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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Dazed and Confused

 "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. Regards Naresh"
Image result for grief quotes   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.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jaq
Still early days. Life will get easier as time passes. you just have to go at your own pace.
See you at the memorial. take care, Sandra

Mike Todd said...

You tale about the hardware shop reminds me of finding a very similar one in Marlow, on the Thames. We were looking for a specific item - out boat was fairly new to us at the time and internet shopping much less advanced than now! ( It too was Tardis-like with so much more on the inside than one would ever imagine if just passing by. In fact, your story reminded me so much that I had to look up the blog just to be sure it was not the same one!

We no longer have Take Five but are now very close to taking its replacement see

Apart from this last winter when we have been (sob!) boatless, we moored for several years down at Packet Boat Marina so have passed through Berko on a number of occasions and usually moored there. Cowroast Marina has been of considerable help on several occasions! Finger crossed but we hope to be passing once more in this coming Autumn.

Mary said...

I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog. In 1999 I spent some time in England living in Wiltshire in a lovely thatched roof cottage in Whootton Rivers across from the Pub and near the canal. I loved walking the levee. And, was invited into many beautiful canal boats. Being a retired RN, your comments and experiences about cancer and medical care was of great interest to me. Your very insightful opinion is very consistent with mine. I, too have lost a dear one. It is so difficult. And, I send you love and support as you travel this journey. - MARY "Grief never ends...but it changes. It is a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of is the price of LOVE" Author Unknown

Back Porch Writer said...

Well, I took time to stroll down my blog list this morning, as rarely have time to do so. And I find that you are grieving. I am so sorry for your loss. I know that it is a hard time as I've watched my Mom after my Dad left us in 2008. The sun comes up and goes down and some days are good and some are not. She still misses him so. The acceptance is just so hard. I suppose the realization that love can cross over death, warms ones soul. I think God makes that possible. His love remains in your heart, soul, and mind. I am intrigued with your life on the boat. I love hearing about it. I am so sorry that you had lost that bag but found it. That is sooo something I would do on a normal day, not being lost in grief, but just on a normal day. lol I really have to watch myself. Not only did you find the bag but had someone to encounter that gave you encouraging words. So that was good. Praying for you to have easier days ahead and so glad you have friends that love you and want to be with you and help you through. I think the blogging will help too. It's been my therapy for years! SEnding cyber hugs to you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jaq ... I too have been where you are .... it is a miracle that we accomplish anything during these dark and painful days. Don't hold it in dear lady. Alas there are no shortcuts. Moment by moment. Day by day. The sun still shines and spring Will come. And one day you will notice that.

I so appreciate that you have returned to blogging and we all, those who have followed you for years now, wish you the best in your continued life adventure. Les would be so proud of you're willingness to do what it takes. You have always shown so much spunk and resourcefulness. It won't depart you now.

I can certainly understand how Les was your anchor for feeling at home in a strange land and now that must feel very different for you. The good news is that it is no longer so strange and you have Many friends along the cut.

Snowing again here in Pullman ..... you are so loved - Karn

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Sandra,
It will a balm to my heart to see at Les' memorial service. One day is all I can take at a time. Any more is too painful. xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Mike,
A Tardis is an apt description for Vah Hardware. They literally carry everything. I think you find yourself disappointed if you call in to Cowroast Chandlery these days. the shelves are bare. they no longer stock any supplies to speak of but will order something if you know what you want. Then they guy who manages the chandlery buys it from Uxbridge boat Centre (another Tardis to check out!) and brings it to work with him the next day.

I can recommend Darren Killick, the marine engineer based in the marina at Cowroast. He is terrific--knows his tuff and is honest as the day is long.

I've added your boat name to our list of boaters and I will also add your blog to the blog roll as soon as I can get things working properly again. It is time for a new computer methinks!


Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hello Mary,
Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment on our blog. Grief is such an exhausting state of being. As a nurse you have seen it all no doubt. It is interesting how many doctors will deny what I write about cancer but nurses never do.

Canal boats are form and function wrapped in art and history and they are the very best way to see this country. I am please you had an opportunity to set foot on a few while you were over here.



Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hello Back Porch Writer,

Thank you for visiting our blog and for leaving your comment. Les was always amazed at how many people from all over the world found their way to our blog--but then that is how I found him as well, and it led to our meeting, falling in love, and marrying. I wouldn't have missed a second of our life together brief though it has been.

I am a writer too. I work for a University in the States, facilitating online writing courses. I have a degree in English/Creative Writing and I have several books I am working on. I am currently working on turning my blog So this is Love ( into a manuscript for a book. My truest voice in my written words. When I need to figure things out and really pin down my ideas, I must write.



Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Dear Karen,
Thank you thank you thank you my dear freind for being there for me; for all your hard won wisdom shared, and for your support and friendship over the past eight years! Time does fly doesn't it?

It will be so good to see you in the flesh soon and give you big hugs.

I love you to the moon and back Pal,
Jaq xxx

Mike & Phill Muir said...

Jaq, death of a loved one is tough, life after is tougher, but time will heal. Hang in there, you were and will be blessed with Les as life companion.
Mike M

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs