Imagine that in life there was this amazing repository where we could store the best days of our lives.  A sort of bank of those outstanding days where the world is right.  It was only open one day a year for you to deposit your days, and you could only access what you’d stored on that same day.  What would you put in there?

I think about things like this all the time.  How incredible it would be to have a few of those days back, safely stored in all their dimensions.  To relive as they occurred:  in my youth and in my middle age and in my future when I am aged.  A fantastic escape to what was, a reinforcement of all my life and experience.

Memory provides the shadows, this would give all the colours.  Imagine that all those days are stored in space and time. Imagine.  Love is never lost and youth is never gone. Joy surrounds us and serenity is within our grasp. Imagine.

Our imagination and our memories are gifts, for most of us anyway. Sometimes it’s good to relax and let go and just let your mind wander. That’s what I’m doing tonight – remembering and imagining.

The Cottage

In June of 2014 Kevin was diagnosed with cancer.  I think we may have gone to the family cottage at some point that summer, perhaps for the long weekend in July.  I don’t recall going there much after that.  Certainly I didn’t go in 2015 at all.  The kids went up, I think Kevin’s sister went up, but not me.  No way.

The cottage is a place so full of family memories and emotions that it defies description.  My father-in-law built it, a gift of love for his family.  He was a scavenger, Jack was, and the cottage was built using resourcefulness and thrift.  It’s solid that’s for sure.  Inside, the beams in the ceiling are carved, the bookcase was hand made, even the handrails on the deck around the cottage were planed to a lovely round edge.  More than 50 years later and his handiwork still stands.

The rest of the cottage is neglected and has been for years.  God bless my husband, he was a thinker, not a doer.  He could think about how to do something for a couple of years, easy.  Not having seen the cottage since 2014, I knew that the years of procrastination would have taken a toll.  I also knew that, inevitably, I had to see the place and face the memories.

That first visit was hard.  Kevin is etched into the feeling of the place.  He loved it so.  So did his nephew Terry.  Both of them now gone, both of their presences so strong at the cottage.  An emotional place. I realized when I went there last week how special it is.  This is a place that we have always taken great pleasure in and it also is a place that gives back.  It is full of laughter and contentment, peace and solitude.  Yes, it needs work, and lots of it, but I imagine how happy it would make Kevin’s dad to know that what he created is treasured as much as it is.

After that first visit to the cottage my sister-in-law commented on how much peace the place gave her.  It’s true, it is a remarkably peaceful place.  We, her and I, decided that, unlikely as it might seem, it would be the two of us that would make it right and bring the cottage back to health and life.  No procrastination on our part, work is now underway, but there is a lot to do and it will take time and money.  At least we’ve put the brakes on the decay and are moving forward with repairs.  Like Granddad Jack’s intentions all those years ago, this too is a labour of love on so many levels.

The Lovely Card

From Valentine's Day in 2014.  Crazy dreamer.

From Valentine’s Day in 2014. Crazy dreamer, no wonder I miss him.

It was Friday night and I thought that I’d get busy and do the avoidance thing.  Clean, organize, do mindless tasks to avoid thinking about how different things are now from what they were.  It was a nice day today and I had set up the patio furniture outside, washed it down and swept the deck.  When Kev was healthy and finished work for the day this is where I would find him.  He would sit on the deck, drinking his coffee and smoke his Friday night Colt (cigarillo).  He was always home before me and this particular routine was set – as long as it wasn’t storming outside.  Today was a day where I could almost feel him with me.

Once he got sick, the days of the week blurred together and our routine was guided by the television shows he would watch.  Bless his sister, she got him hooked on the Young and the Restless.  She’d come over every day and they’d watch it together.  They’d do exercises on the commercial breaks, drink a cup of tea and have one of the delectable pastries she always brought.  After the Y & R was Family Feud.  Prior to his illness he could barely tolerate the mindlessness of television, but game shows and soap operas – to anyone who knew Kevin this in itself would be an indicator of how sick he had become!   During his illness the television became a necessary distraction as well as a social event he shared with his sister and me.

So today, along with my daughter, I watched the Y & R and followed it up with Family Feud.  It was a little too close for comfort and the tears flowed.  It is the saddest reality for my daughter that her father died almost a month to the day after she gave birth to her first child.  She is heartbroken, but I do believe that her father would have been gone sooner had she not been pregnant.  He was so determined to meet that little baby and to make sure his girl came through it okay.

