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Ray Hrynkow, by Jennifer Romita 2012

Ray Hrynkow, by Jennifer Romita 2012

Nine months, one week

I’m trying to look at Jennifer Romita’s exquisite portrait of Ray. She worked on it for months, carefully checking in with me on details and nuance. She did it out of love and compassion. It is a gift that I have yet to fully experience, as it is too real to allow myself to do. I literally cannot look into Ray’s eyes in this portrait. His eyes were always a place I got lost. They were like green stones in a brook, shiny and laughing. Jennifer captured them so perfectly, I just can’t look directly at them yet. Christmas has been hard at times. I have cried, as you can imagine, but I didn’t implode as I expected.

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Like the slow building from an early sketch through multiple refinements in black and white through to colour in Jennifer’s work, my life since Ray’s passing has been building as well. I have gone from a “ghost” lost in grief to a stronger and stronger person each day.

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There is so much to tell right now. Christmas is just past, and I’ve done really well. I am looking at a year ahead that is full of the unknown, but also full of bright promise. It is a future full of contrast — loss and growth. My mom is losing ground at an exponential rate due to advancing dementia. She has trouble forming full sentences and she has a very loose contact with reality. She is frightened and confused. I look at her and realize I am one stroke away from going down that same horrible path.

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My birthday was two days ago. I am three years off the age when she had her first stroke. I don’t smoke. I’m not an alcoholic. But are those the factors that made the difference for her, or is it simply destiny that the women in my family are robbed of their futures by heart disease? Since mid-November. I have been working with a personal trainer through Evernote, an amazing program I’ve used for over three years for all kinds of purposes (including monitoring Ray’s medical records as well as my mom’s), but never my own fitness. My trainer gives me workouts to do through Evernote and we talk every two weeks. He monitors my fitness and nutrition. I’m absolutely loving it and I’m making great strides. I am fighting through a bout with fibromyalgia in doing this, but I have no doubt that I will prevail and be horseback riding and swimming, in addition to my workouts, by April.

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I am doing really exciting things right now. I am teaching and loving it more every day. My design practice is going strong. I love my colleagues and clients, and the projects are so stimulating. I have applied for a masters degree and will know if I have been accepted in about a month. My heart beats quickly every day because I feel a sense of future and promise…the kind of thing you feel in your 20s when you graduate, become engaged, married or maybe pregnant. But I’m not in my 20s. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t feel potential in my life, but I don’t know many people in my age group who feel this sense of “spring” — birth, budding, greenness, hope. I feel like a have a little secret that is somehow naughty — naughtier still because of my mom’s growing loss and the general assortment of tragedies and disappointments that seem to be prevalent in my age group. I am not ready to fade yet. I feel like I am bursting with potential. I can honestly tell you that I plan to make profound change in the world in the next 20 years. I feel a bit embarrassed by my confidence and excitement. But I know that my life experience, my professional experience and my passion are gifts that I must share as widely as I can.

So I’ll launch myself into 2013, without needing resolutions. I’ve made them all and am well on my way to succeeding with them. I think this is the beginning for me. I have had decades of endings, sadness, loss and heartbreak. I am moving forward. There will be hiccups. I will still feel the profound sadness that is just behind this brash facade I keep up, but I will keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have things to do and big, world changing problems to tackle. Just watch me.

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Seventeen weeks to the day.

It’s interesting to see how long it’s been since I last posted here — four weeks ago. It reminds me of the almost folkloric “Rule of Fours” described by our lovely nurses in Ray’s last days. If a patient seems worse than their last four years, or four months, or four weeks, or four days…or four hours, there will be irreversible change.

I have seen huge change in my last four weeks, but in the other direction. I have found a seed of my own self. I didn’t recognize it early on, because I’d never really seen it before. I moved from an alcoholic home where I simply survived, to a beautiful relationship with my soulmate. He nurtured me, shared with me and we built a life together. But it was never a life apart. It was never my life. It was our life. That doesn’t mean that I feel in any way diminished by that process. It simply was. Our old friend, Kim Blanchette, said in Ray’s Celebration of Life that it was always “Ray and Casey, Casey and Ray”. We were inseparable. We were one being and one mind.

I always knew what I thought. That had its own life. I had passions about teaching and mentoring that were my own. I believe in growing my own food. Hell, I’m likely to take up fishing and hunting for keeps any day now. I’ve never shied away from getting up in front of a whole lot of people and tell them things with a microphone in front of me. I still think it’s strange that I developed a quirky love for watching birds and now have a yard full of them. But now, here I am on my own. I sleep with one person, and I’m not really sure I know who she is. So I am in the process of learning who I am — what I like, what I want and what I need.

I started some Pinterest boards in the last couple of weeks. I’m mapping what my taste in a home might be…on my own. Do I really like concrete modern? Yep, I think I do. Can antiques work with it? Yep, I think they might. I am planning a future of my own. I am seeing life under my control. I am seeing growing old, what I will need and what I will want to give me joy as I age. I am rebuilding Casey and, although it’s a bit scary, it’s a very cool adventure. I know Ray is cheering me on, telling me to go for it.

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