Saturday, March 23, 2019

From there to here and what will be a doubly sad day...

Once again, I've let a whole month slip by between blogs. I honestly don't know where the time goes. Much of it, I'm afraid, is spent simply sitting and being. I haven't been terribly creative, but I'm happy to say that my living room is almost done. All that is left to do now are the final bits of adding a few more pieces of art to the walls and displaying some ceramics. I am happy with the outcome. What was a darker room filled with sad memories is now a brighter, colourful room, full of memories of all that Chris and I loved - from our shared passion for art to our shared love of colour and a touch of what is simply fun. Funny how it all came together. Like a stream of consciousness...

It began when I came across a video on YouTube that showed how to chalk paint old furniture. This is something I've always wanted to do. It was like "art porn" for me - watching the videos. Then I thought I would do some research on Annie Sloan and that led to discovering her collaborations with Charleston. And voila, the answer to my quest for "what to do next" was answered. And what a bit of wonderful linking of one thought to another it was.

I was searching Etsy, using the search term "Charleston Farmhouse," to gain more inspiration for the room. While on that search, I came across the shop of a Brighton-based watercolourist, Lois Davidson. While she didn't have a painting of Charleston, she did have beautiful paintings of the South Downs - a place that held such a huge part of Chris' heart and, through him, a part of my heart as well. The South Downs is a national park in Sussex, beautiful hills and valleys, dotted with quaint villages. When Chris and I lived for a short period in Hastings, this was the area we explored, often getting up in the morning, going to the car, and just heading out to see where the day would take us. And, once we moved north, we would still go through the Downs when we would visit his mum and family. As I was looking over the paintings from this very talented lady, I came across one painting "South Downs in Winter" that took my breath away. Next thing I knew, I was sobbing, happy sobbing, and feeling Chris so close to me, remembering those days of driving through the Downs in winter, with frost and mist and the beautiful crispness of the day. I knew that this piece of art would have to join my collection and so I bought it. And it is here now, still in the tube in which it was posted, waiting for a chance to be mounted and framed. I hope that happens soon. I know that everytime I look at this painting, I will remember sitting in the warm car with Chris at the wheel, enjoying the unimaginable beauty of the landscape. I shared my story with the artist, and now I feel as if I have a new friend. I told her about Chris' love for Charleston, so I think I may have planted a seed for some future paintings! Once I have the painting mounted and framed, I will share it with you all here.

Two days ago, I had the pleasure of spending the day with a lady called Jodi Sharpe, who lives in Inverness. She is an organiser/de-clutterer/life coach. I had come to realise that my inability to sort the studio had gone from simply being overwhelming to being a full-on mental and spiritual block! I knew I needed help. I wasn't sure I would find someone to help up here, but I did! And I'm so glad I hired Jodi to help me. Not only did we get the studio organised, but spending the day with her, I feel I gained such incredibly valuable knowledge about organising/de-cluttering. Not only am I ready to get into the studio again and create beautiful jewellery, but I know how to approach each room in my house, in order to get things stream-lined and organised to full potential. Thank you, Jodi!

March is proving to be all that is expected of it. It has certainly come in like a lion. The weather, particularly this past week, has been so varied. But when it has been stormy, it has been very stormy. Hail pelting the windows, winds banging against the windows. But I hope, as the saying goes, it will leave like a lamb and the weather will settle into something more springlike. As the title of this blog says, I am facing a doubly sad day. The 30th of March marks 6 months since Chris died and 11 years since my dad died. My two most favourite, wonderful men and I will remember losing them both on the same day. I remember so well that day 11 years ago. I was at work at a castle hotel in Moffat in Dumfries and Galloway. We had had a wedding at the hotel that weekend and I was busy checking out all the guests. Suddenly, I looked up and there was my Chris. I know my face just beamed seeing him there, but he wasn't smiling. Bless him, I know how hard it was for him to come and deliver the news. But he did, gently and sweetly, and then my co-worker sent me home with Chris so I could gather my thoughts and make my plans. Chris was so comforting, so amazing. He knew how close I was to my father and he knew it was a terrible loss for me, even though we knew it was coming. I will never forget the way Chris just instinctively knew what I needed in those hours and days. And now, on the 30th of March, I will try to concentrate on the thought of my father and Chris together, getting to know each other better than they did in life. It always seemed the greatest shame that Chris didn't come into my life until after Dad had suffered several strokes. They would have gotten on so well - sharing their passion for photography and general silliness. I hope they are good friends now. That would give me more peace of mind than anything.

