Finding Nine by Author SUKI LANG
Suki Lang lives and writes in British Columbia. A story teller by nature she has a strong belief in miracles and a certainty that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way – This writer has no trouble finding happy endings.
This is the story of John, a 16 year old who loses his mother to cancer. During the last year of her life she writes a series of eight letters for her son to read after her death. Designed as a treasure hunt, the letters take John to a place his mother left long ago, where he meets a family he knows little of. The object of the hunt seems to be to find a perfect spot to place his mother’s ashes. But John soon discovers the letters are his mother’s way of helping him move through his grief, and of letting him know she will always be by his side. The journey he takes is about finding hope in the love of two people who welcome him with open arms. And John’s arrival is a gift never expected but long hoped for by two of the people his mother did not forget. Through the natural order of things a son is given the opportunity to fulfill a mother’s last wish and to discover her many secrets yet untold.
TO PURCHASE – FOLLOW LINKS BELOW
If yesterday didn’t present me with an obvious happy or spectacular moment today already has. For the past fourteen years we’ve provided care for a young woman with autism spectrum disorder. She is lovely and provides me with many insights and lessons on communication and human nature too. She lives in our suite and has complete access to the whole house; having her own suite just makes sense for all of us. Though I do all the cooking and cleaning, having her own place gives her a semblance of independence and also gives her privacy and time alone. Each morning she phones to ask what’s for breakfast and today she stuck to routine and called as usual. When my cell phone rang, I was writing in my journal a Happy Father’s Day message and how we miss our son Jason on days like this. So when I answered, I asked her if she would like to wish a happy Father’s Day. She giggled and asked what she should say; just what ever she might write in a birthday card I told her. She began to sing a song to the tune of “we wish you a Merry Christmas”. And it began like this, “we wish you a happy Father’s Day” and ended like this “…..and a happy new year”. Her voice is sweet and high and hearing her made us laugh out loud with absolute pleasure. A Happy Father’s Day for my man and happiness for me to see him have such pleasure.
Do you have a sister? I do, in fact I have a few more than one. I am the youngest and truly at times I feel ancient compared to any of them on any given day. Very busy women are my sisters. Today one sis took time out of her busy schedule to entertain me and my dog. She took us for a walk through the neighbourhoods and along the alley ways, of the west side of Vancouver. We took our time and had a peek at the many lane way houses that are popping up all along the way. We wended our way back to her place and as usual she served up a yummy vegetarian lunch. Her culinary expertise is well know; add to this, her intrinsic way of making the dishes she rolls out taste even more delectable with the attention she pays to the presentation of the meal; she did not disappoint today. A well set table, beautiful looking colourful food and good company. Even the dog was happy.
Jason is glad when he is spoken of, I know this because before he died he specifically asked I always speak of him, and encourage others to casually mention him for the rest of my life. And that’s all I have left now, that’s all I can give to him, my words, my memories, my daily chats. Today I was taken to lunch, an annual birthday lunch and we mentioned him and his early beginnings. My high school friend and I do this for each other during our birthday months and again at Christmas. She is steadfast and true, always remembering. Each time we meet we go for a meal followed by a shop and we each buy a matching knickknack as a memento of our time together. Today we bought matching small vintage look vases held in a little aluminium baskets. Very special, very dear. She and I were friends when Jason was born. Her mum, June, gave me what would be the only baby shower I had. The only people in my life at that time that seemed happy for me and supportive of my choice. Always warm and welcoming was her mum, June. And for all these years to follow I weep when I think of her and all she did for me in that one small gesture. It is the gratitude and the wonder of her easy kindness that still fills me with humility. She had faith in me which made me want to live up to that faith and be someone she would always welcome. And so seeing her daughter, my friend, and recalling the long ago kindness, I found today’s Happiness.
