by Sandra Hammett from Orillia, ON
Oct 25, 14
My husband and I first heard you at the Orillia Opera House and were smitten with you ever since.
Almost every Sunday after that, we would cozy up in our living room and listen to you on CBC.
We would hold hands for the entire show. It was fun and it was romantic.
A couple of years ago, we lost my mom and dad within months of each other. So my husband and I decided to go south for three months to Arizona. It was going to be the two of us and our 114 lb. huge, happy, Labrador Retriever Burt.
We left on our adventure just before Christmas. I went out and bought every Vinyl Cafe CD I could lay my hands on for our trip. And then I wrapped them up in Christmas paper in anticipation of continuing our tradition. I couldn’t wait to give them to my husband on Christmas morning.
We were Arizona bound and we were happy as we could be. So happy it was difficult for us to stop smiling and high-fiving each other.
We were in Morton, Mississippi, 5 kilometres from a State Park in our mobile home when I awoke one morning to find my husband had passed away in the night.
He had had a complete physical just three weeks prior and was excited about the positive results. It seemed inconceivable that I had lost him so soon after losing both of my parents.
But after the paramedics and state troopers had taken him away, there I was alone with the car and a trailer detached from each other.
Me and Burt - who seemed to sense something was going on. He had gathered up all of his stuffed animals, backed himself into a corner and was lying there with the animals in a pile under his head. He had all his worldly possessions and was waiting there, to see what the future had in store.
My husband used to say you have to have a plan A and a plan B for everything. So I took out our travel log and wrote Plan A. Plan A was to stay there and never leave. 24 hours later I was still there, in my night gown and had nothing else on the paper. I don’t think I had brushed my hair or teeth, and I am sure I hadn’t slept or eaten.
Family and friends were amazing. They offered help. All sorts of help.
My then my son arrived, and after rolling his eyes at plan A, began to work on plan B. He started with the long list of obstacles we needed to overcome in order to begin our journey home. I kept turning the book around and showing him how good plan A looked.
When I had gone to the funeral home to make arrangements the gentleman there told me they would have to express rush the cremation because of the Holidays.
You kind of wonder how they express cremate someone but it’s always better not to ask questions when you don’t want to hear the answers.
So, on Christmas eve we went to the funeral home to pick up the remains. We were shocked to find that the entire funeral home staff, the coroner and his wife had taken time from their families to be there to wish us well and give us hugs. Each one had brought us Christmas presents.
It was one of those moments when the compassion of total strangers makes an indelible impression on your life.
We bid them farewell and began our journey home. My son wondered where we should put Dad. We couldn’t strap the urn to the hood like a hood ornament so we finally settled on putting him in the closet with a rum bottle. He would have appreciated that.
The next day, Christmas day, none of the restaurants were open and we were determined to get home. At every stop we would look at the hot dogs on the gas station grills and look back at each other and shake our heads. Doritos would have to suffice for Christmas breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I could not have cared if I ever ate again. The love of my life was gone.
There was a lot of silence. Desperate silence. The kind of silence when two people know that life will never be the same again and there is nothing to say that will change it. The pain in your gut is too overwhelming to address with words.
Then I remembered my Christmas present to my husband. I rifled through the closet and pulled it out, I ripped it open and we listened all day to your stories. One right after another, again and again and again. It was the perfect distraction. Even if my son says he never wants to hear another one of your stories ever again.
Stuart, you and the people of Morton Mississippi are strangers and yet you affected our lives in such a positive way. You brought us laughter when all there was were tears. The folks at the funeral home made us feel like we weren’t alone.
People make a difference, sometimes without even knowing. I want to thank you both.