navigating grief

Last night, I sat in my living room helping a man in his 80’s process the emotional roller coaster of losing his wife of 60 plus years.

He was struggling with first the shock of her disappearance the day before, then the angry realization that she lay alone in the bottom of a stairwell after a City of Hamilton public building had closed – after the staff said she had never made it inside.

There she lay, alone, until the police finished their investigation and the coroner arrived. The procedural dramas on TV never show THIS aspect of an investigation – the sheer HAVOC this wreaks on the families of the deceased.

I keep on hoping someone does a police procedural from the victim’s family’s perspective – then realized it would never fly because it would be too hard to watch and the people who haven’t experienced that kind of loss would believe the emotional range a person goes through.

It was hard for me knowing that Larry passed alone on the surgical floor of Juravinsky Hospital, to be found by a nurse doing their rounds. The knowledge that your most beloved friend and partner died alone in the bottom of a stairwell, not to be found until the police searched several hours later, would be crushing.

He embodied the shifting emotions ranging from sorrow, anger, grief, profound loss and rage.   He was manic and astounded at how confused he was as he was feeling everything and nothing all at once.

When he asked me when it gets better, my reply was honest and short – it doesn’t.

Losing the love of your life, your partner, your better half, is losing a part of yourself – whether it’s 15 or 50+ years.

You are no longer “we,” you have become “me” due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

I warned him that his life will be a shambles focusing on being executor of her estate for the next several weeks. It’s practically a full time job as it becomes all consuming. I didn’t mention that this will followed by dealing with the emotional fallout for months to come, not to mention the year of firsts and anniversaries.

All of these things nobody ever prepares you for.  All of these things nobody can prepare you for.

When asked by another friend how I still counsel people after losing my own husband, my reply was simple:

I’m unable to do anything but hope and pray – this is 95% of what I do. The rest is just to be present and listen.

finding my smile

The past few weeks have reminded me of how blessed I am to be surrounded by amazing people who understand and support me.  As a performer who still suffers from anxiety, having people who believe in you is an incredible asset to have, especially when your anxiety reveals itself in the form of impostor syndrome.

That being said, people who believe in me have helped push me forward beyond my usual comfortable snail’s pace and I am grateful for them.

First and foremost, thank you to David Milmine for believing in Phineus enough, to bring him along on a marquee gig to assist Santa with crowds and distribution of holiday cheer, music and, yes, candy canes.  It’s been almost a decade since I’ve done serious performance based clowning and over 7 years since I’ve been able to assist the Jolly Old Elf Himself as a helper.  When I looked in the mirror and saw Phineus looking back at me, it felt like wearing an old pair of comfortable jeans as well as breaking in new shoes.
David had faith in me, when I barely had faith in myself.  I am indebted to him for his kindness and support.

Thanks also to Susie Braithwaite of the International Village BIA for being so welcoming and open minded to something new and different for the “Shop the Village” and “Victorian Night in the Village” events.  I hope Phineus gets asked back next year as we had fun!

I managed to “find my smile” again after it had been absent several years, I missed it and it’s like having a beloved old friend back in my life.

And if any Santas want a fun loving elf to assist them.  Let’s talk!

A second thanks to Connie “The Mississippi Queen” Rouble for hosting my first Southern Supper.  I had approached her with the idea of doing a Christmas Show where I can perform some of my own music, holiday classics, while friends, supporters and family eat a delicious meal of fried chicken, biscuits, potatoes, green beans and pumpkin pie.  It was a lovely evening and again, it took me to swallow my pride, ignore that little voice in the back of my head saying that I’m not good enough and then diving head first into deep water.

My friends and family seemed to enjoy the food and they particularly enjoyed the Balderdash and Humbug holiday shenanigans that I provided during my second set.
Thank you to Amanda Pants Covill-Hyde, John Corvus and Drew Maddison of the Hamilton Pagan Pride committee for inviting me to open for their annual Krampus Pub Moot.  I once again brought out a set of comedy holiday parodies that were bookended with some suitably pagan Yuletide songs (classics from Jethro Tull and an olde English carol), the audience seemed to have fun and once again opening for Heather Dale and her band was an added bonus!  I was only sad that I had to leave early in order to get enough sleep to come to work the next day.

