October 27, 2012

what not to say when someone dies.

It's been three years today since my Dad died. Ugh, that still sounds so terribly blunt. To be perfectly honest, I have a hard time believing that three years have already passed by. I can go right back to that moment in my basement the morning after we learned of his death, sitting beside my now-husband saying "I don't think I can do this -- I could barely get through last night. How am I supposed to get through the next week -- the next year -- the rest of my life -- with him just gone?"

This thought was running through all of our heads -- just this unbearable weight of grief that we didn't know what to do with or how to hold properly. And yet, three years have gone by and somehow we're all still here. Changed, yes, but here.

Through my experience with grief and death and funerals and freezers full of strange lasagna, I've learned a couple of things. Not many things -- but at least three things, which I'll share today. So, without further ado -- what not to say when someone dies and you're standing in line at the wake waiting to talk to the family and thinking about how terribly sad and awkward this is.

1) "Your life will be so different now."

I'll just say this right away -- it's going to take a great deal of self-discipline to not be sarcastic in this post. But come on. Do you really think I haven't realized that my life has been utterly and completely changed with the loss of one of the most important men in my life? I'm perfectly aware that this death has thrown my life onto a totally different track than the one I had anticipated for myself, but thanks for the clarification.

(Sorry. Couldn't quite avoid the sarcasm.)

2) "You're going to have a completely different group of friends now." 

Definitely something my mother did not need to hear while standing beside my dad's casket. Not only had she just lost her spouse, but someone felt it necessary to inform her that all her friendships with other couples would fall apart and her only option would be to hang out with other widows.

For the record, this hasn't happened.

3) "Oh, this is just so sad. But I know this couple who lost all four of their parents, one of their siblings, and their infant twins all within 2 months... and now they both have cancer."

No one actually said this exact thing to us, but you get my point. I know that there are people with worse stories than mine. I'm quite aware that my situation is like a Florida vacation compared to what others are struggling through. I'm genuinely sorry for those people, and hope dearly that they'll be able to get through their own dark valleys. But right now, at this moment, I'm standing across from my dad's lifeless body and being indirectly told to "suck it up" is not what I need to hear. Is this selfish? I'm not sure. But it's how I felt, and how I'm sure most people would feel were they in the same situation.

"Okay Suzanne," you're saying. "You've sassed us long enough. You must think you're pretty funeral-savvy. What are we supposed to say in the awkward sad lineup at the wake?"

Two words:

I'm sorry. 

That's it. That's all you need to say. It's that simple. Sure, there are other appropriate things to say and do (like give a bear hug! Mmm), but this is the easiest, most basic approach. There's a long line behind you. The family is exhausted emotionally and physically. A long conversation or an offer to help with something is best saved for another time and place. Going to the visitation is a quiet, simple way to show the grieving family that you love them and are hurting for them and want to support them. And that's it.

I'll be honest, though -- despite my funeral expertise, I still dread going to wakes and funerals because here's the thing -- I still sometimes can't think of what to say. This is why I can't hold bitterness in my heart towards the people who spoke thoughtlessly. It doesn't matter what you've been through, death is still hard, and it's still a challenge to know what to say and how to act. It's hard to know how to deal with it. It's hard to know how to get down to the level of grief that someone else is experiencing and find the right level of compassion and sympathy, even if you're someone who has been in that same place.

With this in mind, I swept the thoughtless comments aside and just kept the wisdom gained through those experiences for use when necessary. In short -- we're humans and we're terrible at loving each other well. Fortunately God sent Someone who could completely identify with our sorrow and grief and pain... because without Jesus I may have had a little less patience in that lineup. Thanks be to God for another year of His love, provision, and grace.

October 22, 2012

clean eating and why chickens stress me out.

A few weeks ago my boss was going to get rid of some magazines that had been hanging around the waiting room for too long. They were some back issues of "Clean Eating", a magazine that's packed with recipes for meals that are "clean" -- meaning healthy and natural by whatever means possible. I took them home because though I don't consider myself a gourmet cook, I enjoy looking through new recipes and trying out a few here and there.

Well... I ended up getting rid of the magazines anyway. Here are a sampling of some of the ingredients needed to perform these acrobatic feats of recipes:

Black bean veggie burgers
Chevre goat cheese
Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 Organic Sprouted 100% whole grain flourless bread
Soba noodles
Chipotle chiles in adobe sauce
Bocconcini cheese
Udon noodles
Oricchiette pasta
Armenian crackers


Honestly. I have a hard enough time finding the mozzarella cheese in my grocery store, never mind that Biblical bread. And what's wrong with Ritz crackers? Why do I have to use Armenian?! Sheeeez! I have willingly and happily gone back to my Taste of Home recipe books.

