If you ever took the time to imagine a widow’s conference (ok, something you may not do all that often), you might picture a bunch of gray-haired ladies clutching tissues and smelling salts, weeping incessantly. You probably would not picture a whole bunch of crazy ladies at a pops-in-the-park concert getting shushed and then ignoring the shushes by jumping up in seats, screaming, dancing and waving their arms wildly to the music, while the gray-haireds sat demurely, turning once in a while to cluck their disgust. Michele, the organizer got a nasty email deriding the behaviour of her widows. She was so proud! She inspired us first thing with her impassioned speech imploring us to “imagine the unimaginable,” teaching us that unimaginable is not the same as impossible. A good lesson to remember, as it is something we have all lived — the unimaginable.
Unimaginable was the strength, bravery, heroism and everything in between that pervaded the spirit of the day. Such an aliveness you never did see. And the characters: A wonderful author, Gail Graham whose book, Sea Changes I can’t wait to read. She wore a pair of gigantic black eye glasses and was accompanied by a sweet white terrier. Not something you see every day. Sitting side by side at the book signing table, I met Jennifer Silvera another widow with young children, and also an author. We bought and signed each other’s books. (The only one I signed alas). I look forward to reading her perspective. I got a kick out of Joy, the founder of The Centering Corporation, the only traveling bookstore that specializes in Grief books (a great resource) and her therapy dog, Bernard, a huge Newfoundlander. Another great resource is the brain-child of Anne-Marie, a lovely woman who founded the website Widow-speak, a resource for widows worldwide. There was a Christian songstress, a contingent of women from Singapore, and a widow from Iraq who waited a month for a visa in order to come, among many others.
And then there are all my new friends. Its an amazing experience to have virtual friends become real. Through their blogs its possible to know people like dear friends, so meeting them in the flesh involves immediate hugs, many shared margaritas and a lot of laughter. Candace was the glue who put us all together in the first place. I look forward to visits with her, as we live only 3 hours apart. Matt, our accidentally famous blogger and lone male attendee had us all cracking up swearing like a sailor about reverse mullets, Jessica Simpson, and in shared texts and winks during dinner. Nor would he let us buy one drink, the scoundrel. Mel and I kept each other sane during a somewhat strange session on dating and a post-session mad dash to Starbucks to make up for a lack of breakfast. I felt a special kinship with Jackie, a fellow Canadian from Nanaimo, who knows my first cousin and has a daughter named Olivia. Strange small world. We now know way too much about one another, in such a good way. And as much as I wanted to be green with envy, I adored Marian, a fellow 9/11 compatriot and author who had us all cracking up at dinner with her ill-fated dating exploits. We shared many secret smiles during her authors panel when the 9/11 questions came up. It felt like we had known each other for years.
Sadly, Kath from the Seattle Healing Center sprained her ankle and was unable to come, but the Healing Center was well represented by three of us. I wished Kath could have met Rachel, director of the Heartlight Foundation, a similar organization (and potential sister organization??) in Denver. Hopefully we can keep in touch and trade ideas.
Carter and I managed to find some fun in San Diego at Sea World (highlight was winning a huge stuffed Cartman of South Park. I know, I know, its time to figure out the V-chip) and while I was conferencing, he and sitter Katie boogie boarded, went to In-and-Out Burger (another highlight), ate frozen yogurt and crab (albeit not at the same time). I didn’t think it was possible for him to be with a sitter for 14 hours without checking in with me once. Leaps and bounds Little Mr. Big Man, leaps and bounds.
Its slightly lonely coming home to such a quiet house, because I already miss my much-expanded circle of friends, something unimagined 3 short days ago.
Can’t wait till next year!