My Blog

I do not start this journey lightly. The idea of writing and sharing my thoughts and experiences is a powerful one. I'm doing this for several reasons, the first has to be for my own therapy. With such an immense loss in my life, I need to give myself every chance to feel a purpose.

Last summer I told Kirsten that, despite her ongoing fight with refractory Hodgkin's lymphoma, I was happy. I was deeply sad, depressed, and struggled with the meaning of it all. But, I was happy. Being with Kirsten made me content. Not having her with me leaves me with a void of true happiness. As I've mentioned to many, I can laugh, have fun, enjoy the moment, even look forward to something, however, that satisfaction of inner happiness is not there.

I am so grateful for the people and dogs in my life. My son, mother, family, Kirsten's family (including the four-legged variety), our friends, and, of course, our Lab Finnegan. Many of you will hear your own voices echoed in my writing. I needed and will continue to need the tremendous support that has been offered to me. Thank you.

I also write for Kirsten. In life, Kirsten, let's say, guided me. She still does and always will. Having said that, I can not guarantee that any future clothing purchases will be entirely fashionable.

As Kirsten was a champion of the healing power of writing, I hope to pay tribute to her. Kirsten has a tremendous legacy because of who she was and how she lived. I wouldn't speak for her, although if I tried, there would be a strong chance of a visitation, but I hope to add to her story.

If my sharing helps anyone who may relate to some of what I'm going through, that would be the best tribute to Kirsten I could give.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

An Update For You


It’s coming up on two years and two months since we lost you - that is, you died. Not so much that you were misplaced. Perhaps stating that you died might be a cathartic thing for me. Most of my dreams of you, regardless of the scenario, have a tension - I become aware of the fact that you died and I don’t want to let you know. That’s when the dreams end.
Now that I’ve started down this particular path, maybe this is a new and effective way to deal with the grief. I could see you being strong enough to take the news and darkly humorous enough to be both laughing and crying.
I have many positive, even life-affirming, things going on. They give me a sense of accomplishment and fulfill fundamental needs beyond those for basic survival - such as having fun. What seems inescapable, however, is the accompanying feeling of emptiness, of being not-quite-happy. I feel like I need to be satisfied with the idea that I’m happy in theory. 
I have many examples of this state of near-happiness. For instance, the band is going into a recording studio for three 10-hour days starting tomorrow. This is an epic rock & roll dream-type moment in our young lives. I am planning on enjoying it fully and savouring the experience. That said, I am aware that I won’t be sharing this with you - reporting back on the day, having you come in and check it out, and you won’t hear these new songs.

At this point, my career is really fulfilling, which, as you know, was not always the case. There were some difficult times along the way when I seriously considered a job change. It was you who gave me so much support and the strength to go on, including your sincere OK to walk away from teaching. So, now that I’m at such a good place, it’s, again, bitter-sweet. 

This quasi-happy way of living isn’t just about the big things. I was downtown this morning and decided to have brunch at the new convention centre. The “having coffee, reading a book, doing some writing and generally having quality time at different places around town” experience was supposed to be one that we shared during that fall when I decided to work part-time. I will always feel sad that we didn’t get to have this time together. So, as you can imagine, even something simple like having a coffee at Coal Harbour is emotional. During my breakfast this morning, I thought a lot about you. I wondered if you would have been warm enough to sit out on the patio. I watched the floatplanes land and take off, remembering when you surprised me with a flight to Salt Spring Island. I thought of how great it would be for us to fly to Tofino for a long weekend. I figured you would have ordered the BC Benny. I know conversation would have included the nearby Olympic torch. I watched an older couple walk hand-in-hand and thought, “if only”. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about what our lives might have been like in other circumstances. I imagine that we would have sold the house and there is a good chance that we would have ended up in the same complex that I moved to. “Suzy Spitfire” would have been a major part of our lives - lots of motoring up and down Indian Arm (yes, we would have bought a new motor to avoid any more video of me paddling or us being towed). One of my favourite memories was when we actually got the boat going and went to Deep Cove for dinner.  We met Miles and we all motored back to Cates. I would have loved to have done that trip many times over. 

I found this prose of yours on your desktop:

I am

I am writing to you now from this place of strength. From this place of heart-thumping, heart-held tenacity. I am writing to you now to remind you of the spirit that lives and breathes, rises and falls, deep within and beyond these walls of the body. That lives out there, amongst the woodland owls, the ancient oaks, the cherry blossom petals that dance as if ballerinas poised in a slow curtsy to the ground. I am writing to you now so, should you need me in the future, at a time when struggle overtakes you, to say this: You are the owls, the oak, the cherry blossoms. You always were and you always will be, no matter the body that holds you now.

