Island of refuge, island of hope

MY BARBARA ISN’T WELL. Many “Reef” readers know that. For others, this is news.

I last posted to this blog in days of winter snow. Now, what a difference in our world as we’re on the verge of spring, with daffodils adding lemony zest to our island landscape (they’re one of the few flowers deer won’t devour) and the first bloom blushing pink on my beloved wild currant (surrounded by wire fencing). Brilliant sunshine floods the windows of the writing hut and warms my hands as I type.

I took a journal-keeping hiatus because my dear wife has reached tough times in her illness. It’s been almost five years since she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, and three years since we retired to our island so as to make the most of life.

Generous island neighbors constructed this wheelchair ramp in a day to help Barbara come and go.

It’s been 12 days since the oncologist told us there were no more “tools in the drawer.” What a difference in our world.

Heretofore I haven’t written much about Barbara’s illness. This blog was to be about the joys of island life, all wrapped up with meeting the challenges of isolation in a place with no stores, no cars and few services. City folk figuring out how to be island folk. Stocking up enough firewood, keeping the boat running, figuring out composting, weathering winter storms.

But now the Nuthatch cabin is our refuge. Our place of comfort, festooned with photos of family, treasured artifacts of travels, and a peaceful and comforting view of towering firs, glittering saltwater and apricot-tinted sunsets.

Tending to my sweetheart’s needs is now my life’s focus, as long as we can make things work for her here. I’m treasuring each day, savoring her every beautiful smile. We’ve been married 41 years; a couple since I was 16, she 17. So far, she still preps many meals, but now I’m the shopper and the sous chef. I’ve gotten handier with a broom and a dish brush. Daughter Lillian is a frequent visitor and a wonderful helper.

I guess it’s all part of the pageant of island life. Hospice service doesn’t come here, but neighbors pitch in with loving help and support. When I told neighbor John, the Mad Birder, we could use a wheelchair ramp when we returned from Barbara’s last round of doctor visits, he put the word out. The next day he emailed photos of the newly constructed ramp. (Thanks Dan, Sean and Jim.) Almost every day, another friend asks, “What can I do?”

When the situation becomes more difficult, it’s likely we’ll ultimately repair to the mainland to homes of loving sisters whose generosity is beyond compare, and where home-care services are more easily obtained. Knowing my wife’s fortitude, I expect we’ll be on our island longer than many might guess. And, yes, I’m being careful to take care of myself as well.

For now, extending wishes of wellness to friends and family, we’re just enjoying the little bit of magic on our rock.

9 thoughts on “Island of refuge, island of hope

  1. Brian:

    I’ve been a regular reader and didn’t recall entries about your wife’s illness. I’m so sorry there are no more tools available, so glad you’ve had such a lovely life, together, on the island. Nothing like the first signs of crocus, then daffodils, wild current and forsythia to herald the end of winter in the islands.

    Would you mind if I shared this post with Mike Fancher and, via him, with the STARS?

    Willie and I are still in San Miguel, where the end of “winter” is marked by the bloom of many jacarandas and afternoon temperatures that sneak into the 80s. But we miss the early Shaw blooms, though not enough to return before the opening of the spot-prawn season.

    Wishing you and Barbara the best as you navigate these days.




  2. To our dear friends, please know you are in our thoughts and prayers! We have so many great times together as live aboards and neighbors. We send our Love!
    Sheryl and Chris


  3. Sending you lots of good thoughts, Brian. As you said, treasure every day with Barbara. Thank goodness for the help of your wonderful neighbors, and Lillian, of course ❤️


  4. Brian and Barbara: Sally and I send our best thoughts to you both. Your island life has provided such great times and memories. And with spring here, there’s lots of beauty to enjoy. And what great comfort to have all those wonderful friends to help when needed. Let us know when you come to the mainland.


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