The Luminarias, in San Bartolomé de Pinares, a village in Spain, takes place during the festival of Saint Anthony, patron saint of animals. Riders take their horses through bonfires in a 500 year-old tradition designed to purify the animals

Last night Gingerheaddad and I went to see Tosca, the opera. Neither of us had seen a live opera and both of us wanted to, so a few months ago I bought the tickets as a way for us to celebrate his birthday. Given that neither of us has infinite resources we decided to also make this a combination celebration – of our first Valentine’s day together and marking a year since we met. His birthday is in January and the anniversary of our first in-person meeting isn’t actually until March, but one of the advantages of being middle-aged is a certain flexibility about these sorts of things.

Due to the strained financial circumstances I find myself in now, I did try and sell the tickets on Craigslist and Kijiji but didn’t get any interest so we decided we’d just enjoy ourselves and go. In fact, watching a story that involves murder, betrayal, torture and loss seemed to me to fit my circumstances perfectly given some of my recent life experiences. Ok, so there’s been no murder or torture but betrayal and loss have certainly made their presence.

My last two blog posts focused on an online event that has been somewhat traumatic for me. Unfortunately, my offline life has also been a tad tumultuous. Around the time that the drama involving A4cwsn started, my Nannie died. She was 91 and had not been herself for a while so it was not entirely unexpected. Nonetheless, she was my last surviving grandparent and her passing meant that my children would never get to know any of my grandparents. She was a kind and generous woman who, when my Mum was 14, married my grandfather and became the mother my mother had never had. Nannie was quick to laugh, impossible to buy gifts for, a faithful correspondent and loved to play scrabble with my sister and I when we visited her. I live in Canada now and with all of my family still in the UK, after Nannie’s death I felt an especially long way from home. I had neither the money for the airfare nor the ability to leave my kids so I was unable to attend the funeral and felt awful leaving my mother to cope with everything without my physical presence for support or comfort. This is the only picture I have of Nannie in soft copy – from one of our 1970s family Christmases:

From left to right - Me, Granddad Shoyer (Granddad Roberts is taking the picture), my Dad, my Mum, my sister, Nannie and Grandma

Then, a few weeks ago, I lost my job. I had started work on August 6th, 1990 and continued to work for the same employer until a merger  in 2001. In effect, I had been working with the same people for 21 years. Admittedly I did have a break for two years while I pursued a masters degree, but even while at school I worked one day a week and so I had a continuous employment record. Given the length of time I had worked, my severance package was generous and I’m extremely lucky to not have any immediate money worries (I’m also VERY excited not to be working during the upcoming tax season), but I’ve lost a community of adults that I enjoyed being with and as the sole financial provider for myself and my children it’s scary to be unemployed.

Losing an online community I had been a huge part of and being dumped by people on Facebook who I thought of as friends, losing my Nannie and being so far away from home, losing a job I’d been working at for half of my life… yes, an opera full of pain, loss and betrayal seemed like it would suit my mood perfectly. Instead of being a mirror for my feelings of loss however, the experience elicited some emotions and reflections in me that were wholly unexpected.

At the end of Act III is a duet called ‘O dolci mani’. I’ve always thought it as a beautiful piece of music but last night I found myself crying through it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the opera, you can see and listen to the duet here…

… and the context of the piece is this –  the woman singing is Floria Tosca and the man she is with is her lover, Mario Cavaradossi. Floria had helplessly stood by as Mario was tortured and then sentenced to death by Scarpia, the chief of police. She managed to get Scarpia to agree to a mock execution of Cavaradossi and sign a note securing their safe passage. In return for Mario’s life, she reluctantly agrees to have sex with Scarpia. Facing the prospect of something tantamount to rape, as Scarpia approached her, Tosca grabbed a knife and stabbed him to death. She visits Cavaradossi in prison and in their duet she explains the mock execution and how they will then escape, while Mario conceals that he knows he will die, because he wants their last moments together to be full of love and hope. Tosca watches the firing squad shoot her lover and quickly realizes the execution was all too real and that Mario is in fact dead. Hearing the police coming for her she also realizes that Scarpia’s body must have been discovered and so jumps to her death from the roof of the prison.

