five long years   16 comments

Posted at 7:47 am in Don, being alone, loss, traveling alone

Last night marked five years since Don’s death. I worked on this post for quite awhile, but the right words did not happen, so I finally gave up and got some sleep with the hope that I would know what to write this morning.

These annual posts are difficult for me. What to say?

Of course, I like to begin by choosing a few photos of Don that help me to remember him as the strong, healthy, man that he was for most of his life. Those days far outnumber the brief period of his illness. I don’t like to think of those last few months, but unfortunately, I cannot shake those memories and find them difficult to push away in spite of my best efforts. Anyhow, I thought this group of photos was particularly nice because they were taken along some of the many trails we hiked with Sabrina. We hiked, snowshoed, and paddled on trails, lakes and rivers all over eastern Canada. They were the best of times.

So, what to say this year – that hasn’t already been said before?

As might be expected, I still miss Don very much. He is in my thoughts each day as various situations trigger some recollection or cause me to wonder what he would have done or said if he’d been here. But, you know how it is – life goes on with or without you. And so I carry on, although there have been times when I’ve become very tired of everything and ready to throw in the towel. But I am still here. I keep the promise that I made – that I would carry on.

What else might be said?

Without any doubt, I know that Don’s death has changed me. Life is about change and we are all in the process of transformation from the time of our birth to that of death. However, certain events can precipitate radical change whether we like it or not. Being left to carry on alone has provoked me to become a person I barely know. For example, I am, by nature, a very shy and reclusive person. If I had my druthers, I would have spent the remainder of my life with Don, working and then doing the things we liked to do – hiking and traveling together when not just putzing around our own place, gardening, building things, or whatever. I do still do these things, but have had to force myself to interact far beyond anything that is within my comfort zone, especially when traveling on my own.

It may not be apparent to others, but all of this muddling on alone has been difficult in the extreme and has taken its toll over these five years of traveling, selling the farm, buying an old house to work on, moving, figuring out what to do, managing finances, trying to keep the dogs and me well, sort out the endless crap that we all have to deal with in life. Those tasks or problems that were once discussed and dealt with by the two of us, still had to be done. Many times, I have felt absolutely sick inside about having to deal with yet one more problem, but one way or another, in the end, I do – because I must. The proverbial buck stops here. The good thing in all of this is that it usually seems that I’m doing just about what Don and I would have decided upon together. It seems that a good part of his thinking rubbed off on me during our thirty-four years together. I used to feel like I was half a person after he died, but maybe it is more like being one-and-a-half in his absence. In any case, whatever is going on, it seems to be working and I manage in spite of myself.

So, what else can be said about these past five long years?

I guess I have learned a thing or two about life (and death). In truth, I knew most of this already – gleaned during the time while I was caring for my father during his terminal illness. However, repeating the process a second time while caring for Don served to reinforce these lessons.

* Be kind to others. It costs very little to be kind – to speak kindly to others – to reach out and help someone when they need a hand – to give something to someone when it will make a big (or even a small) difference to their existence. It is true about paying it forward. Everything you do for the good or bad, will eventually be returned to you – so try to make it all good.

* Treat others as if it may be the last time you see them. That might just be the case. If you love someone, tell them. It’s not sissy stuff. It means a lot. I am so glad that, in the finally weeks of my dad’s and Don’s lives, I told them how I felt. It meant a great deal to them and to me.

* Objects are just things and don’t really mean a hell of a lot. Our society puts great emphasis on material stuff, but it’s true about not being able to take it with you when you go. Worrying about your stuff is a real pain in the ass (just ask George Carlin). It’s also true that leaving a bunch of stuff behind for someone else to deal with isn’t a good thing. But more importantly, after you lose someone, or maybe two or more someones, you begin to twig onto the fact that stuff is sort of dumb. It’s relationships and experiences that are what count. These last few years, I’ve lost, given up, given away or had so much stuff broken, but it’s all seemed virtually meaningless compared to losing the people I love.

* Try to leave the world as a better place than when you arrived. Most of us may be feeling like what’s happening around us is beyond our control. That’s probably quite true. However, maybe this is just the right time to push back. The time to make the greatest difference is often that moment when it feels like things can’t get any worse. Believe me – I’m kind of an expert at recognizing those moments. Think of all the good that we humans could be doing here on this planet – but what are we doing instead? We have so much potential. Why are we squandering it on stupid shit? Why can’t we put all our considerable intellect, effort and resources into solving real problems – like curing cancer and other diseases, ending poverty and starvation around the world, lessening our impact on the environment. Can we not choose right over wrong?

Well, that is all for this year’s reflections.

To Don: I miss you and will love you – always.

Written by bev wigney on September 7th, 2013

16 Responses to 'five long years'

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  1. Beautiful, Bev. Thank you.

