When the world is too much, I go for a walk with no destination in mind. There is something about the leaves in fall, that crunch beneath my feet and the cool autumn air that turns the volume down on my life.
This is when all the voices in my head have a chance to duke it out until I can come to a conclusion about one of a zillion issues that are bouncing around in my brain.
At the very least, maybe I’ll tire them out enough to simmer down. My goal is to keep going until things are quiet and the only sound I hear is the pounding of my heartbeat; the rhythm that means I’m alive. How quickly we forget the power of that beat that resides within us.
These past two weeks there has been an awful lot to process as a Canadian. Like many of my friends, my heart is heavy watching the fallout of the terrorism acts in Ottawa and Quebec.
My melancholy has been hard to shake. This has stirred up some grief for me that I was sure had passed. Foolish thought, really. Grief never passes; it just lessens its grip.
The murder of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent actually hit me the hardest. He reminded me of my brother-in-law Jim, who proudly served his entire career in the Canadian Armed Forces.
They looked like brothers to me. If Jim were alive today, he’d say they were brothers.
And then Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was murdered, right on the platform of a sacred spot in our nation’s history. And all I could think was, thank God Jim didn’t live to see this day.
Jim’s service to our country was so vital to his character that when he retired, as a Sergeant, he was lost. He didn’t quite know how to be a civilian. The army was his family.
But Jim and I were close friends. We talked little about his experiences in the Forces. He earned my respect, so I didn’t need a resume of his accomplishments. From him I learned a lot about humanity and patriotism.
I also learned how poorly we treat our soldiers, especially those with physical and mental health issues. It pained him to see suicides of his brothers and sisters, or court battles for basic health care entitlements for veterans of all ages. It angered him that Canadians didn’t seem to care.
When Jim passed away after a horrific battle with cancer, I gave his eulogy. I vowed to always honour the sacrifice of our soldiers, the men and women we so rarely celebrate because we are so disconnected from their role in our lives.
If there is a silver lining in these tragedies, for me it is watching Canadians show their respect to the heroes we take for granted.
It’s realizing everything we have someone else is putting their lives on the lines for. Gratitude. Simple.
My walk took me to the cenotaph. This was my chance to give thanks. I found a weathered Maple leaf, tattered on the edges, but deep red in the heart. I said a silent prayer, placed a stone on the leaf and set it on the memorial. The wind will blow it away in time, but I will keep my word, to Jim and to his family.
Writing has been my passion since I learned how to hold a pencil (which I still cannot do properly). Despite my father’s insistence that I would starve to death in this career, I remain well fed and eager to write more. They say you should do what you love: I love to write.