The purpose of suffering

Column 17 Published in the December 22/29 double issue of the Warroad Pioneer

The snow has finally arrived, covering up the bleak browns and grays of our mild, shortened winter and also masking some precariously thin ice. We’ll have a picture-perfect white Christmas, but now we need a whole lot of sub-zero temperatures to counter the insulation the snow offers.

It’s definitely a winter to stay on the marked trails, which, of course, is always a good idea on this unpredictable lake. This year, let’s all go a bit further to remind and enforce responsible winter fun. Tragedy is a reality none of us want to deal with.

The Angle’s snowmobile club, the Edge Riders, plan to compile and submit trail reports to the papers and radio stations this year, an overdue first. I’ll likely be doing the writing so I hereby commit to staying on topic. Or maybe I’ll include just a little on wildlife sightings or pretty vistas or … ok, ok, just the facts, ma’am.

We Edge Riders and Angleites mourn the passing of our “Grandma” Bonnie Vickaryous. She died here at her beloved Angle on Friday, December 11. It was sudden and so very sad.  She left behind a big family and one of the hardest working men at The Angle. Known throughout the land as a restauranteur and for her amazing cooking, Bonnie’s now going to have to watch from above as Dave eats a lot more plain hamburgers with raw onions at Jerry’s.  Treat him to another round of his usual cranberry juice and give him a tight shoulder squeeze when you see him next.

Bonnie was a pillar of support for the snowmobile club and the community at large. And as a woman who had once traveled the emotional road to hell and back, as most of us ladyfolk have or will do at some point in our lifetimes, she was strength personified. I’ve lived here only four years and can’t count the number of hugs she gifted me in that short time.

A wise woman once told me that the purpose of suffering is to push us through to the other side, to teach us how to teach ourselves to overcome.

I’ve been watching the logging that Manitoba Hydro has been doing along our power line route. It runs all the way from the border cut to the fields north of Sprague. Thousands upon thousands of great white pines, Douglas fir, birch, popple are brought to the ground, laid out in grandiose piles and then run straight into a monstrous wood chipper. Seeing their mighty boughs lying in silent repose fills me with sadness time and again as I drive past. I notice the doomed trees that will be cut by the time I make my return trip and unwittingly impose my suffering-for-their-sake upon them.

But the trees don’t suffer. They don’t grieve the loss of others or their inevitable death. Neither do the countless small animal, bird and insect folk that undoubtedly went through the wood chipper as well. Nature knows no death. Energy can’t be destroyed. It can only change form.  From great waving branches to an unstitched patchwork quilt that blankets the ground beneath the new snow.

Sparks of growth will happen before we can even see the carnage again come spring.

Life is like that.

Loss is so undeniably hard, but loss is also like that. A changing of form. A renewal of faith in Come What May. Acceptance and forgiveness before a deed is even carried out.

One of Bonnie’s many hugs came at the funeral of my own grandfather, Clair Knight, just over a year ago. She offered such tenderness and kind, genuine words. She knew what it was to suffer, and now as she is all-knowing in a different capacity, she gently holds her family and friends through every word, embrace and small worldly kindness that comes their way as they mourn and heal. Even in the tough-love, may they find her smiling upon them with grace as sweet as one of her caramel rolls.

She is one of our great white pines now. Sacred. Beloved. Infinite.

We’ll miss you, Bonnie. And we’ll see you in that great patchwork quilt that warms and comforts All That Is.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Peace and joy be with you.

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