bogey & ruby

bogey & ruby

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


When I was asked to pray for someone dear to me a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by the fact that I have no God to pray to. That combination of no God coupled with too much medical knowledge makes me abandon hope and imagine the worst when faced with imminent loss. 

I did try to find God when I was much younger, visiting most of the Christian churches within walking distance of my parents' house, but the experience was for the most part disappointing, and by its exclusiveness, painful. 

So call me a non-believer if you must, even though I believe in lots of the same things that organized religion supports, like the importance of community and altruism. I am also comforted by the rituals and use of scriptures to explain away the inexplicable, like how someone so young and worthy of life, could possibly have died. 

But the problem with borrowing religious doctrines, is that the relief is short-lived. And when the nagging doubts and questions stir once again, there is no white light and no hope, only blackness. So what does come after religion then? Are there alternatives? Aren't we all seeking the same things via different paths? Alain de Bottom's new book may have some answers. I am definitely putting it on my "to-read" list.

In the meantime, I will try to heal by surrounding myself with my little community, art, nature, and love. Not so far from religion after all.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015


My son's occupational therapist died last Thursday. His name was Jeff and he was only 23. Around the time he should have been at our house, as he had every week for the past two years, I sat my son down on the sofa and told him that his friend and mentor was gone. "Jeff died?", he asked in disbelief. I nodded and watched his little face crumple in pain, then recover a second later as he sucked in the horror of it all and held his breath for what seemed like an eternity but was actually only five days.

When I picked him up from school today, I was greeted by a concerned daycare worker in the waiting area who told me Sean had finally exhaled. She told me this in front of all the other parents as my son stood behind a glass partition holding his breath once again, counting slowly to a hundred. Earlier, she had found him laying on the ground outside sobbing, with a group of kids standing around him. She knew that Jeff had died because another educator told her so right after the incident in the playground. And a little while before that, the same educator who told her about Jeff, told Sean to sit down during the after-school homework program. This was just as the dam was about to burst and my son was trying to tell him that someone he loved had died and that he was feeling upset.

When he was finally released from the holding area, he ran into my arms and exploded. It was a very messy and public display of grief, rather unfortunate in its timing but long overdue.

Quite frankly, I am relieved. Relieved because he is finally releasing the sadness he feels over this loss, and expressing outrage at the unfairness of it all. "Jeff didn't deserve this.", he managed to say through his tears. I held him tightly against my body all the way to the car.  

I honestly don't know how he has been able to keep it together for so long, when I have been turned upside down and inside out since it happened. 

Because there are reminders of Jeff everywhere in our house: the bed he taught Sean to make by lining up the edges of the quilt with the bed frame, the neatly organized books in his bookshelf that Sean was never able to put back properly until Jeff showed him how, the chore schedules and "how to cope with bad days" strategies taped on the fridge, mom's OT cupboard (badly in need of its own intervention), and the basketball I gave Sean for his birthday the Monday before Jeff died, that he continues to practice every day, as a way to honour his friend.

I can't imagine what Jeff's family and close friends are going through now. Maybe some are holding their breath the way Sean did. Or perhaps they have realized, as we have, that the worst part of his death isn't the unfairness of it all, but rather the selfish bit- the way Jeff made our lives so much better, how we took for granted that he always would, and the grim acknowledgement that things will never be the same now that he is gone.

Love you and miss you, Jeff.

Sharon and Sean


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Eleven and a Day.

"Au cours de ma grossesse, je m'attendais à un garçon aux yeux bleus, qui excellerait au hockey et qui apprendrait à jouer du violon salon la méthode Suzuki. Au lieu de cela, j'ai eu un garçon aux yeux bruns, qui tenait dans ses mains une feuille de paper avec Plan B écrit sur elle et rien d'autre. Le papier est toujour blanc et nous prenons la vie doucement, un défi á la fois." 

The above paragraph is from a presentation I gave to first year occupational therapists at L'Université de Montréal this past year. I was reminded of it a couple of weeks ago when I received a modest but symbolic paycheck for my efforts and again this past week-end while celebrating my son's eleventh birthday, revelling in what a kind and thoughtful young man he is becoming.

Like most parents with children who struggle for one reason or another (my son's challenges are due to a diagnosis of DCD), I've run the gamut of emotions over years, asked all the hard questions and come to the same conclusion every time. There's nothing to do but work on stuff so work on stuff we do, with a whole lot of help from our "village".

There are plenty of times when my son laments over the difficulty of some task or expresses disappointment at not being able to perform a specific activity well, but I have never once heard him express envy or jealousy towards anyone who demonstrates a skill or talent he wishes he had. In fact, quite the opposite is true. He's genuinely happy for them and shows it through unabashed admiration and praise. This character trait is quite remarkable under the circumstances as it would be so much easier to feel sorry for himself. It is also a strategic quality, not that he is being consciously guileful, quite the opposite is true, but the end result more often than not, is that his peers step away from their glory long enough to show a struggling boy how it's done. And that, dear readers, is how you fill up a blank sheet of paper with moments of grace, when just yesterday the only thing written on it was "Plan B."

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Promise

Today, my thirty-eight year old stroke patient asked me when he would walk again. He asked me this after he'd walked a dozen feet using a hemi-walker, me holding onto the waist band of his sweat pants while his mother following closely behind with the wheelchair. "But you are walking.", I said, even though I knew what he meant. "I promised my son I would walk again. He wants me to climb a tree with him. I promised."

Sometimes this job breaks my heart. And a promise to a five year old boy reminds me to take nothing in life for granted.