Losing Kath

Love lost, read and found

Message in a bottle

The chronology of events leading up to Kath’s funeral is something that still has my head in a spin and throws my thoughts all out of kilter. Naturally those were turbulent times in troubled waters and I don’t remember exactly how I navigated my way through them as the time was somewhat a blur, but as much as I swayed, I can still say I am also incredibly proud looking back, at how determinedly focused I was in managing to keep my head above water.

I have wanted to write about this period from a more reflective place than I was in the past but just as was the case twelve months ago, when I sat down to give it the required thought in posing what it was that I wanted to say, the days just passed me by with me just staring blankly. Although I have written much in the last few weeks, I find myself skirting around what it is that I want to say exactly and instead I have written other as yet unposted pieces.

The anniversary time of year around losing Kath makes me reflect even more than I do normally and instead of getting to any point I am hoping to make, my words feel just like the ocean whose waves keep on coming but instead of crashing they slowly erode away at the shore. Instead of the incoming desire to share, I am sapped by an outgoing rush into the void.

I find it is hard to be concise when day by day I am smothered by every distraction, but when I finally do find a moment in time, my mind has to fight off the competing inner thoughts that threaten to swamp me, and instead of getting to the point, my mind insists on taking the more scenic route back through the labyrinth of my mind and its memories. I am sure it is an inbuilt coping mechanism meant to protect me, a way to keep walking back through the thicket without being constantly snagged by the guarding thorns that would otherwise be quick to use their spears to ward me away. As much as the memories burn me, I keep finding new reasons to return to the place some might think best to approach as an intruder.

Instead of constantly fatigued by the battle of having to fight it, I now find it’s easier sometimes just to follow the flow, hoping the river of thought all dumps into the same deep basin of the all-seeing big blue sea. Whatever the path that my mindset scribbles follow, I am pulled along hopelessly lost on its current.

The need to chart isolated thoughts in my mind onto paper is something perpetually fueled so that it burns me, but the agitation is quick to raise its ugly head if I go a few days just ignoring it. I feel if I want to know what it’s like to breathe easy, I have to cough up something written and just get the heartburn far from just off my chest.

When Kath was alive I guess I used to dabble with writing but since she died, it seems the writing now dabbles with me.

It doesn’t matter what I set out to write, so long as I find a moment and space to just drift away, but with the land locking islands that my daughters represent, finding a quiet oasis can take me long into the night, and so when the desire to write arrives tired from just polite repetitive knocking, the bath is the place that I retreat to so that I can be undisturbed and finally fully open it the door.

It’s interesting but not together all that surprising how two of my passions have merged into one, driven by the same need to find an escape, and now when I turn to the bath I am driven by two engines into the maelstrom of the endless mind.

After I finally have found some elusively hidden words and show them the way to get out and be free, I can find I am in conflict with ‘if’ and ‘whom’ to share it with. The need to share what I write ebbs and flows with the tide but when it starts to come in it can hit me in waves and I have to decide how to manage. Either I stand on the shore and just let the incoming waves wash all over me and make me feel like I’m drowning, or I can choose to jump into a metaphorical boat like it is a life raft. My writing of thrashed out thoughts whether irrational or not is like a being on a vessel that’s lost out at sea, but for someone who’s tired of treading water, it’s something I reach for just to keep me feeling afloat.

It will be hard to convince anyone that the bath is such a vessel or somewhere I come to sit in hot water and then simultaneously float, but that is exactly what happens, and the sinking sensation only hits me, when I exit the bath having failed to get any words even out.

A wife is a precious thing to have at your side and once having lost it, her memory becomes an even more precious thing on the inside. In the phase of my life that came after ‘the turn’, I guess I was wading through a lake thick with grieving and I found that doing so was something that used to overwhelm me and just spill out of me and sharing my writing and posting online was a way to unload some of the burden picked up on the way, that clogged up my fins and otherwise felt all too consuming.

I don’t know if it was salt tears welling up on the inside, but when you feel like something is drowning the air from your lungs, all you instinctively want to do is spit it out fast.

I am not sure why exactly, but I think I just needed to feel that my writing was helping by giving me the kind of feeling that I might be able to reach out and connect like a message in a bottle with someone hidden on the blue horizon but somewhere out there. As time passed rushing by from the depths of the swirl in the stormy grey, I look back down behind me at the white froth of my vessel’s passage, and with some of those ripples now subsiding, perhaps I can see in bobbing reflection that the measure of my writing seems equal in amounts to a huge migration of flying birds up above determinedly seeking distant shores, and my spat out gasping words now seem more like a massive outpouring and for as much as I write, my words join the flock and take flight and just leave me. I don’t know where they are going, they fast become just an echo!