For the past two days I’ve been scrubbing the house. Making it all clean and shiny so when a realtor comes tomorrow they’ll say “oh wow this house shines”! And then they will tell me it is worth far more than I ever thought and our retirement will be settled. My yard work and cleaning has left me sore and stiff. Gardening, washing floors, vacuuming, hauling trash and moving furniture all take a toll on this body. My work almost complete I sat down out on the deck to read a few pages of a book, have a coffee and put my feet up. Immediately I note there is a presence in the yard, the stealthy movement through the perennial garden has captured the attention of my dog, Cozy. She is making soft whimpering sounds while she tracks the slow, smooth, shape that sashays through the growth. We both know what is there but wait for Tibble the cat, to languidly make his way out into the open. There he rolls and lays stretching out in the sun; looking up to tease the dog on the deck above, from the safety of the ground below. This is what I love. A day in the sun laughing at my helpless Cozy as she lays crying in frustration on the deck or racing along the railing, watching every movement all the while wanting to give that cat a chase. Laughing out loud I put my book down, fold my hands around the warmth of the coffee cup, lift my face to the sun and just enjoy the moment. To look for the happy moment of the day and then to find it too; This is the life!
There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way…
My thirty days of painting art cards has come to an end, I succeeded in following through with a daily regime that offered no money or other obvious pay off. I’ve felt pride in painting the minis and feel pride in writing about them daily on my blog. For some this may be standard practice; for me this has been living outside my lifelong norm. The number one lesson I’ve learned this month is, employing a daily creative practice is like a soothing salve for my burning grief. I’ve learned living in the moment isn’t as easy as just doing it and Ive learned living in the moment takes mindfulness and practice. I’ve learned that creativity happens in the moment; creating too, happens in the moment. I’ve learned each day lived in the mindful moment will bring a new surprise, something I did not know about or know how to do or a new way of seeing the same old thing. I learned I can follow through, my motivation is still somewhat illusive but I do follow through. I’ve learned by limiting my options to ones insuring success, actually guarantees success and I’ve learned allowing myself to succeed brings no harm. To celebrate a successful culmination of thirty days of blogging about my meditative mini masterpieces it seems appropriate today’s featured card is a bouquet of flowers.
“What good shall I do this day” is one of two quotes found in Benjamin Franklins daily journals. His other quote is a follow up, “what good have I done today”. Two questions he asked himself, one first thing in the morning before he began his day and the second, in the evening as he reflected on his day. Yesterday I felt guilty for being too busy, for filling my time up with productivity and not enough quiet reflection. Today, the good I can do is to find pleasure in each task I set out for myself, by being in the moment with each task. “True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.” Quote by Antoine de Saint
Each day when I write in my journal I make a “to do” list of minor things to accomplish for that day which if followed, effectively fends off slothfulness. My commitment of an art card a day for thirty days was made in part as a way to get me back into the world of the living; guiding me back into light hearted creative, mindful occupation of my days. In fact having a project to do each day has propelled me toward a busyness I never would have imagined. The daily propulsion necessary to write in my journal, paint and write a blog post a day too is beginning to take away from the enjoyment of each step because there are now too many…Relishing the idea of my own productivity now prompts the question “Have I become a person who has to fill all my time with productivity”? Even if I’m reading a book or meditating I am still doing “something”. The art of sitting still to be silent and to listen to an inner philosophical meandering or to watch nature for long periods has been lost to me. Has guided meditation to music, replaced quiet reflection. Or does quiet reflection have a new name – meditation. Either way my “to do list” will include more quiet reflection in the days to come. Looking backwards to the early days of this month, pleasure was found in the small tasks I gave myself because I was marvelling in the moment. My tasks as the days have past this month have grown; now I look ahead to the next task failing to realize the moment.
With my thirty day commitment almost at an end I wonder “what have I learned or accomplished”? When I began this project I envisioned moving forward to this point on the calendar where I’d be arriving at enlightenment, of a sort. That my mini masterpieces would be inspirational in themselves, they would be startlingly beautiful with new and imaginative subjects. Not so, I’ve not reached that point. What has happened though is I’ve reached a point of wanting to make mini commitments to myself for myself, making me stronger, healthier, more dependable, self reliant, somehow more complete a package. A person I can feel proud to be, a person who follows through, meeting deadlines. It has been a struggle gathering myself up each day to write a blog from a new perspective, trying to sound interesting and interested. In the end I’m satisfied with both; my mini masterpiece art trading cards and with the effort it has taken to agree to making a commitment at all. One thing I have learned about myself is, if I say I’m going to do something, I do…. My word is gold. The issue has always been, even saying I’ll do “something”. To me the word commitment is just another word for promise. And a promise, is a debt unpaid.