    Dale Favier

    7 Sep 13 at 8:12 am

  2. This is so beautiful, Bev, every word of it. A stunning tribute to love.

    robin andrea

    7 Sep 13 at 8:58 am

  3. A beautiful tribute, Bev. Thank you for sharing this very special time with us.

    Pam Shack

    7 Sep 13 at 12:34 pm

  4. I have never met you, didn’t know Don. I met you because my research about a builder from Nova Scotia brought me to your house in Round Hill. I have been reading your essays for the last year and a half. Your examination of your grief and your deep attachment to those you have lost is extremely moving. I have tears in my eyes as I write this. I have never met you, but have been inspired and touched by your words and images. I admire your courage, from the Old French corage, meaning heart. Thank you for opening your heart to the rest of us. Thank you for all of it.

    Anders Christensen

    7 Sep 13 at 1:14 pm

  5. As dull as Wolford Township in July,
    Time lies, a sleepy Ordovician plain.
    No awesome scarps or gorges drain the Hanlan Marsh,
    Our lives are Smith Falls limestone: all the same.
    Not Ouimet Canyons’ empty hollow view
    Of distant walls, block-broken diabase,
    Where deglaciation’s giant gasket blew
    And tundra relicts cling near summer ice.
    Indian Creek flows slow above its falls
    Reflects fat Holsteins; Willows drink
    Through tangled roots, the nesting Phoebe calls:
    Then plunges in white violence into the chasm past the brink.
    Wrens sing their hearts out all day long in Bishops Mills
    When all we thought we knew of life is stilled.

    …wrote this for neighbours when their daughter was murdered.

    fred

    7 Sep 13 at 1:56 pm

  6. Thank you for sharing Don, and you heart, again, Bev. True love never dies, but continues to enrich us even after the loved one is gone. We wish each other well – and Don’s wish for you is coming true!

    It’s nice to see Sabrina with Don in each of these photos, though you don’t mention her in word – she’s there!

    Aleta

    7 Sep 13 at 4:06 pm

  7. Thank you, everyone.
    Anders – Thank you for your kind words. I hope we will have a chance to meet in person some day.
    Fred – Beautiful poem, fred. Thank you for posting it here.
    Aleta – Yes, somehow it seems right that Sabrina is in almost every photo. She really was always there for us.

    Bev

    7 Sep 13 at 5:04 pm

  8. that second to last photo – those are always my favorite ones, where he’s looking at you, looking at you, not at the camera. You know what I mean? Yes, of course you do. Each year there is at least one of those photos, always my favorite one. xo

    megan

    7 Sep 13 at 9:00 pm

  9. You’ve been in my thoughts as September 6th and five years approached. Thank you for writing from your heart and sharing these photos of Don and Sabrina and your experience of loving and being loved. I especially like the one of Don and Sabrina on the stony beach.

    am

    7 Sep 13 at 10:29 pm

  10. megan – yes, I know what you mean. I have quite a few like that – ones I have not put up on my blog. I’m so glad that I took them at the time – not realizing how much they would mean to me some day.
    -
    am – I like that one two. I can see that Don is talking to Sabrina. We both used to talk to her and it always seemed that she understood.

    bev wigney

    8 Sep 13 at 5:49 pm

  11. I found myself nodding my head in agreement with each of your reflections- wisdom gained by learning truths on such a deep level are priceless as they are learned often via the most painful of experiences. Such a beautiful tribute and I’m grateful that you chose to ‘carry on’, despite it all, as the world is a much better place with you in it my friend.

    Cindy

    14 Sep 13 at 3:31 pm

  12. cindy – thank you – I know you well understand where I am coming from. The world is a much better place for you being here too, my friend.

    Bev

    14 Sep 13 at 6:06 pm

  13. Hi Bev

    Thanks for sharing your words and the beautiful photos.

    Guy

    Guy

    23 Sep 13 at 1:24 pm

  14. Bev, those are great pictures. I read this not long after you posted it, and have been thinking off and on about it since then. Since the death of my mother early this year, and since I have had to face my own mortality a little more squarely due to my recent health issues, I have been thinking a lot about death, loss and what it does to us. I understand something of how you feel, I think. As remembering, thinking beings, we just aren’t well suited to handling this kind of loss. You have done what you have to do, which is pretty much all any of us can do — just keep on keeping on.

    Your last paragraph is so obviously true that I can’t understand why so many people don’t see it. It’s the central teaching of the man a huge percentage of the world population believes to be a god, and only a tiny fraction of those self-confessed believers even make a pretense of following it. It’s so simple and so easy, and yet we choose to do other things.

    Mark P

    25 Sep 13 at 1:48 pm

  15. Guy – Thanks!
    -
    Mark – I agree that we aren’t really that well suited to handling loss, or at least that it is more difficult and takes much longer than many people realize. Through blogs, I have come to know a good many widowed men and women and have found that everyone talks about how much they have had to change and how hard it is to carry on alone. Also, that our perspective on the world – what really matters, how we treat other people, how we want to spend our time -changes radically as we try to find our way in the world.

    Bev

    25 Sep 13 at 3:00 pm

  16. Loved this, Bev, loved the words and the images of Don and Sabrina too. The world is a better place for them having been in it.

    cate

    6 Oct 13 at 7:32 am

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