So, that's it for now. Hopefully, my next blog will include photos of my living room and the beautiful painting and maybe even some new jewellery creations. Spring has come and with it, hopefully, a new sense of life and living.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Discoveries...

It has been longer than usual between blogs. Winter is not known for being the most active time of the year, and that is certainly the case for me. The combination of shorter days, grey skies, and colder temperatures is truly challenging (and the cold and damp make my body ache so badly). Add to that my personal situation of having lost Chris not so very long ago, and January and February have not been and are not a good time. February has included my first birthday without Chris and my first Valentine's Day without him. While Callie and the rest of the family were lovely to me for my birthday (including spending nearly a week with Callie and family), it was still hard. And the last few days I have found myself feeling such acute sadness and missing Chris so much. I am discovering that grief has no rhyme or reason. It comes and goes - with intensity or a simply misty feeling - almost hourly. I look forward to spring coming. I look forward to getting back to the markets and getting back to work.

Callie was here this past Sunday through Tuesday to help me get some things sorted here. My studio needs to be organised and I will be ready to get back to work. It will give me some purpose. I am also redecorating more - having spoken to my family, it was concluded that making some major changes to the decor in the house might be helpful. Of course, for months I've been playing about with plans for my granny annexe, but that is still years away. I need to find a way to feel less like I'm in a waiting pattern now. So many plans that I had made, and fabrics and wallpapers and paints looked over, but I never felt I had found what I wanted. And then I realised that the best way to celebrate Chris and give my surroundings a redo would be to go to his favourite place for inspiration. Chris adored Charleston Farmhouse in his home county of Sussex. He and I visited there with a friend back in 2007 when I was still able to walk unaided and could get up and down stairs (although slowly and with some difficulty). It was the country home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and the frequent haunt of their friends, known as the Bloomsbury Group. It became a haven for artists, writers, and intellectuals, beginning in 1916 and continuing until the mid 20th century. The trust was founded in 1980. The house is an explosion and celebration of art - with colours and patterns and textures everywhere. When I started thinking about all the original art Chris and I accumulated over the years of doing markets and fairs, I realised that I have the "raw materials" for a Charleston-inspired decoration scheme for the house. And so I have not only embraced that, but realised that this is absolutely the direction in which I need to move. Hopefully, by spring, everything will be in place. I was even able to find some throw pillow covers on eBay that utilise a textile design by Duncan Grant (the pink ones - called "Grapes")! This is my mood board for the living room - for both here and for the annexe when it happens.


Why Chris and I never put this in place, I don't know. I suppose, as he was first diagnosed with cancer a year after we moved into Toraluinn, we simply didn't focus on that. But I know this is a look he would have loved. It reminds me not only of Charleston, but of Chris. His joy, his colourful personality, his sense of spontaneity and happiness. I shall be able to look at these things and feel joy, rather than sadness. Today I look at my living room and remember it as the room in which Chris died. When these changes are made, it will be a room that celebrates what Chris loved so much and what I love - colour, texture, and an inherent joie de vivre. And embracing that now, rather than later, means I move from my current state of limbo to a state of living - I hope.

Another interesting discovery this month was my ethnic background according to my DNA. During the summer, I ordered a DNA ancestral test kit when it was on sale (a later sale allowed me to obtain one for Callie). I got my results back first and it was fascinating. Not surprising, but fascinating. I am nearly 50 percent (48.9 to be exact) Scottish and Welsh. No surprises there. I am only 7.3 percent English - lower than I would have expected. I am 5.3 percent Italian, 5 percent Eastern European, and 3 percent Greek. The remaining 30.5 percent was the real surprise - but shouldn't be given the history of Scotland and the ancestry of so many from this country. I am 30.5 percent Scandinavian. This would be my link to the Vikings. It is one ethnicity that was never even guessed at and for which I can find no traceable roots. I'm wondering if the Italian came from my English roots (perhaps the early Roman settlers in Britain?) The Greek and Eastern European ethnicities are a mystery. Would love to be able to see where those come in. My results came in just after my birthday. What a fascinating discovery - and a very good ethnic explanation for the fact that I can't tan. As Billy Connolly says, I just try to neutralise the blue. Callie's results were significantly different, although the results rightfully show that we share 49.9 percent DNA. Callie is over 70 percent English, 22.2 percent Scottish and Welsh, and 6 percent Balkan. We know very little about her paternal family as their ancestors arrived in the US via Ellis Island, which means even the surname is probably not original. Fascinating, simply fascinating. 

