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Again someone close to me asked if it was ‘too much’ for people to ask me to play piano for a funeral.  “After all”, one person said, “you are still very much grieving and might not have the strength for it”.

I understand what they are trying to say.

But maybe they don’t see the communion of the saints the same way I see it because I saw a glimspe of those saints tonight.  I stood in the visitation line for Ann Mary’s loved ones.  I watched Randy, Ann Mary’s husband, field all these people and do it with grace.  He knew what needed to be done and he did it.  I watched him.  I watched his children.  I watched as countless people came up to the family and spoke to them.  I saw their faces. 

I’d like to say that I saw their strength.  But that isn’t true. 

I saw their weakness.

The people at the funeral of Harry or Ann Mary or Marisa are not an example of the strong holding up the weak.

It is the weak holding up the weak. 

I like the weak.

The thing about a ‘terminal illness’ is that it is a full time burden.  Marisa woke up each morning with cancer.  She went to bed each night with cancer. 

Somewhere between being positive and being realistic there is hope. 

And in saying that, we all know that we are all going to die. 

When someone has cancer, that death is simply (or not so simply) more imminent than usual.

I thought of all the things that I needed to do this weekend.  Drop the kids off at their friends.  Go have tea with my parents.  Get some milk for the kids.  Meet a friend for supper.  Play softball.  Get my music together for sunday morning.  Buy bananas.  Visit my friends open house.  Pay my bills.  Take a bike ride.

Dying wasn’t on the list for me.  I guess I’ll do that later…I guess…

Both my writing friend, Harry, and Ann Mary have now died.

When I left Harry, I took his hand, kissed it and said to him, “peace be with you”.

The last thing that Ann Mary wrote to Marisa was “sleep well Marisa”.

…sigh…

Harry, peace be with you.

Ann Mary, sleep well.

MdH

Yesterday was a heavy day.

I went to visit a friend of mine.  He gave me my first writing job.  He is dying.  He is soon to leave this earth.  He has cancer.  I remember those last days with Marisa.  Tough, heavy stuff.  He asked me to play at his funeral. 

The answer was yes, before he even asked. 

I spent some time with him and his wife.  We drank tea.  We made sure that he was comfortable.  We waded through the most uncomfortable part when I had to leave.  What do you say to a man that you won’t see again on earth?  Heavy stuff.

I then came home and got a phone call.  It was of a man, Randy, who is ready to say goodbye to his wife.  She is dying.  Of cancer.  Terrible, shitty, unrelenting cancer.  Her and Marisa connected a number of times while Marisa was still around here.  Her name is Ann Mary Vermeer.  Marisa has written about her on this blog.   Ann Mary herself has commented on this blog.  Now she is dying.  I remembered those last days of Marisa’s life.  Tough, heavy stuff.  He asked me if I would play piano at his wife’s funeral. 

The answer was yes, before he even asked.

He told me that she would be thrilled to hear that.

I told him that I was honoured.

Randy has written many e-mails/updates to the people that love Ann Mary.  He always signed the e-mails with “pray for a miracle”.

At the end of the e-mail he wrote last night, he wrote this,

“I know that we’ve all been praying for a miracle.  One’s coming soon”.

“One’s coming soon”.

“There ain’t no doubt in no one’s mind

that love’s the finest thing around”

James Taylor

I played piano for a wedding today.  During their vows I couldn’t help but wonder if the couple in their early 30’s knew what they were saying.  I thought of the things I said to Marisa when we were married.  I didn’t have a clue what I was saying.

If I could do it over again I would say something like this,

Dearest Marisa,

I promise to do my best.  I promise to love you, honour you and do what it takes to be Christ to you.  I know you will do the same.  I promise that after we have our one and only fight in New Westminster when I got out of the car and walked to Burnaby when we spoke unkindly to each other, that I will never speak an unkind word to you for as long as I live.  i promise that I will treat you in a way that you will tell me time and time again that if you were in a room with 1000 women, you know that none of them are treated better than you.  I promise to be plugged into you and our children.  I promise that if you come home one day, fall on the ground and tell me that you have cancer, I promise to pick you up.  I promise to be your 24/7 nurse and number one advocate.  I promise, with a holy host of others, to be your loving support.  When you cry, I will cry.  When you swear, I will swear.  When you praise, I will praise.  And when you fight, oh Marisa, I will fight.

I promise that when your earthly life is fading before me, I will make sure you have a ‘good’ death.  I will beg with the doctors and nurses to give you what you wanted.  And I won’t take no for an answer.  And when you die…Marisa…when you die…one Mendelt will die with you.

And the other Mendelt will remember what you said to me.  That Mendelt will remember what you did for me.  That Mendelt will ‘kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight’.  That Mendelt will walk straight into the unsanitized world of grief but will not forget that you taught me to see the good in things.  That Mendelt will take your children in his arms and tell them over and over again who you were.  That Mendelt will honour each and every one of your dying requests, even the one that is the hardest.  The one when you said that I shouldn’t be so picky in having the kids eat the crusts of their bread. 

And I will remember you when we eat those crusts.  And when we don’t.

We are selling our house.  We are going to move.  Marisa knew we were going to do this and for various reasons the time has come.

