Embroidered Memories - Larisa Sembaliuk-Cheladyn

Soul-Sole Sisters

by Connie Brisson ~

“You’re an old soul.”

A woman in Medicine Hat told me that when I was about 25 years old, after I tried on a pair of her shoes and they fit me perfectly.

Intrigued, I asked her why she said that. She told me that a guru told her that she was an old soul based on how she fit her shoes (soles), and seeing as I fit her shoes perfectly, I must be an old soul too.

I hadn’t thought of that woman or her shoes or the age of my soul in a long, long time. But I did one Saturday when out of the blue, I decided to go through my shoes in a cleaning spree.

I often clean and de-clutter when I’ve got something on my mind that I need to work out. I was trying to decide whether I should go to the blessing of the graves of my Mom, Dad and Gene the next day in Iron River (about 2½ hours away).

I’d missed the blessing the first year after Mom and Dad died, so I really wanted to go this year – not because I believed they needed any blessings from the priest or me for their souls – but because I wanted to honor my Mom and her respect to this tradition (of visiting family graves once a year), as this was something she faithfully did for all family graves every year she was alive.

But my weekend was very busy and although I knew I could twist myself into a pretzel to drive out to Iron River on Sunday and participate, it felt overwhelming to me, considering all the other things I also needed to get done.

That night Gabbey had her year-end dance recital in St. Albert. While there, Jill Burt (one of Gabbey’s friend’s mother) asked if I could help the next day to pack up shoes for their charity called: The 10,000 Shoe Project. I thought it was synchronistic that Jill should ask me, considering my spontaneous shoe cleaning blitz earlier that day.

We got home late and the next morning I woke up tired, with no energy for a long trip. Feeling a little guilty, I mentally sent a little message to my Mom to tell her that, although I wanted to honor her, I was going to help with this shoe charity instead that day.

I arrived at Jill’s farm with a bag of my shoes and, as all of the helpers shared a lovely pot luck lunch, Jill told us about how this shoe charity began.

One of her dear friends, Carol Majeau died of cancer and a year later Jill had a gathering with all Carol’s friends to honor her. She was inspired to ask everyone to bring a pair of their favorite shoes to give away as Carol was well-known for her love of beautiful shoes. From that gathering The 10,000 Shoes Project was born. Shoes seemed like the perfect way to honor Carol, and in some small way, meet the needs of so many around the world.

Jill then serendipitously found HART, a Calgary organization that collects and distributes shoes to the poorest women in the Ukraine. HART also funds many other endeavors that help people in the Ukraine (please go to www.HART.ca for more information).

This immediately touched me deeply. I’m Ukrainian, with both my Mom and Dad’s parents either born here or arriving from the Ukraine before age one.

Anne (with HART) was with us and when she talked about her experiences of helping women in the Ukraine, I had a memory as a young child of watching my Mom work with other women from her church to do the bookkeeping and other tasks involved in caring for the church, hall and grounds. I remember feeling very proud of her because this was one of the only times (at that age) I saw my Mom interacting with other women in this way. There was a lovely camaraderie about what they were doing to help others that had a big impression on me.

At Jill’s, we all proceeded outside to a row of tables where we wiped, sorted and packed hundreds of pairs of shoes to ship to the Ukraine. It was simple work, but yet wonderfully rewarding.

Somewhere between wiping shoes and talking with my new soul/sole sisters there, I had this intensely emotional moment where I really felt I was honoring my Mom and her life so much more by being with this group of women on this day, to help other women in the Ukraine, than I would have by going to her grave.

I don’t know if I’m an old soul or not. In some ways I am old and wise, but in others ways, I’m just a young student. I wear different shoes in different situations.

But one thing is for sure. It isn’t just the shoes we wear, but the tracks we leave that mark our lives…


AUTHOR: Connie Brisson is the publisher and editor of Mosaic Mind, Body and Spirit Magazine since 2004. From a simple newsprint format, it grew into a beautiful full color, gloss magazine that was distributed throughout Alberta, Canada until the end of 2018. It’s now evolved into an online magazine that continues to help people heal, transform and live their best lives. www.mosaicmagazine.ca

ART:  Embroidered Memories © Larisa Sembaliuk-Cheladyn. Larisa got her BFA in Art & Design at the University of Alberta in 1981 and has become a well-known Ukrainian Canadian artist and illustrator. Many previous exhibitions and collections have been inspired by folklore themes and she also has an MA in Ukrainian Folklore from the University of Alberta. https://artbylarisa.com

NOTE: This article was first published in Autumn 2010 in © Mosaic Mind, Body and Spirit Magazine. This information is for educational purposes only and is intended to supplement your current health program, not to replace the care of a licensed medical doctor.

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