Thank You for Being a Friend: A Very Late Goodbye to the Golden Girl That Was My Grandmother

NOTE:

Firstly, I was lucky enough to be on The Marilyn Denis Show with one of my best friends a few weeks ago. The two of us are featured for being thrifty university graduates who get spoiled with makeovers! The episode airs tomorrow (Friday April 21st) and I cannot post any behind the scenes pictures until after it airs, but next week’s blog will explain how we got the makeover opportunity (a contest may have been involved), what the process was really like, and of course lots of pictures. Looking forward to sharing it all with you next Thursday on here!

 

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The front and back of the bookmark given out at my grandmother’s Celebration of life.

Until then I thought that I would write a virtual letter to my grandmother. My husband and I are attending a friend’s celebration of life this coming Saturday and I’ve been thinking about the celebration we had for my grandmother approximately a year and a half ago. I was much too emotional to sing or even speak at the event we had and I thought that I’d put those thoughts and feelings down in a blog post. As an atheist, I’m reminded of my grandmother in my thoughts. I don’t believe that she’s with me or watching me, but that her memory lives on in stories and photos which is why this blog post has a lot of meaning to me. If I had been able to bravely speak at my grandmother’s celebration of life (like my mom and my grandmother’s sisters had), this is what I would have said:

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A photo taken of my mother (the child) and my grandmother in the late 1960s.

My grandmother, Heather Campbell, was a beautiful, funny, and fun-loving woman who was born October 16 1945 and died September 7th 2015. Although she passed away just one month shy of her 70th birthday, she had lived a full life. Growing up, I had thought that my grandma was different than those that I heard about and saw on television. She was single, young, and didn’t really cook us meals, she was more like my mom’s best friend who we would share laughs with. We would crack jokes at each others expense and sarcasm was a staple element of our conversations. I only truly appreciated the unique relationship that I had with her when I had gotten older, this is when we often treated each other as equals – she had become my friend as well as my mothers.

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Grandma and my mom just before she was diagnosed with cancer.

I became closer to my grandma after she was diagnosed with colon cancer. At first, I wasn’t entirely sure what to think or what to do until someone had told me that I didn’t want to regret not spending enough time with her. I started visiting her by myself, which I had almost never done before. We always saw my grandma with my mom, but I was going to university and my school was near her apartment so I started touching base with her throughout the week. I would stop by after my morning class and we would watch The Price is Right, play along with the program, and make fun of the contestants. She often made me a sandwich and we would gab like girlfriends until I took the bus home or my mom picked me up.

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Photo of my grandma with my mom and her younger brother in approximately 1970.

When she had gone into the hospital for a long period of time (approximately 120 days), I’d started reading Pride and Prejudice to her, a favourite of mine. She had never read the book and enjoyed being read to, it was a nice change of pace from the few entertainment options that were provided by the hospital. I’d read for a few hours at a time and start to lose my voice, occasionally I’d stop to ask her if she was sleeping, but she rarely was, she would tell me to continue on and I would. I had gotten half way through the book when she had recovered enough to go home. She had fought with her body over a period of four months, a body that had gone through chemo and radiation only to develop a hole in her stomach that required multiple surgeries and months of hospitalization. She had been in there for so long that I didn’t think that she’d be leaving alive, but she did – incredibly she did.

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Some photos from Push for Your Tush 2015.

From there she took day trips with her friends, sisters, and my mom, but mostly she rested and looked forward to my sister’s wedding. A handful of us raised money and walked in the Push for your Tush colon cancer charity event in honour of her and she had such a big smile that day. She then celebrated at my sister’s bridal shower and she smiled her beautiful smile once more. By the time that my sister was getting married, my grandma was quite weak, but excited. Heather, my sister and my grandmother’s namesake, and (my

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A collection of happy photos from my sister’s wedding.

now brother-in-law) David had an intimate wedding of just 45 guests in their backyard and then a reception at a local pub. I really love the photos of my grandmother that day, she was so proud and happy to be able to see one of her grandchildren get married – another check off her list of ‘big-life-moments.’

My Grandma lived only two weeks after my sister’s wedding, she passed with pneumonia in the hospital surrounded by family. She is the first person that I have ever witnessed pass away and it was a difficult process. After the grueling six or seven hours of watching her body finally give up, we all cried and some people talked about that place called heaven. I knew that for me, she was gone, and that this would be the last time I would ever see her. Through tears, I kissed her on the forehead and felt like I would see her tomorrow, because goodbyes rarely feel real at the times that they’re said.

