The Parallel Parliament

Glen Pearson

Our Bridges Are Burned

Posted on February 8, 2019

I was in a car accident during a bleak snowstorm last week and as I worked my way through the process that always follows those in such situations, I took more time than normal to look through social media.  It was a mistake.   I’d always vowed not to fall into that rut … and then I did.  

There was much to learn from those hours spent on the digital frontier, but little of it was edifying or even instructive.  What there was instead was a lot of shooting, manufactured mayhem and average citizens left hiding behind their doors and peering out their windows.  It wasn’t literal, of course.  The shooting involved enflaming words not bullets.  The mayhem wasn’t a melee of violence, but opinionating on anything and everything using Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.  And the citizens hiding out?   I used that more figuratively than anything else.  So many have grown disenchanted with the era of constant attack that they increasingly refuse to open their digital doors and venture out into the mainstream.

 Most of us believe in our community and seek to enhance and build it.  But we also wish to be recognized as important members of that community and briskly pursue “likes” and “retweets” in order to validate our worth.  In order to keep numbers up, we retweet or share numerous bits of information that, when added altogether with everyone else doing the same thing, actually numb the minds of readers.

And it gets worse. Everywhere, people think others are idiots or ignorant, just as those opposing them think the same in return. Politics is the worst for this. People who believe that poverty is a bad thing nevertheless disagree on how to alleviate it and vent their anger as a result.  And their need for more followers means that they will broadcast their invectives as publicly as they can so as to gain attention.  The same goes for every other subject of meaning – immigration, economy, housing, drugs, race and equality.  We have expressed our enraged opinions and have little left to show for it. As Jane Austen reminded us in Pride and Prejudice, “Angry people are not often wise.” Or, as Mark Twain was once heard to comment: ““Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” 

I have been guilty of such things myself at times, but came away from those experiences feeling grimy and demeaned.  In my desire to fight for what I believed in, I might have ended up destroying the very trust and respect required among citizens to build a better future.  

Because so many aren’t in positions of leadership or able to make significant collective decisions, they have found in social media the ability to vent in ways that make them feel equal to such people.  But they’re not – most often through no fault of their own – and the brushfires their accusations and veiled attacks have ignited most frequently drive the community they care about into hiding – worse, into fear and isolation.

My days wandering on the frontier taught me that tweeting, retweeting or sharing our angry opinions, though mostly well meant, have in fact reduced us, balkanized us, and duped us into thinking we’re activists when in fact we are somewhat more like digital arsonists. By the time we’re all done blustering, every bridge will be burned and destroyed.  The true tragedy in all this is that someday, if and when we come to our senses looking out over the desolation, and we feel the urge to reach out and come back together, the very bridges of trust, respect and necessity we will require to build again will be piles of ash.

To realize that we were unproductive, even mean, in how we treated others with whom we disagreed will be a moment of reckoning.  But with every reckoning must come reconciliation if that awareness is to mean anything.  One person in such a situation disclosed to me this week that, in weaponizing his language, he had become like the very trolls he despised.

We are all people of differing opinions and solutions – human, natural and essential.  But a community is more than that.  It recognizes that out of all these insights we must cobble a life together requiring reasoning, patience, debate and comprehension, and should that fail, everything will fail.  We require bridges – solid ones of durability and yet flexible enough to handle our collective distinctions.  But we need pathways across our divides if we are to carve a compassionate community out of a vengeful frontier.  One can only hope that there are enough bridges remaining to assist us in passing over to each other.

Credit: Daily Mirror

Are There Lessons For Us In Brexit?

Posted on February 5, 2019

Actually, there are dozens of things we can learn from Brexit chaos that has torn at the very fabric of Britain and the European Union.  British polls continue to verify that most respondents can hardly even recall what the referendum was about and most express confusion over whether there can be any hope for a successful outcome.  These lessons for politics, citizenship, populism and the media are vast and have some things to tell any lover of democracy.

Much of the confusion likely comes down to political parties playing with the fear of the future that so empowered the populist movement in Europe in recent years.  British newspapers are discovering that, while many still hold to their positions to leave or stay, the vast majority can no longer say why.  In other words, the angst felt by British citizens over their fate was really about anger more than reason.  They wanted change and quickly fell in with those who promised it.  It was just so easy to blame the EU for the immigration quotas, the opportunity for Europeans to vie for jobs in Britain itself, and for the rampant populism that was sweeping countries like Germany and France to connect to a similar spirit among the Brits.  

