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Friday, 23 January 2015

Dealing With Bereavement

Dealing With Bereavement
January 23rd, 2015

Today marks the 18th anniversary of my Mom's passing and, naturally, memories come flooding back of the times we had with her.  Our family still tells stories about her - usually they make us chuckle, or cause us to smile. It wasn't always like that. 

I can remember that it felt like I was now an orphan - having said goodbye to my dad 17 years earlier. It really hit me on my birthday, when I realized that the woman who gave birth to me wasn't around any more. Getting through that first year had many tough moments - mostly on those special days - birthdays, Mothers' Day, Christmas. It was hard to look at the selections in the greeting card sections knowing that there were some cards that I would never buy again. 

Certain songs would trigger memories and, one of my favourite songs, 'I Will Take Care of You' by Amy Sky, would make me feel so sad that I couldn't listen to it and would change stations if it came on the radio. 

This last week, we said goodbye to a dear friend of ours. Derek Walton ('Braveheart'), had lived with ALS, surviving for over 12 years with this debilitating disease. His motto was, "In order to have a life of purpose, you need to have a purpose in life". He lived this philosophy - and then some. He has left a huge hole in our lives. 

Whenever we are faced with the death of a loved one, we often reflect upon our own mortality. We find ourselves asking questions: What is it all about? Why are we here? What's the point? The circumstances surrounding the passing also have an influence upon our reactions. 

Courtesy of
When I was studying theology in college, back in the U.K., we covered a whole unit on Divorce and Bereavement, comparing and contrasting these experiences of life. There were remarkable similarities, and the stages of grief were almost the same. It was made clear that people cannot be rushed through those stages (Denial and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance), and they don't necessarily occur in that order, nor only once. Life is more complex than that - as anyone who has grieved a loved one will testify. 

One of the things that brought me comfort at the time of my Mother's death was the fact that just two days before she died, she celebrated her 82nd birthday. She was in hospital, and when my sister and brother-in-law visited her, she was sitting up in bed, and had perfect vision and hearing - in spite of spending most of her later life having to depend upon hearing aids and glasses. She was very chipper and wanted to know where her birthday cake was!! The following night, she slipped into a coma, and died early the following morning, just 2 days after her birthday. I can't help feeling that she was given a glimpse of things to come, just before she made her transition - no more pain, no more disabilities, no more anxiety - just peace and joy. 

Derek 'Braveheart' Walton, surrounded by his children
The last time we had seen our friend, Derek Walton (at his home about a week beforehand), he looked very poorly and we felt that this was going to be the last time we saw him on this side of the veil. His last few days were spent in Hospice Simcoe, in Barrie, and he was surrounded by his amazing family. The photos and a movie we saw on Facebook showed him deriving pleasure from those visits. On one photo, he looked much better than the last time we had seen him. When one of the PSW's entered the room and sang with his guitar, you could see Derek's lips moving as he joined in with the song. After saying goodnight to his children, he told his wife, Diane (an extraordinary woman and beautiful person), that everything was OK; and then he chose to pass peacefully - just a few hours afterwards. 

People deal with bereavement in different ways. Each person's pain is unique, and the journey has to be made alone. No words can be found to take away the pain, to lessen it, or move through it. When people say things to us, they may sound like clich├ęs. When that happens, I tell myself that what people are trying to say is that they care - and take comfort from that. Probably the toughest time is when all the immediate support of the physical presence of others is withdrawn - the funeral is over, family and friends have returned to their routine - and we are left alone, knowing that our lives have been changed forever.  

It's not that we forget our loved ones (who even wants to forget - rather, we want to hold on to those cherished memories). I think what happens is that, after time passes, we tuck our memories somewhere deep within. They are not recalled every single day and we can begin to move on. The memories are always there for us to retrieve whenever we feel the need. We can enjoy them and then gently return them to that recess in our heart and in our mind, ready for the next time. 

Bereavement is a part of life. It is uncomfortable, painful, and heart-rending; but it also has the ability to help us discern what is important to us, and may help us to clarify our priorities in life. 

