And then I went to Cuba

Or at least thats what is happening tomorrow. I’ll be gone for 10 days and ten days only. My little house will wait quietly till I get back.

I bought a new suitcase. Brought it home, introduced it to Big Pinky, my other travelling companion from last year.

My second suitcase is identical to Big Pinky – the same American Tourister, same bright pink. But smaller. This one holds smaller hopes and dreams.

Mother’s Day in my yard

I’m sitting in the sun on my deck. A gentle breeze whispers by every now and again. I can hear human sounds: cars in the distance, a chain saw somewhere, a lawn mower running. The church bells tell me it’s 10:00.

In the distance, a dog barks, and I can hear the blur of people’s voices – an indistinct indication that I’m not alone.

And underlying all of this, is a chorus of birdsong. My neighbourhood is an old one – the heritage district near St Mary’s hospital. So we are blessed with mature trees, lilac bushes, cedars and small evergreens here and there. And as a result, many birds.

I can hear a cardinal reminding us that this is his territory. Sparrows, house wrens, robins, and red wing black birds add joyfully add to the cheer. The occasional starling inserts their strident comments, they seem to be saying ‘simmer down! Don’t be so happy!’

There are so many different bird voices that I can’t identify them all. I bet once my sister Linda gets back from sailing she can tell me who is in my yard – she is a much better birder than I.

An American Goldfinch lands above my head on a branch of the Mayday tree that’s adding its fragrance and beauty to my yard. We consider each other for a few seconds. Then he flits away as quickly as he’s come.

As I turn back to my writing, a chipmunk appears on the end of my deck and starts chattering at me, apparently unhappy with my presence in her space. Well too bad friend, I think, now I’m part of this space too. Also, I make a mental note to get some nuts to feed her when I’m out here next.

Each day when I check my yard there is something new to delight me.  I have so many plants coming up: bleeding hearts, tulips, grape hyacinth, forget-me-nots, lily of the valley, peonies, day Lilies, snow-in-the-mountain, some other little pink ground cover plant. A lilac bush is starting to bud, and the forsythia in the front garden is beautiful.

I’ve had contact from my kids, and have spent time drinking coffee and writing in my garden. The rest of the day is mine to spend as I wish.  How could a mother’s day get any better? 862A75FC-7C62-4A24-85C1-4B636D7CFC22

May 5th, 2018

I’ve been watching this weekend approach for, well, a year I guess. But it wasn’t until about 2 months ago that I really started to feel the ‘anticipatory grief’…  that’s the technical term for it.  Knowing that the anniversary of Warren’s death was so close felt like I was stuck on the tracks and I could see the headlight of the train in the distance.

On Wednesday I went to see my grief therapist, told her how I was feeling, wept on her couch for an hour and a half.  When I left she said ‘you’re doing better than you realize’.  I guess I am.  I guess my life is going on, just as it should. But that doesn’t feel better.  I keep bumping up against the shock and denial – how can he still not be here?  I think there was some weird part of me that thought that once I got through this first year, it would be over and then… I don’t know… he’d be back?  No.  But that it wouldn’t have happened or… I have no idea. It’s some sort of weird magical thinking.

One of the biggest things that I realized last week, is that – and I’m sorry if this is too blunt – he’s not dying again.  It will never be as horrible or hard as it was on May 5th of 2017.  It is still horrible.  It still makes no sense that he isn’t here.  But it will never hurt as much as it did that morning, or the morning after.  Waking up without him was a shock I was sure I would never get used to.

I will never forget the relief I felt when my sister Linda and her husband Chris came to Idaho falls and gave me a safe place to fall apart.  They cared for me, let me cry and cry and cry.  Made sure I ate and drank.  Helped me pack.  Spoke to the crematory and arranged when we were to pick up his ashes.  Drove me back to Canada and didn’t blink an eye when I got angry or rude on the drive.  Our relationship is now bonded, sealed: I will never be able to think of this time and not feel gratitude for their love and gentle support.  They are both the most incredible humans.

