A Tribute to a Trooper

Uncle Earl McConachieIt was my great honour yesterday to address family and friends at my uncle’s funeral.  The picture pretty much says all that Earl McConachie was to most of us who loved him.

I was very afraid I wouldn’t make it through what I had written, but I did thanks to some strength from above and some lavender oil.  Only had one chocking up moment, when I addressed my Uncle Keith.

Following are the words I managed to get out minus the teary eyes and the shaking.

My Friends, we gather to grieve our loss and to comfort one another in our sorrow.  We gather to give thanks for the life of Earl and to surround his family with our support, strength and encouragement.

Welcome. I am Earl and Jane’s niece Peggy Guiler.

We thank you for joining us and waiting for us here this afternoon. We have just returned from burying Earls ashes at the Hagersville Cemetry. It is with sadness that I come here today but it is also my great honour to have an opportunity to share with you about the life of my dear Uncle Earl McConachie.

It is with sadness that I come here today but it is also my great honour to have an opportunity to share with you about the life of my dear Uncle, Earl McConachie.

On days like this our former loses seem closer somehow. We all miss Earl’s siblings, my mother Marjorie and Earl’s brother Don. We very much feel the loss of Earl and Jane’s daughter Barb.

I think of all the funerals I have been to with this group of people and I shed a tear. But I also think of many other times we have shared over the years and I cannot help but laugh a little.

McConachie Christmas is still an annual event I cannot miss. As an only child, my cousins are the closest I have to siblings and all of them have embraced me as part of their families over the years. Aunt Jane and Uncle Earl took special care of me after my mother died almost 40 years ago. They treated me like another daughter, helping me celebrate birthdays and the special events of my children and they always made sure we had a place to go at Christmas. I landed at their table, unannounced, on a regular basis.

A couple of years ago, after Earl had his first stroke I knew something was on the downslide because for the first time in my life he didn’t greet me as McGoo. I think only cousin Elaine and I had nicknames by Earl. She was “Squeak”.

I didn’t think much of my nickname because I thought that silly, little, nearsighted, comic character was a bit stupid and I didn’t want to be like him but I never said a word because I loved the man who called me that. I miss being McGoo.

Nicknames seem to be a bit of tradition with Earl. I’m not sure if he just had trouble remembering the names of his brothers and my Dad but they were all “Sam”. Earl was “Sam One” and I’m not certain what the number order was for the rest of them.

At family gatherings over the years, there was always a little circle of the men along with Grandpa. They would sit sometimes with serious looks as they solved the problems of the world and sometimes there would be gales of laughter from the little cluster. I miss those circles but will always hold them as a sweet memory.

Many of you will remember Earl for his signature mustache. I do believe he must have been born with it. Most of you will recall his other signature, the kilt. The minister already alluded to what he may or may not have worn under it.  He was awfully proud of his heritage and thought he had the best knees in town. A wee dram of scotch was also a fond tradition.

I always remember a man who laughed hard but I also know he was a man who worked hard. When he retired from his long career of selling this and that he went to work on the farm. That is what he wanted to do and why he went to Guelph for college after all. He loved the land and all the chores that came with it.

He also loved his family and while he, like most of the men in this family, was never very demonstrative of that love, we all knew he loved us fiercely. As much as he loved his children, he loved his grandchildren more and enjoyed travelling to see them play whatever their sport of choice was. Nicole dragged him all over the continent with hockey and soccer games.

And speaking of love. There was that Mowatt girl he fell for and stayed married to for 68 years. They certainly had their struggles and ups and downs but they showed us all the meaning of keeping a vow.  They made a home together where everyone felt welcome and cared for. That devotion to one another never stopped.

We honour not only the man but his family today. Jim and Jennifer, Marty and Terry, I want to thank you for the hard work and devotion you have shown over the past two years as you supported Jane and Earl in the most difficult transition of their lives. Mark you have loved from a distance but that love was felt from across the country.

