When freedom is not freedom

I’ve been pondering a lot lately; life has changed. Things that I had sacrificed over the years, I am now able to revisit. I have time for myself.

I’ve gone back to golf after twenty years; new clubs and new shoes have set me up for a happy transition. I also bought a stand-up paddleboard and am enjoying the tranquility of that strangely rigorous but calm pastime.

However, I can’t help but compare this new-found “freedom” with the years of my youth; they are quite different.

I can tell you, dear reader, that over the years of caring for Ngaire, in spite of my deep love and desire to see her healed, my mind would often drift to what this time might be like – what this freedom might look like – and it is very different to what I had envisioned.

Apart from the reality that my body now has far more limitations in agility and stamina, there is an underlying feeling that this has cost too much, that yes, I can almost do whatever I want now, but the cost has almost made the freedom worthless.

Today is the anniversary of our remarriage. I wrote about it in my last post; it was quite possibly the most memorable day of my life, etched in joy; and I have discovered that such days are a great rarity. I will always treasure it.

This morning I woke early from a dream. In my dream I was late getting home; numerous things had hindered my way and it was after 11.30 p.m. I tried to call Ngaire but my phone wouldn’t work. I was distressed that she would be worried, but then I remembered that she wasn’t there. I have had many other dreams of encounters and conversations with her. In them is always the struggle to reconcile the conflict of being with someone who is no longer alive, yet who is real enough to touch and talk to. Almost every time, my most difficult dilemma is how to tell her that she is gone, that I saw her go, that everyone went to the funeral.

In reality, this is the struggle that I have had in telling myself that she is gone.

Two days ago, a dear friend lost his wife under eerily similar circumstances to how we lost Ngaire; I feel deeply for him and the journey on which he is embarking. Many of those “twilight-zone” moments have returned to me as I have felt his pain but, mysteriously, it has not been something that renews my grief personally, rather, I feel empathic pain for my friend, Nick. It is mysterious indeed and I wish that he did not have the road ahead that he does with his three very young boys.

I am sad for all the things that he will miss about his beautiful girl, as with all the things that I miss about Ngaire. I think of them often, but the one that comes home to roost the most is that the one who made me feel most loved is gone. My boys and my friends are wonderful, but they are not her.

It is almost a “God” relationship, and I remember that we talked about it before our second wedding: the strange wonder and grace of knowing all about someone and still giving your life to them. It cannot be earned. It is a gift; and the gift is now a memory, while my gift to her now remains unreceived.

But now the sun is shining, as I have written my way out of the early morning darkness; it’s time to go paddling…..

Ngaire directed this photo in her hospital room. The drawing on the wall is of her in the "Tree of Life", by our son, Eddy

Ngaire directed this photo in her hospital room. The drawing on the wall is of her in the “Tree of Life”, by our son, Eddy