everything and everyone loves roey’s kitchen… the hummingbirds, stopping
at the window, the dogs, sleeping on the stoop,
lolling under the circling wings of the eagle, and
otter, back from his sojourns, knowing he was missed;
the worn trail of moss and needle wending down from the hill, the
pinus contorta contorta, curving her graying, frondy bough
round the corner of the house, the bracken and bladderack
clambering up the sea washed stone;
the lovely piles of books, crooked and leaning out
from the corner by the table in a mute echo of the arbutus
just in sight, the dear little flowers, opening their faces
to the wash of the morning sun;
the fire crackling in the stove in winter, the soft breath of
mountain wind sighing through the trees in spring, November’s
sou’easters, all filibuster and long arguments against
the glass, and summer’s somnambulant haze;
the quiet that steals in with the evening and slips away with the dawn, the dreaming
thoughts and creeping wonders, the singing colours of the west’s setting, vivid
and calling to the moon, pale and grey-blue against the rising stars,
pouring the liquid mystery of the universe, sea-mist-laden, through the open window;
the children, the sons and daughter, the friends, the minister, all the dear ones
everything and everyone loves roey’s kitchen
Today my best friend of a dozen years died, slipping away in the wee hours of a beautiful August Wednesday morning, in her dear little home overlooking the ocean by Sargeant Bay, surrounded by her family, and held up in the thoughts of all who knew and loved her, and I’m here to tell you that was a very big circle.
I met Rosemary Hoare – Roey to family and those who knew her well, Brodie after one of her middle names to me – when my good friend, her son, Tony Hoare and I were working as health care recruiters together in Sechelt, cementing a deep affinity for each other into a friendship that would change both our lives.
Tony had brought his brother, Geoff, sister Wendy, and mother – Rosemary – in to see where he worked. I was introduced.
I was struck by how they all looked out into the world with the same open friendliness and presence, with a kind of sweetness rarely found and never in an entire family down to the dog. I loved them all, instantly. But with Brodie it was something special, and timeless, and even outside of time. My soul said: “Oh, there you are!” I knew I had found her even before I knew I was looking.
I said to Tony as soon as they left: You must get me an invitation to tea with your mother.
And that was the start of our incredible relationship of 12 years, one that I simply willed into existence because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was rekindling an old one from a parallel universe. As she was an Englishwoman I knew she did not quite know what to do with me, so ardently did I pursue her friendship over those first early months. I wrote her long letters, drew, left gifts of food or flowers in her mailbox ‘up the lane’ by the highway, and slowly we were drawn (back) together until she truly was my best friend.
For a few years we spoke every morning, sharing our experience of the world in a deep way that made the rest of my life seem sepia-toned in comparison – except for my children, my two beautiful girls, who came to love her too. She comforted me and helped me keep an image of myself as happy and healthy and whole when I was coming out as first bisexual and then, finally, gay. She said I could call her any time of day or night and she meant it, staying up talking with me in the earliest of early morning hours when I felt my darkest. When I felt that I must die rather than break our family ship on the rocky shore of these needs that would kill me and anything and anyone I loved if I could not stop smothering them as I had the last two decades.
She was there for the ending of my marriage to my girls’ father. For my diagnosis as a type 2 diabetic. For my decision to stop drinking and embrace emotional sobriety with everything that entailed. Through all of it she loved me with a fierce and protective steadiness and held me up, especially when I could not.
Brodie rejoiced when I found Diane, and was my maid of honour at my wedding, attending both the civil ceremony at home and the family style 80+ gathering on the beach at Cooper’s Green Park the next day, though by that time events of that magnitude bore a heavy physical toll. I could not convince her to stay home, because that was my Brodie, always thinking of those she loved and what they wanted most deeply, in their heart of hearts, beyond words.
In the last two years as I struggled to keep my two businesses alive, and dealt with my father’s Parkinson’s diagnosis, and my mother’s shrinking mobility, and supported Diane through the death of her own father, I bore down on a long and arduous depression that kept me from her, and if I have any regret it is that I didn’t keep up our weekly teas and talks, for now I would give anything to wind the world backwards and take them all, one by one, watching Eagle fly to his tree above the cove and listening to the waves crash against the rocks below the beloved arbutus in front of her living room window, listening to her laugh that was like a flock of birds rising into the air.
I did not see Brodie as 95. Having proven age is not a factor for me by marrying a man 42 years my senior in my early twenties, I doubled down by falling in love with Rosemary Brodie Hallowell Hoare in 2005, and as was our custom together for our entire friendship I kept nothing back from her and always spoke my truth, as did she. She loved me back – though not in that way – and when we looked into each other’s eyes we did not see ages nor stages, only divine energy and spark and kismet, much like my favourite literary character Anne of Green Gables chose to see those she loved. I saw Brodie as gorgeous, willowy, fiery, sweet, occasionally swift to dispense a rebuke for an ill thought, tender, beyond present, and an active extension of the God she loved and believed in so much.
I was so lucky to have loved her! To have encountered her as my Anam Cara, a soul mate through time and space. I know as much as I grieve today, as rent open as I was so early this morning to hear of her death, as much as I try and force that tear in time open to admit me with her, it was I who first wrote to her:
“I am finding this time with you in my life to be so rich and mysterious. I feel so connected to everything and everyone, and when I think of being in the world without you I find it is not possible. The impossibility is not that you or I should not be physically here, but that it would be impossible for either of us to be truly gone if we are one with everything. If I think of myself as a minute speck of matter moving outward in time, part of that very first implosion of matter into space, then I am both a part of the beginning of time, and by extension, expanding forever with the rest of the universe. Which means – to my heart’s great solace – that you are, too. It means that even now I can look for you and see you in the tiniest flowers, in the breath of air off the ocean, in the flitting of the birds over the bluebell meadow.” (Letters to Rosemary, May 15, 2005)
And so today I spend time with those words, and with her at the wake, surrounded by all those she loved and the great wonderful world she fought so hard to remain part of and witness to, and remember them to myself as a gentle guide away from grief and towards gratitude and knowing that she is with me still.
Over the next few weeks many in our community will step forward to share their experiences of Rosemary, Roey, my Brodie, because what she is is love, and compassion, and speaking our truths with courage and daring and deep love for others. For Brodie love was – is – everything.
Her influence on the Sunshine Coast, from helping to start the Festival of the Written Arts to founding the Sunshine Coast Hospice Society – an organization to which she dedicated over three decades of her life and which lives on today, helping people live until they die – to befriending people on the edge, sometimes even on the edge of sanity itself… well, her influence is immense.
So if you see me wandering around town in a blue turtleneck with white striping at the neck and wrists in the middle of August, please know I’m not crazy. I’m getting a hug from Brodie, and giving one to anyone who would like one.
there’s a bear under my bed
black as any sweat-soaked nightmare
flexing his claws, snuffling wetly
waiting to fish me from the river of my dreams
wet and gasping against
the bank of pillows;
there’s a maple in my garden
pale as death
crimson in memory
crying: carry me! vivid
there’s a patch of ice at the edge of the river in winter
malevolent, as translucent as skin
holding in blue-veined life
every spring the animals test it –
the little trembling birds, cautious foxes,
precipitous white-tailed does flailing in panic;
there’s an ocean swell in the sea beyond my window
as sickening and deep as a thousand foot fall into space
rolling underneath the world
where I sleep
with the voluptuousness
of a seal