I’m not sure when you wrote this. Perhaps during that last summer we shared when you were feeling so good. I think that you wrote this as a message for yourself in anticipation of when you might need it. However, I’d like to use it for myself and offer it to anyone else who may need it. If you don’t mind. Thank you. Your words are beautiful, poignant, profound and comforting. They are you.

This is the "Suzy Spitfire" video snip before the infamous "1KM an hour" video:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

'Tis the Season

It seems incredible that it's coming up on two years since losing Kirsten. Time passing is supposed to be the only real “answer” to how to deal with loss. It is true that, over the months, I have been doing more and crying less. However, the idea of distancing myself from Kirsten is hardly comforting. Even the thought of saying my wife died two years ago, as opposed to saying last year, seems strange. What hasn't changed is the feeling of disbelief that Kirsten isn't here. With the disbelief comes the profound sadness.

“Getting through it” was again my attitude when it came to the holiday season. Similar to the first Christmas and Kirsten's birthday without Kirsten, this second holiday break caused high anxiety leading up to it and a defensive shell during. December 24th, Kirsten's birthday, was the most difficult time, but it was made more tolerable by Miles being with me. After a very nice lunch with mom, Miles and I went down to Cates Park to place tulips in the water. We had a moment of reflection that was punctuated by a brown dog, who shall remain nameless, charging into the ocean to inspect the flowers. Perfect. Miles had the thoughtfulness to stay over that night, so we watched those Christmas classics “Total Recall” and “Resident Evil:Retribution”. Perfect.

An interesting part of the holidays was doing a CBC Radio interview on how, for some people, Christmas isn't exactly “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. It was an interesting process for several reasons. The first was the series of connections between the reporter, Pamela Post, the Callanish Society and Kirsten - Kirsten being a former on-air reporter for CBC, Pamela's ties to Callanish and, of course, our own experience with Callanish (on-going for me). Also, I spend a lot of my time in a state of cognition when it comes to the grief thing. I'm constantly analyzing, deconstructing, and generally pondering my process of grieving - trying to decide what to do, how to do it, what I'm feeling, what I should be feeling, how to cope best, how long before people start questioning if the trips to Vegas are really about grieving, and so on. So, to gather my thoughts enough to get across what I wanted to get across really made me focus on what the holiday experience is for me.

I've only listened to the CBC piece once. It’s a bit of a cringer listening to oneself on the airwaves. Having said that, Pamela did a wonderful job as a skilled editor and interviewer. More importantly, she is a very genuine and caring person. I also received a great deal of positive feedback from those who listened to the broadcast. So, the pressure I felt to get this right for Kirsten was alleviated.

Regardless, I think Kirsten would have had a good laugh at me being interviewed. When she was doing the reporting gig, she would often ask me questions as she thrust her thumb/microphone in my face. I choose to remember me being good-natured about this and not being annoyed in the slightest.

As I've mentioned before, the holidays tend to act as a focus for my loss. I have time on my hands and there are a lot of built-in triggers. It's more than missing Kirsten. It's remembering her last birthday when it was becoming clear that we were losing her. It's remembering the Christmas before when Kirsten, Miles and I went to Palm Springs. I'm so glad we had this trip and there are many great memories; however, a big part of that trip, and all of the five years of living with cancer, was an underlying sadness and despair. When I look at the photos from that California Christmas, I have mixed emotions. I love the photos of us hot-tubbing, racing around our Palm Springs resort in a golf cart and playing in the surf when we took a side trip to Santa Monica. Yet, looking at these images, I not only have a heavy feeling about missing her, I remember that she stumbled when she played tennis, she didn't have the energy to stay out late, she wasn't up to joining Miles and me on the rides -  the painful awareness that the cancer and the treatments had taken their toll. The unspoken question: “Will this be our last Christmas together?” was always a part of the holidays.

Speaking of heart-warming holidays, how about this new one coming up in February – Family Day. Awesome.

Perhaps I should spend it in Vegas.

As a side note (I did say I've had some time on my hands to do some extra contemplating), I have been thinking about food and its role in encapsulating the process. There are times when I decide that, because of all that I have gone through and the incredible perspective I have gained, I will eat only the healthiest of foods in a life-affirming gesture to be all I can be. After all, how can I now live life except in the most extraordinary manner?  And then, I'll eat a roll of cookie dough. After all, the consuming of cookie dough was a shared experience with Kirsten. She was a big proponent of the 80% rule. We generally had a very healthy diet with some exceptions. So, I go back and forth between The Phoenix Rising From a Bed of Kale to screw it, I just need to eat something easy to find comfort and get through the day. I’m not sure which one of these scenarios is closer to the meaning of it all.

Christmas in Palm Springs
Santa Monica Pier