I’m often asked what brought me to this work. When I look back over my life, I see there were “markers” of significance that seem to suggest I have been headed this way for quite some time, perhaps even as early as grade six when I discovered my fascination with ancient Egyptian Funeral customs.
After a debilitating car accident in 2006 it became apparent that I could no longer practice as a massage or aquatic therapist. I was on the search for meaningful work. It took a long time to know what path I wanted to go down, mostly due to the fact that it was a long recovery from the accident. I was distracted for a time, during my recovery, asking questions about a river and the quality of the drinking water in a small Alberta town where oil and gas first began over a century ago.
The location of the drinking water intake is beside a national and provincial historic sour gas processing plant, and across the river from a partially remediated chemical waste dump used in the 1930’s to mid ‘70’s. There are 32 oil and gas pipelines within 200 metres, and numerous oil and gas wells dating back to the early 1900’s.
Before I started asking questions, the municipality never tested for any chemicals related to oil and gas. This is in part due to the fact that Alberta Environment never required this testing. I am happy to say they require it now, but it wasn’t without having to appear before the Environmental Appeals Board three times to get this in place. There is an upgraded water treatment plant now in operation.
The government finally constructed a multimillion dollar containment wall around the national and provincial historic site that they bought for a dollar in the 1980’s. They also snuffed out the old illegal in ground flare pit. Industry started cleaning up the town, and after eleven years of volunteer work in this capacity I was done. I was accused of doing this work because I wanted to leave a legacy. I thought I was doing it to protect the children who swim each summer next to the gas plant and chemical landfill, as well as to protect the environment.
When someone asks me “What can one person do?” in a defeatist kind of way, I tell them what one person can do. Not bad considering I flunked chemistry in high school!
The death of my Mother brought me back to Nova Scotia. Once I got here, my path became clear. Embroiled in legal matters that are still not before the probate court after 5 years, I thought, I can help families avoid this by helping them to get their affairs in order and well in advance.
You might say it is a “calling.” It certainly feels that way to me. Freshly out of a deep cycle of grief over many losses in recent years, has provided me insights about the courage it takes to dive into grief instead of avoiding it, and making peace with death. This experience helped cultivate within me a deeper level of empathy and understanding. These are perfect skills to assist families, along with the training I have received.
As for my past of questioning the Alberta government about the water and the river all of those years, for no pay, or formal acknowledgement, I learned a lot. I learned a lot about myself, and how much I care for people and this beautiful planet we live on.
Humans are Sacred. Honouring the lives that have been lived and assisting people to identify the meaning of their lives brings me a great amount of personal satisfaction. I love this about my “calling.”