As some of you know, I want to be Jake in the play Jake’s Women, which will be performed in St. Thomas, Ontario in February, 2016.  Auditions are months away.  I’ve told people that I’ve started memorizing Jake’s lines, and that’s true, but I haven’t turned a page in a month.  Time to begin again.

Many years ago, Carol, the librarian at the Port Stanley Library, challenged me to learn the poem “Twas The Night Before Christmas” in time for the kids’ talent show in December.  I showed up day after day at Sebastian’s, a cozy restaurant on Springbank Drive in London, to talk to myself creatively.  And the deed was eventually done.  Onto the stage I walked in a nightgown and night cap, holding a candle, and I told the story to the children.  “And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.”

This afternoon, I drove from home with the script beside me.  I knew that all the libraries were closed on Sunday, so where to go?  A hotel.  Good idea.  Which one?  How about the Sheraton Four Points on Wellington Road South?  Sure.  The lounge at the Four Points had been one of Jody’s and my favourites.

My early attempts at learning Jake had been weak.  I was full of negative thoughts.  “Maybe I’m too old to memorize hundreds of lines.”  A friend of mine told me of some research about meditators.  Apparently those who practice regularly can remember things more easily.  Well, that’s good, but I still wasn’t bringing my whole self to the task.

Today, I sat in an easy chair looking out at the rainy world.  I decided to order a glass of white wine.  How about a Gewurztraminer, a semi-dry variety that I used to love?  Sounds good.  Now … page one.  And guess what happened?  I wasn’t scared.  I tackled the sentences with gusto.  Cool.  I’ve seen six performances of Jake’s Women in the last six weeks – three in Belleville and three in London.  I knew the flow of the story.  I remembered Jake saying this and saying that.  Yay!

After multiple sips of chilled white goodness, I opted for food.  The menu proclaimed that French fries in garlic with bits of some fancy cheese was a winner.  And the menu was right.  There I was, the glass of wine perched on the right arm of the chair, the bowl of fries sitting on my lap, and my left hand hoisting Jake’s script.  I talked out loud between bites and slurps.  Oh, I had fun!  And I was Jake.  Wonder if the patrons halfway down the lounge thought so too?

I was getting some lines right, and some almost right, but more importantly I was on stage, at least in my mind.  And here comes page 12, where Jake speaks at length to the audience.  Power, and more power, flowed through me.  I can do this.  Who cares if I’m “old”?  I sure don’t feel it.

“That little room up there [where Jake writes] is eight by ten feet but to me it’s the world.  The universe!  You don’t get to play God … You get to be God!”

“She’s so damn stubborn and intractable – only she’s not saying it.  You wrote it!  You’re bright, witty and clever and she’s a pain in the ass.”

My free hand was gesturing.  My mouth was alternately orating and devouring.  My heart was thumping away.  No smallness here.  I’ve got stuff to say, hopefully in February, 2016.  And the words will come.


It all started when I dropped into Catholic Central High School in London yesterday afternoon.  I had a fine visit with my friend Stacy and then walked into the classroom of another friend, Lyrinda.  There were only a few minutes left in the last period of the day.

As the students were walking out at the bell, I recognized one girl and she knew me.  I’ll call her Mary.  Years ago, when I was working with a blind child in Grade 7, everyone went over to the church for Mass one day.  The Grade 8’s sat behind us.  Mary sat directly behind me.  The organist began a hymn (I can’t remember the name of it) which had a descant, an optional melody that’s very high-pitched.  As I sang in my baritone voice, Mary hit the high notes.  There are no words to describe the beauty.  I was writing a blog back then (I still am, as you can tell), and I wrote about Mary that night, being sure not to name her in the piece.

Months later, virtually all of my blog posts got deleted by mistake, over a hundred of them.  (Sigh)  What sadness.  Yesterday, I told Mary the story, and how I wish that I had shown her what I’d written.  Was her post one of the few that escaped the delete?  I didn’t know.

