Just Keep Paddling

“Just Keep Paddling” - Wesley Cook 

 

 

My brother Doug being gone is a reality I can barely accept. Although the tearful dry heaves and the sensation of leaving my own body from despair are very real, the far deeper pain is the void. The absence. My lungs fighting for air from the desperate cries, is at least something I can connect with in my own reality. The void is so much worse. I feel that something is missing within me. It's like watching a phantom limb sinking, to the bottom of a dark and wild ocean, while I lean over the side of my little boat, in a storm, screaming and begging for it to come back. It's something that I know I can't replace, nor can I fight hard enough to undo what has happened. I'm happy that, even in blissful intoxication or grim sobriety, I don't blame myself for it sinking. This was his decision, and it was one made over the course of years. Yes, years. Doug would never have wanted me to sink with him, but what he did want, more than anything in life, was to end it. A deep and demanding sorrow has finally claimed its greatest prize, one of my heroes.

 

Although he was a big-hearted, loving person, he could never shine the light on himself that he bestowed, so graciously and frequently, upon others. It's one of the greatest tragedies that could happen. It's a harsh injustice, not only to himself, but to all who loved him.

 

I've tried writing songs and articles as a way to, "Talk it out," and I have finished some. This process has started to put a cork in the dam of swells of sadness and heartbreak, but it's just that, a cork in a dam. It's like an ant making a deal with God. It's a carrot on a stick. Seemingly laughable, but, sometimes it's all you can do. You must visualize the light within yourself. It may come save you some day, even if only for a moment. I've had practice doing this with smaller obstacles in life. Now, I get to see what I'm made of. This is the greatest pain I've ever felt in my life. I'm lost. I'm sad. I can't get away from myself or what this is. I have to face my reality. I have to make myself ok. Will that ever happen? I don't know, but I have to believe that it's possible.

 

So after watching my sad, heavy phantom limb sink over the edge of my lost little boat, unable to bring it back with all that I am, I collapse in sheer defeat. I cry for what feels like hours, days, months, years. I shut myself off and go inward. I numb myself. I am angry with myself. I'm angry with life. I'm angry with Doug. I imitate the happiness that I feel I possess somewhere inside, but can't seem to find. However, I've discovered that these merciless, wrathful conditions are not constants. They are waves and storms. Like all waves, they come in, and then they recede. Like all storms, they attack with fury, and then they go home, at least for little while. When the storms break for the moment, and I'm lying on my back, alone in my boat, and the tears dry long enough to open my eyes, I can see stars. They're so beautiful. I can see majesty. I can feel Doug next to me. I believe that I can go on. Sometimes feeling that hope, if but for a moment, is all you need to paddle just a little further, or embrace the silence and drink in the peace, while it's there. I must hang on to those moments, and remember the good. I must.

 

Although I'll never be complete again, I feel I'm lucky to have had him in my life at all. We fought, loved, and lived together. I learned from him. His fingerprints are all over my soul like living colors on a canvas, painting my memories lovingly. His absence from my physical reality can never change that. My love for him is too powerful a force to ever truly leave me. Love is what the little light inside is made of. The storms are afraid of that little light, you know, but it's hard to believe it when the crashing waves snap your ores and knock you on your back. 

 

The memories are illuminated by the light and guarded fiercely. Sometimes, memories of a person are all that you have left of them. So, before the person in front of you becomes a shadow and a memory, make sure that you hold that person from time to time. Hold them so hard that you can't breathe, because when the day comes that they stop breathing, you will wish with all that you are that you had.

 

I'm still paddling, alone, far out at sea, but I stop to see the stars when they appear. I'm still bailing water to keep from sinking and vigilantly guarding the memories. I can feel that light in my heart. I know land is out there somewhere, though I'm far from seeing it with my eyes. I can only feel it for now. Just because I can't see Doug with my eyes, doesn't mean I don't love him. So, I can't let this be any different. These conditions may never stop, perhaps they will, but if losing the pain means losing the memories, then let there never be peace for me again. 

 

Doug used to say, "Everything will be alright." It's something that I believe to be true. Even if it's hard to remember when those waves attack my poor little boat, I believe it with all my heart. If you are suffering in your life, I hope that you'll believe with me, that there is light within you and land out there somewhere. Just keep paddling. Just keep paddling.

