Hello Monday

Preamble: I am doing a bit of a writing experiment for this week. It means I will post some shorter blogs daily. I will perhaps tell you about the experiment itself next week.

It has been an amazing set of days. I have been stretched and I have been filled and I feel so grateful. Last Thursday the girls and I headed to Saskatoon. Later that day Russ and Morgan came up. Friday we joined my family, it was just family, for a funeral service at the Saskatoon Funeral Home, followed by burial at Woodlawn Cemetery. I am not sure why I am so specific about these locations, maybe because they are big deals in our family story. In big cities there are many funeral homes to choose from and once your family has a link to one it becomes your family funeral home. The Kyle family has alot of history at the Saskatoon Funeral Home, including the fact that my Dad used to pop in and sing solos in services at the chapel there. He used to have a joke, “people are die-ing to hear to me sing.” Well on Friday it was my turn to be at the front, I was the minister. That meant many many things. Right off the top of my head it meant being ushered by the funeral director thru a series of doors to a back room where clergy can gather their thoughts before services began. I was invited into the inner sanctum. I find those moments interesting. It is a big deal though when you walk into the family room and it is your family sitting there. I don’t know how to be cousin and pastor both in those moments but I snapped to it when it was time to start the service. For the first time ever in my experience as a funeral presider I entered the sanctuary and I had to ask the guests to take a seat. Every guest was standing around in the chapel visiting. That happens at weddings alot, where I have to get bossy and ask people to be seated, this time was a funeral first for me but a sign of good things, even in the midst of deep sadness people were happy to see each other. I led my cousins and their families into the chapel, took my place at the pulpit and looked out to a sea of familiar faces. It was a beautiful sight and felt incredibly intimate. We honored my aunt, my Mom’s sister. It was a time I was nervous about. My Aunt was an amazing but complex person, could I capture what needed to be captured? In getting ready it felt like the hardest funeral service I had ever prepared. It probably wasn’t. It just took more than usual and that makes sense. The service was just part of a much bigger day, a day absolutely shaped by family and by love. Meals were hosted by my sisters after the service, we had time to be together, so much visiting happened and story telling. My Aunt had constructed absolutely beautiful scrapbooks of her early days and as we pored over them together so many conversations were sparked. We had cousins with us from Toronto and we drew from the bonds that began 60 years ago when our Nanny gathered us in her small bungalow and we did what families did back then and now still, we ate, we played, we shared stories, we took part in traditions. Wow, how that has paid off.

So, us ranchers headed to Saskatoon in our gravel road painted vehicles. There are a few things I could say to offer at least a partial explanation about why we showed up at a funeral in quite dirty vehicles. I won’t take you to those stories, just know that while we do some things really well we do other things not so well and obviously that bothers me because here I am talking about it. There was a line in the sermon that perhaps bears repeating here.

… there is an alternate story that offers relief, that God sees our hearts, what we are holding, what we are dropping, what we have figured out, perhaps incorrectly, in order to make life work, God sees it, sees us, and loves us still, no “doing it right” required, simply an offer to walk the journey together, finding grace and compassion in the tenderlands of the heart.

My sister Jan came from Vancouver and when asked to take pictures so that my cousins would have a record of the day she rose to the challenge better than I ever could have. Those pictures were shared and allow me to offer you a glimpse of a few of the moments.

Margie’s family hosted lunch and Jan caught this picture of Russ and I lingering at the table.
This picture of some of the very tender moments at the end of the service touches me. I don’t have a record of these kinds of moments in my life.

Linda and Stu hosted us for supper, replicating a favorite menu created by my aunt. I had such a deep contentment in these hours. This is late, when the teenagers were about to head to a 10:30pm movie. Russ and Morgan had already left a few hours earlier to get back to the ranch. Jan’s husband Ray was unable to get away from work, our last elder was unable to make it from Toronto. This is therefore a partial picture but it is a special one.

Sunday morning Coffee

Good morning,

Come on in and have a seat, its been a whirlwind around here so if we sit at the table I will have to shake the crumbs off the tablecloth and if we sit at the counter there will be some clearing to be done before I can relax. But come on in. There is lots to tell you, but before I start, how are you?

Exciting news around here is that we got wifi hooked up this week. The Bayliss ranch is on the information superhighway at long last and it feels good. Russell loves not waiting for facebook comments to load, I love youtube videos loading with out lagging, I think the kids are enjoying some streaming shows. The best though………the day it was installed Gina phoned from Montreal. She was checking in and as has happened so much lately, our cell phone signal faltered and the inevitable started, “Mom, I didn’t catch that…..Mom, I can’t hear you…..Mom?” Then we clued in, we have wifi we could have a Messenger Video call!!!! It worked, we chatted while seeing each other’s faces and expressions, I worked in the kitchen the whole time, Gina got a glimpse of home and then Russ came in and he finished the call. It made me miss her more to see her face but at the same time, the seamless call was so very enjoyable and heartwarming. Thanks to all the facebook comments on my post a couple weeks ago that led to us learning that DMS would be able to serve us.

I had a really interesting week but it was hard too. I got to be a minister again, the dates and events kind’ve piled up on each other and it meant I was in get ready and then lead mode many times. It was practically a bit frazzling and emotionally there was a drain too, as always there were rewards.

