About callumrussellmaclean

Callum's mom

Happy Birthday Callum

callum trist new years callum hammock smile callum sailboat baby callum sailing sunset 2There is No Finish Line for Grief

I’m learning that one of the most difficult parts of grief is that it doesn’t end.   There is no finish line. Yes, it changes. But it’s always going to be there. And that’s hard on the head and on the soul.

When we returned from Kenya, the grief hit again, in a different way. Tristan and I had done what we said we were going to do : we built the classrooms in Kenya. Now it felt as if, in return, we should get Callum back. But, as you know, it doesn’t work that way. It is still like being stabbed in the heart to stop and think that I am never going to see him again. That is such a painful thought, that I can only still let it in for a few nanoseconds at a time. Then I have to shut those thoughts away and find something else to busy my mind.

I’m a « doer ». I like to get things done. So it’s very hard for me to have something that can’t be fixed, no matter how hard I work. Grief is very humbling that way.   There is no escaping it. I read that somewhere : you can’t go around grief, you just have to go through it. It is sometimes a very bumpy road.

Yes, the grief does change. I would never have been able to travel to Kenya 2 years ago. I could hardly get out of bed some days. So to go halfway around the world was unimaginable.

But, somehow, with the help of a lot of people, I have been able to pull myself together to the point that I was able to make the trip, and see Callum’s classrooms in person. He was there with us, and so in spirit was every person who was with us on this journey.

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I still find that I can’t adequately explain how grief feels as it evolves.   Like a dull ache? Always there but you occasionally are distracted by something else. But when something reminds me of Callum, that sadness is still there.

I like walking by our garden that we have collectively created for him. But that makes me sad. Again, I was trying to deal with how I was feeling about his friends graduating by « doing something ». I’m glad we did. But it still hurts.

And then there is his birthday. Again.   The third birthday without him.

He would have been 18. He became an adult, in my eyes, so we got a glimpse of what he would have been like. He was the most mature 15 year old I ever met, because of what he went through.   He would have been a kind and compassionate and thoughtful man, because that’s what he was like all of his life.

I miss him every second of every day. But I am learning to treasure second that we had with him. Yes, I would trade all the pain, but not ever any moment that I got to spend with him.

Please think of him, and share a story or look at a photo of him on his birthday.   He will feel our love, as I promised him he would.

Love you Call-Call!
Mom
August 12, 2015

VIDEO – Ribbon Cutting and Dedication at Callum’s Classrooms in Kenya

I share this moment with everyone who helped us raise the money for these classrooms over the last year. Asante sana to you all. I think Callum would be really proud of all of us. And he was definitely the one who gave me the strength to be able to read that plaque in front of 500 people and not cry.

https://youtu.be/cwnpNBLL1d0

Thanks to Sadie Milner, Daniel Whalen and Cara DeCoste who made the ceremony at Kamuketha very personal for us.

https://youtu.be/PZfS8fRPsIY

Celebrating Callum’s Classrooms at Kamuketha School

callumrussellmaclean:

Our day at Kamuketha School was a rollercoaster of emotions for me and Tristan.  For the families at Kamuketha, it was a day of celebration.  As one student put it, her school had gone from “laughing-stock” to one she was proud of.  At the same time, it was heart-breaking to read Callum’s name on the plaque on the side of the wall and know that he can only be with us in spirit.  But I certainly felt his presence there today in so many ways.

Getting to Kamuketha is the first challenge. To call it a “rocky road” is an understatement. Taylor was walking ahead of the Combis, rolling boulders off to the side and filling in giant potholes. We had to walk about 3 kilometres once we got out of the vehicles so they weren’t riding so low to the ground.  A cart pulled by two oxen sped by us at one point, filled with the plastic chairs that we would soon be sitting on!  When we were about half a kilometre from the school, a welcoming party of Scouts came out to greet us, marching , singing and playing a drum.  It was a foreshadowing of the colourful celebration that lay ahead.

The students were all in their burgundy uniforms but their mothers were dressed in a dazzling array of colourful prints.  You could instantly tell this was a day of great importance in their community. And the women started to sing as we walked onto the school grounds.  The song seemed to be a mix of every Swahili word that we might know: Habara gani (how are you?)  Rafiki (friend), Karibu (welcome) , asante sana (thank you).   Some of the braver students came up and took the hand of members of our group.  The others just watched us, wide-eyed.