 

15 comments

  • Halls

    Halls

    Love you SO much. Come visit.

    Love you SO much. Come visit.

  • marti jackson

    marti jackson

    i know i don't have to tell you i have some small idea how you feel. every day i think about sandi. i remember the last time i saw her, the last words she said to me, and then summers when we were kids and playing piano and holiday gifts and... that's when i lose words. no words for how i feel, for who she was, for what she gave to everyone she ever met... tl:dr -- got a hug for you anytime you need it :)

    i know i don't have to tell you i have some small idea how you feel. every day i think about sandi. i remember the last time i saw her, the last words she said to me, and then summers when we were kids and playing piano and holiday gifts and... that's when i lose words. no words for how i feel, for who she was, for what she gave to everyone she ever met...

    tl:dr -- got a hug for you anytime you need it smile

  • Annette Bagley-Martin

    Annette Bagley-Martin

    There are more of us out there drifting in that sea of emotion than you realize. While we are all tossed about by our individual circumstances that threaten to capsize us at times, it's the memories of what was that helps us to keep our grip on the sides of the boat. It is love that gives us the peace and ability to stretch out in the bottom of our boats, looking up to see wonderful things in the clouds as well as make us wish on the falling stars at nightfall. In life the ocean is vast, deep, and unpredictable. Thank God we have the boat.....Wesley you have many friends, fans, and family that will forever be the boat that helps you to ride out this journey that is your life. Take your time, the journey shapes us into who we are. Peace be with you.....

    There are more of us out there drifting in that sea of emotion than you realize. While we are all tossed about by our individual circumstances that threaten to capsize us at times, it's the memories of what was that helps us to keep our grip on the sides of the boat. It is love that gives us the peace and ability to stretch out in the bottom of our boats, looking up to see wonderful things in the clouds as well as make us wish on the falling stars at nightfall.
    In life the ocean is vast, deep, and unpredictable. Thank God we have the boat.....Wesley you have many friends, fans, and family that will forever be the boat that helps you to ride out this journey that is your life. Take your time, the journey shapes us into who we are.
    Peace be with you.....

  • Christen

    Christen

    Love the quote.... Will be sure to use it. And think of you and Doug every time.

    Love the quote.... Will be sure to use it. And think of you and Doug every time.

  • Allison Hare

    Allison Hare

    Wesley, this is so beautifully and painfully written. My heart breaks for you and your family and I hope you always hang on to that beautiful light that you've always had inside you. Lots of love, Allison

    Wesley, this is so beautifully and painfully written. My heart breaks for you and your family and I hope you always hang on to that beautiful light that you've always had inside you.

    Lots of love,
    Allison

  • Juliana Fanning

    Juliana Fanning

    Relate to this in so many ways...I am in my adrift in my own little boat, sometimes the grief surrounds me like a fog so thick it chokes me. This gives me hope, that someday it may lift or my light will shine through it and guide me back. In the meantime, it is comforting to know there are others out there in that vast space. Thank you for posting this, and for sharing your pain...in doing so you are helping me and I am sure so many others out there as well. Perhaps that is your purpose in all of this... They are at peace, and in time I beleive we will find ours again too. Thank you, Wesley.

    Relate to this in so many ways...I am in my adrift in my own little boat, sometimes the grief surrounds me like a fog so thick it chokes me.
    This gives me hope, that someday it may lift or my light will shine through it and guide me back.
    In the meantime, it is comforting to know there are others out there in that vast space.
    Thank you for posting this, and for sharing your pain...in doing so you are helping me and I am sure so many others out there as well. Perhaps that is your purpose in all of this...
    They are at peace, and in time I beleive we will find ours again too. Thank you, Wesley.

  • Patti Daniels

    Patti Daniels

    One of these days, the scales will tip, and you'll realize you've had more good days than bad recently. And I believe with all my heart that Doug will recognize that, too, and his peace will be complete.

    One of these days, the scales will tip, and you'll realize you've had more good days than bad recently. And I believe with all my heart that Doug will recognize that, too, and his peace will be complete.

