“Love is a canvas furnished by Nature and embroidered by Imagination.” ~Voltaire
I stood watching the energy of the ocean glisten with the sun’s emissions of light. I had come with intention- purpose that had taken over three years to culminate.
Reaching into the pocket of my shawl, my fingertips felt the surface and a wave of emotions matched the pounding surf… Let me paint you a picture.
During the Christmas season, I made plans to ring in 2016 in Sidney- by the sea. I had acquired a ticket to see “The Timebenders” perform at the heart of the Saanich Peninsula community ~ Mary Winspear Centre. The theme was Mardi Gras and I found the perfect mask.
Earlier on New Year’s Eve before attending the event, I spent some time at SHAW Ocean Discovery Centre.
I lingered over the aquariums intently- with my eyes scanning all of the sea creatures. My connection to the sea was obvious, to one volunteer member. Tammy watched as I discovered everything that swam, moved or clung to their ocean environment. She came over and struck up a conversation with me. As a volunteer for three years, Tammy could pick out those who were absorbed by what the centre had to offer.
In researching the ‘glass beach’ in Sidney, I found a story about a fire that happened long ago at a hotel, just behind the beach. All the stain glass windows blew out and were carried out by the ocean; overtime the colorful glass was polished by the sea and sand, finding its way to being discovered back upon the shoreline. I liked this legendary tale as it creates vivid imagery.
I also cherished the time spent talking with Tammy, who had sought me out on a day, that held monumental purpose for me.
On my way out, I glanced into an open aquarium and noticed two starfish nestled up against one another. Taking a closer look, I saw one of the starfish was missing an arm. It struck me with profound sense of relation…how I felt like I had lost a body part- a piece of me when Shayla passed away. Yet, as time carried on, much like the starfish, I have regenerated new growth. I will not be the same as I once was- as now I am different- but I have been restored.
As I let the winter sun cast warmth upon the neckline of my shawl, my footsteps took me to a man named Bob. He had been capturing nature’s magnificence, through a camera lens. I spoke briefly with him, unaware our paths would cross later.
I let my hand settle into my pocket again- thinking of the journey of what inspired me to write this movement…
When I feel like no one understands, or like I'm not being heard when I try to speak, I just write-because my paper and pen understands me- Latesha
Since my hotel where I was staying at was right near the ocean, I checked in to Sidney Waterfront Inn & Suites.
From the moment I encountered Julia, I knew my choice of accommodations was perfectly suited. In the time I spent there, I found refuge in those who listened to a mother…letting go.
As I went to my room, I saw behind reception, a whiteboard with a quote- as if written solely for my presence.
Upon entering my suite, I found a full kitchen unit, an electric wood-stove and the softest hotel towels, my hands have ever touched! As my gaze was upon the artwork above my bed, I sat down and reflected what it meant to me. Two ships on the open waters, sailing in different directions.
It settled within me- how I had encountered the greatest love of my life- in a man I saw as my soul mate.
Over the past year, leading me to this point, I accepted the fate of how 24 months would have made all the difference to us. In granting forgiveness to him, I let all of the hurts laid upon me dissipate. In its place, the beats of drums carry us back to our greatest road trip together… to visit the ‘three sisters- Sitka trees.’
Knowing there would always be questions where no answers would ever be found, I needed to place my mind elsewhere. Looking back on the photographs I had captured to this point, allowed me to move forward.
Grounding me to my thoughts was how I had begun this day; paying respects to someone I consider family. In wanting to remember I was not alone in my journey of grief, I went to visit Lindsay’s grave. My soul sister Judy did not know of my plans. I placed a special blue and white Hawaiian flower clip that I had worn on many travels to the Islands. I attached it to the blue rose I had laid on a previous visit.
For me, to come and see Lindsay’s grave site, is to acknowledge how two fragile mothers came together in 2014- on Christmas Day; embracing a friendship created in the heavens.
Back at my suite, I collected my Starbucks gift card sent to me from my treasured friend, Michelle.
|Happy New Year Michelle- Cheers!
As I walked past a fashion store, a mannequin display with a unique paper and feathers dress caught my eye, that my daughter would have adored!
Shayla was passionate about clothes, in addition to the latest designs-she left behind many eclectic sketches of things to wear. I have a drawing of a dress in one of her books. I would love for someone to fuse together the butterfly material I was gifted in Armstrong and Shayla’s imagery. Wearing a dress she created would be like receiving a hug from above.
I was reminded how I have upon my skin, a tattoo of another one of her sketches. Once back at my suite, I looked at it when I was getting ready for my New Year’s night. As my fingertip went over the symbolism of my tattoo, I focussed on everything it encompassed-one word stood out that I had not delved into. L O V E
My focus has been on self-discovery and healing thru my writing. Previous in my life, I had been bathed in blue- a storyteller with an afterglow of sorrow.