Barb would have some great things to say today. She would have written a touching poem to make us all cry. She left us too soon.

To the grandchildren Jack and Mandy, Laura and Beta Josh and Jenna, Nicole and Wray, Erica and Phil, Aaron and Tara Megan and Shawn, I say you have been given a legacy of love and laughter which cannot be matched. Use it well and remember all the lessons. Love much, laugh often.

Barb would have some great things to say today. She would have written a touching poem to make us all cry. She left us too soon. To the grandchildren Jack and Mandy, Laura and Beta Josh and Jenna, Colie and Wray, Erica and Phil, Aaron and Tara Megan and Shawn I say you have been given a legacy of love and laughter which cannot be matched. Use it well and remember all the lessons. Love much, laugh often.

To the grandchildren Jack and Mandy, Laura and Beta Josh and Jenna, Colie and Wray, Erica and Phil, Aaron and Tara Megan and Shawn I say you have been given a legacy of love and laughter which cannot be matched. Use it well and remember all the lessons. Love much, laugh often.


Ted you have lost a dear friend and were as much a part of this family as anyone. We thank you for being a friend to all of us.

Uncle Keith, I am sorry that you are the lone man in the circle but I hope you will feel the presence of all the others, always.

You know, Earl wasn’t big on religion and he wasn’t too sure about all this God stuff but I like to believe that for the first time in eternity he is sitting up there saying, “I was wrong,” and having a good laugh about it.

In a moment of silence let us all offer our personal thanksgiving for all that Earl has been for us and for all he will continue to be in the hearts and minds of those who loved him.


For the life and Earl and for our memories we give thanks, Loving God.

Earls Daughter Marty and the oldest grandson Jack said a grace which all of us have heard Earl say many times over.  Jack related that it was said at every family meal for as long as he could remember.  (The Kinsmen’s Grace)

Happy to meet, Sorry to part, Happy to meet again. For what we are about to receive O Lord make us truly thankful. Amen.


The ladies of the Hagersville United Church offered a wonderful lunch for about 100 and as always, the egg salad sandwiches were the biggest hit.

Special thanks to Peggy Barlet, who officiated at the cemetery service.

For those wishing more information, you may visit the Obituary at South Coast Funerals and Cremation Alternatives Inc. 

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Home Alone Too


Photo by Peggy Guiler

There I was standing at the door.  I had received final instructions from my friends about things to take care of in their home while they vacation in Florida for four months.  The snow was falling lightly and the daylight was just beginning to soften the night.  With a quick hug and “safe travel” they were gone.  As the door closed it I was overcome with the realisation that I was alone.

It’s been almost eight years since I was alone in a house.  I had some transition time from my recent break up while I lived in houses with other people who were kind enough to take me in and make me family.  Where I am now, they are letting me live in their home while they are away for the winter.  It’s time to get myself and my finances in order so I can look for my own place.

I’ve been looking forward to being alone.  I was relishing the idea of being able to make my own schedule without having to work around anyone else.  The thought of being able to sit in silence while I read, no disturbances while writing or working or turning on the music loud while I do the dishes or have a shower was very appealing but the actual feeling of ALONE hadn’t occurred to me until I closed that door.

The face of the little boy in the Christmas movies, Home Alone, as he ran with terror home from the store, and paid the pizza delivery guy haunted my day.  I was disoriented and had a little trouble figuring out what to do next.  I took my car in for repair and was afraid the muffler needed replacing. My relief in discovering all it needed was just a little fix was huge because the reality of being truly alone was sinking in.   After a seven-month cushion of friends to support me every day, I would no longer have anyone around to talk things over with, share meals or even air with.  My chest was caving in and I had no clue what to do next.

A little nap, a meal and some stupid, romantic movies have gotten me through the rest of the day and tomorrow will be a little easier I’m sure.  The journey changes moment to moment and I look forward to what is on the horizon even though it’s all a little frightening.



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The Moron’s Case For Hillary Clinton…because some of you really are that stupid.