So, I face the coming spring with a great hope for renewal. My laminate floors are down (what a difference they have made!!!) and soon I will be completely redoing the living room. I am nearly done with a beautiful deep plum blanket I am crocheting for my bed to complement the bedding. I am trying so hard to actively engage in something everyday. It isn't easy. But I know I can do this. And I look forward to the day I look around my living room and know that Chris' spirit is smiling as broadly as ever it could and he, too, will be wondering why we didn't think of this sooner! 


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Poetry...

I've loved poetry for as long as I can remember. Of course, I love words and when they are arranged so eloquently, how can one resist. When I refer to poetry, I also refer to lyrics. After all, they are simply poems set to music and we can't speak of legendary poets without including Dylan, Simon, Lennon, Mitchell, etc.

Chris was more of a musician. I remember being amazed when he told me that he hears melodies first and lyrics second. In fact, the lyrics often go completely ignored. He was more likely to know a song by humming a few bars than from hearing the lyrics recited. Lucy, as a musician, also confessed that she heard melodies first, although I think she is more aware of lyrics than her father was. My daughter, dear Callie, likes poetry, but her intellectual strengths lay in the sciences (where? how?). Thank goodness for Olly, my poetry buddy. He loves poetry, too, and writes some pretty amazing poetry. If I remember correctly, during our lyrics vs melody conversation, Olly was more of a lyric person. Although, he, too, inherited the musicianship of the family.

Over the dozen years we were together, I would often recite some poetry or lyrics to Chris and he would smile and do the whole "over my head" gesture. I found it mildly frustrating, but I knew it was not a reflection of his overall sensitivity and sweetness. As we were coming closer and closer to the end of his life, though, he started hearing and appreciating poetry more. He often referred to Auden's "Funeral Blues" as a favourite, and I was going to use that at the memorial. But I take issue with the last line of the penultimate verse: "They said love would last forever, they were wrong." As I've happily discovered, love can't end, diminish, or die. It simply gets stronger and softer.

A couple of months before Chris' health really began to deteriorate, he and I were talking about how he was feeling about everything. He told me that he felt that he had accepted his fate and there were times he looked forward to not feeling pain anymore. The poetry student in me immediately reached for my collection of Keats' poetry and flipped the well-worn pages to the appropriate lines from "Ode to a Nightingale."

              Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
                  I have been half in love with easeful Death,
             Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
                 To take into the air my quiet breath;
             Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
                To cease upon the midnight with no pain,

Chris' eyes widened and he smiled the biggest smile and said, "Yes! Yes! That's it. That is exactly how I feel." I don't know if he were more excited about the truth of the words or the fact that he "got it," as he always protested his ability to understand poetry.

Not long after that, I was reminded of e. e. cummings' "i carry your heart with me..." I asked him, once again, to humour me and listen to a poem that captured my feelings for him. I read it to him, looked over, and saw the tears streaming down his cheeks. He heard it, he felt it, just as I did. And it meant the world to share that moment with him. Our hearts always spoke to each other without misunderstanding, but it was lovely that he understood the declaration of everlasting love I was making to him. In that moment and forever...

We are coming  up to 15 weeks since he died. It isn't getting easier. The happy memories are there, but the tears still come. I can't seem to get past the emptiness. But I feel him with me. In the evening, I often put on music that we both loved, hoping that he can hear it and we can connect once again through it. And I listen to songs with lyrics that speak to me and know that he can hear those, too. And I once again reflect on cummings' words and speak them in my heart for Chris to hear.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Christmas, Anniversaries, and a New Year

Today is not only the 3-month anniversary of Chris' death, it is exactly 13 weeks since he took his last breath. These past 13 weeks have not only taught me about the everlasting power of real love, but it has taught me about my own strengths and weaknesses, the love my family gives me, the devotion of my dearest friends. I've heard it said that bereavement can tell you who your real friends are. I am so grateful to have found that all the people I love so much are still hanging in there with me. And I can't tell you how much strength I derive from those friendships.

Christmas was as I expected it to be. It was there, with all the trimmings, but felt more monochromatic than colourful. I had shared this feeling with Lucy several weeks ago and she said that was a great way to describe a Christmas following the loss of a loved one. Her father-in-law died last year in early December, so they experienced a Christmas that tried to be everything it could be, but was still just not quite what it should have been. It was, as I suggested, without all the colour of Christmas.

