the empty chair   22 comments

Posted at 7:09 pm in being alone,Don,farm,loss,sabrina,sage

A year ago, at just about this very minute, the person I love more than life itself, slipped away from me into the night. A lot has happened over the past 365 days. Within a few weeks, Sabrina and I left the farm, headed west across Canada, then down to the redwoods of California, then turned southeast to spend the winter in Arizona. Along the way, we stopped at many of the places where Don and I had camped and hiked during our many years together. In spite of a host of problems and perils, we survived both our adventures and misadventures, eventually making it back to Ontario in April. Soon after, we were joined by Sage, who has now become part of our little family. Springtime was spent putting the farm up for sale. I packed our belongings, wrapping up what was left of our lives at the farm, moving everything into storage until our future becomes more clear.

Earlier this week, we drove out of the lane for the last time. Perhaps surprisingly, I didn’t feel much in the way of sadness or regret at leaving. Several months ago — really, the evening that I turned our van into the yard, ending our journey from the west, I realized there was nothing waiting for me — nothing that meant anything to me now that Don was gone. The spring and summer flew by with me becoming increasingly disconnected to the farm. The only thing that brought me close to Don was when the dogs and I would go out to the pasture to sit and watch the sun setting over the distant forest. I would sit in one of the chairs that I’d placed at intervals along the mowed paths throughout the farm. I put them there for Don, so that he could stop and rest in his favourite spots. He so loved to walk around the trails until he became too ill to go outside anymore.

Last year, throughout the spring and early summer, we were still able to go for walks in some of our favourite places. Like a porter, I’d carry a folding camp chair on my pack, and set it down for Don every time he felt like taking a rest. That was a very special time for both of us, and for Sabrina too. We knew that there was only one possible outcome to his illness, but we pushed those thoughts away from us and tried to enjoy every minute of our time together. Despite the devastating effects of his illness, Don never complained of pain, or fatigue from the treatments he chose to undergo. He never gave up, not even in the final few days of his life. He wanted so much to be with us. His main concern was how we would manage when he left us.

I like to think that he would be pleased with how Sabrina and I have managed in spite of what often seemed to be insurmountable obstacles. I’m glad that Sabrina and I have had each other as the loneliness has been more than others can probably imagine. For weeks, I go pretty much without speaking aloud, to the point that sometimes I’ll utter a few words and the dogs will come racing through the house, barking because they heard something unexpected — the sound of my voice. I’ve made a resolution to try to remember to talk to them a little more during our upcoming travels.

And so we’ve left the farm. My plan was to head west within a day or two of our departure, but I decided to stay a few extra days at my mom’s place to rest up and mend a foot that got injured in the process of moving. The respite was probably a good idea. I’m now feeling a little stronger and ready to be on our way. Besides, it gave me some time to finish sorting out some papers so that I need not drag them along with us. Earlier tonight, I came across a little cardboard parking receipt — the kind that you get out of automated parking machines. This one was from the hospital parking lot where Don spent his final few days in ICU. It was the ticket from September 6th, 2008 — the last time I left the hospital. It felt strange to hold that little slip of cardboard, knowing that the last time I touched it, I’d just left Don’s room after holding him in my arms as he died. It’s strange how such a tiny object should form such a strong bridge between this moment and that.

Some people say that time heals all and that with the passage of a year or two, the pain of loss is less often felt. Those who know better know that’s not how it is. We never get over these losses — we just learn to carry on and try to get by. The pain is still there – just as strong today as it was a year ago – but somehow I’ve learned a few things about living with it. That’s what I’m doing now – living with it and the three of us are getting by. I know Don would feel good about what we’ve managed to accomplish over the past year, and also for the journey upon which we’re about to embark.

For Don ~ I miss you ~ I love you.

Written by bev on September 6th, 2009