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.

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

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.