Love You Forever….

There is a story by Robert Munsch titled “Love You Forever”. Those of you who do not know the story, it is about the love a mother has for her child throughout his life. I’ve been thinking about this story for the past few days. Let me explain why.

A few nights ago I received a phone call from my mother. She and I speak often, especially since my father died almost thirteen years ago now.                        

So, a few nights ago I received a phone call from her. She seemed normal on the phone.

“Hello Nic, I don’t want to alarm you, but I’ve fallen and the ambulance will be here shortly.”

She had fallen just after brushing her teeth. She turned to exit the bathroom and fell. She tried clutching to the marble surface of the sink, but cut her index finger deeply – something that would require four stitches. She hit her head on the side of the toilet and landed prostrate on the ground. She tried calling out to her tenant downstairs for over an hour as she pulled herself along the floor towards the kitchen, eventually getting ahold of a phone. It took her an hour and twenty minutes to drag herself fifteen feet. She eventually was able to contact her grand-daughter (my half-niece) who arrived within minutes of getting the call. My Mother, blood streaking from the bathroom into the kitchen from her cut hand, did not want an ambulance straight away. She wanted to have clean socks and for the house to be presentable when the first responders were called. It was over two hours before she was at the hospital.

The next calls I received were from the hospital. A preliminary x-ray showed no broken bones. They called for a CT scan. That scan showed a multi-fractured hip. She was going to need surgery. This is the fear of so many seniors.

The surgeon called me to let me know that he would be putting a few screws and staples in her left hip. He also wanted to let me know that he was reviewing the paperwork and noticed that she had signed a “Do Not Resuscitate” a few years previously. He wanted to prepare me that she was high risk for complications due to her health and age. He wanted to let me know that if there was a complication, her request would be followed. I acknowledged that I was aware of the paperwork she had signed. An hour later my Mom called in a panic. She wanted to be resuscitated and wasn’t “ready to go” yet.  I was able to get in touch with her GP and told him what she had said. He told me he would see what he could do.

I did all I that I could to get up to where she lives as soon as I could. It took me two days to finally get up to the hospital in Hopeless. My daughter gave me a print of a painting she had made called a “Giraffe-Snake”. It was her way of showing her grandmother she was thinking of her.

My Mom was scheduled for surgery at 4pm the day that I drove up to see her. I encountered many delays and they kept pushing her surgery. Finally, at 11:30pm I arrived and she was sent to surgery. I waited in her room at the hospital, but was told she would be kept in recovery for a while, so I left. I was called at almost 3AM that she was doing fine. I was very relieved.

Then it happened. I thought of the lines from the Robert Munsch book:

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always

As long as you’re living, my baby you’ll be.

Here I was back in Hopeless. The place where I was born. The place my Mother raised me. The place where I was abused.

When my Mother was pregnant with me, she was tormented by her sister to abort me. Her sister felt she was too old to have a child, and had aborted one herself since it was the “right thing to do”. My Mother (thankfully) did not listen to her. Despite the constant warnings that I was going to be born “abnormal” or “deformed”, my Mother was determined to have me. The opening line of Munsch’s book is:

A mother held her new baby and very slowly rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And while she held him, she sang:

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.

I thought of her holding me all those years ago. How small I once was.

I spent the next day at the hospital with her. She was putting on a good show of her sarcastic humor, and trying to come across as cool and collected. Deep down she was afraid, and took out her frustrations on the nursing staff who were trying to help her. Her hip hurt, and she needed to start to walk again. Years of being on her own had caused her to develop her own system of movement. It was assessed that her movement pattern had to change as it was going to eventually lead to another fall. She was going to have to learn to walk again. She became even more upset, her blood pressure raising. She cried. I watched helplessly.

Here was my mom who confronted the private school immediately when she discovered bruises all over my body (unaware of the deeper abuse at that time). She didn’t think twice. She was a powerhouse. Another line from Munsch:

But at night time, when he was asleep, the mother quietly opened the door to his room, crawled across the floor and looked up over the side of the bed. If he was really asleep, she picked up that nine-year-old boy and rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And while she rocked him she sang:

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.

When I left the hospital on the second night, I returned to my room and turned on the television. The Empire Strikes Back was playing. When my Mom was ill when I was a child, it was the Empire Strikes Back that I would watch over and over. It was something I watched when I recovered from the knife attack in the snow. It was now on again, reminding me of the Power of the Force. That we are luminous beings. Life creates us, makes us grow. We are children of the Force.

I am writing this while the movie continues to play in the background. It is only my second day up here. Today, before I left the hotel I helped my mother bring her legs up into the hospital bed. The powerful woman, my powerful mother, lay down. I lifted her head up and put the hospital pillow underneath her silver hair. Her right arm, shaking from the stress and fear of where she was, away from her cats, away from her house. I turned to leave, wishing her a goodnight. Three young nurses entered the room and introduced themselves to her.

“Hello. I am Montana, this is Arielle, and this is Prya. We are going to be your nurses tonight.”

