The Dear Ordinary

Life plods on, even when we’re numb and in shock after the death of a family member.

It was the Thanksgiving weekend, 2012, when our son was killed. Not knowing what else to do, Monsieur and I went through the motions of simple chores. I began the makings of turkey dinner, originally planned for the following day.

But like a swimmer suspended under deep water, every movement was laboured, every sense blurred by the weight of inescapable reality.

It was hard to remember what life had been like Before. What small pleasures had been big? What worries had loomed large?

flowerbed walkway, Sept. 26, '12

I had made this cobbled path just a week earlier and was pretty proud of my first foray into concrete work.


I initially began this blog to chronicle my walk through a long-term renovation, seeking an often elusive contentment. I anticipated lots of before and after project photos. Especially the Afters. Naturally, there would be family issues along the way — stuff four boys in one bedroom or make eight people share one bathroom and there are bound to be issues. I figured that many of those issues would dissolve if one project or another were finished.

But staring death in the face has a way of sharply refocusing priorities. That fall, 2012, Monsieur had planned to take a week off work to make progress on our new staircase. Instead, he took that time to deal with police and insurance, plan a funeral and settle our son’s small estate.

Resolving those urgent matters completely deflated any enthusiasm for work on house projects. Suddenly, both of us were plagued by a sluggishness that made even basic chores seem too much. In the months that followed the funeral, I would look around at things unfinished and think, “Why bother? We’re just going to die anyway.”

This was not despair. We still had a settled faith that God had everything well under His control, but there’s no controlling what emotions grief will assail you with at times. So we had this heightened awareness of the nearness and inevitability of death. In our case too, the loss of our son meant an abruptly empty nest, except for our very quiet youngest son.

I’d never before realized how much of the renovation, in our minds, had been for our children’s sake. Now, all but one were gone from home and the projects just didn’t seem worth it.

Over time, we have fought that feeling. Life does go on. We are physical beings in a real, material world. We laugh, enjoy life, nature, our children and grandchildren, and there are still “the dear ordinary” things that must be attended to.  God gives us “richly all things to enjoy”, after all.

Siding the exterior of our house has taken several weeks of our time for the past year. I cut the pieces while Monsieur climbs the teetering ladder to install them. Now, only the upper storey siding on two sides remains to be done. (For that we’ll rent scaffolding. I fell and cracked my sacrum last fall — no more ladders!)

rear siding collage

We’d lived for more than ten years with only house-wrap for exterior protection. To me, it was always an eyesore; to my husband, it was a disturbing reminder that our investment was deteriorating (we had to re-wrap portions of the house more than once) and a flapping annoyance whenever the wind blew, which, on the Alberta prairie, was often.

Inspired by the “light at the end of the tunnel”, I recently painted our front door “Spiced Butternut”.

front door yellow


So there is a deep satisfaction in seeing our work make a major difference in the appearance of the house. “It’s starting to look like a real house,” we’ve told each other more than once.

“It is good and fitting for one to enjoy the good of all his labour in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life, which God gives him.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18)

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2 Responses to The Dear Ordinary

  1. I am sorry for your loss.


  2. jamcancon says:

    Wondering about the ‘cracked sacrum.’
    You seem to have a lot of ‘stuff’ stored up to write about and it is all coming out very well…………..


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