An old colleague and I were having breakfast this morning when he looked up at the news (I can’t remember which network …MSNBC, I think) and noticed a split screen of Donald Trump and Hillary Clint…

Source: The Moron’s Case For Hillary Clinton…because some of you really are that stupid.

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I Met a True Elder Today and the Trees Talked

032.jpgToday I met a man who is a true elder. Don Grayston is someone who speaks wisdom to those who are younger and hands them the truth and the baton lightly.  He is a wise and gentle man who founded Jubilee Associates, the Canadian organization  of spiritual directors I am working with.  I wished I could have sat and listened to him all day to gain from his experience and hear his advice for growth but I could not.  He had to leave out gathering.  He is frail and used all his energy so share with us what he did.  It was well thought out and precise.  We were given a mandate for the future, a legacy to carry forward.

Much of the work around spiritual direction is “contemplative” in nature.  Never given to much naval gazing I find this difficult but I’m adjusting to the peculiar exercises of holding rocks and listening to spirit.  When I remember it is not about looking inward but rather about seeking the divine it is much easier.

After listening to Don Grayson in the morning the early afternoon was spent in the glorious outdoors at Xenia Island Retreat on Bowen Island.  While a typhoon is pounding Canada’s west coast the little bit of paradise where we are staying is somewhat sheltered.  Someone found me a rain cape and off we went to the woods where we were introduced to a  1000-year-old tree which the locals call Opa.  This ancient tree is the only one which survived the clear cutting of the island in the 1800’s and how it was saved is unknown but it stands tall and strong.  It took nine of us joining hands around its base to circle it.

Some together in the nearby woodland chapel then let to contemplative work.  We were to go out and listen to the teachers of the land, the rocks and trees.  We were to listen to their song or their voice and hear what the wisdom of the earth was speaking to our hearts.

As I walked into the woods I thought of the great but meek man I had met in the morning and the legacy he is turning over to this apprentices.  This was the talk of the forest.

A metaphor for the inheritance of great meekness

This was the talk of the forest.  

The great Opa tree stood silently among his children

and the children of his friends long gone.  

The trees began to whisper 

A sapling dared aspire to the height and breadth of the great tree

and it’s bigger brothers jeered at it behind their hands of green.  

A maple sighed because it knew it could never aspire to such grandeur

but the aspen whispered to it that it too has a great call.

I leaned on a tree along the stream and it stood proudly.

It told me it will stand tall for many years and many people will lean on it.  

Another closer to the stream swayed slightly when I pushed on it to hold me

It scolded me saying, “Do  you need a bridge to cross such a small stream?

 If you do not please do not lean on my because I plan to stand here for a long time.”

And the whispers continued about who would be great and who would be best 

and the big Opa stood silently knowing time would sort their coming and going, 

their rising and falling,

that wisdom and chance would each have a hand in their destiny

and he dreamed the forest would continue to hold such hope.  


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Do You Believe in Smudging?

SmudgeStick_000015957863.jpgA friend sent me this question the other day in a message and in the usual new style of quick response to text messages I sent back my first response but it has been on my mind ever since.

My first response was a true one but I’m not sure it was enough.  I hope she understood my meaning.  The response was as follows:

“Long subject. In short, it is not the smudge or the prayer or the deliverance but rather the state of mind and the spirit that accompanies the ritual.  There is also something to be said for the smell. Really does clean the air.”

While this particular question was about the native practice of smudging the bigger question is about the ritual and the reality of it working.

Much of our modern society has dismissed ritual as archaic and empty practice. I will give them room to believe that because that is what much of our ritual has become. Sending white sage smoke through a room to purify it is not going to clear away evil any more than daddy scaring the boogie man from under the bed is going to keep us safe for the night.  However, the ritual has merit because it solidifies faith in our heart with action and I believe it also has the power to manipulate the power of the positive and negative air or spirit around us.