None of them were over twenty-two. They were very excited to be at work, and were now in the dragon’s lair. I mean that with respect and love. My Mother has always been a powerhouse. My Dad told me that there were three ways to do something. “The right way, the wrong way, and Pearl’s way.” I looked at the young nurses. Then to my Mom. My Mom’s response to the nurses introduction was to tell them she wanted to have a bedpan to shit in and not be forced to walk across the room. She started to cry and told them it had not even been twenty-four hours since her surgery and she was feeling too rushed. The nurses laughter became nervous, as they started to understand whom they were dealing with. They tried to reassure my Mom that they were there for her. My Mom responded with an ominous “we’ll see.” Then she directed their attention to the “Giraffe-Snake” painting, telling them it was painted by her 12 year old grand daughter. They laughed a bit seeming more confused than before. They then left the room a little more shell-shocked than they had entered it. I waited for them to come out of another room before I left. I told them my Mother was naturally sarcastic. That she had been living alone for thirteen years since my Dad died. She was not used to attention and that she had worked in the banking industry as an executive during a time when it was not common for women to be more than tellers. She had to put up with a lot and fight for everything she achieved. The young nurses seemed to understand. As I started to walk away I said “good luck” and started to laugh. I am sure I will hear all about what transpires tonight when I return in the morning.

The final lines from Robert Munsch’s book resonated with me tonight:

Well, that mother, she got older. She got older and older and older. One day she called up her son and said, “You’d better come see me because I’m very old and sick.” So her son came to see her. When he came in the door she tried to sing the song. She sang:

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always…

But she couldn’t finish because she was too old and sick. The son went to his mother. He picked her up and rocked her back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And he sang this song:

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
my Mommy you’ll be.

Whatever the next few days, months or years bring, I cannot say. I love my Mom, she is one of my heroes. She is a fighter, she is strong, and she is proud. She will always be my Mommy.

Goodnight Mom, I love you.

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DAD’s Day

Today is Father’s Day. I hate the word, Father. I need to explain, and I apologize if my writing takes a turn towards the Dark Side as I explain why I hate the word Father so much. Here we go.

First of all, my Dad was an amazing person. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss the man. I will never be half the man my Dad was to me. I pale in comparison to him. He was strong, silent, funny, and had done so much in his life. He had lived through unimaginable horrors during the Second World War. I loved him and respected him as my Dad.

Secondly, I feel a day like this should be something more like “Positive Mentors Day”. Not everyone I know has a fond memory of their Dad. And for me, the word “Father” makes me shudder. Now I will explain. And yes, it goes back to my time at the Catholic School. Strap in, it’s going to get offensive pretty quick.

I make it no secret that I was abused and raped as a child at the hands of the Priests and the other officials at the school I attended in Hopeless. As a result of the abuse I have ongoing issues with accepting compliments, being hugged, or even going to the dentist. The ordeal of having to lay down with my mouth open frightens me, and if I brush my teeth for too long my gag reflex kicks in as part of my emotional recall to what happened to me behind closed doors and in the rectory of the Church. Month after month I receive calls and texts from the dentist office asking me to come back, but I have to build up the courage to do it on my own accord. It’s part of me needing to be in control.

During the sessions where I was raped, face-fucked, beaten, humiliated, shamed, I was forced to keep my silence and, to add more humiliation and shame upon me, I was forced to say, “Thank you father” when my abuser finished. Sometimes I was made to clean up the mess they made before I left, other times I was shouted at to get out after they had been satisfied.

Thank you Father.

Disgusting.

Even in my servitude I was forced to thank my abusers for what they were doing to me. I have the same reaction to movies where they show a hazing ritual and after each strike of a paddle the initiate cries out “Thank you sir may I have another?” It’s funny how powerful emotion recall can be. Recently I went to see the new Aladdin film starring Will Smith. In the musical number One Jump there is a shot of Aladdin evading his pursuers by charging through a room full of young women. They rise up, happy to see him, but are interrupted by an older woman brandishing her bamboo rod. She chases after Aladdin, attempting to hit him with her weapon as the song plays on and as the audience has a fun time watching. I loved watching the movie, and though I was smiling through the scene, that moment brought tears instantly flowing down my cheeks. I was enjoying the movie, and that one three second moment immediately brought me back to being whipped at the Catholic school. I continued to sit through the film, the tears being only momentary, but it really made me realize how much survivors carry the shame and the humiliation of abuse with them every minute of every day. It may not be consciously there, but it rests just below the surface, with any sound, visual, or smell instantly able to trigger the release of emotion.

I have observed a pattern of behavior within myself that presents ongoing awkwardness with others. I yearn to be hugged, but the wall of protection prevents me from openly accepting hugs from others. We live in a culture where people hug each other as a greeting, or as a farewell amongst friends. I can hug, and have engaged in hugs. Sometimes I am reluctant to hug, or not wanting to initiate a hug with someone. I know this can be sensed by others. The knee-jerk reaction is the person whose hug I avoided thinks I don’t like them. The reality is, I am scared to hug. I had to do it in my time working for the mouse, but it’s different in costume. I can do anything behind the mask. It’s those social situations that involve the slightest trust and intimacy that I become weird. I stand there, watching my peers hug. When the time comes for me to initiate the hug I still just stand there. There is an awkward moment where the person I am looking at waits for me to step in for a hug, but I stand there. The hug moment becomes the awkward handshake moment. I pull away from letting people around me get to know me any more than I am willing to let them. It is a choice I know, and I am tired of people telling me it is a “choice”. I know it is. I try to break through. I will, at times, initiate a funny hug to take the pressure off of being seen for what I am – a coward. Afraid to fully step out into the light for fear that people will see me as a dirty boy, undeserving of being loved and forced to thank people when they hurt me. I know that is not the case, and that I have much to offer. I thrive when I feel needed. That’s why I have to keep busy.