Then Lyrinda and I talked … for over an hour.  How she loves her students!  She prays with them at the beginning of every class.  The teens share worries about loved ones.  They share love.  Lyrinda and I talked about love, about she and I being emissaries of such.  There was no ego in our talk, no “Look at me!”  Just friends doing some “big talk”.  To be immersed in such communion for an hour was … I don’t know the word, but it was big.

I said goodbye to Lyrinda in the parking lot.  As I walked to my car, I knew I was “as high as a kite”.  No drugs in my system but something was sure in there!  I walked into the post office to mail one of Jody’s books.  There was a little roped corridor where patrons line up, with a sign saying “Please Wait Here” at the end.  Two employees were behind the counter.  The only other customer in the room was off to the side, addressing envelopes.  “Come on over, sir.”  “But the sign says to wait here.  I always do what I’m told.”  (Huh?)  Soon the woman with the envelopes was ready.  I walked to the back of the room and she approached one of the clerks.  I was being eyed suspiciously (or quizzically) by the Canada Posters.  Over the next five minutes, I returned to the sign again and again, only to retreat when a new person came through the door.  Oh my goodness.  Am I mentally unstable or just silly?  I’m hoping the latter is true.  Finally it was just the three of us.  A glance back showed me that no cars were parking, no arms carrying packages were approaching the door.  So I mailed Jody’s book, to the amusement of the woman taking my money.

I decided to go see a movie – any movie.  It didn’t matter which one.  I knew there’s usually a film starting around 5:00 at the Hyland Cinema, so I started driving over there.  I was on Wharncliffe Road – four lanes and lots of traffic.  A bus was ahead of me in the curb lane.  I knew what to do, of course.  Pull into the left lane and pass the frequently stopping beast.  Except I didn’t.  I stayed right behind, pausing whenever it did.  Oh my goodness again.  Why am I doing this?

Kite aloft, I walked into the theatre.  I’ll be seeing Preggoland, so said the sign.  And I saw it alone.  I don’t think I’ve ever been alone in a movie theatre.  Do I hear the music of The Twilight Zone?  It was a great film, morphing from a comedy about a depressed girl who fakes a pregnancy to something entirely different and sublime.  The audience loved it.

Grocery time.  As I parked in the Costco lot, I picked up my little black bag of Jody’s books and went inside.  I was floating.  “Someone in here will want a book,” I promised.  After chatting with the pharmacy folks for a few minutes, sharing with them that I was high, I wandered the store, dropping stuff in the cart, and vaguely looking for book recipients.  No one.  At the checkout, a packing clerk checked out my bag.  “I wrote a book.”  “Can I have one?” he said.  “Sure.  My wife died in November and I wrote a book about her.  I’m giving them away to anyone who wants one.”  The female cashier beside him:  “You’re going to make me cry.  I’d like one too.”  “Of course.”  Cue the music.

Homeward bound, with my bread, laundry detergent, bananas, but sadly no fruit tray.  Hey Costco!  Give us back our fruit.  But I wasn’t really bothered by my fruitless endeavour.  The world was shining.

Sitting in my man chair, I looked through the hard drives of my old laptop and this new one, searching for the remnants of my ancient blog.  I tried entering Mary’s name, but that was silly.  I never would have mentioned that in the post.  Using all my brain cells, I thought that I had referred to her as an “angel”.  No luck there either.  In fact, if there were a few posts that had escaped my errant finger, I couldn’t find any.  After nearly an hour of this, I gave up.  Sorry, Mary.


C’mon, Bruce.  One more try.  So I typed “school” in the My Documents search window.  42 hits.  Scroll and scroll.  Here was one called “City of God”.  The hymn!  Open the file.  And there was Mary:

And once again … her soprano blending with my baritone
Like nothing I’ve heard in my life
Like no moment I’ve experienced in the 62 years
I’ve been on the planet
Never before
Probably never again

Now that I knew where to look on the hard drive, I saw that only two posts from the days of yore survived – the very first one I wrote, entitled “Time to Write Again” … and Mary’s.

