Monday, October 31, 2011

Thanksgiving Month, Day 30: VIP Treatment

Bronwyn made me a boxful of beautiful "Reserved" signs to place in the little silver teapots that Doreen had given me.

As I looked through them I noticed one that said VIP GUEST. "When will I use that?" I wondered.

"You'll know who it's for," she reassured me.

Of course she was right: Murray called me up on Saturday afternoon and asked if he and Shelagh could come out with her parents for dinner on Sunday.

Could they come out?! I could hardly wait for the 26 1/2 hours to go by until I saw them again!

So on Sunday afternoon I chose one of my table cloths from India and put a Reserved sign on the table:

Yes, that sign ...

They arrived right around 4 p.m. It was the first visit for Murray, Carmel and Gerry; but my dear Shelagh had taken the trouble, way back in 2003, to make sure she drove out from Calgary to attend the opening of Nilgiris Tea House.

Things have changed for both of us in the intervening years. The TH is almost a different place these days. We've been forced to take things slower. It's not so frantic here, not so uncertain.

In a much more intense way, that's the same for Shelagh. She perforce takes things slower these days. And after years of suffering pain and seeking solutions, she is no longer frantic, no longer uncertain.

She bears her new reality with tremendous spirit and with increasing courage. When she first began her odyssey with ALS she stated clearly and firmly,

We all face the same end - I just have a shorter timeline. And because of this I really will not put off to tomorrow things that I want to do today.  I want to  be really clear regarding my position on this ugly disease : I am LIVING with ALS - I am NOT dying with ALS.  And I intend to keep the life in my living. I want laughter and beauty and all the good things life has to offer.

And just about a year into her official diagnosis, this is exactly what she has done. She has gone on vacation with her family. She has participated in a fund-raising marathon. She goes out with friends and invites them into her home. She has started celebrating birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries. (Her own and Murray's 37th anniversary was spent in ER, but that's a story for another day ...)

A fairly private person, she has made enormous adjustments to her life, as has Murray, in order to accomplish what she wants to accomplish, to keep the life in her living. Fiercely independent, she is choosing to give others the privilege of supporting her on her walk, just as she has done and continues to do for so many of us. Added to that, she has become an eloquent, elegant spokesperson for ALS.

So really, although her physical circumstances have changed, nothing has changed about her spirit and her attitude and her striking beauty.

Now here she was on Sunday afternoon, power steering her way into the TH (sorry about the ledge at the front door!).

"I can't believe you're here!" I chattered excitedly.

"Why?" she asked me matter-of-factly, as if it were no big deal to pack up a wheel chair and two elderly parents and take a jaunt out to the country. 

Murray introduced Carmel and Gerry and then I dragged out the tea basket. Gerry and Carmel chose Earl Grey and English Breakfast, and Shelagh chose Ginger Bounce, a palate cleanser and probably the only tea in the basket that can measure up to her moxie. 

Murray decided to live on the edge and drink real coffee ...

My Dad and Caite dropped by so I had the privilege of introducing them to this power couple in my life. And - the TH being the TH - people from neighbouring tables included their table in the little ribbons of conversation that tend to weave between tables on Sunday evenings.

At 5 o'clock we started serving dinner. Butternut squash soup and roast beef were on the menu, followed by sticky toffee pudding and mango mousse.

Evening fell gently and the little Tea House began to glow, but no brighter than my friend's eyes. She must have been getting tired; but she conveyed no sign of it. The two of us began arguing good-naturedly about something and she said, "You know, I can still stare you down - I've done it before!"

Later last night I received an email from Murray. Part of it read:

We were so impressed with your Tea House, not to mention the great food and ambiance.  And such warm and friendly people who patronize your establishment - it was fabulous.
It was a real treat to meet your Dad and sister, and we were certainly glad you got to meet Shelagh's parents.  Her Mom and Dad had a great time and I guarantee you they will be back. Shelagh usually struggles to be out and about for 6+ hours - but not today.  A true testament to how well she enjoyed herself today.  It makes my day when I can bring such happiness into her life. 

I have a magnet in my kitchen:

This is what Shelagh's and Murray's presence at Nilgiris did for me.

As I waved goodbye to them, my heart felt like it was going to burst from happiness. Not a lot of my city friends have the time available to visit Nilgiris; to think that these friends had gone out of their way to come to the TH was a tremendous encouragement to me personally as I take annual stock of where we are and if we should keep it up, the little TH and I, for another year ... 

And as I was getting ready to shut it down for the night I harked back to the VIP reserved sign again; I think Bronwyn was doubly right.

Shelagh and Murray, by coming out here, made me believe that the little sign was actually for me.


  1. You have a gift; a gift of the written word. And yes, that little kitchen magnet was truly meant for you.

    We had no idea our visit to the TH yesterday would provide you with such “tremendous encouragement”. You certainly do not appear to need it, with the success of your business venture. You have created so much more than a business. You have created and nurtured an environment of love and friendship. Our time at the TH was really remarkable. Your heart has truly “stretched” and we are so glad to be included within it.

    To the extent our visit did provide you with encouragement, please consider it our gift to you, in exchange for the many gifts and generosity you have bestowed upon our family.

    You are so very special! We truly value and cherish your friendship.

    Murray & Shelagh Mikulak

  2. Lovely to meet you, Shelagh and Murry, and Carmel and Gerry. Truly, in the grand scheme of things, we are all incredibly blessed with each new day. May we all live just as courageously with every breath we are gifted, whether laborious or with ease and, just like each of you, let the light glow from within, whatever our lot, whomever we be.

    Healing [Irish] Blessings be with and for each of you... all the way.


  3. p.s. the little house on the magnet is the same colour as everything else we noticed was that exquisite blue . . . !

  4. Thank you, M and S and C, for your words back to me. What a truly special evening it was! xoxo

  5. It's true! YOU ARE.


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