As a survivor my empathy level is high. I need to occupy myself with simple mundane tasks in order to keep the emotions from flooding in. Not just mine, but emotions from those around me. I have a weird ability to look into people when I look into their eyes. I can sense other’s pain, at times I can see the same suffering that at times continues to engulf me. Please know, I am fine, and during the times I am quiet or feeling something powerful within, all I need from others during those times is to just let me be. Just “be with”. I do not need cheering up. I just need to continue to process and untangle the bad thoughts from the positive.

My Mom continues to blame herself for what happened to me. I wish she could understand that nothing that happened to me was her fault. My MOM is another empath. She sees all. She knows when I am hurting. She feels powerless when I don’t let her in. She suffers by proxy for what happened to me as a child. I wish I could let her know how much I love her, and how much she means to me. Both her and my Dad. My Mom and My Dad. They love/d me. I love them both beyond expression. The same is felt for my family.  I am thankful for all I have achieved, and all that I will achieve. But I will not thank my Father for what I have been able to do and what I have. For that, I thank my Mom and my Dad. For that I thank my wife and my children.

Thank you Dad. Happy Dad’s Day. Happy Posititve Mentor Day.

DETERMINED

AND

DEDICATED

May we all continue to live as one with the Force.

Thoughts upon a Christmas Eve

Dear Reader,

It has been some time since I have put pen to paper, or at least finger to keyboard. It seems fitting that I should pen something on a night when magic fills the air, and the year draws to a close.

It is December 24th as I sit here looking at my screen. For many it is Christmas, for others it is simply another Monday night. I suspect many small children are driving their parents crazy with questions and theories as they prepare to make an attempt to sleep while NORAD tracks Santa across the skies.

It’s Christmas Eve – a night for magic and for reflection. Tonight the impossible is possible, if only one believes. I believe.

I spent the day in quiet reflection as I occupied myself with menial tasks. Tomorrow is the agreed upon date to celebrate the arrival of Christ. It is a cause for celebration among Christians. It is also a day that families get together (those that are fortunate enough to have families to celebrate with) to celebrate each other and remember those that have departed for the great unknown facing us all eventually.

The past several months has been hard on the Catholic church. Scandal after scandal has surfaced, and the degree to which priests have molested and raped innocent children with the flock continues to grow to incomprehensible numbers. The officials pay lip service to each new revelation. The same tired clichés abound. The media has a burst of interest with the headline of the day, but then what? The whirligig of sensational news spins on.

More and more people are speaking out about the abuse they encountered while in the care of pedophile priests. But what of this? Does anyone care anymore? Are survivors of abuse just becoming white noise amongst the flood of news that floods our media every day? Do people who are not victims of abuse fully understand what it is like for a survivor to carry on in a world that seems to increasingly not care about putting an end to such horrendous crimes?

Maybe. Maybe not.

The town I grew up in refuses to come to terms that the beloved Church that so many of the local sheep blindly flock to has protected pedophiles within the organization for decades. Anyone who speaks out about it is quickly labeled as someone who is obviously an enemy to the Church. I call bullshit.

What gives any organization the right to exert terror and evoke pain to all who come to it? Nothing. A person who is abused by a pedophile (priest or otherwise) deserves to be heard. Even to this day survivors stories are quickly buried. Citizens who should be outraged at the extent of abuse in our society instead try to comfort themselves with the mantra “not in my neighborhood”. I hate to burst your happy little bubble, but sadly there are victims of abuse all around us. There are pedophiles near us. There are powerful organizations that protect pedophile employees from being brought to justice.

The curtain that protects pedophile priests is being slowly pulled back, revealing the disturbing truth the church as wanted to deny for so long.  

It is Christmas Eve. Instead of attending a midnight mass, I will be writing. I will be remembering. I will continue to spread the word of a survivor. What should be more shocking to people is that every day more stories break about abuses by the Catholic church. Of course there are other organizations where abuse is hidden, but it seems not nearly to the extent of that particular church.

It’s time for a Christmas wish.

