The New Land

The doctor said that everyone responds differently to radiotherapy. It’s not very comforting to hear that; it means that the yardstick by which I might gauge my progress is somewhat bigger than a yard and with indistinct measurements. However, four weeks into what will be a seven-week program, I feel that at least I have a kind-of rhythm going. The best part of it, I am discovering, is walking out of the Friday treatment (treatments are daily Mon – Fri) knowing that there will be respite on the weekend; and not just from the monotony of the daily trek to hospital, but from the more intense side effects; a weekend lets one’s body take a breath, as it were, although fatigue seems to be gaining momentum with a general energy shortfall getting larger by the day.
So far, the prognosis is good with everything going to plan. But, of course, cancer is a waiting game, with the tap-on-the-shoulder, if not anticipated, always lurking. The reality is, however, that apart from getting plenty of rest and eating well, I can’t do anything about it, so I tuck it away, do what I do, and keep moving. Thanks for your support, love and prayers.

For those of you who have been following this blog, you will know that I have committed to document the process of grief, having lost my wife, Ngaire, in the middle of last year. In a couple of weeks I will be saying, “the year before last.”
While what I have written is far from exhaustive and therefore shouldn’t be used as a road map for the process of grief, it is nonetheless the documentation of my story. I have tried to be ruthless, open and honest so that those who follow this blog may be able to relate and glean as much as possible. From the feedback that I have received, this has largely been the case.
Time marches on. When it turned 2014, I remember the melancholy of knowing that this would be a year in which Ngaire never existed. Now, as 2015 looms, I no longer have that same melancholy; now it is a given and an understood sadness that she is gone and that life goes on. In the process of living through grief we gradually begin to assimilate the loss and incorporate the sadness into the rest of life.
I actually believe that this incorporation gives fullness to those other aspects of life – love, hope, joy – that we may not have seen or felt before. Certainly that has been my experience.
In a post earlier this year I brought up the subject of moving on. It is timely for me to revisit this with a quote from it:
“I have noticed over the years that part of this process of “moving on”, specifically about beginning another relationship, is almost a taboo area, and about which many people have strong opinions. I have seen people, including myself, who have been hurt and angry when someone close has begun a relationship with another, sometimes within a time frame that may be considered too soon. From my pondering [here is something] to consider:
In looking at my own judgement of others in the past, I realised that, even though it may not have been conscious, I had made an assumption of, “How can they just forget their wife/husband like that?” It is almost as though I had felt them to be discarding or cheating on their spouse.
One thing I hadn’t allowed, is that the journey of the bereaved person is one of which I had no context to help me even remotely understand. The depths plumbed by a grieving spouse are simply beyond those who haven’t been there. Plus, how that person deals with and processes the pain of their life is entirely their business and I have no right to judge them.
For me personally, I know that I will always carry my love for Ngaire with me and… hope that this love be respected in any future relationship.”

The reason that I said it was timely is that I now stand in that future relationship. I am at peace to say that in this, my relationship with Ngaire is not only respected, but also known and honoured. Indeed, I am blessed to have found love with someone who was/is a close and treasured friend of Ngaire’s and mine; but it’s not that straightforward is it?
There was quite a degree of “navigation” before we reached this point. For the purposes of this blog, I should just refer to the places that I went in my heart and head in order to be OK about taking this new step. After all, I’ve been documenting the journey of grief, and the ability to finally reach that point of moving on is crucial.
Of course, I haven’t done this before, although I have read and half-read a few books on grief, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this current passage into the “new land” is the last one on this journey.
There will always be moments – birthdays, Christmas, Mothers’ Day – and in February when our first grandchild will be born there will be particular poignancy, because I know how much Ngaire was looking forward to grandkids.
But this is as it should be. Much of who I am, and all of my boys, are a memorial to Ngaire. She lives on in us, especially in her boys.
I have used numerous metaphors over the last year and a half to try to explain the feeling of loss after Ngaire died: standing inside half a house staring into the void where the other half had been, having a leg amputated, even disembowelment. Overlaid on all of this was my struggle to understand how much of who I was, was because of her influence. I would ask questions like” “What would she think? Would she like this? Would she approve?”
All were a regular part of gradually understanding and coming to terms with losing her and in recognising, to some extent, the degree to which her validation and opinion was important to me in how I lived life day-to-day.
Such questions are good and helpful in the process of loss, but I am discovering that they are not helpful in the process of moving on.
When I first contemplated the idea of moving on, I actually went to Ngaire’s grave. I have found it a helpful focal point for our discussion over these months; when I say “our discussion”, I realise that only one of us is speaking, but it has been helpful.
In these last days, I have seen that there are two Ngaires in my mind. One is the Ngaire who lived with me and loved me. It is this Ngaire who would have struggled with me moving on, because the thought of me with someone else would have been devastating for her.
The other Ngaire is whom I now see as the “altruistic Ngaire”, that Ngaire extant in another dimension, free from the bounds of earthly constraints, and only wanting the best for those of us left behind.
Of course the latter Ngaire is the only one with whom I could “converse”; the former has gone, and while I felt validated by what I imagined the latter would say in her desire to see me happy, loved and fulfilled in a relationship, I felt a strange discomfort about this.
You see, through this process of grief, I have had to relearn some simple things, the control of which I had abdicated to her or her opinions. Things like buying clothes, birthday presents, even a new car, now had to be done from my perspective and informed by my opinion; because, although I trusted and admired her taste and opinion, the reality is that she is no longer here. To continue making choices from that perspective is ultimately unhealthy.
In the same way, the choice of a new love is not hers to make.
I will always love Ngaire, but I have discovered, in a good way, that the rest of my life is not to be determined by what I might perceive her opinion to be; it should be determined by what I think, floated on the wisdom of those whom I love and trust, here and now. With regard to that, my boys are very happy too; they love my new “special someone” and have done for a long time.
This is hard stuff and no one tells you about it, except to use terms like, “when you’re ready.” It is a different type of saying goodbye, where your feelings stay the same, but your way of operating changes.
That is how it is, and I can honestly say that I feel happier and more at peace with myself. In fact, I haven’t felt this happy for a long, long time; and that’s coming from a guy with cancer.
But this “moving on” is not just about a new relationship, it is about becoming at peace with my voice and my heart making and affirming decisions about my future.
The past informs all of our lives, but we can’t live there forever. Grief requires us to live there for a time, but there is a point where we need to heed the call of the present. It is time.