At the end of her life, Heather Campbell was a sister, a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, and more importantly a friend. Her best friends were her family members and there’s something really beautiful about that. I was lucky enough to grow closer to her in the two years that she hadIMG_6076.jpg colon cancer and even though she was in pain, I think that a lot of moments that took place in those two years could have been some of the best in her life. She was loved by many and she knew that. I loved her and she knew that too.

If I could stop by her apartment this afternoon to watch The Price is Right, I would update her on what’s happened in my life. I would tell her that Chris proposed a month after she passed away, that I won the opportunity to pick a wedding dress, that I missed her sitting on the couch as I chose my bridal gown, and that I graduated top of my university class. I would explain to her that I missed her at my

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Grandma and mom in approximately 1967.

bridal showers and that I couldn’t help, but feel jealous that she could attend my sister’s wedding, but not mine. I would tell her that I married the most wonderful man who lets me make fun of Jeopardy contestants and shares our sense of humour. I would tell her that I got to meet Marilyn Denis (who she, my sister and I love) and accidentally made a dark joke that she would have thought was funny, but Marilyn didn’t really get. I would tell her not to feel bad about not being able to be my mom’s best friend anymore, because I’ve taken on that role now and that we talk about her often. I would tell her everything that she’s missed and thank her for everything that she was because she was pretty awesome.

PS. My Grandma was a total Blanche and I’m closer to a Sophia… or maybe it’s the other way around, some days I don’t know.

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Carrie Fisher: On & Off-Screen Rebel

mv5bmje0odewnjm2nf5bml5banbnxkftztcwmju2mzg3na-_v1_sx640_sy720_On Tuesday’s ‘blog break update’ I mentioned that I would be posting a New Year’s Eve Movie list today. Coincidentally, the movie that I watch every New Year’s Eve features the actress whom I will be writing about instead.When Harry Met Sally is one of my all-time favourite films and Carrie Fisher played the supporting character Marie, best friend of Meg Ryan’s Sally.

My blog-writing plans changed after I left the movie theatre Tuesday afternoon, I had just seen Rogue One with my dad. I turned my phone on and checked the text messages that I had missed. About half way through the movie, one of my best friends had sent a message telling me that Carrie Fisher had died. The excitement that I felt over just seeing a great film passed all too quickly as the surreal news set in.

I had never really felt affected by another celebrity’s death before and it’s a weird experience to describe. I didn’t cry, nor was I as sad or heartbroken as I had been when carrie-new-hi-resfriends and family have passed away, but somehow, I felt disconnected.

Carrie Fisher was linked to so many projects, films, and followers. Her telling memoirs as well as her real-life advocacy for mental health awareness and feminism contributed to the deeper connection that her fans, like myself, may have felt toward her. As a child, I saw Carrie Fisher only one way – as Princess Leia – but as an adult, she was Carrie Fisher first, fictional characters second.


f09ce66474a8d7c2823647268b900f31.jpgLeia
I grew up watching the original Star Wars trilogy with my family’s boxset VHSes. Leia Organa was the coolest female character that I had ever seen: she was a brunette; she was a princess who didn’t always wear dresses; she used the blaster like a boss; she was hilarious and sarcastic; she was strongminded and stood up for what she believed in; and rather than being a damsel in distress each film, she did a ton of the rescuing herself. Almost every Disney movie I had watched told me to admire princesses, but they had never been so complex.


Marie
I discovered Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally as a teenager, I was obsessed with This is Spinal Tap and was fanatically consuming all other media that he’d created. I was so excited to see Carrie Fisher in our galaxy! carrie-fisherShe was still hilarious and sarcastic, but this time she was wearing a bra (George Lucas believed they’d be dangerous in space). Although Fisher’s character Marie was fictional, it felt like I was getting to know the woman behind the buns. It was from here that I searched for more answers as to who Carrie Fisher really was.


wishful_drinking_bookThe Faults within our Star
In the memoir based off of her one woman show, Wishful Drinking, Fisher let fans into her personal life – or what she remembers of it. She had openly discussed her battle with addiction to both drugs and alcohol, and being under the influence can make some memories foggier than others. As it is with many autobiographies, you need to take Fisher’s words with a grain of salt; however, her ‘take-no-crap’ attitude on and offline has always led me to believe that she wasn’t someone who often held back. I really respect a sense of transparency.


