Widows Walking in Wild WeatherBy Emma Pearson
September 22, 2023
Photos my own
16 July 2023
It is almost fully five years since I wrote a piece called “Widow Walking in Wild Weather”. It’s here:
And, potentially lacking in imagination, this piece is called “Widows Walking in Wild Weather”. Plural. Simply because this time it is not just me, but me and fellow widbud, Charlotte, doing the walking.
As I re-read the piece from 2018, after walking the GR 20 in Corsica, I see that I met and appreciated the company of Charlina, also widowed, some 6 years at the time. As I am now.
I remember being so struck by her capacity to live fully. I was so in awe! And I realise that I must appear – that I do appear – to be similarly “capable” of living fully, to new(er) widbuds, to new(er) Grieflings.
Which doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s just easier. Or perhaps I am just more skilled. Or I recognise some of the patterns and don’t get floored, or flooded, quite so often.
Having “enjoyed” the Corsica walk – hard as it was at so many levels – I remember thinking, “Hmm – I think I might establish some kind of multi-day walking adventures for widows”. I have entertained the idea on and off, but organising holidays – at least at scale – is not in my repertoire – and so the idea hasn’t come to fruition. Perhaps one day.
For sure there’s market potential there. Walking holidays. Open water swimming adventures. Meditative, repetitive exercise, involving sustained physical effort that is demanding enough so that you feel tired at the end of it, but not so hard that a Griefling would not be physically capable.
Long-ish periods of time in your own company.
Opportunity to be together. Or not.
Opportunity to chat together. Or not.
Space to cry.
Space to scream.
Space to sob.
Space to rant and rave.
Space to cry-laugh-snot-and-tears altogether.
Big Nature doing the vital task of holding – holding space for it all. For all that is.
Endless open skies, vast mountain ranges, rushing rivers…
Mother Nature opening up her strong arms, vast bosom and healing heart – welcoming it all.
The Shock. The Horror. The Angst. The Worry. The Pain. The Grief.
The Love. The Love. The Love.
I sometimes look at mountains, waterfalls, large and ancient woodlands, and wonder, “What pain they must have seen! What horrors they must have witnessed!” Grief – yes. Sorrow – yes. Anguish – yes. But also wars. Devastation on a human scale, and devastation on a macro scale. And not just humans, but all mammals. For the longest of times. Up to 315 million years, if I am to believe Wikipedia.
But back to Widows (plural) walking.
Two days ago was the first day of a five-day walk Charlotte and I are doing around an exquisite little pocket of Brittany – the Presqu’île de Crozon. It’s part of the GR 34 which contours the Brittany coastline. The websites show sun-lit golden rocks a-tumbling and a-crumbling off the end of promontories, into the aquamarine and turquoise waters, with their wild frothy and white waves. And yes, we have seen a lot of that. Deliciously beautiful scenery. But day one weather was not about sunlight and turquoise. We had hours of rather heavy rain. And we had about six hours of very strong winds – such that conversation was curtailed and walking sticks were vital for preventing falls from all the staggering about. Yesterday the weather was better – we only had rain twice, and for short spells each time.
Despite the weather, the scenery, the colours, the light, the clouds – all of it altogether all at once – had me reaching into my walking trouser leg pocket every few minutes – to take a photo to try to immortalise some of what we were seeing.
On one occasion as I unlocked my phone, the screen displayed a photo of Ben and Julia. Just like that. Not a screen saver. Not a photo I would ordinarily see. But there. Julia and Ben. The photo was taken just a couple of weeks before she died. Ben, Julia and I had gone to Taunton to watch Megan perform in her school dance show. Julia was not in a good way, but she consented to come and watch the show – at the school she had been at earlier in the school year before everything unravelled.
The photo captures such a tender moment between younger sister and older brother.
Then yesterday, day two of our walk, early in the day, I pulled out my phone to take a snap of Charlotte and the beautiful backdrop behind her, and as I unlocked my phone, I saw an SMS. I barely send SMS messages anymore – I use Whatsapp, Signal or occasionally Messenger. But here was an SMS. My very last text to Julia, asking, “Where are you lovey?” Sent at 22h59 the night she died. Was she still alive then? I think so. I never got the permission from Apple to be able to access her phone so I will never know.
I quickly took a screenshot as I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find the message again. But not before I showed it to Charlotte when she reached me.
She read the message, looked at me, and simply said, “Of course”.
I knew what she meant. She knew I knew what she meant.
It was the 15th July.
On the 13th, when we first met up and had our evening dinner together, she asked how, if at all, I wanted to remember the 15th. I momentarily wondered if she was mistaking Bastille day on the 14th as the 15th. And then I wondered how she might possibly know that we celebrate Black the dog’s birthday on the 15th July.
And then I realised, “Oh – she means Julia. She remembers that we had Julia’s funeral on the 15th. That’s why she is asking”.
I was grateful. I said, perhaps too quickly, perhaps too lightly, “Oh – I think I make a point more of remembering and honouring Julia on her birthday and on her death day – not so much on her funeral day. It’s okay. And – thank you”. For it was truly extraordinary to have someone remember.
I said that I had been thinking, just in the past few days, of those two weeks between the 30th June, when Julia died, and the 15th July, when we had her funeral. Those excruciating days – back in 2019 – when I announced yet another death, planned yet another funeral, sourced yet another Celebrant, organised yet another drinks and posh nibbles, wrote yet another Obituary.
It doesn’t bear thinking about.
I remember one friend, Jane, simply taking charge of enlarging and framing a couple of photos of Julia for the ceremony, to have by her coffin. And she also organised to have four photos of Julia made into postcards for people to take away afterwards. A souvenir, if you like. Other than that, I can’t remember getting help, though I don’t know what help would have been possible.
So thank you, Charlotte, for remembering Julia’s funeral date. You were there. You’d come especially from Paris where you were holidaying with family.
Thank you for reading the SMS (you’d seen the photo the day before), understanding it in no time, and saying, “Of course. It makes complete sense that this would show up on your phone. Out of the blue. Today. The 15th”.
And then a sweet smile, followed by, “Thank you, Julia”.
Yes. Thank you, Julia.
As we arrived at our destination, Morgat, on the first night, dragging suitcases behind us, I caught sight of a sign for a Hotel Julia.
Today the wind settled down and conversation was possible while we walked. Oh, the topics we covered! Mike, Edward, Julia, Adrian. Our Mourning Glories. Compassion and forgiveness towards funky friends and family and colleagues who have not been able to “be there” when we most needed it. Dating and not dating. Future holiday adventure possibilities, and so much more.
The richness of widows walking conversations.
As always, I wish I had never met you, Charlotte. And I am so glad that I have.
Thank you for so deeply knowing about, and wanting to know about, my family, my loved ones. It is always so validating.