Well…here I am, or—better said—here we are, on this morning of the first anniversary of Colleen’s death. We’ve made it this far which is, in itself, an accomplishment.
When I say “we”, I could be referring to my three dogs who almost never let me sit on my screened-in lanai alone (it’s where I do most of my writing when I’m home). They always want to be out here with me and this particular morning is no exception. I could also be referring to all of you, who have provided such wonderful support, love and listening ears, and shared your own experiences and perspectives. That is something for which I am eternally grateful and has been one of the best parts of these past 365 days—this most-recent trip of the earth around the sun.
Along those lines and while I am thinking of it: if you want to reach out to me via text, phone call or email on this special day, I would appreciate it so much. However, don’t be put-off or concerned when I don’t pick-up or reply. I’m planning to spend the day quietly and pretty much by myself (which means by myself and with the dogs). I will get back to you at some point, just don’t be concerned about “how I’m doing” if you don’t get a response for a couple days or a week.
Another thing you could do if you feel so moved, is to go to Colleen’s Forever Missed site and leave a tribute for her and what she means to you. My friend Mike and I launched that site the weekend after she died. At that point who knew, in less than a year, the importance that virtual grieving would have in all of our lives. Also, if you have some quiet listening time this weekend, you can check out the playlist My Sister Colleen, that Colleen’s brother Tim started; while you’re listening, feel free to add a song for Colleen.
In late-2014 after my sister Amy had died of cancer, I was talking to a friend Shannon whose father had recently died. Together we agreed that one of the most difficult things about reentering “normal” day-to-day life after a significant loss, is realizing that life has the audacity to go on. Your whole world has been put in a blender, filled to the brim with feelings, then turned on high without the top. After a week or so—with your insides raw—you tentatively start to renter life. What’s most shocking is walking down the street and seeing people going about their daily lives. You simultaneously experience the open-wound of your loss, with the realization of how insignificant any of our 50 or 100 years on this earth are when compared to the 200,000 years of human history, the 3,800,000,000 (3.8 billion) years that life has been on earth, or the 4,500,000,000 (4.5 billion) times the earth has spun around the sun. Though it all, you realize that somehow you’ll make it. It’s a twist on Dr. Ian Malcolm’s line from Jurassic Park (played by Jeff Goldbloom):
Dr. Ian Malcolm: If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh… well, there it is.
Henry Wu: You’re implying that a group composed entirely of female animals will… breed?
Dr. Ian Malcolm: No. I’m, I’m simply saying that life, uh… finds a way.
Several weeks ago, I started seeing my therapist again and that has been a great help to me. I originally sought her out in 2017 when Colleen was in-residence at her third treatment center. While I didn’t want to not be hopeful and I wanted to be that cheerleader that Colleen so needed, I also needed to protect myself. I was torn that if Colleen were to return home after treatment and soon relapse—I just wasn’t sure if I could take it again. Also for Colleen’s sake, if you think of addiction like a cancer (while it never goes away, with hard work and a little luck it can be coerced into remission), perhaps I was her carcinogen. The catalyst that bear-baited her addiction out of the shadows. During that initial course of therapy, I saw my therapist weekly for several months.
A few days after Colleen died, I texted my therapist and she got right back to me. During that course of therapy, I saw her 6-8 times and she helped me work through the initial stages of grief and loss in my head.
In early-August of this year, as I felt myself entering the dark tunnel of Colleen’s and my wedding anniversary and Colleen’s death anniversary, I texted my therapist yet again and—yet again—she got right back to me. We’ve done several video visits and I can’t tell you how comforting it is to have a therapist who knows your history and can help get to the heart of the matter quickly. By this point in our relationship, she (my therapist) knows me and my hopes and dreams well. During my most recent visit a couple days ago, we were talking about my sailing voyage this past year and she said, “You know Dan, someone who didn’t know you well and was looking at your life from the outside could think that your voyage was merely a reaction to Colleen’s death.” A reflex, like when your doctor hits that spot below your kneecap with the little hammer. My therapist added, “In reality, you were doing something that you had dreamed about for a long time.” I thought about it a bit and replied, “While that’s a helpful attempt to reframe my situation, I don’t agree 100%. I don’t think it’s an either/or answer. I think it’s an ‘and’ answer.” Yes, I had dreamed of a sailing voyage for a long time but couldn’t clearly see the logistics to embark. However, the way I did it, with so much solitude and reflection, and scattering her ashes at sunset several hundred miles from any land in the North Atlantic ocean, was clearly a reaction to the loss of Colleen and an honoring of her life and all she meant to me.
After all this heaviness, I’ll leave you with some levity on the lanai. A couple weeks ago, I got myself a GoPro action camera. I’m excited to get some better real-time pictures and videos of HJ sailing, and also underwater flora and fauna. This is my first video with it and I thought you’d enjoy, just messing around. My dog Jengo (a Rhodesian Ridgeback) can’t help singing along to a melancholy tune.
Thanks again for all your support. I am forever grateful. Fair winds and following seas.
4 thoughts on “The Past 365 Days: A Reaction or A Dream?”
My heart is so full, Dan. Thinking about you today.
I am happy to know that you are still sailing even when the wind and the sea make it challenging.
I enjoyed the video. Jengo is able to carry a tune better than I can.
Dan,I just wanted to let you know that I am thinking of you today (and lots of other days as well). I have read your posts with great interest and have appreciated your reflections. I think of Colleen frequently with new remembrances coming to me often. They bring a smile to my heart. I wish you and Jack and Emma peace and solace.Take care,Karen Boersma Dolce
Karen: Thanks so very much for the thoughtful comment. I was so good seeing you and Jeff in October.