“Even tales of loss and hardship give us Courage and open up the doors of Love”- The Book of Negroes
In keeping my mind wide open to all possibilities- I came to understand the unfinished story of my life never would find healing- if not pursued. Love is something I believe will find me… if it is left alone, it will be discovered at a time least expected. When it is rooted, much like the acceptance Shayla found in me, that one person will hold close the obscurity of who I am and never be disloyal to it.
One thing I do miss is being able to trust in Shayla with all of my fears.
I loved her not for the way she danced with my angels but for the way the sound of her name could silence my demons ~ C.P.
As I prepared for the evening, I wanted some music to keep me company. Turning on the T.V. the start of Adele’s “Hello” blasted into my room. Now, I must confess how I would rather be covered in peanut butter, rolled in sparkles and put on display in city centre- than listen to this song again! Brilliant as the Adele 25 CD is, the overplaying of “Hello,” has it locked into the core of my memory. When Miss Piggy and Kermit have covered your song- it’s time to move on to your next No. #1 hit.
Instead, I shut the television off and turned on the radio. Within minutes, I was overcome with emotion. The lyrics to “What’s Going On” by 4 Non Blondes brought me to one year ago, at the previous New Year’s celebration- where it had been performed by the band. This song was a favourite of Shayla and mine as we cranked it up in my old beater of a vehicle; we hit the road like Thelma and Louise, but with a different purpose.
Music was a staple in our world- as the very breathe we took; it matched the flow of the soundtrack of our lives. When I could not express my grief, I let the songs of others resonate the brokenness I felt inside. Over the course of The Heart Pebble Movement, I created many videos that were a reflection of the pain I have endured.
Shayla liked to listen to rap music and it took me years to connect with her taste of this genre. Recently, when I heard the songs that make up the video I did- I had stayed up till 2 am, working on it. My daughter loved the compilation of mash-ups…taking a variety of songs and putting them together. The special video created by myself has three songs that I know Shayla would have enjoyed. The tribute marks my healing journey and is peppered with symbolism.
The opening of the video is where my daughter’s ashes were scattered on the Island of Maui. In the Pinnacle Vodka snapshot, we were in an ice bar in Florida, on our Disneyworld vacation. Another part displays the green bird from Cirque Du Soleil’s La Nouba. I remembered watching this self-conscious character on stage in downtown Disneyworld and how much I could relate. She escapes the cage she has been bound in and is anxious to fly. Yet the green bird can't fly away and join the circus, because she is too awkward. She remains trapped in the urban world like a marionette with tangled strings. This sums up how I felt trapped in the concrete jungle for many years- desperate to escape- but not knowing how, until I found the strength needed to do so. There is also a glimpse of the Piper key I own, which is connected to my first novel, “Under the Sitka Tree.” While this video is coupled with my daughter, it is also a montage of moments in my life that echo who I am and how far I have come in my bereavement journey. I have called it, “Our Last Ride,” as I have reached a new stage of my grief- “ACCEPTANCE.”
Back at the hotel, I was putting on the finishing touches…
My sequined silver and black top came with embroidered words that suit me well:
Likewise, the ring I had bought represented the different directions my life has taken. One part, reaches back across the universe, indicating what is left behind; the other extends forward, to the unfolding of my life, in phenomenal ways. To honour The Heart Pebble Movement, each glitter stone signifies a pebble let go into this world- in remembrance of my daughter. Though there have been many more, it is symbolic of what the cause has meant to me.
Before leaving, to attend the New Year’s Eve celebration, I thought of my Memory Jar. I had made it on the last session of our bereavement support group, GriefShare. Tucked inside the decorated glass container, are scrolls of paper with words I have written, sharing precious memories of Shayla. Whenever, I am missing my babygirl, I pull out a memory and read it to make my heart smile again.
Even when the darkest thoughts try to overwhelm me, I have to set them across the table and recognize the impact they had- in order to receive closure. Now in its place, there remains an empty chair, where I am free and a memory jar full of joy… is by my side.
Once at the event, I sat with two other couples who welcomed me at their table. We were entertained by the fabulous “Timebenders,” who performed in costume to decades of songs from the 50’s thru to the 90’s. The energy of this five piece band, lit the place up with the beats of Michael Jackson, crooning of Stevie Wonder and flamboyance of Lady Gaga.
With every costume change, there were bursts of laughter- especially when the male lead singer appeared in a blond wig, pale dress and white go-go boots, to belt out a melody of ABBA tunes.
Throughout the evening, I met a variety of people.
