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Saturday, September 15, 2012

The tragic suicide of an 85-year-old Mother, and how we all deal with pain differently

This week a woman whom I have loved dearly for 30 years took her own life by stepping off the tenth floor balcony of her Toronto condominium.  Clara was 85-years old and left a note for her 92-year old husband and family who whose hearts were be shattered by her actions.  Ian and I went to high school with her son Andy and he was in our wedding party 21 years ago.  This was a very heartbreaking week.

Clara lived through WWII in Hungary and came to Canada on a boat with only a handful of money in her pocket.  She and husband Ernie (also from Hungary) were committed to making a good life for their children and they did.  They served their family, their community, their church, their friends and their God with all of their hearts, minds and energy.  They collected “stray” people (I would be one of those) and brought those strays in to their family from that moment on.  Their home was an open door and there was always a seat at the table and a bed to sleep in when needed.  Clara loved to cook and she loved to care for people, young and old. 

But getting old isn’t for sissies.  As Clara’s mind and body started to fail, she struggled with depression, as so many people do.  She was a “giver of help”, and not good at receiving help.  She felt her only solution for her and her family was to end her life “on her terms” (as her family so bravely wrote).  So yesterday my dear friend Dee Dee Heywood in Canada attended the second funeral in six weeks on my behalf (the other being my cousin Paul).  Thank you dear Dee Dee - I love you. 

Being away from friends and family while they are suffering is one of the hardest parts of living in Swaziland.  Project Canaan is a very long way from Toronto or Guelph.  I can sit on my yellow chair to weep and pray for them, but sometimes I just want to be there to give them a hug. I know that Jesus must give that hug instead, which of course is much better than mine, but sometimes I still wish it could be me.

This week I was asked how I physically deal with the pain and suffering we see here every day (i.e. the 16-year-old mother from last week’s blog who gave birth the very next day and is now living on the street with her newborn, refusing any help or care) and deal with the knowledge of pain suffered by family back at home.   I thought about my answer and decided to share it with you today.  The first way I deal it is by forcing myself on to my yellow chair for more prayer and scripture reading than I used to, and in that I find great comfort.  The other way is through humor.  Let me tell you a story about this week’s “Warthog Stew”. 

I love to cook.  When I am feeling sad or melancholy a good medicine for me is to cook for my family. It is a “love language” of sorts (which may ensure that I am never slim and trim!).  This week I was sad and needed some serious time in the kitchen.  I also needed a good laugh, so I started to plan.

I heard from the farm Supervisors that the dogs on the farm had cornered a Warthog running through and destroying the vegetables.  The workers then ran in and killed the animal (Wartpig as they call it) and then proceeded to skin it and divide up the meat.  I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to stretch my culinary skills and include Warthog in my meal planning.   
Of course I knew that Chloe and Ian might not embrace my plan (or eat the food) so I needed to plan it carefully and ensure that it would be delicious.  Warthogs do not look particularly appetizing (not many animals do when they are alive and have fur), but when I received a plastic grocery bag filled with bloody meat, including broken ribs and what looked like a hip bone, I became immediately thankful for the art of butchery and really sharp knives.

Ian and I love watching the movie “Julie and Julia” because we both love to cook.  The scene where she lovingly works on the famous Julia Child recipe of Beef Bourguignon makes our mouths water every time, but we had never tried making it.  It takes about 60 minutes of preparation time and three hours to cook, so you really have to be committed when you start.  My thinking was that if you are cooking something with all those flavors for three hours in an oven, no one could possibly know that it was Warthog instead of beef.  So I began.

The house smelled wonderful!  The aroma from this recipe is amazing, the meat was tender and it really was delicious. Even Chloe liked it!  While I had a good chuckle all day long, I started to think that maybe I shouldn’t tell them!  Then I was stuck!  What to do, what to do? Well, if in doubt, post it on Facebook.   So I made the confession of my Warthog Bourguignon on FB and waited for Chloe’s response.

There was a day, not long ago, that she would have freaked out, seriously.  But I think we are all settling in to our new lives here.  She did write the comment “ I’m moving out of the house”, but when the smell of brownies cooking in the oven started to waft down the hall, the Warthog incident didn’t seem to be so bad.

We all deal with things differently.  Tears and prayer is where I try to start, but humor is where I try to go next.  While the Maxwell sense of humor might be a bit twisted and not understood by all, I am thankful that the Lord has sent me family and friends who understand and love me through it all.

I will miss Clara and I mourn with her family who is left behind, but I give thanks for all that she did for so many and I pray that I can touch as many lives as she did in the time that I have on this earth.  Rest in peace dear Mother.

Live from Swaziland … it’s Ian’s 47th birthday and I am thinking of baking him a “special” cake today. J



  1. I read your blog every week - I admire the courage, strength and dedication your family must have. I am joining you at Thanksgiving and am very much looking forward to meeting all of you.

  2. Hi,

    I am very impressed after reading through parts of your blog. With your cooking skills I think you could be interested in this competition I have found. You cook your national dish and then you have the opportunity to win an iPad mini or money. It could also be a good chance for you to let more people know about your blog since you will be shown on their homepage and in a cookbook!
    Here's the presentation about the competition:
    Competition: Win iPad or Money
    And here's their facebook page:
    Facebook Page

    I hope you will be win..