Tag Archives: life questions

Night Has Fallen

There is a saying, “The little bird sings in the dark, welcoming the dawn he knows will come.”

By itself it doesn’t make sense.  Consider it a metaphor that opens a door.  It is not really about birds but people, so many interpretations are possible.  From where I stand, mid-way in my nineties, the end of a long journey approaches.  As surely as a bird knows morning will come, I know death is my destination.    Continue reading


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Change: The Only Constant

A year after my husband, Sheldon, died in 2010, I moved to Vancouver and am now happily ensconced in this beautiful city. Warm and loving family members live nearby, helping me adapt to this new stage of life. I live in a pleasant, comfortable seniors’ residence that is more than a place to live. It is home. Surrounded by friendly people, fed excellent food, entertained by more events than I am able to handle, I am content.

The summer of 2015 was beautiful in many ways. Warm weather, only scattered showers, wonderful weather for walking along a beach eating an ice cream cone. I had my share of enjoying these days with friends and family. My idle summer days were special treats, squeezed in as they were between visits to one doctor after another.

My memories of the past summer cover both the joy of perfect days, and learning that I have cancer and a heart which beats with an unusual rhythm, so that treatment of the cancer by surgical methods is unattractive.

Despite the cold reality of my diagnosis, I feel great. My life remains full, busy, and enjoyable. The medical specialists are treating the cancer, which is a slow-growing type, with a non-surgical method. Re-assessment will be done as needed.

So where does this leave me? After all these years, I understand my temperament. I operate best when I understand what I am facing, and what must be done. My life can be adjusted to meet the changing needs, and once done I am content. So it will be this time too.

Will you see a difference in me? Probably – but not in my day-by-day life. My writing may take the brunt of my adjustment to the new reality. Be prepared to be bombarded with my musings about approaching the end of my current stage of life, and my curiosity about what follows.

Don Blanding wrote a poem called “The Rest of the Road.” It has been a favourite of mine for years. Viewing life from where I stand now, the words of the last verse describe my feelings exactly.

How long? How far? How hard? How fine?
How heavy or light the load?
If it’s half as good as the half I’ve known,
Here’s Hail! to the rest of the road.


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Happy — Content

The same, different, or similar?

A family group is touring our seniors’ residence: a middle-aged couple, and an elderly lady, the mother of one of them. Escorting our visitors is a staff member, the Community Relations Manager. She is leading them around, pointing out the many lovely areas we enjoy. The middle-aged couple is delighted with what they see. Their older relative looks troubled.

As I pass them, I nod and say, “Good morning.” To my surprise, the old woman turns and says, “Do you live here?”

“Yes, I’m a resident.”

“How long have you lived here?”

“Almost four years.”

“Do you like it?”

“Certainly, I’m very content.”

“But are you happy?” she says urgently.

Seeing that we are at cross-purposes, I use her terminology and reply, “Yes, I’m very happy here. It’s my home.” and walk on.    Continue reading


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From the Past to the Future

I am now aged. Although my accumulation of years is obvious, what is not as apparent is the inner changes that are taking place. My interests, abilities, and expectations are all undergoing revision. I feel an urgent need to define the new me: Time is running out! Is there anything now that I can be a part of and that could be of value to present and future generations? What must I do? What am I able to do? What do I want to do?

Taking the easy route, I decide that what I want to do is apt to be what I can do best. The answer, then, is easy, too: I will be a custodian of family history, of the stories that reflect both the everyday lives and the dreams of people I have known and loved. Recording those stories will be the invaluable ingredient.

For centuries, the history of a family or a people was passed down in the only way possible: orally. Person to person, generation by generation, the precious stories were told, memorized, and passed on. Now, I can take my pick of recording methods, using one or all: books and pictures, videos, and computers.

But it is all storytelling, and the old oral tradition can still be a part of it. Whenever my family gathers, in the midst of the laughter and fun, I will “remember when,” sharing the stories I know. Passed on with love, these memories will be part of what binds the family together, today and tomorrow.


