Circle of Life

How To Survive Death…
Theirs, Not Yours.

Don Pilgrim ~ August 18, 1934 – March 2, 2015
It’s interesting to note that when you die, your entire life is represented by the dash between the dates. Losing Dad was our first up close and personal brush with death. There are many life lessons to be learned when you’re navigating the landmines. As grape therapists, we’d like to share them with you. Pro Bono.

The Good

The most comforting feeling is collapsing into a cocoon of support. Sisters we’ve never even met have reached out with condolences.

People wishing to pay their respects come out of the woodwork, in the very best way. By carrying casseroles.

You can make a whole meal out of chocolate.

Death is one thing we all have in common. Well, that and taxes (ba-dum-chhh). It’s a club no one wants to join, however membership is inevitable.

Everyone has a story of losing a loved one. We took great comfort in hearing their tales, and in sharing our experience with them. It’s similar to a post childbirth labour and delivery story.

When faced with overwhelming emotional distress, look for things that bring you peace. I watched The Big Chill movie at least a dozen times, reciting the lines by heart.

Fill your house with music. It soothes the savage beast.

Laugh at the inappropriate. Is it cold in here, or is it just him?

When your tank is empty, fill up on your girlfriends.

Do it right. All of it. Honour their wishes, not yours.

Medicate. In a Namaste way.


The Bad

I will sleep again, someday.

I’m not going to look good going through this. It’s possible to turn a whiter shade of pale.

You will love meat and cheese buns, right up until the third tray.

Our reserved, unemotional father became a fountain of tears. We witnessed grown men break down and weep, and it all seemed perfectly natural. No matter what side of the bed you’re on, tears are going to flow.

Allow yourself time to grieve. Sorrow can’t tell time.

Don’t go dark. Seek help if you’re having trouble turning the light back on.

I had been packing a funeral outfit since December 2013. I got tired of seeing it, and bought a brand new outfit days before the celebration of life.

Even though we were advised to have the obituary ready in advance, it felt like it would speed up the process if we dared. We started it many times, but in the end scrapped everything and wrote it in the 11th hour (A Loving Tribute To Our Dad). We couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out.

As parents age, roles gradually reverse, until you find yourself caring for them. A curveball for both sides.

The death of a parent moves you up a notch on the food chain. All of a sudden, we’re the oldest generation.

Medicate. Pick your poison and get at ‘er.


The Ugly

It’s the biggest mindfuck you’re ever going to experience in your whole life. We’ve seen things we can’t unsee.

The silicon chip inside her head has switched to overload.♫ With the amount of adrenaline and emotion on the day of the service, it’s tough to recall all of the moments. I wish we’d recorded the entire day.

We’re humour writers, but there were so many times when we couldn’t find anything funny. This explains posts like Teen Heartthrobs (Teen Heartthrobs).

Even when you know it’s coming, it’s still a sucker punch straight to the kisser.

I regret not acknowledging my friends’ losses with more empathy. The depth of their pain scared me, and I ran away like a cowardly lion.

Medicate. But don’t mix anti-anxiety meds with alcohol, or you’ll be piecing your day together like a puzzle with missing edges.


The Divine

In Heaven, if you don’t have your yoga mat, one will be provided for you.

The sunsets are out of this world.

If you thought you liked wine before

The level of intimacy that comes at the end is worth the ride.

Grief is the price you pay for love. It’s worth every penny.


Thank you for all of your kind words, thoughts, prayers, and casseroles!

Sangria Wine Rack

Life In Reverse
By George Carlin

I think the life cycle is all backwards.
You should die first; get it out of the way.
Then you wake up in a nursing home feeling better every day.
You get kicked out for being too healthy.
Collect your pension, then go to work, and get a gold watch on your first day.
You work 40 years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement.
You get ready for high school. You drink alcohol, party, and you’re generally promiscuous.
You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, and you have no responsibilities.
Then you become a baby, and go back into the womb,
You spend your last nine months floating peacefully in luxury, spa-like conditions, central heating, room service on tap, and then…
You finish off as an orgasm.
I rest my case.


Tunes you should have on your iPod:
Brooks & Dunn ✸ Believe
Robbie Williams ✿ Angels
Rufus Wainwright ✤ Hallelujah

Check out this week’s Sister Shout Out ~ Palliative Home Care

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Join the discussion

  1. Lisa

    Brilliant! You girls never cease to amaze me…your capacity to move through one of life’s not so comfortable realities with such grace, humour and rawness. Brilliant!
    Love you both…

  2. Jodi


  3. Margot

    You both looked beautiful and were so amazingly strong at the celebration of your dad’s life. You awesome women you …

  4. Janice

    So lucky to have the both of you as a part of my life story.

  5. Sandra

    So sorry to hear about the loss of your Dad. Thank-you for sharing such personal stories. It’s so easy to see how strong of a relationship each of you have with one another in your family. Always fun to read your blog, you are both such witty and funny ladies. Cheers and Hugs!

  6. Lorri

    Made me cry, made me laugh!! Hugs to you both!!

  7. Valerie Coulombe

    We have a poem placed over our toilet in our guest washroom entitled The Station. Many people have commented about the message and the placement (why over the toilet?). The message is meaningful and we figured when else is someone going to be a captive audience. The story goes don’t waste life waiting to get to The Station. We always say, “When the kids get older…”, “When I retire…”. Life is the journey, not the destination. The journey is what makes us who we are. It sounds like your dad had an amazing journey and the strength and courage you both have gained on your journeys will only stand to make you more amazing women. So sorry for your loss.

  8. Karen H

    Hey girls, can’t wait to medicate with you and hear about your experiences

  9. Andrea

    I hear you loud and clear sista! When dad passed away I wasn’t as thankful for the cards that said “I’m sorry for your loss”, I was thankful for the people who wrote their favorite memories! I kept those cards and I like to re-read them. I was scared I’d forget things. Those messages helped me remember. So, my favorite memories of your dad…
    1. Those stinking wrist strengthening things. I swear that he was always squeezing them! I had to use two hands and still couldn’t close them!
    2. His back surgeries. Jesus. But did you know that he used to let me lie next to him in bed?! I’d talk his ear off!
    3. The piano in your old house. In the basement. Along the back wall. He’d listen to me play sometimes. And he had so many crazy pictures up on the walls!
    4. Vico. He always poured me chocolate milk.
    5. Pizza with cayenne pepper. It is forever a necessary topping. Can’t eat pizza without it. Thanks Don!
    6. He always called me “kid.” Even at 34!
    7. Coolest golf cart at Elmwood (in my opinion)
    8. At the very end, with his teeth out and his shaggy hair, I kissed his forehead and gave him a hug. Pretty sure my boobs were right in his face! I laughed out loud when I walked back to mom’s through the alley!

  10. Tracey Saunders

    Thank you ladies for posting something so honest and close to your hearts. Grief throws so many curveballs and emotions that can neither be dealt with nor ignored. You must have had such a wonderful dad and loved him very much…. I am very happy you have each other through this time to laugh, cry and be angry or crazy with no judgement at all (especially on the bad hair, no make up, really bad wardrobe choice days) What a great true story to share with others ….. I admire the heck out of you both xxxx

  11. Sangria Sisters

    We are grateful for all of our wonderful friends! I’m pleased with how quickly I’m healing. Spring is in the air, the days are longer, my energy is returning. Then I read the comments and dissolve into a puddle. But that’s okay, I accept this as the new normal.

    Andrea, thank you for the memories! He loved you like a third daughter.

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