At the start of every year I like to plan, set goals and enter some races and I look for a word for that year. I do not expect an easy year anymore. When 2016 started I decided I would simply roll with the punches and take whatever life handed to me.
My word for the year was lightness. I would try and stay light despite what happened around me. I have the word up in my study in big bright letters. My very special granola yogi friend also helped me with re starting a gratitude journal and living in the moment. So along with light I would be grateful, I would be present, and I would be mindful. I also had a little say...sometimes it all works out. It really does you know, much more than it doesn't.
The first traumatic incidence that life threw at me was my dog almost dying. I even blogged about it: The cellular side of grief and I so seldom write these days. He was still a puppy at the time and thank God he made it, my naughty beautiful big rottie boy.
The second incidence to break my heart was my 67 year old dad being diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic pancreatic cancer. For those who don't know cancer is staged from 1 to 4. You want a 1A and you do not want 4. Also, pancreatic cancer has no cure at this stage. It can be managed and one's life prolonged but it is not like other cancers where one is cured. Yet!
The news shook my family and we all reacted in different ways. Because my Pops has this dodgy old patched up heart that has had numerous heart attacks and 2 triple bypasses, we thought when he dies it will be that old ticker that finally calls it quits. But cancer? No way. My mom had cancer. We had our turn with a parent going through chemo but Mom was stage 1C due to early detection and she has been cancer free for 8 years now.
For the first few months the grief was intense and I had to actually google it because why would one feel this gutted when the person is still here? It's call anticipatory grief by the way. In the middle of it all I found the other side, the gifts it had brought. An intense closeness of my family as we pulled together. A gesture of affection between my parents. A chance to say the things we don't express, the love we feel. We live our lives like we are never going to die, like we have all the time in the world. When someone gets cancer we have to face our demons and work through our shit and issues and we all did that and relationships were restored and healed and our family that has always been close, became even closer.
But back to my mantra...grateful, mindful, present. With all that happened and working with the boys at Bright Lights I would be acutely aware of what was happening right now and be able to see the sweet spot in everything. On the hardest days I would write down the simple little things I was grateful for. Gorgeous sunny weather, rain, a delicious dinner, friends, family etc. It has become a habit or ritual if you like and although I don't write down every day at the time I think how special something is and make a mental note to jot it down. I live in that moment taking it all in.
I kept on thinking about the year and how it was the first since my mother's cancer in 2008 that I hadn't been crushed. I was hurt at times but not crushed. I didn't even want to voice it in case I jinxed it. So I am in Beaverlac in the mountains for new years. No cellphone reception, no electricity and no contact with the outside world. With very little artificial light there the stars are beyond incredible. Just before midnight I left the group we were with and Rebeka and I walked back to our camp and lay on the stretcher star gazing. I saw a shooting star and made a wish. I chose my word for the year as I could make a star wish : healing. Midnight came and a new year begun and I kissed my daughter wishing her a very happy new year. The next morning we had to do the massive packup and I asked Gary if he would excuse me for a while so I could go for a run in the mountains. The sky was the bluest of blues and the mountains huge and rocky and timeless. The heat was already sizzling and on the way back I took a side path and swam in my underwear in this deep dark rockpool. I even found a R2 coin at the bottom which was lucky of course. As I lay on my back in that pool I felt so damn happy. I thought about how much I love my country, how I am not going anywhere. I thought about my family and the incredible Christmas we had all had together. I was so grateful, so mindful and so present. I also thought fucking yay!!! I had it, I had a whole year without a crushing shattering event that broke me. I could say it now. No chance of jinxing it!! As soon as I got home I was going to write and plan my 2017, set my goals and resolutions and thoughts.
On the way home we finally had cellphone reception and my sister called. After allowing me to yak a while she tells me she has some sad news. "Dad?!! Is it Dad?" She tells me no Dad is fine and I feel relieved but steel myself for the news. And she cries and she says it. "Natey died on Friday night. He drowned in the pool." ?????? What? No. What? No, No, No. She tells me a little of the story and I go on FB and I just can't believe it. He is 2, he is beautiful, he has incredible super involved amazing parents and his whole conception and birth is a miracle story. We look at his pictures every single day. We watch his video clips. We have never met him but that's somehow irrelevant, we share his life and that of his family. And now we share his death and I feel cold and shocked and shattered. How could I not have known or sensed it? Being up in the mountains gazing at a million stars feeling so so happy. (His mom Jane writes about the day, about him, about her journey)
So I never ever did sit and write my plans or dreams or hopes for the year. His death had me stop and the month has been hard. But after this month and short time of just 36 days since I have heard I have been 100% grateful, mindful and present. And my word of healing still stands. Jane wrote about it being weird when Jewish people wish the relatives long life and I had a few Jewish friends write that on my FB posts too. Its a long explanation but it means long full days. One can have a long life but short meaningless days or a shorter life with long full lived out days. So in honour of Natey who lived the longest and happiest of days delighting in everything, being grateful, being mindful and 100% present I try and live long days. I especially take his daddy's words to heart about parenting and being available for my kids not so distracted or disconnected. I think of his parents all the time, I think of him. He has left a massive impact of so many people. We are profoundly and permanently changed because of his life and his death. Part of me wanted to get cynical and bitter saying 2016 was not the best year but I hadn't heard then so it actually was. I also like to think of that shooting star on the 31st being a Natey star and that word of healing being from him. Healing from shattered hearts and lives.
So this year I will complete my degree. I will be happy and I will be sad and pissed off and gracious and appreciative. I will not be cynical or bitter because that is ugly and while I can't control sad, I can control ugly and I won't hate or discriminate or add any negativity to a world that is really broken right now. I will try and honour a little boy who was sunshine personified. A twinkle boy up in the sky who lived long days. I will try and live a beautiful life for a beautiful, beautiful boy.