I write. I write books, essays and articles, short stories, fiction and non-fiction, poetry, reviews, recipes, letters, ads, posters, websites, contracts, briefs, brochures, slogans, propaganda, and all manner of media content.

 

Most of the time I prefer English spelling to American, unless I'm writing specifically for an American audience. Every writer needs a good editor and I'm no exception.

 

This is my favourite essay from Lovers Kitchen.

 

Navigating The World Without Richard

 

We are wired for contradiction. This is one of the characteristics that keeps us from being dull and predictable. Like most of us, my husband was - and was not - what he seemed to be. 


 

Richard was a fact based scientist, who marvelled in the unexplained mysteries of nature. He never attended church, but could not resist visiting churches, churchyards and cathedrals, everywhere we travelled. He was a hymn-singing-atheist. He was a Socialist and a sybarite. He was a dreamer and a realist. He was worldly and innocent. 
He was optimistic and pragmatic. He was open and cautious. He was an introvert who loved entertaining. 
He was elegant and down-to-earth. He was sensitive and sometimes selfish. He was content and restless. He was handsome and self-conscious. He was affectionate and remote. 
He was a brave man. The bravest man I have known.

 

He was an Old World, over-educated, English gentleman, from his stiff upper lip, to the soles of his Clark shoes. And yet, when he finally got around to marrying, at the age of 49, he chose a twice married, exceedingly well-fed; Amazonian Californian; political activist; creative-driven, serial entrepreneur,  living an ocean away, for his one-and-only wife.

 

He was generous, genteel, cultured, inquisitive, intuitive, determined, domestic, poetic, solitary, double jointed, romantic, and tidy. He could wear white linen on a 12-hour, transcontinental flight, between London and San Francisco, without picking up so much as a speck of white pepper. 



 

Recently, Richard and I would have celebrated our anniversary. Our anniversary, like birthdays, was a big deal to us. Often, we spread our marital celebration over three days. One of our few traditions was to travel London's River Thames by boat, to Kew Gardens. In a country packed with gorgeous gardens, the 250 year old Kew Royal Botanic Garden is likely the most famous.

 

 

Ours is an old fashion love story, even though we met on the internet. We penned each other hundreds of cards and letters, as well as long, dreamy emails. We sent each other gifts, photos, postcards, maps, CD's, and books. 

 

Living an ocean apart, I fell in love with his seductive mind, long before I had the opportunity to experience the rest of him. 

Early in our courtship, before we met in person, I was talking to him on my mobile phone, lost in the bowels of Brooklyn. I had never been to Brooklyn before and neither had Richard. In fact, he had never been to America at this point, but that didn’t stop him from pulling up a map of the borough and skillfully navigating me back to Manhattan. It was past 2:00 a.m. in England.

 

Besides his talents as a scholar, naturalist and chemist, Richard was the world’s best navigator. I was never once lost with him. Not only could he read a map better than anybody, in any country, he was equally gifted with an excellent sense of direction. Later, this would make travel, one of our many shared passions, remarkably easy. 

 

By the time he met up with me, for the first time, in New Jersey, he knew the lay of the land better than I did. Equally impressive, he knew the Latin names for all our flora and fauna. He instantly recognized our birds by sound and sight, thrilling at his first sighting of iridescent hummingbirds in California, and brilliant red cardinals in Pennsylvania.



 

 

We married, at the end of a month long honeymoon, on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, joking we chose Canada because it was neutral territory. Several months later, while travelling through California and Oregon, Richard could not resist buying hummingbird feeders and hanging them outside the door, or window, everywhere we stayed. He introduced a lot of people to bird watching this way, including my parents.

 

A well exercised brain is irresistible. Besides being brilliant and well read, my husband was also the most observant man I’ve ever known. Nothing escaped his eyes and ears. He noticed everything, even if he didn’t comment. 
The only criticism he levelled at others, was to observe privately with me, 'I don't believe they have read much.' This was, in Richard's world, a sorrowful situation. 

 

One day, a short time after I moved to England to start our married life, Richard called me out to the front garden. Joining him on the lawn, he pointed out dozens of boring, brown, ant holes. 'Watch this,' he said excitedly. 'Any minute, thousands of queens will leave their nests, flying off to start new colonies elsewhere.' 


 

And they did, with hundreds of black, newly hatched queens, rising purposefully out of the ground and crash landing into my dark hair. Richard spent the rest of the evening carefully picking them out of my traumatized tresses. He didn’t want a single queen to perish. Had it been up to me, they would have been washed down the drain in seconds. 



 

 

My husband had enormous respect for all of life. He wanted to live more than anything, at any cost. In the three-and-a-half years he struggled to stay alive, he underwent seven surgeries and the lifetime maximum chemotherapy and radiation.
 With each new treatment, intended to eradicate the 'osteosarcoma of the jaw' threatening his life, my husband lost another vital part of himself.

 

His lovely voice and speech were amongst the first to be affected, along with his ability eat and drink. Eventually, he lost the hearing in his left ear and one of his hopeful brown eyes. He lost the ability to produce saliva and a good many teeth. He lost the feeling in his mouth, lips and the whole left side of his face. He struggled with post-chemo peripheral neuropathy in his hands and feet. His back gave out. He lost jaw bone, arm bone, back bone, and tummy flesh, as parts of him were harvested in an attempt to re-build everything the cancer and treatment took from him.



 

When my husband could no longer eat or speak

When he was robbed of his hearing and vision

When he could not walk, or stand, without toppling over

When even I struggled to recognized him

When he could not sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time

When Richard could no longer lay his sweet head down, because of the baseball sized tumour trapping his neck, or get comfortable in any position

When he was reduced to skin and bones

When he had not eaten, or drank anything in six months, with a plastic tube drilled into his deflated belly for nutrients

When the pain was unbearable and nothing eased it

When he was denied every single pleasure of being alive

When he was pumped so full of drugs he didn’t know what day it was, Richard continued to fight with everything he had left.

He fought with his whole heart - and my whole heart too. 


Forty months after the first surgery, my precious husband, the best friend I ever had, my accomplice, my playmate, my navigator was dead.

 

 

If not for hospice, I would have turned to euthanasia to relieve Richard's suffering. There is no way I could have witnessed what he went through, especially in his last six months of life, without coming to his aid. Even with tremendous hospice support, there wasn't a day I didn't sob my eyes out over what was happening to my sweetheart. Nearly a decade later, I still cannot talk about this experience without crying. That euthanasia remains illegal in Britain and much of America, defies reason. No living creature should have to endure what we went through.

 

Not all afflictions can be cured.

Not all suffering can be alleviated.

Not all pain can be relieved.

Not everyone can be saved.

All the hope in the world does not change this.

 

Knowing how desperately Richard wanted to live, makes me all the more determined to shout a resounding YES to life; to live with gratitude; to take absolutely nothing for granted; to be more compassionate; to spend myself wisely; to love freely; to treasure solitude; to bask in nature; to allow this raging river of tears to take me to another place; to journey onward with the full knowledge that life requires us to be our bravest self.

 

For Valentine’s Day, while too weak to leave his bed, Richard went online and surprised me by ordering an update for our car's ancient satellite navigation system. This was the last purchase he made. I used it for eight years and still managed to get lost. He knew a part of me will always be lost without him.

 

Marsha Coupe
Marsha Coupe
Marsha Coupe