Thursday, March 12, 2015

Grace and Darren, A Visit from England. (Or the alternate title - The Quickest Three Weeks in History!)

Three weeks ago today, I was at the Trudeau airport in Montreal, waiting at the arrivals gate, staring intently at the people coming through the doors. My Grace and her love, Darren were arriving from England It had been three months since I had last seen Grace. I had yet to physically meet Darren, but I knew him well through Skype chats and instant messages, and through the best source of all, the woman who loved him. My daughter.
The reigning couple, at Yankee Candle

When they finally arrived, my world exploded into happy activity. Hugs and kisses for them both, the joy of holding my child again, of being with her. I may even have done a little happy dance, in spirit if not actually. Three weeks! We had three whole weeks together! So much to do, so many people to see, so much TIME to catch up and hang out and to talk and be like we used to be. Together!

I held on to every moment. I tried, I really did. Three weeks went by much too quickly and today I saw two teary young people off on a plane back to England and my heart hurts again.

Fish Fry
It was harder this time. For one thing, I was sending them both off, and I have grown to love Darren. He is everything I could have asked for in a partner for Grace. He is sweet and intelligent, unfailingly kind and creative and he adores Grace. Plus, don't tell him I said this, but he is beyond adorable. Like, seriously. The dimples? Oh my goodness!

It's so hard.

It feels a bit like the air has less oxygen in it when Grace leaves.  Like it hurts a little to breathe, to think, to be. I don't worry about her. Instead, I long for her. I want her with me. Or at least nearby.

Which candle to buy? Duking it out...
She belongs in England, though. She has blossomed there. She is happy, although I know that she misses her home and people very much.  She is surrounded by an amazing group of family and friends in England, and I know that for her, home is where Darren is. Seeing them together these past few weeks has been a joy.  They truly do take care of each other. They bring out the best in each other, and they encourage each other on to great things, especially in their faith in God.  It's so exciting to watch.

Leaving the Montreal Holocaust Memorial
I don't know if I'll ever get used to this, but I do know that I'll adjust.  Grace posted a status on Facebook this morning, writing about how grateful she was to have so many people in her life that she loves and misses. She's right, of course. The more beautiful life gets, the more potential, and likelihood there is that there will be pain.  That's part of the beauty of being human. The pain of loss and separation doesn't have to make us love less, in order to avoid it. We can choose to love better, more deeply, with more intent and freedom.  In this way, we make it worth the pain.  In this way, we transcend the pain.

In this way, love wins.

So...feels like time for a Skype date!
Baymax, from the movie, Big Hero 6, courtesy of Grace, Darren and
the endless winter of 2015.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Montreal Holocaust Centre, Part Two

 Today I went with Grace, Darren and Grace's dad, Mark to  The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre.  It was a second visit for all of us except for Darren, and it was good, in the way that difficult and powerful moments are good. Darren is an English historian, an expert on the world wars and the 1940s. Still, he felt that there were gaps in his knowledge about the Holocaust, and the Memorial Centre was the perfect place to help fill in some of the blanks for him.
Picture courtesy of The Montreal Holocaust Memorial

I wrote about my first visit to the Memorial Centre here.  At the time, there really were no words, I felt the pain and horror of what I had seen and heard deeply and to try to put my feelings into words would only serve to minimize the unfathomable.

Today was different.  There still are no words. No words that I can speak or write, that is. For the past few months, the thought that God keeps bringing to my mind is "listen."  I've spent a lot of time, over the years, finding my own voice and trusting God's encouragement to use it in His wisdom and will. Becoming acquainted with  my own voice has made me more aware of the voices of others.

Oddly enough, I talked more and listened less when I didn't trust my own voice or accept the freedom and responsibility of using it.  Going into the Holocaust Memorial Centre today, I was eager to listen to the voices of the survivors, to hear their stories, from their thoughts and their words. I spent almost an hour and a half in the Memorial, equipped with an iPad and ear piece, lingering over the pictures and artifacts, reading the stories and listening to the experiences of those who had survived.

The first time we went to the Holocaust Memorial, it was with our CEGEP history class.  Someone asked me, at that time, why I wanted to go. To be honest, I wondered the same thing. Not because I thought I shouldn't want to go. I just wanted to know why. Curiosity? To gain knowledge? Was I looking for something? 

Today, my reason for wanting to visit the Memorial back then and even today became clear.  The Nazi Holocaust was an organized, brutal, horrific attempt to silence the voices of an entire people. In the process, they sought to also silence anyone that they deemed unworthy. Millions and millions of voices were silenced forever. The sick and disabled, the poor, homosexuals, immigrants, people of color, political prisoners. What can one do against such evil? It is despairing, tortuous to learn of the depths of horror and tragedy, the torture and death, degradation and destruction, and to feel helpless to do anything.  Not only was it so long ago, but it was so overpowering and demonic. My heart is compelled to do something, anything. But what can I do? What can any of us do?

What is the ultimate rebellion against an evil that seeks to silence the voices of others? The ultimate rebellion is to listen. Hear. Absorb. Believe.  I wanted to step into the light of truth that shone over the darkness of hatred, violence, deceit and secrecy. I wanted to hear the voices calling to me, from letters and videos and pictures and dolls and prayer shawls and blue and white striped tunics and shoes and trains and death camps disguised as train stations, death chambers as shower rooms.

I wanted to honor the memories of the dead by listening to those who remained to tell their stories. Because evil doesn't want these stories told.    And because there are voices, even today, that are being silenced and I want to be in the habit of listening to the stories of others, of reaching out and connecting to people who have stories that they need to tell. And who may need to hear some of my stories.

There are people in all of our lives who need us to listen to them.  How did the Holocaust get so big, so evil, so quickly? The answer is, by the powerful ability of the Nazi party to silence the victims and the equally powerful determination of the people not to listen.  We say, never again. But are we willing to live lives that says, never again? 

We are surrounded by powerful voices that tell us what to believe about people groups that do not have strong voices of their own. I will not rely on the media or politicians or advertisers or televangelists or actors to tell me about those living in poverty, about people of different religions, about prisoners and immigrants and addicts and the mentally ill and the many, many groups that struggle daily just to get by.  If I want to know about them, I will do two things. I will go Jesus and ask Him to give me His heart for people, and then I will go to them and listen to their voices. I will choose not to fear, because love casts out fear and anyone who tries to instill and control me through fear will be shut down and thrown out of my head.  I will answer to a call to the courage and power that is found in the powerful love of God.

Mostly, though, with God's grace and help, I will listen. 

It may not seem like much, but I am beginning the think that it just may be the most powerful thing.
After all, if it wasn't so powerful, it'd probably be a lot easier, wouldn't it?

Lord, give us strength....

My Zimbio