Monday Morning Musings

Posted on January 22, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

Just another day in paradise shoveling snow


Is it possible to bottle affection?  In the span of two days last week, I attended the biggest wake and funeral in my lifetime. Was it for someone rich and famous? A politician? A rock star? A professional athlete earning gazillion dollars?

No. It was for one of the meekest and kindest human beings ever put on this planet. Make no doubt about it. There was an outpouring of grief for the loss of Bernie Vosman. But there was such joy and celebration of a life well lived. Everyone had a Bernie story… and a few “Bernieisms!”  For someone who couldn’t read or write, he certainly wrote a masterpiece in his 58 years on this earth.

Not surprisingly, the response I got to my tribute to Bernie received the biggest response… ever. I have posted 844 stories on my website over the past five years.  Bernie was a genuine superstar in the eyes of those who knew him. The only difference, is that Bernie didn’t have the inflated ego of people we consider superstars.

From Bernie’s obituary…. We know that Bernie would be pleased if, in his memory, people would follow his example of unbiased judgement and be good to one another.

St. Andrew’s rocks. So does Pomquet, Tracadie, Havre Boucher, Heatherton, Lochaber and several other small communities here and everywhere else in rural Canada. These places know how to host a crowd and treat people properly. With military precision, the women of the C.W.L. in St. Andrew’s hosted a lunch after Bernie’s funeral for a huge throng. It was amazing to see how they were able to feed so many, so quickly. So impressive.


The people who should read this, won’t. So right off the bat, I’m preaching to the converted. And, at the same time, wasting my breath. A carefully chosen rant is therapeutic wouldn’t you say?  I went for my morning walk last week after a snowfall… not a major storm but enough that the crew at our apartment complex ( average age just north of 70 ) were out shoveling sidewalks and cleaning off cars in anticipation of the plow coming later to clean the parking lot.

And school was cancelled.

I was passing a house and the 80 something owner was out labouring with shovel in hand. I happen to know that his wife has been in poor health and there is a good chance that he was taking her for a medical appointment. I asked him how he was. “Terrible” was his response. I passed many other driveways and everyone who was shovelling was old.

And where were the young people who could make a buck and perhaps do something for senior citizens? Probably in bed, “with visions of computer games dancing in their heads. “ I don’t want to tarnish all young people with the same brush but I hear this lament repeatedly. Yeah, yeah, I know. Kids are different today but not going out and helping other people (especially old people) after a storm is indefensible. ( With apologies to the handful that do help out ).

There. I feel much better and will now dismount from my high horse.

I have been to a lot of cafés in my lifetime but not a “death café.” My curiosity was piqued when I saw a promo for a death café to be held at the library this past Saturday. I decided to attend. From what I could gather, it was an opportunity for people to come and discuss death openly, a subject that has been taboo in many cultures since time immemorial. And that’s precisely what it was. There was no formal agenda and certainly no hidden agenda by the organizers. It was simply an opportunity for people from many walks of life to discuss the many aspects of death and dying.

“Faces in the Crowd” will resume this Thursday.

I also have a great story coming up. Betty and I stopped by the Tall and Small for coffee on Saturday morning. We had coffee with two other women, one a retired nurse from St. Martha’s. She told us about something that happened in the old St. Martha’s a long time ago. It was hilarious. Keep your eye out for this one called “The Milk of Human Kindness.”

Have a great week.



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Bernie Here – A True Special Olympian

Posted on January 18, 2018 under Storytelling with 9 comments

Bernie Vosman 1960-2018


“Go rest high on that mountain,

Son, your work on earth is done.”

Go Rest High on That Mountain. Vince Gill

Bernie Vosman was my friend.

But then again, Bernie was everyone’s friend.

Bernie was a unique person. He was loyal, kind, dependable, witty, and charitable and had an unbelievable work ethic. I got to know him during my years as administrator of the CACL Workshop. We teased each other relentlessly, something for which he became well known. Over the years, he asked many a married man, “How’s your wife?” When he was questioned on his own marital status, he would quip,” I’m not married. I have no money. Me teasing.”

He participated in the Special Olympics for decades and in 1988, traveled to Calgary for the National Games. Amongst all the participants and volunteers at these games, numbering in the thousands, Bernie was given the “Spirit of The Games “award. That speaks volume about his character.

He attended the CACL Workshop for many years and as the supervisor of the woodworking shop said, “Bernie was the backbone of the woodshop. He always knew what to do. He didn’t need instructions and could operate every piece of equipment.” He was considerate of others and was “a really good soul,” according to another staff member. We can all attest to that.

