Yesterday, I went to the visitation for my friend Darrell’s wife Joanna.  Gone at 64, cancer I believe.  Even though I had never met Joanna, I wanted to go.  Many years ago, when I was trying to get a teaching job with the Catholic school board in London, Darrell wrote me a letter of reference.  And I got the job!  Darrell and Jody both worked at Parkwood Hospital and were joyous friends.  Always having fun.  So good to each other.

I showed up at the church right at the beginning of the visitation period, and there already had to be 50 people ready to say hello to the family.  And there were probably 25 of them.  So I experienced the “line that doesn’t move” syndrome, and that was fine.  I knew only one person there, but others probably knew the whole family.  Who am I to begrudge them precious moments with people they care about?  So the waiting was good.  There were two or three screens in the sanctuary, showing all sorts of pictures of Joanna.

Folks who came later than me were seated in the pews, waiting for the opportunity to join the line.  As I stood, I heard two precious words among a group who were seated: “Jody Kerr”.  A woman who works at Parkwood was talking about my lovely wife, about what a joy she was to see every day, and about Jodiette’s bright tops and pants.  I turned and sought out the source.  The four of us chatted for ten minutes or so about my dear girl, and I couldn’t care less about losing my spot in the line.

Then it was time to greet the first family members.  I was feeling a little nervous, but really not much.  I was clear that it didn’t matter what I said to all these strangers.  “Just be with them, Bruce.  All will be well.”  And it was.  I told different groups that I had never met Joanna, but the slide show on the walls showed me all I needed to know.  She just glowed in photo after photo.  There were even recent shots of her smiling broadly at the airport, as some of her kids and grandkids were heading back to Western Canada.  I imagine that everyone knew this was goodbye, but that didn’t stop Joanna from showering her world with love.  “Was she always like this?” I asked.  And one of her daughters answered, “Yes.”

To other linemates, I talked about what a huge presence Darrell was at Parkwood before he retired.  He’d be walking down the hallway, see someone he knew a hundred feet away, and start smiling.  I think it was one of his sons who added, “And he probably had a couple of conversations before he got to that person.”  Indeed.

When I reached Darrell, we gave each other a lingering hug.  He told nearby folks about the letter of reference, and mentioned that ever since I’ve been paying him with a toonie every time I saw him.  At which point I plunked one of those $2.00 coins in his palm.  And he did what Darrell does – tried to stuff the toonie into my pocket.  But I was too fast for him.  And in Darrell’s possession the coin remained.  Just like always.  I mean the guy has to keep his retirement well funded, doesn’t he?

Lots of visiting at the visitation.  Joanna and Jody were happy to see it all.

Dying and Living

Light and free you let go, darling
You are doing this so beautifully, so easily
You are going toward a greater love than you have ever known

I don’t know who wrote this.  I wish I had.  But I’m glad that someone let these words flow out of them.

I don’t know what’s next for me after this lifetime.  I don’t know what Jody’s experiencing now.  But whatever it is, I sense it’s good.  My wife is happy and her essence is with me every day.

What if Jody has merged into a force of boundless love?  What if she’s being cradled by that love at every moment?  What if some form of her is waiting for me to cross over, so I too can experience that love?

Next lifetime, it won’t be “Jody and Bruce”.  How about “Chantelle and Pierre”?  And I’m perfectly willing to be Chantelle.  Or maybe our Spirits will explore a realm far from this physical life on Earth.  I’ve always wanted to fly.

What if next time there’s no “self and other”, no “Brucio and Jodiette”?  Maybe each of us is a single atom in an unfathomable celestial body.  Maybe my darling wife and I entwine in a spiral of joy in which “my love for you” and “your love for me” become … love.

I don’t know.  And isn’t that so true?  The mystery beckons me onward.  To open, open, and open some more.

Now, and Again Now

Here I sit in my man chair.  Will I lean forward, hoping for a fine result in the next moment?  Will I turn away from current pain, not wanting it to continue?  Or will I just sit, letting whatever’s here be here?  I like that last choice.  So let’s see where the moments take me.