I’d like to thank Rev. Doug Moore and the parishioners of Laidlaw Memorial United Church for hosting the fourth installment of “No Coal in Your Stocking.”  Once again, I produced a show where local musicians could perform holiday songs for a laid back audience and have a chance to celebrate the season with other musicians.  It was a joyous occasion and we continued to increase the shared take as we passed the hat.

It’s amazing how the holiday season allows people of different faiths to gather together and celebrate light, rebirth and light.  Once again, I walk the fine line between Pagan and Christian as I explore what the month around the Winter Solstice, Yule and Christmas means to me as an entertainer and artist both through emotional and spiritual viewpoints.

dear santa 2019

When Larry decided to portray you, I was introduced to a world of incredible people who set aside their lives to portray you, eventually leading to their being shaped by you and what you represent.  I thank you for Larry’s friends and mentors who continue to don the suit of red.  Many have become good friends, mentors and spiritual advisors to me.  

Having you in my life figuratively and in many cases, literally, has helped me survive the past six years as there is a constant reminder of the magick, spirit and love that you represent.  The men in the red suit who have remained in my life are blessings to me – I am reminded to love and give freely of myself through their actions.  My faith in humanity is refreshed when you reveal your presence through them.

Your biggest and best gift to me was Larry being given a focus and drive – even through the worst cancer threw at him.  Your next greatest gift to me has been that the men who portray you that stood behind and beside me and supported me when my world crumbled, many of them propped me up to ensure that I didn’t fall apart.  At least two of these folks have been a large part of my life before you entered it and they remain a large part of my life.  They continue to support me in their actions, words, prayers and deeds and they remind me that faith can be a powerful thing when given the right intent and reason.  Because of them I still believe.

You have given me a good friend who both portrays you but also has taken me under his wing and works with me musically.  David has been my most ardent supporter, believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.  He still does.  David continues to know exactly when I’m not in a good head and heart space and he reaches out to remind me of what is important and keeps me grounded.  In him I’m reminded that the spirit of St. Nicholas and St. Francis of Assisi can still exist in an over noisy and complicated world.

Make me an instrument of your peace indeed.  David is such an instrument and he brings peace within him wherever he goes.  Thank you.

This summer, I was blessed to spend time with many others who bear your mantle and joyously bring your blessings to us.  In them, you have given me a spiritual support and guides who show me that faith is a personal thing and can be balanced with my scientific mind’s desire for rationality and evidence.  Just as I believe in your existence in the hearts of the people who portray you, I believe in a higher power that exists in the hearts and minds of people who are searching for more.

Michael, Glenn, Hal, Bruce, Lee, Glen, Leon and Stephen have shown me this higher power through their actions, words and hearts.  Again, they all have shown faith in me, when my own faith and belief in myself is often sorely lacking.  I thank you for their presence as it’s nice to have someone in my corner when I don’t feel like it’s warranted.

You have given me the drive to keep going when everything within me fought forward motion.  I continue to make and release music that represents who I am and provides a glimpse into whom I am striving to become.

You have continued to keep my family in my life and I am blessed with a supportive and caring Mother and an amazing brother, sister-in-law and nieces.

So.  For once, it’s time that someone thank you for all you have given me.  Gifts that aren’t material, however gifts that have supported me, provided me strength and continue to keep me alive.

Thank you once again, Santa, for all you have given.

I love you dearly,

myke.

P.S. I’d still like to ask you for one thing. Over the past couple of months, I have missed being cuddled.  While Chloe does her utmost best, I’d still like two arms to hold, comfort and reassure me at some point.  Dating has been difficult and I’ve pretty much given up at this point.