Before painting my “kale 4 sale”, me and my dog spread out on a little bed we primarily use for reading, meditation and afternoon naps. Feeling a bit maudlin after days of living in the past and with worries about the future I needed to get back to the present, and on track with focus to the here and now. While meditating I had an epiphany, imagination happens in the moment, creativity happens right now, not in all the futures of the days ahead but right now. Recognizing my slip, out of the here and into the “there” fills me with gratitude. I deeply need the effect of this meditation to carry me into the future while I live day to day; for my epiphany to take root protecting me from further transgressions. Kale 4 sale was done in the moment and through my eyes is the most creative and imaginative I’ve been all week. I love it…
This little sunflower is an exact expression of how I feel today,bright, robust, full of life, good health, joy, peaceful bliss, beauty, alive! What a thrill it was to thrive in a mediative state throughout the painting of this mini masterpiece. This sunflower reminds me of a row of sunflowers Jason’s dad planted the summer Jason passed away. After Jason’s death and when I returned home from his hospital bedside the row of blooming sunflowers were the only spot of beauty on my horizon. And memories of Jason’s last birthday party here before they bloomed, he turned 41.
He asked I provide the venue and he went ahead and arranged it all. Jason sent out invitations, I sent out invitations and many turned up. At least 60 – 75 people who wanted to, came and went throughout the day. At some point in the middle of the afternoon and from the deck, calling out for everyone’s attention, I made a birthday speech. Jason made a speech too. ..mine began something like this…. “The day you were born Jason, was the most memorable and best day of my life. It was a starting point for me. My life and what went on in it was now referenced with: when Jason was a baby, or when he was five, or before Jason was born. And Jason I know you won’t like me to say this again this year but, I always celebrate this day, the day of your birth as ….my own birthing day”.
Jason’s voice from the crowd surprised me by booming out “keep on celebrating it mum”. Jason’s birthday is July 23rd, 1970… The same day as what I like to call my birthing day. This year I celebrate my 44th birthing day, thank you very much Jason.
For those who know me well, yesterday’s post of a new location is no surprise. Going back as far as our first home purchase we have owned 13 properties. We find the ugly duckling on the block and from curb to bath we transform it. Never going large with a gutting of walls floors etc. we look for good bones and needed small updates, paint, flooring, an update to the kitchen, a new bathroom or two maybe some crown moulding and landscaping. It’s the project we love to putter with, over a year or two or five; when we are all done we seek something new. During my morning meditation this day a city emerged, complete with high rises, low rises, theatres, parks, beaches, a walkable community and I was sold. No lawns to mow, ground to hoe, just a lock and go. Another lifestyle for a future me to consider… country mouse or city mouse, which will I chose?
<img src="https://suziconfuzir.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/20140520-212306-76986817.jpg” alt=”20140520-212306-76986817.jpg” class=”alignnone size-full” />
I dreamt of Jason again. It was the middle of the night, when I woke up his presence was clear to me, as if he were in the room. So clear I knew I’d recall the details of his visit when I woke in the morning , and I have not. Not the details, just the hazy memory that he was here. My favourite dream is Jason coming out of the boreal forest to give me a hug. Remembering the forest and that very special Jason hug has gotten me through many days. Somehow this days painting reminds me of a boreal forest. My session began with ease, emerging to be bright and beautiful, fertile and full of growth while holding tight to hidden secrets. Lush, life sustaining, impenetrable, self sufficient.
And Wow I love this mini masterpiece. I’m drawn to the vibrancy and boldness of colour. Before I began to paint it I listened to restful, new age, meditation music and meditated. My frame of mind went from searching for a way to paint to instinctively knowing the way. I can understand why a routine of daily meditation has been adopted by so many. The music coupled with taking a few minutes to meditate before painting results in a feeling of double joy, double pleasure, double easy feelings while I paint and for the day ahead.