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Jane's Tea Garden

Jane's Tea Garden
January 21st, 2015

No visit to Elliot Lake would be complete without a visit to Jane's Tea Room, on Ontario Avenue!

Ontario Avenue, Elliot Lake

It was one of the first dining experiences we had after we had moved up here, following the recommendation from our friend, Emily.

Situated snugly amongst other friendly small-town shops, it beckons people inside by an alluring array of gifts which surround the dining area. Once inside, you are welcomed by the warmth and personal service from the staff who really know how to cater to their clientele. 

Ranked #1 of 21 restaurants in Elliot Lake by Trip Advisor , the tea room is billed as 'A great lunch spot with homemade food'. It has 'a great soup and sandwich selection.... along with selections of teas and lovely gifts around the store which make this spot and enjoyable break.'  This is certainly what we have found, and we have had consistently great experiences there.

A nice variety on the menu board

When we visit the tea garden, we are always made to feel very welcome and are the proud recipient of warm hugs from either, Lynn, Glynis, or Gwen! From the first time we entered, we felt at home and it remains at the top of the list of places to go when we have visitors staying with us. The ambience makes for a pleasurable dining experience. Whoever is your server, you will be looked after and treated like royalty - and the homemade soups are out of this world!

Two large pots of homemade soup - always ready to serve

They are usually closed in the evenings, but last year, on Valentine's Day, they hosted a special evening meal - and we have to say that it was, by far, the best meal we had ever tasted in Elliot Lake! We're hoping that they will be offering the same event this year. 

Us with Lynn, one of the delightful servers

If you are ever in Elliot Lake - for business or pleasure - make sure you don't miss out on this fine experience. You will not be disappointed!


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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Walking on Water - Frozen Elliot Lake

Walking on Water - Frozen Elliot Lake
Monday, January 19th, 2015

For those of you who know me - coupled with the fact that I originated in the U.K. - you'll understand the fascination I still entertain about the lakes being frozen enough for people to actually walk on them! Yesterday, we took our snowshoes and ventured out onto Elliot Lake to explore along both sides of the lake. It was going to be interesting seeing the familiar from a different  perspective. 

Spine Beach is just 2 minutes drive from where we live, and is a place we frequent in the summer - especially when we want to cool down in the heat of an August evening. This was our starting-off point for our trek across the lake. 

As we were donning our snowshoes, a car was towing an ice hut onto the lake. It still astounds me that cars and trucks can venture out onto a lake! 

We made our way clockwise on a planned 'route' and reached the first 'jutting-out bit', around which we had not set eyes upon before. We knew the lake to be large in area, and we saw this for the first time. Aware that the lake extended beyond the furthest we could see, looking westward, it wasn't until we arrived back home and checked on a map that we realized how we had hardly touched the halfway mark!

The route we took (enlarge for clearer view)

We had wondered about trying to reach the far end of the lake to see the waterfall that we'd heard about, but it would have taken too long. We would have to leave early in the morning to dust off that ambition. 

Crossing to the other side of the lake, at a fairly narrow part, it was interesting to look back at the edge of the city, noticing the hospital and the other beach, further along the shoreline. It was also enchanting to see how many little islands there were on the lake that we had not known about before.
View of the town from the middle of the lake

The inevitable 'selfie'!

Of course, we're always on the lookout for wildlife, and we noticed a proliferation of animal footprints in the snow - even as far out as the middle of the lake.
Deer tracks? ... At least, that was what Mark was hoping they were!
At one time, when we were near the northern shoreline, we heard the deep-pitch sound of a pileated woodpecker. Well camouflaged among the evergreens, we had to be content with the sound only.
Woody wouldn't come out to be seen

We passed a man who was ice-fishing (without a hut). He had a lawn chair to sit on, but was checking his lines to see what was happening. 
Ice fishing

Turning eastward, we hiked around an islet then traveled past Sylvah Island before heading back to Spine Beach. 
Onward we go

Where we'd been

The lowering sun looked amazing through the trees on this island

By the time we got back to our starting point, the sun had gone down and the temperature dropped somewhat. 

