Walking Each Other Home

When the Saturday newspaper arrives, what section do you open first? Me? It’s the obituary page, always. And often there’s someone I know, an old school friend or someone I knew more recently from the Cowichan Valley.

Death and dying have been on my mind lately, not that I feel it is imminent, it just comes up. I walk along the Sea Walk in our little town and there’s Rona and Geoff’s names engraved on a memorial plaque on a park bench, and over there, Fran (we both volunteered at the local museum), and other familiar names on different benches and each time I have a memory jog of pleasure. Even our dear dog Blaze, featured in this photo, is no longer with us.

We all need to be known and remembered and for some it’s important to be known for whom we were, long ago. We had an elderly neighbour who liked to stop you on the street and tell you about his current ailments and how he once was head of a big business, and people respected him. I usually took time to listen, even though I had heard it many times, he needed to feel known.

A few years ago, I volunteered in a seniors’ facility and in each resident’s room there was a photo montage of their earlier life with an easy- to- read bio. It immediately gave me an opening for conversation and reminded me and anybody else who came in that that this wasn’t just another anonymous old person. This person had lived and loved. Never underestimate the elderly!

It had hit me recently that there are few people left who knew me as a child and with whom I can reminisce as they overlook my many failings. My siblings are much younger than I and knew me in a different light. My partner Grant and I frequently talk about childhood memories, but his formative years were on the mainland and Alberta and were very different than mine. I have some family still around but all his generation of relatives are gone and it’s a lonely feeling. 

I ran into an old friend the other day, and strangely one of the first things she said was she wasn’t sure who she was any more. People who knew her when she was young had all died, friends who accepted her for who she was, are all gone. I knew exactly what she meant.

These conversations have come up recently with friends and even strangers. Maybe as someone said the other day, we are mourning the demise of our world.

So, what do we do? I’m an optimistic person, we have no choice but to carry on, doing the best we can. I recently listened to a talk given by four women who were Death Doulas.

(Death Doulas offer non-medical support for the dying and those who are left behind.)

This is my take away from their presentation:

*Ask yourself-how are you preparing for your death and dying?                               

*Ask yourself-what does it mean to live your life fully every day?                                     

*Having your affairs in order, your plans made, and your wishes known is your final gift to yourself and to those left behind.

*And advice for our world? Live hard: love hard: embrace justice: keep doing what’s meaningful, keep living and loving.

And because I am also a practical person, I have dedicated the month of June to getting my affairs in order. We already have pre-paid funerals, and bought our plots at Mountain View Cemetery (see feature photo with Swuq’us or Mt Prevost in background), in fact we often picnic on a nearby bench, and why not? We bought that little patch of land; we might as well enjoy it.

I am looking for an organized binder or book that walks me though all the information I need to record. If any one has already done it or has useful ideas about how to organize one, please share.

Once that’s done, I can relax and live my life fully.

Meanwhile (dubious advice here), record your story and your parents’ stories if you can, for as spiritual leader Ram Dass said, “We are all just walking each other home.” 

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~ Island Crone by Liz Maxwell Forbes

Grant Evans in his study, with View from the Tower

Travelling books/used bookstores/Alert Bay BC

Do you ever wonder what happens to books after you’ve taken them to a used bookstore?

One of the books I was selling at our local Christmas craft fair, was my partner Grant’s revised 2019 edition of his memoir of his air traffic controller days on north Vancouver Island in the 1960’s. (The revised book has new anecdotes and a different coloured cover.)  A young couple browsing my table, recognized it as similar to the book they had purchased from a small used bookstore/museum up island. My daughter was speaking to the couple, I wasn’t there, but they told her that they read it while camping and loved it.

I was curious, a used bookstore and museum, all in one, it sounded familiar but where was it? And how did one of Grant’s books end up there? Then I remembered visiting a bookstore in Alert Bay on Cormorant Island off northern Vancouver Island. Grant and I were in Port Hardy in 2016 for the launch of the first edition of View from the Tower held at the Port Hardy Museum. We stayed in the area for a few days and on one of those days we took the ferry to Alert Bay.

