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a visit

You know what really helps with grief? Writing. It’s what I teach. It’s what I do.

7 a.m. on yet another bleak, grey, chilly morning, and I sit here in tears. People have been sending the most wonderful notes; so many of my friends are writers, and all of them had met Wayson, so what they send is beautiful and profoundly moving.

Somehow, as well, one death brings up others. I’ve just heard from May, one of my aunt’s best friends in Ottawa, so have been thinking of the recent loss of Do. And then I had a note from Penny in England, younger sister of my childhood pen pal Barbara and now my own friend. Barbara died in 1966 at age 16, a story I’ve been trying to get out into the world for years, without success so far. Penny and her siblings had just spent the afternoon cleaning the gravesite of their sister, parents, and brother Michael who died at two weeks old, a yearly ritual that brings them together in tribute and love. The stone was designed by their brother Peter, an artist, some of whose ashes they scattered there to help with the roses.

In the bleak council cemetery where stones subside and the grass covers the neighbouring plots where the loved ones of the children we grew up with are buried, Barbara’s stone now stands proud, one of the cleanest and brightest. Peter designed it carefully, the text debated each time we laid another to rest and the wording cut by hand. Beneath it Babs, Dad, Mum sleep quietly together with the memory of first born Michael.

Yesterday I sat at the piano to try to start playing again but instead broke down and actually cried, out loud, “How could you leave me?”

It was almost embarrassing; that’s the sort of thing a spouse says after the death of a longterm partner. And Wayson was definitely not my spouse. But he was an automatic part of my life, my day, my thoughts. My dinner table. It’s a huge hole. Right now, it feels like an open wound.

Marsha Lederman from the Globe called; she’d been told I was a close friend and she’s writing an article. The stories poured out; I jabbered, wept, and laughed. The best kind of remembrance.

Monty, a former student who met Wayson several times at classes here, sent me this:
Wayson was a shining example of being in life who you really are, wearing it on your sleeve, with no explanations or apologies, what you see is what you get. If only we could all have Wayson’s strength and courage to be so authentic and real. It was an honour to meet him, to be with him, to listen to him, to be inspired by him. 

Monty also wrote that after his father died when he was young, a friend told him his dad would never die while he, Monty, was alive, because Monty’s memories would preserve him. His father would continue to visit in memory, and each visit would be a gift.  And, Beth, I think your gardenia story on your blog may be one of your first “visits” from Wayson. I will leave that for you to decide.

I think he’s right.

Old friend from university days Isobel wrote, I didn’t ‘know’ him except through your blog – how you embraced him as a family member, his quiet, obviously happy presence at moments large and small. How wonderful that your family has your all-welcoming, open-arms approach to life… and that you record it all for posterity. And how magnificent for Wayson to feel that generosity and love — infused with it all, his spirit shines on.”



4 Responses to “a visit”

  1. Claire Speed says:

    Dear Beth,
    I'm just learning of this loss – your loss. I didn't know Wayson nor his writing, and I should. But I know from what you've written that he was very special to you, and a regular at your dinner table and in your home. I have now looked back on your postings of the past few days and see that his was an unexpected death, which can be the hardest for those left behind; no opportunity for that final goodbye. I hope you find comfort in the words he directed your way, full of love and admiration.
    Take care,

  2. beth says:

    Claire, thank you for your beautiful note. He and I did say a kind of goodbye; he called only a few hours before he died and we had a great talk, setting up a dinner date for this week. And it helps that I know his peaceful if too sudden death was for the best for him. As I wrote, I've taken great comfort in the kindness of the words sent my way at this time. Hope to see you soon.

  3. Claire Speed says:

    Beth, I'm happy to read that yours was one of the last voices Wayson heard before his peaceful end. As a university friend who recently lost his dad wrote to me this week: "All worked out for the best. Hope I can be so lucky." Don't we all! Take care, and yes I hope we can connect soon.

  4. beth says:

    Claire, I look forward to connecting again over your manuscript. I'm here when you're ready.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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