Our first order of business at Kamuketha was planting sunflower seeds.  Sunflowers are very symbolic for me:  they bloom around Callum’s birthday and so every year we ask people to plant them in his honour. We also grew a field of sunflowers last year at Wood’s Farms.  We raised $1800 in one day selling the sunflowers – and that money was sent to Kenya to finish the 3rd classroom at Kamuketha.  So now giant sunflowers will grow around the entrance to Kamuketha school, as well as in our gardens on P.E.I.

Then it was time for the official program to start.   We knew from Buuri school that there would probably be some singing and dancing.  We soon realized that the Kamuketha students had obviously been preparing for a while for today.  There were poems including one entitled “Education, education, education” about the importance of school.  There were dancers in tribal outfits, doing a fierce dance right in front of our tent.  And then there were some great young dancers.  And when they got us up to dance, well, let’s just say that Miley Cyrus may have learned some of her dance moves from Carolyn Francis!

When the principal introduced the performance by the parents, just two women got up to start.  And no one seemed to want to join them.  But then they started drawing us up from the crowd, one at a time. And then all the women joined in. Soon we were all dancing.  And these are not short songs, let me tell you, especially under the equatorial sun!  We were all grabbing for our water bottles when we finally sat down.

The formal part of the ceremony involved the principal speaking about the history of Kamuketha, which started in 1997 with just two classrooms.  He spoke very kindly about what the new classrooms mean to the community.  He was followed by a stream of ministers,  speaking in English and Kimuru (the local dialect) about the importance of doing good.  They were quite dramatic in their presentation – waving the bible and shouting!

Then it was time for our part of the presentation.  Sadie and Daniel, who both knew Callum, read a short script about him.  Two students read the same script in Swahili.  Cara from our group then performed a beautiful solo version of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”.  They all did a fantastic job and I thank them so much for doing that for us.

Tristan and I cut the ribbon to officially open the classrooms and unveiled the plaque. Somehow I was able to read it for the audience and not cry.  (there is a photo of the plaque below)  Then we went inside the classrooms and took more photos.

The final part of the celebration was a surprise for all of the families of Kamuketha!  The Sunday School at Kensington United Church has been twinned with Kamuketha for five years now and has sent money for many improvements at the school.  They decided they wanted to donate a solar light to every family at Kamuketha.  The lights are really important because it gets dark at 6:30 p.m.  So students have no way to do homework!  Many families had been using kerosene lamps in the past.  But they cost money for the fuel and the fumes are unhealthy. The solar lights also double as a phone charger.   There are lots of cell phones in rural Kenya because they are relatively inexpensive and they use them for banking and commerce.  But they usually have to pay to charge them at a local store.   The women burst into cheers and some even jumped up and danced around when Jennifer Murogocho announced they would be getting solar lamps today.  *Farmers Helping Farmers has advanced the money so we could give all the families a solar light today.  But Kensington United and me, through Callum’s Classroom, will be continuing to raise money for them in the months ahead if anyone is interested in helping to pay for one!

We had lunch in one of Callum’s Classrooms before saying good-bye and heading back down the rocky road to Meru.  The women sang again as they waved farewell.  The entire event was a flurry of colour and sound and energy that will stay with all of us.

There were some tears shed today, by me, and by some others.  But I feel as if Callum was there with us. And so were all the other people who were part of creating these classrooms in his honour.  There was so much appreciation from the families of Kamuketha.  We have given their children an opportunity that they would not otherwise have had.  It’s expected that the school population at Kamuketha will grow because more families will want their children to be at a school with nice classrooms and a cookhouse and a healthy garden.  The future of this school is secure, and that can only mean good things to come.

One of my favourite memories of Callum is one time when we had to absorb some difficult news and I got through it without crying.  On the way, walking out of the hospital, he punched me on the arm and said, “Good job Mom.”   I think I felt that punch again today.

Asante sana to all who have been with us on this journey.

