Monday, June 11, 2012

The band plays on

Wind whipped and rolled past the open car windows in thunderous waves as we sped along the highway, just the three of us, like old times.

Bear sat in the back behind me, her head shoved between the headrest of the front passenger seat and the doorframe to catch the eddies of smells swirling in at the window. Because it is a two-door car she does not get her very own window but has to share with either Morgan or me. It is how we traveled halfway across Canada and back again, three times; although on those trips Bear had to share the back seat with packs and dry bags and sacks of food.

Today we are just heading a short distance west along the trans-Canada highway for ice cream. It is almost a week since we found out about Bear’s two kinds of cancer and we are still in a bit of a bubble. Separate bubbles actually, just kind of rolling along and bouncing off of things, discussing it all matter-of-factly with friends and family and with each other too.

“It’s almost worse knowing,” says Morgan as we drive across the bridge of the Kaministiqua River, swollen to twice its width after days of rain. I don’t say anything right away but look out the window at the trees, deep green and lush beneath a brilliant blue sky, marching along the road as we drive up out of the valley.

I try to imagine not knowing, about one day just losing her, or about always wondering about her lumps and the raspy panting and the seizures but still being able to convince ourselves that she’s really fine. And then I think about how, in knowing, there is a looming emptiness descending a little more each day.

“I guess so,” I finally say. “Because now we’re just sad all the time.”

We fly along the road past some farm land, more forest, a tree farm, and as the car zips around a gentle curve in the road, bathed in the golden light of an early-evening sun, I look over my shoulder to see Bear stretching out in the back seat and I want to talk about the thing we’ve both had on our minds.

“It’s so weird,” I say over the sound of the wind. “I was thinking the other day, and this is way over dramatic, because I know Bear is not our child and it is a completely different thing, but I feel like I get why sometimes couples break up after they lose a child.”

The feeling hit me like a great black wave a few days earlier when I walked up the sun-drenched trail with Murdoch. It was a perfect day except for that heavy shadow wrapped around my heart and as I thought about life without Bear I felt a great emptiness. The world dropped out from under me for a moment and I really didn’t know what to do because for the last nine years everything about my life has been so completely entwined with Bear, without her how can anything stay the same?

As I say it out loud I think it must sound ignorant because neither of us are parents and how could we know what it’s like, but then Morgan says, “Yeah.” And I know he gets what I am saying.

Morgan and I have never known each other without Bear. She defined us. It has always been the three of us, ever since that day at the pond nine years ago when Bear made sure we understood that she wanted us all to be together, all the time. And then she became our glue, our anchor in a world that has always pulled us in different directions.

“You know what it’s like?” Morgan says. “It’s like a band breaking up.”

And that’s it, that’s it exactly. “Yes,” I say emphatically.

“You know, separately they’re still great musicians,” he continues, “and they go on and do other things but it’s never the same. There’s always something missing after the break up, it can never be like the way it was when it was The Band.”

“Yes,” I say again. And I picture the three of us as a band and Bear leaving and Morgan and I kind of flailing around still trying to be a band but not making such a great job of it because Bear was the star of the show. It’s all sort of silly and funny because none of us are musically inclined.

So we kind of laugh about it and drive west for ice cream and know that there is a sharp turn ahead and we have no idea what’s around that corner, except that some day everything will be split up as ‘the time of Bear’ and ‘the time after Bear’. And that is heartbreaking.


  1. I completely understand your feelings about how, after losing Bear, the world will be different for you as an individual and for you as part of a relationship. You will carry Bear around with you forever. Some of the time that's a sad joy, but some of the time it's an emotional weight that can leave you emptied out, hitting you at unexpected turns in the road. For awhile, you will see and hear and smell Bear everywhere. Memories can often be too solid, too real, but Bear will continue to be your gentle guide both on your own and with Morgan. She will live in your beautiful and truthful prose, your wondrous nature photographs, always speaking directly to your prodigious heart, ever right beside you. Your world is larger because of Bear. You will find meaningful solace, however tearful, in the ever-sounding and magical music of the band that will always be you and Morgan and Bear. The music never disappears.

  2. Our hearts go out to both you and Morgan - and you're right - her passing out of your lives will forever divide time. There's just no getting around that. Our hope is that the time you have left with Bear will be spent making beautiful memories that you and Morgan will cherish once the time comes for her to depart. Sending lots of hugs.

  3. but you will get through it. the time before boscoe died was, in many ways, worse than the time afterward, with the day he died being the absolute worst day of my life. but i got through it. you will get through it. and you will miss bear and think about her all the time, and the sadness will lift, in a way, and you will be ok. but i think that is a long way off. just love her, and cherish her, as you do.

  4. Bear for me has been so like my first black Labrador; the grey round the mouth just the same. Muzz went almost blind and totally deaf, but still stayed cheerful. The day she went was bad; perhaps as bad as it was for Laurie so recently with dear Boscoe - a dog we readers came to love just as we have your Bear.

    I hope you can make the most of the remaining time. You can but take one day at a time. We readers will share, although in a very small way, your sadness.

  5. Thank you everyone for your thoughts and heart-felt comments. They are most appreciated, you all just get it and that's comforting. We are definitely cherishing every moment we have with Bear. She is being spoiled rotten and subjected to even more hugs and kisses than before - if that's possible. She is so special and it's nice to know you are all thinking of her. I'm sure she would say thanks too.