Because of my involvement with one of their programs, Canadian Cancer Society invited me to a peer support workshop that required me to fly to Toronto to participate. It focused on improving some of their services. Toronto in January - not on my bucket list but there you go.
One of my concerns for the trip was fatigue. A friend sent me this quote from Jeremiah 12:5 on a picture he had shot the day before of wild horses in the foothills of Alberta. "If you are worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses? And if you can't keep your wits during times of calm, what's going to happen when troubles really break loose...? " It reminded me of one of the reasons I do first aid. I can keep my head when others around me are losing theirs. But more importantly the verses reminds me that I rely on a faithful God. I don't have to do this alone. Ten hours of sleep in seventy-two and a three hour time shift in a period of four days - God gave me strength and saw me safely through it.
I have mentioned in early musings how meaningful my participation with the Canadian Cancer Society has become. Because parts of the weekend involve highly personal matters, I'm constrained both by respect for my companions and by a signed confidentiality document. So I will speak to myself and to the professional skills that were honed in the sessions.
To set the stage, there were seventeen participants expected. Five couldn't participate for health and travel reasons. But two of them brought home the reality of the situation in which we find ourselves. The eleven remaining learned of their deaths in the days leading up to the workshop. Who would have thought that two people that I had never met could evoke such a profound sense of grief and loss. Their grace and wisdom will be missed. Was missed. Is missed. Part of the loss is my "cancer buddies." Part of it is realizing that lessons that I have learned are not common. The stories I tell are inspiring and helpful. "Words are important." And I realized what a profound connection I have to this community.
The technical part of the sessions were a blast. Sometimes you don't know what you know. Sharing the ways I use the site and being open to seeing how others use it was fun. Who knew you could add a profile signature or change the privacy settings. It was reassuring to know that private messages really are private. The moderators can't snoop. Modelling responses. Looking at our terms of reference and understanding our limitations - critical and helpful. Even though I gave the moderators fits immediately upon my return. As one of them said to me, "Weren't you at the workshop?" when I told her the story and thanked her for reining me in.
A simple session to help us resolve grief left me with what has become my word for the weekend - reinvention. I was a little reluctant to participate in the "woowoo" led by an onco-psychologist. But choosing stones and picking flowers and letting them speak to us and allowing us to speak of the profound changes that are happening in our lives was good.
So I picked up a rock. I let it choose me. I just reached in the bag and pulled. It was a smooth round rock around which my hand immediately curled in the little boys manner of holding a skipping stone. Encouraged to name it, my mind was thinking like Fred or Rock. What came out of my mouth was Skipper. And I started to cry. Realizing that the sweatshirt I was wearing the first part of the weekend was my Sea Scout blue hoodie (bunny hug for my Saskatchewan family)- Skipper emblazoned on the back. And when I went to let go of the stone, I was letting go of the old me.
Picking up a flower I realized that it represented the new me. A me reinvented by death and tragedy and loss into something profound. A powerful being with gifts from God to be used by Him and for Him. Responsibility to pay it forward. To use the blessings I have received to help others and leave a legacy of hope for those who come behind and encourage those who come along with me.
Some of you have laughed at the hall of mirrors image that I posted on Facebook. It has been a profound metaphor for the confusion of the last few years. To say that I have clarity would not be true. But that I have strength to be who I can be would not. People talk about my positivity. Others talk of my raw honesty. Some have encouraged me in my eloquence. This is who I am. It is how God has moulded me.
Thank you to all who are travelling along with me on this journey. It is with deep gratitude that I recognize that I could not do this alone.