I know what you’re thinking, it’s certainly no lighthearted fluffy romantic date. True, its not You’ve Got Mail, but then I’m pretty sure that movie doesn’t contain any important life lessons either, other than perhaps the fact that The Godfather contains the answer to any question. What struck me hard and made me cry as I listened to that duet was how much these two characters loved each other. Neither of them was perfect – she was ridiculously jealous and he openly admired other women. Where her faith was important to her, he was godless. But they were devoted to each other, and despite her principles Tosca was prepared to do anything to secure Mario’s safety whilst he, facing certain death, sings to her about life, hope and how much he loves her.

Love is incredibly powerful – its the driving force behind everything I’ve done for my children and I am so blessed to be Owen and Oliver’s mother. I’m also incredibly lucky to have found Gingerheaddad. We met on twitter about a year ago, and thinking back to my first ever comment on his blog, I found myself reflecting on something I had forgotten. The blog post in question was Running My Own Race, a lovely meditation on the subject of memory and loss. He was writing about how February is a particularly difficult month for him as its the month in which his father died. In commenting on his post I said that February was in many ways a good month for me – it was the month I came to Canada and the month in which my children were born. I also noted that the name February derives from the latin word for purification; the month was one that not only marked endings but also new beginnings. Little did I realize at the time but he and I were beginning a relationship which would become incredibly important to us both.

So, here’s hoping that I can make this February another purifying month, get to work on clearing any dead wood that’s accumulated and focus on preparing for the new beginnings that I’m sure are ahead. Purification is often achieved through fire and I’ve certainly been through a lot of that lately. It can also involve water and the tears I shed last night really helped me let go of the focus on loss that I’ve had for the last two months. In marvelling at the depth of love that Tosca and Cavaradossi had for each other as well as the strength it gave them, I felt a renewed appreciation for the love I have in my life, how incredibly lucky I am to have Owen and Oliver as well as a man who is a great friend, can make me laugh like no-one else I know, is a huge source of support and who loves me as dearly as I love him.

My Valentine’s wish for you is a recognition of all the love that surrounds you (and not just the romantic kind) and how much strength you can derive from it. I also hope that you’ll join me in moving away from the pain all of us feel as a result of loss and start preparing for some new beginnings ahead.


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6 Comments on “Purification”

  1. Teriann Morgan February 13, 2012 at 5:14 am #

    Such a beautiful post…I am so sorry you’ve been through so much and totally feel your pain. How wonderful you have found someone to share your journey, you deserve the happiness that love brings.You are an amazing Mum and friend and I am so grateful to have found you.
    I too hope February brings us all purification and although the last couple of months have been truly heartbreaking I think we have all found a more wonderful community then the one we lost…
    ( I have a special little man born this month also) ❤ ❤ ❤

  2. Veronika February 13, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    Beautiful. Thank you xoxox

  3. Diane Compton February 13, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    Thank you for this. I had much of the same thoughts–though not as eloquent–when I was going in for major surgery. I prayed that all things unhealthy for me would be found and removed from my life forever. Well, not only was the surgery a success, but within a week I suddenly, and while on massive pain killers, lost three relationships–1 professional and two very close friends who turned out to be “good time gals,” who just didn’t want to deal with my troubles. I was crushed, until I really started looking back and seeing how I was being used in each of these relationships. I had been purified, just as I had requested. I’m so sorry for the loss of your grandmother. We lost my husband’s grandma last year at 99, and we were all in shock. Sounds funny I know, but she had said she would live to 100 and, being the fiesty old broad she was (her words), we never doubted she would. Here’s to onward…

  4. Holly Stillwagon February 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    Beautifully written, Deanne. I always find a “take away” in your blog posts.
    Thank you. ❤

  5. Gingerheaddad February 13, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    One of the reasons l enjoy your posts is that I never really know where they are going to end up. The journey through your words is always lovely, even though the subjects covered may not be cheery and light. Like watching and enjoying Tosca we know that there are going to be moments of great joy and beauty in life and moments of seemingly unendurable pain. Your losses have caused you great pain and yet I have been blessed with the opportunity to lighten the dark times a bit. It has also worked the other way and you brightened my dark days. Who could have predicted the paths we would travel when we found another parent of autism to tweet with? Thank you for sharing some of your hard moments and creating some happy ones together. For every Scarpia there are so many more duets to come.

  6. Leah Kelley February 20, 2012 at 11:54 pm #

    This is lovely… ((hugs)) to you both!


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