November 2003

Highlight further down: Road trip to Canada.

Coming home to an empty apartment continues to be a very hard thing to do. Sometimes I’m so “don’t know what to do with myself”, that I’m in bed before 7:30. But then I’m often up at 5 in the morning. And I’m also starting to look forward to leaving here in just 6 weeks.

Stewart found this place and we’ve applied for it, along with a couple of other sets of people and now we wait to hear back from the agent. It’s the unit on the lower floor, 2 bedrooms plus generous living areas:

The Concorde arrives in Seattle.

I visited the Woodland Park Zoo today, partly to return the obviously expensive brochures that had been given to Doris and Stewart when they joined their volunteer program, and partly to check in with Leslie and Kim. They told me that losing Doris had had a profound impact on them, both personally in jolting them to look again at what is important in their lives, and for the volunteer program in causing them to re-assess how their program works. And they said that the funeral service for Doris in Seattle was unlike any that they had ever attended. I took that as a compliment.

I also managed to hit the road again and saw Mt Rainier from a different angle, from the northern side of the National Park. The old growth forest is just something else!

We got the unit! It’s 5/10 Helemon St, Braddon. Stewart expects to move in on Saturday (15th) and the furniture is being delivered on Thursday. After that, he expects to be very busy, unpacking.

Stewart has now had the 30 cubic metres of “stuff” delivered to the unit, which doesn’t include the lounge suite, dining room suite and cane chairs, all of which are still at Peter’s place. Apparently, my bedroom, my bathroom, the study and half the lounge are now full of boxes, the fridge doesn’t fit and the drinks cabinet is way too big, although the kitchen has been unpacked and is in working shape. Philippa said that she and Stewart would tackle a few hours a day over the next few weeks and try to get it all unpacked and organised. My guess is that 70 to 80% of the stuff that Doris had collected over the years will have to go. If you have time and would like to help, please contact Philippa.

Meanwhile, back in Seattle, a lady named Julie, who sits not far from me at work, has turned my sorry life completely upside down. I described myself recently as happy, content and confused. The one lesson that the last 4 months has taught me is how to “go with the flow”. And if the universe is going to present me with an opportunity like that …. For the record, Julie is not quite 50, single, has a married daughter and is very well aware that I am leaving here before Christmas. We have done several day trips (Leavenworth, Mt St Helens and Mt Rainier) and will have tackled the last 2 big expeditions, Olympic Peninsula and Canada (Vancouver, Nanaimo and Victoria) by the end of this month. We’re also going to hit Vegas and the Grand Canyon on my way home. And we intend to spend as much of the next month as possible, together.

I was invited to speak to the staff meeting of the Northwest Lions Eye Bank this week. I spoke for about 10 minutes, which in itself is a miracle when I start talking about Doris, and answered questions. I occurred to me while I was preparing for this, that the lesson Doris brought to me in the time we had together was not so much the last 14 and a bit years, it was on the day she died. On that day, she sent me down a path of growth and self discovery, that I would not in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) have ever taken. One of the staff complimented me by saying, “You’ve come a long way since the Donor Family Gathering.”

To the question, “Has it made any difference to your grieving process to know that you were able to provide organs for transplant?”, my answer was the classic Rodney “yes and no”. Apparently only 1% of the population dies by brain death, which then qualifies them for organ donation. And only about half of those receive family consent. Doris, Stewart and I should feel very, very special.

To the question, “What advice would you give to those of our staff who are dealing directly with people whose relative has just died and they are needing to ask them for their consent to donate their corneas and other tissue?”, my rather roundabout answer was that at that point in time, that person really needs to talk and the best thing the staff can do, other than doing what they have to do and ask questions and gain the consent, is to listen.

I am also starting to wind up what I’m doing at work, as well as my sessions with Dr Nancy and the Bereavement Group. I know that I am going to leave the US with a whole bucket load of emotions, both positive and negative. I’ve even started to look at what will fit into which suitcase and to plan what can’t come home with me and needs to be sold or given away. If I mention Julie in this sentence, she’ll probably hit me!

On the job front, the good news is that I’m told that there are several vacancies about to be released by Defence to the Boeing team in Deakin. I have been approved for leave from mid-December right through to mid-January, partly to allow more time for the vacancies to come through, and also to allow me to attend the Jamboree in Adelaide. For those in the know, it’s 10 days of bloody hard work, long days, dust and heat, and an opportunity to provide some very special young people, whom I came to know and appreciate last year, with an experience that will last them a lifetime. Besides, life’s too short to sit at home.

The trip to Canada on the extra long Thanksgiving weekend went well. We spent the afternoon and evening with Julie’s family at her parents’ place on Whidbey Island, then stayed at Oak Harbor (Thursday), drove in the rain right through past Vancouver and onto the ferry to Nanaimo (Friday), then had fabulous weather down via Victoria to Sidney (Saturday) and home again. Sunday’s Plan A was to catch the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles – it was full. Plan B was to catch the ferry from Sidney to Anacortes – that was full.

Plan C was back via Vancouver, so we had a look at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which was something that I had wanted to see anyway. We both agreed that the proportion of idiot drivers in Canada was considerably higher that either of us had seen anywhere else. As usual, it only took 90 minutes to get back through US Immigration and that was on the back road. The border crossing itself took about 30 seconds flat.

The roller coaster continues ….

I’ll be home soon.