Some days I want to retire from my life in the here and now to my future life for just a day ;in another house, in another location. Where we are at peace with a lot less….. No phone, no tv, no car, technology close by, short walk to all services, friends, an ocean, a beach to walk on. A life of creative pursuits, gardens to grow, books to read, paths to walk, blogs to write, friends to invite… A life without all the clutter and stuff….a life without complication, a life of peaceful joy. In my minds eye the cottage below lends itself to just such an opportunity…a creative outlet… a fixer upper, swathing pathways through flora and fauna to garden patchwork beyond with benchs to sit upon for reading or sketching or tea with friends. This is the place my meditative painting took me today …A mini master”place” just waiting for me to arrive.
Early this morning as I slowly emerged from a sleep filled with dreams of Jason I wept for my own loss and for the joy of seeing him if only in my dreams. Yesterday on Facebook, I posted pictures of a tree I had the city plant in memory of Jason and pictures of our home memorial vegetable garden. Along with the photos I wrote messages too. I’m sure he heard all the resulting chatter of people whose lives he touched as they “liked” the posts or wrote comments of their own. Then Jason himself reached out to me in my sleep; reminding me he is always with me. And I know his visit was his way of thanking me for keeping him alive by talking freely about him ever mindful of including him in our daily lives.
The art trading card below does reflect how I feel this day. In a dreamy state of reassurance and bliss I return to my field of dreams to rest and reflect on Jason’s life; a life well lived.
Yesterday was a very special day, a tree was planted in memory of our son, Jason Langhorst, right on our boulevard! When I spoke with Steve in the parks department of the city we live in, and asked if this was something they would do he said yes. A Parottia Persica Vanessa now sits front and centre. The tree and all it represents puts me in a wonderful space for painting. The mini masterpiece below was painted in a deep and peaceful space, where my intellect said one thing and my brush said another. You see I’d never drawn or painted an orchid before. After the initial drawing which was very poor, I could have started over, instead I kept working until I found not all was lost and that a trick to success is to never never give up. I like the word – Sisu it is a Finnish word generally meaning determination, bravery, and resilience. …. fighting after most people would have quit, and to fight with the will to win. As Jason liked to say “fight like hell”.
I attend a support group for parents who have lost a child and usually come away with an insight. Mainly women attend and occasionally newly bereaved parents are there with the rawness of new loss. The meetings are held in a respectful way and each person is allowed uninterrupted time to share thoughts, memories of their relationship with their child, the events that led to the death of their child , and their anger and other feelings and tears too. The group is solemn during this sharing time and then much more light hearted during the open floor period. This week as I mentally debrief I wonder about my own reaction to the grief of others which almost always elicits my own tears of support and compassion. My own path through this myriad trail of loss is to consciously be in the pursuit of healing my grief through joy, happiness and insight. Early on I recognized in myself the ease with which I could become addicted to the pain of grief. I asked myself what would my child, Jason, want for me. The answer was easy, I chose happiness as an addiction instead.
My card today is a true reflection of the joy and light heartedness I felt as I painted it.
This day began with a bit of a splash. With meditation music softly playing and with supplies laid out neatly before me I found myself painting a row of trees beside a body of water and in search of a mirror image. And try as I might with brush in hand, music playing softly, I just was not finding the meditative zone I wanted and needed in order to execute the vision I held in my minds eye. Finally, and with the memory of this quote by Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it is done” I put down my brush and said just that, “it’s done”.
I’ve got rhythm and my body does too…The past three days theres been a struggle to find a meditative spot where inspiration streams forth. While I sat and placed my pen on paper, just because that is how I start my mini masterpiece, with black gel pen I draw a few lines…. My pen moved seemingly all on its own and in the end I painted something new. Instead of relying on the usual acrylic paints, I tried out water colour pencils; the white spaces began to fill with colour and I felt like I was returning from the dark place I had been on day ten and eleven.
Or perhaps it is how I started on those days. Wanting to try something new I skipped using the pen and went straight from brush to acrylic on paper. I didn’t use my pen at all to begin my mini masterpiece or during the process. The pen may be an integral part of my painterly and meditation style. And now I wonder if my three days have lacked lustre due to a poor meditative start. Just as these cards have become my morning meditation, so has my pen become my mantra. I love the result of this mornings mini masterpiece.
