Self Care – Good Grief!  

No; grief is not good. Not one bit!

So I signed on for six grief counselling sessions with a small group of people who’ve all recently lost someone near and dear.  As the saying goes; misery loves company.   But really, if we haven’t already been there, then we will be there at some point in our lives. Be it the loss of a parent, partner or pet; when it happens, it’s devastating. And it can make you question your own mortality.

 After losing my husband, the loss hit harder a few weeks later because I was so preoccupied taking care of arrangements, paperwork, banking and other stuff almost immediately after he passed.

When the floral arrangements that were strewn all over my house dried up and I took away the sympathy cards which were sitting on my mantle…I had a good cry.  And I’ve been crying ever since.  Not continuously mind you.  I find joy in little things every day.  But off and on, here and there I feel sadness and void.

There’s a photo I took of Don and his brother George (who surprised him with a very welcome visit in July) that was sitting above the fireplace mantle with other photos.  It was taken on the day George was leaving to fly back to Toronto and we were trying to coax Don out of his hospital bed to the outside courtyard for a few last photos of the two of them together.  Seemed like an easy task but he was pretty bed ridden at that point and it took a lot of effort for him to get up and get out the door even with our help.  But he managed, and I was able to take a few photos of the two on a nice summer day, both wearing blue shirts against a colorful backdrop.  But I could see the strain on Don’s face.  It was a very emotional time.

I ended up taking that photo and placing it in a less prominent spot because it’s such a bittersweet moment.  Even now whenever I look at it I can burst into tears…thinking about his decline and his good nature, how he never complained, didn’t like to put people out and still wanted to look after everything.  It’s painful actually.  More than a husband, Don greatly influenced my life and I will forever miss him.  Somebody said “You miss Don, but he won’t be missing you because he is still with you – you just don’t see him.”  Ahhh…nice sentiment.  And his energy is all around I know but still…

Therefore counselling is worth a try to hear other people’s stories and find out how to manage the pain which comes in waves and at unexpected moments.  A good friend sent me a book entitled “When Things Fall Apart” written by Pema Chodron.  She said it helped her get through a nasty divorce which although not a death, is a death of a partnership in life.  I’m reading it now.

Grief takes as long as it takes and no one knows how long that will be.  In the meantime here are a few books that may help in the process if you are experiencing a loss:

Great Books on Consciousness, Death, and the Afterlife

I haven’t read a so-called “self help” book in a long time.  Don provided for me all the “self help” I required because he was wise and pragmatic.  He made sense of everything and gave me confidence in my abilities.

Another month has just crept up on us…

Anyone who thinks fallen leaves are dead has never watched them dancing around on a windy day.

 

In Memory of my husband Don

Donald James Wilson (June 19, 1943 – August 15, 2017)

Top Photos + bottom left photo: Lisa King

The beginning, the middle and the end.

I believe in the laws of attraction.  I believe that people, places and things come into your life when you need or manifest them, or to teach you a lesson.  I’m not sure about the ending.  That’s a big question mark that I’ll never understand.  But my husband, like my dog, just showed up at my door one day and changed my life forever and for better.

 When I first met Don he was wearing a pale yellow shirt with a front button missing and carrying a paperback novel. His demeanor was the exact opposite of the crazy whirlwind relationship I ended months prior with an extroverted, creative, complicated guy with a gambling problem from NYC. At first glance Don was more down to earth, reserved, relaxed but solid. I was immediately attracted.  Of course he turned out to be a lot more than that.  A disciplined hard working, well-traveled, intelligent, caring, kind and philosophical man with utmost integrity. A man of his word as well as someone you could trust.  On the down side, quite stubborn, but I was always happy when I could change his mind about something he was very set on not changing.

At the time we met, before Don started his own company as a consultant engineer for telecommunications, he was managing an office in Toronto.  He kept a condo in Vancouver, always with the intention of moving back here.  A mutual friend from Toronto asked him to deliver photos from another friend’s wedding we had just attended in San Francisco instead of putting them in the mail. I forgot to bring my camera to San Francisco and I often wonder what my life would have been like had I taken it. So he brought them to me, and right after he left I called my mom and said this “I just met someone who showed up at my door and don’t know why but I’m pretty sure this is the man I’m going to spend my life with.”  Crazy, right?

But true.  That was 27 short years ago and we were married for 25 of them.

In between we created a life well lived.

The Road Well Traveled.  Photo Credit: Lisa King

A life filled with travel, adventure, a few rocky patches but overall, more good times than bad, up until the very end. He was my advisor and my best friend. That’s why I decided to do whatever in my power to try to make him well when he got sick with kidney cancer.  He was re-diagnosed a little over two years ago and it was starting to spread.

Even during that time filled with uncertainty he managed to surprise me with his strong will several times. We were able to make a few memorable trips even though his health was not good.  He would not give up easily. The past several months were the hardest.  The last two were the worst.  I borrowed a hospital bed from the Red Cross with the most comfortable inflatable mattress cover for Don so he could be downstairs at home on one level because it would be easier.  But it was not.  I was his nurse until I had to get weekly, then daily help. My life was not my own.  He gave me the biggest compliment by saying that there was nothing a nurse could do that I could not do.  But I don’t believe that.  I was just trying to cope as well as make nutritious meals before deciding to just make whatever he craved be it macaroni & cheese to ceviche. And believe me, it was all over the map. He was craving food from his childhood to when he worked in the desert in Saudi. A meal from a can to Sablefish.  Never a dull moment or at least, meal.

