As her phone was going off, she apologized for the abrupt but necessary departure. I was grateful for every minute and felt a little guilty for stealing her time. As we quickly finished our coffee, tea and said our goodbyes, the grave reality of a day in the life of Lori set in. As I was heading out for an unknown afternoon, Lori was making her way upstairs to meet with the medical team to deliver the news to a long time family that end of treatment was near. My heart just sank and again I felt the shock and isolation of knowing another precious life was about to be lost while the cafeteria and hallways bustled with noise. It was only noon, but this was not the first loss of the day. Lori did not share names, places, or any details further than I have shared here but with that sliver of information I left Sick Kids with a heavy heart and a racing mind.
It likely comes as no surprise to you that I have “Big Emotions”. Wandering the grounds out front and feeling helpless, wishing there was something I could do, I set out to explore the streets of Toronto for the last part of my trip. I feel a little vulnerable sharing my sequence of events, as it is not particularly common or anything like typical day for myself. I debated keeping it as a secret treasure for myself, but it felt so moving that I am pulled to share. It brought me to tears and indulged me some simple pleasures along the way. It is all true and still a bit of a beautiful mystery to me.
Blocks away from the hospital I could see the steeple of a beautiful church coming up. I felt an instant desire to change direction and head in. I pushed that thought down and kept walking down the next street where I had intended to go. I was then struggling with my avoidance and debating whether to turn back and follow my heart. To my delight, I saw the front side of the church with welcoming steps in the sunshine just ahead. The front was on the street I had chosen and the entrance was now only steps away. I hadn’t missed my chance.
There was a strong force drawing me in and I knew in that moment I had to go inside although I wasn’t sure why yet. Once inside I took a seat in a pew at the back. I looked around in wonder at the beautiful inside and the small group of people dispersed around the room praying. I instantly began to cry and started to pray. I prayed for Lori to have God’s strength to support the family not far away, I prayed for the family that they would have the strength and courage to get through this, I prayed for the child, for peace. I sent them all the love and light I could muster up through my tears.
Moments later the priest came out and everyone began to rise. A mass was beginning. I knew I had to stay and listen to what I was there for. As the priest began his sermon I almost burst out laughing when he said “today we are here to talk about peace my brothers and sisters”. He asked us to look past peace as a means to describe a lack of war or battles, but to focus on peace within our hearts. He asked us each to pray for peace within our own hearts and for peace within the hearts of others. And that is exactly what I did.
I left the church now with a smile on my face and a peaceful calm in my heart. Not knowing where to go or what to do next. The next pleasant surprise came when I crossed the street to realize I was at the door step of the AGO, the Art Gallery of Ontario. This may not seem like a big deal, but I have a deep love of art and creativity in general. It couldn’t have been a more perfect next stop. I knew once again this is where I was intended to be and that I would spend the rest of my afternoon here. As I walked in, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the building and all the possible ways to go. To my delight a tour was just kicking off steps ahead of me so I joined three other women for over an hour of learning and loving it.
The lovely volunteer explained the history of the building before we set out to examine our first piece. She explained that each guide has their favourites and that each tour is unique, changing daily based on what they feel like highlighting that day. We arrived in the pristine room showcasing one the gallery’s prized possessions, soon to be on loan to Italy. I look up and see it is a huge work of art depicting a biblical scene “The Massacre of the Innocents” by Peter Paul Rubens. Of course it would be, out of all the thousands of pieces of art in the gallery we would begin with a 15 minute discussion on a painting filled with dying babies and grief stricken mothers fighting off the king's soldiers. As we spoke about what the colours, lighting and overall scene meant to us, I couldn’t help but think of the family back at the hospital and the bereaved mothers I have been spending time with recently. This path seems to permeate every area of my life lately. I am sometimes nervous but always grateful for the experiences and growth it is bringing me. Where it continues to lead no one nows. That is the beauty for all of us.
Whether it is the route we had planned, the expectation of what the day might hold for us, the way the brush hits the canvas or the way a stranger can leave a lasting impact on another, we all are subject to endless possibilities as our days unfold. When I think about the children’s hospital, the church and the art gallery I see common themes start to emerge from the vastness between them. I see beauty, peace and hope in each building and within its walls. I see the combination of the greatness that has come before us, the ongoing learnings, interpretations, humanity, faith and new beginnings. I see the eternal combination of darkness and light. In the calm or chaos of your day, don’t forget to take a moment and look out for the possibilities that might be presenting themselves to you or the new beginnings that might alter your route in ways your had never imagined. I promise I will try and do the same.
XO ~ Alanna
(I have included a selection of photos from the Gallery for any who are interested in some of the other pieces that caught my eye)