I spent Christmas with my family. Physically, I spent the holiday with my daughter and her family - but by phone, everyone was there - my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, my sister-in-law, my stepchildren and their spouses. It was so good to hear all their voices. It was terrific to have one-on-one time with my granddaughters. But, my goodness, how I missed my Chris. I felt so alone without him, so incomplete. And I felt so sad that he wasn't there, too, to enjoy Alice's antics and Catherine's hugs. On the 27th, we stopped by Glencoe so I could have a moment there - but it was so crowded and I couldn't find a quiet, empty spot. No problem, I will do it sometime when I can be alone and feel that spiritual connection I have with that incredibly special place - and the connection Chris and I had there together.

I find I am going through another numb phase now. I am just floating in and out of each day. Doing the bare minimum of what I have to do to get by. I feel no joy, but I feel little sorrow. I feel numb. I know that this is part of grief. I know that I will have these sorts of days from time to time. I will also have days where my emotions are completely exposed and raw. That is what grief is. I know that grief and I are going to be housemates for the rest of my life. I often think of these lyrics from the Billie Holiday song, "Good Morning Heartache" -

Might as well get used to you
Hanging round
Good morning, heartache
Sit down...

I am looking forward to what will happen in January - new floors, new bed linens, new bedroom lamps. Just trying to make little changes that will give me a sense of a new day, a new life. But, no matter what I do, Chris will always be with me, and that is where I want him. Moving forward does not mean moving away from my grief. Couldn't do it if I wanted to. They say grief is the flip side of love and our love was so complete, so limitless, so unconditional. And so, the grief will be the same. But that's okay. I can do this.

Lucy gave me an incredibly thoughtful gift for Christmas. She had a representation of the the positions of the stars at the moment Chris and I first met. It is a beautiful stellar map with our names and the date and the coordinates of our first meeting. It means so much to me and will certainly be displayed prominently. It was the beginning of my real life that day, the day I met Chris. That is when I started to live rather than just exist. How lovely to have a physical depiction of that very special day.

While I was with Callie and family, Callie, Stu, and I watched the award-winning "The Shape of Water." It is a beautiful, haunting, odd movie. But I really loved it. And what I loved most was the poem recited at the very end of the film. It has now been traced back to the 12th century Persian poet Hakim Sanai. These are just a couple of lines from a longer poem, which I hope I can find and read at some point, but they are so beautiful and perfectly represent how I feel about my dearest, beloved Chris:

Unable to perceive the shape of you, I find you all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with your love. It humbles my heart, for you are everywhere.

Those words are my existence, my life, now. I miss Chris so much, sometimes the pain is unbearable, but I try so hard to remember that he is with me and will always be with me, no matter what. He is everywhere...




Monday, December 17, 2018

Keeping on keeping on...

The past two weeks have been difficult. The sense of extreme tiredness and numbness is overwhelming. The crying jags have stopped, for now. But they have been replaced by a sense of uselessness. I struggle to get dressed most days and I've not been out of the house since November when I had my hair done. But that will change this week as I venture to my daughter's for Christmas. I can't wait. I'm hoping the change of scene will re-invigorate me. And, as I said before, I am quite sure a tearful visit to Glencoe will be cathartic for me. (It is in the Lost Valley at Glencoe where the second half of Chris' ashes and my ashes will be spread and a rowan tree planted in our memory.)

I've had such helpful advice from friends - particularly those who have experienced the loss of their beloved husbands. One suggestion was to make minor changes so that I can feel as if things have had a fresh start. I think this is especially important in the bedroom. The bedroom was Chris' sanctuary when his health declined and now it has become mine. Nothing in there has changed. His glasses case sits on his bedside table, as if ready for him when he needs them. I don't necessarily want to change that, but I need to give the bedroom a freshen up. With that in mind, I've ordered a new duvet set - completely different to the linens we've had in the past (the walls are a latté colour and the bedside lamps are pale plum/aubergine). The bedding has always been something with a light background and lots of colours. The new duvet set is darker, very botanical, with ivy and peonies. It is beautiful and calming, I think...I hope. Once I have the duvet, I will order some new sheets in different colours (we always had white/cream). It is my hope that by giving the bedroom a slightly new look, I can perhaps lessen the subconscious sadness that must be associated with the room. Today I am going to do my best to get the room straightened up. Besides anything else, I need to rid the room of anything that Gracie can use to make noise. I don't know what is up with that cat!

