Every single day, for several months after Karl’s death, I notice with gratitude how things are showing up for me and how my dreams are manifesting into reality. I list my successes in my journal, as I seek to make sense of them. I bless my essential hopefulness and my improving health. I envisage my prospects: a buyer for the Nimbin property, a new place to live and help with moving and unpacking.

As the weeks and months pass, I realize that I am dwelling in gratitude. Soon, as I turn to the subject of our compatibility, I see that Karl’s innate spirituality and commitment to love bridges many differences between us. Karl gave me unbridled permission to be myself in our marriage.

Karl on gratitude

About six months of communication go by before Karl chimes in about gratitude in our daily conversations. He tells me how grateful he is that I am not severely injured and that I am looking forward to my new life. He reminds me that when he entered into being with me — an experience with an entirely different set of friends and a different social milieu from his past — he was mightily challenged. His earlier life had been harsh, often impoverished, and insecure, with pervasive drug and alcohol problems.

In April 2017, Karl says:

When I met you in 1993, my dreams were pretty much dead. I had only the tiniest bit of hope left — for a “real” and fulfilling life. Then suddenly, I was in the middle of a huge new dream — with you. I was shocked! I said to myself, “so this is what love — and loving — and a relationship are really like!” And my brain that had been in slow motion — almost turned off — was alive again. You had faith in me. Thank you.

A confession

A few months earlier, he confesses:

I did not want to admit it, but drugs were bigger than you thought – in my unhappy life. That’s where my motivation went. It was only grass – but I did have a big habit when I met you. I tried really hard to overcome it. But it was always there – nagging at me persistently. In the middle of all of this was my Big Dream of a great life with you. It was a beacon and, in the end, it/you saved me. I began to see that I did have intelligence – as we did more and more projects together, I could see that I could analyze things. I could work professionally.

But, basically, Wadie, I was a chronic depressive with a drug problem. And all the nagging in the world could not really “cure” that! Even all your love was not enough. It was as though I was a man lacking an arm – or lacking a foot. It just was missing. Sometimes I was just “missing”. That all happened so early in my life: that “missing” part. It was stolen from me, and I could never really regain it, try as I would. I just lacked something.

Reading Karl’s words (a sad reality check for me) helps me focus on my gratitude, not what is missing. In the early months of our conversations after Karl’s death, my gratitude centers on our Nimbin life. I am thankful that Karl had found a community where he could be himself. I bless the hugeness of the love we experienced in our mature years. I especially rejoice in the beauty of our house.

That house is a real thing, a monument to our resilience: a beautiful, socially designed, sustainable, ecological house. I reframe it as our enduring legacy.

the hardest day since the hardest day

When I finally move permanently from the Nimbin house on 20 August 2016, I am uttterly devastated. I walk under the house and sit on the bed inside Karl’s latest house-building triumph: “The Pod”: a tiny bedroom he built from left-over building materials.

It was our little secret as hosts. Because Karl’s snoring was so profound, we could not share a bed. So when we had overnight guests, we’d pretend to share our bed. One of us would tiptoe downstairs to the Pod after they were asleep in the guest bedroom. Nobody ever knew. It was just one of those things that Karl did.

Inside the Pod

Slumped on the bed inside the Pod, my head in my hands, I call Karl by his pet name, Pretty:

“Oh, no, Pretty! We have lost our house! Our house! I am leaving our house! Oh, Pretty, this is the hardest day since the hardest day when you went to God.”

Overwhelmed by the harsh finality of my circumstances, my heart breaks open with grief, love, thankfulness, and appreciation.