Don’t tell my you don’t believe in that hocus pocus because every one of us has felt the mood of a room when we stepped in the door.  Our sixth sense knows when there is danger or anger in a room.  You have also sensed joy before you have seen it’s manifestation.  I don’t know the science of it all but I’m sure there is some.  We get strange premonitions.  Stuff happens which we cannot explain.  Whether it’s God, science or airwaves doesn’t really matter.  It is, however, undeniable that there are forces at work in the air which we cannot identify but we certainly can feel.

Religions are filled with ritual and while it may seem archaic to some, when the background of it is studied and the true meaning examined there is a richness to the practice.  The simple act of genuflecting may be a meaningless gesture but for those who practice it as truth rather than rote it is a prayer which invokes the power of heaven.

As for the smudge, I don’t really understand the full meaning but I have been witness to its power.  It has a way of grounding people and reminding them of their duty to others and to the earth.  Besides that, the sweet smell of the smoke really does clear the air of bad smells.


For more about the ancient art of the smudge try these sites:





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Day of Quiet, Day of Love

14502948_10154325319875129_237123255564037621_n.jpgIn the training I am taking for spiritual direction we have week long residencies.  My group has been blessed to hold our residency at Five Oaks near Paris Ontario.  Mid way through our week of intense learning we have a 24 hour stretch of silent retreat.  While everything in me screams against such a colosal waste of time in the midst of learning I have come to accept it. Perhaps I have even come to appreciate it.

Today was that day of silence and along with my other usual protests against silence it was a day which I did not want to be silent and alone.  As is often the case though, when I surrender to the will of the spirit of the divine, it all worked well and the pieces came together to create and rich, restful and restorative day.

Part of that day was a walk in the woods.  Come with me for a while.  Enjoy the slide show on my Facebook page and hear the tale of my journey in the woods.

My walking poles slid nicely into the earth which is freshly wet with rain after a along summer of drought.  There was a slight squish of mud under my feet as I walked the toe path along the bank of Whiteman’s Creek.  The autumn sun was warm and the air held a slight mist from the heavy dampness of shorter days.  I looked forward to the trail ahead.

I’ve walked this trail a few times.  Enough to know the basic geography and feel confident of it’s ending and the safety of it’s depths.  It is well maintained with bridges and wooden footpaths to cross the wetland areas.

As I moved through the tall trees and pushed golden rod aside from the path I could hear the babbling of the water.  It was reasuring and reminded me of the constant flow of life.  When I moved away from the water into a thicket I was suddenly reminded I should have worn long pants.  The golden rod had given way to raspberries and while in summer the fruit would have been wonderful, now new vines twisted across the path making it a little more difficult to move and picked at my flesh.

In this more open area of the woods I could feel the heat of the sun on my face but with it came a viel of spider webs.  At first I resisted them and tried to wipe them away but that became too cumbersome so I finally decided to just let them cover me until I emeged. Then I would wipe them away.

My feet found their way over rocks and moss, over twisted tree roots and along a bank which had given way slightly.  I was glad of the grip of my walking sticks.

There were flowers in the path.  The flowers of early fall but because there has been no frost they hold their colour and splendor.  The leaves have only been slightly touched by the ferries of fall who paint them such splendid colours but there was an emerging of soft yellow and brown with patches of red and gold.  The ground was only lightly littered with the first hint of falling leaves.

 Every sort of tree  I know met me on the trail.  There were two towering walnut that seemed to speak to me as I passed.  Their branches groaned heavily and I was surprised they had such a large voice in such a soft breeze.  There were large and small of each variety of tree but I was particularly taken with a tiny oak which rested on the side of the path.  I breathed a quick prayer that it would survive so close to the trail and soon join its parent tree in spreading long arms out to protect the forest floor.

There was little rustling of birds in the trees.  Many are moving south already so their songs don’t fill the air like the spring but a cardinal pair flitted in front of me and I could hear a crow in the distance.  A squirrel caught my eye as it darted up a tree with a walnut to hide for winter.  A chipmunk hightailed it to a hole I could not see beneath the brush.  A small streak of yellow slid across my path and made me stop.  I love watching snakes as they weave themselves into the fibre of the forest floor.