One lady, Thea, danced to Footloose with me. Margaret, who works at the Mary Winspear Centre, made me feel welcome. Right before midnight, I realized no one was at my table. A couple came and poured champagne and I assumed they were going back onto the dance floor. I watched as husband and wife came over to my side, to stand right next to me. When I told her I thought I would ring in the New Year alone, she smiled, gave me a squeeze and said, “You’re not alone anymore!” I was thrilled that strangers would be so gracious to me.
That night, I toasted the past and those who are a part of it, instilling in me- life’s lessons. It was followed by a toast for my future- one where I am pursuing my gifts as a writer and plans to thrive, within my own words that remind me "He was there all the time..."
After midnight, The Timebenders continued to perform. When they sang the last song, I realized it was in the realm of Shayla that this was a night to remember. As they belted out “Life is a Highway,” I felt goose bumps, as my daughter and I use to play it on every road trip we had taken together. I held close the profound moment- as I thought of everything which binds us to God- uniting me in His love and an abundance of memories.
Getting into my vehicle, I turned on the radio to hear “Oceans” by Hillsong United- one of my favourite Christian artists. Much like the sea needs Oxygen, I need our Lord and Saviour to sustain me.
Once back at the hotel, I met up with Bob again, who had his professional camera and tripod equipment. He was going out on the pier to capture the galaxy of stars. I hurriedly went to my room, changed and joined him outside, under a planetary night sky. We talked about our lives and I spoke of Shayla. Grabbing from my jacket pocket, a container of bubbles, I told him how I always loved to blow the soap suds. As he checked on his camera, I proceeded to release bubbles into the wintry darkness. I stayed there chatting with Bob until 2 am. I felt so alive, under the half moon cast upon the darkened waters, on the first day of 2016!
Look at the stars, look how they shine for you…and all the things you do…Yeah, they were all yellow ~ COLDPLAY
Once back at the hotel-inside my room, I sat on the bed and thought about what had taken place the day before, signifying an end to my lamenting and to The Heart Pebble Movement.
After three years of writing stories…opening the grief of my heart and spilling it out onto the viral pages of the internet, the devotion of this cause is complete for me.
Let me finish the picture…
On the day of New Year’s Eve, I stood on a pier. Placing my hand into my pocket, I pulled from within, the polished stone that was with Shayla when she died. She had been gifted the Rose Quartz heart in White Rock, by a woman who told my daughter she had a vibrant, colourful aura. After Shayla passed, I went thru her purse- which had been with her at the bottom of the reservoir. Zipped inside a pocket was the pink heart that when you looked at it towards the light, it now appeared to contain frozen shards.
The Rose Quartz meaning is to help someone through an emotional trauma of loss. It was part of the inspiration for this movement. My former boyfriend Paul also played a significant role in, The Heart Pebble Movement, as he was the first to release a stone in Shayla’s memory. All of these things had served their purpose and I no longer felt I had to cling to something that was bound for release itself. Looking outward, I saw a distinctive curving line upon the waters…as if it was another indication that Shayla’s legacy will continue on…no matter what.
My storytelling has seen over 16,000 people read about the pebble releases. It has evolved from the tragic loss of my daughter into the journey of me- a grieving mother. I have shared endless photographs, videos, quotes and stories.
I am reminded of this powerful verse:
It is a miracle that I should live long enough to carry on my work as a Jeli, so that my own stories can outlive me – Aminata Diallo
As my lips kissed the polished heart pebble, one last time... I let it slip thru my fingers as I tossed it back into the sea…no longer did it bind me to December 12th; my healed soul is a seeker of His light.
Checking out of my hotel room at Sidney Waterfront Inn & Suites, I gave thanks to Julia, Anita and Jackie- all who I had shared about Shayla. Looking at the whiteboard, Jackie had posted a new quote which made me be in awe of the wondrous verse.
It was as if I could imagine Shayla looking back at me, her smiling face and nodding her head in agreement.
As I type the last words on my blog, I extend a wholehearted gratefulness… to all those who have participated over the years, in The Heart Pebble Movement. Some of you were strangers who I met only briefly, others were friends whose paths crossed and then continued on their own way; one- who was the love of my life- saw our hot air balloon carry on, without us in it. There are those who have remained constant friends- my gathering of sisters by heart- one who has the Aloha spirit, a group of ladies whose Christian sisterhood uplifts me, while another Soul sister, is an angel to me.
|Gift box from my friend Angie, that carried the Rose Quartz to its final release...
I leave you with the one quote that connects me to my first novel,
“Under the Sitka Tree” …
“Under the Sitka Tree” …
We Are Bound by Our Roots~ Not by Our Feet
By TL Alton www.tlaltondesign.com