Singing you back home.

Rolling in the undertow of a huge grief tsunami.

I was browsing youtube for videos of songs I might want to sing at my recital, trying to ignore that today is December 1st, and the 5th is once again upon me.  And I happened upon a video of Keith Richards performing at the Merle Haggard Tribute Concert that Warren and I went to on April 6th.  I smiled, remembering how much fun we had that night and I pushed play anticipating the good memories the song would bring…

‘Best concert I have ever seen!’ my Bear crowed as we left the Bridgestone Arena that night with 17,000 of our new closest friends.  We stopped to admire the tour buses – recognized Loretta Lynn’s by the coal miner emblem on the front,  parked not far from Willie Nelson’s.  Security wouldn’t let us get close but we took some dark and blurry pictures anyway.  Stopped again half-way up the hill to the parking lot where we had stowed Ursula before the concert to let Warren’s legs rest for a few moments.  He leaned back on a street lamp pulled me to him and we kissed, giggling like kids, our hearts full of happiness. A truck honked, Warren just kissed me more – like a couple of old teenagers.

When we got to the truck, he greeted her as he always did:  ‘Hello Ursula’ but tonight added ‘my, you missed a wonderful concert’  He groaned as he climbed in behind the steering wheel, then grinned at me and took my hand.

‘We did it!  You bought us the tickets, we got in the truck and here we are – we just did it.’  he kissed my knuckles.

‘God I’m tired’ he laughed quietly.

‘Me too Bear…’ I smiled back ‘me too’

He started the truck and we pulled out onto upper broadway, wound our way through the traffic, and slowly rode through Nashville’s downtown core – the lights, the people, the music. I looked over and could see the smile still on his face – it echoed the happiness in my own heart.

When we got to the hotel we shucked off our clothes and crawled into bed, tv on, him with the pillows piled against the headboard, arm out for me to slip under and rest my head on his shoulder.  Our ritual every night.

For 45 nights.

Tonight as I watched the video – Keith Richards singing ‘Sing me back home’- I realized that we are there, right there, in the audience.  I can see us. Our seats were right in front of the lighting pit – centre of the floor.  We were in seats 24 and 25.  When the lights pan the audience, there he is – you wouldn’t know who it was if your broken heart wasn’t looking intently for it – but the tall pale blob, standing beside the short black blob with light hair?  That’s us. Captured there forever.

The shock hits me right in the heart.  I burst into tears and I want nothing more than to be there again.  Every memory of that night comes flooding back – him standing with the camera in his hand, focused intently on the stage. He looked so handsome and I was so proud to be there with him.  And amazed.  Amazed that after all these years we were finally together. My Bear and me.

We didn’t know that we had only 29 days left.

I keep thinking that I’m getting through this.  I have this coach in the back of my head who is encouraging me to keep going, keep living.  I know that it’s Warren who is helping me –  I know that he would have done anything to still be here with me.  And I am trying so hard to carve a life out for myself : Job, House, Singing lessons – I want him to be proud of me. See that I’m carrying on as he would want me to.  He couldn’t bear it when I was sad.

But there are days when this life is just meaningless.  I would give any of these things up to have one more day with him. Trite isn’t it?  Just like all the platitudes in all those sad songs… And I remind myself that Warren would give anything to be here – even for one of my worst days – and so I try to be grateful.  Grateful for each day I wake up and that I have these memories of him. Of us. Of that excellent trip.

I try to be grateful.

But when the grief hits me from out of nowhere – when I think that I might have a handle on the fact that half of my heart is just gone… gratitude is the last thing I can find.

I miss you so much my Bear…

 

Singing Solo

I’m sitting in the sunshine, feeling the familiar warmth on my skin, and remembering our days in Yuma. I distract myself from the spike of sorrow by wondering what to do with the rest of today.  I have washed the truck and bought dog food – all good responsible Sandy activities.  I also organized the truck inside – didn’t vacuum it but wtf, it’s some progress anyway.  I don’t know what it is that is pushing me today – I feel restless? No. But I want to do something.  Maybe I’ll go into Fergus tonight and watch the live music at the Brew House.  Or maybe not.

