Sascha

Today Andrea and I said goodbye to our lovely dog Sascha. She hasn’t been doing well and eventually the time came that the kindest thing we could do for her was to euthanize.

Young Pup Sascha

Andrea got Sascha from a women, who got her from a family, who got her from a shelter, who got her from a family. As in, Andrea became her fifth and final family, way back in 2006.

The story goes that the woman couldn’t really keep Sascha but she didn’t want to return her to the shelter because she had already been to the shelter once and, according to the woman, if Sascha went back, there was a strong possibility she would be put down.

Sascha with Andrea

When Andrea and I started dating, she explained to me that she and Sascha went for walks in the coulee everyday. They were returning from one of those walks when I happened upon them in April of 2013. So, in a way, I have Sascha to thank for meeting Andrea.

Sascha with Andrea and me

She was so lovely. She will be missed.

Aaron Swartz is Dead

I rolled over this morning stressed out about Gabrielle and the situation as is typical these days. I pulled up Google+ on my iPhone to distract myself. I read some very sad news — Aaron Swartz had committed suicide.

I want to write about how this news has affected me. Words fail though — I’m not, after all, a master at words the way Aaron was. He inspired me. I always wished I could be him, and I always suspected that eventually our paths would cross and we would become fast friends. His death has really affected me deeply.

I am not nearly as smart or eloquent and I suppose I am glad not to have been in his situation but I will miss reading his brilliant writing.

It might seem strange to be sad about the passing of someone you’ve never met. People don’t understand why you care. The friendship was actually just an asynchronous following of his RSS feed, but his writing was one of small selection that were on my highest priority list. If he wrote something, I made a point of reading it. It’s so sad to think there won’t ever be any new posts from Aaron Swartz’s Raw Thought.

Three River Rendezvous 2010

Over the long weekend my friend, Andy, and I went to the Castle River Rodeo Grounds to take part in the biggest whitewater festival in Canada, the Three River Rendezvous. My decision to go wavered when I read that the weather forecast predicted cool temperatures, variable cloudiness, and sprinkled showers. Luckily we pressed on and, as it turns out, the weather wasn’t actually that bad, and for most of the time, it was actually sunny — I even got a little burned on my face.

Unfortunately tragedy struck on Sunday night. After we had returned from our trip running the Five-Alive feature on Carbondale River a couple of times, Chuck Lee, the organiser of the event broke the news that one of the participants had been taken to the hospital in an ambulance. He explained that a group of kayakers were going over Lundbreck Falls and that on this particular run the boater was held under the falls for several minutes. He was revived once or twice but that’s all he let us know at the time. He emphasized again the need to always be vigilant and to remember that these kinds of things don’t just happen in other places, they can happen here too. We held a moment of silence in respect for the victim.

It was a sobering thought because I had never heard of anyone getting caught in the flow of water under the falls, and to think I, myself, have braved the 12 meter drop and walked away without so much as a scratch.

Kayaking Lundbreck Falls

Jeff Milner going over Lundbreck Falls in June 2008.

I found out later that night who was involved in the accident. I had hoped that it would be someone that I didn’t know but that’s not how it turned out. His name is Jaron and I had bumped into him just the morning before at the put-in for the Upper Castle run. I have paddled with him and his twin brother Dave a couple of times over the last two years.

I looked up some old paddling footage and found some with him in it:

He’s the one in the yellow and orange boat, yellow jacket, and blue helmet. His twin brother is also in the video.

I didn’t know him that well, but it was obvious that he had a passion for kayaking. Both he and Dave are the kind of enthusiastic friendly people that you want to spend a sunny day with floating down the river and enjoying nature. I remember talking to Dave for a long time about his decision to become a teacher and although I have many other influences for my decision to go back to school, it was that conversation that tipped me over the edge.

Kayaking isn’t always considered an extreme sport where you expect to hear about someone dying but every year there are a few news stories where someone drowns in a river. Almost always they are inexperienced or not wearing PFDs, or there is alcohol involved somehow so Jaron’s death comes as a great shock to the paddling community.

My Uncle Judd

Judd

Yesterday my uncle Judd passed away. He was 90 years old.

Almost every year, for as long as I can remember, our family gets together on the first of July to watch the Canada Day parade. Afterward, it was our tradition to enjoy a delicious potluck meal at my aunt Lois’ and uncle Judd’s place.

Despite Judd getting on in years, he kept his wits about him right to the end, and I always enjoyed chatting with him. He will be missed by many.

Kayaker Drowned

It’s been a dangerous summer for boaters in Alberta. There have been 6 drownings in the last six weeks, and one that hits somewhat close to home. Linda Englehart, a Calgary kayaker who paddled Southern Alberta rivers and with the ORCKA club died Monday following a mishap on the Kicking Horse on Saturday.