P.P.S. Can you also try to ensure that the good things that happen to me this year aren’t immediately followed by not so good things?  I understand the need for balance, however 2019 continued to be one sucker punch after another and I’m punch drunk after two brutal years.

it’s not about the city hall forecourt

On Saturday I received a message that “we won the city hall forecourt” and that gays were welcome there once more.

I was somewhat taken aback because the recent skirmishes at Hamilton City Hall Forecourt (aka the Bob Morrow Forecourt) were not about 2SLGBTQIA+ acceptance there, but more a fight against alt-right extremism and all it represents.

I congratulated the individual on their hard work for the whole community, however…it’s not about the city hall forecourt.

Despite the mayor flying the rainbow flag (against his own LGBTQ Advisory Committee’s wishes) and the often vandalized Rainbow Flag and Trans Flag walkways, the City of Hamilton can still remain an unwelcoming place for anyone who is not a Caucasian Cisgender Heterosexual Christian.

The irony in the messaging was that at that very moment I received the message that “we won” the forecourt.  The people in yellow vests, carrying the Red Ensign flag and signs extolling hatred were encamped even closer to my home, across the street from the  church I belong to and the cafe that has served as a second home for me since my husband was diagnosed as being terminally ill.
We didn’t win – we shone the light on the cockroaches and they scattered.  This was part of their tactics as they had brought in organizers from other areas in Canada.  Ones with ties to other white supremacy groups and a more widespread network to further their agendas.
We have won one small battle but Hamilton remains an unwelcoming place for many:
– BIPOC people who, until the supreme court ruled carding unconstitutional, faced an disproportionate likelihood of being detained by Hamilton Police Services for “random” identification checks.
– LGBTQ people who have stopped reporting hate crimes and minor property crimes because the Hamilton Police Services often did not investigate and suggested that the victims brought it on themselves for being openly queer.
– People of the Muslim faith who have been assaulted, harassed, spit upon and threatened for walking down a public sidewalk.

This is due to the continued actions of those arms of the city who are supposed to keep ALL its citizens safe:

– A police service who arrested a community member after a public meeting, citing parole violations despite mounting evidence that the individual did NOT breach their parole because they were at home in Toronto on the date of the alleged parole violation, every time a new charge was cited, it was proven false and later changed.

– A police service who were told what time, where and how many Christian, right wing and fascist extremists to expect at Hamilton Pride, but still took over 42 minutes to intervene due to what amounted to not enough staff available at the time.
– A police service who later explained they decided not to protect citizens being assaulted by others with weapons because Pride Hamilton did not allow them to set up a recruitment booth at the Pride Festival
– A police service who ignored a white supremacist weaponizing a school bus when he pulled it up onto the sidewalk to disperse a crowd of counter protesters, did not even ticket the illegally parked vehicle but “negotiated” with the individual for 45 minutes to park it elsewhere on city property for free.
– A police service who later arrested a counter protester for DANCING IN PUBLIC and later re-arresting them for “parole violations” despite their remaining the proper distance away from City Hall.
– A police service who responds to businesses protecting themselves from far right extremists by intimidating behaviours, photographing them, treating them as “persons of interests” and ignoring queries as to the nature of their activities.
– A police service more intent on getting statements from people in yellow vests, many of whom aren’t even citizens of the City of Hamilton, rather than discussing the activities of these people and the harm they are causing to the city’s residents and businesses.
– A mayor who ignores the LGBTQ Advisory Committee his council selected from the community in lieu of his own hand selected committee, holding secret meetings with unknown individuals with no agenda or published results.
– A mayor who ignores repeated written requests to discuss issues in the city, opting for photo opportunities with rescue animals and ribbon cutting ceremonies.

So yes, the yellow vests have scattered from the City Hall Forecourt.  A courtyard ironically named for the Mayor who fought AGAINST Gay Pride festivities in Hamilton and was forced to allow them to happen by the Human Rights Tribunal as his activities were deemed unconstitutional.  However they are popping up elsewhere in the city, spreading their rhetoric, hatred and anger…

One skirmish is over, however many members of the 2SLGBTQIA and BIPOC communities still feel unwelcome and unsafe in the City of Hamilton.  We have a LONG battle ahead of us and until the people at City Hall and in the police service wake up and pay attention, it’s likely only to worsen.

 

six years on

Dear Larry,
 
It’s hard to believe that six years have passed since cancer took you from us.
I celebrate your life and the impact you made on the people you met.  I hope to continue to make the house a place of solace and respite from the darkness of the world.  I continue to support the Santas and help them spread the magick and spirit of the season year round.
Chloe continues to bring me joy and little moments of peace, however she is beginning to show the signs of her age.  She’s not comfortable going down the stairs anymore and walks are slowing down noticeably.  You’d be so proud of her as she road the GO Bus and GO Train to Mom’s a couple of weeks back and she really enjoyed riding the GO Train.  This means that I’ll have a little more leeway to visit Mom.
I continue to heal and grow as I explore what it means to be me.  I still struggle with moments of loneliness and anxiety, however I continue to grow in strength and resilience.
I miss you every day but also hope that I will someday find someone who will make me feel similarly to how you made me feel.  Maybe I can make them feel the way you made me feel – it would be a thrill to be able to bring such love and joy into another person’s life.
That’s the least I can do to honour your legacy.
I love you.

I miss you.

Thank you.
m.

dear santa christmas in july edition

Dear Santa,
 
It’s been a while since I’ve written to you, so here goes!
 
When Larry decided to portray you, I was introduced to a world of amazing people who set aside their lives and a part of their identities to portray you, eventually leading to their being shaped by you and what you represent.
 
Having you in my life figuratively and in many cases, literally, has helped me survive the past five years as there is a constant reminder of the magick, spirit and love that you represent.
 
Thank you for continuing to put the amazing people who support your work in my life. As I continue to meet the people who do your work throughout the year, I realize that the spirit you represent is needed more and more as the world continues to become a more dark and cynical place.
 
I realize the spirit you represent is needed more in my life as the past few years had threatened to make my life a dark and cynical place.
 
You have given me a good friend who both portrays you but also has taken me under his wing and works with me musically. David has been my most stalwart cheerleader, believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. He still does. I was able to reconnect with him this year after some time away when I was not in a good head and heart space and I’m reminded that the spirit of St. Nicholas and St. Francis of Assisi can still exist in an over noisy and complicated world.
 
Make me an instrument of your peace indeed. David is such an instrument and he brings peace within him wherever he goes. Thank you.
 
I used to think that when Larry died, that you’d be in my rear view mirror, however you continue to put people in my life who show what your spirit and magick can bring to the lives of people. Every time I pull away, another amazing human being is sent my way to remind me of the good that can be done through a moment of kindness or just an instant of connection through recognition.
 
Message clearly received! Now just to figure out how the next steps of my service and support should progress.
 
So. For once, it’s time that someone thank you for all you have given me. Gifts that aren’t material, however gifts that have supported me, provided me strength and kept me alive.
 
Thank you! I love you.
 
myke.

one proud army

I have suspected Pride Hamilton 2019 will be marked as a turning point for the 2SLGBTQIA community in Hamilton. It sounds from the reports last night that my suspicions have started to bear fruit…

We fought in the 1970’s for decriminalization and depathologization (ICD 302.0) of our identity, we fought back in the 1980’s after the bathhouse raids, we fought for medical care during the AIDS crisis in the 1990’s, we fought for protection under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we fought to get married.

Now we’re fighting for our safety and right to exist in the city we call home.

The fact that individual members of the 2SLGBTQIA community made it to adulthood and beyond proves that individually, we’re warriors.

Hamilton’s Mayor and police, through their inaction and targeting of our communities, have turned a motley, disheveled group of warriors into an army.