Participants at the Workshop enjoyed outings such as canoeing.  Bernie was always keen to participate… as long as it didn’t conflict with work!

He branched out and started doing work in the community. At the time of his death, he was employed by Nova Construction. Nick, his supervisor, said that Bernie worked with a purpose. “He was never idle. When his regular duties were complete, he would come and ask if he could do something else to help out. He was our morale guy.”

While we will all sorely miss Bernie, it was his family that Bernie cherished the most. His siblings adored him and treated him with dignity and respect. And Bernie returned it in kind, along with some carefully chosen quips! His sister Mary put him on the bus on his first and last day, a span of some 51 years. His work ethic around the farm was legendary. He was proud of his Dutch heritage and while unable to speak the language, he understood every word when it was spoken.

Back in the 80’s, his brother Johnny, who was running the dairy farm, was attending a Bulldogs playoff hockey game at the arena. He became concerned as the game went into triple overtime, knowing the cows needed to be milked. When he arrived home, Bernie has milked every cow and fed them as well. “How did you know how much feed to give each cow,” queried Johnny? “I went by the size of the udder,” replied Bernie. When John tested the milk later, everything was perfect. Bernie was one smart man.

Bernie loved his parents, Bill and Diny and he was their pride and joy. His siblings say that their parents were able to spend their last 20 years together in their house primarily because of the help Bernie provided. When Bill died, Bernie put his arms around his mother’s shoulder and said, “I’ll take care of you.”

At the end of every day, Bernie would go to his bedroom and rehash the events of the day…to himself…out loud. Anyone going by his door would think that there were four people talking.

Son. Brother. Uncle. Friend.

A family member said, “Bernie was our glue. He kept our family close.”

When Bernie arrives at the pearly gates, as he no doubt will, he will stride through those gates and say, “Bernie here.”


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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on January 15, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with one comment

Saguaro National Park – Arizona

( Peter MacDonald photo )


Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

Loosely translated for those of you not familiar with the phrase, it means “ my bad.” It comes from a Latin prayer called The Confiteor which means, “I confess.”

I waxed eloquently last week about the evils of Nabilone. Are you still humming the music to Abilene?! I still have issues with “Big Pharma,” and make no apologies for that sideswipe. This column is meant to be light hearted. There’s more than enough potty language flying around these days.

I did a pretty good job at trashing Nabilone. And this, after only taking a single pill. I received lots of feedback, some public and some private. Most of you just had a good laugh. But for a few of you, medications like Nabilone are game changers. I received a bit of “schooling.” Apparently (and not surprisingly) it takes several weeks before a person’s body adapts to a drug like Nabilone. In some cases, people with chronic and severe pain have been given a new lease on life.

So, Nabilone, this is my official mea culpa. Sorry, but I won’t be taking you to the prom. I have a book to write and am involved in quite a few community endeavours and cannot afford to wait for you to ask me to dance in 4-6 weeks’ time. I’m in enough of a fog as it is.

Small community newspapers matter. I am very fortunate to have multiple platforms to publish my stories but I think newspapers are still my favorite. There’s just something about holding the written word in your hands while sipping coffee… or wine. The Highland Heart has been around our community for quite a few years now. I love the paper. It is local and it is grassroots. When I’m hanging out in the Doctor’s office or sipping a dark roast at the Tall and Small, I often grab the HH to see what’s going on in our community.

Full disclosure. I am a regular contributor to this publication (and don’t receive remuneration). I am astonished at how many people stop me to say they’ve read something of mine in the Highland Heart.

So, here’s the deal. The paper is for sale. You could be the new owner. If you are interested, contact Sarah Armstrong. You just might be the next media mogul!

Profound sadness. I came home from an event the other night and Betty informed me that Bernie Vosman had died. It really and truly felt like a kick in the stomach. Bernie was one of the finest and most decent human beings I have ever met. I got to know him during my days as administrator of the CACL Workshop.

In the eyes of Bernie’s family, colleagues and friends, he was a superstar. I will tell you more about this incredible guy on Thursday as I pay tribute to a life well lived.

Have a great week.

P.S. OK. So you’re wondering, “What in the hell is the picture of the cactus all about?” That was taken by my son Peter in Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona a few years ago. Hoping to spend some time there in March. Apparently it’s the place to go for arthritis sufferers.

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