December 2003

Highlights further down: Grand Canyon, Wedding.

The session with Dr Nancy today really made me think. We talked about specific methods for closure – what it is that I do to say goodbye. And I realised that every time I have left somewhere, I have expected to return. But not this time. When I am packing next weekend, I will also need to go through some rituals, a last walk in Downtown Park and through the Mall, a last sit by the water of Lake Washington, and so on, to say farewell to Bellevue while I still have time. Hmm.

Even though I spend lots of time with Julie, I miss Doris terribly. Every day.

The Boeing Australia end of year dinner on Friday night provided an opportunity for me to present Julie to many of the the other Aussies and their partners.

I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to do some ice skating at the end of year family function on Saturday.

Then on Sunday, the crunch came. I started to go through the apartment to sort out ready for packing and spent a large part of the day bawling my eyes out. Which is good for the soul, but doesn’t get much work done. I do at least have piles of “definitely going with me”, “needs to stay in the US”, “give it away or sell it” and “still thinking about it”.

Monday night was my final evening with the Bereavement Group. It seems that I have made quite an impact on this group, by being open with sharing my grief, my growth and a whole lot of objects associated with Doris and my relationship with her, including photos, the moose and the memory box. The memory box is something really special which is given to organ donor families as a tribute to their “gift of life”. It’s a hand made paper box that opens up to reveal 2 photos and whatever you choose to keep inside it. There is also symbolism in untying the bow, as in untying the memories and letting them out, then putting them away when you’re finished. Before the donor dies, the folks also take a lock of hair and a hand print, to be included in the box as a permanent reminder.

It seems that my sharing of all of my stuff has prompted many of the others to do the same, as most of the people who have been before brought an item or a photo along. Anyway, at the end of the meeting, I presented each of the coordinators with a framed photo of Doris. Both were surprised and overwhelmed. Sue explained that in all the years she has been running the group, no-one has ever done that.

All I have to do now is to finish the packing …

I can now include the pictures of our trip to Grand Canyon.

Drop down over the edge in a helicopter.

To meet a boat at the bottom.

The boat guide was explaining that the sheer size of the canyon messes with your head, because the walls are nearly a mile high. At one point, he said, “See that little rock over there?” “Yep” “OK, let’s go have a look.” I think it was this one!

And back up again.

On the way in, we shared the plane with two girls from Canada, who were taking a different tour. On the return flight, Julie blurted out, “We’re getting married this afternoon. Wanna join us?” “Sure, we’ve got nothing else planned.” And so they did.

A Vegas wedding is usually one of two scenarios: A cast of thousands, or just the two of you, where the receptionist is the photographer and witness. We were somewhere in between.

New Year’s eve, as I sit here in the new unit in Canberra, getting quietly tanked on my own. A recap of the month:

The following week went by in a blur, as I wrapped up work and home, went to dinner with all the staff from the apartments, got the 4 suitcases packed and sorted the rest of the stuff to go “somewhere”, including the Thrift Shop and Julie’s neighbour. My American colleagues presented me with a project shirt (long sleeved, which I didn’t have) and a project mug (which I also didn’t have), both of which I shall treasure. Dr Nancy had been pressing me for “how do you say goodbye?” – the answer came as I was shifting “stuff” from the apartment to the elevator (that’s a lift for you Aussies), bawling my eyes out and just keeping on going, moving things.

I flew out of Seattle to LA as planned on Tuesday 16th, complete with all 4 suitcases plus carry-on and stayed in a hotel near the airport, putting the luggage into storage to await my return. I then met Julie, also as planned, in Las Vegas the next morning. Trouble was, she hadn’t managed to turn her mobile phone on, so by the time she arrived in Vegas, I was a blithering mess and she had voice mail messages every half on the half hour. We had planned a few days earlier to take advantage of the ability to get married with the minimum of fuss in the State of Nevada, so on the Wednesday we went turned up at the Court House to acquire a Marriage Licence, on the Thursday took the flight/helicopter/boat tour to the Grand Canyon, met a couple of really great Canadians on the way, invited them to our wedding, got married in the Hollywood Chapel in the afternoon and proceeded to get somewhat smashed in Quark’s Bar in the “Star Trek Experience” in the Las Vegas Hilton in the evening. Quite a day, really. The photos will be available when I get some copies.

Friday afternoon, I had to walk away from Julie at the airport and fly back to LA, get back to the hotel to collect my luggage, get back to the airport with 5 suitcases and get on the flight back to Sydney. Fortunately, I was there early enough to get re-allocated to window seat exit row. Along the way a few months ago, I was been prescribed some REALLY good sleeping pills, so I managed to get a good 8 hours sleep on the 14 hour flight – highly recommended! I arrived in Sydney on Sunday morning to find that my flight to Canberra had been canceled, the next flight was full and I had a 3 hour stopover. So I went to the Qantas Club lounge and said, “I’ve just come in from LA with my wife’s ashes” (close) and they said, “Come on in”. So at least I had some breakfast and a shower, and arrived in Canberra looking almost human.

The last week and a half has been full on, unpacking boxes, meeting old friends, some supportive, some not, sorting out the unit, moving even more stuff to the Scout Hall, unpacking more boxes, My heartfelt thanks to those few people who have propped me up in the time when I have needed you the most over the last 10 days. And to my love Julie, who has been on the end of the phone 24 hours a day. My wife wears combat boots!