I am fortunate that I am able to continue volunteering at hospice during the pandemic. Most of the administration and support staff are working from home. Many volunteers are also staying home.
The Hospice Niagara communications team is working hard to keep us all connected while we are apart. Each week they produce a newsletter and we are all asked to share a picture and a brief story on a given topic. We have shared recipes, music lists, and much more.
This week the topic is our go-to coffee mug. That is an easy choice for me. The difficult part was that we were asked to use just one word to describe what my cup means to us. I chose wife for my one word; but I wanted to share more. So I have taken to my blog to expand on that single word.
There are so many layers in my choice of the word wife as the lone descriptor for my cup. It feels like peeling an onion. The first and most obvious reason is the fact that this was Crystle’s favourite cup (mug). Crystle was a coffee fanatic. She never started a day without coffee, and I made sure she was always supplied with caffeine. Black coffee. As long as I can remember, Crystle has consumed her coffee naked—the coffee, of course. Her coffee was always naked. No cream. No sugar.
Now, take, look at the cup. Flowers. Crystle loved flowers. This time of year we would be off to the garden centres to purchase flowers for the outside of the house. She planted annuals and created her own planters for our deck. We had lilacs, hydrangeas, and hyacinths in our back yard. That was never enough, she always wanted a bouquet of fresh flowers in our home.
The colour. The handle and trim on this cup are red. Hands down Crystle’s favourite colour. Another reason to enjoy this cup.
I have saved the best memory for last. Like most women, Crystle loved to shop. She preferred to shop alone because she often had nothing on her list but was ever in search of an amazing bargain. She would spends hours wandering though shops. Much of her shopping was for her beloved family and friends. She would seldom purchase anything for herself at full price.
I happened to be with her the day she spotted this cup in one of the wineries here in Niagara. It was NOT on sale. And, it was the only one. She picked it up, looked at the price and put it back. She walked around the gift area and ended up back at the cup. Still not on sale. I am certain they suspected she was going to try to shoplift the cup. I finally convinced her to splurge on herself. She giggled. She smiled and the entire room lit up. We took the cup home with us.
There can be no doubt why this is my go-to cup. It’s not full of sadness, it is full of love.
Today is a day in which I find myself uncertain of how I want to feel. It was two years ago today that Crystle passed away. As I write those words, even now, it seems surreal. How can she be gone?
Yesterday, I went to her grave with Val, Kevin and Quinn. They brought red roses to remember their special mother and grandmother. We didn’t tarry—we all believe the grave is a simple memorial. Only Crystle’s ashes are there; she still lives within our hearts.
I have received texts from Crystle’s family and her friends. It warms my heart to know how much she is loved—and to think that she loved me. What a lucky man to have spent almost forty years of my life with Crystle!
I recently read the story of a monk who went to Heaven. He was met by an angel who welcomed him but told the monk that it was not yet his time and he would have to return to Earth. But before the he went back the angel showed him the splendor of Heaven. At one point they were crossing a long bridge the passed over a turbulent river. The angel told the monk that the river was swollen by the tears of lamentation shed by the living for those departed.
Before the monk returned to Earth, the angel said to the monk, “Tell the world upon your return that, when you are in the world, make no lamentation and weeping without cause, because it creates more difficulty and harm to the souls of your departed loved ones.”
I love this story. The angel doesn’t say that I cannot be sad; nor does he say I cannot shed a tear at those times when a memory of Crystle overwhelms me. I can assure you I will be shedding tears in the future—I just won’t allow myself to linger in those places.
I don’t think I will cry today, but the day is young. Whatever emotions may come my way, I will accept them with gratitude. For I know that whenever I am overcome by tears, it is because I lived a wonderful life with a beautiful woman.
I have been fortunate to work with a wonderful publisher, Tellwell Talent.
The book has been published now for almost six months. The marketing consultant
at Tellwell is providing me sage advice. My book has been entered in award
competitions for 2020. It has participated in a giveaway through Goodreads,
Amazon’s book focused social media arm. I have set up an author page on
It has been suggested that I join
grief groups in social media and set up an Instagram presence. I believe this
is good advice, I truly do. But something gnaws at me.
I realize that I don’t want to be
a pirate! If you are a Seinfeld fan, you may understand the reference. Let me
The sitcom series Seinfeld is, for me, the best series every produced for
television. Seinfeld is an institution in our home. Everything that happens in normal
life has a reference in one of the episodes. I own the DVD set for all eight
seasons and Crystle and I have watched every episode more times than I am able
In one episode, Jerry gets
himself into a situation where he has agreed to wear a puffy shirt because he
said yes to a ‘low talker’ when he could not hear what she was asking. Kramer
tells Jerry that the shirt is setting a new fashion trend that makes him look
like a pirate.
“Jerry, you’re going to be the
first pirate,” pleads Kramer.
To which Jerry replies forlornly, “but I don’t want to be a pirate!”
No, I don’t have a puffy shirt in my closet. But where I relate to Jerry is
that I don’t want to be an expert in grief. I feel bad when I respond to
Tellwell’s marketing team saying that I don’t want to do Instagram for
When I decided to write my book, it became a therapy for me. I felt it
could help others to read about my walk through grief in an open and honest manner.
But I never wanted to be the expert CNN calls when they have a story about
Let me clarify, I am happy to listen to others as they walk through grief.
Anyone who walks through grief becomes an unwilling expert. For those of us who
have trod this path, we learn that the best thing we can do is simply listen,
and perhaps share a hug.
I feel that this blog has run its course. I am not sure what new
information I can offer on grief, because at this point in my journey, I feel
my place is to listen rather than speak.
This website will continue to be my author page. I would like to write
another book at some point. I plan to start a new blog focusing on
spirituality. The link will appear on this web page and I will be more active,
I think, on social media.
I hope you understand this does not mean I am leaving Crystle in my past. I try to live every day in the present moment, so each day the first thing I do is greet Crystle. I wear her wedding ring on a chain around my neck so it rests near my heart. She is coming with me on my new journey. I could not imagine living a day without her.
I am sometimes asked if the holidays are a difficult time for me. I am able to make it through the holiday season without tears. I embrace the present moment and try to avoid getting lost in the past. That doesn’t mean I do not miss Crystle, for I surely do. But if I allowed my mind to focus on pasts memories, or pine away about what ‘could have been’ then I would miss creating new memories in the present moment with my family.
I see these ‘big’ days coming towards me months before they arrive. I do my reflecting privately and let any sadness come out. I feel content to let these emotions come out and cry when I am alone. I believe this is healthy, for even though grief does not hang over me, I will never stop mourning the loss of my beautiful wife. To say Crystle was my ‘wife’ seems somewhat sterile and pedestrian. She was so much more than I can ever put into words.
Today I went to lunch with my daughter and her hubby and of course, my grandson. She sent me a short video of Quinn, sitting in the backseat, legs crossed, swinging to the music. I love him dearly, but I could not help see him through Crystle’s eyes.
I wept. For Quinn.
He will always remember his grandmama, but he will not recall the intensity of her love. You could feel the love beaming from her eyes. He won’t see those eyes. And, speaking from personal experience, he won’t feel the unconditional love that caresses you when you have done something to disappoint. Not that my grandson could ever do any wrong.
I am fortunate. I have a loving family, including Crystle’s siblings who continue to love and support me still, and love me as if I were their own brother. I am blessed to have friends who fill my life with joy.
I am grateful for the gift of family and friends in my life. And gratitude feeds me.