Dear companions on the journey,
I’m feeling sad. I’m feeling nostalgic. I’m feeling thankful.
For those of you who have been reading my e-mails about Jody since November, 2013, this will be the last message you’ll receive. It’s time to bring this particular written journey to a close. The love I have for my dear wife will never end. It grows every day, and so, it seems, do my tears. Jody wants me to smile and show the world my true colours. I’m trying to do that. But it’s hard. I love my wife quadruple oodles.
At last count, my e-mails are going out to 322 addresses. Thank you for being here with Jody and me. Thank you for praying for us, sending us love, sending us positive thoughts … whatever you have been doing. I’m clear that your love allowed Jodiette to spend her last seven months at home – enjoying our home, enjoying her garden, enjoying little trips here and there, and enjoying me.
With the completion of today’s e-mail, I now turn towards Jodiette: My Lovely Wife, the book I’m writing about my dear one. I hope that the folks at Blurb, a self-publishing website, will be a big help as I navigate the unknown waters of content and design. The book will mostly be a compilation of all those e-mails, plus some posts I created about Jody on my website, as well as a little section I’m calling “My Surprising Wife”.
The goal is to have Jody’s book in my hands by April. When it’s ready, I’ll send you one brief e-mail, asking you to respond if you’d like a copy. I’m giving it to whomever wants it. It’s a love story, you know.
Many of you reading these words are not among the 322. You’ve been reading posts on my website – brucearcherkerr.com. If some of you e-mail recipients would like to continue hearing what I have to say, tune in there. I love writing, and except for periods of meditation retreats, I intend to put fingertips to keys every second day or so.
I loved Saturday. About eighty of us were at the Bellamere Winery to celebrate Jody’s life. Folks came from near and far, with the far including Collingwood, Brantford and Toronto. Lots of smiles and lots of tears. Many wonderful people came to the front of the room and spoke – Jody’s teenage friend and maid of honour, co-workers and friends from Parkwood Hospital, family members of fellow cancer patients at Victoria Hospital, my colleagues. Marvelous. One woman told the group “I don’t know what to say, but I want to say something.” Lovely.
One friend from Parkwood said that she loved watching Jody and me leave the hospital at the end of the day, holding hands. A friend from Victoria Hospital, a single mom, mentioned that someday she hopes to have the quality of love that Jody and I share. May it be so. Someone told us how Jody glowed when she talked about me. And then there were her funky clothes, including all those pastel pants. Oh, my wife. How you are loved!
I shared some of the great words that have flowed from my wife’s lips:
Jody: Where are we going, Bruce?
Bruce: Disney World!
Jody: No, Bruce, we’re going to Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Stop, Bruce! We’re here. (The Pantages Theatre on Yonge St. in Toronto, the site of “Phantom of the Opera”)
Brucio, Brucio. Wherefore are thou, Brucio? (at an open house in Lethbridge, as Jody looked down at me from the second floor)
I talked about how Jody dressed up in a sparkly black top and a funky green hat for my retirement speech last May. She wasn’t strong enough to go to the London Convention Centre but she followed all the action via Skype. Jody was so proud of me. I talked about the bread that Jody baked me every Christmas, and how last September she coached one of our personal support workers in how to make it, sensing that she wouldn’t be alive in December. I made copies of the recipe (in Jody’s handwriting) for the guests at Bellamere. Many were thrilled to receive it and will no doubt pass on Jody’s love to their family.
Love moved in all directions on Saturday. Our friend Neal stayed with our friend Carole as she waited and waited in her wheelchair to be picked up by a transportation service after the celebration. I told the folks about Etienne, the husband of one of the speakers, who rode with me towards the end of a cycling trip when I was exhausted, making sure I got home safe. I saw the love coming from a dad to his daughter, also in a wheelchair, and the returning gladness in her eyes. And then there were all those who reached for a Kleenex during our time together.
Music! There was lots of it. Here are few of my favourite lines, aimed so dearly at you, Jodiette:
Free in the Harbour: They broach and they spout and they lift their flukes out.
True Colors: (From Jody to us) If this world makes you crazy and you’ve taken all you can bear, you call me up because you know I’ll be there.
For You: Just to know that you’re never really far away … Just to know that you’re here in my heart to stay.
Annie’s Song: Let me always be with you. Come let me love you. Come love me again.
The Irish Blessing: And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
In the Arms of an Angel: Fly away from here … from this dark cold hotel room … You’re in the arms of an angel. May you find some comfort here.
Jody helped me sing Annie’s Song to the group. When I couldn’t go on halfway through the second verse, the people facing me starting singing. Strengthened by my wife’s love, and theirs, I began to sing again. I invited the audience to sing the last verse with me. They did. Thank you all.
During the YouTube videos and the DVDs, I’d often lift my eyes from the screen and look at the photo of my lovely wife on the mantel. Such love in Jody’s eyes. Before the ceremony, I had been fiddling with the placement of the photo, trying to reduce the glare coming from the track lights. But I couldn’t get rid of it. After Jody’s celebration was complete, I looked again, and saw a little whitish spot in the middle of my wife’s lips. And I smiled. Every night before getting into bed, I stand in front of Jodiette, moisten the tip of my right index finger, and press it to her lips. A kiss that stays.
Finally, folks came up to give me a hug as they got ready to leave. They had lovely things to say: “Thank you for sharing Jody with us.” Of course. Diamonds need to be seen. “Thank you for showing us such a vivid love today.” You’re very welcome. Pass it on. And in the guest book: “Honour Jody with your life now.” Yes, I will. “We love how you honour Jody’s memory with your stories.” Thank you. “Celebrating an everlasting love” Indeed it is. “Celebrating life” All of us.
On a table, I had placed a number of objects that were important to Jody and me. And I put out a little sign: “Please touch and open.” As I was packing up, I looked at that sign, and thought of us touching the people in our world, opening our hearts to them. It’s what Jody wants us to do.
I also looked at a book of Jody’s I had put on the table: Your Happy Healthy Pet: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She had so much wanted to get a dog when she retired. It wasn’t to be. But an image came flooding into my head … Jody running in the meadow with her doggie, laughing with her canine friend. “Are you with your doggie, Jodiette?” “I am, Bruce.”
I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to be with human beings. So I drove to the Byron Library and plunked myself down in a cozy chair, near a few newspaper readers. I looked through a wall of windows, to trees near and far. And thought of Jodiette: “I am all trees, Bruce. I welcome you everywhere.”
I read my book a bit but Jody wanted to talk, and so did I. She let me go first.
“I love you, my dear wife. There was so much love in the room, Jodiette. People laughed. People smiled. People cried. You touched them. I touched them. We touched them. It was good.”
“Thank you, Bruce, for such a lovely day. All those people who love me and love you. And so many people were brave enough to speak! I saw it all, Bruce. Thank you for making it happen. Thank you for loving me so very much.”
You’re welcome, my dear. You deserve great kindness.
I still wasn’t ready to go home so I headed to the Cineplex Odeon Cinema to see “Selma”. First I went to their lounge and had a key lime smoothie and nachos. Yum. In the theatre, I moved over so that two fellows could sit together. The guy next to me was so thankful. We talked about kindness until Martin Luther King appeared on the screen. After the film, we stayed in our seats while the others got up to leave. We talked about King and Gandhi and JFK. As they stood, we shook hands. And the gentleman who had been two chairs away from me said, “Take care of the ones you love.”