After my daughter left, and rather than mope, I decided I’d clean up the area we call our office; I had been rather lax over the last few months about filing the bills.  I had filed paperwork relating to Kevin’s illness and death as it arrived and also kept it in a separate folder in the dining room.  Consequently, I thought it unlikely that I would handle anything that would set me off, and that more than anything else I would simply be filing bills and general correspondence.  I got almost all of it done.

Until I found the card, the lovely card.

Take A Moment

Just a brief blog at this point, not meant to be depressing or gloomy, rather meant to be honest.

Take a moment and look around you at the people you have in your life – and just appreciate them for who and what they are.   If you love them let them know.  Don’t assume that your actions are enough, say the words.

I was very fortunate to have the time to love and enjoy Kevin right up to his death.  For me and the kids there was nothing left unsaid.  We had the privilege of closure.  Others I know have not been so lucky.  I think of my friends and my workplace and I know several people who lost a spouse or a child way, way too suddenly.  Because it wasn’t supposed to happen.  There is a complacency that we tend to get when we are comfortable and happy.  Things happen to other people, not to us.  And this is the way it will continue to be, until it does happen to you.

For some they will coast through life to it’s end, but even then, at a ripe old age a partnership will be dissolved.  I hope that most of you are able to coast, but while you do, take the time to ensure that the people that are important to you know that they are.

Dying At Home

My husband, Kevin, died at home.  He passed away in the house we have lived in since 1994.  To facilitate his comfort as his disease progressed we had obtained a hospital bed.  The bed was placed in the living room where he could look out a large three paned window.  The room is the hub of the home and he was the hub of our existence.  How much I miss him, how much we miss him.

When we realized that Kevin had passed away we took a few minutes as a family to say our good-byes.  Since we had planned for his death in our home I had two different telephone numbers that I could call, either the visiting nurse or our GP.  The GP had already been to the house earlier in the day and had told me to call her if anything changed.  So I called.  She told me that she could attend the house immediately or that if we wanted, she could give us more time just to be a family.  We elected for the “just to be”.  After about an hour the doctor arrived at the house.  She had to determine if death had occurred even though it was quite evident.  She used her stethoscope and listened for a heartbeat as well as attempted to locate a pulse.  After these activities she pronounced his passing and completed a government form confirming his death.

The GP spent some time with us individually as well as collectively to determine how we were responding to Kevin’s passing.  Once she was satisfied with our general state of mind she left the house.  I contacted the funeral home that Kevin and I had decided upon months previously and arranged to have them come out to retrieve him.  Two attendants from the funeral home arrived and gave us a general outline of what was about to happen.  They did this to prepare us as well as to allow those unable to watch Kevin’s body being removed the opportunity to leave the room.  Wisely, my daughter decided that she would leave while they moved Kevin from the bed to a gurney.  Everyone else stayed.  The only glitch we hadn’t prepared for was that the pain pump was still attached to his arm.  After a bit of discussion and to save the trauma of watching it come out of his arm, I simply cut the rubber tubing by the machine.

The attendants were very efficient and very careful.  They had opened a body bag on the gurney and when they moved Kevin over he was placed on top of the open bag.  They zippered it up to mid-chest, covered it with a coloured quilt, took one of our pillows from his bed and placed it under his head and then distanced themselves from the gurney.  We were allowed one more opportunity to say good bye in the privacy of our own home.  My daughter joined us as we bid him farewell.  When we’d had our moment, they removed the pillow and lay Kevin’s head on the gurney and then rolled the gurney to the front door.  It wasn’t until they exited the house that they actually zippered up the bag completely, something they did out of our line of vision.

For us it was the right decision to have him in the home until the very end.  For others it may not be.  It is very much a personal choice.  One of the comments Kevin had made to me when he was first diagnosed was, “Would I rather have people being paid ten bucks an hour look after me, or someone who loves me?  It’s a no brainer.”  Fortunately I have a supportive employer who worked with me to allow me to maximize my time spent with Kevin during his illness.  Consequently, throughout his treatment I was his voice and his advocate and it would be no different right to his death. Kevin’s disease and his death have forever changed me; heightening my awareness of and changing my perception of cancer.  Kevin as an individual impacted everyone who knew him and were lucky enough to be caught up in his orbit, especially me.