Twenty Wishes

I just finished a book where a group of widows, in an effort to find joy in life again, decided to each make a list of twenty wishes. It was a project they put a lot of time into, trying to come up with so many wishes. The wishes weren’t supposed to be a to-do list, but in the end, some of their wishes were things they were able to do for themselves rather than leave it up to the fates. (Buying a pair of red cowboy boots, for example, vs. falling in love again.)

It was a clever idea, but something like that would never work for me. Though come to think of it, I did attempt to start wishing about three years after Jeff died. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very successful at it. I just couldn’t think of many things I wanted, except truly impossible things like hiking one of the long trails.

As it turns out, so many of the good things that have happened to me — or that I made happen — after Jeff died, were things I would never have wished for because I didn’t know I wanted them. Dance classes, for example. They were an important part of my life for many years, but dancing was not something I’d ever wanted to do, and performance? Totally out of my realm. And yet I did go on stage.

Then there was my cross-country trip, my backpacking trip, my house, my garden. None of these things would ever have ended up on a wish list (except perhaps for wishes that included hiking) because they just didn’t seem feasible. And more importantly, weren’t things I wanted.

And yet all of those things have made my life what it is today. A special life, for sure.

One thing that I might have put on a wish list is a gazebo because I’ve always loved the idea of a gazebo. Weirdly, I still don’t have a gazebo — what I have (or almost have) is a hut.

Instead of being a light, airy, white wrought iron structure, it’s dark and heavy. But it functions the same, or even better, since it’s cool and shady under there. And it will be comfortable when I decide what furniture (if any) would be appropriate.

I’m not really sure the hut fits with my other buildings — the house and the garage, but I have a hunch that if I had painted the hut to match those buildings, it would be too much of the same thing.

But, gazebo or hut, I have a covered structure in my backyard. I’m looking forward to entertaining the Art Guild in a couple of days, and with any luck, the weather will cooperate. Right now, though, the sky is as dark and heavy as my hut. Eek! I sure hope those construction workers manage to get off the roof if a storm rolls in.

But I’m getting off the topic — perhaps — of twenty wishes. Making such a list worked for the women in the story, but in my life, not so much. I certainly wouldn’t want to limit myself to only things I can imagine. I would have missed out on too many great life experiences.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Nature’s Fireworks

Last night I went outside for a bit to watch nature’s fireworks — the immense show of lightning that so often shows up on July fourth in Colorado. Standing there in the unearthly light, I was reminded of another time I watched the show. It was decades ago. I stood on the roof of the apartment building in Denver where I lived, and watched the far-off jagged lines of light.

It seems odd to think of that young woman and all she hadn’t yet experienced. All that she couldn’t even have imagined that would eventually happen to her. I think it was right before I met Jeff, so he wasn’t even in the picture. Our life together, our great cosmic connection, was on the horizon, but she hadn’t an inkling.

In fact, she didn’t think she’d be alive much longer. When she was young, she could project herself into the future, but that future always ended when she was twenty-five. No matter how she tried, she could never imagine her life after that. She thought it meant she would die that year, but instead, it meant she would come alive because that was the year she met Jeff. It makes sense to me now, that lack of any sense of the future, because how could she have projected herself into a future she couldn’t ever have imagined?

She couldn’t have imagined any of her life with Jeff. She couldn’t have imagined — though she dreamed — that she would learn to write and would become a published author. She couldn’t imagine how much something called a blog would mean to her (back then, there wasn’t even a hint of such a personal use for the computers that were just coming into renown).

She couldn’t have imagined Jeff’s death and the grief that would all but destroy her before it rebuilt her. She couldn’t have imagined that anything would ever get her to take care of her father when he got old — it was the one thing she was determined she would never do. (Even at a young age, I knew I was the “designated daughter,” and Jeff saved me from that. For a while, anyway. But fate came calling.) She couldn’t have imagined living in California and especially not in the desert — she never liked California, and she hated the heat. And she could never have imagined finding peace and hope in the desert, or taking dance classes, or making so many friends. She never imagined that two of her brothers and both parents would die. (Though logically, she knew her parents would die at some point, but they were still in their middle years and a long way from the end, so she never thought about it.)

She could never have imagined traveling by herself, camping by herself, hiking and backpacking by herself. She could never even imagine having the self-confidence and courage and boldness such adventures would demand.

And especially, she could never have imagined owning a house.

All that was in her future, and it seems so strange that the young woman standing on the roof watching the lightning storm hadn’t even a glimmer that any of those momentous things would occur.

And yet, there I was last night, on the other end of that life, looking at what seemed the same storm, and knowing all that the young woman would experience.

Suddenly, the sounds of a war zone brought that reverie to an end. I had never lived anyplace where fireworks were legal, and oh, my — hours and hours of the sound of gunfire all around me. At one point, I looked out the back door because it seemed to me as if the sounds were coming from my yard, and I was shocked to see huge falls of sparks landing on my garage and house from the fireworks nearby neighbors had set off. Luckily, the long dry months had come to an end a couple of hours earlier, so there was no danger, but it still made me nervous.

Today, although all is sodden, it’s quiet. The war is over. The lightning that brought the flash of memory has receded into the past.

Or into the future.

Next year, or the year after, or ten years from now, perhaps I will again watch nature’s fireworks on the fourth, and I will be marveling at happenings I can’t imagine today.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator