Meditations on grief

The last time I saw my father alive was Christmas 2017. He died suddenly less than a month later. Two years ago today.

I was utterly and completely unprepared for grief. For its intensity and its vastness. For an emotional pain so deep my bones ached.

Children bury their parents. It’s the natural order of things. I was an adult when I lost my father. We had 31 good years. He was a good father. He walked me down the aisle and danced at my wedding. He helped me move into my first house. I didn’t have to watch him suffer through a long illness. I should count myself lucky. My brain tells me these things often.

But grief, it turns out, is not something you can reason your way out of. Because your heart, like a toddler throwing a tantrum, will remind you that it’s not fair that he won’t ever get to be a grandfather, it’s not fair that many worse fathers live longer lives, it’s not fair that, according to the average life expectancy, you were robbed of almost two decades with your dad, and it certainly isn’t fair that you didn’t get to say goodbye.

My grief has involved many battles between my heart and my brain. On anniversaries like today, it’s my temper tantrum-throwing heart that speaks loudest. And on anniversaries like today, I allow it.

Over the past two years, I’ve read, been told, and developed many ideas about grief. One of them is that although grief never goes away, it changes. Or perhaps you do. You find a place for the loss in your life. You make space for it. You adapt around it.

As time passes, you become less overwhelmed by the finality of the death and better able to appreciate the years of life.

On an anniversary like today, I think a lot about that last Christmas. But I’m making space to reflect on our 30 other Christmases too. Like the one in this picture. My first Christmas. I love how dad and I look like we’re sharing some kind of private joke.


Dad and me: Christmas 1985

I share this because I want to keep the memory of my father alive, but I also share this because we are a grief illiterate society. After the wake and the funeral, the freezer empties out and the cards stop coming and you go back to work and there is this expectation that you get on with the business of living. And you can and you do and it becomes easier over time.

But grief is still there. And your heart may sometimes shout louder than your brain. And that’s normal and that’s okay. And you may not know that, because grief is often very well-hidden, spilling out only in solitary moments.

Despite his tough exterior, my dad was a softy. He hated to see people suffer. I got that from him. Grief is hard. Loss is hard. It’s also a universal part of the human experience. You don’t have to do it alone. I see you. I’m here for you. My dad’s compassion lives on in me.

For Dad

My father passed away suddenly on Monday, Jan. 23. At about 4 a.m., the morning before his funeral, I sat down and wrote this. 


When my parents bought their home in Douglastown, some 26 years ago, my mother was horrified to find their new yard a happy home to many garter snakes.

Mom could hardly bare to enjoy her new property, with the thought of so many slithering beasts hiding in the grass. My father could not abide that.

Saint Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. Patrick Joseph Lynch drove the snakes out of Douglastown.

Painstakingly, over the course of many weeks and months and years, my Dad captured each and every snake he spotted in the yard and transported it into the woods and across the creek—with the assurance that a narrow stream of rushing water would keep us separated from the serpentine terrors.

In the interest of creating a truly snake-free environment, snake removal was, on at least one occasion, a service Dad also provided to the neighbourhood. When next-door neighbour Dewey, a little queasy about snakes himself, found one curled up under the hood of the truck he was working on, it was Dad he talked to and Dad who relocated it to its new home across the creek.

And sure enough, Dad’s perseverance, stubbornness and his pure labour of love to make his bride happy in their new home succeeded. Snakes are now a rare sight at their home on William Street.

Except for the occasional one hiding in the woodpile…

It was a summer day many years ago. Chris and Dad were piling our winter’s store of wood in the basement. Mom and I were upstairs. We must have been cleaning or baking – that part we can’t remember.

What does live in our memories is the sound of Chris and Dad’s voices from the basement rising up through the vents in the floor. Strands of a conversation.

The topic? A snake had been spotted and was now hiding in the woodpile.

Chris and Dad’s solution? Don’t tell the girls.

What harm could it do, they said.

Surely it couldn’t get upstairs, they reasoned.

Mom and I marched down and busted up their plan. The four of us moved every single stick they had piled: two of us carrying wood from one pile to another, two of us standing guard with brooms.

We found the snake. Hiding in the last stick of wood, of course. And much to the satisfaction of my mother and me, Dad quickly vanquished the intruder.

Some of the snakes in the neighbourhood were much less terrifying.

Last summer, our neighbour Dewey – the one who shared my and mom’s aversion to all things slithery—returned home from work. Heading toward the house, he spotted a snake sunning itself by the corner of his garage.

In an act of bravery, Dewey went to the shed, grabbed a shovel, and quickly beheaded the snake.

My father watched all of this gleefully from our window across the street.

The snake, of course, was a rubber one Dad had found in my old stuff. He laughed heartily when he told me the story of how he had planted it in Dewey’s yard as a prank. He was, in ways like this, just a big kid.

In so many other ways, he was the measure of a man.

My father worked hard his entire life. He was generous of his time and spirit. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for those he cared about. And while he never expected anything in return, it’s a testament to the caring relationships he nurtured that his generosity was so regularly and so fully reciprocated. His neighbours became friends and his friends were like family.

Since my mom and my dad retired, thankfully, they both had the chance to work a little less hard. They marveled at the life they got to enjoy. Long quiet mornings reading, cooking supper together, putting their feet up in the evening. They felt and practiced pure gratitude for their many blessings.

Nothing made my father feel more blessed than family. One of his greatest joys was when Chris, Nicholas and I visited home for a weekend. Nothing was better than the five of us gathered on the porch or around the kitchen table or the dartboard, sharing good conversation and many laughs.

Nothing was better than that—except maybe sharing that warmth with anyone who stopped by the house. He was always quick with an invitation to share a meal or a drink.

I know my father was so proud of us. He joked often about how the buttons on his shirt were going to pop off because his chest was so puffed up with pride.

These last few days, hearing so many stories about the man my father was—strong, principled, stubborn as all get-out, sure, but loving, neighbourly, caring. Well Dad, it’s my turn to be button-popping proud.

I’m so proud to have had you as my father. I’m so proud to be your daughter. I love you.

30 Good Things Before 30: #30 – You!

It’s official, folks. I’m now a 30-something!

I celebrated my 30th birthday today by sticking to my marathon training plan. I’m that dedicated (or obsessed… whatever).

It really wasn’t much of a sacrifice though. I could hardly wait to hit the pavement for my regular Tuesday 6 km tempo run thanks to my brand-new Garmin Forerunner 225!

Got the gear!

Got the gear!

My Garmin was a gift from my famjam for my milestone birthday (thank you!!!) and it is amazing!

It’s my first Garmin so it took me a little while (read: several hours) to figure out the features and get it synced up with my computer and phone. Once I finally did, it worked like a dream on my first test run, guiding me through my warm-up, tempo miles and cool-down seamlessly. On top of that, the wrist-based heart rate monitor is unbelievable.30-good-things-before-30

I plan on writing a full review once I get a few more miles on this baby, so stay tuned.

For now, though, let me finish out my little 30-day challenge, with a nod to #30 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30:


That’s right: you (yes, you!) are #30!

Whether it’s your first visit here or you’ve been with me for the long haul, it’s you out there on your laptops and smartphones, dropping in to read what I have to say that gives this all purpose.

I started this blog in 2010 and failed miserably at posting regularly. Looking back, I think a big part of the problem was that I was utterly self-absorbed. (A self-absorbed blogger? Shocking, I know!)

Since relaunching this year, though, I’ve made an effort to get to know more of you out there in the blogosphere and in Twitter-land and found such an amazing community that I’m so pumped to be part of.

My tweeps! (Find me on Twitter here)

My tweeps! (Find me on Twitter here)

If I have a training question, you have answers. If I’m frustrated, you’re supportive. If I need a killer recipe to use up those sweet potatoes I have on hand, you’ve got me covered.

Let’s be honest: if it wasn’t for your views, likes, and comments, I would have given up on this 30 days of consecutive blogging thing a long time ago! But my drive to stay engaged, to keep sharing and learning more about you, outweighed my desire to binge-watch OITNB or get to bed at a decent hour.

It feels good to belong to this community. Thanks for allowing me to be part of it! 🙂

What’s your favourite thing about blogging?

Any fav blogs you think I should be following? 

30 Good Things Before 30: #29 – This quote

Today is the last day of my 20’s.

That struck me last night as I was lying in bed. And I’m not gonna lie: it freaked me out.

It’s a silly reaction to have. Totally pointless, actually.

Today, I am simply one day older than I was yesterday. The same as every single day of my life so far. Nothing new. Nothing to fret over. Logically, I can step back and see that.

Nonetheless, it’s still freaking me out.

That’s nothing new, really. This fear of growing older nonsense has been a longtime companion of mine. Facebook even reminded me this morning that on this day eight years ago, I wrote that I was “unwilling to turn 22. No more birthdays. …holding at 21.”

From the mouths of babes, am I right?

Since then, the clock has kept ticking, the world has kept 30-good-things-before-30spinning and now here I am on the cusp of a new decade. No use fretting over it. Might as well embrace it.

