They Say They'll Bury You Tomorrow ...

My Dad passed away 1 year ago, on March 6, 2014.  He was in Montreal, Canada.  I was in Doha, Qatar.

This piece is a re-take on a post I'd written last May, on the day before they buried my Dad on the North Shore of New Brunswick (almost 3 months later, on May 25, 2014).

For those of you who've been following along, my Dad passed away at the age of 84.  Those who didn't know him might have called him an old man.  To me, he was a beautiful man.  He was a vibrant man.  He was what the French call ''un bon vivant''.  He knew how to sing, how to laugh, how to live, how to love, and he did it all so very well.

I miss him.  Every day.  But I've chosen to honour him by living my life.  By singing corny songs to my Kiddo.  By loving everything and everyone I can every single day.  By laughing as much as I can.  

I love him.  I will always love him.  But I'm trying not to cry for him anymore.  Some days it's hard.  But I tell myself I will LIVE for him, because he would have expected no less.  If you're an expat, and you're grieving, know that you're not alone.  It's hard, and it sucks, but carry on.  LIVE for the person you LOVED.  In the end, nothing else makes sense.

I wrote the poem below on May 24; writing it released me from the black cloud that had hovered above my head for the previous three months.  It was the piece that released me from a lot of the pain and the powerlessness.  

I removed the poem from my blog a few days after initially publishing it because it had caused some confusion; I'd also included a reference to Johnny Cash in the initial post, and readers thought the poem was a Johnny Cash tune.  It's not.

The poem was a result of the following:

  • Because of the extreme cold and frozen ground in Northern New Brunswick, burials cannot take place in the winter.  
  • As a result, coffins are placed in a shed-like structure, or holding vault, until the ground thaws enough to make it possible to dig.  
  • It is a process that extends a family's pain.  
  • My Dad was laid to rest on May 25, 2014.
  • I couldn't be there for the burial.
  • But I knew that no grave would ever hold him down.

This poem is for my Dad, who was there for every shit moment in my life.  Who am I to assume he's not here for the shit moments when I miss him so much?  Just 'cos I can't see him doesn't mean he's not right here.  Right?

They say they'll bury you tomorrow, 

now that snow has finally gone. 

They think the earth will be forgiving, 

as they shovel on the mound.

They've mistaken soul and spirit

as they drop into the ground. 

The flesh that housed your being,

a soul without abound.

They think it makes a difference

that your frame they'll now entomb.

They think that's where you'll lay,

like a child within the womb. 

They've mistaken hallowed earth

for a place that really matters. 

When where you really lie, 

is in our hearts all left in tatters.

Your presence it still lingers, 

and your voice still rings so clear. 

Your body will be buried, 

but You, you are right here. 

I won't be there to say farewell,

over here is where I'll be. 

But you won't be there either. 

You'll be right here next to me. 

Je t'aime Papa.  

A pretty typical Friday in Doha ...

Life in Qatar is often much like life elsewhere.  We're always happy to see the weekend roll around, and one weekend often seems much like the other.  For some without kids, Fridays and Saturdays may be filled with intense gym sessions, brunches and spa packages, but our weekends consist mostly of leisurely breakfasts, a family outing, catching up on sleep, and grocery shopping.  It's a pretty ordinary life.

This was a pretty typical Friday in Doha.  We got up, puttered about, and I made Kiddo the little piece of deliciousness pictured below.  Weekends call for yummy breakfasts, no matter where you are in the world.

Even though I couldn't have the pan-seared buttered bread (left over from a Tim Horton's chill meal on Wednesday), I did steal a tiny piece of the bocconcini with pesto and a sun dried tomato.  Typical mom - I'm always there to help out when Kiddo starts to get full.  Thank goodness she has a good appetite and usually finishes her plate, or I'd be ginormous ...

We decided to head down to the Corniche.  It's a great place to hang early on a Friday winter morning.  Traffic is practically inexistent in Doha before Friday's noon-time call to prayer, and the hordes of picnickers haven't yet settled in along the 7 km stretch that partly encircles West Bay.  We got there before the air got too dusty.

There were already quite a few people out, strolling along the waterfront, taking in the glorious combination of warm sun, salty air, and coolish breeze (it was actually more of a gust ...).

We parked at the 5 km marker near the MIA (Museum of Islamic Art) and hung out for the 30 requisite minutes it takes Kiddo to don her elbow pads, knee pads, shin pads, wrist guards, sunscreen, bug repellant, helmet, ear plugs, light reflectors, radiation shield, and (finally) roller blades.  For just an instant, I wondered if perhaps I'd turned my child into a sports wimp.  But that moment evaporated as I saw her struggle to get to her feet and slowly and shakily move forward.  Watching her wobble along the cobble, I knew there would never be such a thing as too much protective gear for my child.

I was quite proud of her as she skated a good 3 km down the walkway before finally asking if she could walk the rest of the way.  We continued on towards the Sheraton Hotel, stopping at Costa Coffee at the 5 km mark to enjoy a small salad and a brownie.  Even though it was really windy, the sun was shining, the temps were hovering around 23C, and the tables outside were packed.  We found a little spot on the grass outside and enjoyed our quickie meal.

Kiddo then made it all the way back to the car without uttering barely a peep of complaint.  I later found out she'd been motivated by Smilin Vic's promise of a treat from MegaMart at the end of the trek.  At the end of the day, she'd clocked almost 10 km.  Without much dissent.  Not bad for a 9-year-old.

Mission accomplished, legs sore, we headed off to MegaMart to re-stock for the week.  The only thing really critical on my list was garlic salt and non-stick cooking spray.  If you've read any blog about Qatar, you'll have heard of mysterious and sudden specific food shortages.  In the past, we've seen Heinz Ketchup, HP sauce, chicken, Hillshire farms turkey franks, buffalo mozzarella, and a slew of other products simply vanish from the shelves.  This month, it seems to be garlic salt.  

Alas, there was no garlic salt to be found.  Fourth week in a row.  I'm wondering what the garlic salt gods have done to lose their place of privilege on the spice display shelves.  I know it's not powdered garlic per se that's being shunned, because we managed to find a jar of garlic pepper.  Who in the world uses garlic pepper?  Except Smilin' Vic, that is; he claims it's his new favourite spice.  It's NOT a spice Smilin' Vic.  It's just a cruel joke.  A ''Wannabee''.  Garlic salt is where it's at.

Nor could I find the cooking spray.  I'm close to desperation; my last can is half empty.  What gives????  I have a serious beef with the 'guy' who sits there deciding which Western convenience will not be imported to Qatar this week, this month, this year ...

We did, however find these eggs:

We argued for a while over the purchase of these 15 ''Big Beautiful EGGS''.  You see, Smilin' Vic is convinced that brown eggs are healthier than white eggs.  My extensive Google searches would indicate the nutritional value, if any, is so slight as to be negligible.  And considering that I can get 30 white Saudi eggs (which is how many we go through in a week) for 21 QAR (+/- 6 $), I don't see why I'd pay 15 QAR for 15 brown ones.  Is it because they're ''freshly laid in SUNNY UAE''?  Like it's not sunny in Saudi?  Or is it because, as per the packaging, these are ''vegetarian'' hens?  As opposed to what?  A delinquent bunch of flesh-eating, carnivorous hens? Obviously I lost the argument, hence the rant.  I've decided Smilin' Vic is staying home next time I go egg shopping.

We caught sight of these guys doing some sort of desert sailing on the way back from the shop.  Not sure what you call this sport, but they were moving at incredible speed.  I love Doha days where you see people out and about taking advantage of the great winter weather.

It was a good Friday.  Pretty typical.  Good.