I have a delivery to make next week.

Magic Times Three

I got up yesterday morning and realized that I hadn’t listened to my answering machine for a couple of days.  There were three messages:

1.  (During Jody’s illness, Manulife was so good in approving prescriptions and in supporting me when I was on short term disability.  For months, though, I have been trying to have them accept receipts for services that occurred within the three months after Jody’s death.  According to Jody’s employer, St. Joseph Health Care, these receipt submissions were legitimate.)

Message from my contact person at St. Joe’s.  Manulife accepts my receipts and will issue me a cheque.  He and his supervisor had gone to bat for me.  Thank you!

2.  (A month ago, I had left a copy of Jody’s book with The London Free Press, asking someone on staff to review our story.)

Message to call my contact at the newspaper.  He told me that although they don’t review the works of local authors unless a major publisher has picked up their work, he’s writing an article about us local folks, and Jody’s lovely cover photo, plus contact information for me, will be in the piece.  It will be published this Saturday, or maybe the next one.  Thank you!

3.  (I’ve gone to the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association retirement banquet in May for fifteen years.  I love seeing friends, eating a great meal, and listening to retirees speak about what their career has meant to them.  As an employee, I would be contacted by my OECTA rep weeks before the banquet to see if I’d like a ticket.  Now that I’m retired, no such e-mail.  The banquet is tonight.  I called my union office on Tuesday.  (Oops)  “I’m sorry, Bruce.  There are no tickets left.”  Sad but determined, I decided to show up at the banquet anyway.  There’d be no food for me but surely I could pull up a chair to a table of 10 and chat.)

Message from the union office.  “One ticket just became available.  It’ll be waiting for you at the registration table.”  Thank you!


I’m such a lucky guy … blessed left, right and centre with kind human beings

Bela Angel

Well, it seems that I’m on a “Book Tour”.  Over my career, I visited 45 schools in our board, to work with visually impaired students.  I decided a few weeks ago to drop into a lot of them, to see who would like a copy of Jody’s book.  So many people are saying yes, and even if the answer is no, it’s wonderful to see old friends again.

Months ago, I was trying to decide how many books to have printed.  The number “500” bubbled to the surface, to be immediately squashed by my small mind: “Oh, Bruce.  You’re going to end up with 480 books in the basement.”  As of tonight, I’ve given away 432, and last week I ordered another 500.  I’m so happy that people are touched by our story.

Today I was at St. Vincent de Paul School in Strathroy, Ontario.  As I was talking to a teacher in the hallway, a young girl came up to me smiling and said, “You gave me your ring.”  I’ll call her Bela.  Three years ago I was working with a low vision child in a Junior Kindergarten class.  A student I didn’t know (Bela) approached me and said, “I like your ring.”  (It’s a large gold band with a red garnet … a gift from my lovely wife Jodiette.)  I didn’t think.  I just did.  I twisted the ring off my right pinky finger and put it in Bela’s hand.  I smiled.  And then I walked back to my student.  A few minutes later I glanced over at Bela, and she was cupping my ring in her open palm … just looking at it.  A bit later I took it back.

That was then.  This is now.  Bela in the hallway, now a Grade 2 student.  I did what any normal human being would have done: I twisted off Jody’s ring and put it in Bela’s hand.  Big smile from her.  Later in the classroom, she said, “I hope I see you again.  I want a hug.”  So we hugged.  I know I’m not supposed to, but gosh, there was a human being in front of me.

At the end of the period, as the kids were leaving the room, Bela looked back at me, smiled, and spoke a sentence with the word “God” in it.  I wish I could remember exactly what she said.  My guess?  “God loves you.”  And she was gone.



There is no need for what is happening to go away
Or for what is not happening to appear

So says Ashin Tejaniya, a Buddhist teacher.  But what does it mean for my life?