In other news, this past weekend I cooked a whole chicken all by myself for the first time ever. It was a ridiculously low sale price at the grocery store and I thought it'd be a fun adventure. Well... it was an adventure, anyway.

First I had to defrost the thing which took several days. Then I had to take the gizzards out. UGH. Won't go into detail there. Then comes the stressful process of cooking the thing and trying to figure out whether or not it's done and whether or not you're going to treat yourself and your spouse to a lovely round of salmonella food poisoning because the digital thermometer can't seem to make up its mind about whether the dang bird is hot enough. Then, hours later, you eat a pile of meat that tastes really good but this doesn't erase the fact that you're totally paranoid about ingesting bacteria and you sit through a movie all evening wondering when you're going to start throwing up. After this you have to peel the remaining meat off the carcass and chuck the thing in the dumpster then sit in a house that smells like Swiss Chalet gone a little... off. Then you go to bed and have dreams about raw chicken.

Conclusion: Chickens stress me out. Maybe one day I'll try it again. But for now... stir fry! Yay!

October 19, 2012


On Fridays I like to blast music like this. Sorry, neighbours. 

Sometimes I even dance to the above music like I'm a real hip hop star, as the kids say these days. I'm pretty sure I look this intense when I dance:

But Wayne would probably tell you otherwise. Mostly I look like a white girl in her 20s pretending to dance well to reformed hip hop. 

In any case, go dance a little. It'll make you feel happy. 

October 15, 2012

the wedding pt. 6: the gents.

Six men stood up for Wayne at our wedding. Six super guys. Six guys who didn't get to spend the day lounging around posing all snazzy-like for weddings photos and smoking cigars. We put them to work -- hard work -- because weddings aren't about fun. They're all about doing things you'd rather not spend your day doing but you do them because you kind of like the people who are getting married.


Okay, it wasn't that bad. But these boyz did a lot for us, including but not limited to...

1. Throwing Wayne a perfectly respectable (though not un-crazy) weekend-long bachelor party involving a cottage, bacon, beer, and lots of paintball.

2. Posing all snazzy-like in 40 degree celsius heat and humidity while wearing suits for wedding photos. In my experience most guys don't enjoy spending several hours having photos taken of them, but all six of these guys did it happily (or at least faked it well). 

3. Buying new suits. As with the bridesmaids, we gave the guys complete freedom in attire (provided the suit was black and wearable). They all opted to just buy a new suit instead of renting a tux (ends up costing the same, and you get a new suit out of the deal!) and looked pretty first class.

4. Being completely ridiculous during the rehearsal and causing us to go way overtime. I don't regret any of it. 

5. Taking care of business. When a couple plans on becoming aliens by moving from one country to another, there are certain legal procedures that need to take place and certain things that need to be submitted to certain governments (ie passports, visas, signatures... and marriage licences.). Say a hypothetical couple plans on moving from one country to another five days after getting married and can't receive some sort of important piece of paper needed for a particular border crossing until submitting their marriage license. Well, that's where the super men came in. As soon as the marriage licence was signed, that baby was faxed and UPS-ed by our groomsmen to the important people who could get us places... and we got our papers just in time. I MEAN... the hypothetical couple got their papers just in time. Phew. 

This picture is not showing how Wayne feels about tying the knot. We're discussing legal documents. Happy wedding day!

6. Rocked it as co-MCs. Yeah, we made them multi-task. Plus, they were really funny. Thanks guys. 

7. Disc-jockeyed those mP3 files like a boss. No, we didn't hire a DJ. We just asked our bro to man the soundboard and let the speakers do their thang. And Eric, you did a fab job, even if you're still confused by our profound love for Christian hip-hop.

Such excellent men. 

{All photos courtesy of Darryl Schipper Photography. }

October 12, 2012

indian baby!

Our friends had a baby two weeks ago -- a very delightfully sweet caramel macchiato baby boy. We were headed back to Ontario for Canadian Thanksgiving and made last minute plans to drop in and visit the newest addition to the family and so I scrambled to make a baby card for them. Unfortunately I was in a bit of a rush and didn't colour as carefully as I normally would have, and as a result the baby looks Indian. Canadian + Jamaican = Indian baby. Not sure how that math works out. But there you have it. Arghhh! Babies! So wonderful.