"The fact the word lovesick exists, that the simple absence of a person can make you feel physically ill, says a great deal about the terrible power of the human heart." ~Beau Taplin, poet
Les has been dead a month today. I don't know how the time passed me by so quickly. I live in a grief-spun fog. I cocoon myself in the boat because it is our lovely home and the place that holds the most of what is left of Les. I can only do that for so long and then I need to get out. Family and friends have been so kind, taking me to stay at their homes for a couple of days at a time. They spoil me with their company. They feed me with good food because I am not cooking for myself. They make me laugh. They bless me with their help. They call and email me to check in. They even grieve with me because they too loved Les and miss him. Our daughter in law Ozlem told me Les called her days before he died and asked her to look after me. "Call her Ozlem. Don't let her sit on the boat all alone." Right to the very end Les was looking for every possible means to take care of me after he was gone. Ozlem does check in with me frequently and I know she does this out of love and not out of duty so I am doubly blessed by them both.
Sometimes I venture out on my own. I went to a movie at the Rex cinema two weeks ago. Les loved the Rex. We saw five movies there together. I kept expecting Les to slip into the seat next me and slide his fingers through mine as he always did.
Today I ventured out again with a long list of things to do: Buy a parcel box for a return item; return the item to Amazon via the Post Office. Mail some thank you cards. Pick up an item at Fatface that was on order. Buy a frame and get some pictures and a return address label printed at the Imaging Centre. Stop at Vah Hardware store in Berkhamsted and get a sponge mop, a brass fixing to close the cabinet Les made which now houses my new stereo.
In my current state of bewilderment and distraction I forgot to get the return address label printed at the Imaging Centre and I had to return there. I also forgot to write an address on one of the thank you cards so it didn't get mailed. To top things off I misplaced the large bag with the picture frame and scarf from Fatface. I got off the bus in Cowroast and suddenly realized I didn't have the bag with me. I felt utter despair. I had no idea where I left it. I was planning to work on it tonight and hang it on the wall across from the dinette so I could see my Best Beloved smiling at me each day.
Instead I trudged back home to our boat, revived the fire, made a cup of Seattle Market Spice tea with Manuka honey to soothe the sore throat, swollen glands, and claggy sinuses that thirty days of insomnia have gifted me. I spent an hour looking for a contact number for Arriva as I thought I had left my bag on the bus. Let me tell you companies don't make it easy over here to get in contact for something outside the general FAQ's.
After finally getting through and being told it would take a minimum of 48 hours for someone to contact me once my bag was reported and turned in to the bus driver (if it was turned in), I decided I needed to do something positive with all my despair. I got out my collapsible silicone bucket, filled it with hot water and sugar soap and went to work cleaning a year of grime and coal smoke from the ceiling and walls. Three buckets and two hours later, everything from the bow doors to the dinette was scrubbed clean and shining. That is about one fourth of the entire boat so there is still more to do, which is good because now that Les is not here I have a lot of time on my hands until his memorial service and my flight back to the States. Then it hit me that I had just spent two hours scrubbing not only coal smoke and old spider webbing from the boat--I was also removing the last of Les' hair, skin cells, and the detritus of his physical life from my midst which sent me into chest racking sobs followed by hysterical laughter when I realized I was crying over dust. I knew Les would be crying and laughing with me.
I logged in to FaceBook tonight to check in with friends and family. I found a message on Instant Messenger waiting for me. It was from a man named Naresh Govindia. His family owns Vah Hardware in Berkhamsted and he messaged me to say he found my bag at the store and he would put it away safe until I could pick it up. I messaged back to thank Naresh, explaining that my husband had recently died and I was easily distracted and having a difficult time without him; that he had been my touchstone for our life in this country and without him I felt even more like a foreigner in a foreign country. He replied:
"I am saddened to hear of your loss. My sympathy and condolences to you. Life's realities are this unfortunately. But please be strong. Live with happy memories which will give you strength. Land may be foreign but people are still the same. Feel free to communicate if I can be of moral support at all.
This is above and beyond basic customer service which is usually lacking in most commercial encounters over here. Naresh's listening ear and his kindness in reaching out to me touched me deeply. He could easily have blown me off with a trite one liner which some folks have done when they have no clue what to say and they realize that nothing they can say will likely help me anyway. I want to share with everyone what does help: actions which always speak louder than words. Sometimes just a hug or a pat on the arm is enough to let someone who is deep in grief know you care and you are there.
For me it is the boaters who stop by to say hello and ask if I need anything. Mike Wall texting me to tell me the power had gone off during the storm yesterday, and then texting me when it came back on; Mike Griffin stopping by each time he visits the moorings, to have a chat with me about any old thing; Sue and Jim Hutchinson stopping by with a card and a gift, and their willingness to stand by patiently while my face leaks because mornings are the hardest time for me when I get up to face yet another day without Les. Carol and George Palin who came and spent a day and half working together to install a new stereo and ceiling speakers so I no longer sat in the boat alone and talked to myself to hear another voice, and Ken and Sue Deveson who have made three separate trips to deliver a stereo, speakers, an antennae and then the missing parts as they arrived, or Chris and Jennie Gash who came by to take me out to lunch, knowing I cannot instigate a conversation; I feel I can barely hold up my end of one. Andy and Tina Elford who check in regularly despite their crazy busy schedules to make sure I know they are thinking of me. My daughters instant messaging me and calling me from the States to check in and touch bases with me. Cousin Kindheart in Canada who calls and emails frequently to share his day, his thoughts, and ask how I am doing and whose generosity has underwritten my trip back to Washington to be with our American family. Our dear friend Robert Rogers who followed his own heart from a wide beam on the cut to a new life with his Best Beloved in Brazil and who sent me the most beautiful meme on FaceBook he created for me from a picture off our blog.The old and dear friend from my University days who deposited money into our American account to help defray the huge expense of a rental car. Our grandchildren in two countries who IM me on FaceBook just to let me know they are thinking about me. Or the friends whose boat and job are fifty miles or eighty miles away but who are coming to Les' memorial service to help me and our family to share our grief, celebrate Les' life and have some closure. Friends of my daughter Sparky back in the States--all young people who think of me as "mom"--who are pausing in their lives to make a trip to Spokane to see me.
Those who of us who grieve don't need special words or fancy sentiments. We need the kindness of friends, family, and yes even strangers, implicit in everyday deeds that help us to function when we really just want to lie down and die. It is those simple acts that help those lost in grief to put one foot forward and keep living.
So tomorrow I will go into Vah Hardware and pick up my lost parcel and purchase three bottles of sugar soap, turpentine, and two tubes of wood filler. I am going to make my own wood polish with lemon oil to scent our home and make the wood shine again.
Les loved Vah Hardware. They have everything and I do mean everything. And if Vah doesn't have it they will order it for you. If you are boaters passing through the area I strongly recommend you stop into Vah for all your hardware needs first before considering B & Q. They sell timber cut to order and they cut keys. They even dispense kindness to the lost and forlorn.
Meme by Robert Rogers, © 2017; picture of Les at Linford Manor Park, looking at NBV moored in the distance. Picture taken by Jaqueline Biggs, 2014.
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