When I woke up this morning, my first thought was Jason and Mother’s Day; I survived. We invited friend Susan and her husband for brunch. A brunch for bereaved mums, a good time was had by all because it was on the agenda; having a good time was our intention.
To live intentionally or to live with intention could have been my mantra while I parked myself before an empty art trading card with a strong desire to paint. Jumping right in I settled into another field and slipped into the art zone where all time stands still, completely alone with my art and my head. The little bird in the right corner is a symbol of hope. And I am hopeful, of what I do not know but life is a series of opportunities and I plan to be open to many. Finally I am beginning to be glad I am alive.
Today is my third, Mother’s Day as a childless mother. Jason’s death left me unsure of what my role is and of who I am now I have no child. They say when a husband dies a wife becomes a widow, when a father dies a child becomes an orphan and there is no name for a parent when their child dies. 41 years being called mum by my son and being referred to as Jason’s mother by my husband, family and friends, then to have that name and role and those references abruptly end was utterly unreal; an added devastation, a source of grief. It has taken 33 months to know I am still a mother, I feel like a mother, I’ve still got stretch marks from my only pregnancy, I have my memories of Jason’s childhood, his adolescence, his adulthood memories of me as a mother making good decisions and bad, there are photos, family stories and letters to document the fact. I am a mother.
My mini masterpiece today is in no way a reflection of motherhood. It is the result of another day of me pressing myself into action. One day closer to establishing a habit of following through with a project. If I can do thirty days of art trading cards, I can do many things.
The phrase “A new beginning” went through my mind when I made the commitment to follow through with painting a mini masterpiece a day. So far in my life I’ve had trouble finishing what I start or maybe I hadn’t found something compelling enough to pursue. When I say follow through, I’m talking about doing something for the love of it with no apparent reward, no money to lure me to the end line. Without a monetary reward dragging me along to culmination of a project my interest often lags until it just fizzles out completely. I’ve had to find something within that makes me want to be faithful each day to this project and now it’s only day 8 and already I’m feeling pretty sure of myself. Except for one thing…today’s subject. Having a minor success yesterday I wanted to find and feel the same sensation of glory. In the end my attempt is another pleasing piece. All the while I painted I could hear the voice of my son, Jason, saying “just go do something mum”. And finally I am; it is the knowledge of Jason’s pleasure from wherever he is, that help will me reach the finish line with only 22 days to go.
Several years ago we upgraded to a large and lovely draw leaf refectory table to accommodate a growing family that in the end never used it. The table then represented unfulfilled dreams and I grew to dislike it and the ugly reminders of my loss. Recently I found a small round copper table for sale, it is the duplicate of my mothers kitchen table where wonderful memories were made. I bought it on the spot to replace the large and lovely and ugly table. Now I sit to eat, read, paint, entertain, write my blog, my journal, drink tea and coffee, share a telephone call or stare out the window in wonder at the view and all of this, while making new memories. Totally inspired by my new table and feeling full of painterly confidence I decided, on this day, I could stretch out of my comfort zone. While looking out the window I saw right in front of me, on top of my new dining table, a drooping vase of tulips from my garden. I’d found my subject for the day. Another memory in the making at this new dining spot that has become so much more. The knowledge that I can paint from something real has surprised me! Good surprise though eh?
I’m finding comfort back in the fields again today. Painting the familiar feels like a lovely meditative place where I can forget the pain of my grief, recalling all the things I love in this life and in the life I had when Jason was alive in this world. The brush strokes just came as free and as easy as I could hope for. Doing experiments with pastel colours and again using more of a colour wash than a heavy acrylic is new and exciting. Painting on these tiny cards has necessitated I learn to find a way to use the acrylics that is conducive to small spaces. I love this particular mini masterpiece; something about it makes my heart swell with happiness and love and a yearning to go there, to the place, to that field and make it my home. And I guess it is my home, my comfort zone, the place I love to go to. After all I keep painting in this or another field of my dreams.
