Todays letter comes with a trigger warning of grief and loss.
For those who may not be aware Doug passed away on Wednesday Feb 3rd 2021.
Somehow, in the aftermath, I managed to draft a few messages that I sent to everyone I could think of at the time – people who I really didn’t want the grape vine to get to first. Not that there’s anything wrong with the grapevine - it shared the words I could only say so many times, before I could say them no more… for a little while anyway… and I’m thankful for it.
The messages were versions of this…
Doug left this world for a pain free place last night carried by the palpable energy of the love, respect and adoration woven around him from those he held dearest by his bedside. Cheeky to the very end.
Six days after being told the cancer had returned aggressively and was untreatable, he was gone.
Three weeks into our six week stint of treatment in the big city to cure him… gone.
Two months after a long complicated surgery to remove the initial mass in his neck… gone.
Three months after tests revealed the swollen neck gland was sinister… gone.
Those of us with Doug in the last days and hours of his life have all been significantly touched by his passing in different and poignant ways. It was a ‘confrontational privilege’ to be with him to the very end. Dare I say even spiritual given the depth and force of the unconditional love and solidarity in that room. I really doubt that I will experience or feel anything quite like it again in my lifetime. It was that powerful. It was that moving.
I know, without doubt, that Doug would be bursting with pride and appreciation for how our adult children and their partners stepped up and supported each other, his sister and me. There are no words to describe it. None seem adequate. I hope in saying that, some how, it says it all.
So what now, for me? People are asking with the most sincerity and concern this very question. They have an understanding that my every move, my every thought evolved around Doug and how it would impact his day, his needs, his care. The sort of day he was having would steer how I designed my day, or didn’t. He was my rudder in all things. My anchor, my love, my life. The breath in me.
I answer with “I’m just going to take it a day at a time and see how life unfolds from here”. Because I really don’t know what else to do! That’s how we lived our life together for the past thirty odd years living with chronic illness and the difficulties life kept throwing our way. It served us well then, I don’t see why it won’t serve me well now. For the moment it is indeed doing just that.
My Mum, who is 86 years old, has lived with us for the past twenty years; so life is still full… and very different at the same time. It’s a privilege to have my Mum still earth side and an even bigger privilege to have her here living with me for many years. We’ll continue on in this way for as long as it’s possible.
I also have many, many messages and cards and floral tributes from people to write return notes to. Also many phone calls to return and letters of thanks to compose. I’m only just starting to come up for air and find my words now, eight weeks on, so if you are waiting patiently for me to get back to you please know I’ve seen you and I’ve heard you in whatever form you reached out to me and our family and I appreciate your thoughts and actions. I intend to reach every one of you in return over time. Thank you, from my full yet broken heart, thank you.
So what does it look like here going forward (I sound like a politician with this line don’t I), for my newsletter, my blog and my connections on Instagram and Facebook? I’m feeling that I want to keep it going. Now that I’ve started writing again it feels like a familiar space I can fall into. Like slipping on an old favourite jumper, some comfy woollen socks and stealing away to curl up in your favourite cosy spot by an open fire with a hot cuppa and a blank journal.
I did say in the very beginning of this newsletters life that I would share the ride of how Doug and I ended up on the treadmill of treatment in Melbourne for his cancer diagnosis. That ride became so full on that I never actually got clear head space to share it. I’d still like to tell you this story. The story of the whirlwind that arrived and swept us up with its unforgiving intensity and whisked us away from the safety of all things familiar in life. All with a side note of Doug’s ever present humour. He was remarkable.
If you’d like to stick around and steal away with me from time to time when I land in your inbox you are most welcome. If life is taking you in other directions from this spot that’s fine too. My world here is an invitation to you and like any other invitation sometimes you can accept, sometimes you can only stay for a little while and sometimes you’re not able to attend at all. There’s no judgement or offence taken here. Not even an RSVP date is necessary! Bonus! Only open arms are waiting (and virtual Tim Tam biscuits to dunk in your cuppa while you stay a while).
Until next time then; stay safe, be well and go gently.
Love Sandra. Xx