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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Part 37 Special Edition

December 31, 2010

Wanted to get one last post in before 2010 ends. I’ve been so remiss on keeping up with my blogging, and even though I set myself the goal of completing my story by year end, that wasn’t enough to make me follow through.

This Christmas 2010 was the ten year anniversary of losing my late husband, Rob, to suicide. I normally do a lot of reflecting during the month of December anyhow, but this year I did even more so. I realized ten years have gone by, I wondered where the time had flown to, what had I accomplished and how did I feel about that?

As I grew up I always loved the traditions of Christmas, the tree, the decorations, the yummy food and treats and Christmas music. The times shared by family, the wrapping of gifts, hoping everyone loves what you got them as much as you loved it. Rob was German so we always celebrated on Christmas Eve, this way I got two Christmases and there was never any conflict between the families. Rob however was not at all into Christmas. He always viewed it as too much hustle and bustle, too much stress for just a short period of time. I didn’t let that deter me, but eventually it did take the glow off and I more or less went through the motions because I thought I should.

When my son was born, it rejuvenated my love of Christmas for a while. As he got a bit older, it was so much fun filling up his stocking, putting the presents under the tree and waiting for him to wake up and watch his face as he excitedly rushed out to see what Santa had left him. Having small children around who still believe in Santa really infuses Christmas spirit I find.

Christmas 2000 was an especially difficult one for me as Rob and I had been separated for almost 10 months. I still put up the tree, decorated the house, bought presents, stocking stuffers and went through all the motions as I wanted to give my 9 1/2 year old son as “normal” a Christmas as I could under the circumstances.

Rob had first attempted suicide Dec. 6th, 2000. There were quite a few more attempts that he told me about, in very great detail and I knew he was truly in trouble, but kept trying to keep his spirits up and get him the help he needed. He was really down the day before Christmas Eve, but promised my son he’d be at his sister’s for Christmas Eve so we all expected him there. I really was not in the mood or energy level to be sharing Christmas with anyone, but forced myself to do it and get through it. I thought momentarily to call Rob the day of Christmas Eve, but was so burned out by everything that I just figured it was up to him to get himself to his sister’s. My son and I drove there, everyone else from his family was there and were all asking about Rob.

Rob’s Mom had called Rob several times but to no avail. I didn’t call, just focused on getting through the visit, opening the gifts, having dinner and making sure my son had a good Christmas, which he did. In fact, Christmas was often stressful with my in-laws as my father-in-law could be pretty unpredictable mood wise and usually was stressed the entire month of December, much of this I’m sure is why Rob didn’t look forward to Christmas. I remember sitting back while at my sister-in-law’s thinking this was one of the most relaxed, happy Christmases I could remember with them and thought what a shame it was that Rob had decided not to attend.

His place at the dinner table was vacant, even more of a reminder that he wasn’t there and we all worried about him and why he hadn’t shown up. We finished dinner, packed up all our goodies and drove back home. I put my son to bed, read him my old copy of Night Before Christmas from when I was a little girl, and then got his stocking and presents under the tree. I thought about calling Rob to see if he was okay, but was so angry that he’d not kept his word, was so tired of the stress and worry that I decided not to call.

Next morning I asked my son to call his Dad to wish him a Merry Christmas and my son very stubbornly told me that his Dad could call him! I realized my son’s disappointment, hurt and anger and told him just call your Dad, he’s not well and would appreciate it, so he did. I then had to head out to my family for Christmas Day and got things underway for that telling myself it was the last thing in the world I felt like doing, but that I’d get through it. Had another beautiful celebration with my family, still had not heard from Rob and my family too had asked about him. Got home that night and didn’t call Rob either. Unbeknownst to any of us, Rob was probably already gone. Never heard his son’s message or the calls from his Mom so worried.

We didn’t find Rob until Dec. 27th, and even though his death certificate is dated the 27th, I know in my heart it was late Christmas Eve or early Christmas Day that he passed. He had spoken to a friend of ours in the late afternoon on the 24th, but that friend didn’t tell me that until later. Turns out Rob had also spoken to his girlfriend who had dumped him, I too found that out much later, so this was the only timeline we had to go on.

I had asked, almost pleaded and begged Rob not to take his life over the holidays as I knew it would be such a painful reminder each year. Once we found him, I was angry that he couldn’t even give me that, but know too that he was just in such a state of despair, that he felt he couldn’t go on living a moment longer and just couldn’t hold on. I eventually forgave Rob for everything, forgave myself too for having stayed with him so long, and it was at this moment of forgiveness that my anger dissipated. This was not right away mind you, it took me a long time to get over the anger, initially it’s what kept me going, but it was also slowly poisoning me and I knew all along I’d have to let it go. When I consciously chose to let it go, there was huge relief for me and it was also what allowed me to move forward and start the healing process.

So all in all, Christmas has been not a great time of year for me since Rob died. A few years ago, I made another conscious decision to not let Rob and what had happened take Christmas from me anymore. I decided I’d enjoy Christmas for what it was again, a time of laughter, great company and being with the ones I loved.

This Christmas was one of the nicest I can remember. Had a lovely early Christmas visit to my mother-in-law’s home which I’d not been to in years. She lives 2 hours away from me, so for the past many years we celebrated at my sis-in-law’s place which is only 1 hour away, or at a restaurant for a nice lunch. This year the weather cooperated beautifully, no snow on the roads either way which is almost unheard of. Walking into her home, seeing all her Christmas decorations I’d come to love over the years really touched me. My father-in-law passed a few years ago too, so the dynamics had really changed. We had a lovely visit, listened to great Christmas music, played some Trivial Pursuit, just had a lovely time. I thought for a brief moment about Rob and what he was missing, but decided not to dwell on that and just enjoyed the present.

I packed up everything and my son and I drove to my brother’s weekend home about 2 hours east of me on Dec. 24th. Again the roads were totally dry, barely any snow and for Ontario this time of year, that is not the norm. Got down there in good time, spent a lovely evening with my family, watched Eat, Pray, Love and had a nice evening.

Christmas Day I woke up and it was also my Mom’s 81st birthday. She was already up, so I laid there for a little bit and thought of all the things I have to be grateful for. I wished Rob a Merry Christmas out loud and did feel sad for a moment thinking of all he’d missed out on, how proud he’d have been of our son and what a wonderful young man he’s become. I then chose to feel happy, not sad and got up to a chaotic kitchen full of laughter and my brother getting the bird ready. My brother usually has a ton of people, but this year we had only 8 for Christmas dinner. It was lovely having a smaller group, more chance to converse one on one and it was just a beautiful Christmas overall.

