• Kirsten Freeland


Far away,

this ship has taken me far away,

far away from the memories,

of the people who care if I live or die

"Starlight" - Muse

I took this picture in sarcasm. The dark kind. The kind that overcomes you when you are having a conversation with life. A conversation I had while standing in front of the metal and things that were once a helicopter. I couldn't help pointing out the irony, even if it was only to myself at the time.

My husband was killed piloting that ship. The crash site, which happened to be in a Wildland Provincial Park, was too wild for me to see it that day. Nine months later I received a call from a compound, letting me know that the remains of the R-44 were scheduled to be taken away for good, and asking if I wanted to see it. The fact that it still "remained" was news to me, but I decided to pay my last respects. Hoping to find a sign of something, or just further confirmation that this was truly our end. I don't know. Grief often evades rational thought.

It's an odd thing, looking at wreckage. Four of us standing there awkwardly. A family properly aggravated with each other after a long drive on a hot, pasty day. His mother, his wife, his daughter, and his son: the important creators and creations of his life, attending to one more thing in the story of his death. I visualised myself speaking into that other realm, to implore him, "Are you seeing what I am doing here!?" I wondered if I should have brought my kids, having no idea how to transition out of that experience as a mother. I didn't know how to "manage" the kind of emotions that seemed to be breaking me apart too. It was navigation in the dark.

When there is deep pain, the reaction is usually to direct it elsewhere, outside of ourselves. A natural response to his death might have been to place blame on something, like a royal blue R-44 helicopter, or even on him directly. But the truth was all my fleeting attempts of blame were unsatisfying. As it turned out, the only culprit I could ever find in the whole mess was this: Enthusiasm. And given that revelation, I figured I would have to be prepared for a life of misery if I was going to hold enthusiasm in contempt.

For my husband, it was as if enthusiasm was the conditioned response to anything he wanted to pursue. His actions weren't based on a lack of respect for danger, he just didn't consider it as part of the formula for life. Enthusiasm. It nurtures the soul. Aside from having the job of bringing the essence of our being into our bodies, the souls' influence over our daily health and well-being is vital. For me, that wisdom was buried under a lot of fear for many years of our marriage. I thought I had to balance out his way of being with a lot of warnings and reminders. But eventually, enthusiasm chipped away the fear. It broke my heart open and fully let him in. I finally allowed myself to just enjoy him, and appreciate the way he authentically showed up for himself, for life and for me. It granted us both the freedom to be.

In every relationship, the decisions we make affect one another. Whatever roles we play, whatever actions we take throughout our lives, have a direct impact. Being in a relationship can trigger many things, most of all the opportunity for growth. So how do we show up for ourselves? And as ourselves, for each other? Regardless of the outcome, how do we not get in the way of the other's dreams, or essentially their path in life? Despite death, despite all the mess and all the pain, that picture reminds me that the real danger is not having the understanding or the courage to honour our own path, or that of the ones we walk beside.

Enthusiasm. It nurtures the soul. And since my husband's enthusiasm seemed to be sourced simply from his breathing in and out everyday, I gather his soul must have been overly satisfied. In fact, it seemed as if it gained momentum, year after year, until his body was not able to hold it in anymore. Death, from an abundance of enthusiasm for life itself. Not a bad way to go.

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