1.  I’m looking at Jody’s face on the cover of the third proof of her book.  I’m happy.  She looks great.

2.  I’m listening to my breath.  No wheeze.  No coughing.  On one level, that’s good.  On another, it’s just breathing.

3.  I’m closing my eyes.  My belt is tight against my stomach.  Some discomfort.

4.  I’m closing my eyes again.  Eyelids very heavy.  Thinking of my bed.

5.  Hard for me to type with my eyes closed, me not being an ace touch typist.

6.  I hear the oven doing its groinks, as the chicken works its way towards edibility.

7.  I look at the poster of Jody on the wall, her in her wedding dress, beaming.  I smile.

8.  I think of Thursday, when I’ll get into Hugo and set off for Massachusetts, and a nine-day meditation retreat.  Another smile.

9.  Oven timer goes off.  Excuse me, I’ll be right back.

10.  Can’t smell the chicken because of the cold.  Sure looks good.

11.  I made myself a cup of tea – Cinnamon Spice.  The cup overflowed.  Sipped it down a bit.  Hot on the lips.  Wiped up the spill.

12.  The house is silent.  So am I.

13.  I feel my breath catch.  I recognize it as the body showing me a pre-cough.

14.  Breathing smoothly again.  Happy.

15.  I ask myself, “Will I be well by Thursday?”  Strangely, I see that I’m fine with both a “yes” and a “no”.

16.  I notice the PVR humming softly.  I notice that I don’t like the sound.  Oh well.

17.  I think about whether I will ever again have a partner in life.  I hope so.  But I know it’ll be okay if I don’t.

18.  I rub the rough patch on my forehead, and smile when I see that I want my body to be perfectly smooth.  Good luck on that, guy.

19.  I look at the statue of the Buddha that sits on the hassock nearby, facing me.  A companion for the last three years.  Feel bad (a little) that I can’t sit that way.  Happy that he’s here.

20.  I miss Jody, and my eyes dampen.  Oh, my dear wife.

21.  I realize that Jody’s coming to Massachusetts with me.  My eyes are still wet.  Thank you, my dear.  “You’re very welcome, husband.  You and me.”

22.  No sign of a cough.  So thankful for that.

23.  I remember that I haven’t saved any of this post yet.  Do so.  No judgment.

24.  I worry about not writing a post every day.  And I just watch the worry.  It’s okay.

25.  25 seems like a nice round number, don’t you think?


That was about half an hour of thoughts bubbling to the surface.  I’m so pleased that I didn’t get stuck ramping up the goods and bads into fullfledged drama.  But “so pleased” sounds like a pretty high energy “good”.  Guess I’ll continue to watch my thinkings with good humour.  A lovely thing to do on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

All Of Life’s Hues

Life is timing, I’d say.  Months ago, after Jody died, I decided to buy a ticket to see Celtic Woman on March 25, 2015.  Jody and I loved to watch their DVDs.  Some truly enchanting songs.

Nearly four weeks ago, I started coughing.  Bronchitis, the doctor said.  It subsided for awhile but came back with a vengeance maybe four days ago – deep coughs, lots of mucus, stuffed nose, and intermittent nausea.

So, what to do?  Well, go to the concert.  I sat down next to my unsuspecting neighbours and tried my darndest not to cough.  The first song (three sublime female voices and a brilliant violinist) wasn’t bad, but halfway through the second one I was rocked with eruptions.  Totally unfair to the audience members.  I told the woman to my left that I’d be leaving at the end of the song, and to be ready.  She was feeling for me.

I made my stumble along the row, apologizing mightily.  Then down the tunnel to the concourse, where I just about fell onto a bench.  Down went my head and up came the mucus.  Later, I wondered how my noises echoed in the empty space, empty except for several employees getting ready to serve drinks and snacks.  One woman brought me over a paper cup for water.  Thank you.  A supervisor said she’d search for an empty area in the arena where I could enjoy the show and not disturb other patrons.  Thank you.  A third woman suggested I stand beside her in the tunnel and catch a glimpse of things that way.  Thank you.

But I wasn’t ready for any of that.  My ample supply of Kleenexes was dwindling and the mucus wasn’t.  And I was dizzy.  Somewhere far, far away I could hear the sweet strains of “Danny Boy”, one of Jody’s and my favourites.  Beauty and spasms with their arms around each other.

Later, I felt strong enough to stand in the tunnel, leaning on the handrail.  Such a unique view of the music.  Then, from behind a blackout curtain, came the supervisor.  She had found a spot for me.  Up the escalator we went, and then past a balcony filled with folks enjoying their meals at tables.  Through a secret door, and then another secret door.  And there I was – in a private box, which normally would seat twenty, but tonight was dark.  Thank you again.