Such as right now.  I’m sitting in my man chair, typing.  It would be lovely if Jody could sit beside me and let me rub her feet, something we did so often.  I’d get to send physical love to my dear wife.  But in this moment, I don’t need Jody to be here.  I don’t need wonderfully wise words to fall out of my brain into my fingers.  I don’t need to look in the mirror and see some outrageously handsome dude looking back.  I don’t need my feet to be warm and toasty.

Just as I am.  Just fine.

But what about if life was throwing me a few curve balls?  What if I was sitting here sad because I’m alone in life now?  My best self wouldn’t need the sadness to disappear.  What if now was just like the fall of 2003?  Seven-teen weeks on crutches after tendon transfer surgery, plus lots of pain.  Perhaps I wouldn’t need the cast and the angst to disappear.  What if I was being condemned by my colleagues for being a poor teacher?  I don’t think I’d need the hurt to go away.

Just as I am.  Just fine.

Can I really live this way?

Restaurant Light

I’m quite partial to Wimpy’s Diner in St. Thomas.  I won’t admit to you how many seniors’ (Who me?) breakfasts I’ve consumed on Talbot St.

I was in London yesterday around supper time and decided to partake of Wimpy’s excellent Greek salad.  I knew the staff in St. Thomas.  Not so for London.  A young woman named Katie was my server.  She was so courteous, even calling me “sir” a few times.  She also arranged for me to receive eight black olives on my salad, virtually a world’s record.  After digesting the olives,romaine lettuce, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese and Saturday’s edition of The London Free Press, I contemplated dessert.

Bruce to Katie:  Would it be decadent and excessive to have dessert after consuming such a large salad?

Katie to Bruce:  No, not at all.  It would be entirely appropriate (or words of that nature).

Bruce:  What kinds of pie do you have?

Katie:  (Blah, blah, blah), coconut cream, (Blah, blah)

Bruce:  If I had the coconut cream, do you think I’d be alive at the end of it all?

Katie:  Oh yes, I’m sure of it.

(Katie leaves to serve another customer)

(Katie returns)

Bruce:  I’ve decided to show moderation, in that eating pie right now would be seen by many as excessive.  So … I’ll have the coconut cream.

(Katie smiles)

(Katie returns with the biggest piece of pie I’ve had in this lifetime)

Katie:  I thought you deserved it.

(Bruce eating and eating and eating some more … pie mostly gone)

(Katie comes over)

Bruce:  Excuse me, miss.  I have a complaint.  You see that fellow over there in the next booth?  (I had been talking to him and his wife, and I was sure he was willing to play, as I knew Katie was)  He came over here, said that coconut cream looked awfully good, and proceeded to put his face in my pie, devouring almost all of it.  (Man smiles.)

Katie:  Well, that’s it.  The next time you two come into Wimpy’s, I’m seating you at opposite ends of the restaurant.

And so it went.  We all had fun.  Good people.


As Katie brought me the handheld machine for my MasterCard, I decided to ask her a question:

“My wife Jody died in November.  I wrote a book about what we experienced during the last year of her life.  I’m giving it away to anyone who’d like to read our story.  Feel free to say no, but would you like a copy?”

(Katie starts crying, and keeps crying for the rest of my visit at Wimpy’s)  “Yes.”

I go out to Hugo to get one of Jody’s books from the trunk.  I open the door of the restaurant.  Three servers – Katie, Robyn and Yasmin – are staring at me.  Katie continues to cry.  “May I have a copy?”  “Of course.”  “Me too?”  “Yes.”  And another trip to Hugo.

It’s all life.  It’s all love.  It’s all who we are.

In The Next Room

Death is nothing at all.  It does not count.  I have only slipped away into the next room.  Nothing has happened.  Everything remains exactly as it was.  I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.  Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.  Call me by the old familiar name.  Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.  Put no difference in your tone.  Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.  Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.  Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.  Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.  Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.  Life means all that it ever meant.  It is the same as it ever was.  There is absolute and unbroken continuity.  What is this death but a negligible accident?  Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?  I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner.  All is well.

Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918)

Kim Brundritt posted this quote on her Facebook page.  She’s the artist who created the sublime painting of a tree that graces the back cover of Jody’s book.  Her dad died two weeks ago.

Jodiette and I talk several times a day and I cry for her a lot.  All the trees out there in the world speak of her.  I’m so sad that I can’t touch her now, and hold her hand.  But we are together.  And Henry Holland helps me hold my darling wife close.  Jody is right next door, separated from my body by the thinnest of veils.  She was right there in Hugo (our Honda CRV) last night as I drove home from Toronto on the freeway.  I was pretty pooped and Jody protected me from harm.  And now, as I sit in my man chair typing, Jodiette has her arms around me.

“Oh, Bruce.  That’s silly,” I heard as I bantered with the waiter in Jack Astor’s yesterday, pretending I was talking to my mom on the phone after he handed me the Interac machine.  The thing is, Jody has seen me do that a hundred times.  She still enjoys it.  I know I’ve often embarrassed Jodiette with my antics, but as she says about any and all hurts I’ve caused, “I forgive you completely.”

“I am but waiting for you, for an interval.”  Yes, my dear.  We’ll hold our arms out wide to each other in reunion.  I love you.

The Concert!

I’ve never looked forward to a concert so much.  I drove to Toronto yesterday to hear Jackie Evancho, a 14-year-old girl with a celestial voice.  During Jody’s funeral luncheon, and at her Celebration of Life, I showed the video of Jackie singing “In The Arms Of An Angel”, which is where Jody is.  And to hear Jackie sing “Nessum Dorma”, an operatic piece usually performed by men, is to be transported into a heavenly realm.  This girl is far more than her voice, though.  She has an astonishing presence on stage.  I think she’s an old soul, reborn on Earth to bring joy and spread love.

I lived in Toronto for the first 21 years of my life.  Yesterday, I had a vague memory of a cheap parking garage near the Sony Centre downtown.  I knew what exit to take off the freeway, and after a few twists and turns, there was the garage.  Plus it was only $5.00 to park for hours and hours.  Yay!

An hour-and-a-half before showtime.  I thought a beer would be in order.  Right outside the garage, on a street called The Esplanade, sat an Irish pub.  Inside was dark wood, a seat at the bar, large screen TV sports, and a Barking Squirrel lager.  Oh, bliss is mine!  I talked to two of the servers, and they were both genuinely happy that I was about to hear one of the most beautiful voices in the world.  My soul was flying high, not to mention the rest of me with the beer.

7:15.  The show would start at 8:00 so it was time to mosey.  As I was walking out of the pub, one of my new friends smiled and said, “Enjoy the concert.”  Indeed.  It was only two blocks to the Sony Centre and my cells were singing.  As I rounded the corner, I wondered if the doors would be open yet.  Then I saw a fellow going inside.  Good.  I’ll just hang out in my seat (only ten rows from the stage!) and drink in the theatre.

Off the sidewalk now and approaching all those glass doors.  A corner of my mind noticed five 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper on the windows, but who cares?  Hand reaching for the door.  Eyes lifting to check out the sign.


(Standing still)  (Staring)  (Gulping)

Small Bodies, Large Souls

It’s time to let the kids do the talking.

There’s a Grade 5/6 class at St. Jude’s School in London who have done a lot of praying for Jody and me.  They sent love to two people they’d never met.  They also sent me a book – The Fall of Freddie the Leaf – along with messages of caring.  So lovely.  I visited the students yesterday and told them how special their love is.  Of course they love their moms, dads, brothers and sisters, and their friends, but to reach beyond, out into the world with their sweetness … oh my.  What the world needs now …

Here’s what they had to say:

I know the loss of your wife Jody has planted sadness into your life.  Don’t let that stop you from being who you are.

Life is like a spirograph.  Once one line ends another starts.

Just remember that Jody in a good place and will always remember you.

Get well soon from your loss.

I know its hard to lose someone close.  Jody was probably a really sweet person.

Keep going and keep your wife in your prayers forever and keep her in your heart with all your strenght and your love.

You need to be strong and not to have a heavy heart, because Jody loved you and even though she died, she is actually living everlasting life with you, right by your side.  So don’t just sit there and weep.  Sit by Jody’s tree and fell her spirit in you.

I have a good song to sing that might cheer you up.  It is the song Happy.  So keep that in mind and you will hopefully feel better.  She was probably a very special lady to you.

I hope thease leaves cheer you up.  Hopfully you can recover from this.

Jody is in a better place now.

Mr. Kerr I am so sad to hear of the loss of your wife Jody and hope that she goes to heaven.

Daniel always helped Freddie through rough times just like you helped Jody through her tough times.

Jody may be gone but you still have your special memories just like the special tree you and your wife share.

One day my moms couisim had cancer.  She had it for a year.  That year pasted by and now she is still alive.

You must struggle but I will always keep you and Jody in my prayers.

Mr. Kerr, we hope you feel better and you always know that she is in your heart.

I know how you feel.  Papa died from cancer.  He is very nice when I see his grave and my grandma.  It reminds me of him.

Bruce, we will keep you in our thoughts and prayers.

I had experienced a horrible, sad story too.  She was a little girl who’s name was Adison.  She was a very close friend of mine and she passed away from a car crash at Costco.

I am very sorry for your loss but we all die when it is our time.

Well I hope this letter cheered you up a bit and that soon all their leaf letters will too.

I hope you can overcome your loss just like me and my family did.  I know it’s hard not to think about your wife, but just think of all the things that you can still do.  Good luck!


Thank you, kids


I’d say that my enjoyment of classical music has been on-and-off in my life.  I played cello from Grade 6 till Grade 13, hearing the pieces from the inside of the orchestra.  Then, sadly, I let go of my instrument.  Except for a few dabbles, I haven’t played again.

Years ago, I bought a 10-CD set called “The Most Beautiful Melodies of Classical Music”.  Such marvelous tunes, but truth be told I haven’t listened to them very often.  They sit on a high shelf, ignored.

In the early 2000’s, I went to a couple of Orchestra London concerts, watching the musicians from the balcony.  I don’t remember the pieces but it was good music.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I sat in the second row of Dundas Street Centre United Church to hear The Musicians of Orchestra London, folks who are determined to play on after the city dropped its funding.  Great sights and sounds from my nearby perch.

None of all that, however, prepared me for last night.  It was another concert from The Musicians, this time in the dramatic confines of Metropolitan United Church.  The centre part of the front row was blocked off, but I was allowed to sit up front on the left side of the orchestra.  I had been leaning back and talking to two women behind me when the musicians walked in.

A female violinist sat down about four feet from me, facing to my right.  When she did a downbow, I could have touched her right elbow.  The orchestra began with the Overture from the opera Don Giovanni by Mozart.  From the first note, my new friend launched herself into the stratosphere, moving and grooving to the music as her fingers flew on the fingerboard.  And her notes were so pure.  The melodies exploded in my head as I watched her grab on to them, then caress, then propel once again.  I tried to take my eyes off of her but usually couldn’t.  She was a goddess of the violin and I was transported into her world.  I had never been so close to a professional musician and I was overwhelmed with the power of it all.

As intermission started, I leaned forward and said, “Thank you.  That was lovely.  I loved watching your fingers fly.”  She smiled.  And then I continued:  “Am I sitting too close?”  She laughed.  “Oh no.  In fact you can sit up here if you want”, pointing to the very front pew beside her.  Wouldn’t that have been a hoot?  I’d be dodging her elbow all night.

Words cannot express the depth of my evening.  May I bring such intensity to the moments of my life.