Since Chris died, Gracie is unable to get through the night without wanting to wake me around 3am and just play with things that make noise. She will play with the handles on the drawers or find a piece of paper somewhere. If not, she will attempt to move things on my bedside table or Chris' bedside table. I have no clue why she is doing this. I suppose she is still trying to get used to Chris not being here. Locking her out of the room is not an option - she would be even more disruptive. But I do wish I could get her to settle down for an entire night. Her food and water dishes are always fresh when we go to bed. I love her so much - she is the "child" Chris and I shared - but she is really pushing it these days. (At least I've cured her of trying to eat the bottom branches of the Christmas tree.)

In addition to straightening up the bedroom, today I will write up my packing list for the trip to Kinlochleven. Tomorrow I will wrap up all the pressies and my dear friend Bea will help me put things in the car for the trip down. Callie is going to meet me in Drumnadrochit (about halfway) with Stuart and Alice so she can drive my car the rest of the way. After a couple of hours, driving becomes simply too painful for me. I know spending Christmas with them is going to be breath of fresh air for me. Perhaps I will find that inner child in me, again. That would be lovely. I just wish Chris were here, still.

The pain of his absence is often more than I can bear, but I bear it nonetheless. I have to remind myself that it hasn't even been three months yet. It's strange, I often find myself remembering him with such joy and then, suddenly, the vision of him just after he died pops into my mind and I feel as if my world has ended...again. I have hopes that, as a new year starts in just a couple of weeks, I will find myself with renewed strength. The bedroom will be refreshed, the laminate floors will go down, I will get back into the studio. I will be okay. I have an inner strength I know I can tap into. I was raised to be a strong and independent person. I can do this.




So, with all that in mind, I will close this installment of my blog and wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I may not write again this year, so, we'll catch up again in 2019.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Sixty-five days a widow...

I'm not sure how I should be, but judging from what I read on forums and what I know from my conversations with various folks - from our beloved Macmillan nurse to a lovely woman on the other end of the phone from Cruse (bereavement counseling charity) - I am exactly where I should be. I am where I am and, as a grief is such a personal thing, I can't be any other place but where my grief has taken me thus far on our journey together. So, where am I?

I am tired, bone tired. And emotionally tired. I find it hard to concentrate on anything, hard to do anything. There are so many things that I know I need to do, but I just can't find the motivation. Callie and the family came this past Sunday, staying through Tuesday. It was lovely having them here, of course, but I find overnight guests so tiring. And when one of them is a bonkers 17-month old, it is exciting and fun, but, lordy, there is a reason why women can't have babies after a certain age. Catherine's mature 9 years is quiet and contained compared with Alice. Catherine bunked with me, as the studio/bedroom is still an absolute land of chaos. It was nice having someone else in the bedroom at night. I didn't sleep well, but it was lovely to look over and see her little angelic face, deep into sleep and her dreams. She continues to be such a joy for me. I love her so, so much.

Last Friday night, I took part in the Poolewe Christmas evening event.  The market was from 4pm to 8pm. While the night resulted in no sales, I had such a lovely time seeing friends and feeling so much love. There were so many hugs, kisses, and hand squeezes. I love this community so much. My friends mean more to me than I can say. I can't imagine a better bunch to have around me at this difficult time. This coming Saturday is the final Poolewe event of the year. And the time to sign up for next year, which I most certainly will do. I will have the whole winter to create some more jewellery and I am sure that the creativity will come. In January, I will have all the floors in the house, except the two bedrooms, replaced by laminate wood flooring so my wheelchair will be easier to use. I am sure I will be living here for a year or two more, so I have to make the changes I can to make things easier for myself. I could never afford nor get a grant to convert the kitchen, but at least I can make it easier to move around. Replacing the floors is something I can look forward to. Might give me a feeling of a new beginning? Maybe that will help.

I know that all of us in the family miss Chris so much. From my chats with everyone, I think Lucy and I are having the hardest times with grief. But, I know about her grief. I am still devoted to my father, as close as Lucy and Chris are (love doesn't die, so no need for the past tense here). My dad died 10 years ago. There are still days I miss my dad as much as I did immediately following his death. I know how broken Lucy's heart is when it comes to her dad. A daughter and dad just have this incredible bond and it can't be broken. I know she will miss him acutely for the rest of her life, just as I will miss him.

Even with my darling Caroline, Catherine, Alice, and Stu, I feel very, very alone. Despite the constant support and love of my darling friends, I feel very, very alone. But there is a kind of safety and sanctuary in my aloneness. If I can just find some energy in here somewhere, to do something, I would feel so much better. But that will come, with time and distance. And someday I will feel like doing something, going somewhere, being creative - being happy. For now, all I can feel is this great big hole in my heart and in my life. Every day I become more and more aware of how Chris and I had such a wonderful, nearly perfect love. It was a once in a lifetime love and I know that as much now as I did when he was alive. As I've said before, he was my best friend, my confidante, my inspiration, my love, my everything.

Catherine says that Abba is her guardian angel. She says she feels him with her in moments when she needs his love and comfort. She said she will lose things and then find them exactly where she had already looked. She says that's Abba - just letting her know he's there. And he's let me know he's with me, too. The other night, the little purple corduroy bean bag bear he bought me on our first date slipped off it's pillow by my head and ended up spooning me in the middle of my back. That is the spot where Chris would often place his hand at night, gently resting it there, connecting us once more. It was a moment of such high emotion - feeling that bear pressing against my back. And I had no doubt it was Chris letting me know he was near. And while it would scare the shit out of me, there are times I would love to see him just one more time, to hold his hand, run my fingers through his beard, kiss his soft lips, and hold him close to me. 


Monday, November 26, 2018

Knowing and doing...

I have always believed that recognising that one needs emotional support is not a sign of weakness or something wrong, it is quite the opposite. It is indicative of a person really understanding their own emotional health and knowing when it is time to call in some outside help. It is a sign of strength and insight.

I have sought counseling many times in my life, but there is one very big problem I have. You see, perhaps because I am an empath, I am very aware of what I'm feeling and how I can best manage it - theoretically. But sometimes, I find, I just have to let things progress and trust myself to follow my logic and my heart. I can't tell you how many times my counseling has ended after just one session with the counselor saying something along the lines of, "Well, you are very in touch with how you are feeling and why you are feeling that way. I'm not sure I can give you anything more than a sympathetic ear." I end up leaving the session, reassessing my situation, and doing what I can to become stronger or more resolute. And it usually ends up with my facing and defeating the distress.

I am beginning to feel this way about grief. I have made some enquiries and look forward to hearing from a bereavement charity when they are able to return my call. For me, the most helpful thing that has been said from the moment Chris died is to follow my feelings. Don't set myself an agenda for getting through the process. And that's what I'm doing. I am allowing myself to feel the pain, the loneliness, the hopelessness. As one widow said on a forum, acceptance is key. I know that is the answer. I also know, from reading the posts from other widows and widowers, that this grief is going to be part of my life for the rest of my life. You can't love another person so completely and unconditionally and then just "get over it" when they die. My love for Chris will never die, my devotion to him, my gratitude for him, those things will not only never cease to be, but I feel quite sure they will grow and, as they grow, I will become more accepting of his absence. But the pain will never go away. How could it? He was my life, my love, my best friend. No one will ever be able to take his place, I will never love him less.

The tears come more frequently now. I have his portrait here in the living room and, when I look up, I see that incredible smile, the twinkle in the eyes, the incredible person who loved me as I loved him. And I cry. And my dreams are full of cancer and death and sadness. In my dreams, I experience not only losing Chris, but losing my parents all over again. I know all of this is part of the process. I just need to find a way to accept it and get through it. I am concentrating now on trying to have a wonderful Christmas with my family. My daughter and her family live very near Glencoe, so I am sure that I will drive myself out there at some point - just me - and remember how many times Chris and I drove that road, stopped and admired the beauty of the landscape, drinking in the spirituality that emanates from every stone, every tree. And I have a feeling I will cry as I haven't cried before. But it will be good.

I've been back in the studio. I've been pleased with my work, but I still feel a bit numb about everything. If only I still had Chris so he could see my completed work. It's not the same without him. Will it ever hold the same happiness it once did? I won't know unless I try.

So, another week gone, another week without my Chris. Sometimes I think I see him in my peripheral vision. Maybe I do. As a friend wrote to me, he is very close by, just out of sight, waiting for me. I no longer view my death in any other light than that of being reunited with my love. Not that I want to hurry it - I want to see my granddaughters grow up and thrive and live their lives, but I won't mind when I go now. Because Chris is waiting for me.