Adventures of the Heart

Yesterday my second oldest sister and her heart twin left for another adventure at sea.

These sailors were the ones who scooped me up in Idaho Falls when my own heart twin died. Linda held me and let me fall apart, tempted me with bits of food and things to drink, helped me decide what to wear when I was unable to even look at the clothes Warren and I had bought on vacation.  Chris took on the practical and necessary as well as comforting a broken sister-in-law: dealing with the funeral home, packing the truck, dealing with the hotel. They both made me walk (‘Walking is life’ I hear Warren say), and listened to me talk, and encouraged me to cry when the grief was still so acute.

Sailors are the best people to have around when things go wrong.  Although they always have a plan – I mean, it would be silly to hop on a boat without planning the food and water and route – they are prepared to change direction at any moment.  I guess that’s what happens when you agree to live a life that is based, literally, on where the wind takes you.

I spent a week or so up at the cabin with Linda and Chris, just hanging out and healing.  Although things are getting… better? I have a finite capacity to be sociable – interacting with people is exhausting right now. Linda has a warm and generous heart and let me just be in silence or chatter on when I needed to. Chris, a quiet man, also has a warm and generous heart. He listens to my endless chatter, always with an interesting perspective and often excellent advice: ‘You have a million tears to shed for Warren,’ Chris told me when we were in Idaho Falls, ‘that’s your job right now. You need to get at it’.  And I did.

I arrived to pick them up yesterday around 11:30 and take them to the hotel in Toronto where they would spend their last night as land lubbers before a ridiculously early flight to Quebec. They were zipping around attending to final details at the house, packing and discussing what needed to be done. They were excited and happy to be on their way to their next adventure together and the love they have for each other was clearly evident. It made me think of when Warren and I were waiting impatiently for him to finish his last job so he could come get me and we could head out on our Epic Road Trip.

A brief grief squall – Then gratitude for the memory.

We got on the road and wended our way through the traffic to Toronto. When I dropped them off at the airport we hugged and they told me to be strong and I’d see them in December. Well, Chris said he hoped he WOULDN’T see me in December but he just says that to hide his warm and generous heart. Also he’s a little bit of an ass. But I love that about him too 🙂  As I headed back to Guelph I had another brief grief squall – these sailors bring all kinds of unpredictable emotional weather when they leave.

And now it’s time for my own adventure.  I’m waiting for the results of two job interviews – I may end up in Alberta again, or I might stay in Ontario. One of the gifts I got from Warren was the gift of travel – I can go anywhere now – and I don’t fear anything anymore. So now where I land is less important than where I can go. I do miss those blue eyes and that hand to hold as I travel though.

I got a text from Linda this morning, saying they made it to Gaspé just fine and soon will be reunited with their beloved MonArk.  If you would like to follow their adventures, Linda also has a blog called liveaboard four seasons on a sailboat.  If you follow that link you can watch as she and Chris sail across the sea again.

It’s amazing where life can take us.

 

 

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

 

 

And now: the Thank Yous

This is the final entry in the Exercising Ursula blog of my and Warren’s travels.  I’m back with my family in Guelph and my travels are over.  And it would have been Warren’s 56th birthday today – and that somehow seems like a fitting place to end this blog as well.

Thank you to all of you who have been following along – Warren and I both loved creating each entry and through our day would talk about what the title of the blog would be that night or what we’d like to capture.  He had never blogged before so it was fascinating for him to watch the views and likes that we got, and he was amazed at how many parts of the world our blog was being seen. Thank you for helping to make him happy and for being a witness to the story that unfolded.

Thank you to my friends and family who reached out and scooped me up  when I fell apart in Idaho Falls.  And Thank you to Warren’s friends who sent their condolences and shared good memories about a lovely and well respected man. He certainly is missed by many.

I will be continuing to add my writing and life stories on this site, but not to this particular blog. This journey is over: my suitcase is unpacked, souvenirs stored, memories treasured. My heart? Well, I’m trying to let it mend.  But part of it is missing. I don’t know how I’ll get used to not having the comfort of the man who played such a part in my life for the last 13 years… but I will never forget the spring we two 55 year olds ran away and had the most Epic Road Trip ever.

The quote from the Blues Brothers below is what Warren said every morning when we started out – he was delightfully predictable in this regard:

… we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses.

He certainly knew how to make me smile.

Goodnight Mr McLeod.  I’m going to miss you, my Bear.

S

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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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