Where I’ve Been…


It’s been awhile since I’ve written so i’ll give a recap of my life lately for anyone who is interested (i’ll try not to bore you but I can’t make any promises).

Last Tuesday, August 14th, I got a phone call saying that my grandmother passed away (my Dad’s mother). Although no one is prepared for those kind of calls, I can’t say I wasn’t expecting it. You see, i’ve already gone home twice in the past few months thinking that my poor Meme (we’re Acadian) wasn’t going to make it. She was 87 years old and lived and incredible life. I would like to tell you all about her because in my opinion she was one of the greatest people I have ever known, but that will make this blog far too long (stayed tuned though).

Unfortunately I took her for granted for most of my life. You see, she lived with my family for about 7 years after my grandfather passed away and I saw her almost everyday. However, it was only in the past year or so, when the realization hit that perhaps she might not live forever, that I finally took the time to get to know her. In one way I am so very grateful that I did, and in another I am kicking myself for waiting for so long.  I will write more about her in the next blog because, like I said, she was amazing and in a sense part of me.  No, actually she s a piece of me and I am apart of her. That is how blood works I suppose.

So Wednesday I rushed home (but did NOT get any speeding tickets like last time). Unlike many deaths I have experienced (that is people that I know who have died, not experienced PERSONALLY by dying myself) there was an element of peace attached to her passing. For one she was very ill and had little quality of life in the past few weeks, and secondly she has lived a faith-filled life and has been, in a sense, awaiting this day since her husband died eleven years ago. We rejoiced in the fact that they can finally be together.

After arriving home I very immediately proceeded to my Aunt Linda’s house where all the family was gathered. You must understand that my grandparents had twelve children and on my Dad’s side alone I have twenty-four first cousins (that is not even mentioning their spouses or children!). So I do indeed have a huge family–and most of them were there upon my arrival. I barely entered the door before being greeted by love, hugs, laughter, and of course, a bowl of chowder. There were conversations everywhere I turned — some in English, some in French– and enough wine and food for an army! Although all of the people there were a part of my family, I still saw unfamiliar faces and was introduced to second cousins, great uncles, and relatives I never knew I had!

My mom told me that once as a little girl, I told her that I loved funerals (unfortunately having had to partake in too many along the way). It is the scene that I just mentioned that caused me to say that then, naive to the ramifications funerals brought to our lives. There is something about the gatherings that take place amidst the loss that brings comfort–everyone abandoning their commitments in order to just be together. That is what my Aunt Linda’s house was like, though noisy and crowded, I knew that I was where I needed to be.

I had the great privilege of writing my grandmother’s eulogy (well, more like facilitating the inputs of many, particularly my mom who co-wrote with me). Of course, being a Catholic family we do not have eulogies at funerals, so instead it was read just before the wake started. My Dad did the reading and although I had written and re-written it many many times, I still joined every wet eye in the place when Dad’s voice broke in tribute of his dear mother.

It was an exhausting week at home, though incredibly rich in many ways. My sister was home from Boston and our uncle Kevin from BC stayed with us as well. Once again I ate too much and stayed up far too late talking into the night with family. I did a reading at the funeral on Saturday morning and by Sunday I was packing again to leave. It felt far too soon and this time I found it very hard to leave the island. In fact, Sunday evening as I entered my apartment, I burst into sobs.

Perhaps it is the loss of my grandmother (the last grandparent for me), imagining my family without its matriarch (always the glue that held us together), or maybe just the emotion of leaving a family that cares so much for one another; but whatever it was, Sunday night alone back at my place felt very empty and long.

All of this has me thinking so much. Am I making a mistake starting my masters and committing to 2 more years away? It is the first time I have ever truly looked back after  leaving the island two years ago.  I see what I have given up and am weighing it out wondering if it was worth it. Perhaps part of the pull is that existential longing found in so many people from my generation who are desperate for some sort of roots. We are indeed a rootless generation and although the world is at our beckon call, our sense of home is virtually unreachable. My island family is slow to assimilate and stirs that longing for home in my wandering soul. But I know that for now at least I am where I want to be–though for perhaps the first time in my adult life I can picture my returning to P.E.I. someday (who would have thought?!).

This week, after the whirlwind of returning, my parents came to visit. As much as I needed a large family around me, they needed some reprieve from it. Where does an islander go to get rest? To a smaller island!  We took two nights away from life and spent them on Deer Island (see this blog to hear about my previous adventures there) where life moves slower than you can ever imagine (even for those of us from PEI). We also took a day trip over to Campobello Island, home of President F.D.Roosevelt’s beloved summer home (worth checking out if you are ever in the area). The greatest part is the ferry ride in the Fundy Bay!

And now it’s over and I have to go back to regular life again. I can hardly remember what that is like. I find myself having to fight the urge to lock myself in my apartment and succumb to my lethargic whims telling me to forsake all responsibility, eat tons of cookies, and watch movies and reruns of The Office.


6 Responses to “Where I’ve Been…”

  1. 1 Ryan August 26, 2007 at 6:49 am

    I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. I find myself to be extremely fortunate to have three of my grandparents left. But when I lost my grandfather a couple of years ago, it was difficult for us all.

    I can also share your feelings in regard to PEI – the Island has this “pull” that I find hard to understand…but it is incredibly strong. After my most recent trip home, I am more convinced than ever that I can’t stay in Ontario forever! I have all of these friends that say “Ryan, you can work wherever you want! You can travel the world! Why move back to PEI?” Because….it’s home. It always will be. As my buddy Ron said (who recently visited PEI for the first time) – it has an almost magical feeling, a instant sense of community and welcome. I will always love to travel, to experience new places – but PEI will always be home. I’ll be up here in Ontario for at least another year (just signed a new lease) – but that draw to home is stronger all the time…

  2. 2 shirah August 26, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    my grandfather died a few weeks ago.
    and for one of the first times, I felt so very far away. Suddenly the family I have never cared to be close to was all I wanted. Suddenl I wondered where home was and when i would start living for the permanent.

    So I guess, I kind of know how you feel.

  3. 3 Lindsay August 26, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    Hi Shell,
    I was so sorry to hear about your Meme. I know it must have been an emotional time for you, and I do understand how you can never be truly prepared for it. I loved your comments on the comfort of family… It made me sit back a minute and think about my own family and how much they mean to me.
    You’re awesome girl!
    Thinking of you from Amherst,

  4. 4 Ashley B. August 27, 2007 at 2:44 am

    Hey Shelley, I began to respond to you here but it got to long so I’ve written it as a note on my facebook. It’s not much, but I guess I wanted you to know that reading your blog helped me to reflect on my own relationship with my grandparents.

  5. 5 becks August 28, 2007 at 12:22 am

    I’m now incredibly homesick.
    Your blog makes me wish I had a home.
    You’re right that we’re a generation without roots, but I think the next (or maybe the one after) will not be as rootless, because this one seems to be so lonely they’ll try to make roots for their children.

  6. 6 sweetlybroken August 29, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    Sorry to read about Meme’s passing, praying for you and yours.
    Go ahead and eat the cookies, have a few for me. Chocolate DOES have amazing powers, comfort is one one.

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