In the beginning of grief it felt like I was constantly drowning so I was lucky I guess; my words were able to ride on crest of the waves of my emotions. I don’t know if it was pride or just impossible, but in the absence of being able to ask someone to just simply save me, my written words gave my isolated ‘me’ much needed buoyancy.

Instead of bottling things up that were fizzing away on the inside, I prized free the cork and sent out the invite, hoping that some would choose to drink from whatever started to flow and the outreached cups were indeed many. The more it filled up inside over time, the more I continue to let it pour out but with the thirst for the flavor seemingly quenched, perhaps some of the servings went on cups so full up; they had longed overflowed, and when you know how special you feel about what’s spilling out, the more you can’t stand to see a precious drop wasted and dilute back lost at sea. Treading grieving water is a long drawn out battle and it’s called ‘Sink or Swim’. You can thrash about as much as you like when you’re far out at sea but you won’t ever find enough energy to swim. Drifting wherever the current takes you and having to rely on your thrown S.O.S is all you know you can do while you wait for your dissipating dream in the hope that you will know what it’s like to fall back to the ground.

Making such analogies or observations aren’t necessarily accurate or even real, but they still are a very valuable cathartic tool. Writing quite simply lets you get a handle on grief, and it’s no wonder why so many people faced with having to sink or swim, turn to writing in the hope of using each life line full of words, as something to haul themselves out with. The search for any elusive definite answers are hard to find when you find yourself plunged in murky grief waters, but at least the questions are easier to pose when you’re swaying but floating above them.

Despite all I have written, I still feel like I have failed to do the injustice any justice. Katherine dying was not meant to be, at least in the script I thought written for me.

Writing is just a captured moment in time that bottles up what you were once feeling, and feeling bereavement is like throwing out a message in a bottle and watching your SOS drift away but so very slowly, you know no-one ever will be able to come and save you. As much as you write to soothe your insides by letting pressure building steam out, the very same process can also feel like just another way of letting things burn you.

For me the futile feeling of reaching out to someone who might be somewhere out there and unseen can feel desperately sad, and as I gently float away with the direction the tide takes me, it feels like the act of grasping at something invisible you once had secure on the inside for as long as you can remember but you only get a tantalizing glimpse of exactly how precious it was as it made its escape. You can reach out your hand as far as you like and almost touch it, but the ebb of the tide agonizingly means all you see is what’s slipping away.

I don’t know who I am hoping my sentiments are sent out to or what company my words are seeking to court, but if anything comes of this plight, the company it searches out to find, is something translucent that I know won’t ever reach me. Apart from its glimmer of light being able at lifting some burden, sending out words on a screen can feel like just another unaccompanied journey. The sharing of my writing has at least have me feeling like I have feet back on solid ground though on many an occasion I have also found that to feel like I am walking alone on a slow moving travellator, leaving more and more people behind me as I reach out with only more and more unheard words.

If I write in the hope to connect, then the conundrum must be in why can it just as often leave me feeling more disconnected than when I started? I guess I will have to concede that if I am writing, my words must be seeking some kind of company. If this is true, the comfort of reconnecting with the once familiar must be the key, the irony here is in if it is only strangers that end up interested in sharing it.

I don’t know when I started writing, what my intentions actually were. If they were to connect with just strangers or with inner grief or to supplement missing company that once was closer than close and by my side, it has up until now never really mattered, but even so, whatever purpose first spurred it on, my writing can still cause me to feel a bit conflicted.

I think the truth is that I will never find any comforting conclusion that makes any sense and that’s why her death is so hard to forget. She never got to go peacefully in her sleep or slip gracefully away, instead of anyone finding ways to ease some of her pain, I had to watch my wife get sucked down into the whirlpool.

While I can’t find reason to highlight this fact in all that I write, I am sure it is part of what anchors me to the bedrock to keep me writing about her. It is natural I think to be a little haunted by having to see my wife have to go like that, it is the hardest thing about her I find I am able to let go of, the one single memory that makes me think I am clinging on for dear life and desperately to a weather pummeled rock in the middle of a vast ocean. To throw out my SOS would require me to risk letting go and that takes a huge leap of faith when the risk you face in being swept away is of drowning.

I wish Kath could have slipped away some way more serenely and perhaps that might have made it easier for me, but the parting was just quite traumatic.

