A Year Ago Today

A year ago today I lost Roland to brain cancer.

One year… 52 weeks, 365 days.

Yet, sometimes it feels like only yesterday.

A lot has happened in this year… mostly I have learned to hold my family and friends close.

The first few months of loss were traumatic. The hardest moments were the first of the day when upon waking I would remember, over and over again, that Roland was not there. A black heaviness would descend and overtake me. I have tried to come up with other words to describe it but can find none. Thank goodness for my dogs. They needed to go out, they needed to be fed. If not for them, I think many days would have been spent in bed, covers up, blinds drawn.

Then, one day, in early spring, while walking with my friend through Whitter Park, she asked, “How are you feeling when you wake in the morning?” Caught off guard by her insight and empathy I turned towards her and let the words fall out. Relief came in the telling. Thank you, Brenda, for this.

These days, the blackness has dissipated from my mornings… such a relief. The heaviness remains but often feels as if it too is lifting.

Over the weeks and months, there are more and more days when I find myself feeling happy and enjoying my life. On occasion, a memory or a photo now brings a smile instead of tears, or perhaps more honestly, a smile before the tears. For this I am grateful.

But there are still those days when I just wait for him to come home.

Loving can hurt, loving can hurt sometimes
But it’s the only thing that I know
When it gets hard, you know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive

We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
And time’s forever frozen still

So you can keep me inside the pocket of your ripped jeans
Holding me closer ’til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone, wait for me to come home

~The photograph – Ed Sheeran

September So Soon

How can it be that the leaves are already falling from the trees. Every year it is the same, with the summer passing in a flurry of warmth and activity.

Although this year was comparable… in many ways it was completely different.

For you see, this was my first summer without Roland.

For myself, much of the summer felt as if a dream, the reality ever-present but not yet fully accepted.

The challenges were many, the main one being our seasonal campsite at Debonair . Could I keep doing this by myself… just me and the dogs? Did I even want to?

Feeling uncertain, but knowing Roland would want this for me, I decided to give it a go. With the help of my kids, we opened the trailer and cleaned the campsite. It felt so good to be back but the feeling that something was missing was heavy and I was inundated with sadness.

The turkeys and bunnies were many

The first weekend there, just me and the dogs, I felt and saw Roland everywhere. The sense of his presence was both comforting and daunting. The memories and tears were many.

But even with that, the stillness and the stars provided much comfort and occasionally, especially at dusk while sitting outside, I could sense that maybe we would be okay.

The summer days lived up to their promise bringing sun-filled warmth and star-filled nights. Family and friends came often to share my days and lift my spirits. Their company and their presence helped me better accept the quiet times where grief reigned and memories ruled.

And the dogs, both Lacie and Odin… they not only kept me busy but more often than not, entertained.

Now September is coming to an end and, once more with the help of my kids, the campsite is closed and winterized.

I can’t say that my summer experience was a complete success but it leaves me hopeful for the summers to come and I am already looking forward to and making plans for next year’s go around.

Miss you Roland, everyday!

Wish you were here.

Project 52 | Week 16 – Isolation

The theme for week 16 of the Project 52 Pet Photographer’s blog circle is “Isolation”.

This is kind of an emotionally tough one…

By definition, to be isolated means to be separate from others, to be alone. For many around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this their new reality.

But this experience of isolation does not feel new to me. My own personal journey with this way of being started 5 months ago when my husband Roland died after a short but intense battle with brain cancer.

On that day my world stopped and I could feel myself being pulled away from all that I knew. The perception of “being safe” was lost and I found myself turning inward in an effort to hold back my fears.

Grief, for me, is a very private, personal experience not easily shared. Its very presence leads to feelings of, and even a need for, isolation.

While I live with this grief, even when with others, the sense of aloneness prevails and I feel set apart. Today I recognize this feeling of separation, and the sadness that accompanies it, as part and parcel of the journey I am on.

The imposed pandemic isolation has merely added another layer to it all.

I know the world and I will come out on the other side of all of this… and that, and my family, and my dogs are what keep me moving forward, one step, one day at a time.

I miss you Roland, every day.

I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.

Robert Browning Hamilton

Project 52 _______________________
This post is part of the Pet Photography Project 52 blog circle. To see what the next photographer is sharing for the weekly theme, “Isolation”, visit Pet Love Photography, serving Greater Cincinnati, the San Francisco Bay Area, and destinations nationwide. Continue to click the link at the end of each post in the blog circle until you eventually find your way back here. Enjoy!

Scenes from a Dog Walk at Sunrise

January is here… the time of never-ending winter.

The hours of sun are increasing, but the light still begins at a reasonable hour, allowing for a chance to enjoy the day’s beginnings. Having a dog to walk with simply adds a smile to the experience.

The past year has been difficult. I lost my Roland, my husband, after a short but intense battle with brain cancer. Grief now encircles my world.

Mornings, and walks like this, bring a sense of comfort and hope.

We met our neighbour and his dog, Maple, while walking in the field. Maple and Odin are best buds. But, since Odin was at doggie daycare this morning,  Lacie had Maple all to herself.

Be gentle with the one who walks with grief
If it is you, be gentle with yourself
Swiftly forgive, walk slowly,
Pause often,
Take time
Be gentle as you walk with grief
–Author Unknown

Volunteering at Animal Services

I can honestly say that volunteering with Animal Services is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I feel so fortunate to be able to work alongside people that I respect and with whom I share a similar mindset. The staff and volunteers at Winnipeg Animal Services work together as a team to make a difference in the dog community by promoting responsible pet ownership through public education and adoption.

To be passionate about something and to be able to feel that what you are doing is making a difference, is priceless.

“Meet Colleen! She is a retired nurse and photographer. Colleen volunteers her time weekly and takes pictures of our dogs to help them get adopted. She is also part of a small team that helps maintain our social media channels. Thank you!”

“Be the change… Volunteer.”