  • Matt

    Matt

    Thanks brother! I'll never be able to relate to your whole experience, but know that you're truly an inspiration. And keep trying to maintain course in that boat of yours - we're all depending on that Cook strength :)

    Thanks brother! I'll never be able to relate to your whole experience, but know that you're truly an inspiration. And keep trying to maintain course in that boat of yours - we're all depending on that Cook strength smile

  • dee

    dee

    wesley ~ my sweet friend and "little brother" I never had! As I read your least blog~ it's all I can do to hold back the tears a I m not doing that very well ~ I know that God has you and all of us in the palm of his hand and has a plan for each of us! Sometimes it's hard to see during the grieving process Even after , those we love(d) will always shake our souls and bring a laughter or tear as we embrass the memories. It teaches us all to live in the moment and like it's our last. I never met Doug, your precious brother , but I'm sure I would have loved him like I do you! God is bigger than us, and has prepared a way for us to not suffer anymore , it's all in His mighty hands , even though we don't understand His ways. He loves you and has created you for mighty things. Take the time you need to reflect and grieve ~ it's going to be the way you heal~ and that doesnt mean not "feel"! Love you my friend~ D

    wesley ~ my sweet friend and "little brother" I never had!
    As I read your least blog~ it's all I can do to hold back the tears a I m not doing that very well ~ I know that God has you and all of us in the palm of his hand and has a plan for each of us! Sometimes it's hard to see during the grieving process

    Even after , those we love(d) will always shake our souls and bring a laughter or tear as we embrass the memories.

    It teaches us all to live in the moment and like it's our last.
    I never met Doug, your precious brother , but I'm sure I would have loved him like I do you!

    God is bigger than us, and has prepared a way for us to not suffer anymore , it's all in His mighty hands , even though we don't understand His ways. He loves you and has created you for mighty things.

    Take the time you need to reflect and grieve ~ it's going to be the way you heal~ and that doesnt mean not "feel"!

    Love you my friend~
    D

  • Erik G

    Erik G

    this is really nice sorry for your loss

    this is really nice sorry for your loss

  • Debbie Campo

    Debbie Campo

    Your blog is beatiful and you are a wonderful person and I am so fortunate to have met you and I am so so sorry for your loss !!!!

    Your blog is beatiful and you are a wonderful person and I am so fortunate to have met you and I am so so sorry for your loss !!!!

  • Marcus Powell

    Marcus Powell

    I've heard it said that words can't always sum up the feelings of the loss of a loved one;but this was mery eloquently put.Thanks for sharing,one love.

    I've heard it said that words can't always sum up the feelings of the loss of a loved one;but this was mery eloquently put.Thanks for sharing,one love.

  • Hannah Harris

    Hannah Harris

    Wesley...Words just never seem enough when you are expressing grief over a loved one, but it is important to put our grief into words as painful as that is, admit to our fears, anger and confusion, embrace them and then move forward as best we can. I was given a poem this week that really helped me in my current life transition, and thought I would leave it here for you. Peace, Love, Namaste... The Guest House ~Rumi~ "The Essential Rumi" - version by Coleman Barks This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorable. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

    Wesley...Words just never seem enough when you are expressing grief over a loved one, but it is important to put our grief into words as painful as that is, admit to our fears, anger and confusion, embrace them and then move forward as best we can. I was given a poem this week that really helped me in my current life transition, and thought I would leave it here for you. Peace, Love, Namaste...

    The Guest House
    ~Rumi~
    "The Essential Rumi" - version by
    Coleman Barks

    This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorable. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

    The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.

    Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

  • irish

    irish

    "what we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." - albert pike

    "what we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." - albert pike

  • Kim

    Kim

    hey wesley, I met you and Kevin today and was so energized by y'alls description of burning man. Reading your blog about your experience there and about the loss of your brother Doug made me happy and sad in equal measures. Hope to see you again in my neighborhood or on the playa. Kim

    hey wesley,
    I met you and Kevin today and was so energized by y'alls description of burning man. Reading your blog about your experience there and about the loss of your brother Doug made me happy and sad in equal measures. Hope to see you again in my neighborhood or on the playa.

    Kim

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