I originally had thought when reflecting that I hadn’t accomplished enough, that I was no where near where I thought I would be ten years later. Then I realized how far I had come, how much I’d gone through and processed, that I was much happier than I had been in a long time and even though I didn’t have all the answers, I felt so hopeful, more hopeful than I had in a long time that everything would work out exactly as it should. That was a wonderful feeling!

It’s New Years Eve tonight and I’m heading out to a small house party with friends and family and looking forward to bringing in the new year. I feel it’s a time to start anew, press the “reset” button and really get taking action on what I want for the next year and the rest of my life. I’ve almost been on “hold” for the past many years, it is time to take action, if I want something different, I must do something different – and I will!

My wish for all reading this is that 2011 brings you everything your heart desires. May you have a happy, productive, enjoyable year ahead. For those reading who have lost someone to suicide, I know you’re all grieving and all are in a different place in your journey of healing, but please know that it does get better. Remember to be good to yourselves, be gentle and kind. I wish everyone much peace and healing in 2011.

National Survivors of Suicide Day – Nov. 20th – Part 36 Special Edition

November 19, 2010

Today I’m doing a special post to honour all those survivors, myself included, who have lost a loved one to suicide. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is organizing this with many cities and countries participating holding events to allow those survivors to come together with others who share the common bond of suicide. It’s an opportunity for healing.

I belong to quite a few suicide prevention/support pages on Facebook, today if you check out AFSP’s page, you will see many posting pictures and messages to their loved ones lost. It breaks my heart with each story I read, yet somehow it helps me heal too just knowing others are out there just like me, all in varying stages of grief and healing. Only those who have lost someone to suicide truly know what it’s like, it’s a different kind of grief than any other for many reasons.

There still to this day is a very strong stigma attached to mental health illness and especially to suicide. Most often it makes people uncomfortable just hearing the word suicide, they don’t know what to say or do to comfort and many just avoid it entirely. As a result, those left grieving and in so much pain, with so many questions that go unanswered, don’t get the support they need. Let me just say as a survivor myself, there is no expectation for others to have the answers to my questions, you just need a soft, safe place to fall, a shoulder to lean on or cry on, someone to just listen and comfort you.

I lost my husband Rob to suicide almost 10 years ago now, it was Christmas 2000 when he died by suicide. I can say that my life changed from that moment on in a way I could never have imagined. I am using this blog to tell of my experience, both from the time prior to his suicide, as well as what transpired afterwards. I will briefly recount a bit now just for this post today, if you’re interested in learning more, go back to the beginning and you’ll get the extended version.

We had separated Valentine’s Day Feb. 14th, 2000. It was mutual, but upsetting nonetheless. We continued working together as we shared a business, that was particularly difficult. The circumstances under which we’d separated where not at all what I thought they were and many painful discoveries were made over the next 10 months prior to his death.

I’d been with Rob since 14, he was my first and only love. I loved him but also hated what he’d done so this was an especially difficult emotional rollercoaster. Rob really began to fall apart badly at the beginning of December 2000, had tried many ways and many times to end his life and he would discuss all with me in great depth. This too was something I had never thought I’d be experiencing, but I listened trying to figure out how I could help him stay alive. One of his attempts resulted in him being committed to a mental health insitution, but even after attempting, the laws only allow 72 hours holding time, so he was out in no better shape than when he went in. It was at this time that he was diagnosed as being bi-polar, and finally we had a name or medical condition that explained much of what had gone on for so long.

Our relationship was always tumultuous, but I felt we’d be together forever and had known no other relationship to compare it to. I felt we were a team no matter what. I knew for my own self respect I could never be his wife again, but I also loved him and wanted him to stay alive and get the help he needed to turn his life around. Our business was failing badly by this point, we had absolutely no employees at all and something I thought Rob would never do, which was bail on me and the business started happening with alarming frequency during the month of December.

My world was already upside down, I was dealing with way more emotions than I’d ever had to before, yet somehow I kept it together. The constant strain of not knowing what he might do next took a toll on me, I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for him day in/day out. We talked more in the last 6 months of Rob’s life than we’d talked in almost 30 years of being together. It’s what I’d wished all along to have with my life partner, was such a shame it took such drastic circumstances to bring that out. There was nothing left unsaid really, apologies were made, lots of tears shed by both of us, but it didn’t change the outcome that our lives both personally and business wise were coming apart at the seams.

Rob was losing weight, had not been sleeping well at all, he’d started smoking again and unfortunately was drinking too much as well. I remember quite clearly looking at him, I mean “really” looking at him, seeing the strong, stubborn, obstinate, cocky man I’d known most of my life become a shadow of his former self. He was broken in all ways and it broke my heart to see him like that.

The holidays are an especially difficult time for many and for those with mental health illnesses and alone, it’s the highest rate of suicide time of the year. I was aware of this, so was Rob. He had promised to attend Christmas at his sister’s place Christmas Eve, they were German and always celebrated on the 24th. I was exhausted and it’s the last thing I felt like doing, but I so wanted to give my 9 1/2 year old son as normal a Christmas as was possible under the circumstances.

I fluctuated between absolutely hating Rob and being furious at what he’d done to feeling very sorry for him and having great compassion. This fluctuation increased dramatically during the approaching holidays. I didn’t know how I’d get through Christmas with his family, but knew somehow as I always did, I would. I was burned out and tired of checking on Rob day in/day out so on the 24th I did not call him to see if he’d be going to his sister’s, or whether he’d like to drive up with my son and I. I just didn’t feel like calling and felt he’d promised me, my son and his family, so it was up to him to get himself there.

I arrived at his sister’s, his entire family was there, but no Rob. They all asked where he was and I said I didn’t know, but that he’d probably show up in a bit. We did our usual gift opening, sat down to dinner, Rob’s spot vacant. His mother was very worried and had tried several times to call the boat to see where he was, tried his cell phone too and got no answer. I was very mad that he’d not shown up for his son at least, so I made no attempt to call.

We got through that day, in fact, it was one of the nicest, most relaxed, harmonious times I could remember. My son and I drove home that night, I was wiped out, but happy it had been a good day overall. I thought about calling Rob that night, but just didn’t have the energy to deal with him and was mad he’d not come, so I tucked my son into bed and think we even read “The Night Before Christmas” which was a tradition using an old book of mine from when I was a small girl. I kissed him goodnight, filled his stocking and put his presents under the tree and poured myself into bed.

Got up Christmas morning, my son woke me up before getting excitedly into his goodies. My mood was not good but I put on a brave front as I watched him. The thoughts going through my head were whether Rob was still alive, whether he’d taken off with someone else, how was I going to get through today and another Christmas with my family. I then thought what a strange thought to not know if your husband was alive or dead Christmas morning :(. I suggested to my son to call his Dad and wish him a Merry Christmas. My son said that his Dad could call him and there was definite upset in his voice. I told him your Dad isn’t well right now, why don’t you be the bigger of the two and just call, I know he’d like that.

My son called, got no answer but did leave a quick message. Rob was probably already gone by this point, but we wouldn’t find out for another 2 days.

When we did find out, a girlfriend of mine came to my shop where I was in doing some paperwork necessary for year end. I’d asked her to please knock on our boat just to see if Rob answered. It took too long and I knew something wasn’t right, but then she was knocking on my locked entrance door. I crossed the showroom floor, all the while looking at her and could see she was most upset. I unlocked the door and she immediately burst out saying “He’s Gone! Barb, he’s gone!”. I realized immediately she meant Rob was dead. The first words out of my mouth were “It’s over”. The finality of it hit me all at once, what I meant was that it’s over for Rob, that he was no longer suffering, that it was over for me, that I didn’t have to keep fighting to keep him alive.

I knew right there and then that life would never be the same again. I could never have imagined that things would end this way, not in a million years. I got into auto mode doing what needed to be done, it kept me occupied and busy. I never really had the thoughts that so many survivors have of whether I could have done more, I knew I’d tried harder than anyone and so there was absolutely no guilt. Just complete and utter sadness that this is what had come to be, mixed with relief that it was no more. Most would never use the word relief as it seems so harsh and self-centered, but for me, it is what I felt.

Those who are in such pain and turmoil do I’m sure consider what their suicide will do to those left behind. I’ve read many times with many stories that they feel the world and everyone in it would be better off without them in it. Rob had even mentioned this a few times too. On Rob’s previous attempts and our ensuing talks about them, I always asked what it was that stopped him. He always told me he saw our son’s face and he just couldn’t go through with it. I latched onto that and told him “Good! Keep that image every time you’re having those thoughts”, but in the end, I guess even that was not enough to stop him, the pain just too much to continue for another day.

I’ve also seen many survivors say that their loved one couldn’t have loved them all that much if they chose to do this, they chose to leave forever. Please understand that it’s not a measure of how much they loved you, it’s the fact they were in such turmoil and pain that they simply couldn’t stand it a minute longer and felt this was the only way to end their pain.

Many survivors feel they didn’t do enough to stop it, that they didn’t see the signs – again I ask you to not beat yourselves up, in most cases, there is little we can do when one is completely determined, and many have these thoughts for a very long time. In my husband’s case, he said he spent a great deal of time planning out exactly what he would do, down to very minute details.

I think if there’s one question that comes up the most with survivors, it is WHY? It’s a question that I finally learned to stop asking because there is no way to get the answer and you make yourself sick with wondering. I don’t think there’s ever one easy answer anyhow, I think it’s often times many reasons why and the person contemplating taking their own life often does not have the answer either. If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be to stop asking why, accept that this is what they decided, whether of sound mind or not, and just know they are now in a better place and no longer in such anguish.

This post is to honour not only our loved ones departed by suicide, but it is also to honour all those left behind devastated by their loss. Survivors are amazing, resilient, loving people left to deal with a tragedy the best way they know how. Fortunately there are many support groups and sites now for those who are ready for this type of support. In the meantime, if you know of someone who has lost someone to suicide, I ask you to reach out to them, give them a hug and tell them you’re sorry for their loss. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than just doing that – and it will help!

I am posting today for the very first time a photo of my late husband Rob. It’s not the best, but one where I know he was at his happiest, aboard our first boat, a sailboat. He’s got a big white bandage on his finger and that brings a smile to my face as this was typical Rob too. He was a master mechanic by trade and constantly hurting himself so to see this brings back those memories too. It’s been almost 10 years now Rob, I wish you much peace too. RIP Rob Hildebrand Mar. 21, 1953 – Dec. 25, 2000.

My heart goes out to each and every person lost to suicide and their loved ones left behind grieving, sometimes inconsolable. My wish to each survivor is that you heal and have peace and in closing I’d like to quote something that really struck a chord for me on AFSP’s site today:

“It’s one minute at a time. That’s all you have to make it through. One minute at a time”. ~ Glover, Richboro, Bucks County.

Happier Times

Surviving Suicide – Part 35

November 8, 2010

Intro:

Wow! It’s been almost two months since I last made an entry to this blog :(. I’ve been procrastinating, for many reasons, one it dawns on me is because of the question of what will happen when I’m finished? What will the ending to my story be? Will I be able to fulfill my goal of turning this story into a book? How will I go about finding a publisher? Should I self publish or get a publisher? If I get a publisher, how will I know it’s the right one? You can see I ask myself a lot of questions! lol!

Either way, I’ve been strongly called to continue on and let go of having all the answers. To just finish the process I started this past May, just so that I can say it’s done! It’s accomplished, I did what I said I’d do. Originally I wanted to do this, turn it into a book, figure out some way to take my lessons about suicide and use them to help others. I belong to quite a few suicide prevention pages on FB, I see daily the pain that pours out through fans making posts, telling of their losses, or stating how much pain they’re in. I know there is a need to be filled, whether I can help with that or not, I believe I must finish this story to see what may show up.

I so wanted the fairy tale ending of being able to say I’ve got my life in order, that I’ve overcome all the obstacles that I’ve faced since losing my husband. The simple truth is that I have not, and I’m coming to the slow realization now, that it will most likely be a continuing journey of healing, learning and growing for the rest of my life. I learn from each and every person who comes across my path sharing this common bond of suicide. The pain we all experience seems to draw us inexplicably together. The bond that is formed is very real, very heartfelt, very genuine. There is something about sharing something like suicide with another who has experienced it that just feels right. They know what you’ve gone through and although it may be a different relationship they’ve had with the one they’ve lost, they know.

So it is for this reason that I must continue, I must trust in this process that laid dormant quietly in me for almost 10 years now. I am trusting in myself that when I’m done, I’ll know it. That when I’m done, I’ll figure out what the next step is and that the right people will show up to help me. It’s not usually in my nature to forge ahead without a definite, clear plan on what I want, but maybe that is part of this journey of mine – for me to learn to let go of knowing, of having all the answers, to just do it and see what happens.

Oct. 2002 – Life Goes On!

I left off with my last entry at Sept. 2002. This was the date that I shut down my failing business that I’d shared for 17 years with my late husband. Part of the reason I put off shutting it down, even though I was funding it personally was because this was my world, what I knew, my last bit of routine – and to let that go was sort of letting me go. I had convinced myself that I was smart enough, strong enough, capable enough of turning things around – by closing my doors, it was in a way saying that I was wrong, that I wasn’t smart enough, strong enough or capable enough to make a go of it – and for me, at that time – that felt like I myself was failing. Even though I knew that that wasn’t necessarily true, it was a program running in my brain at the time playing over and over again.

