Monday, January 17, 2011

Love, Life, Death, and the Stuff in Between

     February turns to March and email correspondence continues with Dear Sir. We discover we have more in common than a love of narrow boats and English waterways when he writes in his blog about the anniversary of his narrow boat and touches briefly on the passing of his beloved wife Valerie, for whom his boat is named. 

Boats and Cruising: Valerie
 February 12, 2010
NB Valerie is Four Years Old
"...regrets, well being a solo boater does have it`s moments of solitude but the fabulous lady whose name adorns my home is sadly no longer here to share my retirement so my decision to sell up and cruise the canals was--i honestly believe--the right one based on a loved one's wish that life must go on. So just the one regret as i certainly don`t miss owning a house and the memories of 20+ years i carry in my head. An honest and straight forward bloke is me so i`m not ashamed to say i`m sitting here with tears running down my face..........
     Twelve comments from readers including his son, his friends, and blog readers are touching and reassuring. In response to my comment Dear Sir replies via email with more details and this is how I learn his wife Valerie died of pancreatic cancer.
     He shares his memories with me: his very happy marriage to a woman who was smart, funny, talented, loving, and an excellent partner; the brief time after Valerie's diagnosis until her death. I write of my own cancer experience; first with my mother's cancer and ultimately her her death; my own initial diagnosis, surgery, the second bout, my beliefs regarding cancer treatment for myself, and my journey through treatment to the present.  

To: Les Biggs
From: Jaqueline Almdale
Date: 4 Feb 2010
Subject: Love, Life, Death & the Stuff In Between
     I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing with me. There are some who do not grasp that death may end a life but it doesn’t end the relationship we had with our loved one. Grief feels like the land of the lost--there are no maps for our journey because everyone’s pilgrimage through grief and mourning is different. The one thing I do know about this trip is that we have to go backward in time and in our memories in order to go forward in our lives. Your tears are a good thing Les.  From what I gathered from your blog, your emails, and other people’s posts to your blog—especially the esteem and affection of your son--Valerie was as fortunate in you as you were in her. That is so rare in life, and something to be cherished always. Naming your NB after your wife is a living testimony to the endurance of love—which does not die...
     My body has turned a corner in the last month and my immune system is healing quite well.  I will be on a modified form of the Gerson diet the rest of my life and I will continue to use herbal remedies, vitamins, and supplements. I have learned the hard way to take very good care of myself. I have faced my terror of dying of cancer and my own death... this is why I want to immigrate to the U.K. and live on the cut on a narrow boat. 
     For while I survived cancer, my life lacked passion...and then suddenly I found narrow boats and the canals, and folks free to live in the moment fully and move as, when, and where they wished, totally independent, and it felt like coming home to a place I’ve searched for my entire life. I cannot explain it in any way that makes rational sense. And now I am crying. 
Many thanks for your friendship,
     Dear Sir and I have a very personal bond now. Cancer. We know the language of this dreaded, despicable disease intimately. We know the fear that comes with diagnosis, and the personal cost involved; the pain and weariness that comes with fighting for our life or supporting a loved one who is doing the same, and the grief that comes with loss. Our further emails touch on sharing things with one another from each side of the Atlantic.  
Wind genny, NB Valerie
     He adds a wind "genny" (generator) to his boat's power system as well as solar panels. I am curious about the efficacy of these green power generators as I will most certainly include them on my own narrow boat when the time comes. He explains how his wind genny folds flat for travel and sets up easily.
Wind genny folded down
     "The wind genny is mounted on the roof but is laid flat while cruising and this operation takes 2-3 minutes. Four cables hold it up and just 2 need releasing to fold it flat...the pole is fixed to the roof and this fixing allows the whole rig to fold flat. The tail of the genny has been cut to allow removal as some of the bridges do not have enough clearance. Both the wind genny and the solar panel generate electricity that is stored in a bank of batteries at 12volts and by way of some technology this can be converted to 230volts to power normal electric appliances such as the washing wind generator is also helping to lessen the time i run the engine."
Jack, 2010
Jordan, 2010
     We share pictures and stories of our grandchildren. He delights in watching his granddaughter Jordan's soccer games, and enjoys fishing off the boat with grandson Jack. "The grand children are high on my very short list of things i miss by living afloat and it`s this time of year (having come south for Christmas) that i see as much of them as possible with day trips by bus to visit for a few hours very easy to do." 
     "...Yep, grand kids definitely rock! It’s an essential thing to spend as much time with them as possible. They keep me young, make me laugh, and they think I hung the moon in the sky just for them!"
Matthew and Michael, 2010
     We laugh together over my grandson Matthew's insights on childbirth: "My daughter Jesse, who is pregnant, said last night at dinner the conversation turned to where babies come from. She asked the boys if they knew how babies got here. Michael said no he didn’t know. Matthew, all of five, pipes up with, 'It’s called child burst! Don’t you know that?!!!'”
I share my upcoming trip to the "west side," as those of us who live on the east side of Washington State call Seattle, Tacoma, and the Puget Sound region. I am traveling for business and my ten year old grandson Michael is coming with me. He has never been to the west side and this trip is an opportunity to share the marvels of the big city with him and delight in a ten year old boy's wonder. After talking with his mother, Michael asks for two things on this trip: to visit the Seattle Space Needle, and to eat in a fine restaurant! Mike has no idea I have passes to every major attraction and a carefully planned itinerary guaranteed to leave him "gobsmacked!"
      Dear Sir concludes his latest email with "...the Las Vegas trip is still on but perhaps not until early next year when i can escape some of our winter.As regards a visit to Pullman, i will look at the options nearer the time...thanks again for your invite."


  1. So much shared and even more to share in years to come, difference is it will not be via e mail.
    Love & hugs Jaq,thankyou for being a lovely, warm, caring and happy partner.xx
    Stand by America 2wks 2days to my arrival.

  2. America is standing by--and cueing up. Dinner invitations are rolling in! :)

    Thank you for cherishing me. Thank you for being the kind of man who has eyes to see true beauty inside of a person; who believes in me as a writer; who shares the same idea of partnerships: 50/50 most of the time, and shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand all of the time. Thanks for making me laugh! Thank you Les for being a safe refuge for my heart.
    Love JaqXX