Nancy

PS: We will be heading on safari tomorrow.  We will be heading out on our first “drive” as it is called at 4:00 Friday afternoon.  Then we have two drives on Saturday, at 6:30 a.m. and again at 4.  And one more early morning drive on Sunday before heading back to town.  We are not sure what the Internet situation will be there so I may not be posting to the blog until Sunday afternoon P.E.I. time.  But hopefully I will have some amazing photos to share when were are connected again!  Kwaheri – bye for now.  Nancy

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Originally posted on P.E.I. Kenya 2015:

Our day at Kamuketha School was a rollercoaster of emotions for me and Tristan.  For the families at Kamuketha, it was a day of celebration.  As one student put it, her school had gone from “laughing-stock” to one she was proud of.  At the same time, it was heart-breaking to read Callum’s name on the plaque on the side of the wall and know that he can only be with us in spirit.  But I certainly felt his presence there today in so many ways.

Getting to Kamuketha is the first challenge. To call it a “rocky road” is an understatement. Taylor was walking ahead of the Combis, rolling boulders off to the side and filling in giant potholes. We had to walk about 3 kilometres once we got out of the vehicles so they weren’t riding so low to the ground.  A cart pulled by two oxen sped by…

View original 1,145 more words

A Present for Canada Day

I was looking through some USB drives and discovered this video.

If, like me, you are always longing for a chance to see Callum doing what he loved the most, enjoy.  It’s only a couple of minutes and he hardly speaks.  But seeing him still gives me great joy.

As we are packing and organizing for our trip to Kenya, this was an unexpected treasure :)

https://youtu.be/zDuMA3RnUIg

And here are some other wonderful Canada Day memories.

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A Week of Weeping

I could put on a brave face. But the truth is that the past week has been filled with tears.

Callum’s friends had their prom last Friday and on Wednesday, they had their Grade 12 graduation.

These were such meaningful milestones.  For the French Immersion group, they had been together for 12 of their 18 years.  For me, it was a week of missing Callum and wishing he was here, with his friends, where he was supposed to be.

My friend Stephanie and her daughter Abbey, Callum’s friend since Grade 1, invited me to the pre-prom party at their house.  I instantly declined, saying it would be torture.  But Abbey persisted.  And I knew that I didn’t want to have regrets. So I went to the party.

I arrived late and the group was buzzing around taking pictures because the double decker bus would soon arrive to take them to the Confederation Centre. Stephanie sent a few of the boys to round up the others.  And then I had to step up beside them for the photo.

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I can tell you that I was channeling every bit of Callum’s courage to stand up there with his friends and smile for the camera. I was filling in for him…the spot where he would have been.

I left the party shortly afterwards and drove a few minutes away to the cemetery.  I sat there and cried.  As they were all loading onto the bus to go to prom, I was sitting in my car, in the rain, staring at the place where he was buried.

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A few days before prom, I had the idea of creating a garden for Callum, to mark his Grade 12 graduation.  Thanks to Joanne and the Town of Stratford, we were able to create the garden at Lantz Park, just up the road from our house.

On the night before the graduation, his friends arrived with their plants and we got to work.  Within half an hour, we had created what I think is a beautiful bed.  We even think it’s in the shape of P.E.I.!

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What I have learned from this week of sadness is that I need to actively do something to deal with my grief.  When I’m feeling crushed by sadness,  I have learned to try to create….find something tangible to do to replace being overwhelmed by grief.  And I think other people are feeling the same way too and that’s why everyone has been so supportive.  We are all looking for a way beyond the sadness and loss.  To show him — and to show the world — that Callum Russell MacLean mattered.

There is such a loss of control when you lose someone you love.  I keep talking about making sure that people remember him.  And now I think I understand why.  I can’t control what happened to Callum.  But I can continue to talk about him and write about him and do things in his honour.  That is in my control.  It feels good to understand what has been propelling me.  I’m not going to stop. But I understand, just a tiny bit more, why I’m doing it.

And now, to Kenya. To see the classrooms that we have — collectively– built in his honour. Callum’s story will now be shared with more people, as will the love that we all have for him and how he lived his life.
Asante sana. Thank you very much for supporting me through this week of emotional turbulence.

I love you Callum.  xo Mom