Sunday, 23 November 2008
The Beyond . . .
It seemeth such a little way to me
Across to that strange country, The Beyond;
And yet, not strange, for it has grown to be
The home of these of whom I am so fond.
And so for me there is no Death;
It is but a crossing, with abated breath, a little strip of sea,
To find one's loved ones waiting on the shore
More beautiful, more precious than before.
~Ella Wheeler Wilcox
When I awoke this morning, I didn't know what I was going to write here on this page. I took my shower and still no words came to me. Then I sat down to read my e-mails and one immediately caught my eye . . . one from my brother . . . the title . . . Aunt Thelma Passed Away at 8:30 Tonight . . . my eyes immediately filled with tears, and my heart began to ache.
You've never heard me say much about my Aunt Thelma. That is not because I didn't think of her often or because she was not special to me. She was my praying Aunt, and not very exciting, but I loved her dearly. My mother's older sister, she had been given an awfully hard row to hoe in life. She was a woman of great faith. She should have died a hundred times, and didn't. We thought of her as being a little bit like the *Ever-ready Bunny*, she just kept going and going.
When she was but a young girl of thirteen years, she was raped in her own bed, in her own home, with her parents just in the bedroom next door, by some men who my grandmother had rented a room out to during the local summer exhibition. I often thought of that through the years. How very frightening an experience that must have been for this young girl. I never spoke of it to her . . . I can only think that it coloured her young life in a way we cannot imagine.
She was a school teacher in her late teens, and then she married my Uncle Frank. My Uncle Frank was a sick man. He suffered from Schizophrenia. Her life with him was not a very good one. He was a cruel man, because of his disease and he treated her and their children very badly. We went to visit them one time on Prince Edward Island when I was about 11 years old. They lived in a rambling old farm house and they were very poor. I can remember my father being very nervous about Uncle Frank. You never knew what he was going to do next . . . those years with him, must have been hell on earth. She suffered with ill health off and on, and from his cruel ways, and she lost several children, some in child birth, and one, a baby girl named Cathy, when Cathy was several months old. She, herself, was given the last rights more than several times throughout those years.
When I was about 14, my mother, Aunt Freda and Uncle Harold went over to the Island to rescue her from my Uncle Frank, and to bring her and her five surviving children over to the mainland . . . Nova Scotia . . . to live. She would eventually divorce him, and she would bring those children up all by herself, as she never remarried, nor did she ever have a relationship with any man in that way for the rest of her life. She was a good mother. She worked from sun up to sun down, to do her very best for her children, to give them a good home and to provide for them all the things that they needed. It was not easy for her. She worked days cleaning other people's houses for them, and then she would come home and do it all again. Her house was spotless. It was a very hard and toilsome life, but I cannot recollect ever hearing a word of complaint from her about the things she had to do. She did her very best with what little she had.
Sometimes at Easter or Christmas, she would send up to us beautiful baking, sweet breads all covered in white icing and stogged full of fruit and decorated with cherries. I always looked forward to seeing them come through the door. At the time, I didn't give much thought to what it must have taken her to bake them for us, but now, as an adult, I know and understand that it must have taken a huge chunk out of her sparse larder, and was probably a great sacrifice for her to do so, but do it she did . . . out of love.
My Aunt Thelma often suffered in life with aches and pains, and in her later years she had Chronic Lung Disease, and suffered from ulcers on her legs. She was on Oxygen all the time, and eventually had to be put in the hospital with a circulatory problem in her legs, which did become affected with some gangarene. She was in the hospital for months and months. Last time we were home, Todd and I went to visit her there. She was in so much pain, but was so very happy to see us. It hurt us to see her that way, in pain and broken. She looked so small and frail in her bed. After a number of months, they did have to remove her leg. She was eventually moved to a old people's home, as there was no way that she could have returned to her own home in a wheel chair. I expect that she was glad to see the end of being in the hospital, but the move did mean that she was now quite far down the valley, which made it difficult for people to visit her. She seemed happy there, but I expect she was a bit lonely and missing the activity of days gone by. She often helped them out in the kitchen peeling potatoes and such for the evening meal. She had gone quite blind in these recent months, only being able to discern the light from the darkness . . . and now she is gone back home, safe to her father's arms.
For her there is no more darkness, only light. No weeping, no wailing, no tears . . . no more aches and pains . . . her body whole. She was our faithful praying Aunt here in this mortal veil of tears, and I know she will always be our praying Aunt in the beyond. As I sit here this morning my heart aches for all the things she should have had and deserved to have, and never did . . . it aches because I never had the chance to say goodbye and tell her that I loved her . . . it aches for my mother who is now the last surviving sister and daughter in that family . . . it aches for my cousins who are now mourning the loss of their beloved mother . . . it aches because she died alone . . .
I know that when she got to the other side, the Lord surely said to her . . . Welcome home my faithful servant . . . welcome home . . .
Always a stickler for cleanliness and order, she is probably putting things to right this morning, and getting rid of any cobwebs and dust that may be about, and doing it on two healthy legs, with two healthy lungs and a determined glint in her eye, and when she pauses for a moment or two, she thinks of us and says a little prayer . . .
We had a pretty quiet evening here last night. It's gotten very cold. Cold temperatures call for hearty comfort food. The kind of food that sticks to your innards and warms you up. I'm still getting used to my new camera, so my pictures are not the best, but let me assure you . . . this was delicious.
*Herbed Sausages with Polenta and Onion Gravy*
This is somewhat of an Italian take on that good old British dish, Sausage and Mash with Onion Gravy. If you've tried polenta before and were somewhat disappointed, try it again . . . the secret, as with most tasty things in life, is to use lots of butter and cheese, and to season it well.
12 good quality herby sausages
For the gravy:
2 TBS olive oil
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 fresh springs of rosemary, broken into bits
2 tsp flour
2 TBS red currant or cranberry jelly
300ml red wine
300ml beef stock
(If you don't use alcohol in cooking, just use all stock)
For the Polenta:
150g powdered polenta
75g freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
Put 750ml of water in a medium saucepan. Place over high heat, cover and bring to a simmer. Pour the polenta into the pan of simmering water slowly, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes, or according to the package instructions, giving it a stir periodically.
Meanwhile make the gravy. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and then add the onions and rosemary. Cook, stirring, until the onions begin to soften. Reduce the heat and cover. Cook slowly in their own juices for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring a few times. Stir in the flour and continue to cook for a few minutes longer, until the flour is no longer pale in colour. Add the jelly, wine and stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer away gently for 15 minutes while you grill the sausages.
Pre-heat the grill. Put the sausages onto a baking sheet lined with tinfoil. Grill for 15 minutes, turning them over half way through the time.
When all is ready, beat the butter and the Parmesan cheese into the polenta. Whisk the butter into the gravy and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spoon the hot polenta into heated bowls and top with a grilled sausages and pour the hot gravy over all. Delicious!
PS -- IT'S SNOWING!!!!! I'm so excited!