Will an implemented Brexit stop all of this?  Not a chance. It’s a globalized world and any nation seeking to construct walls, whether physical, social or legislative, to keep that erupting world out can only lose out to greater forces.  It’s ironic that a nation once so determined to not only live in the broader world but actually control it through empire would now tell that world to “push off.”

The evidence publicized during the Brexit campaign had no real veracity to it.  Like Trump’s wall, it satisfied the simple desires of those aware of their nation losing its clout in the world and seeking to make it great again by turning inward.  They believed the “leaders of leave” when told that the funds saved by no longer paying for EU membership could be plowed into domestic British issues.  This was false on at least two levels.  First, the financial penalties levied to pullout of the historic arrangement were steep and destined to hollow out most of the economic advantages of departing.  And second, other powerful political forces in places like Scotland significantly benefitted to EU investments while keeping English dominance at bay.  All those promises were just a means for fomenting anger without knowing with any certainty what was true and what wasn’t.

Then there was the grand lie that Britain’s pressing troubles – worker stagnation, immigration fallout, steep debts, high healthcare costs and political unrest – emerged because of the country’s partnership with their allies on the European continent. There is no truth to this.  In fact, it was Britain’s joining the EU that paved the way for its renaissance prior to the turn of the millennium.  As with America, the true reason for most of the blame fell squarely on the financial fallout of the Great Recession in 2007 and the refusal of Britain’s financial sector to curtail its own greed and extremism. It undercut public works, pressed for the lowering of corporate taxes, and desired above all the shrinking of government itself – the only institution that could curtail its dominant designs. Well, it succeeded, and now Britain is reaping the whirlwind.

What remarkable in all of this is that virtually no one in Britain can now predict any likely outcome. That was also true at the beginning of the process, but no one was really looking for facts then, merely scapegoats.  A powerful alliance of the political and financial sectors played the British insecurity, for the sake of gaining themselves even larger pieces of the financial pie.  And now all bets are off – every single one of them.  If the people were fearful before, they are terrified now.  Politics manipulated them and financial elites starved them and now they feel lost.

We shouldn’t be surprised to discover that Canada can learn much from the Brexit experience.  There are rampant political populists in various regions of the country who relish dividing the electorate so as to conquer us. And there are financial forces pressing hard every day in every federal, provincial and civic domain to get government regulations out of the realm of capitalism so that national wealth can be gained.  It’s ridiculous.  There is already more wealth generated in Canada than ever, but it’s no longer ending up in the pockets of average Canadians or necessary institutions.

Progressive change is one thing; revolution out of ignorance is quite another.  There likely is no longer the chance of a favourable outcome from the Brexit experience.  But there are key lessons to be acquired and the first is to never let elites – political or financial – plays us against each other in order to gain power and wealth. Give in to such forces and soon enough our own country will begin turning in on itself and tearing itself into separate parts – the polar opposite of what made Canada one of the great nations on earth to live in.

Life Among the Stones – Epilogue

Posted on February 1, 2019

The funeral had been an unexpected affair.  The length of the nave at St. James was like a busy roadway, people coming and going in all directions, seeking seats to park themselves in.  Standing off to the side from where the choir sang, Jennifer, Elizabeth and Robin had a direct line of vision on those in attendance.

“My goodness, it appears as though all of Fleet Street has come to show their respects,” noted Elizabeth, her keen eye and connections to London’s elite apparent.  Fleet Street had been the home of England’s great publishing houses that had planted themselves there since the 16thcentury.  The name itself had become synonymous with the country’s newspaper industry.

Elizabeth then noted the forlorn, but well-fashioned figure of Amit Laghari, Alberta’s only superior at Society magazine, along with about a dozen of her former colleagues at the publication’s office.    She then noted publishers, editors, and writers from a dozen other publications crowding into one another, each seeking a pew somewhere near the front.

Fifteen minutes before the service was to begin, the sanctuary was full.  The three of them recognized neighbours, old friends from the time when Sandy was still alive, and individuals from the various causes Alberta had chosen to assist with feature stories in Society.  There were some celebrities who had been featured in the magazine’s pages, but, primarily, the church was full of the rank and file of England’s mainstream society.  

The service, unlike most Anglican events, was mercifully short.  This had been Alberta’s  wish, expressed to her children months earlier.  The message, delivered by the minister Alberta had known for two decades, spoke eloquently about her life’s many dimensions – family, marriage, publishing, the early months in Edinburgh, the death of Sandy, and her struggles with  health challenges during the past year.  He never informed the people in the sanctuary of the true nature of her Alzheimer’s – again, at her request.  