I feel like I’m starting to emerge from under the tsunami of grief and sadness that has consumed me for days.  I miss him.  I miss having his hand to hold and his warm smile and his excellent advice. But if I listen to my inner voice he’s there.  He’s still with me.  And as much as that makes me sad and frustrated – I want to see him! – it is also becoming a comfort.  There is a tribe (which tribe? I hear him prompt me – I don’t know Warren, I can’t remember…) that says that no one is really dead until the last day that their name is spoken.

Warren Allen McLeod.

I say his name each morning when I wake up and each night as I fall asleep.  No forgetting on my watch. With that in mind, knowing that he’s still here in one way or another, I feel stronger.  I am starting to pick up the the notes of my life, starting to compose the sound of the each day.  Never more than a day ahead though – I know now that fretting about the future, trying to compose an aria to carry me through – is futile.  We only have the notes for today.  Cherish whatever melody that brings you.

Today I’m composing a solo: my melody is bright and warm with an undertone of melancholy. And  that’s ok.  It fits me right now.

Stage Two

Apparently we go through 5 stages while we’re grieving: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  I seem to have arrived at the anger stage.

I didn’t realize my feelings had changed and at first thought that everyone else was just being stupid – talking, moving about, having lives and irritating the shit out of me.  But it turns out that those activities are normal things for people who are not grieving.  Now, don’t misunderstand: I am also talking, moving about, and having a life.  But while this is going on there is another script running in my head – one that is processing the fact that Warren is gone. So while I’m driving, I’m also aware that I’m driving without Warren.  And while I’m talking to my sister, I’m also aware that I’m not talking to Warren.  And in the last few days, this is making me angry.  Why did he have to die when I want to still drive with him?  Why is he not here to talk to when I still want to talk to him?  It sounds kind of crazy to people who haven’t been through this I’m sure, but it isn’t really crazy.

Well I hope it’s not crazy.

So how does it affect me when this script is running in the background?  It makes it hard to focus on things. I mean, I can focus on driving (seriously I can) but if you are in the truck with me and want to talk? I’m about 100% likely to ignore you, or get annoyed with you.  Or turn the music up. I can only do so many things at once. And if I’m talking to you I may just stop mid sentence or repeat myself.  And I will get irritated if you try to get me to remember what I was saying – I probably have no idea.

The anger seems to be coming from this strange cognitive dissonance that acknowledges that my sweetheart has died, that I can’t get him back, and that there is nothing I can do about it.  That last part is the part that makes me angry: I can’t do anything to change this and that is unfair.  I wasn’t done.  I was happy and he was happy and we both were looking forward to that going on for a very long time – not just until May 5th.  No. That wasn’t long enough.  And I’m mad.  Mad as hell at the world for being unfair and cruel. At myself for loving someone again and having the temerity to be so happy.

At Warren for dying…

No. That part isn’t really true.  I’m not mad at him.  I know that if he could be here still he would be.  But I wish he would have listened to me and gone to the clinic the day before he died.  He might still have died – who knows?  But then I wouldn’t feel this guilt – and maybe that’s part of the anger.  I did everything I could and he still died.  How can that be?

So to those people around me, the wonderful family and friends who are watching over me and trying to negotiate the unpredictability of my grief?  Thank you.  And I’m sorry. This can’t be easy or fun to watch.  But I’m working on it and I’m doing the best I can. Please just hang in there – I’m starting to get my grief sea-legs.

But it hurts.

Grief has taken the normally chatty and gregarious Sandy and has turned her into a quiet and kind of angry woman.  I am thin skinned right now and too much chatter or sympathy is exhausting.  I appreciate everything you are doing.  I love that I have such a broad and supportive group.  But I am just kind of off-line at the moment.

I hope you understand.

Tomorrow is June 5th – the one month mark…  I won’t be posting as I’m pretty sure tomorrow will be a very hard day.