Today when I settled down to paint I knew exactly what would happen when I began. With the knowledge of my own permission given yesterday I was excited and happy to stick with the old and familiar “field of dreams”. And there was a time when farm life appealed to me and I suppose that is why fields are my go to place. I was given some lovely little page marker post its, with birds or bees, dragons flys, a heart or and a key at one end. Clipping off the featured bird I pressed it into the corner of my mini masterpiece turning it into a piece I feel quite at home with. Adding the branch and fruit was a stretch for me but it seems to have worked too. My session with the cards this day was a free flow of pleasure. And as I had imagined, a perfect meditation. All my worries fell away and allowed me to be in the moment, for the moment. All the while I felt the glow of Jason’s presence and my own peacefulness.
April 28, 2014
Recently someone tried to give me a book on grief suggesting it would help me with the sadness I feel each day as the result of the loss of my son. I was taken aback as it is not a book on grief I need. What I need are books on joy or how to find joy and happiness? The quote below by Lao Tzu was one I had seen many times before without really taking notice. Then for some reason it took hold of me when I read it again about two months ago. The message has been instrumental in helping me manage to live with grief through seeking joy and looking for the good… by living in the moment.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
At the time I had just begun a journey of thirty days of art trading cards or what I like to call mini masterpieces. The art cards are hand decorated, or hand painted cards measuring 2.5″x3.5″, meant for artists to trade with each other. Hence the name “art trading cards”.
My art trading cards are not for trading, they are for 30 days of therapy. The 30 day idea was incepted after I had introduced a friend, with supposedly no artistic ability, to art cards.
We each did two on that first day and while we worked away we became relaxed and floated into almost a meditative state as we worked side by side. The art cards were a success on many levels. Soon I got an email saying she had enjoyed doing the cards so much she was intending to make a commitment to herself of one card a day for thirty days. I decided to join her.
As it happened the new month was March and that is when we started our cards. By chance we began our thirty days on a new moon, an auspicious time for starting a new trip or new venture. Today is also a new moon, a very lucky time for beginning new projects. Until the next new moon, I’ll be sharing the cards I painted, how the process went and what making these mini masterpieces has meant for me.
This past weekend was spent travelling to a memorial tea for a friends mother, Rose. Each time word of a death reaches my ear I am griped in an almost physical hold so tight I can hardly get a clear breath. No matter the age or circumstances my heart breaks for those left behind.
While Jason was ill he asked me not to weep, saying it (his illness) was about him, not me. He asked me to keep a clear head so I could be cheerful and offer support and speak of him as a man who would live forever. And I did and in my heart he will be with me forever. Well now his departure from my life is definitely all about me.
Each of us who grieve for him hold our grief as separate and personal to us alone. We are in one big house called grief; separated by the walls of the rooms we are in. We hear each other grieve and the walls we have erected prevent reaching out enough to touch or lend comfort to one another. Our pain is our own and moving beyond it to find joy, that is the challenge. Doing all the things that once brought smiles and quilt free pleasure. Taking a step, moving in a forward motion, making a start and Getting past go…
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. My son Jason, age 41, died on August 30 2011. On February 2, 2011 he called to say he had been admitted to hospital the night before and now he was 30 minutes away from a routine surgery. At the time we lived 5 hours away by car and it was 3:15 in the afternoon on a icy winter day. Knowing no surgery is routine I was packed, in my car and on the road by 3:30. Braving it through the mountains I drove in the dark struggling with poor visibility and falling snow …. When I arrived at the hospital Jason was still in surgery which was surprising. His wife was nowhere to be seen and I could not reach her on the phone so I just waited around feeling happy and excited that I’d see my “adult” child for an unexpected visit. My elation was short lived however. Jason was wheeled out of recovery and he was upgraded to a private room. He was quite groggy and wondered where his wife was so we called her cell from his cell phone and she asked me to meet her in the waiting room, which I did. The first thing she did was throw her arms around me and say, she loved me which should have alerted me to bad news because she had never said she loved me and had never been an affectionate person toward me. Then she told me Jason was full of cancer. I actually thought she was lying to me. I was in shock and couldn’t grasp what she was saying and why she was even saying it. My own life, as I knew it was over and the months to come will always be remembered as some of the best Jason and I have shared.