Although it was a huge relief knowing this chapter of my life was now closed, it was also very scary to think “now what will I do?”. I didn’t allow myself the luxury of wallowing and just accepted this was meant to be, that I needed to carve out a new path for myself, and even though I didn’t have a clue what that path may be, I just had to do the best I could. It came to mind that so many define themselves by what they do. I didn’t think I included myself in this group, but several years later, many lessons learned through self development, I realize I too did define myself as an entrepreneur, a successful one while the business had done well and although rather tumultuous, a part of a husband and wife team. Now who the heck was I?

As always, I didn’t have much time to ponder as life always continues on with its many challenges that I had to address. I was very focused on getting the boat sold, it had become my number one priority. I was also beginning to get a few phone calls at home related to the old business, but luckily most did not have my personal phone number. October 10th I received a fair sized deposit bank draft for the boat. It felt good to know that I’d finally be able to close that chapter too.

I had chosen to run the deal through a broker I’d been dealing with, even though it was a private sale. I felt he’d been good enough to help me, I’d give him something for his time and let him handle the paperwork so things would be easier for me. The amount of the deposit bank draft was $5K less than the buyer had told me it would be. The broker delivered the draft to me at my home and he was acting a little odd, wasn’t looking me in the eye, seemed in a real rush to get away, etc. I mentioned the shortage, the broker got very uncomfortable and said that’s all he’d been given.

My instinct told me something was off so I called the buyer. The buyer, a member at my old yacht club told me that the broker had advised him to hold back the $5K for their protection. I was livid! My broker, who I had graciously and voluntarily decided to give a $10K commission to was now working against me? I thought about how I was going to handle all of this, knew I’d have to confront the broker, but got the draft deposited and cleared before doing so.

Oct. 17th I called the broker, told him I knew he’d lied, that he’d advised my buyer to hold back the $5K, that he in fact was holding the $5K in his account and that the buyer had given the full amount as a deposit. I reminded him then that he worked for me, that I had no obligation to let him broker this private sale but had wanted him compensated for what he had done previously for me and was appalled that he’d do this. Don’t remember how that call ended, but it couldn’t have been pleasant. He didn’t think well on his feet to say the least.

Later that same day, Oct. 17th, the wife of the buyer contacted me by phone and all 3 of us decided to not deal with the broker anymore. It left us all with a bad taste in our mouths. The wife faxed me a new Offer to Purchase that was identical to the original offer that all 3 of us had signed, the only difference being the broker was now deleted. Both the buyers signed this new offer dated Oct. 17th.

I in turn faxed this new offer to my lawyer to have it checked out. Got his comments back by fax advising me to delete some of the terms like “Financing Arranged”, “Sea Trial” and “Survey” as all these conditions had been met. Prior to this new offer, I’d not involved my lawyer much, but now that troubles had surfaced, decided it would be in my best interest to have him involved. My lawyer spoke to my buyers’ bank and lawyer and said it still looked good for the deal to close. My lawyer advised me to get the remaining $5K holdback that the broker had as well as the boat key.

I had been advised by the buyer that they’d had access to my boat because the broker had told them the key was under the mat. I had just started to hear via the grapevine at the yacht club that both the husband and wife (my buyers) had been on the boat on weekends. I was pretty upset about this but didn’t want to rock the boat so to speak ;).

I contacted the broker Oct. 18th and asked for the $5K and the key as per my lawyer’s instructions. Two days later on Oct. 20th, the broker hand delivered to my house a cheque from his brokerage firm but he did not have the key. I deposited the cheque lickety split!

While all of this was going on, I also had dealings with Bridgestone/Firestone Head Office. They were causing problems too wanting to hold back about $3K on a Letter of Credit that had been required when we’d first bought the franchise. They also told me I had to get my shop equipment out, car hoists, shop tools, etc.

Amidst all of this chaos I had scheduled a Girl’s Weekend at the cottage I rented Oct. 5th so that was a wonderful reprieve and much needed. Had an absolute blast, enjoyed my girlfriends immensly and just let our hair down so to speak. The following weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving, I’d also invited some good friends, my brother and his partner and some of their friends attended and I noted “Nicest ever!”. It was such a saving grace to have these occasional moments of fun and friendship interspersing the chaos and helped very much in me keeping it together. I was able to put whatever ailed me behind for that moment, and to just be present and enjoy the moment.

October 24th I spoke to the husband (buyer) and was told their bank had okayed the loan and that a cheque for the full amount should be available October 31st – I was elated! October 29th I found out much to my horror that the buyers had switched my boat insurance policy to their name even though they’d not paid me in full for it. I was absolutely shocked at finding this out, immediately called my boat insurance broker which coincidentally my buyers also used for their boat, to get this rectified.

I asked the boat insurance broker how on earth this had ever happened! He didn’t have much of an explanation and he sure didn’t seem too perturbed about it either, even though had their been a fire or total loss, the damn buyers would have been paid off! I had required the buyers to pay the premium for the insurance, not to switch the policy over to their names. My boat insurance policy had come due Oct. 26th and because their financing was taking so long, I asked them to pay the premium, but never once was it suggested that the policy be issued to them. The boat insurance company never notified me of this either.

The boat insurance broker said there’d obviously been some confusion (now that’s an understatement!) but not to worry, he’d change it back into my name immediately, but that I should send full payment in now. Totally mindblowing, but thankfully got found out without ill effect.

October 24th I’ve noted that Bridgestone/Firestone okayed an auction to be held at my old shop to sell the shop equipment so that was a big relief too. The auction took place on October 30th and I must say, the auctioneer was incredible! He was spot on for what he’d valued the equipment at, I wasn’t required to be present, and at the end of the auction, he’d pretty much raised what he said the equipment was worth. This was such a satisfying transaction to deal with professionals who not only knew what they were doing, but followed through and got the results they said they would.

October 30th my lawyer faxed the boat buyers’ lawyer the requested paperwork for the deal to close. Everything looked as if I’d finally get the boat sold.

All in all, October 2002 was quite an eventful month. Full of trials and tribulations, emotionally draining and I remember wondering if I’d ever be rid of the “stuff” acquired by Rob or for that matter, to ever be free from him. I was feeling a little “victim” at that time I guess, I did however realize even then, I was responsible for signing up for all of it too. Even worse was the realization that I had enabled all of it, I’d been the one to figure out how we could afford it, I’d arranged all financing, etc. It’s what I did in the relationship. Lesson learned!

World Suicide Prevention Day – Sept. 10th – Part 34 Special Edition

September 10, 2010

Today I’m doing something a bit different, deviating from my normal story telling because I feel so passionate about World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD).

Today would have been my 33rd wedding anniversary, but I lost my husband, Rob to suicide in Dec. 2000. So this day holds extra special meaning for me not only because it was my anniversary, but because it reminds me of who I lost and how many are impacted by this tragedy of suicide.

