When we met twenty two years ago, Jeff told me stories of his life and work in the Canadian Arctic.
He was a great storyteller, with a sense of the ridicule and a wildly sharp sense of humour. His stories and funny sayings and remarks sent me laughing until I folded and my cheeks were sore. Jeff and I shared more hurts than values and strengths; humour, together with our love for dogs, was probably our most precious shared gem. Jeff would say things like: “I’m busier than a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest” or “Busier than a one-armed poster-hanging man” and the mental visuals ensued would render me laughing hysterically.
I listened mesmerized to Jeff’s stories from the North - of spotting a polar bear on one of his travels, or stories of a grumpy hotel owner who’d ask his guests: “Sir, how do you like your eggs?” And when the guest would reply “Scrambled”, the owner would reply between his clenched teeth: “Well, we only make them fried”. And he’d add: “You have two choices: take it, or leave it”.
“My work is my TIKKUN OLAM” (Hebrew for “Healing the World”) Jeff once told me. The Canadian Government has been making ongoing efforts to make repairs for the wrongs done to the indigenous people and Jeff’s work with the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada was profoundly meaningful to him. He was passionate and proud to be part of the amends and development for the Dene and Inuit people. His clients had appreciation and affection for him, and Jeff treasured the Aboriginal Art pieces he was gifted by them. Each piece of art had a story and Jeff’s eyes often got wet when he’d relate it to me.
Jeff’s humour, passion, work and eventually health and life succumbed to tremendous suffering. Together with his remains, a lifetime of dreams, hopes, memories, stories told and stories untold, are being buried. As a healer, I look back at this life of the man I shared a long, rocky journey with, and I grief the lost opportunities for healing the wounds of the soul and the ills of the body. Trauma, the philosophical views of separation, and disease can rob a person of his ability to do his life’s work, and of his ability to love and relate. If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger; and if you don’t address it, sooner or later, it does kill you.
The man I once loved, had dreams about, hopes with, and later feared and resented has left an imprint on my psyche that is shaping who I am today. Walking this leg of a journey with him I have learned about myself more than I had ever imagined possible; I learned about the importance of healing one’s wounds, what it means to grow up emotionally, what are the skills and the strengths necessary to relate with a mate, the importance of saying the truth, the meaning of kindness, the necessary dance between autonomy and communion, and the power balance in relationships. I learned that opposites attract if it’s Yin and Yang, and while some things should be different for a couple relationship to work, others, such as world views, meaning and values, should be shared. I learned that navigating relationships without a good map can crash you, and fortunately I eventually came across and learned a good map.
I learned that projecting one’s unrealistic expectations and assumptions upon another makes relating impossible, and that a marriage is never to a prince, nor to a monster, but to another human being with strengths and flaws, like all of us. I learned that kindness is a choice, and how I think and speak to and of another depends entirely on who I am and who I choose to be, and does not depend on the other’s behaviour. This marriage has left me shaken, but it also left me wiser, kinder, better equipped, skilled and able to contribute to others’ well-being and growth; more mature psychologically, and more awakened spiritually. For all this, I am deeply grateful.
I pray with all my heart that Jeff is remembered for his good deeds, his strengths, and his contributions. And I pray that his soul journeys in peace, renewed and cleansed from this life’s burdens and contaminations. May goodness and beauty emerge from the dark mud of suffering like the delicate, fragrant lotus flower, and may all the pain and suffering endured be worthwhile, and eventually lead to greater compassion to our souls and to our world.
Good bye Jeff. May you be at peace.