#29 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30 helps me keep it in perspective:

This quote

I came across this quote sometime around my birthday several years ago and, even then, it resonated with me. Then my birthday passed and with it, my awareness of the sentiment.

It snuck its way back into my consciousness when a Facebook friend recently posted it and I thought: “Yep. That’s exactly what I needed to hear.”

So I’m sharing it here, in case it’s exactly what you need to hear.

"Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many." - Author unknown (Pin this)

“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” – Author unknown (Pin this)

Nothing flowery. Nothing complicated. Just a reminder that growing older is a gift not everyone receives. And the least we, the lucky few, can do is embrace it!

How do you feel about your birthday?

Do you have any quotes, birthday-related or not, that you live by?

30 Good Things Before 30: #28 – Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

So it just struck me tonight how close I’m getting to the end of my 30 Good Things Before 30 challenge!

It also struck me how amiss I’ve been to not include any books so far!

It’s a great disservice to my roots. I come from a family of voracious readers. For pretty much my entire life, the go-to gift for every one of us on every occasion was a book. (Birthday next month? Get a book. Christmas? Pick up a couple of books. Mother’s Day? Jodi Picoult book!)

Lately though, I’ve been slacking on the reading front. My daily blogging means I’m spending more time online. Tack on my marathon training miles and that means I’m also spending way more nights tumbling into bed exhausted, eyelids too heavy to get through a couple of pages.

If we’re being totally honest, I just haven’t made reading a priority.

I was reminded that I ought to be, however, by a couple of bloggers: specifically, Slacker Runner’s mid-year check-in and 30-good-things-before-30a recommendation of the book The Girl on the Train over here.

So while I work on tracking down a copy of The Girl on the Train, let me use one of my few remaining days of this challenge to correct my oversight and present #28 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

If you’re a runner and you like to read and you haven’t yet read Born to Run, stop what you’re doing immediately and fix that!

Technically, the book is an ethnography, which focuses on the reclusive Tarahumara tribe. Reading it though is like spending a few hours at a pub with a group of rowdy ultramarthoners intent on regaling you with their adventures.

Born to Run

Born to Run

The book came out in 2009 and was kind of a game-changer for the running world. Specifically, it’s credited with playing a significant role in launching the minimalist shoe movement. Author Christopher McDougall focuses on the Tarahumara’s ability to run extreme distances in flimsy sandals without any of the injuries that plague the rest of us typical runners.

I know it’s falling out of fashion but I’m a supporter of the minimalist shoe movement. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me so I find the theory McDougall talks about really interesting.

But even if you’re not all that interested in the technical aspects and think miminalist shoes are a crock, Born to Run is still worth reading just for the cast of characters it brings together.

For me, it was totally eye-opening. I always thought of ultramarthoners as disciplined, serious athletes. Some of them are. Some of them are like Jenn Shelton — a little wild, a little crazy, a little bit apt to drink like a teamster while preparing for a 50-mile race in Mexico’s Copper Canyons and end up lost, hungover, and hydrating from a mud puddle.

True story. You can read about it in Born to Run.

What are you reading? Anything good? Recommendations welcome in the comments!

How do you feel about minimalist shoes?

30 Good Things Before 30: #27 – The Naysayers

It’s the freakin’ weekend! Happy 4th to my American friends. Hope you’re all having a wonderful time.

Me? I’m here, north of the border, relaxing like it was my national holiday. Pretty much the only productive thing I got up to today was running a nice steady 3.5 miles.

Happy to say, I felt pretty well-rested after Thursday’s 10 km tempo run. And thank goodness for that because it was kind of a doozy.

30-good-things-before-30My training plan for running a 4-hour marathon says my pace for tempo runs should be 9:14/mile. Even when I include my warm-up and cool-down in Thursday’s run, I slaughtered that pace.

And that’s primarily because of #27 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30:

The Naysayers

When it comes to moral support in my running, I’m a darn lucky lady.

I have an amazing husband who tells me regularly how proud he is of my commitment to running — especially on those days when I’d rather do anything but. I have a mom, dad and brother who get up at ungodly hours on Sunday mornings to come watch me race. And I have extended family who always ask about my running and shower me with kind words of admiration.

I’m lucky. I know.

I guess that’s why it’s particularly jarring for me when I encounter someone of the opposite persuasion: a naysayer.

That’s what happened to me on Thursday. Our regular marathon clinic instructor was out-of-town so we had someone else fill in. We set out on our warm-up and he started asking about our goals.