The stream bed was much drier than I’ve ever seen it before, even after the rain, but further along it began to trickle and turn into the babbling brook I love to hear.

And then I broke out into the sunshine in the meadow and headed back for supper, grateful for my redeemer, who allows pain too deep to bear to experience the healing and hope held in the glory of nature.

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Honouring Pain

img_0666It’s been 16 years.  I had him as long as I have been without him but somehow the pain is still deep and the wound opens again as I approach this day which reminds me of the greatest loss of my life. October 5, 2000 is the day a piece of my heart vanished.

My son was the joy of many lives, not just mine.  Bryan was the embodiment of laughter and love.  He was the glue which held our little family together but we did not know that until we had flown apart.  His smile lit every day of his life, even the last one, but since that day smiles have been hard to find at times.

Now, 16 years later I can still hear his voice calling,me in the night.  I can still hear his hearty laugh and the booming of his big feet on the stairs.  I long for the peck on the cheek as he bounds past me on the porch.  I want to hear his friends calling him from the yard.  I wish I could hear his sisters laughing with him as they chase each other down the beach.

16 years ago Bryan ended his life and we thought ours would end too.  We live on but his choice haunts ever day of our existence.  If he had known how it would leave us he never would have inflicted such pain because he was a gentle and kind person.  His own pain was just too much to bear.  I cannot embrace his choice but I will honour it.  I will also do everything within my power to see that other mothers, sisters, grandparents, and friends do not have to suffer this sort of pain again.  For a glimpse at what we lost visit my picture galay on Facebook.

Learn about suicide.  Learn what you can do to prevent it. If you are in that dark place please reach out for help before you made that final decision.

To help with your learning about suicide visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.  If you need immediate help call your local hospital or 911.


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Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada

14484981_1337693166248532_5990790328066553342_nWhat about mental illness are you not aware of?  Do you discriminate against people who have a mental illness?

Do you know if you have or have had a mental health issue?  Do you know if anyone in your family has a mental illness?  Do you know if anyone you work with has a mental illness?

Do you know where to go for help if you or any of these people need it?

What would you do if someone you work with suddenly presented with symptoms of a psychotic episode?  Would you turn your back or would you try to find some answers for them.

What would you do if your friend said they were going to kill themselves?  Would you know who to call or what questions to ask?

What would you do if you met a woman in the grocery store who was not able to move or catch her breath because she was having an anxiety attack?  How could you help?

Each one of us has the capacity to support people who have mental illness.  The only ingredient necessary is the desire to be compassionate and the ability to ask questions.  If all you can do is sit with someone for a while until help comes that is enough.  If you know how to find a local on-call mental health team or hospital you can generally find help.  If you have a computer and the internet you can learn about mental illnesses.  Knowledge is power but ignorance is stagnation.

There isn’t enough service to help and there never will be.  There isn’t enough political will to make mental health a priority.  There aren’t enough community services, councellors, therapists, psychiatrists, or peer supporters to do all the work that is needed but if Canadians changed their attitude about mental illness and took it as seriously as cancer or heart disease all of that would change.

If you want to be part of the solution start by educating yourself.

Below are some links which may help.

A report published by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health. 

 Mental Illness Awareness Week Facebook Page

Canadian Mental Health Association 

Mental Health Commission of Canada


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Can’t Sleep aka Anxiety Attack

stock-vector-school-bus-kids-riding-on-school-bus-282366986Midnight the day before a new venture

Tomorrow I begin a new bus route.  It might not seem like a big deal but if you have never driven with a bus load of kids while trying to figure out the instructions in that little type font they use for route instructions and at the same time tried finding 911 numbers in the dark you just haven’t had my kind of fun.  Aghh!!!!