I have never paddled with Linda, but she did communicate with the ORCKA club on their website and had planned at one point to join us on the trip we took down Box Canyon last month.

More details about the tragic loss from the ORCKA website.

Death in the Family

I’ve been spending some time with my family in Medicine Hat over the last week. While I was here, we received some very bad news. A cousin of mine, Michael Scoville, passed away last Friday at the age of 26 years old.

Of all my cousin’s, I hung out with Mike more than any other. We lived in the same city for most of our lives and were pretty much the same age. We never went to the same school at the same time for very long but I was always amazed at how many people knew Mike all over the city.

Growing up we had our share of fighting between us but within the last ten years, or so, we made up and I enjoyed running into him at his parents house on the many occasions when they would invite us all over for dinner. It’s sad that he’s gone.

The Stages of Grief

The Scoville Family Reunion has a lot of us thinking about our grandparents. My grandpa died during heart surgery about 16 years ago and it’s been just under a year since the family was together for my Grandma’s funeral.

It was a sad time but many of us were able to take solace in the fact that my grandma’s death was a release from the years of suffering with alzheimer’s and what had become a joyless life.

I overheard my mom talking about how she’s still quite saddened by the loss and how someone at work suggested she take time to truly “grieve”. She said she didn’t really know what the person meant by grieving. Hadn’t she been grieving on and off this whole time?

I googled “stages of grief” and found this list:

  1. Denial
  2. Bargaining
  3. Anger
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance and Hope

I immediately related it to my own situation with Anna. Her decision to move away and date other people feels to me, for all intensive intents and purposes, just as great a loss as I could have had. I realized that I have been going through my own grieving process.

The first strong feeling I had when Anna announced to me that she wanted to call of the wedding was denial. In fact I was in so much denial that I couldn’t even ask her what was bothering her, I just flat out refused to believe that she was actually calling it off. I insisted that what she was feeling was just cold feet and it would pass. Looking back, I think she understood my reaction to indicate that I didn’t care about her concerns.

The next strong emotion I felt was anger. I was angry that Anna was ending what I thought was a great relationship. I was angry at her for not talking about her concerns, and most angry at her for telling me that she didn’t even want to see me again. I was furious that she had called off our engagement over the phone, and now that I was in Vancouver – where she was – she didn’t want to see me before I left for 7 weeks to Malaysia, and potentially didn’t want to ever see me again.

Next I felt a combination of confusion, hurt, and guilt. I wanted to do anything to have her back, and I tried to bargain with her. But my bargaining skills were horrible. I did meet with her in Vancouver, trying to show her that I cared and later I told her I would pay for her to come to Malaysia with me, and when that didn’t work I told her I would buy her gift upon gift. She told me not to waste my money, so I didn’t. I knew that I hadn’t done anything “wrong” per se, and so I asked her plain out to just give me another chance. I tried to take all the blame for what supposedly went wrong but all I accomplished was convincing myself that I did in fact do something wrong. I explained to her that I was trying to do everything she wanted, but her response was that trying wasn’t enough. She made some joke that if I thought it was, then perhaps I had watched too much Sesame Street as a kid. Ouch.

She did try and make me feel better by admitting that I shouldn’t feel guilty because she didn’t really have a reason for breaking up other than she didn’t feel in love with me anymore. She told me that she had only been kidding herself and that she had been “faking love” since before we were engaged. She hadn’t felt truly in love for months. She explained that she still thinks I am a great guy and she would even recommend to any of her friends to date me, but that for her, she just didn’t feel it was right.

Of course I have been sad since the beginning of the break-up. Being in Malaysia I tried to hide it as much as possible, but by the time I returned home, some serious depression set in. I had the job at the University to distract me through July, but the deep sadness returned when my job ended. In addition, Anna decided that in order for her to get over me, she would stop communicating with me. She has always maintained that she would like to remain friends with me (an idea that causes eyes to roll when people hear about it) but whether or not she intends to keep in touch with me in the future, the present void that’s left behind has been a tremendous downer.

All of this has left me bouncing around between these emotions. I have only recently begun to feel the more positive acceptance and hope. I am able to see that though I think her decision is a bad one for her – short-sighted and impulsive, it will work out for the best for me. I guess I should consider myself lucky.

I’m not sure if reading my story is going to help the average person better deal with grief, but writing about it helps me understand that the way I’m feeling is very normal and that I’m close to moving on completely. Just as the pain of death heals with time, so do the pangs of divorce (we weren’t married but for all intents and purposes…) and you know what they say: “The best way to get over someone, is to get under someone else.” It’s been four months. It’s high time I found someone new.