There is so much stigma surrounding suicide and sometimes the stigma is worse than the suicide. I know that’s a pretty strong statement, but for many – it is the case. People are uncomfortable even with the word “suicide”, you can see them almost cringe when you say it. I noticed this immediately when I lost my husband Rob and would tell someone when asked how he’d passed. I quickly learned to soften the words and just tell them “unfortunately he took his own life” and even that left many reeling.

The stigma also surrounds mental health illness too and that HAS to be stopped! Those who are suffering from the various types of mental health illnesses, depression being one of them and almost always associated with suicide, are afraid to reach out for the very help they need. They are fearful of being judged, of being labelled, embarrassment is often felt and yet if they had cancer or any other disease – and believe me – mental health illness is a disease!, they wouldn’t experience that at all. They’d receive understanding, compassion, empathy and support.

Stigma also impacts survivors who have lost someone to suicide. At a time in their lives when their world has been shattered, many have no clue what to say or do. Survivors are not looking for you to “fix” anything, instead they need support, compassion and a lot of love to get through this life altering experience. Many try to comfort but use inappropriate words which add to the hurt. If you know someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, please just be there for them. Let them know you’re sorry for their loss, that is all that’s needed. Let them talk about it openly and just listen, hug them, don’t tell them you know how they feel unless you yourself have experienced suicide – just be a safe place for them to fall.

I belong to a remarkable Facebook fanpage called International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and they are in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO). This fanpage does tremendous work to educate about suicide, things to look out for and be aware of so you may recognize if someone is in need. They give many links to information, including their HELP tab that links to a page giving numbers or sites in your area if you are contemplating suicide or know someone who is. This is a WORLDWIDE group and that I’ve not found anywhere else.

The support and outpouring on their fanpage is just incredible. They welcome each new fan by name, they post a candle for anyone who shares their grief at losing someone to suicide, fans support them in ways I’ve not seen before. The compassion and caring is truly heartfelt and warming. I will post a link to their site at the end of this post, please take a moment to check it out, it may very well save someone’s life.

I feel so strongly that my experience happened so that I could learn from it. What I’ve learned is profound and it’s put me on my path/calling to share my story in hopes it will help others to come forward. Suicide is NOT a dirty word, and I am doing my best to make it be so. I know my purpose is to help others heal from this devastation, to accept and forgive, both themselves and those who took their lives, to help them to heal and go on to help others and pay it forward.

I want to help reduce the stigma, raise awareness and prevent suicide thereby saving lives. Please help me do this by supporting World Suicide Prevention Day and light a candle by a window tonight at 8pm in memory of all those lost to suicide and for all those left behind grieving something they can barely comprehend.

Suicide claims 1 million lives a year, that’s 1 every 40 seconds according to WHO statistics. To put that into perspective, that’s like the number killed in 9/11 happening every single day. Very shocking statistics. For every 1 completed suicide, there are 20 more not completed and that translates to 20 more million every year attempting to take their own lives. Factor in that on average 4-6 family/friend members are impacted for each successful suicide and you quickly realize just how many are impacted and devasted by this tragedy.

Suicide is everyone’s concern, it’s on the rise in our youth and our elderly. The present economic climate is adding to the stress and depression and suicide rates are on the increase because of that too. The world is a very chaotic place right now, much intolerance, much hatred and much fear – this too needs healing to take place. WE can all make a difference, one person truly can make a difference, we can reduce the stigma, increase awareness and save lives.

My heart goes out to all those lost and all those grieving, we need to heal and move on so we may help others do the same.

Here is the IASP World Suicide Prevention Activities link showing what’s being held to support the day: http://www.iasp.info/wspd/2010_wspd_activities.php

Here is the link the the IASP’s website: http://www.iasp.info/wspd/

Surviving Suicide – Part 33

September 4, 2010

Intro:

Just a reminder to all that Sept. 10, 2010 is World Suicide Prevention Day. I belong to an amazing fanpage on Facebook called the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) who along with the World Health Organization (WHO) host a worldwide day to raise awareness, give those who have lost someone to suicide a place to come together and all for suicide prevention. This is not necessarily a specific location, but some 20 countries are hosting actual activities and I encourage you to please check out IASP, they do phenomenal work educating and supporting those who have experienced the tragedy of suicide. You yourself can simply light a candle at 8pm by a window to show support and in memory of those who have died.

It’s a fanpage unlike anything I’ve seen before. So compassionate, understanding and supportive. Each new member is welcomed by name, when someone is hurting and posts they’ve got an anniversary of losing someone, or they’ve just lost someone – IASP post a candle to support them asking members to click the “Like” button in support or to post a kind comment. Please check them out and “Like” them to become a fan and help spread awareness about a subject that impacts 1 million a year who take their lives, that’s 1 every 40 seconds, or to put that into perspective – that’s like losing the number lost in 9/11 each and every day of the year!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/International-Association-for-Suicide-Prevention/115204064521

May – September 2002 – Life Goes On!

Not much was recorded in May or June but we did go back up to a lovely 80 year old rental cottage that I rented with my brother and his partner. It was my refuge quite honestly. Was a long drive up, almost 3 hours one way, but there is just something about the beauty of Northern Ontario and this place, although rustic and needing some fixing up, was just spectacular. It was surrounded by whispering white pines and all sorts of trees, we looked out on the lake each night at sunset and the sun shimmered across the water like a river of gold. It really did my psyche/soul so much good being up there and we enjoyed it for many years to come on weekends and during holidays.

I’ve noted that June 3rd my mechanic Tony advised me that he’d been offered a job by another Firestone dealership in Brampton, which was much closer to where he lived. We never discussed pay, but it sure caused me some concern as he was my only licenced mechanic at the time. Nothing came of it, I never was certain it was true, but he remained with me.

The following day my new friend Peter came in and I’ve noted we had a great conversation for about 3 hours. Peter was so interesting and being a psychologist could really get into some deep conversations which I just loved. He told me once again to get out of Firestone. I was seriously considering it. On June 9th I must have been having a bad day as I recorded “didn’t get dressed or answer phone”, so things were still very much an emotional rollercoaster for me. Most of the time I could keep it together, functioned very well, but occasionally I’d have a really down day and wouldn’t fight it.

I can’t recall exact details now, but Bridgestone/Firestone was not helpful at all and took every opportunity to try to get me out. Didn’t make many notes in July so nothing super noteworthy must have taken palce, or I was just too burned out to be bothered to record.

August 2002 my mechanic Tony announced he was taking holidays from Aug. 15th until Sept. 3rd. He didn’t ask, he just announced and I was in no position as his employer to really tell him no or he could just simply quit and then I’d really be in troubles – and he knew this. I hated being at the mercy of someone for my livelihood. I’d had this when Rob was alive too and became very conscious of that fact the last month of Rob’s life when he more or less abandoned work and left me on my own. Now I was in no better a position 18 months later with my mechanic Tony, and I just hated that!