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Carrie with her therapy dog Gary – he calms her anxiety and is almost always with her.

Real-Life Rebel Alliance
Fisher’s candid nature as well as her movie-royalty status allowed her to challenge societal norms – this is what she should be most celebrated for. Fisher was Bipolar, which made her advocacy against mental health stigmas all the more powerful. She emphasized that mental health issues are simply that – health issues. Fisher stressed the significance of treating mental health conditions medically, something that society frequently struggles with acknowledging even when many issues are the result of imbalanced chemicals. Talking about the stigma that surrounds mental health can inspire courage in those who also experience the fear and shame of hiding their diagnoses. Celebrities like Fisher have an enormous reach that amplifies their opinions, one tweet can become topical content for thousands of articles, which is why it is amazing that she used her virtual megaphone to say something actually worth listening to.


It is through Fisher’s real-life story and opinions that I found an adult role model. We may look to television and film characters for style and grace, but I believe that it’s healthy to know what our idols represent when they are 32204cf0ba60c94c972533014b3e47dc.jpgoff-screen. I will never really know who Carrie Fisher was just by reading her books, watching her interviews, and mouthing every line to her movies, but the deeper research into her real-life actions will help remind me of what she once did and always will represent.

Fisher was like a Facebook friend; I only knew what she and the media wanted me to know. This managed representation made me feel like she was a virtual acquaintance, it’s similar to how you ‘know’ 600 people on your social media account – her close friends and family will be the only ones who really knew her. I realize now that I didn’t cry when I heard that she had passed because I don’t need to mourn that way. Her loved ones are mourning Carrie Fisher the person – I am celebrating Carrie Fisher the role model.

Snow Time like the Past, Present, and Future: Merry Memories in the Making

People often talk about how they would like to travel south for the winter and escape to a hot paradise, but don’t forget to appreciate your surroundings – especially if snow is involved.

I live in Ontario, Canada and we get a bit of each season around here. I think that getting to experience each weather change is really special, don’t you?

1 hyperdrive edit.jpgThe first snowfall of the season happened on Sunday and it made me so happy. The white flakes fell in a hyperdrive-like fashion as I was driving to visit my mom with Summit, listening to Christmas songs on a few alternating radio stations, and it finally felt like the holidays were close by.

Sometime in the last few years I started thinking about how certain places around the world are always hot or others only ever see snow, but we get both. We get spring, summer, fall, and winter which is really amazing.

I absolutely admit that a complaint or two comes out of my mouth like anyone else when I start to get sick of the heat and humidity or the extreme cold temperatures, but by that time I start to get excited about the next season. I have definitely been without a vehicle in the past, walking in the spring showers, sweaty summers, and windy winter flurries (fall is my favourite and I like to imagine it as close to perfect). The point is that I am lucky enough to be able to appreciate the beauty of the changing weather conditions while having a warm house to come home to and I’m truly grateful for that.

Let’s talk about how amazing snow is.

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Summit exploring the melting snow in our backyard.

Think about people who see it for the first time or how fun it is to watch a puppy playing in a snowy backyard. There is an innocent joy to experiencing the phenomena of snow and I think that we get a little piece of that each year when the first snowfall comes around.

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The late Daq and I a couple of years ago.

The snow also reminds me of my youth, playing hockey, going skating, and laughing while decorating the Christmas tree with my family. I smile as I recall a shaggy looking black labradoodle covered in white flakes, smiling back at me and further enhancing my love for her. It also reminds me of my husband who loves the snow.

If you take a few minutes to think about your own personal positive memories that are surrounded by snow you might not dread it as much this year (until you see your driveway that needs shoveling).

The snow has started melting already, but I look forward to it coming back! I am excited about making new memories this year as a newly married couple with our new fur-baby Summit. The falling snow, like the green buds on the trees in the spring, help measure the time that we spend together. Years from now the snow will continue to trigger happy memories that feature sheets of white and some cute doggy footprints.

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Handmade hat by Black Cabin Salvage Co. and handmade ornaments by Tammy Gay (take the workshop on how to make your own here).

 

Let me know some of your favourite snowy memories!

This coming Thursday I will be writing a pop culture post that is connected to appreciating a good snowfall and I’ll leave you with this quote as a hint as to what it will be about:

“Wait, close your eyes and breathe. I smell snow.”