Monday, December 14, 2009

Life Goes On

When my beloved cat Dandylion died almost four years ago, I painted a picture called "Life Goes On". In the painting, I'm sitting on my bed with Dandylion (who's facing away, looking at the outside world through the window) and my two new kittens, Hershey and Rascal, who are both curled up next to me. It represented the fact that, sad though it may be, life goes on, even if you're heart is broken and your life is in shatters. I'll always love Dandylion for as long as I live - nothing will ever change that! - and yet, the huge void he left in my life led me get Hershey and Rascal two weeks later.

It's different when your husband of 21 years suddenly dies. I can't just run out to the Humane Society and get a new mate, nor would I want to. Rob is irreplaceable, one of a kind!

And, as with the case of Dandylion, I realize that, even through the pain of grieving, life continues to go on, and I have to keep going along with it. It's what Rob would have wanted, after all.

So, my daily rituals continue as well: nourishment, bathing, shopping, banking, seeing to it that my household is run smoothly, that my employees are paid, that the cats are happy and healthy, and that bills are dealt with in a timely fashion. I can't totally fall apart, as much as I'd like to, because people depend on me.

To get back into the ebb and flow of the universe, I decided to do some things which were both fun and constructive. For Halloween, I dressed up as Anne Bonny (a real life female pirate.) It felt wonderful to be someone else for awhile! Without too much trouble (amazingly enough!) I had several fittings for my new (and fantastic!) seat and wheelchair, both of which will be here in mid-January. And, I've been painting, of course. Painting is like breathing to me: I couldn't survive without it.

There were serious things I had to deal with too, such as, paying bills, canceling cards, and going to ODSP.

About a month ago, I had to go into the ODSP office for a financial review. (I hate those meetings! They make me feel insignificant and lower than scum on a snake's belly). It's intimidating as hell because they comb through your finances, looking for some little mistake saying that you have a penny or over the poverty-line.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. My worker suggested to me that I should write to the City of Toronto and ask for a copy of Rob's death certificate so that I could apply for a death benefit. In fact, my worker seemed genuinely concerned for my welfare.

Yeah, right! I went back last Friday to show them my art profits for the month of November (of which they're taking 50%!) and my worker again brought up the subject of me getting the death benefit. It might be as much as $300.00. (That brightened my day! Now that ODSP was giving me less monthly income since Rob's death, I knew I could put that money to good use!) And then she dropped the bombshell: the Provincial government would pay me the death benefit and the next month the Federal government would deduct the exact same amount from my ODSP cheque. So, basically, I would get nothing - nothing for being a good and loving partner and wife for 21 years, nothing for my pain and grief for these past 3 months. When I asked her why should I even bother applying for the death benefit - she said that I HAD to!

As you know, I'm a strong woman, but I found myself weeping in the ODSP office. I felt cheated and humiliated. I'm sure that other people who get death benefits actually get to keep theirs. But, because I, and others like me, are on ODSP, we don't have the same rights, even though our needs are greater than most. Despite the government's promise to end poverty, they seem to be hell bent on keeping people on ODSP poverty-stricken for the rest of their lives!

And so, yes, life does go on. Apparently, so does the fight for positive, progressive change.