislation changed for her.  They fought for us.  They helped fight for government compensation because the men had escaped from a minimum security jail.  My hearing these stories second hand I don’t think I can adequately express the change and the difference that these people made in our lives.  I’ve had a very different relationship with my Great Aunts and Uncles than most kids but I still don’t feel like I knew them well enough.  Or expressed enough thanks.

The day before my Dad died he was out in the yard talking to Uncle G. about farm machinery.  When my Mom saw them out there she was a little annoyed.  My Dad was supposed to be finishing the seeding.  The next day my Mom realized that the seeding didn’t matter, the conversation was more important.  But also, the fact that my Dad had seeded caused another problem.   They now had a whole farm season to finish.  So, my Grandpa T helped out with making a farm schedule with the farm neighbors and family.  The farmers would rotate working their own fields and then come out and do our farm.  I find this absolutely amazing.  This is community.  For anyone who has farmed I’m sure you can appreciate the amount of work it must have been for these people.

My Grandpa T. went to every single day of first the preliminary trial in August of 1976 and then the trial in November of 1976.  My Mom was a witness so she couldn’t be there until after she had testified.  So my Grandpa would go in her place.

My Dad’s immediate family was not directly included in what I have written but I know that they were also there.  But they had their own battles and grief to deal with.

My Mom was so thankful to all of these people and made sure that people knew what they had done for her.  I don’t know how you repay this kindness; except by paying it forward.