This week I got to experience more of that support – not just Linda and Chris checking in on me each day, making sure I wasn’t sinking too deep.  All of my family, near and far, were keeping an eye on me. I received messages of love of support from all over: my cousin Kirsten in Oregon, my best friend Roslyn (who is going through her own difficulties right now). Peggy, Brenda, David, Jennifer, Kathy, Eileen – they all found ways to connect this weekend.

My work family has been fantastic – I got a bouquet and a message of ‘hogs and kisses’ from my two besties at work – and my boss and his bosses were gentle and respectful of my time away from work right now. Steve, my boss, has been very supportive – making sure I knew he was available if I needed him.

It hasn’t been the year I expected.

I, of course, anticipated a much longer time with my Warren.  But since this is the way it went, I am grateful – that’s not even the right word.  Is there a word that means grateful, amazed, thankful, in awe? Whatever that word is, insert it here.  I am grateful for the people in my life.  Grateful for the way this year has unfolded – so gently, with such support and love.

Warren Allen McLeod, you are deeply missed.  You have been in my thoughts every day – you are always with me. I love you.  I miss you.  You are my heart, my Bear.

S

One more week…

One week before Warren died, Willie Nelson released his album God’s Problem Child and had an immediate hit with ‘He will Never be Gone’. This song was, of course, about Merle Haggard, but the sentiment rang true for me a week later when my Bear died – no matter what, he would always be with me.

Today, with one week to go before the anniversary of Warren’s death, Willie has released a new song called ‘Something you get through’.  It’s a song about what happens when someone you love dies… “it’s not something you get over, but it’s something you get through’.  I like that Willie and Warren and I are in sync this way.

I can’t even begin to tell you how hard this week is already shaping up to be.  Tonight I had planned to go buy a rake to clean out my flower beds, and maybe get a barbecue so I could start grilling my suppers.  But I got home and the empty house got me again.

All I can do is sink into the sadness for a bit.  I tried to explain to someone that this week that it feels like I’m watching a train approaching and I’m stuck on the track.  I find myself thinking about April 27th last year, when Warren and I were sunning ourselves poolside in Yuma:  enjoying the quiet companionship, trying to identify the birds in the trees by the pool, giggling about things that would certainly have had our children raising their eyebrows if they heard… it was just like a honeymoon. The remembered happiness is bittersweet.

When I was at work today I tried to keep focused, but I looked at his picture and couldn’t stop myself thinking about shopping in Mexico last year. About how we had no idea that there were only 7 days left.  And it makes me want to just run away – I don’t want to think about how those days were the happiest days, innocent of the fact that this time was coming to an end.

I’m surviving.  Thriving maybe. I’m making a life for myself, putting things back in order, making friends, enjoying my work – adjusting to a life that has all my love with no Warren to give it to.  I feel him here – in my heart – and that gives me comfort.  He shows up in my dreams, and I’m always glad to see him: tall and strong and looking good –  it gives me peace the day after I’ve dreamt about him; it gives me respite from the grief.

I’ve taken next Friday off, and the week after – I’m giving myself space to just be in whatever emotional place I’m going to be on the anniversary of his death.  I’ll probably do a lot of driving, listening to our music, crying.  It’s what I do now. And I’ll reflect on what a tremendous gift this man was to my life, and how he will never be gone.

Warren Allen McLeod. I love you and I miss you my Bear.

S

One month to go

One month, and the first year has passed. I can’t fathom how I got through this. The Sorrow is not less – the grief takes my breath away at the most unexpected times. But I can manage it now. My grief baby is becoming a toddler… sleeping through the night, marginally easier to reason with, but when I’m tired? It has tantrums that are exhausting.

I’m heading to bed right now – one eye on the calendar as the days crawl ever on towards May 5th.

God I miss you my Bear.