There are five people on Facebook who are beyond precious to me. They are my fellow warriors in grief. They are my brothers and sisters at arms. They too have taken the road no one wants to take. We may not see each other much if at all, beyond Facebook, and we may not be exactly familiar with each other’s lives but we are bonded none the less. There are words for the words that aren’t there if that makes sense: words that don’t have to be said because they are a given in any conversation. Where would I be now without my fellow warriors who drifted to the path before me and have found their way? And so it is with an old but odd familiarity that I met my first Beyond Facebook friend The River Boat Man. For those who have walked the path before me it is always my question as to what did they do? What did they do when their world fell apart?
Travelling to visit River Boat man involved a precarious drive down an icy road aptly named River Road. It was so thick with that ice it was like a foreign landscape in the afternoon sun. And all the while that shimmering simmering sparkle of life waters rushing downstream, always rushing and I’m remembering for some strange reason the Voyageurs in canoes. But that was long ago and not a memory of mine. A bit of history of lives lived then and now perhaps, our small lives in context, this seemingly finite parcel of time we call our own.
River Boat man lives there along the Gatineau River in a small house with lovely bits and pieces of carefully placed beautiful things steeped with meaning and memory. The floor is fairly new and River Boat man shows me the floor because it is something done in honour and for his wife who passed away from pancreatic cancer. They had six months from diagnosis to death. And I just know it all. I know the shock, the pain, the crisp cut of emotion, the stunned anguish. It is yesterday. It is a thousand years ago. It is today.
I am fed a wonderful cup of tea at the kitchen table. Around me I feel the presence of the woman who loved River Boat man. She was a power house. A treasure of the community. A well-loved woman living still on in memory and heart. Against all doctor’s orders, he took his love on an airplane to the southern sun-filled sands for one last time, despite all the difficulties it presented. All the medical logistics of taking his dying love for one last trip. Listening, my heart broke again. I remembered the precious gift of wanting to give one's very life in honour of love. River Boat man was and is an honourable man to the last of his love and beyond.
I asked River Boat man how he coped and he said he walked every day. And I remember on Facebook, in fact expected a near daily picture, a photo from River Boat man of the River in it’s many-splendored beauty. How used to seeing that I had become. It was a daily gift. A comfort. How did he cope after this grievous loss I asked, and he said he took people for rides on the river in his boat. That is what he did. He took people on trips up and down the shimmering river and I began to remember the pictures on Facebook of people laughing on board a boat. Did I know the spiritual quest at the time that I saw it? I don’t know. I know that it was. River Boat man is wise with the history of his own life, of the things he has overcome, of the truth of life. I am beyond pleased to know this man. I hope we will always have each other’s back if we need in this world. For don’t we both know what it means to have loved and lost. It is River Boat man who explained to me that a heart is wide like the river and can open to more than just one. Just because you may go on to love another does not mean you have replaced the one you lost. River Boat man is in another relationship and he seems content there. Loving, caring. Safe again. I hear his heart there. My four other Facebook friends know. How we recognize each other! How familiar we are yet unknown. Beyond Facebook. I’m invited for tea again. Soon I hope.