I wish that the abuse would end. It’s a fantastical wish. However, the only way it will slow down and be taken seriously is if survivors continue to speak out. Remember the saying that every time a “bell rings, an Angel gets its wings”? Well, how about every time a survivor speaks, a pedophile priest loses his dick? I know that is harsh, but think about it. It’s Christmas Eve. Children are going to sleep believing that in the morning Santa will have made it. Santa will have used his magic to make wishes come true. Think about the innocence and the wonder of believing. Now, take that same innocence and place it in the lair of an adult who only wants to defile and exert power over such innocence. The priest plays the conduit between God and human.  The priest is charged with many community duties that bring communities together. They celebrate life and grieve each death in the community. We put our faith in their hands. It’s no longer “only a small handful” that have abused their positions. The scope and extent of the abuse and supressing those who wish to speak out will continue to mount for years as more and more become empowered to speak out. My Christmas wish is for survivors to be heard. Yes, I am a survivor of Catholic sex abuse. There is not a day that goes by without me facing another demon that has manifested itself as a result of the physical and emotional terror I endured. However, I am blessed to have a voice. Each day I am empowered to speak out about the abuse, and I know that other victims hear me. Other victims eventually become survivors. Survivors gain strength in sharing their stories. The curtain that has been hiding the pedophile priests is beginning to fall. It’s time for our communities to embrace survivors. Their strength and resilience is what needs to be commended in every community – not the selfish acts of personal gratification that in a matter of seconds, minutes, or years – has the ability to shatter souls.

I do not mean this as a poor me rant. I want to speak out as I have done before. I will continue to speak out. It is time for survivors to stand together – we have the ability to regain our strength and our dignity. We are not the ones who need to be ashamed. It is the actions of the weak adults who subjected us to our torment. Our suffering and shame was the result of their selfishness. The institutions who allowed this to happen need to be held accountable.

Each year I think about how nice it would be to step inside a church and listen to stories of caring, sharing and community. I think about how beautiful the voices would sound in the ancient walls of the cathedrals as they sing carols and songs of peace, love, and goodwill. I think about this from the outside. I was raped and beaten in a church – a place that is supposed to be a sanctuary – a safe place. I feel safer outside, in the cold. For I am free to run if I need to get away. I am not trapped when I am outside. Nature is my goddess. The North star guides me home. In the dark I close my eyes and breath. I can feel the Force around me. In the trees. Between the rocks. The Force flows through me and all living things. It creates us and it binds us all together. No gods separate us. We are all children of the Force. This is what makes me happy – that we are all connected. We have the ability to be a force for change. We can protect each other and stand up for one another. If I know you, know this – I am here. I will listen. I will feel your pain. I will be with you. For I am a child of the Force.

And I believe.

The Art of Precious Scars

When the news of the revelation that over 1000 children were abused in Pennsylvania at the hands of 300 Catholic Priests, it was shocking, horrific, but sadly not surprising. This is happening more and more often. People are now starting to give credence to the stories that are coming out. It almost seems that a week doesn’t go by without a new story appearing of yet further abuse at the hands of those who pretend to do God’s work. There is one word that I can come up with for that, and that is “sickening”.

People who are fortunate enough to have not endured abuse are puzzled as to why it takes so long for people to expose the truth about what happened to them decades earlier. It’s simple. It boils down to fear and shame. I can only speak directly to the abuse I endured as a child, but sadly it is similar for other survivors.

I was groomed for the abuse. Many of the priests who abuse children are serial abusers. Their tactics are extended over a period of time. If a pedophile priest was to simply grab a child and rape him or her then they would be caught out most likely. They know that. It begins by finding the most vulnerable in the pack. They are skilled hunters, and know what to look for. They seek out the children not so popular, who crave attention. They look for the mild and the awkward. It’s all part of their sick game. It was several months before I was sexually assaulted at my school. It began with corporal punishment, and the repetition of telling me how I needed to earn God’s love. At five years old this is all rather overwhelming. The next thing they must do to ensure their survival as pedophile predators is to make sure the children they target will keep the dirty secret. For me it was the constant “God will kill you if you tell anyone”, and “You’re a dirty boy, and need to earn God’s love.” Perhaps the worst thing I was told was that if I was to ever tell, God would kill my family.

GOD WILL KILL YOUR FAMILY.

Imagine being a small child and being told that by a man who claims to have a direct line to God. No wonder people are struck into silence through the fear and intimidation of the priests. At least it was in my case.

It wasn’t until grade 4 that I was finally freed. But, as devoted readers to my blog will know, it was because of a beating by my grade 4 teacher that it was so. My Mom discovered the bruises all over my arms and legs – the result of being whipped by the heavy prong of an electric kettle cord. The logic in my head was that I was never told that I couldn’t tell on someone who was not a priest. Immediately upon learning that I had been whipped so violently by a lay teacher, my Mother removed me from my tormentors. It was only when I was in my early thirties that I revealed what had happened to me. Even then, and now, do I hold back details of some of the worst rapes that happened to me in grade 4.

What is the result of being abused and raped as a child? For the longest time I had little self-esteem. I felt (and sometimes still do) as if I was not worthy of success. I felt a need to constantly prove to people that I was a good person. I wanted to be loved and yet shied away from situations when there may be recognition for my good deeds. To this day I prefer the company of my solitude. It’s not that I am a lonely person, it is that I am more comfortable alone or when I am in small groups. This is because I am happiest when I am in control of the situation, rather than letting the situation control me. There are certain smells that instantly evoke tears. The sense memory is very strong for me. Similarly, I cannot tolerate anything being in my mouth for any sustained period of time. This makes my trips to the dentist very upsetting for me. If I brush my teeth for a longer than normal time I begin to gag – I have even thrown up from the feeling of having something in my mouth – this is a direct result of the abuse I endured.

