written by Jess
Today I fell down the grief hole. It’s not all that dark down here anymore. Take from this what you will, but please proceed with caution.
It started like this;
“There is nothing in this moment about the past and you will gain nothing by projecting into the future”* Hamish, yoga teacher and, inadvertently/unknowingly, life coach extraordinaire.
I’m battling to not overwhelm myself with memories of the past or let my anxiety of the future take over. My tiny little monkey mind took over and all of a sudden I was thinking of everything and also nothing. There is no one in this room that this is more relevant to**. It was at this point in which I broke down.
So I ordered wine at lunch time.
Then I’m at the YMCA, standing in the old climbing gym. Right where it all started with Jamie. Things are a little different now. They have replaced the plastic holds and that chalky/rubber/feet smell with an art exhibition. Myself and my significant other*** turn to each other and joke about how this whole situation is quite the comparison to my life as I know it.
It’s hot outside, so we wander through the botanic gardens. We stop a while, under a mighty Totara****. This happens to be the exact place where I once stopped with Jamie, only memorable because I was stung by a bee. I’m wearing heart shaped sunglasses and there is a flock of Piwakawaka swooping around our heads, flirting with us*****.
We look to the sky and there are these clouds. Clouds like I have never seen before. They are the snow cornice on top a mountain peak. The wave that is represented on my ring. And they are the koru that is in the Korimako that is about to become permanently inked onto my skin.
I mention that this day has been somewhat significant and I’m going to blog about it. I’m questioned by my significant other****** as to why I would want to share these inner musings with the world, I say I don’t know. But that is a lie. I do know.
I just want to make you cry.
I don’t yet know how it finishes.
*Not his exact words, but you get the picture
**This is a total lie, but I hope no one else here is suffering as much as I am
****Actually I think it was just a pine tree, but Totara sounds better
******It’s still Erin
Written by Jess
On Wednesday my friends suggested I come with them to Castle Hill for the long weekend. Sure. No big deal. When Jamie and I first started courting I spent more than my fair share of time in and around the area. The second time I ever met Jamie, he was standing on Flock Hill, wearing a red singlet with the number 21 on it.
On Friday afternoon Mahe and I were standing in the middle of Quantum Field. I’d been there less than an hour and had already seen a number of familiar faces. The sun was shining and it was hot. Haaaannnnng on a minute, this isn’t right. This was not how Mahe’s first trip to the Hill was supposed to be. He was supposed to be here with his dad. In awe of his strength as he darted between boulders, crushing rocks, knee barring, mantling and heel hooking all over the place. Instead it’s just me, and I’m bumbling over flat boulders, shrieking every time my shoe slips.
The longest step of my life.
We are at the playground in the Village. Some locals start chitchatting with me. Isn’t this such a great place, they said. We watch the kids in the morning and then we tag team out with our husbands in the afternoon, they said. We get to have such great adventures that way, they said. That’s what you’re doing too? they said. Yes, I said. That is exactly what I am doing, I said.
JVB, Flock Hill, April 2011. Photo by Troy Mattingley
Written by Jess
“We need to focus less on goals or endpoints and more on the process or journey …… no one is going to care what climbs I did or didn’t do when I pass away – they’ll remember the experiences they had with me” JVB, The Darrens, February 2008
Jamie was a great philosopher. About life, family, the future and the World. But you can’t be philosophical about death. Death is life and your experience in life is relative.
I am no physicist, theorist, or philosopher. What I am, is a woman who is surviving an incomprehensible traumatic experience.
My feelings about my situation, Mahe’s future and what we have lost are relative to what we could have had.
When someone calls me to tell me that they have had the most terrible morning because the butter was too hard to spread without ripping the bread. I smile and nod down the phone, I think to myself, “ahhhhhhh relativity”.
And when you look at me and see some kind of super hero that is stronger than an ox and smarter than an octopus, remember that it is relative. You have not had this experience so you cannot comprehend that you might actually be ok if you found yourself in a similar situation. Your portrayal of me is only relative to what you know and what you have experienced in your own life.
And now it is Christmas and, relatively, I can’t imagine that I could ever have an enjoyable Christmas again. But then again, perhaps it will be relatively good.
And just as I finished writing these words I hear that there has been another death in the mountains. This time it’s the brother of a dear friend. Later I explain to someone that I had written some words but didn’t think it was timely to post on the web, they say to me “but Jess your perspective and writings are relative”. She had not a clue what I had just written about.
Written by Jess
A number of things have happened recently that have prompted me to write this.
