The Strongest Person I Know
...is small in stature. If you saw her on the street, you would likely turn your head to look, because she's beautiful. You would notice her lithe frame, large, pale eyes, and long, dark hair. You would notice her grace and composure. Sometimes, I get mistaken for her dowdy mother, but I try not to hold it against her because, besides being gorgeous, she's also inherently kind--and she's been through a lot. What you wouldn't see if you saw Anthea on the street, is the unfathomable strength that resides beneath her polished surface.
One year ago, I stood beside her, helpless, as she weathered the storm of her life. I'll never forget that late-night phone call that, for me, began the nightmare. It was a constable from the RCMP. Something had happened. I had to rush to my best friend's house through the darkness to be with her. When I arrived I learned she had found her partner, Matt, who had taken his own life in their home.
What followed has been a year of hell for her, navigating medical examiners, funeral arrangements, executorships, insurance, estate issues, and trauma. Also, regular life never stopped its rapid-fire of challenges. Still, she endured.
She decided to stay in their shared home and make it her own. She's fulfilling his dream of building an antique Landrover from the ground up, and is planning to spread his ashes in his favorite places. Somehow she has come out the other side even stronger and more beautiful (and also unaged--please tell me where the youth fountain is, Anthea!).
About a month ago, she approached me about planning a getaway for these couple of days. She knew she didn't want to be in their house on the anniversary. We decided to take ourselves to the Oceanstone Spa, where we hiked a section of Polly's Cove and sweated in the sauna, had a nice dinner, and watched a bad movie on cable. We toasted Matt, but also her, because while this anniversary is a hard day, it's also a celebration and reclamation. She has survived.
Right now, Anthea is sitting beside a beachstone fireplace, in a velvet easychair, reading a book while I write this. Rain is falling steadily outside. I hope the coming year is filled with this sort of calm beauty for her. She sure as hell deserves it.
I wrote this poem for her a couple of months after Matt's passing, inspired by René Bohnen’s Ballet Above the Bay.
What but mountains
The mountains we have climbed together.
casts them all in a
What but grief can eclipse mountains?
In Iceland, we conquered
like slabs of marble cake.
Maintained balance despite dangerous footing.
We held hands traversing
Laces bowed behind necks,
boots dangling by breasts,
cursing. Keeping each other upright.
We encountered unforeseen challenges.
a broken tent.
We powered through,
completing in two days
Rushing what should have been savoured.
And now, the only mountains we have are your cats,
Sometimes soft and comforting.
Sometimes like their namesakes.
of the invisible summit we are staggering up.
I think of all this from a distance.
and far from the mountains.
On a journey planned before
beneath our feet.
You should still go, you said. And so—
In a city, so unlike a mountain.
Flat aside from buildings
Alone at a coffee shop, I open my phone.
I research new mountains we can conquer:
Blue, the Cobequid Hills
—a minor range but belonging
to the mighty Appalachians.
What but mountains can eclipse our grief?
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