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Survival Guide for Old Age: Sequel #1

As preparation for writing this sequel, I reread the original essay carefully. Thoughts crowded into my mind. What is the best way of presenting my stance? Can I even tackle this challenge?

But I am at least qualified to offer the memories accumulated from my own long lifetime. Besides that, my residence is a senior citizens’ home, an interesting launching pad for this essay. This effort is aimed at my generation in the hope that my viewpoint will aid them.

As these thoughts swirl around, I think back on my own life. My mind slips back thirty years. A sudden recession had struck the oil business. Imperial Oil, the company my husband Sheldon worked for, needed to cut costs. They started by offering their older employees early retirement. A common move, but Imperial did it with humanity and caring. The package offered was generous, and the program that accompanied it was amazing. Every retiree and his or her spouse was invited to attend a retirement information class. This course took several days to complete, and covered more aspects than most of us had ever considered. Advice about financial matters was expected. We got that, but also excellent information on the mental, physical, and social adjustments that accompanied retirement.    Continue reading


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Survival Guide for Old Age

The years pile up. Age creeps up slowly, hardly noticed at first. A woman lives in the same home for fifty years. She has a profession and develops it seriously. At home she shares the all-important business of raising a family, keeps the house, does community work, and gardens. Slowly, one by one, all slip away. In the end, it is only she and the house. It becomes imperative now that she make a big change. This is beyond her imagination and she rejects all insistence to do so.

Making a major move is trying at any time. At an advanced age it can be traumatic. Two known constants in life – inevitable change, and resistance to change – are now at loggerheads. More education regarding aging, and the timing and managing of major changes, would be very helpful in many cases. Where can ordinary people get good, reliable information about such a common experience?

When I hear people discussing old age, my mind flips back about seven hundred years to 1310 and a man named Dante Alighieri. His epic poem, “The Divine Comedy”, is revered by literary scholars. My knowledge of it is confined to one line: “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.” This is what Dante inscribed on his word-picture of the grim gates to Hell.   Continue reading


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Still on the Path

 Still on the Path

People think of life in many ways
or don’t think at all.
What is it?
Something everyone knows but cannot describe.
They say it is like this
or like that.
replace what one feels and knows but can’t articulate.
For me life is a long path on which I travel
until it ends.
Sometimes smooth, sometimes rough, always changing.
Looking back the path shows wonderful views but
the future
disappears around a bend.   Continue reading


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Marjorie’s Manifesto

With apologies to Martin Luther

In 1517 a monk named Martin Luther nailed a document to the church door in Wittenberg.  It was a passionate statement of an alternative vision of what the Christian faith and church practices could and should be.  His action shook his contemporary world, and eventually led to a new and different way of viewing and living faith.

My claim to the right to use the term ‘manifesto’ lies in recently experiencing personal events which have shaken me to the core, and which will lead to major changes in the way I see and lead my life.

On January 10th, 2013 I visited my family doctor, accompanied by my daughter, Lorna Shapiro.  The appointment was made because my family had brought to my attention that I had suffered a major memory lapse.  This unusual event was upsetting for all of us.  How could this happen to me, and what did it mean?   Continue reading


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No Need to Reinvent the Wheel

When one reaches the “aged” phase the temptation is great, and the privilege exists, to revisit life itself – decades and decades of it!  Mankind as far as we now know, is unique among our fellow living creatures, in having a consciousness of self.  We retain memories of the past, anticipate the future, and are acutely aware of our mortality.  With all this come questions: many of them!  Some are profoundly important throughout life, some vary according to our age, and for the most part the answers are elusive.

It fascinates me that these questions, the search for understanding and the efforts to find answers cut across peoples, cultures, and the ages.  Archaeologists now know that even the earliest of primitive people wrestled with much the same questions that plagued more sophisticated societies, and still remain unanswered today:

What is the purpose of life?
What is my role here?
Is there something “out there” that is greater than all else?
Why is there good and evil?
What can I do to make my life worth living?     Continue reading


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