The Visitor

In memory of my Uncle Bob, born on May 12, 1940.  He  passed away in 2007.                    Great Blue Herons frequented the family farm where he spent the last several years of his life. 

The Visitor 

Immersed in my thoughts, I weed, trim, turn soil.
My flower beds, a refuge 
from the sadness in my heart.
Yet another loss, not unexpected, but still…

An unfamiliar sound — I look up.
So very close, a Great Blue Heron,
large wings slowly beating,
 balancing precariously on slender tree branch.

I sit back, mesmerized,
as it watches me.
An unlikely visitor to my backyard.
I slowly stand, take soft steps, draw closer.

In a moment, it takes flight,
crosses above me, lights on lofty perch,
gazes back my way.
I am spellbound.   

Could it be him…
I quietly watch my extraordinary guest,
admire graceful wings extending,
as it lifts off for farewell flight.  

High above the barn and tall spruces,
towards the setting sun.
An incredible sight…
I am so blessed.

                                     

Sandi Knight
© 2007

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No longer a silent “D”

Slowly, silently, stealthily it snuck up on me. Going about my day-to-day activities, I had no idea it was approaching and ready to swallow me. Then one day, I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t know why. I had everything I needed and more. Two beautiful, healthy young children. A wonderful husband who loved me unconditionally. Amazing, supportive, loving family and friends. My health. My home. Life was better than I ever imagined it could be, yet the overwhelming sadness and despair won’t leave.

I tried to fight through it, shake it off, tell myself to smarten up, get over it. I was strong, capable, determined – or at least I used to be… Now I was so tired, spent, useless. But the more I slept, the more exhausted I became. I wanted to be alone. I couldn’t think clearly. I couldn’t focus. The simplest tasks took all my energy. I just didn’t care anymore. I was confused, but above all else – I was really scared. I had no idea what was happening to me.

That was 1995. After confessing my feelings to family, I went for counselling and eventually group therapy for — depression. I hated the “D” word and all that it represented. Beyond a couple of trusted family members, I told no one. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. Admitting I was depressed made me feel weak. I should have been able to deal with ‘it’ on my own.

My counsellor was kind, understanding, compassionate and made me see otherwise. She had me write down what had happened in my life during the last year. The first 6 months were rather uneventful, but then my mother died. Followed by the deaths of my husband’s grandfather and his great aunt. On the heels of those losses was the birth of our second child, a beautiful baby girl. Shortly after I met my biological father, whom I hadn’t seen since I was 2 years old.

After learning of this chain of events, my counselor replied, “And you’re wondering why you’re struggling?” I responded, “But not everything’s been sad – look at the birth of my daughter and meeting my dad. Other people have so much worse going on in their lives.”

Growing up, no matter what happened, we’d always been told how lucky we were, how so many others were worse off than us, to not complain, to be grateful. Her reply, “That doesn’t take away your right to grieve.”

Grieve? I thought I had done that, but looking back, so much emotion was shoved aside as I ‘got on with it’ and did what needed to be done, or what I perceived was required of me. I didn’t realize that grieving also involved ‘what might have been’ if I my biological father had been part of my life. Postpartum depression was likely also part of the equation although I do not remember it being the focus. It took several months, but eventually I felt healthy, strong and vibrant again. I can’t remember if medication was ever discussed, but for me,  counselling worked. Afterwards I quietly tucked that part of my life away.

It took years before I ever mentioned my depression to anyone, and then only to trusted sources or someone who spoke to me about their struggles. The response 99% of the time was, “You? Depressed? But you’re always so upbeat and happy!”

Actually, not always. And when you live and work on the farm, it is easy to ‘hide’. If you can, you avoid going out in public. When you must go, you quickly learn the best times to avoid seeing too many people. You arrive late and leave early. You find ways to deflect other’s asking, “How are you?”