I still missing you, my Bear.

S

 

 

Sunday May 28th

Grieving is hard and exhausting.

It’s difficult not to see the sad faces reflected from my own – the sympathetic sadness. I hate thinking this is how I’m making others feel, but the idea of isolating myself so they don’t have to watch me grieve just doesn’t appeal to me. I’m in a want-company-but-don’t-talk-to-me kind of place. But also: talk to me, I need the distraction. So how the hell do I explain this to the people in my life?

I have been surfing the emotions as they come – sometimes I see it coming and navigate the Sad wave and manage to stay on the board. Other times I get knocked off by a rogue Sad wave  or encounter a memory shark in the emotional waters. So far when this happens I haven’t sunk – I just flounder a bit till I find the board and throw myself across it, waiting till the emotional waters calm enough for me to regain my equilibrium.

It’s not fun.

I want to tell the people in my life that I’m sorry I’m so unpredictable right now, but I know they understand. Which is also kind of hard.  I don’t want to be this person – I don’t want to be sad and angry.  I don’t like how I feel right now – such a contrast from the happiness we had 3 weeks ago.

I miss him, oh my god, I miss him. I think about the fun we had and how good we were together – how much I could make him laugh and how dear that face was to me.  He looked at me like no one has ever looked at me before, with so much love, respect, admiration. I miss his friendship.  The long talks. Holding his hand and knowing there was nowhere else either one of us wanted to be.

He said to me once that he hoped he died first so that he wouldn’t have to live a day without me again. At the time I shook my head and asked him why he thought it would be better for ME to have to be the one left behind.  He told me he knew he couldn’t handle being that sad and lonely.  I am glad that he got his wish: this yawning sadness isn’t something I would have wanted him to experience.

The writer in me feels like I should probably say something stoic and uplifting to close this out… but I’m not going to. I just don’t have it in me right now.

S

13,928 Km of Happiness

Idaho Falls will always be a place of darkness in my heart.

My Bear had trouble sleeping that night and when at 3 am I pulled him to me and asked him what was wrong, he told me not to fret and hugged me and told me to go back to sleep.  We both were awake for awhile while he tossed and turned…

When we woke up that morning he said he was feeling better.  We cuddled in bed for a while enjoying each others company and giggling a bit as he tried to warm his feet on my legs.  Finally he swatted my bum and told me ‘Go shower Woman!’.

I was sitting at the dressing table, putting on my make up when he came out of his shower and stood for a moment.  I turned to him, ‘What’s the matter Bear?’  He shook his head ‘I don’t feel well’.

On May 5th Warren Allen McLeod, my Bear, suddenly ended his journey in Idaho Falls.

I hold the love of this dear man tight in my heart.  He was the best travelling companion and was never more happy than when we were holding hands and driving to our next adventure. The little travelling rituals: putting on our sunglasses; making sure there were drinks in the Refreshment Boots; him taking my hand and saying ‘We cats are ready to go’ – these are imbedded in my memories. And always, the radio tuned to his favourite Country and Western station. There was never a day when he didn’t tell me how much he loved me.

The last 5 weeks? That was just our season.  We ran together like two happy dogs and explored everything that caught our noses.  And he has been spared the slow inevitable death that diabetes brings. So although it devastates my heart, it is the best end for our run.

I learned so much from this kind and gentle man. And my heart is more full of love for him now than it has been for the last 13 years. Our time together was meant to be and I know that of all of it, the last 5 weeks were the happiest I have ever seen him.

Soon the acute phase of grief will pass. This first week was the hardest.  Then it will be the first month. The first year. And soon he will be the smile on my face and the courage in my step. My life will be better having known him, but first I need to find my way out from under this tsunami of grief.

I’ve added a slideshow of Warren and a song by Alison Krauss that speaks to my heart.  Warren wasn’t a religious man, but I know he will appreciate the sentiment of the song.

I miss you my Bear.  Safe travels on your long journey.

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