It was then that the choir, well acquainted with Alberta Alexander, sang a medley of some of her favourite religious music.  The lofty voices of the sopranos seemed to lift beyond the flat ceiling and pitched roof, and out into the heavens.  Both Jennifer and Robin, having been away from church for a number of years, were deeply moved by the quality of the voices and the acoustics of the sanctuary.

The minister informed the congregation that the final hymn had been a personal choice of Alberta’s.  There were others, over the years, that she had favoured, but as her end drew near the words of this particular hymn had carried the day for her.  She especially wanted the words dedicated to those nearest to her.  The text brought Elizabeth, and Alberta’s children into a place of deep longing.  It was beautiful, and lofty, and drew them forward.

Where the harps of angels ring,
And the blest forever sing,
In the palace of the King,
Meet me there;
Where in sweet communion blend
Heart with heart and friend with friend,
In a world that ne’er shall end,
Meet me there.

On the happy, golden shore,
Where the faithful part no more,
When the storms of life are o’er,
Meet me there;
Where the night dissolves away
Into pure and perfect day,
I am going home to stay—
Meet me there.

Meet me there, meet me there,
Where the tree of life is blooming,
Meet me there;
When the storms of life are o’er,
On the happy golden shore,
Where the faithful part no more,
Meet me there.

The reception following the service was held in the church parlour – a lavish room, oval shaped, filled to capacity.  It was intended to be brief, but so many people desired to tell her children of how Alberta had been instrumental in their lives.  She had pushed for their stories to be published, and they never forgot it – narratives of women in the military, of the dying off of the older World War II generation, of the horrors faced by the women of Afghanistan, and of how, in losing its world-wide reach, Britain had lost its way in that world.

“She pushed me very hard a few years ago to allow a large piece on Alzheimer’s and dementia,” noted Amit Laghari.  “It wasn’t the type of subject we would normally cover, but she insisted.  When I asked if she was acquainted with anyone suffering from the disease, she said no.  But, when I pressed concerning its importance to her, she replied, “Our magazine is called Society, Amit, and these diseases are about to become epidemic in Britain, especially as people live longer. People need to know about this.”

Laghari paused for a moment to hold his emotions in check.  “Of course, I published it,” he continued.  “I always followed Alberta’s hunches, and they were always right.  We had a higher response rate to that article than most.  Neither one of us could have predicted, at the time, that it would take her away from us.” He waved his hand from side to side, implying that he could speak no more, and moved off.

Eventually, Jennifer, Robin, and Elizabeth found their way back to Clerkenwell around the supper hour. Elizabeth had picked up some Chinese food, but no one felt very hungry.  They drank and remembered, but the loss in their spirits, from Alberta’s absence, was acute.  

After dark, Robin said he would like to go to the church gravesite to see the stone placed next to that of their father.  Elizabeth agreed to join him.  For Jennifer, it was too much.  Her heart heavy from all that had transpired in the last week, she sent them off, saying that she would be heading to bed and would see them at breakfast in the morning.

She sat in her mother’s favourite chair, situated by the heating element beneath the mantle.  It had been Sandy’s favourite, when he had been alive. She thought back to the hymn that had closed the service.  She sang what she remembered of it, with the words “Meet Me There” playing over and over in her mind.  In that moment, it didn’t matter to Jennifer whether heaven or God was real.  What consoled her was the reality that Alberta’s faith had been as steady as always in the weeks and months before her passing.  It was enough for her, and that was enough for her daughter.  

She asked the questions billions had asked before her.  Will I see her again?  Is there a kind of life after death?  Will Dad be there?  Will there be a place for me, for Robin?  And were the answers more important than what she already knew?  As with love, loyalty, or the essential goodness of human beings, the idea of something following death had tugged at humanity since the beginning.  That urge, that pull, might just be enough to give her hope that there would be a gathering, one day, of her family.

How foolish people were to believe that immortality meant never dying.  Our last breath is not the issue; our next breath is.  How we live will largely determine how we die.  Was Alberta’s own story not enough to prove that very point?  She lived as the finest example of womanhood that Jennifer had ever known.  But she could be like that, too – she could work at living a larger life that mattered, just like her mother.  Alberta not only left her an example, but a spirit, an expansive DNA that could adapt and grow and learn.