Always when there is something new, especially if it requires being awake early in the day, sleep is hard to find.  The difficulty with sleep escapes reason yet it continues.  The worrying doesn’t change anything but I continue to fret.  My heart races.  My blood pressure rises.  Sleep is almost impossible unless I’m to the point of exhaustion.  Racing thoughts are a plague.

This time, it is a new school bus route.  My previous route required me to be awake at six am which, for me, is quite a challenge.  I just don’t do mornings.  In fact, I hate mornings so much that often when I have to be up early for something like a plane ride I just stay up.  It is easier than tossing and turning all night.

The reasons for not sleeping are only twofold but the rush of issues which begins to flood my mind when I can’t sleep seems to point to many more issues than two.  It feels more like two thousand.

Two alone it is.  One is that I am not entirely comfortable with a new adventure.  I fear I will not do it right or be lost and confused.  That same fear could also accompany a new job, or a trip on a plane.  Sometimes when my tolerance is low this type of anxiety can be from a simple evening out with friends or just going to the grocery store.  All the things I need to take or do prior to “take off” are running through my head.  Do I have the paperwork I need?  Do I have everything packed that I need to take? And the list goes on ad infinitum.

Then there is that horrible second issue which is “Will I wake up on time?  Even setting two clocks and the timer on my watch doesn’t seem to dispell the fear. How could I possibly sleep through three alarms?  Yet I worry.

I know I have everything ready that I need.  I even went on a trial run of the new route just to make sure I don’t get lost in the dark on Monday morning.  How much more prepared could I possibly be?

12 Hours later

Reading the previous notes you might think I live with an anxiety disorder.  Well yes, I do.  It’s not as bad as used to be but it’s no fun.

My fit bit says I got a whopping 4.5 hours sleep but I was OK.  I the managed to get all children picked up on time and delivered safely to school.  Thank goodness for my french press and good coffee.

It’s a good thing I did the dry run on Saturday because in my fluster and panic I managed to forget my paperwork and didn’t have time to go back for it.  Didn’t have a clue what times I was supposed to pick them up but I knew if I stayed on the speed limit I would likely be within a minute or two of the assigned times.

As for the multiple alarms, it was a good thing they were set.  It seems in my fluster I didn’t set two of them properly.  Dah!  A perfect examply of the anxiety actually making things wors.

Oh well it’s all done.  I came home and slept for 90 much needed minutes and now it’s off I go for the afternoon run.  This one will be easier.

I’ve learned a great deal about coping with anxiety but I haven’t arrived yet.  While the anxiety doesn’t go away easily in the moment I am much better at letting go after and I’ve been working on the self-talk, though sometimes that seems to cause more anxiety than less.  Meditation techniques and relaxation and sleep tapes help a bit.  Lists have always been a good coping mechanism for me.

Prolonged and untreated anxiety can be very dangerous and often leads to severe depression and even suicide.  To find out more about anxiety disorders visit Canadian Mental Health.






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cloudsWarm fall days and puffy clouds filled the sky.  My red headed friend and I had watched the summer fade together and our summer friends had disappeared. It was too early to build leaf houses under the big old elm trees and we played so much hopscotch at school that it was tiring to do now.  Instead, we wandered to a spot on a cottagers lawn.  It had a slight slope toward the lake and we lay in the sweet, dewy green grass of early evening looking to the clouds.

The clouds held all sorts of billowing magic which changed from moment to moment.  One glance and there were faces of people.  Friends we knew and old people we had met.  The next moment it changed again and held all sorts of animals.  Some were the horses of the cowboy movies or the dogs and cats of the neighbourhood.  Suddenly they became the creatures of the zoo: lions, elephants, giraffes and gazelles which leapt across the sky as if it were an African plain.  Suddenly again they were fairies and dragons and other stuff of fantasies.

And on the ground, a preying mantis caught our eyes.  He was real and very green and we watched him dance on a stick we held as we watched, entranced.  Then again we rolled over on our backs and watched the clouds and the gathering starlings as they all danced in waves and winds across the sky.



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