15 thoughts on “The New Land

  1. Poignantly wriitten, as always, Matt.

    Writing your journey through grief and beyond has been heartfully felt.

    I have been thinking of you and praying for you lately, knowing that the treatment began at the end of last month.

    Congratulations on your upcoming Marriage… Hugs to you both. I’ll be praying for you guys and your families. So sad that I won’t be there to celebrate with you…

    Your latest blog is rather timely as today would have been my mother’s 75th Birthday and it was two years ago this week that she died. Co-incidentally I’ve been working for the past two days in the area of London where she grew up.

    Sending hugs and kisses from the otherside of the world,
    Libby xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dest Matt
    I read your blog with heart felt emotion of a strange sort of joy mixed with sadness. Sadness that Ngaire is no longer around but joy that you have found someone special to move on with.
    I can imagine your anguish and questioning and then coming to peace. Matt you write and express yourself So beautifully, like no one I know. You manage to put in words such heartfelt feelings and sentiments. This is such a gift and blessing to others.
    I truly rejoice with you! I want nothing but the best for you and your new love and family.
    As you go through this new stage, including the treatment of cancer may you truly be blessed as you have blessed others many times over!!
    Much love Chris
    Ps I have just become a Grand mother it is s wonderful experience & brings a whole lot of newness and freshness to all concerned.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Mate. So sorry to hear that you are sick, i had no idea. What an incredible roller coaster you have been (and still are?) on. Wow. I can’t even begin to imagine it. I really hope the treatment goes well. Sounds like you are processing everything in a very healthy way. Good on you for pushing in to everything and facing it and sharing it. Must be a very hard road. Bless you, and your relationships – old & newer!
    Rob.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Matt, I have just had the chance to fully read your story and I am truly excited for you and all that is ahead with you new love. That is such wonderful news. And I stand with you in prayer and faith for your cancer journey – right now my Dad is in the second round of radiotherapy and chemo as it is now in his spine – but God is good and faithful and has us all in His hand. I send you much love form the City of Light!! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You are such an exceptional man! It would be a travesty for you to stop living and ‘just say no’. I owe my current path to you and I can wholeheartedly say that your choices have been a light for that path. I love you x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Matt,
    Once again we have an insight into the man you are & the journey you are on.
    Well said.
    It is a good thing for a man & woman to have a soul mate. It is not a replacement, but a new thing, born out of grief, trials, learning & love.
    Our love, prayers & thoughts are with you & your “special someone”.
    Big love – Lenette & Steve

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I still vividly recall how terribly hard it was for me when my mother entered a new relationship a few years after my father died – he at 48 and me 17. Rob was – and still is – so totally and utterly different in almost every way from the husband Ian that my mother had so dearly loved and whose loss had devastated her so terribly. None of us had ever met him before. He was a complete random stranger. Yet Mum and Rob are still together after all these years – now more than 30 – and as a girl now in her early 80s she has had the privilege of being able to grow old with someone alongside her.

    I remember her sitting down with me one day back in the day and explaining to me that she was simply too young to be alone for the rest of her life. Perhaps if she was another 20 years older, then maybe. But not at her age. And she was right.

    Please accept our warmest congratulations. We are so very, very happy for you!
    With love and blessings
    Stuart & Kate

    Liked by 1 person

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