I have wanted to take a cruise to Alaska for several years. My wife said for years, “No way do I want to go to Alaska and freeze.” So she did her thing (horses) and I did my thing (golf and yard work). Well, one day last year I got a brochure in the mail advertising a seven day cruise to Alaska. At that time my wife wasn’t that deep into that awful Alzheimer’s disease. So I decided that I was going to Alaska—alone. As I was filling out the paperwork for the trip my wife stuck her head in the den and asked,
“I’m going on a cruise to Alaska.”
Her response, “Great, I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska, when do we go?”
So, I made reservations for the two of us—done and paid for. Sad to say that just two weeks before we were to set sail my wonderful dear sweet wife passed away. Obviously, no Alaska cruise was in my near future.
Six months later I’d sold the house, gave the dog away and bought a lovely condo just five minutes from our home. It was then that the real grieving process began. During this time I began to realize that the process of grieving does not and should not involve depriving myself of all future pleasures. Doing all those things that “we used to do together” kept me in my “old normal” pattern of depression and grieving. Slow but sure my dream of a cruise to Alaska took on a new hope, a new reality, a new expanded horizon. Why not venture out and enjoy my new options? Yep, I’m going on a cruise to Alaska, and I did just that.
All I can say is –what a fantastic land of God’s creation. The seven day cruise was wonderful in every way. The people I met, the food I (over) ate, the scenery, the wildlife, just everything couldn’t have been better. Did I mention the food?! I hated to see it end. But it wasn’t just the unbelievable trip that I experienced. I talked to men and women who had lost their spouses recently. I talked to couples in their eighties who were on their honeymoon—second marriages for both. It was several of these conversations that gave birth to my “new normal” way of thinking. New plans were formulated. My wife was cremated and I have her ashes here in my condo. Our original plan was to have the four sons, wives, and grandkids all gather here in the Portland area in mid-July of this year. We were all going to go over to Cannon Beach, take our favorite stroll on the beach, scatter my wife’s ashes, and have lunch at our favorite restaurant and drive back home. Our new plans hit me right between the eyes. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with what the family has decided. Plans have a way of changing for the better. We are going to keep my wives ashes right here. The family is going to wait until I pass away and then combine the two canisters of ashes into one. At that point the four boys can do whatever they want—keep a portion for themselves, scatter the combined remainder on a lake in Wisconsin, or do whatever seems right for each boy at the time. I love the “new normal” and the “new plan.”
Dave “Cazzy” Caswell
P.S. A word to you who are grieving; grieve in your own personal way. Take as long as necessary. Take care of yourself and be helpful to others. It’s okay to lament. Crying is allowed. Take on as much sorrow as you can handle one day at a time. Stay busy—(take a cruise to Alaska). Look for your “new normal”. Seek the help and prayers of others. Always remember, the memory is forever, the hurt will lessen. God bless us all.