When I came out about the abuse in my community my family was chastised for it. I was made fun of. People joked about me being raped as they had their morning coffee in the local donut shops. My parents lost friends over it. It was a joke to the community. People were more comfortable shunning me than realizing what was happening at the catholic school. I was the first to publicly come out in my community about abuse. I was mocked for it. I even had an Aunt who made fun of me because I was abused and sent me a letter asking me “how it was working out for me”, and that I would “never amount to anything because I was a horrible child and deserved everything that happened.” Needless to say, she was not a kind woman. Over the years people have come to realize the “secluded incident” of my claim was more prevalent. The revelation of systemic abuse by the clergy exploded a few years after my revelation. Now, a thousand more victims are stepping into the light as a result of the recent findings.

How many victims couldn’t cope? How many have ended their own lives to escape the pain that is left behind after the abuse? I am sure the number is high. For many of us continue to neglect ourselves once the abuse stops. We continue to ignore our need for healing. Only through sharing our stories do we enable other victims to step forward – sadly, people abused by priests are not alone. If you are reading this and a victim of pedophile priests, thank you for reading. I am here for you. We are bonded through our baptism of blood and pain. You are my brother or sister. We need to stay together and share our voices if we want this to end.

On the outside I may appear whole. My soul was shattered in the aftermath of the abuse. Over time I have been able to piece together many parts of myself. It’s a long process. The Japanese have a practice called kintsugi – the art of repairing broken pottery. The idea is that by bonding the broken pieces of pottery back together with gold, the bond is made stronger and the repaired item is more beautiful for having been broken. The lines of repair are visible and not hidden. I feel my soul is a bit like that – it was shattered – over the years I continue to forge it back together – it’s not perfect, but it is beautiful for those who can see it. It is stronger and the scars are ones I am not afraid to show, for my story of abuse is important to share. I need to speak out and up for those who have yet to find their voice.

Star Wars appealed to me as a child because of the Force. An energy field that binds us and surrounds us – it makes life grow, we come from it and return to it when we exit this physical plane. The Force is a powerful ally. It is my ally, for I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me. My heart goes out to those in Pennsylvania, and to all who have lost the light – we are one with the Force. We must find the strength to carry on and to never let this happen again. Strengthening my soul, over time is becoming a practice in the art of precious scars, for we are all deserving children of the Force.

 

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Gemma, Olivia, Darren and Lessons of Love….

Returning from a week of magic I feel regenerated. Last week I posted about the event with Gemma Bostik – the young qirl we inducted into the Outer Rim Garrison:

http://www.delta-optimist.com/news/big-ladner-star-wars-fan-gets-special-honour-1.23305735

and then the young woman Oliva whom I also gave a hero medal to when I was visiting the north for a fancon:

IMG_0096mandy and olivia

 

Little did I know I would be presenting another medal that weekend. The third recipient of the “Hero of the Galactic Empire” medal was a young man named Darren. I was asked by the organizer for the 501st up there – Trevor – if I would be ok to do a hospital visit for the kids in the hospital. The 501st members who come up for Fancon make an appearance at the hospital as part of the “Spirit of the North” foundation. I was tired but of course I agreed. The one good thing with doing hospital troops when you’re “friends” with Vader is you have the added protection of wearing a mask. The mask hides the tears that sometimes flow freely with the accumulation of sweat inside the helmet. If you’ve ever done character work you will understand how hot and sweaty the costumes can be. Vader is particularly hot and moist because of the layers of leather, fiberglass and wool that make up the Lord of the Sith. The mask is a barrier between the character and the actor. While the dark lord makes kids laugh (yes, he does that – he’s not all bad) the actor behind the mask has the freedom to let the tears out. No one can see it, nor should they in these situations. I have always been amazed how Princesses can interact with everyone and withhold the tears – characters empower, entertain, enlighten and make magic – there is a time for them to debrief when they are packing the princess away out of sight of the people we entertain.

Forgive me as I am about to reminisce about something I’ve shared with a few people that further illustrate my poor attempt at a point I tried to make in the previous paragraph. Years ago I had a brief stint with making magic in Southern California. I was young, and I ended up dating another character performer I worked with. She was good friends with Princess Aurora. For those of you not familiar with this princess, she is commonly known as “Sleeping Beauty”. Performers are encouraged to create magic personified for each guest they encounter. One day Princess Aurora was visiting guests at a character breakfast. Characters rove from table to table signing autographs and taking pictures with the guests. Aurora approached one table. She greeted the guests with her usual happy demeanour and asked them what they were celebrating. The guests consisted of a couple and their daughter. Their daughter could not speak, was wheelchair bound , but she could express her feelings through her face. This young girl, balding from bouts of radiation and chemotherapy, was all smiles when Aurora approached. The parents explained to Aurora that she was their daughters favourite princess and that they made the trek to visit the park because it was their daughter’s wish. It was, in fact, her last wish. They were there to make her last months of their daughter’s life full of magic and happiness as they eased the transition of her life to the unknown. Aurora did not have the luxury of being able to hide behind a mask. Her training provided the tools she needed to withhold the tears that would otherwise stream down her face as she empathized with the family. Instead Aurora wished them the most magical time and took pictures with their daughter.

