Ten years ago I was diagnosed with cancer and I was ready to die. I was bored, unhappy, unhealthy and disillusioned. Chris was determined to keep me alive. Perhaps out of love or fear of being alone?
We quit our jobs and moved to Salt Spring Island. We gave up security and possessions for a risk at a new life. We altered our diet and introduced wheatgrass to our daily routine. We cut out dairy (cheese was so hard for Chris to let go of). We walked more and talked to each other a lot more.
Chris was already exercising daily. I had quit exercising after herniating my disk as I prepared for my 25th marathon… when a runner can’t run… it’s like a heroin addict in withdrawal.
We started a small business because as workaholics we had to have something to do. I was reborn. Chris wasn’t convinced.
As our health seemed to take a turn for the better, we went even more radical in our vegan diet and moved to Raw. Chris was convinced that if I wasn’t going to intervene medically in my health then she was going to cure me with food and love. We believed that we were doing everything right and we were mostly happy. When Cancer manifested in Chis we were stunned. It wasn’t supposed to be her. It was supposed to be me.
We knew she was dying. We knew the pain would get worse until it killed her. Her heart working to move her blood. Her lungs unable to move air. Her appetite waning. Her spirit strong but her mind clouded by opiates and pain-killers. Unable to sleep, unable to eat, unable to talk. Barely able to tolerate the pain, the fear, the deep sense of loss.
After Chris died, I would stand at our window looking out at the view of mountains and ocean and sunshine. The realization of being alone overwhelmed me, and tears poured down my cheeks constantly.
My heart has been ripped from my body
My soul is empty
Tears flow down my cheek
I miss you
We were not perfect
We fought we argued
But we never gave up on each other
There were bad years and good years
But I cherish every moment
Every lesson I learned
I miss the warmth of your body next to me
I miss the sound of your breathing
Your everpresent presence
I miss you
I miss our fights
I miss making up
I miss forgiving and moving on
Time will pass
But not the memory of you
I miss you
Chris wrote that with Cancer each one of us loses something. And some of us will never quite recover and lose the opportunity to share this journey of life. Losing Chris became a constant reminder of the temporary nature of life as I knew it in this form.
Chris is forever in my memories and always in my heart but I have stopped mourning her. The 49 Day Passing has come and gone. I gave Chris permission to go. We forgave each other for anything we may have done in anger or stupidity or inconsideration. We held each other. Expressed our love and said goodbye. We said the time to feel sorry for ourselves was over. We still cried. She told me to get on with my life, travel meet someone. She said I needed a bigger bed. I still cry.
Traveling was important to Chris and she asked that I place her ashes in a bottle and let her drift on the shifting tides.
On April 17th, off the coast of Spain I will cast her ashes into the Atlantic so she can float on the oceans that she wanted to sail.
I will continue on to walk the Way of St. James and continue to share travels of Rawsome On The Road.
Some things I have learned or observed about the Camino:
1) Walking the Camino is not inexpensive
2) Most people walking the Camino are older – middle age
3) Most people don’t look exceptional fit.
4) More women than men
5) Everyone has or knows someone who has walked the Camino.
6) Most people are giddy with excitement.
I approach the coming year with anticipation. I will get older, certainly not wiser, I will see new places and meet new people. I will reinvent my life and discover who I am and who I am not. I will try to strengthen my friendships, love my children, be grateful for each day, and appreciate every moment.
“Life is a road. Each day brings us an opportunity to make a new choice. I know, that each choice I made led me to exactly where I want to be. It couldn’t be any better than this. I’m grateful for each encounter, each relationship, each mistake, each shining star, each sunny day, each raindrop, each blustery moment. Whether it is ending a relationship, or going back to school, or taking up a hobby, or changing jobs, or deciding to exercise or diet, or to do nothing – anything is possible. And in the end, it won’t be wrong. Hindsight will give you some points of reference and reflection. But it is what it is. So live like your life is one giant choice – which in fact it is. You won’t regret it.”
* Chris Gay May 24, 2015
Stay tuned. I am grateful for all of you.