happy anniversary?

Thirteen years ago, I stood in our living room at 100 Sherman Ave S, looking into Larry’s eyes, surrounded by a circle of our friends and made a vow to love, honour, care for and respect him until death separated us.

As I said these vows, my left hand was bound to Larry’s right hand with a cord to symbolize the joining of our two lives together. The first action we performed together was to jump over a broom.

I realized last night that I lied in those vows because I STILL love him, honour his memory, care for his happiness and respect the man he was and role he filled in my life. I will carry these feelings with me until the day I leave this land and suspect they will carry me into whatever may lie beyond.

I still have that cord as a reminder of those vows and what they represent to me, I will keep this cord until the day I die. It WILL be with me when I am cremated.

Much as we spent that day 13 years ago surrounded by friends, I spent yesterday surrounded by friends as well – reminiscing about our times together and how we will move forward as friends and honouring Larry’s work and memories – through his Wiccan studies, legacy and extensive library and continuing Santa Canada’s work.

These thoughts came to me as I lay in the living room listening to the music we danced to that night – Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Grow Old With Me” and Damian Wilson’s “When I Leave This Land.”

I realized last night that perhaps one day I may even add another cord or similar symbol to go along with it. Who knows what fate and the heart have in store?

On this day, I reflect on the time Larry and I had together and how lucky I was – and still am. Happy anniversary hon – I love you! Those promises I made to you those years ago still stand and always will – until I , myself, leave this land.

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songs for grieving

As a musician, I am often asked what I am listening to.  In fact, for a period of one year on this blog, I did a daily “Listography” where I detailed music that inspired and moved me.  Today’s music list is different, I will detail the music that I have been listening to in order to cope and work with my grief over the past couple of months.

This music allows me to lift my mood, it allows me to savour the dark moments and yes, at times it allows me to wallow when I need to.

Steven Wilson – Grace for Drowning – this work has been in regular rotation for the past year or so – since July 2012 when the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was given.  It is a musical voyage that takes one through the emotions of sorrow, loss and dark rage as well as an appreciation for beauty.  I suspect at some point I’ll cease to be able to listen to it as I will so heavily associate it with Larry’s illness and passing, but until then, I will savour its dark beauty.

Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused to Sing – a series of ghost stories and tales of loss.  A little more concise a statement as Grace for Drowning, and the title track is sheer beauty and haunts my thoughts regularly.

Storm Corrosion – Steven Wilson’s collaboration with Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt – dark, brooding and ambient symphonic work that is more about the journey than any destination.

The Algorithm – Polymorphic Code – the combination of electronic dance music and heavy metal aggression.  This album is both pummeling and meditative at the same time.

Devin Townsend – Epicloud – Uplifting, symphonic pop metal with a sense of humour and an uncanny sense of peace and ease.  Devin’s difficult journey over the past few years has led him to be a person who is comfortable in his own skin and in total control of his musical schizophrenia.  The addition of Anneke Von Giersbergen’s angelic voice as a counterpart to Townsend’s operatic howl is a remarkable pairing.  “Divine” stands as perhaps the most honest love song I have heard and was part of my presentation at the HGMC Cabaret.  I still tear up when listening to it.

Damian Wilson – Cosmas – inspirational, uplifting and gorgeous.  Damian is a classically trained voice who often sings in progressive metal (he’s the lead singer of Threshold and Maiden United and often guested on earlier albums by Ayreon), this album is a mix of folk, country and symphonic pop which also hosts a number of my favourite songs due to Wilson’s incredible songwriting abilities.

Drake Jensen – Outlaw – incredible country by a Canadian whom Larry and I respect.  Drake came out as a gay man a few years ago and produced this strong statement of identity as a country artist, including taking aim at the people who made his earlier years difficult (see the anti-bullying song “Scars”) and continuing on in life as an openly gay man with a supportive husband (“Fast Enough for Me”).

Jeff Buckley – Grace – Songs of honesty, loss and love that took on greater poignancy when Jeff passed away.  His version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is chilling and “Dream Brother” has long been afraid of mine due to the gorgeous poetic lyrics and slithering feel.

Lifesigns – Modern progressive rock a la latter day Yes, Marillion and Asia…reminds me of the music I enjoyed listening to in the 1980s with better songwriting…plus Nick Beggs (Kajagoogoo) on Chapman Stick, Bass and backing vocals (he is also on both releases by Steven Wilson listed here)

Steve Lawson, Daniel Berkman feat. Artemis – the Complete Fingerpainting Sessions – Ten completely improvised live concerts recorded and released with little editing, production or other muddling.  These sessions are what happens when you combine three incredibly talented musicians whose talents in listening and digesting the others’ contributions equal and often exceed their prodigious talents.  Steve Lawson has become an inspiration to me as a bassist and as a human being and rapidly someone whom I would call a friend.  I am truly honoured to be allowed to get to know him as I grow to appreciate his musical and philosophical contributions to the world.

Ghost – Opus Eponymous – what happens if Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath were raised in Sweden in the 1980s and 1990s.  Retro art rock with darkly (and often humourously) satanic lyrics.  Yes the lyrics are in poor taste and (purposefully?) lame, but the music, songwriting and production are so finely crafted, I’m willing to overlook them.

Ghost BC – Infestissumam – See above but add two years’ experience, increased production values and a legal addendum to the band name so as not to further confuse the fans of an American band of the same name.  Weird how fans of one band could be confused by a band of anonymous rockers whose lead singer appears in Papal Robes and a skull mask.  I’m just jealous that they have been able to continue the vibe of the anonymous masked rock band in their own way, that actually adds to the mystique without being cheesy!

So this is what I’ve been listening to as I get my feet back on the ground…interesting that most of these have strong low end contributions – I am a bassist at heart and love the low fundamental vibrations as a grounding and energizing force…

dear larry,

Here I am over two months since you passed and I’m still coming to terms with how life without you will look.

There isn’t a day when I hope you’ll walk through the front door or come up from the basement – however I know that is never going to happen.  Chloe still goes looking for you in the house when she wakes up for a nap and always ends up in front of your ashes, sighing.  She sums up how I often feel better than I could.

I knew in my heart that when I fell in love with a man twenty six years my senior, I would most likely outlive you, however after the transplant, I was hoping we’d see your late 70s at least.

But that was not meant to be.

I’m just happy that after so much pain and suffering in your life, it is finally over and that you can move on to the next phase of existence , whatever that may be.

This morning was tough, waking up alone still sucks.  When I walked Sunny and Chloe this morning, I swore I heard that familiar flat-footed step behind me.  Sunny and Chloe heard it too as they were constantly stopping and looking back over their left shoulders, wagging their tails.

Now don’t get me wrong hon, it IS getting somewhat easier, but there are days…Thankfully they are coming to me fewer and farther between.  Although it just gives me more time to stock up on tears for another blow out!

You’ll be happy to know that some of our friends have REALLY stepped up to the plate in helping me rebuild life from the shards and fragments left – not to mention new folks who seem almost strategically placed by a higher power.  I am blessed and lucky to have these folks in my life.

  • Mom and Dad – for everything, love, support and being there when you were needed, even when I didn’t think I needed my parents
  • David Bartlett – my pillar, my guide my sanity check, for making me smile and laugh when nothing else could
  • Iain Bennett and Scott Bukovac – Da bears – for their support, honesty and random hugs at unexpected times
  • Bob Boyter – for helping with all things Santa, including acting as a shield and bodyguard when necessary and for the random porch side chats
  • Bob Garvin – for taking the reins of Santa Canada and providing the direction it NEEDS to take
    David G Hallman – for August Farewell, Searching for Gilead and the conversations on loss, grief and feeling “those” emotions
  • David Jacobs – for guidance, discipline and perspective on growth, change and moving on
  • Steve Kubien – for your friendship, honesty and of course, your craftsmanship.  Larry was so happy with the vessel, Sunny and Chloe guard it and its contents whenever we have guests
  • Steve Lawson – for the music, comments and support from afar.  The sessions with colfaxsound have been my soundtrack for the past month or so – I sincerely hope our paths cross so I can shake your hand/buy you a drink
  • David Milmine – for your honesty, your caring and spiritual guidance
  • Dana Montgomery – despite everything going on in your life, you dropped everything and spent one of the toughest weeks in my life with me – I owe you muchly for that brother
  • Rev Doug Moore – for being a safe haven in my maelstrom and the beacon when I was being swept away
  • Kathleen Shipley – for being an understanding and supportive manager – a rarity in ANY organisation these days
  • Mara Veronesi – big sister, listener and friend – again despite everything going on in your life, you’ve taken the time

I may have forgotten some folks, but I think this is a good start.  As you can see hon, it’s taken more than a village (at least three nations) to even come close to filling the roles you had in my life.  I know you worried about me towards the end – heck there are days when I worry about me – but I am doing as okay as I can, given the circumstances.

Miss ya hon, love ya,

Myke

myke’s book club: Searching for Gilead

Full disclosure here, I first discovered David G Hallman’s writing through my journey to heal after I lost my husband of fifteen years to pancreatic cancer.  His book “August Farewell”continues to a cornerstone in my recovery process.  For his strength in writing this work, I sincerely thank Mr. Hallman.
 
After reading August Farewell (and realizing that I have actually read some of his earlier environmental works), I decided to try his debut work of fiction “Searching for Gilead” and am incredibly happy to have done so.
 
“Searching for Gilead” is a tale of the nearly 35 year relationship between Tom Fisher and Jonathan Compton and the complex relationships between the two families of vastly different backgrounds and values coming together through times of love and inevitable strife.  This story carries both families through 34 years of love, laughter, anger and fear and explores how families filled with strong personalities, differing values and ethics can make things work as a single unit in spite of and despite these differences.
 
Through the decades covered in this book, Mr. Hallman touches on how families steeped in differing conservative values respond to their openly gay sons’ relationship and lives together, that despite differing values and ethics people can learn to respect – if not love – one another, how the forces that bind a family together can also tear them apart and how strength is built through adversity.  Most of the characters in the Fisher and Compton families are richly detailed and make endearing, if not interesting, support for Tom and Jonathan’s journey together.
 
Upon reading this book combined with some knowledge of the author’s personal biography, one cannot help but notice a number of parallels in Tom’s life and Mr. Hallman’s, including the nearly three and a half decade romance between the protagonist and his partner, a life long focus on environmental issues and how they relate to the Christian faith as well as the struggles with HIV infection (albeit under vastly different circumstances) and the tolls the treatments take on the body as well as handling a partner’s illness and convalescence after many years together.  These experiences in the book provide a very “human” touch to the character of Tom and make relating to his experiences, strengths and, yes, his weaknesses and failings – an easy task.
 
In fact, I personally found Tom and Jonathan’s relationship to be one of the most honest and human gay relationships I have read.  Which is why I suspect there are some glimpses of Mr. Hallman’s relationship with his husband written in between the lines.  While some of the characters (Patricia in particular) seem to be one dimensional, Mr. Hallman makes you care deeply for the “characters” in both the Fisher and Compton families.  My only regret in this book is that I would have liked to see greater detail in regards to the characters of Jeremy and Carolyn – as there is a very compelling story behind these two flawed and complex individuals.
 
Thank you, once again, Mr. Hallman for sharing your gift as an author with us.