The guests of the private party where I taught my last Charleston class in August 2013 got together, remembered the dance moves I taught them, and put together a beautiful basket of delicious goodies for Mahe and I.
Sadhana clothing found an off-cut of the fabric that Jamie’s favourite shirt was made out of. They made a little purse out of it and sent it to me.
The wildflowers I regularly find stuffed into my letterbox.
The surprises I find on my doorstep; heart shaped rocks, pumpkins, tomato plants, and just yesterday, The Eastern, one of my favourite bands. They had come to tell me I was doing a great job, they sung me a song and invited me to their next gig.
There are also so many things that happened 14 months ago that has prompted me to finally write this.
There are some people that I thank a lot and some that I have thanked officially. But there are more people that I have never even acknowledged, let alone thanked.
My dearest friends who got on the first flight to Queenstown, laden with rescue remedy, whiskey and snacks. Who carried Mahe and I home when I wasn’t even sure which way was up. Who packed up the holiday house and brought everything back to Christchurch for me.
Anyone involved in putting together the biggest and scariest event of my life. No one wants to be part of a funeral, especially organising it.
Family, blood related and otherwise, you know who you are. For everything and for nothing. You are always there at the right time.
To everyone and anyone who sent (and still sends) Mahe and I messages, letters, cards, flowers, gifts, treats, meals, phone-calls, love, money, prayers, thoughts. I have great intentions to respond to each of these offerings individually. To do this I have to look back through all of those cards and notes, and admit that this is real.
I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed at how many people are so interested in and enthusiastic about my life and my future. Anonymity has become something of the past. I spend a lot of time taking ridiculous photos of Mahe and I. I guess I do this to show all these people that we are all right, we have fun and we have found a way to adapt to our new life.
Some of the comments I get include words such as strength and amazing. Know that what I portray is not a front, this is me. Somehow I can sieve through the grief to find happiness. This does not make me stronger than you. On the odd occasion that Jamie and I would go running together, he would run with one hand on my back, pushing me up the hill and keeping me going. His hand is still there and this is the reason I can continue.
Written by Jess
This is my favourite photo taken of Jamie and I. It was 2008, we were in Germany staying with a great friend, we had no fixed abode and exciting adventures ahead of us. We had not long had our camera and Jamie had just taught me how to use the self-timer function. We did not take into account the movement of the boat as we rushed to pose for the photo.
I’ve taken a lot of photos in the last 12 months. All using that self timer function. Each time I am reminded of that first photo and how great memories can be captured.
Late August, a little bit of light in a lot of dark
Everyday I am totally psyched to; be alive, to dance my best, to have Mahe at my side, to enjoy every moment, to make my community a better place, to eat real and healthy food, to do more with less, to be me! Jessica S. McLachlan, every day.
written by Jess
: Wisdom after the event As defined in Jamie’s Grandfathers dictionary, I’m unsure of the publisher as the cover had fallen off long ago.
On the 11th of August 2013 I was living a wonderful life. I had a beautiful home in a growing community. Nothing but delicious food in my belly. A close network of supportive and fun family and friends. Exciting plans for the future. A gorgeous 6 month old son who was bringing so much laughter and joy into our home. But most of all, I was in love with a beautiful man who loved and adored me more than I can possibly explain.
Hindsight, was and is, not required. I was so very aware of what I had.
On the 12th of August 2013, three innocent words changed my future.
“Are you Jess?”
Say no more, I know what is coming.
Let me invite hindsight into my life. A word I have never been fond of as it only highlights our weaknesses. There are things I would liked to have done differently in the moments and days following Jamie’s death.
So if I can offer only one piece of advice. Talk about death to your significant other, friends, family, parents, children. Any discussion you have, will give those left behind the confidence to continue. The shock you will endure is so intense you will not believe that you are still standing. Unfortunately it is while you are left standing in this haze that you are required to make many decisions in a very short amount of time.
I have no regrets, just the benefit of hindsight.
written by Jess
There are three Vinton-Boots left in this world. Perhaps the most magnificent of them all, is this beautiful mountain. Standing 5168m tall, it is located in the Djangart Mountains, Central Kokshall Too Range, Kyrgyzstan. It has been named Pik Vinton-Boot by New Zealand climber Reg Measures after him and his fellow climbing companions made the first ascent in August 2013. If you’re going to have something named after you, it might as well be a mountain. A fitting tribute for a magnificent man that we all miss dearly. Photo courtesy of Reg Measures Approximate location can be viewed using coordinates: 41°40’31.32″N 079° 1’37.18″E