When I look I can see the good

Here is some of what has been good, because I know you would have told me to look for it, and to reach toward it and name it when I find it.

Our children. How they reach out across the chasm you left and toward each other, and me.

Your family and how they did not let me float away. They have held me tightly.

That loose linen shirt that brought out the ocean blue of your eyes (which you definitely knew) and brings you back to me now. I roll the sleeves up. I won’t wreck it.

I became a worker bee. The pump is new, at the cottage. We can drink the water, a bit timidly still. I don’t know how it all works but Vince and Adrienne do. They asked annoying questions of the plumbers on my behalf, in my absence.

In your absence, friends (old, young, new) have been present. It’s been hard for people to know what to do with us, demolished. They hung pictures, sat speechless, held hands, touched my hair, cleaned the kitchen, fixed the car door, called again, sat in our messy room when I hurt my back (right on the bed, which would have embarrassed you).

Our basement is such a mess and I let people go down there, recklessly. I can’t care about that, and that’s been good. It’s okay.

There has been the good of the slow dissolving of the terror that I would only remember you in the hospital, and all of that. But you have returned to me almost in your fullness, in my dreams, at my desk, on the couch, behind me, beside me, when I walk. Younger. Freer. All those years of you and me and us. They outweigh, outnumber, and I see now outlast those final weeks.

Our children. That love. These people we helped make. Thank you sweetheart.

It is good to have your picture beside me on our one remaining nightstand. It’s the shot I took of you rumpled at the cottage, wearing the Stay Wild t-shirt I bought you for your last birthday. Maybe you were sleepy. I don’t think you saw that picture printed out. You did see that I saw you clearly, though. Your silver hair is a mess and you lean over the Elvis Parsley cutting board, which you tolerated, in the way that you made space for weird little things over all our years. You’re smiling the way you smiled when it was me taking your picture (or so I like to think).

I have held so many pictures in my hands. I do not turn away from them. And I believe that I took most of the best ones there are of you, because you’re looking at me and I see the love in your eyes. (Maybe our kids feel the same way about pictures they took). We could not hide it, and we never tried.

And it’s been good to walk and walk and walk. I used to cajole you to come with me. I struck deals with you. Now you come with me on all my walks. I’ve cried as I walked, sometimes like my arm was cut off just before I set out. I’m a wailer, as it has turned out (and that did surprise me a little). You would have absolutely preferred a little more dignity. Now, more often than not, I walk without weeping. “That’s good,” you would say to me.

Chris from next door crawled through our window when we locked ourselves out twice in one day. Jodi knows a guy and he built us a deck. When I told him I was a widow, he said, “That is a shame.” Yes.

Our neighbours have been good. It is good to have neighbours. That is on my list. I can see that.

I finished that horrible little back room. That is good too. You would believe me now, that good idea. I have filled two new bookcases with books. Books = good. Writing = help.

I’ve needed a lot of help. We weren’t used to that. We’re the helpers, not the ones crumpled up on the floor. It’s been good to ask. Good to receive. What has been good is when church guys help, I believe they are saying some kind of ‘thank you’ to you and ‘I’m sorry,’ to me, when they hammer and lift and fix and adjust and speculate and unclog and discuss how to solve a problem that is intractable to me and is sweeping me out to sea. And they just solve things. That’s been good, for all of us I think.

You would like Russell the dog. I let him lay on the rugs, and he’s been on our bed and then I decided on my own that was too much.

I sleep in the middle of the bed sometimes now, instead of off to the one side, barely on the mattress. Without even noticing I have stretched out a small amount, on some nights at least. I still look to what I think was your pillow, although the original might have been lost in the melee. I should have been more careful, and kept better track of its whereabouts. (You were so passionate about that pillow, and protective). But I am writing now about the good things that I can count, which really is a miracle in the face of your goneness. The good we can see is the kind of miracle we can find. You would tell us to do that.”Good! Good,” you would say.

And I hear your voice as clear as a bell one thousand times and you are telling me, “You can do this K.”

I joined a line dancing class this week, the very week of the anniversary of your death. Beth, the friend who I believe brought us six meals (I finally told her to stop); she told me about it and so I signed up. The teacher is an old, tall man who made me long for my dad. (I know. I know). He stood in front, long back to us, facing the mirror (he smiled a lot), teaching Cab Driver with extreme patience.

“Count the steps, or you will get lost,” he said, and he counted in French. I found myself counting in French too, which I bet I haven’t done since grade three. “Voila!” he said, a few times. His petite wife of 60 years or more (guessing), danced beside him and a few feet away, in little bright red heels. At first he called out the moves and told us exactly what to do and when to do it, and then sometimes he just used his hands to point in the right direction. That felt good, to get it even just a little bit as we followed, clumsy, messy, intent.