Aurora was at the end of her visit, and she asked her supervisor if there was something they could do for the family. The response was “no”. It is common policy that all guests should be treated equally, and that no one guest should be treated any differently – even when facing the end of life.

When Cindy had changed, she went to the Emporium and bought a Princess Aurora doll. She was able to find the family near the Plaza Inn and approached them. She introduced herself as Aurora’s friend and told them Aurora had told her how much she enjoyed visiting with them and wanted to give the young girl a gift. Cindy handed over the Aurora doll and wished them all well. Later that day she told me about her morning and what happened. We cried together. She was deeply moved by the experience, as was I hearing her share it with me.

A month later Cindy was asked to see her supervisor. The family had written to the company and mentioned to them that their daughter was a huge fan of Princess Aurora, and how her friend “Cindy” had met them outside the restaurant with a present for her daughter. They wrote how impressed they were with the present from Aurora, and how the doll became their daughter’s favourite toy, taking it everywhere with her. They concluded by writing that their daughter had recently passed away, and that they buried her with the doll.

Cindy’s gift was something she felt she had to do. It was a gesture of kindness. She was not expecting to hear anything back from the family. She wanted to simply do something to show she cared. It was something she did to make magic for the girl and her family. Her gift did that.

I have long thought about the Princesses and how strong they are. Cindy’s act of kindness has become a story I share with students. As a masked character I have the luxury of anonymity. Tears are hidden from view. I have the freedom to cry. I am so glad for that. However, the Princesses are my heroes. They continue to inspire me.

So – back to Fancon.

I had gifted a “Hero of the Galactic Empire” to Olivia the day before. As I shared what I had done with the other members of the 501st up there, Trevor asked me if I had brought another medal up with me. I had. He told me about Darren and hoped that he was still at the hospital. It sounded odd to me to hear that he “hoped” Darren would still be there. I learned that Trevor does the troop at the hospital only once a year, during Fancon. He was hoping Darren would still be there this year. I learned Darren had not left the hospital in years. I finally knew what he meant.

Years.

I brought the medal the next day. We changed in the boardroom at the Spirit of the North office within the hospital. The group consisted of a local Spiderman, a Stormtrooper, TIE Pilot, Captain Phasma, and Vader. We were brought to the ICU, Emergency, Pediatric and other areas. We were followed by the local news station. Here is their report:

https://ckpgtoday.ca/article/527319/special-visitors-unhbc

They left before we met Darren. We were brought into his room. Unable to move or speak, Darren communicates with his eyes. We visited with him and Trevor presented him the medal. He wanted to wear it right away. The doctors helped Trevor place it on Darren. He asked if we could take a picture with him. He agreed. We did. I am glad we did. Darren, like Olivia and Gemma, is a fighter. I continue to have much to learn from such people.

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We all count. We all deserve love. We all deserve respect. Here is the funny thing. I am not a religious person. In the book Les Misérables, Victor Hugo writes “To love another person is to see the face of God”. This line is echoed in the musical’s finale as well.

Gemma.

Olivia.

Darren.

These people were presented the award in that order. G-O-D.

Love. It is what we all have to offer.

Just.

Love.

The Importance of Being Magically Earnest

It has been some time since I have made a new entry. I do not have a schedule for posting – I simply write when I am feeling the urge. The urge has struck. It is time.

Many things have happened since my last entry. I took a bold step and performed my one-person show, How Star Wars Saved My Life. Audiences were subjected to my story of being abused, and how one science fiction film did save me from destroying myself. I had no idea how it would be received. It was a success. Truly a success. I was humbled by the responses – here is an example:

 

The show had a short run. However, the message of hope was strong, and it appears that there will be a very exciting future for the story. I wish I could go in to more detail, but with NDA’s being signed I will have to wait until I am cleared to share what the future holds for my show.

This post is not about that, however. It is about magic – or more specifically – how magic can be a powerful tool for healing, creating and empowering. You see, I went dark after my show – I needed to take a break. I needed to recharge, reconnect, realign and rest. In doing so I realized I am truly happy when I am helping others. I am most happy when I am creating magic for others. I love magic. Please allow me to explain.

Two years ago I was part of a small group of troopers who went to visit a very special girl. Her name is Gemma Bostik. She is really something. I wrote about my visit with her in an earlier blog. It was titled “Beginnings, Z95.3 and Nick the Guy”. That visit changed the way I approach trooping with the 501st Legion. Here is a bit more on Gemma and her life’s adventure to date:

 

Gemma loved our visit, and this year we were asked to come back and help her celebrate her 8th birthday. It was a bigger event. I attended as a handler (a person who helps others get into costume, look out for them, etc). I was able to watch the characters interact with Gemma and her friends. She was having a blast. The troopers were having a blast. She made them all dance to her favourite song “Uptown Funk”. I watched them dance together: A Stormtrooper, Tusken Raider, Kylo Ren and Boba Fett. She had asked specifically for Kylo Ren to attend her party. She asked us lots of questions. I was not in costume. Instead I was wearing my black BDU Legion shirt with various Star Wars patches. She asked who I was. You see, she believes. She believes in magic – that these characters can visit her, that she is on friendly terms with the Empire. It is something that I believe gives her hope and helps keep that mystery and magic we all love as children. I was slightly taken off guard when she asked me who I was, but I responded that I was their “representative” on Earth. It was a feeble response, but it seemed to work. I realized after that if I was to be a handler for future troops I would need to create something that kept me in the realm of the Star Wars Uniform. An officer costume would be perfect – I could monitor the characters I was handling without being out of place. I now wear the uniform when taking on handler duties. It’s that extra effort that really goes a long way.

Later that night I received an email from Amanda – Gemma’s mom. In her email she wrote that Gemma had a fantastic time and that there was no way she’d be able to top this. Amanda and her husband Charlie go all out for their Gemma because she was not expected to live past one year old. She’s eight as of this year. I pondered over the comment “no way to top this”…..It was time to put magic into action.

I began with my fellow troopers. I asked them if they’d come out to troop a special troop for Gemma again – all replied they would! Great. I thought, we can’t wait for another birthday – it’s too far away. Maybe a few of us could come to their door and give Gemma a “medal of yavin” as a hero medal. Yes, I know you’re thinking “but that’s a rebel medal”. You’re right. It is. But the Empire doesn’t have any medals. I reflected on this. I belong to an international group who dedicate their appearances to raising money for many amazing charities for children. We DON’T have a medal. Giving Gemma a Yavin medal would not be appropriate. After all, they are readily available, easy to get. No. If we were to do this right we would need our own medal. An Imperial Medal. We often gift challenge coins to the children we visit but this has bothered me from time to time. After all, some children are tactile. There is a choking hazard with some coins. Coins can also be easily misplaced or lost. Children, like adults, need touchstones. They need talismans to reassure them things are going to be alright when they go back to the hospital for the umpteenth time. Many of the kids we visit are hospital regulars. Some never leave the hospital. Some don’t come back when they go to the hospital. They need something to let them know it’s all right. Challenge coins can be lost – and if you have ever been with a child when they misplace something they rely upon to calm themselves, to reassure themselves that things are not bad or not scary, then you will know that things can quickly get out of hand. Something that can not be easily lost, that can be nice to look at, that can be held in moments of needing extra reassurance, that is unique and makes them feel special, can be a powerful calming and healing tool. I decided we needed to have our own Imperial medal. Gemma would be the first recipient of the medal. But what would it say. It had to be something that looked like it came from the Empire. I created one that had the phrase “Hero of the galactic empire” forged in the alloy. The ribbon would have to be Imperial colors – so red and black were the obvious choice to me.

Now I had taken care of troopers and a medal. what would be next? I remembered a few years back we inducted a young boy – Wilson – into the garrison. That’s it. I asked our executive and they replied there would be no problem doing that for Gemma. I went over the check list:

Troopers. Check.

Medal. Check.

Honorary member of the Garrison. Check.

Not too bad for a young girl. What else could we do for her? What if she had her own patch and her own coin? Maybe we could create these for raising money for a charity of her choice. Ok, but now this was getting larger and larger. I tried to get a cartoonist to come up with a fun image of Gemma. He didn’t get it and the image was frightening. I posted my dilemma on facebook. Terry, our former Garrison Captain responded with the question “how can I help”. I shared with him how Gemma’s mom asked her if she was ever to have her own patch, what would she want on it. Gemma responded that she wanted to be in a stormtrooper costume, saluting in her wheelchair while Darth Vader stood behind her in front of a symbol of the new order. A bit of a Star Wars hot mess. Within the hour Terry had nailed the design. Things were coming together. I spoke with Matthew Purdy at Toy Traders. His store is huge and amazing and just happens to be Gemma’s favourite place to go when she’s looking for toys. Matthew didn’t even hesitate and offered his space, created a raffle, and advertised. I asked Amanda what Charity she would like to represent – Muscular Dystrophy. I contacted them. Tiffany, the representative attended the day of the ceremony. The troop became an official 501st troop with many troopers signing up. It became larger. I decided I would have to run the event, meeting Gemma at the door when she arrived and announcing her arrival. Stormtroopers filing in behind us as we approached Lord Vader, Boba Fett, a Tusken, Imperial Guards, TIE Pilots and our Commanding Officer. somehow it went off well. We called ourselves “Gemma’s Squad”. I presented Gemma with her medal.

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Gemma had an amazing time. We all did. Her joy and happiness is infectious. That was a few days ago. I then drove up north to Northern FanCon with the 501st. I visited my mom and she told me of another little girl who was a fan of mine (I am not making this up – she loves the Airbud franchise, as well as other Robert Vince movies that I have been somewhat of a regular in). She’s wanted to meet me for years. Just tonight she came by – my niece is one of her caretakers. Her name is Olivia – and like Gemma, she loves Star Wars. I happened to have brought up two other medals, so:

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I presented her with her “Hero” medal. Much like Gemma, Olivia is expressive, full of life and has so much to share and we have so much to learn from heroes such as these two. They inspire me to go beyond to create magic. Some say magic isn’t real. But when I see the joy and the happiness in others, it moves me. Gemma and Olivia have medals that are not common. They have medals that they can wear to their hospital visits and that can make them feel proud to be heroes. They are. Both of them are my heroes. I am so honored that I have had the opportunity to present them both with something that makes them feel special, something that is for them. At the end of the day, it’s not about the medals or the stuff, though. It’s about the things we do or say  and the actions we take that can make this world a more beautiful and magical place.

Gemma told me at her ceremony that she couldn’t walk. I told her, why walk when you can glide? She liked that.

Olivia doesn’t speak. But her movements and expressions say everything. She is full of energy and is a happy and joyful person.

I have learned a lot about love, joy and happiness in the past few days than I ever thought I could have. The magic that I thought I was creating was not what I expected it to be, for it seems in both these cases, these girls were making magic for me. Their magic, like mine, was earnest.

 

 

Hope.

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In Rogue One Jyn Erso manages to convince a group of rebels to join her in retrieving plans vital to the destruction of the Death Star. She tells the assembly on Yavin IV that “…rebellions are built on hope.” Initially she is only able to muster a small group – calling themselves Rogue One as they liberate an imperial shuttle in an attempt to find the plans that ultimately save the galaxy from the destructive super weapon. Eventually the majority of the Rebel fleet come to her aid.

How does she manage to do this? How can one person be the catalyst for change?

Hope.

The Rebellion reaches out to her because they have hope she can help them with their cause. She, in turn reaches out to them because she has hope they can help her. Her decision to go to Scarif and find the plans is one that ultimately saves many. She stops running and directly faces the challenges before her. When she does make this decision to help for a greater good, she finds support – because “Rebellions are built on hope.”

Hope.

Many years ago I suffered grave injustices to my soul, my childhood, my right to innocence – all at the hands of men who could not keep their hands and genitals to themselves. These “men” were men of power. They abused their power for personal gratification. They perhaps found some sense of strength in silencing and abusing the young and the weak. It did not matter to them what three minutes of personal gratification for them did to the children they defiled. Some once. Some more. Much, much more.

 

I still bear the scar on my chin from Brother ______ who violently pushed me down the stairs one day. I believe to this day he had done so as an attempt to kill me. After all a dead child cannot speak – cannot be a threat to the collar he hid behind. He did not kill me. He did not succeed. Soon after that incident I was pulled out of that school – not for what he had done to me over the years – but for what another teacher did – whipping me with an electrical cord. I would move on. I would carry on. I would always remember. I could never forget. I tried to forget – oh, man did I try. It became a part of me – a part of my story. A story my abusers hoped would die in silence.

Hope.

Over a year ago I was accosted in my office. Blocking the door to prevent me from exiting, the older colleague became accusatory. I was triggered. I was brought back to the place of being trapped as a child. It all came back. Over the next several months something changed in this world. People were making the news for speaking out – for telling their stories. The worst kept secret of the Hollywood-casting couch is being shattered. Many, many people are now speaking up.

Hope.

Silence feeds on the individual. When a person is forced to endure hell, it is easy for the victim to remain silent out of fear – fear of repercussion, fear of not being believed, of being mocked, and even fear of being killed for speaking out. It saddens me to hear perpetrators of violent acts of rape, intimidation, and sexual and physical assault, dismiss the accusations against them as false news. To the people who speak out, it is important to know that to do so is brave. It is also the right thing to do. Rebellions are built on hope.

Hope.

The people who thought they had silenced me long ago were wrong to think so. I remember. Some – if not most of them – may be dead – but that does not stop me from speaking out, for adding my voice to the many more before me who have done so. It is time to be heard. For all victims and survivors to be heard.

I have written a play. It’s a testament of the love of my parents, the evil deeds of cowards who hid behind religion, survival, healing and hope.

The play will have its world premiere in December of this year, 2017. I hope that this is only the beginning of this story. It’s a powerful play that chronicles the evil that men do, the resilience of the human spirit, the power of healing, the Force, the way of the Jedi, and of course…. hope. Initially my story was a research paper for an instructor while working on my PhD. It became a performance-based narrative after being urged to write it by a friend. It grew into a production over time as more people joined my rebellious writing. They agreed with the message. They came to join me. Now what was once a singular voice has grown and it continues to grow. I hope that people will come and see the story. I hope they will learn from it. I want people to laugh and cry with me. This is a story of my experience. It is my rebellion against those who believed I had fallen silent. I didn’t. As Obi-Wan tells Darth Vader – “If you strike me down I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Hope.

If you can, if you are anywhere near Vancouver in December, I hope you will see this play. It is for you. It is for everyone who has ever hoped for change, hoped for a better world, and who has hoped for the silence to end.

May the Force be with us.

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