Synchronicity and my shirt-tale cousins Eric and Marion

I did my Masters’ thesis on the Canadian writer Robertson Davies.  Davies was fascinated by the work of Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, and in what I believe are his best three novels (Fifth Business, The Manticore, World of Wonders), Davies explores the lives of his characters from a Jungian perspective. 

When I was choosing a topic for my Masters’, a professor gave me some excellent advice.  Forget about the job market or what else has been written about your choice, pick a writer you really like because you’re going to be spending a lot of time together.  It was good advice. 

I always head for the loo when someone announces that a writer changed his or her life, but Robertson Davies changed mine.  If you want to head for the loo, this is your chance, but I’m going to use Wikipedia to explain one concept of Jung’s, so you know that this will be quick and painless.

Wikipedia explains that “synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner.  To count as synchronicity, the events should be unlikely to occur together by chance. 

"Jung was transfixed the idea that life was not a series of random events but rather an expression of a deeper order.  From the religious perspective, synchronicity shares similar characteristics of an intervention of grace’”

Wiki goes on to note that synchronicity often accompanies a large life event, for example, a birth or death, and ushers in a new stage in a person’s psychological or spiritual development.

Now back to the shirt-tale cousins.  Recently, I wrote a blog called “A good day to be alive”.  I wanted to write about three couples I knew who had found love later in live, but when I began to write I remembered my cousin Eric coming up to my aunt and uncle’s cottage to study for his bar exams.  He and his friend Herk would swim every morning and Eric would run up from the lake, towel off and say “It’s a great day to be alive.”  I thought Eric might enjoy the blog, so I googled him, found his business email and sent the information along.  He replied with a nice note, saying that at 81, every day was a good day to be alive, that he still went to the office every day and that some days he was actually useful and that he and his wife, Marion were going to the reunion of his law school class in Toronto and then heading to Vancouver.  Ted and I were Vancouver at that point, so we did some quick calculating and realized that we would be in Winnipeg by the time Eric and Marion arrived in Vancouver.  We were mildly disappointed and moved along. 

Last Wednesday night, I got a phone call from my niece telling me that my mother, who is 98, was not doing well.  My mother and I have had an uneasy relationship, but over the years we’ve made peace with one another, and we’ve both had good but separate lives.  Still losing a parent is not easy, and last Thursday morning when Ted and I went to the Winnipeg train station to get on the train that would bring us back to Calgary, I was deep in my own thoughts.  When a man with a winning and memorable smile called my name, it took me a minute to place him.  It was my cousin Eric, and he and his wife were going to be on our train. In our factoring, Ted and I had left out the time Eric and Marion would spend in Toronto at the law school reunion.

The last time we saw Eric and Marion was when my uncle died – twelve years ago, and our visit had been very brief.  On the train, we had time for one another, and it was wonderful.  Eric and Marion are great company.  They both still play tennis; Marion at almost 80, still skis (and is still gorgeous); Eric skates. (He’s still gorgeous too.)  They’re both quick and intelligent readers with a lovely sense of fun and a deep sense of empathy. 

Eric and Marion and I also share a history, and that was why Carl Jung would find it interesting that we would happen to get on the same train on the morning after I learned my mother was dying.  My mother didn’t want children, and of course that put some distance between us.  My aunt, also Eric’s aunt, was the mother in my life, and I have always been grateful for her presence.  My memories of my mother are not the stuff of Hallmark cards, but Eric and Marion remember her as a warm and gracious person who always made them welcome.    

Carl Jung would say that faced with my mother’s death, I needed a reminder that we are all complex beings who play many roles in many lives. Eric and Marion provided that reminder.  Synchronicity.  I’m just glad we didn’t miss the train. 

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