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3 In Blog


img_8711Five years ago, as something of an experiment, I was asked to write a song for use in one of Rosedale United Church‘s Advent services. It was for Magnificat Sunday. I finished the words to “May it Be” 20 minutes before singing it. I stood before the congregation, seven months pregnant, channeling my own anxieties about becoming a new mother into the music. As the last line in the piece states, I was afraid.

The next year, I had a 10-month-old baby. As I sang the song again for our congregation, I was reflecting on what a wild ride the first year of motherhood had been. I sang the piece with joy.

Sorrow filled my heart as I sang “May it Be” a third time. I had miscarried only days before and by the third verse, I was singing through sobs and tears. That day, I sang the song in grief I didn’t know I was capable of feeling.

The week before year four’s performance, Simon made his acting debut as Baby Jesus in the church Christmas pageant. Our family was complete.

Last year, our congregation started leading 17 community groups in their goal of sponsoring Syrian families attempting to make a better life for their children in Canada. I sang “May it Be”, after watching my second son be baptized, while thinking of all the frightened mothers only wanting for their children to be well, safe and happy.

Tomorrow will be the sixth time singing this song at Rosedale United Church. It has now been sung in various congregations around Canada and the United States. I received a message it will be played in the UK tomorrow. It might be the song I am most proud of writing. It represents anger, fear, longing, hope and promise. Team Flannel (our family) is about to embark upon some big changes in 2017. Tomorrow I will be reflecting on what the last five years have brought – love, family, and community – while thinking ahead to the uncertainty and adventure of our new journey.

My heart is filled with affection and love for everybody in my circle this evening. May this season be filled with peace for all of you.


1 In Blog/ Capital Punishment/ Social Justice



I am currently sitting in the Columbus airport on a four hour layover waiting for my connecting flight to Houston.  I can’t say I’ve ever felt a burning desire to see Ohio, but I have had a burning desire to sing this song:


After landing in Houston I will have to find my rental car.  Wish me luck!  I found out I need to get to the rental kiosk via shuttle and I’m not particularly good with directions.  I then head over to my Airbnb.  This booking was shockingly inexpensive and I’m choosing not to believe it has anything to do with the fact that nobody really wants to visit Houston in August.

Tomorrow I drive out to the Alan B. Polunsky Unit in Livingston to visit Ramiro Gonzales, my friend and Death Row inmate (in that order).  We have never met in person.  I only know him through his letters.  Ramiro’s execution date had been set for August 10th.  Originally, I was travelling to Texas to be one of the witnesses to his death.

However, a few weeks ago, Ramiro’s date was withdrawn and rescheduled to November 2nd.  Everything was already in place for this trip, so here I am, drinking bad coffee in a nondescript airport.  My plan is to travel back to Texas in November, or whenever it looks like the State will follow through with their plans to kill him.

I have been holding off writing a blog post about Ramiro’s change of date because it’s not exactly clear why it happened.  The previous three Texas execution dates had been stayed.  Ramiro’s was simply rescheduled.  Perry Williams, who was set to be executed on July 14th, received a stay when state officials failed to meet a deadline for obtaining results on the purity of the drugs that were to be used to kill him.  The next scheduled execution after Perry Williams was Ramiro, so it’s possible there is some connection.

Ramiro’s date being withdrawn was the first hope I’d felt since April.  This is when he was taken to Medina county and told he had about four months to live.  There is no question of guilt or innocence.  I was told over and over again not to get my hopes up because his was a pretty “cut and dry case”.  He killed Bridget Townsend.  He admits he killed her.  I was told many times to prepare myself for his death.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I woke up on July 16th to one Facebook message, two text messages and 10 missed calls from my friend Catherine.  She had been trying to get a hold of me all night.  It was the one night I didn’t have my phone on because I was sleeping over at my mother’s and in bed with my toddler.

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 4.59.02 PM

Catherine lives in Calgary, so she was still awake when the news came in.  As you can see, she was really excited.  So was I.

Pushing the execution date back means more time for lawyers to do their lawyer things and work their lawyer magic. Hopefully, they can find reasons not to execute Ramiro that are convincing enough to judges who seem reluctant not to kill their fellow citizens that they shouldn’t do it in this case.  It also means more time for Ramiro to complete the things he’d like to get done for his family, if he does end up dying in November.

For me, it means hope.  I had been gently told so many times not to have hope, I had become resigned to the fact I was almost certainly going to be watching Ramiro be murdered on August 10th.  I was still doing everything I could to help stop that from happening, but I had very little hope that my efforts (or anybody else’s efforts) were going to make a difference.

Now, I have a new spark of hope.  And as we all know from the great literary classic…

Source: PsychCentral

And it means that for this trip, I will get to visit with my friend without the immediacy of his impending death.  We have a lot to figure out and talk about.  He’s certainly not out of the woods.  But he will not be dying during this trip, and I will not be watching it.

See you in Texas.