“Now I know that we must always build space around real grief. We need to allow the pain to carve within us a deep knowing of what it means to live, to shape us as innocence never can.” This quote is from Boyd Varty in his book Cathedral of the Wild: his autobiography about growing up on the Londolozi game reserve has resonated with me on this trip to Africa.
My blog name Runawaywidow may initially have been an jab at running from the reality of the tragic loss of my husband. By year two I began to understand, that while it was wrong and so unfair, it really did happen and I couldn’t deny it any longer.
Traveling and journal/ blogging has been part of my healing therapy for the past 4 years. Tuesday, August 28th I will once again acknowledge the date that he died. And once again, I will be in a remote part of the world busy traveling. Once again I will make a donation to a worthy cause in his honor and I will probably have a little chat with him as I still often do.
This quote resonated with me as I read his autobiography on my trip to South Africa. In my travels I have recently visited some amazing places and had some extraordinary experiences. Having been to the depths of pain and loss and taking the time to feel that pain and process it is an important step in healing and not to be overlooked or underestimated.
One of my earlier posts was about learning to be kind and gentle with yourself. It’s tempting to feel guilty for being so sad and feel bad for not being able to function as you have in the past. But you do need time to rest and recuperate during the harsh waves of grief.
Eventually the moments don’t last as long and more time is spent feeling normal. This is when effort is needed to start moving forward.
I took that first step and have not gone back. I am embracing every opportunity I have to live my life to the fullest. I think this past summer demonstrates that! I got married, had a fun wedding and reception, went on a honeymoon to Greece and now this amazing trip with friends in South Africa.
The trip to Africa has been amazing. I am traveling with 3 friends I have been with in a book club for 21 years. We graduated from a mom and tots group to book club and now share stories of our children and their lives post college degrees.
Witnessing wild African animals in their natural environments has been a highlight of my life. Watching the elegant giraffes walk next to our truck at sunrise took my breath away. Tracking the elephants to a spot where they were playing was so fun and a bit scary as they decided to walk down a path and another jeep was forced to back up quickly.
Warthogs scurrying across the grass or laying in the mud made us laugh. The calm stoic cheetah sunning himself on the road as we drove up to snap photos awed us. The baby rhino walking in front of his mom fascinated us.
But nothing prepared us for the lions!
We took an excursion to a different park one afternoon. I found myself feeling my heart in my throat. We were going to look for lions. What were we? Insane?!? Shouldn’t we stay away from lions. I think I was having a bit of flat out fear.
Our lovely female guide took us around and showed us some cool stuff including a praying mantis egg. No worries yet. I’ve seen those.
Then we saw the other trucks from a distance. From under a green bush we saw a very light tan leg move. I was resigned to the idea that we weren’t going to see much more than that. It was still amazing to just be on safari in Africa.
I had begun to calm down when Tisch, our guide’s name, turned the jeep off the path. We had not done this before but she explained she had a stronger jeep as she traversed the grass barreling over small bushes and down the tilted side of a dry river bed. With a bit more gas we bumped up over the jagged rocks to the area where we had seen the lion’s leg. Tisch expertly pulled the truck right up to the edge of the ravine not 10 feet away from 2 lionesses sleeping in the sun. We were so close.
Quickly I pulled out my iPhone to take a picture before they saw us and either ran away or attacked. As I began to film I noticed the two absolutely adorable furry lion cubs walking toward the mother lion.
I was awestruck and so excited. We sat for about one hour. The cubs tried waking up mom and aunty. One little guy started to nurse and then his brother joined in. Brother number one didn’t want to share so growled at brother number two. Mom got involved and nudged the freshie with a reprimand to tell him he must share, then quickly gave the little guy a lick to show she still loved him.
After nursing they went over to bother aunty again and play with her ears. Suddenly mom heard a noise. It was a warthog. She slowly started to walk in the direction of the noise. After she was pretty close, she crouched and then sprang after the little piggy. She was fast but he was faster and got away, this time.
Finally the cubs ran down the ravine to play with the kudu (An African type deer) that had been killed the day before.
I am so happy that I got to be part of that moment. I do believe that my grief has made my ability to enjoy life even greater than it ever was. While little things don’t bother me so much, nothing is ever as bad as tragically having your husband taken from you, big things really bring me such incredible joy. Some day when my life flashes before my eyes, I hope I see those cats again. What a gift.
What does it mean to live? To be truly engaged in life and to feel with all your heart and soul. To love and be loved. To be grateful and to want what you have.
Lessons we keep learning as we go. Moving forward everyday, bit by bit. It is so worth it.