Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Life Well Lived

Dear friends of Ellena's

This will be my last post on Ellena's Cocologie blog. After some reflection, I decided it would be best to bring my blog site back to life (once I reload all the lost photos) and leave Mom's as is. Her stories, thoughts and words are hers and although I'd love to add the last stories she had in mind ... well there is always a reason for everything even when events don't happen. This last post will be in honour of Mom's life as we celebrated it this past week end.

HEADS UP ... This is a long blog post since I included her eulogy and life video. So ... grab a coffee, a tea, a beer or wine ... maybe even something to snack on and spend some time with Ellena's life.

Mom's Life Celebration was held on Saturday April 30th in Patrick's house (Maison Céres) at Maison Emmanuel. They have a hall they use for their performances and meetings that Mom suggested we use so that we could also be close to the community. It was a wonderful clear sunny day with a beautiful deep blue sky and just enough warmth to keep us comfortable. We could not have asked for better weather!

Tanya and I arrived Friday to decorate/setup. One table was dedicated to Mom - A large photo of her, Oma's Koro with Mom's ashes inside, a video montage of her life that I put together using photos, and personal items including a tray of marzipan!  Another table was setup with homemade cakes (the kind mom baked or liked), coffee, tea, cheeses, wine and more marzipan. Flowers decorated both table - mostly pink and purple tulips. Mom always preferred wild day to day flowers versus roses and carnations.

Family and friends began to arrive around 1:30 pm. Mom had suggested we hire Marie-Christine to play the harp and so we did. Marie-Christine played from 1:30 pm until 2:00 pm. The music was heavenly, soft classical melodies which greeted visitors. The celebration began promptly at 2:00 pm with Armelle singing 'Oh Solitude' by Purcell, accompanied by 2 musicians playing a base and a lute (another request Mom had directly made to Armelle). Mom has known Armelle, her husband Renaud and their children for a long time and always enjoyed their company. She was part of their family and often saw Renaud's father when he would visit from France. The song was lovely and a touch melancholic. I could see that Armelle was emotional as she presented her song and also pleased to perform it once more for Mom.

Then it was my turn to speak. What I'd hope to convey in the eulogy was Mom's warmth, thoughtfulness, compassion and joie de vivre and mesh her many qualities with context and highlight other wonderful aspects of Mom. I must admit that I was a bit concerned because I didn't want to get too emotional as I talked - a quivering voice and some tears are ok but outright 'balling' wasn't (not for that day anyway). I remained calm, focussed on the 'specialness' of the day and took in all the loving, respectful and caring energy that everyone brought. To my surprise, their presence kept me grounded and, without pressure, reminded me why I was here - to honour Mom. What follows is Mom's eulogy. It was in English and French but I'm just posting the English version.

Before I begin, I’d like to take a moment and absorb all the loving energy that’s here today. I see many people that I know personally and many others who are very familiar because I’ve heard Mom speak so fondly of you over the years.

We’re gathered here today to celebrate Ellena’s life.  Some of you knew Ellena as Madame Bouzaglo, Ellena, tante Ellena, Oma, Mémé and to us she was Mom.

I’m not going to go into any details about Mom’s illness, as I am sure many of you were aware of her situation, which has led us all to being here today. Mom passed away on February 12th,  more suddenly than expected. The only good thing that came from being aware of her illness – is that it gave US a chance to spend more time with her, to support her, to care for her and to show her how much she was loved - that’s not an opportunity many of us get.  We often look at a hastened death as being a blessing because our loved one didn’t have to suffer too long yet it does’t minimize the sadness and pain of our loss.

As we announced Mom’s passing to relatives, friends and acquaintances, a few common descriptions (for a lack of a better word) came up very frequently.
·      Her door was always open
·      She made us feel welcomed and at home
·      She was thoughtful and giving
·      A true Lady, classy and with style
·      She was full of laughter, always in a good mood

Our mother was indeed all of this and more.

Mom was a warm, compassionate, dignified and vibrant woman who had a passion for life, friendships and traditions. She was forever thoughtful with a wonderful sense of humour and a welcoming smile. It’s a great testament to her nature that she, over the years, formed so many long lasting and new friendships.  She easily endeared people she met and so many have expressed how fondly they remember her and that she will always have a special place in their hearts.

Mom’s heart, generosity, and welcoming hospitality knew no bounds. Her door was always open – I mean literally … because she rarely locked it. You could just walk in, which is what most people did, and she would be there for you. Community members, friends, and family all knew they had a place they could visit for a minute, an hour, a day or a week.  Her hospitality was genuine, gracious and most importantly she made you feel welcomed.

I often visited when my children were younger. We’d head off on this long 6 hour drive and get all excited as we’d hit Montée Beauvais, the bumpy road patch with its little roller coaster feel. She would greet us with a huge smile, plenty of hugs and kisses, a snack, a glass of wine for me and some Gipsy King music playing in the background. We’d have a week of small adventures, splash in blueberry pond and lots of berry picking in all the secret spots Mom had discovered!

Let me tell you a little bit about her life …
Mom was born on March 15th, 1935 in Berlin, Germany. Her family lived in Greece during most of the war and returned to Germany in the early forties. She spent her childhood and adolescent years in various small towns in the Black Forest area. She married young and had her first child, me, at 20. Then we immigrated to Canada in 1956. She remarried in 1970, and shortly after Tanya and Patrik were born. Mom was a modern age woman who enjoyed working and her independence yet she was also rooted in deep traditions. She juggled being a mother, a sister, a daughter, an insurance broker, a friend, a creative being, a tradition keeper, and tending to Patrik’s special needs with grace and always found the energy to live up to her commitments even when times got tough. She moved to the Laurentians in the early 90’s – a place she truly loved and where she felt at home.  Mom always talked about the Black Forest with fondness – the rolling hills, the tall pine trees and the winding trails – I’m pretty sure that her past experiences were at the root of her love for her new home in Val Morin.
To this date, Mom had the gift of lifting spirits through her thoughtful acts – She was never extravagant but she had the knack of finding or doing something that warmed our hearts. Even on my last visit, she had bought me a sponge at Canadian Tire … why? Because I liked the sponge she used to wash her dishes with and complained about how mine didn’t hold the soap well. I later told her that I could not find it in any of my local store. This little thing … a sponge … nothing fancy … but I was so happy when she gave it to me! She was happy to have brought a smile on my face and I was happy because she had thought of me, remembered, and went out of her way to get me this plain old nothin’ sponge!  Small things that warm the heart!
Mom valued her friends, new and old, and nurtured friendships as if they were treasures. To this date she kept in touch with her old friends: Maja (who she met in high school), Eileen and Carol (who she met through in work in 1962 and 1967), the Hoopman’s (who she met shortly after arriving in Canada), Nick and Van (who she met in the late 70’s) and she also made many new friends …... which I won’t list because it’s a long one!  
Mom’s thoughtfulness was most obvious when it came to birthdays and Christmas. Family and close friends were always remembered and you bet there’d be a card or a small gift with a personalized quote inscribed in it. Sending a card in a timely matter was always very important to Mom and she’d sometimes tell me about so and so’s upcoming birthday and hoping they would receive their card on time! One year she went on and on, asking me daily if I had received her Christmas cards/mini packages. I was a little surprised at her nervousness and had to make a point of going to the mailbox on a daily basis - which I normally don’t do since all I get is bills and junk mail and we also because we have one of those mail box centres. Finally the envelopes arrived and Mom calmed down. We had specific instructions to not open anything before Christmas and to make sure we all opened at the same time. Well – it turns out that Mom felt very generous that year and had mailed my children and I a bundle of cash for Christmas!!! So … Not just 10’s and 20’s  … she put 50 and 100 dollar bills into these small photo albums and just put it in the mail … unregistered. No wonder she was near panic knowing that she had put 2 thousand dollars in the mail!  I can just see Mom giggling, anticipating our shock, and delighted that she was able to really surprise us … that’s just like Mom!
Mom loved holidays and made Easter and Christmas magical. Christmas was in fact her specialty – and that’s where our fondest memories lie. Store bought and handmade decorations dressed the tree and the home, German sweets were laid out here and there (and that included lots of marzipan), traditional sauerkraut and goose was always on the menu, and thoughtful gifts lay under the tree wrapped in Mom’s special creative and unique manner. Everything was a magical and a sensory delight. She even went through a phase where she used real candles on the Christmas tree! I have to admit that it made us (my husband and I) very nervous and I’d fill a bucket with water, keep it close to the tree just in case but the experience was beautiful and totally worth the discomfort!
Mom also had a love for the arts: music, books, poetry, and art were always a part of her life. Among her favourites were Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec, Leonard Cohen, Mordicai Richler, George Moustaki, Jacques Brel, Omar Kayam and many classical musicians. She especially enjoyed all the co-worker’s musical talents. She fuelled this passion and interest by actively seeking out related activities : she joined a reading group, a choir group, worked one summer at CAMMAC (which is music camp), volunteered at the yearly music festival in Ste Agathe, supported local artists by visiting their exhibitions especially the 1001 Pots festival hosted by Kenya. Every year she’d attend events, tell me who she saw and how she loved the music or the dance or the objects she saw. Mom’s interest in words and expression eventually brought her to writing her own blog. Yes – Mom had a blog - and just like her, she made friends there too! She felt technically challenged and complained often about not being a good writer but her style was beautiful, unique, and fresh. She kept saying how she was computer challenged yet she knew her way around a computer and the internet a lot more than most people her age.
Mom also devoted herself to causes that were close to her heart. She participated at all Maison Emmanual celebrations and events; volunteered at their bakery, at the library in Val Morin, at musical festivals and at the Ste Agathe hospital. She kept herself busy with activities that brought meaning to her life and in turn met many people who she enjoyed and who also became fond of her.
With all her interests and accomplishments, Mom was modest about herself concerning her abilities and achievements. She possessed great resourcefulness, was level-headed and had integrity. She was also a private, self-contained person, gentle, sensitive and sympathetic.

All these qualities and traits belonged to a woman we called Ellena, Tante Ellena, Oma, Mémé and Mom. Many roles to many people with a lovely human essence that touched us all.
Loss is a sobering event that makes us re-evaluate what we hold dear. When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure. We, my siblings and family and extended family, miss her dearly and are still coming to terms with our loss. 
Mom is probably looking down at us right now, with that little mischievous smile of hers, delighted that we are all together and thinking “Keep your tears for later, mingle amongst yourselves, share memories and please don’t forget to laugh and dance.”

Thank you all for coming. Your presence speaks volumes of the impact our mother had on so many people, and how much she was respected, cherished and loved.

To a life well lived and until we meet again!

My sister Tanya then read a passage she had recently found. It is a letter written by a mother and reads just like something our mother would say to us.  

When I’m gone and the minutes turn into hours, and the hours turn into days, the heaviness inside your heart may seem too much to bear.

I know you will long to hear my voice sing the songs that I loved, see my face, sit beside me, tell me you love me, hear my laugh, or just have those simple conversations we once had.
I know that it probably hurts more than anything else ever has, and you feel like you just cannot go on.
I am sorry I had to go, but my body just couldn’t do it anymore. There is nothing more that I wanted than to spend a lifetime with all of you. I fought with every ounce of my being because of the love we all share. What I want you to understand is that even though all of that physical stuff is gone from sight, our love will never cease to exist. The love that we share is what will carry you through. Our ties, our bond, and our love cannot be severed.
Love is the most powerful force on Earth and transcends all…even death.
Life will be different when I’m gone; you won’t like it and you may want to fight it. You will want to scream out loud in agony, but when you pick yourself back up off the floor, like I expect you to, remember that love. Let that love emanate through your body. I am there, our love is there, I am just gone from sight.
You all are aware that I always had high expectations of myself and I have even higher expectations of you now that I am gone. When every cell in your being wants to give up and wallow because the sadness and pain are unbearable, I want you to take some time and allow yourself that, but then I need you to put two feet on the ground for me. When you cannot do it for yourself, do it for me. I no longer have that privilege.
You are going to want the world to stop turning, and you will want to holler at all of the people continuing their lives while you are stuck in this vast array of darkness, but when it is dark, I want you to wake up and watch the sun rise. Each day, when you feel like you cannot put one foot in front of the other, watch the sun slowly rise through the clouds and know that I am still there with you. When night falls and the sorrow rears its ugly head, go outside and look up at the stars and the moon and realize the intricacies of the universe and speak to me, I am there.
With the change of every season, think of me and find a way to honor my spirit. As the Spring showers start falling, the birds start singing, and the magnolia trees start blooming, take a moment to take it all in and appreciate the beauty. During the Summer, enjoy the warmth of the sun on your face, the flowers, the fresh cut grass, the insanely beautiful summer storms and rainbows. I will be in each of these things. As Fall begins to come around the corner…enjoy the crisp air, and as you watch the leaves fall from the trees, realize that this death will soon give way to a rebirth to life. When the snow starts falling for the first time, go outside and let the snowflakes fall on your tongue, and enjoy each moment.
We are always connected, you just need to find a way to keep that connection…it may be through a ladybug, or a butterfly, or a song, or a beautiful sunset, or some crazy thing we did together, but it is there, and it will always be there. You now have the opportunity to expand your heart into something you didn’t know existed; I have no doubt in your ability to do so.
Most importantly, I need you all to live your lives with strength and love…two qualities that I showed as I lived my life. I need you all to live boldly, with passion and determination. I expect you to love with everything inside of your soul, unapologetically. Love is all we have to give of ourselves, and love is what is going to carry you through this unbearable pain. So when I am gone, love big, love fully with every piece of your heart, and don’t leave anything ever left unsaid.
Speak my name often, tell my story, and teach everyone who comes into your path. Close your eyes and open your spirit and you will feel me beside you…guiding you every step of the way. You all gave me the best life a girl could ask for.

We socialized with family and friend until 4 pm and then it was time to put Mom's ashes to rest. We decided to go to this little bridge, not far from where she lived, and drop her ashes into the river. Uncle Tino wanted to carry Mom to the bridge which to me felt completely à propos; in fact we, my sister and I, thought it would be perfect to have uncle Tino be the first to disperse Mom's ashes. Tanya's eldest read a short poem that I had recently found - this poem reflected what I thought Mom would say to us all:

After Glow
I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an after glow of smiles when life is done,
I’d like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing times and bright and  summer days.

I’d like the tears of those who grieve, to dry before the sun,
Of happy memories that I leave when life is done.

By Helen Lowrie Marshall

We played Ave Maria (the same version which was played after Mom had her last sedation) as uncle Tino began to release her ashes into the air. My youngest nephew (Hayden) was responsible for throwing tulips into the river. Our hearts were sad yet there was this solemn air around us. I simultaneously felt warmth and joy as we celebrated Mom together as a family.

Her ashes dispersed like a cloud of golden dust as they hit the water, dispersing even more as she melted away and followed the tulips. What a sight!  A bald eagle flew not far from us. 

Just like mom   Her life was lived gracefully, her death was graceful and now the last step, putting her to rest, was just as graceful. Warm tears clung to my eyes, not willing to let go of this moment, and I just let them evaporate as I participated and shared this last precious moment with Mom.

Our evening was spent at the chalet I had rented. Everyone brought something to eat and we had a fantastic evening enjoying each other's company.  The night ended feeling at peace, knowing that we had spent the day celebrating Mom the way she would have liked it - remembering the fun, joy, blessings and gifts she brought to so many people's lives. There was no room for sadness ... at least not that night.

In closing ... Here is a snapshot of Mom's life from 1935 to 2016. 

Link to Ellena's video (unlisted in youtube)

It certainly is not my role to thank you on her behalf ... but I am grateful and so happy that she had you ...  such wonderful supportive and kind writers as she ventured into the world of blogging - A different kind of friendship which I'm sure Mom never anticipated. Sharing her stories and thoughts in a written manner wasn't in Mom's nature but you all made it easy for her through your compassionate words.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cleansing Drops

Tears ... salty drops that cleanse and celebrate emotions.  Sometimes they explode like a torrential downpour out of nowhere and other times they sneak out softly. They appear when it's time to wash away the deep sorrow I feel or they bring life to memories like water feeds a plant.

I have a new relationship with my tears ... since Mom passed away. Every drop is embraced and given respect for its healing. Emotions travel through me, parking themselves when I least expect it and the rest of the time they come by to simply say "Hello ... I'm here ... I'm with ya and I won't stay long".

At a cosmic level (and this just struck me this morning), this bodily fluid, the vessel for my feelings, also contains DNA memories ... of Mom, Papa, Omas and Opas, and Tic Tac Omas and Opas ... my ancestors. Do my tears also contain the tears they never shed? 

These thoughts crossed my mind this morning and I had this urge to share my stream of consciousness which has eluded me for a long time. The act of just letting thoughts flow liberated my "being'ness". I've been in the 'get things done effectively and perfectly' mode for too long, walking around with my spontaneous nature and creativity cloaked under the rigid coat of social perfectionism. It feels great to know that I am slowly returning to that creative unregulated state, the 'zone' that fills me with peace, with new and deeper gratitudes ... 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Papa .... (Parent's spit made me run?)

Mom wrote this post in 2012. It was titled Papa ... I think "Parent's spit made me run" would be just as fitting! This post is in her draft bucket but I can only assume that it was posted at some time because there are comments. Here is what she wrote ... 

Today one of the German newspapers reported about the 
unwritten rule in soccer 'trip, push, kick opponent all you can but never spit'.

'spit' opened one of my memory drawers.

Sub burbs of Athens. Our patio was a concrete one, narrow and very long on the side of the house. Papa used it as his exercise room. I don't know how often he walked it back and forth. It seemed like the entire day when he was not busy having a nap or sitting in coffee shops downtown Athens. Some areas under foot would become so hot that you could fry an egg. I was 6 years old when Papa said "You see the man standing across the street, go and get me a newspaper, look I'm spitting into the corner here, make sure to be back before it dries up".

And here is our story ... well mostly mine but Ellena was involved. 

I'm not terribly fond of spit. We lived in a predominantly Greek and Italian neighbourhood where you'd often catch men, sometimes women, spitting on the sidewalks. Mom and I would be totally grossed out and found it unacceptable! We happened to be talking about this during one of my visits in late 2015 and that's when I reminded Mom of an incident that happened with her. 

I must have been somewhere around 8 years old, old enough to walk to the store on my own ... this was the 60's after all. It was a hot muggy summer day and all of a sudden Mom was in the mood for some Melomakarona and Kourabiedes (Greek cookies soaked with honey and Greek butter cookies dusted with icing sugar). She asked me to go to the bakery and pick up a dozen of each. I couldn't just go to any Greek bakery - She wanted me to go to this specific bakery that was 10 blocks away from our home! 

It was a stinking hot summer day, around noon when the sun is at it's hottest, the bakery was far, and all I wanted to do was stay inside and play instead of running a cookie errand. I whined and lamented hoping that she'd leave me alone but no - Mom had a craving and it had to be satisfied. I'm sure I annoyed her and her request eventually became an order. Firmly, she gave me money, instructed me again as to which bakery I should go to and then, to make sure I was prompt, spit on the inside window ledge and said "You better be back before this spit dries up"! 

Oh my!  The pressure was on and I just wanted to stomp my feet, cry and refuse ... but I didn't.  I knew better and hustled my butt to the bakery! I'm sure I mumbled to myself all the way there and back, didn't let the usual candy store or park distract me along the way and came back as quickly as I could. I ran up the stairs (we lived on the 2nd floor of a 2 story duplex), gave her the box, and ran to the window to check the spit. Phew, I made it back in time! 

Looking back, I'm not sure what the consequence would have been - a threat was all I needed. Come to think of it, was Mom just annoyed and wanted to make sure I didn't dilly dally? Did she feel a touch sorry for me and made sure that her spit was a big blob? Who knows .... I was young, generally obedient and worried about getting in trouble all the way to the bakery and back. The spit? well size didn't seem to matter and there is no way I could have figured out how long it would take to evaporate!

Mom had a good chuckled when I told her the story. I laughed too but said that it was an awfully mean thing to do to a child that was mostly obedient and never dared to contradict a parent. I repeated the story when Mom was in the hospital. My sister, uncle and aunt were there and we all laughed about it. That's when Mom told us about how her Dad had done the same thing to her when she was young. Ah ha!  Now I knew who had given her the idea!

This is the only incidence I remember where Mom was firm and threatened me. I'm sure she was in no mood to go out herself and Dad was most likely dozing off and wasting the sunday away. Mom and I ate the cookies together, me with a big glass of milk and mom with some coffee. I'm still not fond of people spitting on sidewalks and I never used this tactic with my children. I was too traumatized by it (ha ha ha) ... but not enough to never eat Greek cookies! In fact I love Greek cookies, Baklava, and Loukoumades -  drench something in honey syrup and I'm there! 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Remembering Birthdays

Today is Ellena's birthday.

She would have been 81 years young.

The first thing I did this morning was to honour her by lighting a bees wax candle in the candle holder she kept on her living room table. A time dedicated to Mom where I can talk to her in my head, gather my thoughts, sip on my tea and begin to write this post.

I've basically replicated her 'look' by putting her decorative plate, Greek worry beads. and candle holder on my family room table. This way she's always close to me and a constant memory trigger of the times we've sat around her table. Mom in her blue chair and me on the sofa, talking, laughing, watching tv and knitting together.

Many of us think of the Ides of March when March 15th is mentioned. It does carry a negative betrayal vibe since it's the day Julius Ceasar was betrayed and assassinated but there is someone else who also shares this birth date - St Nicholaus!! He's known for his role in bringing about miracles and for bestowing gifts which eventually inspired the modern day Santa Claus. Wouldn't you know it! Mom's favourite time of the year was Christmas. December was filled with tradition beginning with the Adventskranz (Advent Wreath) in early December; followed by the purchase of a real tree that was later decorated with candles instead of electrical lights; snack plates filled with nuts, candies, german cookies and marzipan were spread out throughout the house; and her angels came out to be proudly displayed. It culminated with the massive Christmas eve sauerkraut and spaetzle meal followed by goose on Christmas day. We knew what to expect and looked forward to it every single year. I won't elaborate any more because Christmas deserves a post of its own!

My sister and I have been dreading this day because it's such an important date. It's difficult enough to loose a loved one and 'special' dates make it that much harder. Just thinking about it fills me with sadness. Saying happy birthday doesn't feel appropriate so I'll stick to holding her in my thoughts the whole day.

We always looked forward to celebrating Mom's birthday and this time there was nothing to plan for. No thoughtful birthday present to enjoy giving, no special cake to eat or candles to blow out, no phone or skype call, and no visit to the Laurentians. Nothing to physically celebrate with her. All I can do is hold onto memories and acknowledge her through my own actions/activities.

I've decided to celebrate with my family. We're having  diner together tonight (Their dad and I are separated and my son now has his own place) followed by the launch of a few flying lanterns over Lake Ontario. We'll be eating the last piglet roast my mom had in her freezer and then we'll bundle our love and best wishes into these lanterns and release them to the skies. Maybe she will sense or feel our energy and maybe not. I'm not sure where I stand on this subject but a big part of me wants to believe that her soul will spot us and smile down at us - perhaps giggling and  telling us to not be so sad. It would have been nice to do this together with my sister's family and my brother but unfortunately I live 6 hours away from them.

My sister will have a tougher day because her youngest son was born on the same date as Mom. Her day will be filled with joy when celebrating Hayden's special day and sadness when thinking about Mom. Tanya and I will most likely spend some time on skype talking about Mom, sharing nice memories and shedding a few tears. It's all good though ... I really don't mind the tears since they release the sadness and acknowledge my love for her.

Now to the subject of this post ... birthdays and another story about Ellena ...

Ellena was THE BEST when it came to birthdays. Family and friends always received a birthday card on or prior to their birthdays.

Mom kept track of birthdays with her little red 'birthday' book which she kept on her hutch (right side of the hutch pictured here). Each set of facing pages covered a week and the book was always open on the page of the next upcoming birthday(s). She used this smooth egg shaped stone, which sat on a silver ring, as her paper weight to keep the book's pages open. Ellena diligently logged family's and friends' birthdays and also made sure to update her entries when someone passed away. Not a single birthday was forgotten and the cards always arrived on time.

Mom would either buy cards or make them herself. She was always prepared and had one desk drawer dedicated to cards and envelopes! She also collected quotes throughout the years and would always write something thoughtful inside the card. It was a delight to receive a card from Mom and I always looked forward to seeing what special words she'd left for me.

Mom had a special birthday tradition with one of her friends - they had been sending each other the same card since 1988! (card pictured here). Tanya and I came across it while Mom was in the hospital and didn't understand the meaning of it until I called Carol to let her know that Mom had passed away.

This card was packed, I mean packed with notes and pages that had been sent back and forth at each birthday!  Logistically placed scotch tape held everything together. Carol and Mom seldom saw each other but their friendship was deep, caring and loving. They kept this friendship alive through their birthdays. The fact that it's been travelling back and forth for so long gives it a life of its own. I kept the card for a few weeks because I wanted to leaf through it but I never read all the notes since I felt it was something between Carol and Mom. Touching the pages and unfolding/refolding them was soothing, as if I were touching something sacred where I could feel the friendship and absorb the thoughtfulness and love that had been exchanged for the last 28 years.  The card was sent back to Carol and I have to admit that it saddened me to let it go of it but I knew that it was not mine to keep.

Mom's thoughtfulness and discipline (cards always arrived on time) made family and friends feel special. It wasn't just a birthday wish written on a facebook wall or a quick call. It was a good old fashioned birthday greeting that required effort and thoughtfulness. It was manually purchased or made, inscribed with personalized thoughtful words, hand delivered to the post office, and delivered to its destination by our postal carriers. It's an ancient tradition considering how everything is quick and/or electronic these days.

As with everything that Mom did, there was attention to detail and that little extra mile that made all the difference. Her thoughtfulness was reciprocated and Mom always received cards on her birthday. She appreciated thoughtfulness and hand made cards just as much as she enjoyed being the 'giver'. She kept some of the cards we made as children or sent her as adults and put them in separate small binders for each of her children. Mementos she treasures were respectfully saved and cherished. I'm so happy that she kept all these treasures because it has given me a lot of delight as I have been slowly going through her possessions. She made me feel special when she was alive and that feeling remains as I see how she treasured some of the items I gave her.

"Love begins at home. It is not how much we do but how much love we put in that action". Until we meet again ... thinking of you Mom on your special day.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Going through stuff

Mom, like most people, knew that anything, good or bad, can happen to any of us at any time however she always imagined that the 'bad' things laid somewhere in the distant future. She unfortunately found out otherwise after Mabel made her presence known.

Knowing that her time on earth was limited, Mom began to go through her 'stuff' and rid herself of anything she deemed irrelevant or useless. Always efficient and thinking of others, she wanted to lighten our load once she was gone. The side effect from sifting through her belongings was that it stirred up memories and brewed new stories. A gift from Mabel? Perhaps since Mom always stressed when I'd ask her questions about the past.

Mom asked me to take a picture of this dishcloth when I visited her in January. It turns out that it belonged to my grandmother. Mom saved it after Oma died and loved using it. She seemed especially proud of the little holes - a sign that the dish cloth had served us well.

I can just hear Mom pondering about the dish cloth's life. How many dishes, glasses, pots, pans and cutlery has this cloth come in contact with? How many times was it used to polish the stove top, the fridge door, or the kitchen table until they sparkled? What conversations did it witness as Oma, my mother, my brother or my sister cleaned up after a meal? It certainly isn't the cloth of Turin but it definitely has a meaningful life of its own.

Mom was impeccable when it came to housekeeping. Dishes had to be washed in the hottest water possible but they didn't have to be immediately dried and put away unless there was company present or expected. She always used dish gloves and only a certain brand name was allowed to protect her hands. Mom also had a favourite sponge brand which came in a large block and she'd cut it up into appropriate dish washing size. I loved how that sponge retained the dish wash liquid and had told her so. Of course, when I visited last, she had bought me the exact same sponge!

Who would have thought that a simple ordinary sponge would delight me so much but then ... it was just like Mom to remember the small things and thoughtfully do something unexpected.  Mom specialized in delighting people with small thoughtful acts that showed how she cared about us.


Note #1: Mom began this post with the title and the photo but never had a chance to write it.

Note #2: Oh oh ... I see that the post shows as being written by Ellena. I've set myself up as an admin so I don't understand why the post is not showing as me having written it. Does anyone know how I can correct this?

Note #3: Ah ha!  I think I know why it's showing under Mom's name!   It's because the post had been started by her!  I'll know better for the next time!

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Heavy Heart

To Ellena's Cocologie blog friends from her daughter Patricia

It is with deep sadness and a heavy heart that I am announcing the passing of our mother Ellena. She left us last Friday February the 12th.

Mom did mention her dark new friend 'Mabel' didn't she! It turns out that Mabel had a few tricks in her pocket that we did not anticipate! I have been at Mom's side for the last 4 weeks. I arrived on January 17th only to find out that her health had declined more than she had indicated. Mom often minimized symptoms and didn't realize that a little of this and a little of that can be an indication of something more serious. As it turns out, Mom had to go to the hospital on January 21st. The initial treatments looked promising with the hopes of her coming home on January 30th but everything unfortunately went sour that week end. Her condition deteriorated on a daily basis and we knew she would never leave the hospital.

I am grateful for the time we spent together these last 4 weeks even though it was emotionally painful and draining. Every single moment was mutually savoured as she interacted with my uncle (her brother) and aunt, my sister and her family, my brother, my cousin, myself and some of her closest friends. She was caring, loving and retained her sense of humour until the end.

I still can't believe that she is no longer with us. Her presence permeates throughout her apartment and I expect to see her, at any moment, sitting in her blue chair knitting a new pair of fancy socks!

Mom had many more delightful stories to tell. She had asked me to take pictures of various objects for her next posts. I may just write a few on her behalf ... Ellena stories from another perspective and told with love.

Thank you for following Mom's Cocological musings. She read your comments with delight and loved this 'new age' interaction.

Patricia (aka Pasha)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Both of


these came to say goodbye and made sure to get away prior to arrival of snow.  

No snow as yet and none to come for Christmas but first  Full Moon in 38 years on Christmas Day will not let us down.

     For whatever you celebrate this Holiday Season, Blessings to you Dear Friends.

My children, their partners and my four grandchildren will celebrate Christmas together this year.

Monday, November 23, 2015


is the name I gave my problem.

Saw my family doctor today, Monday.  He gave me the good news that "the scan found nothing in my head".  It means what it says and also that no Mabel offsprings are present in my brain.

Tomorrow I will have a TEP scan.  I am looking forward to an entire body search.  That's a big area with lots of folds, pockets and minuscule spots where little Mabelinchen can hide.  

Oh yes, I had not told you that my Thorax scan revealed that Mabel is sitting very close to my aorta and can not be operated on.  Other treatments will be suggested after all test results are in.

I still sleep as well as I did prior to Mabel's appearance.

I'm already fed up talking about Mabel.  Sorry.  I promise not to in my next post.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bird found in my drafts.......

I was getting ready for my library stint when I heard this familiar thump on the window.  As usual, there was nothing dead lying at the foot of the the patio window but as I lifted my eyes, its and mine met.  Yes they did. It had time to close them while I fetched the camera. There it was, poor little creature, laying on the chair with its little heart beating erratically.           

That's when I started talking to it and sliding my fingers up and down his back .  "I'm so glad you are alive but I don't know what to do to help you.  Don't worry, I won't leave you, you opened your eyes, are you feeling better, don't close your eyes again, how can I help, let me make you comfortable in my bread basket."

I was at such a loss that I covered it up to the neck with a small cotton napkin and prepared to take it with me to the library in the hope that one of the ladies there would know what to do next.  And the miracle happened.  It's eye opened again, I uncovered it and I put my thumb on its belly to check for a heartbeat.  Yes there was and flew timidly up and landed on the floor where it lost some poo and walked away. 

I talked some more to it telling it how happy I was that it can fly again, how worried I was it would not find it's way out and that I was very grateful that my being late to my job was due to the fact that it is alive and moving. 

I learned talking to birds when walking by a feeder on the side of our building............ and just now quickly went out to take a photo to maybe show you  one of my livelier and more colorful friends and there were none.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

August and October sightings

Pasha, with patience and on occasion with head and camera
under a blanket, caught all visitors that came by my patio. 

I'm so fortunate to live where I live, surrounded by rolling mountains and forest touching the various gates along the back yard.