26 thoughts on “When I look I can see the good”

  1. this post: it’s good.
    it brought tears: tears can be good
    counting the good: that’s good
    I’m going to go do some good and to count.

  2. Beautiful. Messy. Death and loneliness and memories. They are all messy, even in their poignancy and sadness and happy and comfort. It’s important to find the happy in them, and to embrace their messiness as you negotiate and search for the new in this life that has been unwillingly foisted upon you. You’re doing well. I’m glad there are people helping, people blessing you and I’m sure they are doing it for you, as you are such a kind, thoughtful person. We need people. Dancing is cathartic. Getting out of the house is important. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Mr. Rogers is remembered often for encouraging us to look for the helpers. In doing so, I don’t think he intended we not look for the helped. Thank you for speaking for, and to, both. Your words capture life, and life after life.

  4. Memorably good personal essays are written with honesty, self-awareness, vulnerability, and the writer’s own inimitable voice. Intimate journeys in which the writer invites the reader
    to walk alongside, they’re as real as writing gets. This is all that, Karen, all you, (I could hear you reading it aloud), and in the details, abiding love is expressed, held up, lives on. Thank you for this.

  5. Thank you, my darling, wonderful as usual. Once again I shed tears for you, my grandchildren, and myself as I fondly remember our son-in-law and your father, my wonderful husband, who loved Brent, even though occasionally they had a little disagreement. Our lives are so empty at times but our memories of both Brent and Dad carry us through. Love you so much,

    1. Myfanwy Montgomery

      I’m so very sorry to hear of your husbands death, how hard for you and Karen.
      I was part of the Port Perry fellowship, we loved Brent and Karen so very much, missed them terribly when they moved,. they walked a hard walk with us when our daughter got sick, Karen included it in her book. I identify with so much of her pain ,and no doubt will one day he ave to walk. this walk again.
      anyhow much love to you.

  6. Colleen van Nieuwkerk

    You are brave and have been very vulnerable to share this post with us.
    You are at one year. I am at four. So many of the things you just shared I can relate to but have only written privately.
    At the same time, I have been vulnerable with my writing as well and then told that it helped someone else to walk their journey.
    Thanks for your words. They are so appreciated!

  7. I can say from experience it is good to have neighbours, and to walk and walk. Happy that you are seeing some light- hugs

  8. So beautiful Karen, read it through teary eyes. SO happy to hear you are reaching towards happiness again. You certainly deserve it. We love and miss you guys. We will see you soon up in Ottawa. ❤️

  9. Karen, the tenderness of this post, thank you. The new journey that many have travelled yet each experience unique. Let’s just say my chest is tight and heavy and yet warmed. Again thank you for putting to words the year of change, adjustment and survival.

  10. Michelle Terwilleger

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your gift with us, Karen. When you write about Brent, when you talk about Brent, he becomes present. What a gift.

  11. I hung on to every word. Thank you making grief and the adjustment of being a widow and alone so real.
    I retraced my journey in yours.

  12. This is stunningly beautiful and real and painful and hopeful. Thank you for writing it. Thank you for sharing it.

  13. Eleanor Shepherd

    Thank you, Karen for sharing this. It is beautiful. Continue to offer your wonderful gift as you bless us in your appropriate transparency.


  14. Myfanwy Montgomery

    I’m so very sorry to hear of your husbands death, how hard for you and Karen.
    I was part of the Port Perry fellowship, we loved Brent and Karen so very much, missed them terribly when they moved,. they walked a hard walk with us when our daughter got sick, Karen included it in her book. I identify with so much of her pain ,and no doubt will one day he ave to walk. this walk again.
    anyhow much love to you.

  15. I understand wailing – unimaginably deep sobs hauled from the depths of the human spirit, uninvited evidence of the pain that permeates the broken soul, barging into unplanned moments and supplanting every civilized thought. It’s good to wail, my sister.
    Hugs and blessings.

  16. Karen. Social media brought me here so I guess it must be good. Your writing is good. Reading it and wailing (thanks for your example, it gives permission) also good. So many images. I can feel the texture of linen with my eyes. You brought Brent to life. and illuminated your life, now. Deep gratitude to you and blessings❤️

  17. Karen, thank you for sharing your journey so vulnerably and generously. Forgive the use of a cliché phrase but you have been in my thoughts and prayers often over this past year+…usually in groans more than words. You continue to inspire, in both your character and your craft. Thank you 🙂
    Peace of Christ,

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