Coughing continued, but at least people were far away.  And down below me, I listened to the magic of melody and harmony: “Amazing Grace”, “Caledonia”, “You Raise Me Up” and “The Parting Glass”.  Jody and I held hands and sang along.  I cried when she raised me up.  She thanked me for bringing her.  “The pleasure was all mine, my dear.”

Just your basic date night.

Speed Limit

Around here, it’s 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph) on the secondary highways and 50 or 60 in town.  In the 20 years that Jody and I drove to London for work, I varied from 85 to 90 on the 80 kph road, usually while being tailgated.

Last week, I decided to drive the speed limit, whatever it was.  It just felt right to do that, “appropriate”.  It allows me to flow, to feel Hugo moving smoothly up the road.  It allows for a big space in front of me, and a feeling of “spaciousness” within.  Someone has said that this is the maximum speed, and I’m going with it.  Not to be right and make someone else wrong.  Not to get people to slow down in life.  Just because it feels good.

Lots of people don’t like my new plan.  Many crowd my back bumper.  Some jerk to the left to see if there’s room to pass.  But happily, other folks just hang back at a respectful distance.  Maybe there’re lots of us who want to take it down a notch or two, who’d like to glance at the cows in the field, or at a particularly symmetrical tree.

I will continue my experiment – tomorrow, and especially in a week’s time, when I’ll take a leisurely day-and-a-half to get from home to Barre, Massachusetts.  May many congenial souls float along with me.

On The Stage

I went to a workshop yesterday for beginning actors.  I wasn’t nervous at all as I walked in.  I talked to a few people in the foyer, put on my nametag, and then took a chair by myself.  Gabbing and not gabbing … both were okay.

For the first hour-and-a-half, our leader did a lot of teaching, and then it was time for coffee.  I started talking to a woman whose nametag said “Gladys”, but other people laughed when I called her that.  Shirley liked having fun with nametags.  And so do I.  I asked her if we could switch.  She was all for it.  For the rest of the day, I had my moments of confusion, as I heard my fellow participants referring to “Bruce”.  Not the me I know.  I was enjoying being Gladys, that’s for sure.

Our improv group of three decided to be uptight bank robbers brandishing guns at a teller.  Little did we know that she was an undercover cop.  Such fun.  And I got to dress up in a fancy black suit jacket and a floppy hat.  I felt quite nasty for close to an hour, as we watched other groups perform and then did our thing.

Next on the menu, we sat in a big circle on the stage.  One person suggested a topic and would give us a sentence about it, starting with the letter A.  The next improv-er got to continue, beginning with a word that started with B.  And so on.  On one go-round I got Z, and was very pleased to come up with “Zowie!”  After a complete circuit of the alphabet, we debriefed.  I mentioned that I didn’t like it when someone was struggling to create a sentence beginning with a certain letter, and others would chime in with suggestions.  Duly noted by the group.  When we began again, with the topic slowly morphing into a discussion about pets, it was my turn with the letter K.  And I couldn’t think of a darn thing.  Naturally nobody helped me, and the silence deepened.  The tension rolled through me for at least thirty seconds, until I blurted out, “Killing pets is really not a good idea.”

So I got to sit with my fear.  And I realized that drawing a blank was all right.  I didn’t die on the spot.  Oh, drama, what a teacher you are!

Later in the day, our groups of three each put on the same ten-page play, holding our scripts as we told the story.  Partway through, I got really confused about where I was supposed to be standing, and how I was supposed to kiss a woman without blocking her from the audience, and in general about all the stage directions written in the script in italics.  Out of the corner of my head, I heard silence hanging in the air, and finally found the highlighted line that I was supposed to say seconds earlier.  Humbled again.  Totally out of character, I smacked myself in the head.  At least I got a laugh doing that.

I survived this faux pas as well, and learned one more time to laugh at my imperfections.  Later, I would have a third opportunity to eat humble pie.  Quite delicious, actually.  The workshop was over and I had gone to a restaurant in St. Thomas.  I sat at the bar and watched big screen sports.  Had a good conversation with the bartender.  After a generous helping of nachos, and a sinful brownie, ice cream and whipped cream combo,  I checked my shirt to see if I had blobbed stuff there.  Nope, I was fine.  But there was a piece of paper stuck to my chest.  It said “Gladys”.  My friend behind the bar said he hadn’t spoken up about it since it was none of his business.  I told him the switcheroo story.  I think he understood.  If not, it was another rich life experience within the world of dramatic arts.


