Monday, June 30, 2014

Pilgrimage - June 30, 2014

One year ago today, my beloved Jim's struggle ended as he completed his life among us. There's something about a one-year anniversary; it seems somehow final in a new way. Until today, I could, in my mind, remember that, "One year ago today..." Now I can no longer do that, and in some way he has gone much further from life than he was even yesterday.

I knew this from when my mom died, and so had planned a pilgrimage of sorts: a visit to a place we loved to scatter some of his ashes, with stops at a few places that held memories of time we had spent together. It was very sad, but very healing. Jim gave me many things during our too-short time together, but other than his love the best gifts were the gifts of places. I have loved Oregon since I first set foot here in the early '70s, and Jim introduced me to places that delighted me - and it gave him joy to see how eagerly I embraced their beauty.

Before beginning my journey - but also part of my pilgrimage - I visited the care home where Jim spent the last 21 months of his life. I took popsicles for the staff and residents - something I had done whenever we had a forecast of hot weather - and a bouquet of sunflowers. The staff there took such good care of Jim - and of me - that they will always be a big part of my precious memories, and I hope I will always remember to honor them in some way.

After leaving there, I stopped at the cemetery, to leave flowers on his grave - a grave that looks as if it's been there much longer than it has. It takes so little time for weathering in our Portland climate, and, oddly, the permanence of it is far less distressing to me than was the bright marble against the newly-placed sod of the first weeks.

My day's journey then began in earnest, as I pointed my car West toward the magnificent Oregon Coast. From our earliest days as a couple, Barview Jetty County Park was our go-to place for a quick, unplanned getaway. We had weathered storms there - personal and weather-related - had watched in awe as the Jetty was reinforced several years ago, and loved to watch the sea crash on the rocks below us. It is there that I left a portion of Jim's ashes - there on the rocks, since it's far too dangerous to get too close to the water. I know that with the next high tide or the next storm, those precious bits of his mortal self will wash into the ocean he loved.

I left there and drove north a few miles to Flamingo Jim's - one of our never-to-be-missed destinations on the Coast. They have everything from t-shirts to knick-knacks, not all flamingo related, but just a fun place to shop and pick up little odds and ends for ourselves and the grandkids.

I next headed back southwest toward Cape Meares Lighthouse. We had only been there together once, but had planned to visit it again someday. It's a beautiful lighthouse and boasted an historic lens that was shipped from Paris to Oregon in 1888. Sadly, two young men fired shots at it, breaking it and causing extensive and expensive damage to it shortly before Jim & I visited it April, 2010. I was glad to see it's since been repaired. Jim had been really upset by the vandalism, and I know he would have been happy knowing that it was whole again.

My final destination was Munson Creek Falls, about 6 miles south of Tillamook. This was a place we discovered by accident, and requires a two-mile drive down a pot-holed road, and then a quarter-mile walk back to the falls - but so worth it! I was very aware of Jim there - remembering every step we had taken, every place we stopped to gaze at the beauty of this hidden spot. It's a quiet, peaceful place, and I'm so glad I decided to make the stop.

From there, I drove back to Tillamook to get a coffee for the road home. We drove through the Coast Range so many times that I almost think I could do it with my eyes closed. Except that the road is very curvy, mostly only two lanes, and subject to rockslides! It's also a lovely drive and I never tire of it.

And so, the hour approaches when Jim slipped away from his pain and confusion, but never, ever from my love. It feels as if I'm saying goodbye again as this year ends. I can't help thinking of all the things I've done that he would have enjoyed, but I believe in some way that I don't really understand he's been with me on this journey - not just today, but all the days of these twelve months.

"We are stardust, we are golden; we are billion year old carbon..."