To think that this is just 2 minutes from where we live, makes us feel a great sense of appreciation for the lifestyle we are carving out for ourselves. 


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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Walking on Ice - the Superior kind...

Walking on Ice - the Superior Kind!

Date: Monday, January 12th 
Time: 5:15 a.m. 

A Facebook message popped up on my computer, 'What time do you want to head out?' 
'Whenever you're ready,' I replied. 
'How about we have our shakes while watching the rest of the 'Golden Globes [which we had recorded the night before], then aim to leave at 6:30?'

Such is modern technology, which enables us to communicate with our partner in the other room!!! 

That's how our day started, though we had planned it the day before. Mark had checked the forecast for Sault Ste. Marie and Agawa Bay, and sunshine was promised - though we knew how temperamental Lake Superior weather can be. He also wanted to drop by Iron Bridge to see the deer while they were having their breakfast!

Setting off 15 minutes later than planned, the car didn't take too long to warm up and we were on our way. 

Unfortunately for Mark, there were no deer to be seen, so we continued on towards the our destination. 

Long Road Ahead
Once Hwy. 17 turned north from the Soo, the sense of excitement (which we always feel when we visit this part of the Superior coastline) mounted. (You can click the pics to make them larger).
Ridges in the Distance

'Up On the Rooftop...'

The scenery - very different from Summer and Fall - beckoned us forward until we arrived at the Voyageur's Lodge at Batchawana Bay. You can see the amount of snow that had fallen over the previous few days. The guy shoveling snow in the background gives a whole new take on 'Up On the Rooftop'! 

Batchewana Bay
The bay, itself, was mostly frozen over and the wind coming off the lake lowered the temperature somewhat. However, you could feel the warmth of the sun on your skin when you turned away from the wind. 

A few clicks further on, we found our spot just north of Pancake Bay. We had been thrilled at the power of the waves when we had visited the area in the Fall, last year. Nothing could have prepared us for the beauty and splendour we were to behold where water meets ice and snow. Nature had chiseled out some amazing cliffs, caves, and sculptures... and we were able to walk along the frozen shoreline to discover some breath-taking views. 

Rob & Jenn
Looking back towards the car from our point out on the ice, we noticed another couple who were preparing to venture forth in our direction. You can imagine our surprise when it turned out to be our friend, Rob, from the Soo, together with his girlfriend, Jenn.

Rob is an amazing adventurer who often kayaks on Superior in all seasons. (He was the first to tell us about the Ice Caves at the Apostle Islands last year). What are the odds of meeting up with friends while out on the ice, nearly 4 hours away from home? 

Rob led the way to some even more splendid sights, including a cave that had been hollowed out by the action of the water.
Us in the Cave

Inside the Cave

So glad that we happened upon each other, as we would probably not have explored further along had it not been for his suggestions.

The experience of the waves of Superior lashing at the ice-cliffs and forming ever-changing, ever-new vistas was something to wonder at. The pictures don't really do justice to the reality, but we're still very pleased with them. 

                These two short movie clip gives a better idea of what captured our awe. 

Reluctantly, we returned to the car, and headed a little further north, noticing the contrast of the seasons in familiar places.

In the Fall
In Winter

Although we had planned to go as far as Old Woman Bay, we decided to start the return journey as we had spent quite a long time out on the ice - and we both agreed that, after that experience, there would probably be nothing to eclipse it for the rest of the day!

Deer in Iron Bridge
Of course, we had to stop by at Iron Bridge on the way home - just in case the deer were having their supper. Much to Mark's delight, we spotted a few, one with antlers, which made his day.

Antlered Deer

The server at the gas station told us that there were fewer deer in Iron Bridge this winter as there are several wolf packs that have moved into the area and so the numbers have dropped considerably. Now - if we could see a wolf - it would be ME who would be delighted!

Arriving home just after 7:00 p.m., we were tired, but elated at the wonderful day we had spent - magnificent scenery, awesome experiences, warm friendships, and a deeper appreciation of Winter, with all its beauty and splendour. 


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