Alert Bay Public Library and Museum, Visitor Centre
Alert Bay Public Library and Museum

I had recalled a bookstore and museum from an even earlier trip and I planned to take in a few copies of Grant’s View from the Tower. We drove along the beach road from the ferry looking for the building; weaving our way past the fleet of buses parked on the side of the road; gawking at the brightly coloured cottages that lined the narrow road; finally recognizing the rambling wooden museum and bookstore perched over the water.

Alert Bay painted houses
Alert Bay painted houses
Alert Bay buses

Books in hand I opened the old wooden door, the bell above the door jamb jingled merrily. Suddenly I had a clear memory of my previous visit. The same smiling, gracious woman, Joyce Wilby, was behind the desk to my right; and ahead of me, I swear the same man was sitting at the same desk hunched over his papers under an ancient lamp. He had showed me around the rabbit warren of cubby holes and displays that made up the archives of the museum when I was there before and I surprised him by greeting him like an old friend. I felt like I had known Joyce for an age too, we could be friends I thought, kindred spirits even. She readily bought a copy of View from the Tower for the lending library and two more books for her gift store, which was separate from her used bookstore.

Joyce had started the Lending Library as a Centennial project in 1957, took a librarian course and as well as owning the bookstore, has been the managing librarian and archivist of the Alert Bay Museum and Lending Library ever since. This energetic, knowledgeable woman had just turned ninety years old in 2016 and at this writing is still at her beloved bookstore/museum and enjoying every day.

I, of course found a book or two to buy from her used section, then I just had to prop a copy of Grant’s book on the window ledge outside Joyce’s museum store and take a photo which required that I stand in the middle of the road between the dribs and drabs of slow moving vehicles.

Alert Bay museum with Grant Evan's book in the window
Alert Bay museum with Grant Evan’s book in the window

I would love to know if that young couple who had come to my book sale at the Christmas craft fair, had bought View from the Tower from Joyce Wilby’s used bookstore and what they did with it after they read it. Is it still travelling around the second hand bookstore circuit?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if books could talk?

Grant Evans in Alert Bay
Grant Evans in Alert Bay
Business cards

It is Becoming Real

We got our business cards last week. Business cards with our name, our web page and the names of our books. We are in business! I love the picture on our business card. It is reproduced from the photo on our webpage. The photo is of a foggy morning in Osborne Bay and  was taken by my friend Jean Ballard. Jean writes a blog featuring her photographs of animals and places around Crofton and the Chemainus Valley.


Coffee and a muffin


I treated myself today. Not by shopping for clothes or stuffing down chocolate cake—I treated myself with downtime. My free time has been taken up with writing. Grant, my husband, and I are doing the finishing touches on our memoirs. Both of us leap out of bed in the middle of the night and scribble down a thought. Often in the wee hours of the morning I see the lights on in Grant’s study. Some days my head is in turmoil with scattered images and I can’t organize them into sentences. That is when I procrastinate by eating or baking.   


The sea walk gazebo in Nanaimo, BC


We didn’t go anywhere this summer. Usually we take picnics to the beach, swim in the ocean, and take day trips to all the small towns up and down island. This summer we lived like moles, tucked into our respective studies, writing. I was working on my memoir Growing Up Weird and Grant was writing View From The Tower, tales of his life as an air traffic controller in Port Hardy. It was abnormally hot outside and our house was cool.


Heron - Nanaimo Marina Seawalk


I thought I saw Freddie on the Sea Walk the other day. I was quite far away but it looked like him as he was standing at a slight tilt with arms clasped behind his back. He was gazing out at the marina, perhaps at the great blue heron that owns that spot of shore line. My steps quickened momentarily and then I remembered. Freddie was dead.