She went to the bookshelf beside the fire and pulled out the C. S. Lewis book, The Last Battle– one of the Chronicles of Narnia.  She remembered asking her parents to read out one passage above all others – one that had given her hope, and a sense of the future.  Jennifer found the page in an instant and found the section that Alberta had so carefully marked for her years earlier:

“And as he spoke, he no longer looked to them like a lion; but the thing that began to happen after that was so great and beautiful.  And for us this is the end of all the stories.  For them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

It consoled her to know that her mother, and father, were living in that chapter.  She rubbed her thumb over the worn page that had been such a part of her life when young.  She could hear their voices, sometimes separate and sometimes together, reading the lines.  She had been swept up in imagining that great world, and felt the same way as she imagined it now.

Before she went to bed, Jennifer went out the side door to look out over her mother’s garden.  She drew in the smell and the very soul of it, as her mother had done for decades.  She went back inside, briefly, to turn on the kitchen light.  Its rays fell on the stone arrangement, and she went to it and sat down, picking up and running each stone through her fingers. But, as she looked on the stones, she saw the beautiful brass key that Alberta had worn about her neck since her honeymoon all those years ago.  How did it get there?

And then, she knew. Alberta’s last moments, her final walk out into the winter, had been for the purpose of laying the key on the stones and over Sandy’s lock.  Her last act was to be with her husband.  Her wish was now granted.

She rose to leave, but thought better of it.  On a whim, she grabbed her mother’s gardening hoe, pulled the rocks to the perimeter, and began digging.  Alberta had said she had buried the lock.  Did she?

It was only a minute later that metal struck metal, and she pried out the old brass lock that had once protected the secrets of their early love.  She moved it about in her hands, and then wiped its surface.  It was a heavy lock.  Her mother had been telling the truth, just as she had always done.

Jennifer picked up the key and slid it into the lock.  She then turned it, and it popped open.  The lock and key, together again – as they once were.  She placed them both back in the ground – complete – and covered them over. Then she rearranged the stones the best that her memory could recall.

Placing her hand on the stones and spreading her fingers, she said, “And the two shall become one.”

It was too much, and the emotions couldn’t be contained.  The thought of that unity, of the tug she felt at that very moment of two souls reunited, flushed her being with a healing sense of peace.

She stood, looking down one final time before heading inside, and said quietly: “I will meet you there.”


Challenging Capitalism From Within

Posted on January 31, 2019

The field of Democratic candidates for 2020’s American election is mushrooming and it’s destined to expand further.  The infusion of left-wing socialism within the party has filled it with new life and not a little frustration.  Already divisions are making themselves apparent – an emerging reality that could either help or hinder the party as it seeks the steer the country away from right-leaning trends.  As Republicans have signed over their credibility to one leader who most don’t even trust, Democrats are struggling to get their legitimacy back without a real leader at the moment, other than Nancy Pelosi’s role in Congress.

I confess to having been intrigued by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren’s influence on American politics for years, largely motivated, and frequently inspired, by her two books  A Fighting Chance (2014)and This Fight is Our Fight (2017).   Given the party’s beleaguered ongoing love affair with the neo-liberal status quo, many have looked to Warren to present a formidable challenge to its cozy relationship with Wall Street.  

This isn’t a post about the feisty senator and holder of the seat that Ted Kennedy once dominated.  Rather, it’s about how capitalism itself is increasingly being viewed within the Democratic Party.  The relationship is no longer symbiotic and it grows increasingly feisty the closer Democrats get to the 2020 election.  In all of this, Warren has become symbol – not for removing capitalism but reforming it to harmonize with the modern version of civil society.  It’s a profile directly opposed to the socialist trend in the party, but something that might gain traction in the next two years.

Capitalist leaders need to hearken to what she is saying instead of denouncing her in such demonic fashion as they are at present.  Why?  Not because of her pointed reasoning but for the sentiment flowing through the broader society that feels that it’s time for capitalism to reconsider its effect on democracy. Will Warren’s challenge succeed? The odds are long, but she is formidable.

Admittedly, Warren has made that somewhat more difficult following her proposal of two legislative pieces that speak to serious reform:  the Accountable Capitalism Act and the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act.  The former would permit workers to occupy 40% of board seats of the largest corporations as a countermeasure to corporate boards gutting workforces in favour of massive profits.  The latter would prohibit federal officers and politicians, including former presidents, from lobbying Congress for life. 

Of course, these two proposals enrage corporate barons and incense comfortable political figures made secure through outrageous elite donations. But instead of reforming the financial systems to reflect the new mood of the electorate, they choose to excoriate the person in Congress demanding that the physician heal himself.  It’s a sign of how effective Warren has become, not only as a legislator, but a reformed voice for capittalism instead of against it.