I’ve noted on Aug. 29th “What to do? Dash? Return customers’ tires, more aggressive”. I was considering very seriously to shut the shop down and knew I had to get my customers’ tires back to them which we kept in storage. The business was losing money and I had been personally funding it for quite some time to meet my obligations and was realizing it was a losing battle. That same night I’ve noted had a nice dinner at my son’s friend’s house with his parents, so interspersed would be nice times too.

August 30th I’ve noted “Sad day, customers picking up tires, many of them thanking me for giving them great service”. I hadn’t decided 100% to close down but was pretty close to it and knew I had to look after my customers before I did anything.

During August 2002 I was also filing a small claims court counter suit with our yacht club. I’d refused to pay the fees they were charging as they’d told me they’d waive them if I’d just move my boat to where they wanted it to go. When I wouldn’t move my boat, they hit with me fees. My boat was long since out of the yacht club, but when I wouldn’t pay, they sued so I had to file the paperwork for that in August also. The yacht club owed me money from a debenture, but they weren’t willing to apply what I owed against what they owed as the debenture wasn’t paybable as yet. Too many fires all at once.

In August 2002 I finally got an Offer to Purchase on my boat. I was absolutely thrilled! It was a couple from the yacht club who wanted to buy it, I could have done a private sale but the boat broker I’d been dealing with the most had been quite helpful to me, so I decided to run the sale through him so he could get a commission and then he’d look after the mountain of paperwork involved too.

I got an initial deposit in cash, then had to arrange for the boat to be recommissioned and taken off dry land storage and launched into the water for a sea trial. My boat was launched at the public marina Aug. 26,2002, not the yacht club as I was out of the yacht club and no longer a member. Don’t ask me why, but my intuition was telling me to be very careful throughout this boat deal, I kept meticulous notes on everything that transpired, but was hopeful everything would go right and I’d be rid of that big white elephant. My intuition later proved out to be correct.

Tony my mechanic returned from holidays Sept. 3rd and I told him I was thinking of shutting the shop down. He was pretty freaked out that I might shut things down, but he understood. I’ve noted on Thurs., Sept. 5th “I’ve had enough! – told Lou” and that’s when I’d finally gotten to the point of no return at the shop and called my manager Lou. I had also called for final meter readings on my utilities. I have a slow fuse, but once it goes off, it’s immediate usually and this was the day I blew.

The next morning Sept. 6th, Lou my manager, Andy my rep showed up at 9am and changed the locks on the door. Poor Andy who had been absolutely wonderful to deal with always felt really bad that it had come to this, and he unfortunately was given the task of “babysitting” me until I left the premises. I had very little time to gather up my things, but I managed to get the important stuff right away and arranged to come back under supervision the following week to get the rest of my things like files, office equipment, etc. So I’ve noted on Sept. 6th “Last day Firestone!”.

I remember driving home which was only about 10 minutes from the shop to my house, thinking holy kamoly! I did it! I really did it! I surprisingly felt relief, I think it had been building for so long that I was just glad the decision had been made, and although it was spur of the moment because I’d been pushed too far the previous day, it felt right.

September 10th I went back to Firestone with my g/f Kathy and my two mechanics showed up to help pack too. The 10th was also my wedding anniversary, which I had thought about but had not let it get to me as I had so many bigger problems to deal with. We had Andy there from 8:30am to 1:30pm and then we were more or less done. I was amazed at how quickly we got it all done. There was still all of the shop equipment, tools, hoists, etc. left but Firestone told me I’d be able to hold an auction to sell that at a later date.

September 12th I’d scheduled a meeting with my house builder to get some deficiences looked after that were covered by the new home warranty program. We’d bought our house in ’97, here it was 2002 and the builder was still involved and only meeting to go over what had to be repaired after I’d filed a discrepancy report with the warranty program which was government run.

I had so many battles on the go at the same time I didn’t sometimes know which end was up, but somehow I had the tenacity to get through it all. On top of it all, I’d arranged to finally get my landscaping at the house done and this landed in the middle of September too lol! That at least was pleasurable seeing my garden finally being done and I’d consulted with a feng shui designer so it was quite lovely and would have something in bloom all season. It was also nice to be home to supervise as it was being done.

My birthday was Sept. 19th and I didn’t do anything because we were going to celebrate it up at the cottage. My brother made a lovely dinner and they’d bought me beautiful diamond stud earrings to replace the one I lost while shovelling snow the winter before. Rob had bought me diamond studs for my 40th and I just loved them, but somehow, even with a screw-on backing, I managed to lose one, so the replacements were beautiful but I was absolutely shocked that they’d buy me something so expensive. I noted it was a very nice weekend and I so needed it!

September 26th I was back at the Firestone to get my file cabinets and Andy from Firestone helped me get them home too along with two other male friends of mine. September 27th I’ve noted that the boat financing fell through for the couple who were buying my boat who were using some financing company that the broker had recommended. They’d also applied to their bank as a back up. The following day September 27th I got a call from the broker saying that my buyers’ bank had okayed the loan and that the cheque should be ready Oct. 1st or 2nd. I was elated!

I had been going to the cottage every weekend throughout all of this, it somehow restored me and made me sane enough to deal with the next week, but I decided to stay home the last weekend of September as I was just too drained to get ready and make the long drive north.

I reflected on Rob’s words once again after closing down the Firestone. Rob had told me just before he died to “lock the doors and walk away”. I’d argued then that I couldn’t, but in the end, he was right and it’s basically what I ended up doing. I felt badly that 17 years in business had gone down like this, but I felt a gigantic relief too knowing that that part of my life was over and I wouldn’t have to struggle worrying about a failing business anymore and could just take time to breathe!

Surviving Suicide – Part 32

August 15, 2010

Intro:

Haven’t blogged in ages it seems. Have not been in the mood for it and have also had a lot going on, but today I just felt called to do a post and am hoping I can be more disciplined for myself and my readers. When revisiting your past, sometimes unpleasant and painful memories are triggered and I know I have to be in a certain mindframe to be able to blog about it. It feels good today though and as I always do, once I’ve hit “post”!, I always take a few moments in quiet meditation and focus on letting it go, one post at a time.

I also wanted to point out to my readers that Sept. 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. I will be figuring out how to add their banner to my blog. I also ask you to keep this day in mind by lighting a candle On World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th, near a window, at 8 PM in support of suicide prevention, to remember a loved one lost to suicide and for those who are bereaved by suicide. I’ve included the picture below for this all important day in raising awareness.

January – April 2002 – Life Goes On!