I was asked to conduct the wedding of my singing partner’s sister which happened last Saturday. It occurred on the side of a lake in Manitoba and required special permission and arrangements with church and government in Manitoba. I am only licensed to preside in Saskatchewan. Official processes like that make me nervous, but you take the steps and do it. Now that its over its easy to discern some beautiful gifts of the whole experience. The church people in Manitoba were super easy to work with and did the hard stuff with government, the local church at Killarney was kind. That went smooth as silk, no need to be nervous. Working with the bride and groom was a total treat. There was so little anxiety about details it meant we were focused on the heart of the matter. As an added bonus Caley was one of those people with an over the top sense of humor and I basked in her presence, she brings out the goof in me. Humor like hers is a serious gift to experience. Russ and I were enfolded in the family there like we were their own. For a variety of reasons we have not had time with our families lately. It felt wonderful to be so welcomed, but more than that, to be enfolded. You don’t expect that when you say yes to doing a wedding. The way Bill and Caley had everything set up I didn’t just conduct a wedding but Russ and I had a summer experience. We slept in an air bnb beside the lake, we danced under the night sky, we went on a boat ride and enjoyed an amazing meal. Our hay situation was delayed due to a breakdown so the 24 hours that Russ stole away didn’t even cause any guilt. It was a lovely break.

By the time I got home I had 24 hours to prepare a funeral for a beautiful 101 year old woman. That created focus and pressure of course, but it was a heartwarming experience too. The highlight of that, besides dwelling with such a rich story as 101 years of love and kindness, was the teamwork. I love teamwork but I am terrible at initiating it. The accompanist, funeral director and UCW crew and I have alot of history. The work had a definite feel of “we like each other and together we got this.”

I had a couple of days off before the next funeral. Our minister was on her summer holiday and I had agreed to fill in for these. That one felt scary at times during the preparation. That funeral had been scheduled for a while and the planning meeting was 8 days before the service. With so much happening inbetween the vividness of what I had learned at the meeting was not top of mind like it usually is, so I procrastinated and felt dull. At times like that I can only find the courage I need through prayer. I feel that my prayers were answered, when I woke up on Thursday morning I had a sermon theme present itself and I had time to write it up. The woman we remembered on Thursday had a remarkable life. Her courage was crucial to her success. I had this phrase come to me in preparation, “its like she knew that what she had within her was greater than the challenge that was before her.” The sermon probed what was in her. It ended up being one of those sermons that I need for myself and I have found myself thinking back to the points within it for my own benefit.

The experience of being in front of others was not over. Russ and I joined Erin’s family for a second weekend in a row when Erin, Russ and I ventured to Kenton, Manitoba yesterday to sing at Erin’s cousin’s wedding. I should clarify, Erin and I sang, Russ shared his muscles and himself. Erin has an impressive amount of sound gear that Russell really hefted for us, Erin and I are both dealing with lifting limits. It has not been a good week for getting hay cut so it was another day when Russ was free to roam without guilt.

Its always fun to sing, Erin and I have a good harmony thing, but added to that was the goodness of being welcomed by strangers and getting to meet kind and interesting people and seeing Erin’s family again so soon. We discovered something at the wedding. There was the most amazing display of donuts, under a caption “Holy Matrimony”….it took me a while to get the connection between the sign and the donuts. The wedded couple apparently love donuts and puns. Well. People. The donuts were to die for and were made in Souris, Manitoba. Russell and I are considering a roadtrip there today just to buy some. Wait, Russ is in the hayfield again now and its Sunday, but seriously, I have never in my life eaten an apple fritter like I was gifted with last night. Just this week I learned that a friend from my Up With People cast has lived in Brandon for years and I didn’t know it. Now I find out about these donuts in Souris. I will be in Brandon, via Souris, before long, count on it!

Well, my goodness, this is long enough it seems. However, a quick check in about the ranch. Its a pretty darn good summer here so far. The only serious stress we have been reckoning with is equipment breakdown. That is hard for a variety of reasons. We are pleased with our yield, and more than that feel grateful beyond measure for the rebound we are seeing from last year. Jill and I have been making some miles as we have each driven to Redvers and Oxbow for parts several times this week. Jill has also been in charge of tending to a wound on a horse, a daily flushing treatment is her job, as well as checking the last of the calving cows, we have just one left, when William calves we are done! Morgan is not getting much of a break, he is hard at it raking hay and training horses. He is doing well. Gina is part way through her intermediate level certification in stage combat in Montreal. She is doing well.

One of the parts trips I made this week I asked Grandma Shirley if she wanted to hop in. Off to Redvers we went and got a visit in and a look at the crops. It was fun. Grandma Shirley is incredibly special to me, I was therefore excited to see her making her way to the funeral on Monday. I parked, hopped out and hurried to catch up with her. I was so moved by the sight of her being her that I grabbed this picture. I showed it to her a few days later and just called her to ask her permission to use it here. I don’t think she really gets the idea of a blog but did agree to me sharing it. The picture is a good conclusion to the blog and its threads of upholding older women, celebrating life and love and being embraced by family, even when they aren’t your own. Grandma Shirley adopted us and we her and we are thankful.