I went to see a fine movie last night.  Cinderella was beautiful, which is nice, but far more importantly, she was courageous and kind.  She was asked to be that way by her dying mother, and she did as she was asked.

When Ella came to the young king’s ball in a stunning blue dress, and started down the grand staircase with all eyes on her, I thought of Jodiette.  Especially one time at a bed-and-breakfast in Nova Scotia.  I was sitting at the breakfast table with other guests when my darling walked slowly down the stairs.  “It’s my lovely wife,” I said.  I was in love, and still am.  I cried when Ella came walking down, with her friend the king smiling up at her.

Later the two of them danced, swirling around in a flurry of blue, loving each other’s touch, eyes shining.  Oh, how Jody and I loved to dance!  The joy in her eyes.  The moving and the grooving.  I miss my girl.

Ella was so kind, to the mice who were her friends, and even to the people who oppressed her.  Near the end of the film, as she and the king were leaving her home, hand-in-hand, Ella looked  up at her stepmother, slumped halfway up the stairs.  With great presence, Ella simply said, “I forgive you.”  And I knew she had.

May we all have the love that Ella and the king share, that Jody and I share, and may we all be kind.  The world needs us.

Investment Journey

Jody and I bought shares of ATCO Gas in Alberta a few years ago.  I’ve wanted to buy some more.  Last week, I closed the joint account that we had with the brokerage TD Waterhouse and opened one of my own.  It was active as of Monday and my goal today was to buy 300 shares.  But it wasn’t totally easy.  If I delivered a cheque to TD today, it would take a day or two to clear and only then would I be able to do the trade.  Should I serenely wait or do all I can to make the purchase today?  Well, I had a goal, didn’t I?  So I went for it.

Going for it would mean withdrawing the cash from my credit union and plopping the money on TD’s counter.  Both institutions are in St. Thomas.  Then go home, phone the brokerage and consummate the deal.

Step number one: show up at the credit union.  “Having that amount of cash ready for you will take about two hours, sir.”  “Oh.  Okay.”  It was 11:00 am and I didn’t want to go home.  What to do?  In my driving wanderings of the past few days, I’d noticed a new asphalt walking path that led from Pinafore Park in the south part of town, north a few kilometres to downtown.  Oh, I love exploring.  So I parked at Pinafore and sauntered northward, trees to the left and trees to the right.  (“Hi, Jody!”)  It was lovely.  The sun was shining, the temp was a degree or two above zero Celsius, and the huge banks of snow from our recent storms were melting to beat the band.  Quiet little streams flowed over the asphalt, glistening.  And there were black wrought iron benches every 400 metres or so.

I sat.  I looked at Jody’s trees.  I talked to my dear wife.  I talked to many passersby, who seemed as delighted with the new path as I was.  And I thought of the snow.  Such a bad case of piles, all dripping away.  Slowly fading.  And in a week or two?  Perhaps nothing.  Just as in our lives … shining in the sun, big globs of energy, but slowly moving towards diminishment, and eventually disappearance.  I closed my eyes.

After much pleasurable dipsydoodling of the feet, here was Talbot St. and further along, a mom and pop eatery serving an all-day breakfast.  They even had those little containers of peanut butter for my toast.  I rested.  I ate slowly.  It was good.

Then off I ambled a few blocks to my credit union.  1:15.  Perfect.  A smiling young gentleman teller greeted me with “Hello, Mr. Kerr.  Your money is ready.”  After a few signings of this and countings of that, the cash found a home in an envelope and in my coat pocket.  “Bye.”

It was a 20-minute walk to the TD Bank.  Was I nervous?  Okay, a bit.  I hoped that I was walking normally – nice, relaxed gait, not too fast, not too slow.  Nothing to get potential criminals sniffing around.  Actually, I smiled a lot.  Never before had I walked the streets with such a load of moola.  Sort of exciting.  A bit James Bondish perhaps.  I heard the nervous voice inside … “Bruce, you should have driven to the bank” … but truly, who cares?

I found a few back streets between credit union and bank, and discovered new and rare snow sculptures on my way.  And I didn’t think the left breast of my coat was bulging at all.