This past summer, depression came slowly creeping back again. I didn’t recognize it at first. But by late fall, the feelings of overwhelming sadness, fatigue and inability to concentrate seemed all too familiar. I had been avoiding ‘peopling’ whenever possible for fear of tears uncontrollably flowing. I could feel myself spiraling downward but I didn’t want to hit bottom. I didn’t want to return the dark place I was in 1995. I wanted to grab a lifeline. So I did.

I started by being honest with everyone around me. When asked how I was doing (and I knew they genuinely wanted to know), I told them. I made an appointment with my doctor. Without hesitation, he discussed possible solutions including medication and counselling. I chose the latter but knew if I needed more help, it was only a phone call away. I was able to see my counsellor within a couple of weeks. In the meantime I continued on with yoga and bootcamp classes even though being in public was difficult and uncomfortable. I recognized physical activity benefited my mental state. And I walked…and walked. If I accomplished nothing else in a day, I was okay with that. Self-care became priority.

What a difference 22 years has made.

Depression didn’t make me feel weak, ashamed or afraid. I was disappointed to see it overtake me again but was grateful I recognized it. I knew how to reach for help and it wasn’t hard to find. And I realized that being honest and open doesn’t make us vulnerable, it just makes us human.


Need help or someone to talk to? Consulting with your healthcare provider or another trusted professional is always a great start.  Click on the links below for lists of places to call, text or chat across the country. 

Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support Services 1-866-367-3276

Farm Stress Line – Saskatchewan 1-800-667-4442

Alberta Health Services 1-877-303-2642

Canadian Crisis Centres

Crisis Services Canada 1-833-456-4566

Bell Let’s Talk 

Mental Health in Farm Language 

 

I want you to laugh

It has been a week since the Final Farewell and celebration of life for my dear friend, Claire. Our friendship, cultivated over 30 years, was rich with laughter, joy and a touch of mischief. We didn’t allow cancer to steal that and continued to celebrate life, share laughter and lattes, and create memories which will always make me smile. 💞

But grief is difficult to navigate, and at times overwhelming.  So often when someone dies the message we hear is, “Rest in Peace”.  I have never liked that phrase, and even less so, the acronym “RIP”.  So instead, I penned and posted this letter.  The response was overwhelming. We all need to find a way to carry our grief, and this has helped me, as well as others who loved her. 

Dear Claire,

You know me, always the rebel…I don’t want you to rest in peace. I know…can you believe it?

I want you to laugh. I want you to breathe and move with ease. Free of pain at last, I want you to golf, garden, walk and ride your bike. I want you to cruise in the ’66, windows down, music blasting. I want you to have shopping, lunch and movie dates. I want you to wander through your flower garden as you sip your morning coffee. I want you to enjoy a glass of wine, or two, as you watch sunsets from your favourite balcony in Maui.

I want you to look others in the eye and truthfully say, “I’m fine,” or better yet, “I’m fabulous!” I want your treasured moments of solitude to be free of worry and concern. I want you to sleep only because you are tired from a day well spent.

All those things cancer stole from you, I want you to have back. No resting easy for you my friend.  I want you to be joyful, content and happy. I want you to do whatever you damn well please, whenever you want. And just maybe you can find a friend or two, to stir up trouble with…but only the good kind, of course! 😉

Always with much love and laughter,

 Sandi

xoxoxoxo

Let him fly…

Let him fly…

Swirls of wispy clouds dance
in stunning summer sky.
Lush green grass cools
bare toes and feet.
Laughter bubbles as he runs,
arms outstretched,
swerving, turning, circling –
“Look Mom, I’m an airplane!”
I join in,
follow his lead
’til we collapse,
giggling, smiling, cuddling…
enchanting moment of pure joy…

I look up at the nurse,
tears streaming down my face,
holding his tiny hand in mine.
“Okay,” I whisper, “let him fly…”
Monitors go silent,
all is still and quiet,
except my breaking heart…

Sandi Knight
© 2012