A pleasant young man casually tells us to place our feet on the green line and wait for the chairlift to come around. We sit on the swinging seat as it moves around the giant cable, barely stopping for us to get on.
“The safety bar is coming down now; remember to lift it before you get off on the other end!”
Suddenly we’re airborne, taking off into the whiteness. I was completely unprepared for the ground to disappear. We’re swinging hundreds of metres in the air held by teeny tiny cables. If I move, if I breathe, I will surely, surely plunge into the abyss below.
White knuckled terror envelopes me. What is this feeling? I’ve never had a problem with high places before this! Suddenly I understand how it was for Greg. Acrophobia was the ONE fear he had. I didn’t quite understand it until this moment. A fear of heights always seemed out of place in a man that was otherwise completely fearless.
Mary is sitting next to me. I realise that my terror is matched in equal measure by her exhilaration. While I am convinced that if I let go of the safety bar I will plummet to my death, she is almost dancing in her seat, taking photographs of everything.
The next day the sun comes out and we do the same chairlift ride. This time I am myself again and the fear has disappeared. The wonderful vista stretches to forever, snow covered peaks, breathless beauty, unimaginable majesty. What an amazing continent, this vast land with so many surprises. I had been completely unaware that Australia had this much snow in it, or what it does to one’s soul to be in such high places, in such … whiteness.
I step away from my sadness for a few moments.
“How lucky are we?” I say to Mary. “So lucky, mum,” she agrees.
I imagine she’s also thinking, as I am, if only her dad were here to experience this.
We are in a black and white world of extreme weather, of purity, grace and majesty, of unseen dangers, of very soft (or very hard), landings.
They speak mysteriously to this period of my life, and I see that this place, this adventure, is helping me inch my way forward and coalesce the pieces of my being that have been shattered by Greg’s death.
Mary and I went to the mountains and discovered snow for the very first time. Our delight in the experience must have reverberated through the heavens. Perhaps Greg too, was smiling.
Mary and I had chosen to travel 3500km across Australia to visit the snow covered mountains of Victoria, because we had wanted to do something different to mark this period of our lives, this liminal space we found ourselves in after Greg’s death. I had no idea how significant this choice would be.
Greg Parker, my husband of twenty eight years, passed away on May 16 this year. Although we knew for four years that it was coming, I was completely unprepared for his passing. Let me rephrase that. I was completely unprepared for how I would feel.
In the aftermath of his death, Grief was a Great Void that both stretched out endlessly in front of me and filled my head and heart. I had no words for it. I still don’t.
It’s been over two months since he died. I seem myself on the outside. “Coping well” I imagine friends may be saying. Sure, now there are days when I go nearly 24 hours without weeping, and when I think of him, grief is sometimes not the first emotion I feel. But there is never a moment when he is not in my thoughts, sleeping or waking.
Perhaps one day I will fully accept that the indomitable Greg Parker, the legend, the-one-who-would-never-die, has gone, and I am to navigate the rest of my life without him. For now I am leaning fully into every emotion. I am remembering that while I have lost a treasure, I have innumerable things to be grateful for.
I’m pretending that I can do this.
And I’m trusting that as Everything Changes, I will too.