I mentioned I was aiming for a sub-4:00 marathon this year.

“What did you run your last one in?” he asked.


“What about your last half?”


“Yeah, realistically, you’re probably looking at 4:30.”

Say what?!?

I mean I get where he’s coming from. I’m familiar with the general notion that your marathon time will be your half-marathon time doubled, plus 10 minutes. I get that maybe it’s not a good idea to set someone up for failure if they’ve set an unrealistic goal.

But what he didn’t get about me is that I’ve been running my butt off. I’ve been working hard on my speed since that last half-marathon. And since my marathon training began, I’ve been consistently meeting and exceeding the prescribed training run paces for a 4-hour marathon.

And he’s gonna waltz into my clinic and tell me my goal isn’t realistic? C’mon!

I gotta thank him though, because after hearing his thoughts I ran the heck out of our tempo miles. I stayed at the front of the pack, pushed hard, told my tired legs to buck up, and ran faster than I knew I could.

Turns out a naysayer can be a good thing after all! For me, it was just the fire I needed lit under my bum to dig deep and find out what I’m really capable of. My dad suggested we invite him to come to my marathon in Toronto! 😉

How do you deal with the naysayers?

What motivates you more: positive supporters or pessimistic naysayers?

30 Good Things Before 30: #26 – Trying to Walk After NYC Marathon video

Today is a rest day. A glorious, glorious rest day.

And boy, do I need it!

30-good-things-before-30I’m into Week 3 of marathon training and last night’s workout was a 10k tempo run. It was a hot day, I made the mistake of not bringing along water, but I killed it anyway. Pretty proud.

But now very tired. And hungry.

For those reasons, I’m very much into just relaxing for today. Which is why #26 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30 is perfect.

Trying to Walk After NYC Marathon video

I was scrolling through my FB timeline, trying to find some photos my husband had posted of our kitchen renovation when I came across this gem somewhere in 2014.

It’s a video, created by The New York Times, that shows marathoners on their way home after the 2014 New York City Marathon.

It had me crying with laughter after watching it. Twice.

Just makes me shake my head at what we runners put ourselves through, while simultaneously feeling a sense of pride to be part of that twisted bunch.

When I shared this on FB in 2014, I wrote: “I get it.”

Still do. 🙂

Do you look like this after a marathon?

What is your post-race routine? Something you love to drink, eat? Comfy shoes you have to immediately put on?

Are there any funny running-related videos you think are must-sees for runners? Links please!

30 Good Things Before 30: #25 – 21-Day Meditation Experience

Happy Thursday! Although the holiday makes it feel like Monday and also kind of like Friday. I don’t know why.

Anyhow, this evening finds me relaxing on the couch with my pup after a challenging 10km tempo run.

I had a visit with my foam roller, my husband bought me one of these:


Yep, that was a Chocolate Chill…

And I am now content just lying here, sipping water, breathing deeply. Calm and almost meditative.


30-good-things-before-30Sadly, I’ve kind of fallen off the meditation bandwagon. Life happened.

But then, just when I needed it, what showed up in my email inbox one day? An invitation to #25 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30:

21-Day Meditation Experience

So Oprah Winfrey teamed up with Deepak Chopra and started creating these free 21-Day Meditation Experiences.

The idea is that each day, a new audio meditation shows up in your inbox, you take 20 minutes out of your day to practice, and then have the option of journaling about several reflective questions from your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

They’ve done five of these so far, focused on themes like “Creating Abundance,” “Desire and Destiny” and “Find Your Flow.” I’ve participated in a couple — the most recent this winter.

And they’re great. For those 21 days. And for a little while after.

But eventually life happens. And you get out of the habit, which is exactly where I’m at lately.

Luckily, the newest 21-Day Meditation Experience is right around the corner, starting on July 13. This one focuses on “Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude.”

There’s a YouTube promo, if you’re interested.

The video is a little infomercially, but the experience itself is legit.

If you’ve ever been curious about meditation, this is a great way to try it out. It’s simple, convenient, and, for me at least, surprisingly empowering. You can register for free over here.

What’s your favourite thing to do after a tough run?

Do you meditate or are you interested in trying meditation?

Do you miss Oprah being on TV? (Because I do, guys!)

30 Good Things Before 30: #24 – Foam Rollers

Happy Canada Day to all my fellow Canucks out there!

I wanted to mark the holiday with some Olympic-level sleeping in to make up for my very late night last night. Sadly, it was not to be.

I was awoken somewhere around 7 a.m. by the vibration of construction equipment outside. Unfortunately for me and for the workers who are putting in a sidewalk on our street, there are no holidays when it comes to summer roadwork.

I’d like to say I bounded out of bed, got my run out of the way early and then had the entire day to do with as I pleased, but that’s just not true.

It was only after much procrastinating, humming, hawing, and some flailing about in my workout clothes like a four-year-old having a tantrum, that I finally got around to completing my steady 5-mile run.

It’s Week 3 of my marathon training and I feel like fellow blogger hellyontherun had it totally correct this week when she wrote:

I feel like Weeks 3+ are when the real deal starts. Like, you’re excited and gung ho about training at the start but once you’re settled into a plan and the weeks go by, that’s when the discipline really starts happening.

30-good-things-before-30That’s exactly where I am.

It’s become clear that there are a few things I will need in order to survive marathon training unscathed: many, many Clif Shot Bloks, copious amounts of strawberry-banana smoothies, and #24 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30.

Foam Rollers

So the funny thing about my foam roller is that I actually bought it as a Christmas gift for my husband. He saw one while we were out shopping and said it was something he’d like to have as he’d used it in physio.

I took a mental note and went back a couple days later to pick it up.

Fast forward to my marathon training. My legs are starting to feel really tight and I’m trying to figure out how to work them out. Then I see this guy in the corner of my home gym:

Just a simple foam roller. Something similar here.

Just a simple foam roller. You can get a similar one here.

I searched YouTube for “foam rolling for runners,” clicked on the first video and that was it. Life changed forever.

Pretty much every runner I’ve talked to feels the same.

According to the experts at Runner’s World, the benefits of the foam roller are two-fold:

  1. It breaks up knots that can limit range of motion.
  2. It also improves circulation, which can help get you warmed up for a workout and speed up recovery afterward.

I generally just use mine to work out tight muscles. And it hurts so good.

Totally worth it though. A good roller session means my legs will not only feel a million times better but also way more prepared for the next run.

Anybody else in love with their foam roller?

What muscles do you target with your foam roller?

Ever give a Christmas gift to someone that you then ended up using yourself?

30 Good Things Before 30: #23 – Waterfalls of New Brunswick map

So it’s 11 p.m. on a Tuesday. That officially makes this the latest I’ve ever sat down to write a blog.

Why so late?

Well, because I spent the evening taking in Bard in the Barracks’ performance of Romeo and Juliet. After bad weather cancelled several shows, Mother Nature finally cooperated and offered up a mild, clear evening that made a perfect setting for this tale of star-crossed lovers.

An awesome night out in a beautiful setting, and, as expected, the company did not disappoint. There is one final showing of Romeo and Juliet happening on Thursday, July 2.

Not to mention several more shows of Hamlet in Odell Park, which I’ll be seeing this weekend. When I purchased my tickets at Westminster Books, the sales clerk raved about it. Can’t wait to see for myself. Full details for both of the shows here.

(Wondering what Bard in the Barracks is all about? It was #18 on my 30 Good Things Before 30. Learn why here.)

30-good-things-before-30Anyhow, because it’s getting close to an ungodly hour, I have no clever segue. I’m just gonna go ahead and get to my good thing for today.

It was inspired by a coffee table book at my aunt’s house. #23 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30 is:

Waterfalls of New Brunswick map

Since moving back to my home province from BC, my husband and I have been collecting NB waterfalls. We saw a lot of natural beauty across the country, and it really inspired us to want to explore more of what lies in our own backyards.

This included frozen waterfalls…

Frozen Hays Falls

Frozen Hays Falls

That would later become running waterfalls…

Hays Falls in the summer

Hays Falls in the summer

As well as falls in well-traveled national parks…

Dickson Falls in Fundy National Park

Dickson Falls in Fundy National Park

And falls in lesser known rural areas…

Midland Ice Caves

Midland Ice Caves

We’d come across these usually by word-of-mouth. An acquaintaince would ask if we’d ever been to such-and-such falls. They’d give us some directions and we’d spent a Sunday hunting it down.

While staying at my aunt’s this weekend, I browsed her copy of Nicholas Guitard’s Waterfalls of New Brunswick. His collection of stunning photos made me realize how few of the waterfalls I’d actually visited. And how long it would take to find them all relying on recommendations from people we meet.

And then, lo and behold, via the miracle of Facebook, someone shared a link to this map of New Brunswick’s waterfalls. It’s incomplete, say the creators, but it looks pretty darn comprehensive to me.

Exploring NB’s hidden treasures just got easier.

Which means we’ve got a summer full of exploring to get to. Can’t wait! 🙂