January 2002 was pretty uneventful I guess as I didn’t take many notes that month. In February 2002 I’ve made quite a few notes that I was thinking a lot about Rob, had reread my 2000 daytimer and was feeling sad. February 22nd my Manager that I reported to at Firestone Head Office told me they wanted me to increase my minimum from 900 units per year of tires to 2,000. This was more than double and he added it was either that or, let them help me (yeah right!) sell the business. My lease was also up for renewal so the timing was not good.

The amount my Manager thought I should sell for was $50K less than I’d paid for the business back in Sept. ’99 and he suggested I include all the equipment too. I was not a happy camper, felt frustrated, but hindsight being what it is, I should have seriously considered it, but wasn’t in that mindframe at the time.

A few days later I had a major upset with my sis-in-law too over monies owed to my mother-in-law, which was none of her business, but she gave her opinion anyhow. At this point, I got so ticked off that I made a note to take my sis-in-law off my will as my son’s guardian because I just didn’t feel she’d have his best interests at heart. I ended up coming up with the idea of dual guardianship as my Mom had this when she was younger, and having two guardians had worked very well. My sis-in-law was offended and said forget it, just take her off completely, so I did.

March 2002 was a really slow month for earnings and on the 4th, my Manager delivered a termination letter and had not even given me the two weeks to make up my mind as he’d said he would. I went the next day to my lawyer’s office for three hours and noted lots of questions, but that the answer had to be mine. On the 6th I had someone in to appraise what my equipment was worth and I’ve noted I was shocked at the value. On the 7th I faxed my lawyer’s letter to Firestone. On the 8th I got a call from my Manager saying he’d just received my letter and was confused as he thought I wanted to sell, I told him I did, but it was difficult to discuss because I had customers standing around.

My lawyer and I had been aware for a while of a loophole in the dealer agreement, but had chosen not to exercise it until we needed it. He’d made reference to the fact that after accounting, he felt Firestone would find I was in a credit position, not owing them as they had figured, but no details were given intentionally.

I noted Mar. 11th that I was frustrated to tears, worse than when Rob died! On the 12th I noted “fighting mood” lol! On the 13th I noted I was exhausted, the ups and downs were really bad and draining me. I also had to go to the police department to pick up gunpowder they’d removed Dec. 2000.

March 19th we had a meeting at Bridgestone/Firestone’s(B/F) Head Office with myself, my lawyer, their lawyer and my Manager along with their accountant. I had been working with another B/F dealer who owned 2 other franchise store locations but he wasn’t firming up. He too was in cahoots with B/F Head Office. B/F had said they wanted to sell the building I was in, and that Mark the other franchisee wanted to buy it.

Somehow at this meeting it came out that they’d lied about selling the building, and the stall that had been told to me was that Mark was waiting on paperwork from B/F before he could buy the building. My lawyer someone uncovered they’d been telling us this just to add pressure to speed up getting me out. Didn’t make them look good that’s for sure. They announced they were increasing my monthly rent by $2,300 per month, which was just outrageous. They knew I was struggling to make ends meet.

I was getting pretty pissed at this point during the meeting. I couldn’t stand my Manager and really disliked the lawyer they had. She had a smugness about her, was very condescending, but my lawyer Warren was amazing. Both Warren and I knew I had a trump card to play that B/F was not aware of, even though they’d authorized all the paperwork at the time of Rob and I purchasing the franchise and business. They never were very thorough with their paperwork, and this really bit them in the end.

Something was said that really ticked me off and I remember asking my lawyer if I could be candid, as I was ready to go off on them. I would have remained professional about it, but would have let them know exactly what I thought. My lawyer advised me not to, so I kept quiet. The meeting ended, they were not happy that they’d not had the resolution they expected and my lawyer’s parting words were that once an accounting had been done, they would find that I was not owing them at all and in fact, they’d owe me. You could see by their reactions that this unsettled them, and it gave me great satisfaction as we left their Boardroom.

While all of this was going on, I also was in the midst of filing personal income tax and Rob’s final tax return as well. Our government agency is the CCRA which is like the IRS in the US, and they’d questioned some of the T slips which reported income. I had to go through everything, which took me about 6 hours and then go in person to straighten out a mix up that had occured because a financial institution had filled out two T slips in error. Luckily I was in and out within about half an hour, and that in itself was a miracle, but all in a week of high stress.

Easter was early in 2002, I had my brother and his partner over on Good Friday and got some organizing done at home and went to a friend’s for a nice dinner. Easter Sunday I stayed home and noted that my son and I had a nice day by ourselves, that I’d done an Easter egg hunt for him and we just called our families as I was too burned out to visit.

The first week of April 2002 my son was going away to a school camp for a week, so had to get him ready for that and this was really the first time he was away from me on his own. I had a bit of separation anxiety, but knew it would be good for him and for me. I noted on April 15th that it was really stressful as I was finalizing personal tax returns for Rob and I for 2 years at this point. I was glad to get it done though.

Then Apr. 19th I had an appointment to go in and see another government agency to get paperwork cleared up for Rob’s pension. The paperwork had been given to me at the time of Rob’s passing by the funeral home, but I’d never gotten around to doing it and although I’d called and been told there was no time constraint, I found out otherwise once I got there in person.

I detest dealing with government anything, but psyched myself up to just deal with it. I got all the necessary documents they required, waited for over one hour and finally got my number called. We went through all the paperwork, and then I was told that I’d be losing $2300 in payments because I hadn’t filed on time! I told them I’d called to check and been told there was no time deadline, they said I’d been given incorrect information and there was nothing that could be done, but they’d be happy now to process and get things going. I was fuming, defeated, and exhausted and left feeling like all this time we’d paid into their mandatory pension plan, but now the very time I needed it, I was losing.

April 21st I noted that Rob’s Dad and I cried about Rob on a phone call. I had to pay my lawyer $5200 this day too to continue the battle with B/F Head Office. This same week I had to transfer Rob’s RSP’s, which again were supposed to be done within a one year timeframe, but I’d not dealt with it. There are so many things to deal with paperwork-wise when someone dies, but I’d just not been in the mindframe to deal with it along with everything else.

All in all April had been an extremely trying time, super high stress and lots of emotional ups and downs. April closed out still doing battle with B/F and not having any good resolution. They were reviewing the rent increase, again after my lawyer had pointed out their increase was not in accordance with the agreement that had been signed. I still remember it now and marvel that I was able to go through all the stresses and not blow a gasket. Don’t know if I’d have that ability today.

Surviving Suicide – Part 31

August 6, 2010

Intro:

I am amazed at how many people have come across my path because of having suicide in common. I initially thought it’s such a negative topic and worried it may bring me down, but it’s been completely the opposite for me. I never tire of supporting those in need, who may just be new to this experience, I never tire of hearing how others have healed and dealt with it. The common bond we share is something special and beautiful to me.