I am pulled now by the urge to have to write, like a hapless moth drawn to the flame and perhaps like a million others, with the sun setting on the horizon behind me, I am just one fleeting mayfly dancing in a huge crowd of tiny wings over calm waters that run deep and as effortless as that might seem, I am trying hard not to get drowned out. I like the serene picture this invokes in my mind but perhaps this is just wishful thinking and maybe I am more like the obsessive fisherman on choppy waters in fast fading light constantly thinking about coming into shore but fighting off the urge and continuing to bait and cast out his line just one more last time, knowing he won’t concern himself with how dark it becomes until he feels he has reeled in something special.

This need to cast out such lines, still has me wanting to tell so much of the months that are both November and December, but despite the feeling of being compelled to, I find I have been hesitant in choosing where to cast out my line, or if anyone so late at this time is even biting.

There is a feeling dawning on me, that every choking thought I cough up and throw out to sea in a bottle, is something that eventually might float up somewhere right next to me, but instead of brewed up fire spat up from the soul, as unlabeled fermented medicine to drink back from the bottle. A soothing remedy to be reunited with what’s long been missing inside.

My writing at times has at times taken me to shining a light on many dark places and to do that I ended up having to shut myself away, often finding the sanctuary in long steaming hot baths, where I submerge myself back deep in uninterrupted thoughts. At times I might only have achieved in getting burnt, but then it’s only ever been the words that helped me find my way out.

The journey from grief into sorrow is a battle with loss and the burning you feel on the way is not put out by the feeling of drowning. Water does not necessarily put out the fire so much as it causes the buildup of steam, and where any such steam is building up, it is important to find an effective method to be able to vent. Writing has given me that outlet, but the mindset is only regularly found when I turn to the bath or late in the night when I find peace and time to address it.

Perhaps my writing is not meant to reach anybody, but is a life ring meant only for me, and if this could be true in conclusion it’s not something I would want to see drift far away from me. The horizon is a distant place and there is not always something on it, the panorama still draws your gaze no matter what it struggles to see, but the saving grace in the mind’s imaginary eye is that no matter how far away, there is always a lost souls rescuing ship about to appear on it.

If I am in a way like a cast away clinging dearly to flotsam wreckage lost out at sea, perhaps my impulses to write are jettisoned words thrown out from my own ship as it threatened to go down under torpedoing waves, and in a desperate act to save what I can, as jetsam were deliberately thrown overboard.

I can’t dispel the feeling that my writing of loss is like me clinging on desperately to irretrievable treasure, and yet if I believe it to be lost, why it is that I haven’t let go, or if instead my writing is my rock in stormy waters that I would be mad to risk ever letting go of?

It is an idea I am constantly lured to dive deep into and explore its murky depths, it’s not a fully formed idea or even a mission, but a curious desire to see what’s laid down deep at the bottom. Perhaps the looking under the surface and not pulling back from the words that come with the waves when I write feels like the only thing that will finally give me the motherlode glimpse of what it is that it seems I have become more than momentarily anchored to.

The period of losing Kath from my life keeps feeding the oxygen line to my writing.

It is undoubtedly true that losing love may have been the catalyst in igniting my journey into quantifiable writing, but the desire to navigate such waters always existed, it was just hard to express any words without having the fuel. It seems a strange thing to suggest that perhaps grief that had me tied up in knots was what broke the inertia to help propel my words of my static raft forward, but it was the fear or being marooned in the middle of nowhere that gave me my voice.

It is kind of ironic that when you fear you might be somewhere lost on your own is when you call out the loudest!

So here I am still writing about that one November night and all of the ones under the burning stars that came after, and I don’t know if I am indeed casting my line to see if it is what I can catch or what I might hope to be able to fish out, or perhaps under the expanse of the wide open night, I have just become addicted to the exposure. All I know is I am instinctively driven by my urge to pick up my net, take up the rod, jump in the metaphorical boat and just keep on paddling.

Perhaps in simple terms what I am writing here, is my take on an old fisherman’s favourite tale; ‘The one that got away!’, but I want to go much deeper than write about a fish and a net. I want to drag my net deep along the sea bed of sunken vessels and trawl through some of life’s hard made decisions and haul in all of their impacting ramifications.

I don’t want to keep fooling tomorrow, that what I do next is not linked to today.

What we hope to catch in our nets, is connected directly to what we choose to use at the end of our lines! I guess life if it is really about anyone one thing more than another, it might be about how we as people choose the size of the net we end up casting out, and if we can’t come to accept that in life, we will never realise how the size of the fishes we catch are equally affected.