Then I found out about Vancouver Hospice Society with their incredible staff and volunteers.  A place in a reconverted house in Shaugnessey with only 8 beds and a wait list.  I went there, and after meeting the director and looking around at the home like atmosphere, decided it would be the best place for care and to free up quality time for me to spend with Don. Luckily a bed became available within a few days.  The private room was lovely overlooking an outdoor patio with plants, a flat screen TV and a pull-out  sofa bed which my dog and I slept on every night.     Don was only there for 10 days.

The night before he went into Vancouver Hospice he told me he wanted to give me something personal.  I won’t say what it was but it was meaningful and very moving.  At that stage I knew that he knew he was dying.  Before that, he was always optimistic and full of hope. Nobody mentioned the actual dying part, so it was extremely sad and I could not stop crying.  He then said “there is a beginning, a middle and an end to everything.  My end is coming and now you can have a new beginning.”  He was very thankful to me for all I had done to try and help him.  He said all this in a matter of fact way and I could feel that he now wanted the humility and discomfort to finally come to a finish.  His mind was good right up until the very end.

I will forever be grateful for having Don in my life.  No other person has done so much for me in so many areas.  I am a much better person for having known him. He was also a true friend to my sister and they had become very close.  He was a mentor to many people.  Well respected and trusted.  It was important for my brother to spend a few minutes explaining how he felt near the end.  He shared something special and I have to say that since my mom passed away, I have never seen my brother cry so hard. He was close to his brother George who lives in Toronto, and who gave him a much needed surprise visit in July.  I had no idea the influence Don had on so many, although I’m not surprised.

I was by his side holding his left hand when he took his very last breath. Lisa (my sister) was holding his right hand.  He looked peaceful. Lisa didn’t leave my side for three days following.  My dear friend Margeaux left her business and drove eight hours to spend the next four days/nights with me.  I’m forever grateful.

A light has gone out.  A new future begins.

 

Life at Large: the HUMAN condition

 Paraphrasing Janis Joplin: Happiness/Freedom are just two words for nothing left to lose.

Last week I watched a gripping, disturbing and captivating docudrama (with lightness at times) which was part of the VIFF screenings on….everyone…everywhere…everyday…appropriately entitled…human1

And guess what?

We’re pretty much all the same in the sense of what we all really long forsimple happiness.

I think that’s what first attracted me to the title of an Italian subtitled film that was on my list to see called “The Complexity Happiness.”  Without knowing a thing about the film I wanted to see it…because happiness is a complex thing and not so simple for many to attain after all, is it?

Because everyone wants something…else. We’re different in the sense of what we own, the clothing on our backs, our environment which of course encompasses our living conditions, language, family and our bank accounts. But other than that we only really want happiness.  And we all know by now that happiness does not come from having more money.  Money minus love equals emptiness.  End of story.  There’s only so much pleasure you can attain by buying more….things.  Having said that, there are more people in the world who have nada, but many are happy with what little they have if they have a strong family connection or for many, faith (in whatever they believe in).  And we would be stupid to assume having no money at all is a good thing even if your family situation is balanced.

Balance in life is important for everyone and how can you be truly happy if you’re always fighting to find a way to feed your family, find a job, look after yourself and those around you?

It’s a BIG WORLD out there and for the most part…it’s out of whack and completely and unfairly UNBALANCED.human2

WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM THIS POWERFUL FILM overall is… the world we live in can be a pretty sad place!  I mean even checking out what’s going on with the U.S. election campaign…who would have ever thought it would come to this for the most powerful position in one of the most powerful countries?  It’s a bit of a joke like a Jerry Springer gong show. And just before this film I saw “American Honey” which deals with misfit millennials looking to find work and fit into society and have some fun. The list goes on.

So yes, it was depressing to see more than enough faces from all over the world talk about their personal living conditions and socio-economic situation.  It was meant to inform and upset from where we were sitting, in comfortable seats in a warm movie theatre with our popcorn & sodas.  On a more uplifting note, there are some feel-good parts to the film as well. And we find out that some of the monetarily poorest people on the planet are the happiest.

But even happy people are not constantly happy…life gets in the way.  How many people have you heard about in the past couple of years alone who are/were famous with lots of money who died from drug overdose, committed suicide, are or were severely depressed? How many are in rehab?

Maybe the secret to happiness lies in being contented. I think contentment counts for a lot.  It’s a good balance of being mostly happy with a few disruptions along the way.  We are, after all only human.

And unfortunately, unfairness is a way of life…for most.

Human trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-Retnj3TsA

This is my last VIFF review until next year but I want to let you know that my friend Ann Marie Fleming WON for her feature length “Window Horses” – in the best Canadian Film Category. I am so happy for her.  The wonderfully animated movie about poetry has an encouraging message.  I highly recommend seeing it.

We must take happiness in doses…BIG or small!

Feel-good Friday: Reflecting

A FRAME is a frame, but what you see inside can change depending on a persons viewpoint – d. king

Photo: d. king   Perceptions: at a distance I was sure the writing said

Perceptions: at a distance I was sure the writing said Bon Voyage. Photo: d. king

or allow ourselves to think

or allow ourselves to think

mirror3

That depends on how 'real' it was to begin with

That depends on how real it was to begin with.  Some people take a year to get over something, others take a week. Ahhh some people. C’est la vie!

Sometimes you’ve got to take a longer look to get the full picture

Have a lovely LOVERley weekend!