October – December 2001 – After Rob’s Death:

My mother-in-law called me October 1st and said she had read my brother’s eulogy to her son and that she had cried and was very moved by it and to thank my brother. I don’t recall why she was reading it at this late a date, I had kept everyone’s eulogy from the memorial along with the guest register.

Rob had a big bag that he carried with him at all times, almost like a woman’s purse, but this was a boating bag with lots of little pockets for all sorts of goodies he liked to have at his disposal. I’ve noted that I went through his bag October 2nd for things that the friend on the boat next door to ours had wanted. He had helped in unloading the boat of personal effects and it was his g/f who had found Rob, and they’d now decided I wasn’t their friend anymore as I wasn’t as welcoming as they were.

I also noted I had gone through Rob’s tool box from the boat, this was a very cool toolbox that rolled out into quite a big expanse, had a ton of little compartments for small bits and pieces. I was going through this also for Mike, the other friend who had helped clear the boat out.

I can’t remember now why I was doing this, whether I’d offered that if they wanted something to let me know because they’d been a big help unloading everything or whether they’d asked. I felt obligated to offer to compensate them, so it was probably my doing, but as I’d had the falling out with the couple on the boat beside ours, it seemed a little inappropriate.

Some things had just been taken as they were clearing out the boat. Nothing was mentioned at the time, but I found out later a few of Rob’s linen shirts had been kept by my g/f who had found Rob, a few other things that I later thought about and asked about had just been taken too. Sure made me wonder who my friends were. It’s not in my nature to be like that, to just take without asking and most definitely not when helping someone out at a time of tragedy – life lessens once again. It wasn’t the cost of the items, it was the principle.

The boat had not sold and the season was drawing to a close, so I decided to get my boat out of the yacht club and had it hauled out at the marina where they had a big enough travel lift to take a boat our size out. It was winterized and stored on land. I had so hoped not to have to do this as it meant even more expense and would have to be recommissioned in the Spring if anyone wanted a sea trial.

My employee/mechanic Tony told me October 18th that he’d had a dream about Rob again. Tony never met Rob, but he said Rob came to him in his dream, said thanks for looking after his tools, the business and me. Rob told Tony that he was thinking about coming back, and Tony said that Rob’s head was always down. I told Tony “oh geez don’t know if I can take another round with Rob in this lifetime” lol!

This reminded me that the psychic I’d seen a while back had said that Rob would return in my lifetime as a little boy, and that he’d fully expect me to recognize him. That hasn’t happened as yet and I can’t really say I’d be looking forward to it :(. I asked Tony if Rob had said what tools? There were tons at the shop, tons at the boat and tons at the house. Tony surmised Rob meant the shop tools. That night, the alarm at our shop went off which was strange too.

I think it was about this time too that my new friend Peter, who was a really positive influence in moving me forward, came to my house for the first time and we took my minpin, Spart for a long walk. I showed Peter my basement, piled with all sorts of stuff from the boat, plus a very extensive shop area Rob had set up in our basement. I had more tools than you could shake a stick at! Peter looked around, was just blown away at all the “stuff” and he said “wow! this basement is like an advertisement of how not to live your life!”. I had to agree.

As December approached, I was very aware it was the one year mark for Rob’s death. I was not in the mood to celebrate Christmas, but had promised myself that I wouldn’t let what Rob did at the time he had, ruin Christmas for me. I did make a note “1 year today!” on December 24th, and also noted that it had been a really tense Christmas at my sis-in-law’s with three exclamation marks, so it must have been my way of emphasizing the tenison.

Christmas Day was at my brother’s again and I’ve noted that it was a really great day and I wasn’t sad. My brother just loves the holidays, decorates and really gets into it and had quite a few friends over as well. He insisted I bring Spart my dog, one of his friends Andrew just loved dogs, picked Spart up but because he’s got CP, he wasn’t aware of the tight grip he had on Spart and his control was quite spastic and it was freaking Spart out. I kept saying Spart never bites, but he gave about 2 or 3 growls to let me know he didn’t like it. Andrew was burying his face in Spart’s and next thing you knew – Spart nipped him right in the nose!

I was shocked but later realized I’d been the stunned one not to take notice that Spart had given plenty of warning and I knew just how hard Andrew could squeeze when he gave me hugs, so my poor little dog who weighs only about 14 pounds had had enough. Poor Andrew was startled and not only did he have CP but he was also extremely diabetic. Next thing you know, Andrew was in quite a state sweating profusely and when they tested his blood, it was right off the scale!

I put Spart away in his travel crate until things calmed down. We all had an amazing dinner and then began to open gifts. My brother had really wanted something of Rob’s to keep as a momento. I was very pleased to be able to give him a beautiful set of brass ship’s clock, barometer and one other type of instrument that we’d always had on our boats. They were Rob’s pride and joy and it made me so happy to be able to share that with my brother. He installed them at his cottage and it’s always a nice little reminder when I visit there.

A ship’s clock is quite interesting. They were designed long before electricity, have to be wound with a key. They keep time on 4 hour increments, with bells chiming every half hour. So if it’s midnight, you get 8 bells, then at 12:30pm you get 1 bell, 1am – 2 bells, 1:30am – 3 bells, etc. This was done so that the captain could always tell the time even in the dark of night and were to regulate sailors’ duty watches. I’d caught on right away, and funnily enough – Rob who was so mechanically/technically inclined never did.

On Boxing Day, December 26th I continued being social and attended a lovely party at a g/f’s house which they hosted on a rotational basis. Lots of friends from the yacht club that I knew along with many of their family members and extended family too. I hadn’t really felt like going out for a third day in a row, but I had a really good time and was proud of myself for making the effort.

December 27th I’ve noted that I was at the shop. We were closed still for the holidays as we’d usually given our employees the week off with pay as a Christmas present. I noted “At shop 3:30pm, found Rob at 2:15pm 1 year ago – amazing how much difference 1 year makes.” Am not exactly sure what I meant about 1 year making so much difference, but although in some ways it felt like a lifetime ago that Rob had died, in other ways, it felt like little to no time had gone by.

So much had taken place in 2001. I’d fought many battles, lost a few friends that I thought would be with me a lifetime, had kept the business going without Rob, and had really begun my journey of self development that would remain with me for the rest of my life. It had been an extremely challenging year, but I had learned so much.

Christmas and New Year’s has always been a very reflective time of year for me, still is. It’s not only that the calendar year is changing, it’s a time to reflect back on what transpired during that year. Whether it was a good year or bad year, whether I wanted to continue on in the same vein or make change. I marvelled at what I had gone through and survived and I remember thinking, wow! if I haven’t had a meltdown by now, I probably never will. That felt pretty good.