There are moments in life where we are served up portions we’d rather forget or tasted more than our fair share of dished out regrets and maybe the ones that are harder to swallow than most are the moments in life when you unexpectedly came within touching distance of landing a very big fish and you weren’t ready for the moment and caught by surprise and anchored in the uncertainty, you let the it escape.

There can be defining moments in life when we reluctantly feel we have to go back to the fish we have become accustomed to catching in the small nets we have left at our disposal. Regret can have us exploring the theme on why it was that we once chose to cast with such small nets having had the choice of so many nets once to pick from, but the reason I cast out my baited lines is not because I have these type of regrets myself. My words are not related to the size of the net or the quality of catch it gave me to feed from. In having my fill, I have eaten well and regret only what’s missing from the flavor and so now when I write I can’t always separate what I want to say without trying to pick out the bones from the body. To paraphrase the fisherman saying, ‘Catch and Release’, I write in celebration of what I was lucky to catch and in tribute to the having no choice in the method of bitter release!

November among other things is the anniversary month of Katherine’s death and of her funeral and of the package she took away with her, and the passing of time and the tides will never change that, no matter how far I drift with the current.

In the moon lit reflection my words can seem like they do me no good, and yet only I know how much I need the light that they offer. In their glimmer I found strength I never thought I would find and answers in what I was seemingly casting out, though no one ever came that were invited by my questions. Finding the time to squeeze in a reason to write just became what I would label as being imperative. The urge to connect was never as important as avoiding the feeling I was disconnecting, and so if the memory of that time burns me a little, it’s not as much as she had to burn and so I gladly choose to bathe in those waters.

When Katherine was living, I thought I was certain of many things and when things changed I realized my beliefs were based only on my set of circumstances and now I wonder about the many assumptions we have all already made about our own lives without even realising we have done so. There are for example things that we believe we will and won’t do, what we will and won’t accept, how we will and won’t live etc, before circumstances change and force us to challenge those assumptions.

My head is full of questions all of the time and I don’t even know what is causing the asking, but sometimes I am not sure I am able to find any peace until I find a moment to confront them. The bath has become a place of such refuge, where I escape to the labyrinth of my mind and keep taking turns until I just disappear.

I am drawn to write about thoughts I have at times in my life, found myself dwelling on for more than a moment or two.

I don’t care at times if my writing is even based on anything real so long as the idea came to my mind and once that it has I feel I need to explore it right to its core and not hold back. It is only once we are shipwrecked back on the island of alone and living, that we give time to think about life under the burning hot sun, and to the map we hold in our hands of longing for buried treasure. The thirst to complete the salt tears shedding journey to finding where ‘X’ marks the spot leaves us dry mouth and feeling dehydrated and yet gasping for air, we must get our words out.

Katherine in a change of heart no longer wanted to be cremated, now it was up to me to decide how and where she would be buried and what other treasures would join her.

Fresh from the search of any such soul circumnavigation, I don’t need anniversaries to remind me what waters I have sailed through, or memories to tell me that what burns deep is always emblazoned. I am where I am because of where it is that I came from, and if I choose not to acknowledge the place a voyage first started, then I will never recognize getting to journey’s end.

You can get nowhere in life very fast or just as slowly, if you forget where you were once somewhere in time. Choosing where to lay my wife’s body to permanently rest was a decision that was helped by what had happened over the chronology of time.

I have often thought about trying to wind down on some of the testament of passing tides in my story telling but it’s really not easy to leave all the things I shared with Katherine on distant shores. There are volcanoes burning even in the deepest seas, my words are not on fire but words I cannot stifle, they still escape me in the form of steam. Even lighting the flame on the tiniest votive candle needs so much air, so it’s difficult to close the chapter on a yesteryear where Katherine is no longer here but the things that in silence we nurtured and cherished together, I find on my own now are gasping for air. Who else will ever care?

A partner’s conversation is like the water running from a tap that you can always turn on when you need it. You don’t care if the conversation is nothing special as long as it never run’s dry. Each small meaningless spoken drop between you drip feeds all you’ve ever shared. You don’t need to taste it all at once, nor does your searching words ever know thirst, whenever you reach for the tap, you can rely on what’s coming out to quench your insatiable thirst.

As the tide takes you further and further, it is harder to draw from the well that never ran dry. So until the taste of what comes out of the drought turns to famine, it’s hard to find any reason not to let the bottled words out.

I cast out my lines not in hope of what I might catch and even reel in, but because I am not frightened of what I might find at the end of the line. Katherine was near the end of her line when her words cut deep into me. She didn’t tell me directly she knew she was dying, but her requests did.

Brittany1 155a



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