Before we sell, I want to finish off the basement stairs so today, without hesitation, I called my dad on the phone for construction advice.  We talked.  Like usual, he offered his help and gave a number of suggestions that will work. 

I hung up the phone.  I was thankful that my dad is healthy, willing and able to help me.  I was thankful that I can, without hesitation, call him.  I lamented for those people that can’t call up their mom or dad for advice. 

And again it hit me.  Like a punch in the face.  Zion can’t call his mom.  Jacoba can’t call her mom.  Zekijah can’t call her mom.

I sighed. 

I had to literally catch my breath.

I was physiologically affected by that thought. 

And, like every day, I had to keep going.  Walk on.  Rock on. Continue in faith that one day, hopefully one day soon, this world will be without death.  Without sting.  Without torment.  Without moms and dad raising kids on their own.  Without the seemingly unjust beast called cancer.  Without 34 year olds weeping at the sound of another child running to their mom.  Without 4 year olds tormented by their moms absence.  Without 6 year olds saying ‘I wish mom could eat with us tonight’.  Without 2 year olds who will most likely only remember their mother through the stories of others. 

Jesus, come quickly.

MdH

My Mom used to say, ‘my head is full of children’.

I know now what she meant.  My head is full of children.

My head is full when I wonder what Jacoba thinks when she sees so many moms pick up their kids from Junior Kindergarten.  My head is full when Jacoba says that she only wants me when she goes to bed.  My head is full when I watch her sleep.  My head is full when our doctor’s office calls and schedules an appointment for her.  My head is full when her nightmares wake her up in a cold sweat.  My head is full when I watch her walk into school like she owns the place.

My head is full when Zion sees the moms with their kids at church.  My head is full when I see one of Zion’s teammates score a goal and know that his mom didn’t see it but she will hear about it when the boy gets home.  My head is full when Zion uses perfect manners.  My head is full when I watch him sleep.  My head is full when he talks about his upcoming basketball season.  My head is full when he tells me in the holy, intimate, bedtime moments that he misses Mommy.  My head is full when I hear him sing on tune.  My head is full when I hear him sing off tune.

My head is full when I think of what Zekijah is going to think when she looks back at her past.  My head is full when I see her little, powerful, Marisa-like body run with athletic prowess and forceful determination.  My head is full when I think that she most likely doesn’t realize what is going on.  My head is full when I watch her sleep.  My head is full when she pulls a purposeful, genuinely funny joke on me.

My head is full when the kids are in bed and I make their school snacks ready…by myself…again.  My head is full when I lie down in my empty bed.  My head is full when I wake up in my empty bed.  My head is full when I see moms with their kids at the park.  My head is full when I see a married couple talk poorly and disrespectfully to each other.

My head…is full.

Dear People,

The venue has changed for the October 18 concert.  We are planning on holding it at Redeemer University College.  ( redeemer.ca for directions )

Please invite your friends.  Invite them to read this blog to get a small picture of a woman that fully deserves the honour of a scholarship in Her name.

Also, please remember that we are trying to raise $25,000.  I understand this is a large amount of money but I think we can do it.  Each cheque that is written to Redeemer University College – Marisa VanderVeen will be granted a tax receipt.

I hope to see the auditorium full.  My brother John is flying in from British Columbia for this concert.  He is a great singer (and quite a looker).  My sister Monique is also coming in from Vancouver.  Monique and I used to perform often together and Marisa always was our biggest fan.  Also, my sister Frances is coming in from the West Coast as well.  It is a battle between Frances and I to see who is the best piano player amongst the 6 children in our family.  ( I usually win…sorry Franny )

Really, the concert is going to be great.  You will not be disappointed.

I hope to see you there.  And when you come, please introduce yourself to me.   October 18.  7:30 P.M.  And if you can not come but still would like to donate, please e-mail me at mendelt.hoekstra at gmail dot com or leave me a comment here on the blog and I will respond to you personally and your comment will not be posted for public consumption.  Thanks.

Peace to you,

MdH

I sang as a part of a men’s group at the Blue Jays game today.  We sang the national anthems of the United States and Canada.  It was a rush.  There were 34,649 people at the game. 

I sang last year at a game as well.  Marisa and I took all our children to the game.  One of the employees of the Blue Jays is a three time cancer survivor and gave us great seats just behind the dugout last year.  Marisa and I had a great time.

This time we sang again.  No Marisa.  What a punch in the face that was. 

The Blue Jays play in the Rogers Centre.  It is a stadium that has a retractable roof.  The weather in the morning was rainy so the roof was closed.  Just before the game, the decision makers suspected that the weather would cooperate so they opened the roof.  So we sang under the heavens. 

Maybe Marisa could hear us.  She always had amazing ears.

MdH

 

It just dawned on me that I haven’t let the Maple Dip Nation know that we ended up winning the gold medal game 4-2.  Here are Jacoba, Zekijah and Zion. 

At the medal presentation Jacoba was introduced as the person with the biggest discrepancy between talent and amount of fans (she had a throng of fans) and Zion was introduced as the team’s high scorer.  It was an exciting game. 

Champion Maple Dips.  That rings nice.

MdH