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One Wild and Precious Life
We are about to tear down our little cottage. It was built in the early eighties and has been lived in by three families including ours. We bought it a few months after Laura was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. We had rented cottages for summer vacations off and on over the years. Each time we did, we would always say, “We should get a place on a lake.” We make such different decisions staring out over water. It was one of those purchases that comes with a sense of urgency, when you are listening closely to life, when illness is nipping around the edges.
There is nothing like a cancer diagnosis to wake you up to listening to the quiet whispers that come in the middle of the night, “Don’t waste time. Don’t waste time.” So, after surgery and radiation treatments were completed, we went on the hunt. We purchased within weeks and two months later, we walked into this little place. Ready for some deep healing.
Six years later. Here we are. Little did we know that we would start by only coming on weekends, then move to staying full weeks, then months, and now we are here almost full-time. I can’t tell you how many “city girls” moments we have had as we became seasoned country dwellers. We had so much to learn.
I have to say, we never really loved this house. It was small and rickety and musty smelling on damp days. It had been renovated and then renovated again. It looks pretty on the surface, but so much is wrong with its bones. We didn’t care. We loved the property and knew that someday we would build what we needed. We would give the property time to inform us and it did.
So, here is the strange thing: I keep feeling so emotional about this house coming to an end. This little house held us through cancer treatments, back surgery recovery, friends’ visits, family visits, meeting new people, learning to paddle board and kayak. It has held us through healing and renewal, steps forward and slides backward. We have had so many important conversations on the dock in the early morning hours and late at night by a campfire – all our biggest decisions made gazing out to far horizons, to possible futures informed by the length of country seasons instead of city hours. And here we are about to let go of this little house.
I sometimes think that when a loss appears in our life, it ripples back to touch other losses we have known. Like how packing a house can have you stumble across a gift from a loved one, now gone, and leaves tears dripping down your cheeks mingling with the packing tape on a box now sealed. Does loss hold a specific place in our bodies, minds and hearts such that any loss can trigger the history of all the losses we have known?
I have witnessed enough students and clients breaking down in tears with a force that goes beyond the loss of the moment they are standing in. I have experienced that myself. Have you? A grief that is disproportionate to the moment? We each have a history of loss that tenderizes us. It ripples forward and meets us unexpectedly.
And joy. We have a history of joy too. It can have you burst with happiness, especially in a split second of laughter.
I would be remiss, as this little house comes to its end, if I didn’t also write about the meeting of our precious neighbour who became a dear friend and taught us how to use a chain saw and a riding lawn mower, how to “limb up” a tree, where to buy wine “only seven minutes away,” the names of birds and water fowl, and who hosted more social gatherings than I thought one person could! We discovered how Dave was the glue to all of us seeing each other so regularly. More poignantly felt when he died suddenly last summer. His place just sold in late August. We have yet to meet our new neighbours and I still miss Dave’s chickadee whistle from across our shared bay.
Hope tinged with sorrow.
I will let go of this little house that held us well. Bid her a loving adieu and move forward to whatever is on the horizon.
What is next for you right now?
What are you letting go of as your whispers beckon?
Today is September 9th, Laura’s 65th birthday. Please think of her this morning as she will be sitting high in a huge excavator (I just learned that is what it is called), swinging the massive steel jaws into this little house as a celebration of her one wild and precious life, of tender endings and exciting beginnings. I’ll be bringing champagne.
© 2019 Joanne Hunt