Nevertheless, she’s a conscientious supporter and doesn’t suffer fools lightly – especially greedy ones.  Describing herself as a “capitalist to the bone,” Warren most often sees capitalism for what it can be, and perhaps once was.  But she’s a realist and understands that change is only possible through legislation: “I believe in markets and the benefits they can produce when they work. Markets with rules can produce enormous value.”   But then she adds:

“This is a political issue. It’s not a markets issue. There were years of not perfect but fairly well-enforced rules that were pretty firmly hit and held. Then you hit the ’80s and the lobbying by the wealthy and the well-connected steps up and the rules start shifting. The rules tilt just a little more toward the rich and the powerful. Just a little more, just a little more. Enforcement gets weaker and weaker. Remember the whole description that started in the ’80s about deregulation and the beauties that deregulation would bring America? I understand no one wants to have to abide by dumb regulations. I get that, but deregulation became a code word for “fire the cops.” Not the cops on Main Street, the cops on Wall Street.”

Warren is smart enough to remember history.  American companies once shared their wealth with those workers who helped to produce it. And they also made room for investors and shareholders.  But today, half of Americans don’t own any stock or even a retirement pension plan. That means much of the wealth isn’t being spread or shared but narrowed and hoarded.  When the economy goes up and efficiencies and productivity climb along with it, workers nevertheless fall farther behind as the years pass. Warren is quick to note that 84% of the wealth in the stock market only goes to 10% of the population.  And the inequities in it all are only getting worse.

One doesn’t have to agree with all her points, but it must be acknowledged that Warren is picking up on the deep disillusionment among citizens and is seeking to rectify those concerns from within capitalism itself through legislation that would limit monopolies and prove more effective at spreading the wealth.

Elizabeth Warren’s entrance into the presidential race will change dynamics in ways yet unforeseen and unless capitalist decision-makers take up her challenge, it will be inevitable that forces from the left, empowered and angered by the financial system’s sheer exclusiveness and injustice, will eventually seek to do away with it altogether.

Life Among the Stones – Dénouement (Chapter 18)

Posted on January 30, 2019

Things were getting more difficult with each passing week.  Doris, the personal care worker, proved her worth repeatedly, but, still, the load on all of those caring for Alberta was increasing.  And, somehow, in all her confusion and forgetfulness, she knew it.  She could see the strain showing on those around her.

She said as much one morning, as Jenny took her for a walk in the local park.  Her position in the wheelchair was warm enough, covered, as she was, in layers of clothing, a comforter, and a woolen toque.  Seated opposite her, on a cold bench, Jenny talked about anything and nothing – things to keep her mother’s mind engaged with the day. At one point, she blew her warm breath into her chilled palms and then rubbed them together.

“I’m sorry.”

Jenny looked up to see her mother staring at her directly, her eyes clearly in the moment and communicating awareness.”

“What, Mom? Sorry?  Sorry for what?”

“I know this hasn’t been easy for you or Robin.  Every mother is innately programmed to tend to her children, and here I am, needing care every day.  You have a life to live and I’m keeping you from it.”

Jennifer grasped her mother’s gloved hand.  “I’ll get to all that, Mom, but right now, everything I truly want in life is here, with you, by your side, and up here, in your mind.”  The last phrase was uttered as she patted Alberta’s head.

“When you reach my age, everything seems to be slipping away anyway – it’s not just Al …. Al – this disease that causes that.  You lose mobility, your place of employment, the ability to travel or to even ride a horse. But worst of all is that you lose everyone you knew growing up – parents, friends, co-workers – your husband.” The last phrase was said with a tremor in the voice.  “You lose all these things, and in their place … what?  If you’re a relational person at all, there are no more signposts because the people are gone.”

“Robin and I are here, Mom, as is Elizabeth, but I know what you mean.  I might not have understood it as well had Dad not passed.  And now we’re facing your struggles.”

“It’s a visitor.”

“A visitor?  What does that mean?”

“Do you know that when I became pregnant with you, I knew it even before Elizabeth confirmed.  “I had a visitor, and it was making itself known inside me.  I learned I had another visitor when your Dad was gone.  I felt grief when my parents died, but it didn’t linger the way Sandy’s passing did.  He was gone but in his place was the new presence, the knowledge that death had taken up abode in my life and wouldn’t be leaving until it claimed me as well.”

“Oh, Mom, please don’t talk like that!  Let’s enjoy what’s left.”

She knew Alberta would apologize and console her in that moment, but when she looked up, her mother’s mind had gone – off to some faraway place that claimed her attention regardless of the circumstances.  She had reached inside her coat and caressed the golden key the best she could in the cold.

Jennifer felt abandoned but knew the disease – the visitor – had moved in and taken her spot.  “I love you, Mom … I love you.”

She stood, pulled the comforter away from the two large wheels supporting the chair, and wheeled Alberta inside, without another word being said.  The house was a spacious one by English standards, permitting Jennifer to place a cot in her mother’s bedroom so that she could keep her company. For half an hour, she undressed her mother, changed her diaper, helped brush her teeth, and then, placing her mother’s arms about her neck, swivelled her out of the chair and onto the bed.

Her mother tucked in, Jennifer turned out the light and moved to her own cot when Alberta said, “Time to pray, Mommy.  Time to pray.”

Moments such as these were resented by Jenny; she felt so insufficient in speaking to a God she had hardly acknowledged for years.  Yet she knew her mother required it, even if she had journeyed back over the years to her youth.  Jenny knelt beside her and grabbed her hand.  

“Dear God, thank you for today, and for Mommy and Daddy.  Thank you for little Alberta, and for this house.”

“Don’t forget Patch, Mommy.” Patch, named so because of the black patch of hair that surrounded one eye, had been her constant companion in her youth.”

“And Patch, God – we pray for him, and we thank you that he’s always so happy.  We pray that you give Alberta a good night’s sleep and that she’ll wake refreshed in the morning.  Amen.  Amen.”

Jenny rose, kissed her mother on the cheek, and chided herself for such an unoriginal prayer. Still, it was the best she could do.

As she shuffled to her bed, a voice behind her said, “And Sandy, Jenny – let’s pray for Sandy.”

She turned to look at her mother in the dim light.  But, even in the darkness, she could see that Alberta had returned from wherever she had been.  Her eyes were full of understanding.  Kneeling once more, Jenny said, “Dad, if you can hear us, we love you.  We miss you every day.  We hope you know that.  Thank you for all that you taught us and for all the comfort you gave us.  And now, God, we ask that you comfort Mom with thoughts of her husband as you did down here.  Both of you, watch over this dear and gentle soul – so strong but so humble, so principled but so understanding, so loving but so capable of receiving love. Amen.  Amen.”  Jenny smiled to herself, knowing that the prayer she had just uttered was much better than the previous one.

As her eyes rose to meet her mother’s, the gentleness and longing for her daughter was unmistakable. “Tell Robin I said good night.  I love you both.”  She clasped the key as she whispered this.

Sometime later in the night, Jennifer woke and looked over to insure her mother was okay.  Her bed was empty.  She bolted upright and went straight to the washroom – she wasn’t there, either.  Panicking, she grabbed a robe and hurried out into the house, turning on all the lights as she went.  “Mom. Mom.”

Robin emerged from his room, alarm on his face.  “She’s gone! We have to find her,” pleaded Jennifer.

It wasn’t unusual for Alberta to move about during the night, but, in recent weeks, it had happened less and less because of her condition.  Jennifer felt this time was different, and it showed on her face. “Okay, Jenny, okay – we’ll find her.”

In an instant, Jennifer knew where her mother was.  She moved quickly to the side patio door and saw the woman’s form hunched over the pile of stones.  “Oh no – God, no!”

Robin followed her quickly outside.  Alberta was half sitting, half lying – crouched over, dressed only in her nightgown. “She must be frozen,” Jennifer said. But in an instant, both knew it was too late.  Alberta’s eyes were closed.  Her face was lifeless.  Jenny touched her neck to be sure and then burst into sobs, the likes of which she hadn’t experienced since the death of her father.

Robin assisted in carrying his mother onto the couch just inside the door, and covered her with a comforter.  He looked down at his mother, expecting her face to be placid, but, instead, it looked strained, as if she were in pain, somehow. They learned later that she had died of a heart attack.  Jenny had called the ambulance and then dialed Elizabeth to deliver the news.  The physician said she would be right over.

The ambulance took longer than expected, arriving only a few minutes before Elizabeth Fairborugh.  The medical crew had already pronounced her gone, but Alberta’s old friend went through her own procedure, to be sure. Unable to restrain herself, she just let the tears flow freely as she knelt forward and kissed her friend on both her cheeks and her forehead.  “To your rest, my dear friend.  To your rest. Very well done.”