Onward Ho

Over the last dozen years of witnessing our parents health slowly decline and scrambling to figure out what to do next, my sisters and I often communicated by email.

Whenever things became overwhelming, or too sad or one of our parents were having an especially difficult day, one of my sisters started signing off with the words “Onward ho”.

It became our battle cry. Our encouragement. It meant, yes, this is hard but there is nothing we can do but pick up the reins and keep moving forward. One step in front of the other.

Onward ho.

Last weekend was the Celebration of Love for our parents. There was music, dancing and fireworks. There was a joining of family, friends, neighbours and stories. There was a lifetime of tears and laughter condensed into one magical, emotional, healing weekend.

In many ways it was my parents final harvest of memories, moments and lives forever touched.

On Tuesday I dropped our sons off at the airport, watched the last silver glint of their planes slice through our Peace Country skies and then drove to the condo one last time to make sure everything was in order for the new owners. Then I dropped off all our keys and FOBS at the realtors office and went home to…this. Whatever this is. I am still figuring it out.

At the Celebration of Love we had given out tree seedlings and I took a few of the leftovers, despite knowing the resulting trees would be way too big for our small yard. On Thursday I drove back out to the farm where on Sunday our family had gathered to spread our parents ashes and I planted two of the trees there.

At the farm, a pair of almost-empty graineries held the last oats my father harvested well over a dozen years ago. The door had come off one of the graineries and moisture had found its way in, resulting in rotting patches of oats. I remembered Dad dumping a pile of rotten grain by the garden for my mother one year. The resulting compost was unbelievably rich, fluffy and easy to work with.

I often added whole grain in careful layers to my compost bins on the farm to heat things up fast and kill any weed seeds. Warning! You do have to be careful when using grain near anything flammable that you don’t layer it too thick as it can get hot enough to combust and start a fire. And in the case of rotting grain, try not to breathe in any of the grain dust as it can be full of mould spores and other dangerous stuff.

That said, I scrounged around the trunk in the car and found a lone garbage bag, along with a few cloth grocery sacks and proceeded to carefully fill them all with a bounty of rotting oats to haul home to my city compost bin. It feels nice knowing that my father’s last grain harvest will become part of my new garden.

It’s been an intense week of endings and beginnings, but like compost and gardens, nothing in our world ever truly ends or begins. It just keeps circling and returning over and over in different forms.