In the front door I strode, like a wealthy industrialist from downtown Toronto.  The staff were very nice.  Fifteen minutes later, the delivery was complete.  More smiles.

I continued my loop trip and eventually made my way back to the wondrous path.  Still sunny, still dripping, still happy.  Half an hour later, I was with my trusty vehicle Hugo, and homeward we went.

I phoned the brokerage at 3:58.  The Toronto Stock Exchange closed at 4:00.  Too late.  Hmm.  But tomorrow is another day.  They open at 9:30.  I’ll be there.

Who knew investing could be such fun?


I used to want to be a better meditator.  I was full of ideas about “good meditation” and bad.  But that seems to have faded away.  I remember decades ago hearing some martial arts master say “Just put yourself on the mat.”  So … I just sit, sometimes for a short time, sometimes longer, and take whatever comes my way.

Thoughts sure throw themselves at me, and I’ve learned to welcome them.  The idea of trying to eliminate them feels silly.   My brain is getting quieter but it still spews its output.  This morning, while sitting in my cozy chair, I thought about sex, about the wind that was whipping outside, about the sun that started breaking through my eyelids.  Later, I fantasized in detail about what will happen on the meditation retreat I’m going on in two weeks.  It was so lovely .. and then I noticed what I was doing.  My response was “Oops!”, rather than “Bad Bruce.”  Just more mind stuff, which is perfectly fine.

I settled back into a rhythm of very quiet breathing, in fact silent breathing.  Everything so slow.  The wind buffeted my home.  The sun peeked in and peeked out.  All was well.  Strangely, I had no aches and pains as I sat there.  And I wasn’t nodding off towards sleep, a usual tendency of mine.  I could feel pride settling in, and I smiled.  “Hello, pride.  Thanks for showing up.”  A bit later, it floated away, soon to be replaced by … nothing.  Just breathing.

I have a little Tibetan bowl which I hit with a wooden mallet at the end of my sitting.  How do I know it’s the end?  It just feels right to stop.  I tap the bowl three times, letting the sound hang in the air and completely disappear before I do it again.  That feels right too.

Today I meditated for 50 minutes – neither good nor bad.  I returned to my daily life slow and sweet.  Makes me happy.

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet

I set off today to do some rediscovering.  I started with the gym.  Two weeks of bronchitis have left me weak, lethargic, and constipated.  I know that balance is key … physical, emotional and spiritual.  And that man does not live by Buddha alone.  So off to the  elliptical I went.

As I packed my gym clothes this morning, I selected a vibrant t-shirt that Nona and Lance gave me for Christmas.  It’s a greenish lizard flashing a peace sign on  a mottled purple background.  So cool!  But my reaction today?  Fear.  Fear of what the workouters will think of me.  How strange.  I love wearing funky clothes, especially t-shirts with funny sayings on them, and today’s purple shirt went exceedingly well with my bright orange shorts.  Has Bruce gone on a vacation, sort of missing in action?  I guess I’m allowed that once in awhile.

Happily, I didn’t adjust my wardrobe, and apparently went unnoticed by varied exercisers.  Soon I was flinging all body parts around on the elliptical.  I could feel stats rearing its lovely head (such as total distance covered in 30 minutes), and I tried to get my convalescing body to take it easy.  I was doing a moderate pace on the machine when I realized that I was feeling good.  “But, Bruce, what about an hour later?”  Ignoring this well-meaning but irritating voice, I sallied forth, and ended up doing 4.22 kilometres, the most I’ve done since Jody died.  “Okay, Bruce.  Now moderation.”  Well …

A few years ago at Gold’s Gym (now World Gym), I started loving Jacob’s Ladder.  You strap yourself in and step on a wooden rung, then the next one.  Basically you climb in place.  And it’s a workout.  So early this afternoon, there I was – attaching the belt.  Back in the good old days, the max I had been able to do was 400 feet.  Today I decided that 100 would be a worthy goal.  “Oh, Bruce.  Don’t wreck yourself.”  And I didn’t.  But I did do the 100 feet.

There’s the experience of being in the moment and then there’s pressing towards a goal.  This nice little Buddhist guy has decided to embrace them both.  Why not?  The world of Spirit (what I’ll call the formless) and the world of form (all the people, places and things we run into every day).  Let’s celebrate it all.  So yay for 4.22 and 100.  Nice round numbers.  And they look so good on me when I’m a lizard.