Adventures of Camp Widow Toronto – pt 5 – the Gala Dinner

One of the most amazing things about Camp Widow is the Gala Dinner.  The sit down, high class dinner that is designed SOLEY to get us all dressed up, fancy-like, and show us that it is STILL OK TO HAVE FUN.

We all get dressed up to the 9’s (and 10’s and some of us just drop dead gorgeous no matter what we’re wearing). And head down for drinks and mingling before dinner.

Dressed up  Connie & I

There was an awesome photobooth where we got to put on some props and get our pictures taken .

Sugar Mamma

We’d pre-ordered our dinner so there was no worries or surprises about what to order or what we’re going to eat.   As per usual, I’d forgotten what I’d ordered until we actually got there.

There was a bottle of wine at the table for the guests to share.  My table-mates didn’t drink wine – so I asked the server to fill up their glasses with red and, well, I got 4 glasses for the price of one 😉  worked well for me 🙂

My chicken dinner was superb.   My friend sitting beside me didn’t finish hers so I got to taste the amazing steak dinner as well.

During the cocktails, we had the option of putting our loved one down on a piece of paper with whatever anniversary/celebration to be honoured at dinner.

I put Mark on there, for 27 months since he’d died.

In terms of life experience, it seems so very long.  In terms of thinking about it… OMG it’s been so short of a time.  Only 27 months since he took his last breath.  Only 27 months since I stopped being his wife and became his widow.  Only 27 months…  I am barely a toddler in the journey of widowhood.   At the same time I am like one of those starving kids in Africa who had to grow up and learn too fast.   A toddler who is wise beyond her years.   But a toddler none the less.

When they called Mark’s name, I went up for a hug and to get the heart they were giving out in memory.

Memorial Heart Heart

It amazed me – when I took a picture of the heart, the lights that shone in it.  The bits of life showing that yes, this had meaning.

Dinner was over fairly quickly and then the dancing began.

Dancing at the Gala

I’m not big on dancing.  I don’t like how I jiggle, I don’t like how things wiggle, it’s not a comfortable feeling to have your belly slap your thighs when you move too enthusiastically.   I used to like dancing.  And maybe I will again eventually.  If you look closely, you can see me somewhere in the middle sitting sorta behind Connie.

So I sat at the table, chatting, I flitted from table to table being a social butterfly, and eventually landed back at my table with Connie.

It’s not my story to tell, but Connie wasn’t having the greatest of nights.   I was given the opportunity to be there, to be present, to be someone to lean on, literally and figuratively.   I was given the opportunity to be a friend,   I was given the opportunity to get closer, to cement a friendship that had blossomed a bit over breakfast.

Connie and I talked.  Rather, Connie talked and I listened.

We were hiding in a little alcove for a while, her letting out what needed to come out.  Me, just being there for you.

We decided not to do the message release.  We had done a mini-release the night before, and we were both feeling that was sufficient and heading back to the room for quiet time and contemplation would be a better option.

We hugged people, said our goodnights, and watched as everyone else headed out to do the message release.

It was beautiful, from what I was told and saw in the pictures.

Message Release

Connie and I went back to the room – got out of our pretty clothes – and sat down on our beds for some decompressing.

We both had some minor regrets about not going to the message release… but I think overall, we were where we were supposed to be.   There were some things she needed to get out and I needed to be needed, I think.

The gala night was incredible.  The people I got to hang out with are incredible.   And for a while… we got to just *be* and have fun.

Hard to believe it was almost over… that in less than 24 hours I’d be back in Vancouver…

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Adventures of Camp Widow Toronto pt 3 – Friday

I had volunteered to man the registration desk on Friday morning.   For me, it was a nice way to give back, to meet the widows coming in and I didn’t have anything else to do in the morning since that block of workshops didn’t appeal to me.

Fred and I sat there, working together to get everyone checked off and given directions.

Registration Desk

There was an initial rush of people between 8.30 and 10 and then it trickled.  Sarah showed up with Timbits.   Awesome breakfast, Timbits.   She was wandering around on a sugar high, offering them up to anyone interested.

Around 10.30 I asked Fred if he could handle the remaining 20 or so left to check in, and at his assent, wandered off to find where the workshops were.

My first workshop was a round table:  Widowed by Illness or Diagnosis.

Out of 30? 40? people there… I was the only one whose spouse did not die from cancer.

The only. one.

I listened quietly for the most part while people talked about the cancer, about the horrid-ness about the disease, about how awful it all was – and could not relate.

Mark didn’t have a terminal illness.   He was supposed to get BETTER dammit!!!

Finally at one point, one gentleman asked about hearing so much about the disease and I kinda lost my mind.   I don’t have a “disease” or an “illness” foundation to volunteer for or give money to for research to prevent it happening to another.  And that frustrates me.

That was towards the end of the round table.

My next workshop was Signs and Synchronicity.  It’s heartwarming to hear the different signs, the different ways that our loved ones come to us and let us know they’re still around.

My last workshop of the day was the Heart & Soul intensive with Taryn Davis and Rae Patterson.

Oh.

My.

GAWD.

I am so blessed to have met Taryn last year at Camp Widow – and meeting Rae just enforced the path I feel that I’m heading to.

I’m not going to lie.  When I first saw that it was a workshop run by two presenters, I was a bit disappointed.  The workshop with Taryn last year was SO freaking amazing.    And then I got “stuck” with Rae and working with her when they separated the group into two.   And I was disappointed because I was SO hoping to work with Taryn again.

But things happen for a reason.  They happen for a purpose.  And I am SO grateful that I got to work with Rae.   She is amazing.  She is phenomenal.  She is a woman that I am SO blessed to have met and worked with.

I can’t even describe the workshop – but it allowed us to get in touch with our hearts, open things to a greater level of love.   I left the workshop feeling slightly dazed, slightly overwhelmed with the energy and emotion that came from that workshop.

It’s been just over a week and I don’t really remember what happened at dinnertime.  I’m trying to figure it out… but it seems that my brain has just blanked on that point of the day.

But after dinner, we did a mini-release at the water feature outside.   I hadnt’ planned on it – but I ended up helping one lady with her lantern.   In helping her, I realized I really did want to do a mini-release and quickly put together a lantern.

It was beautiful.  The water flow kept the lanterns all in one place just in front of us.

Lantern Release

I was off, emotional.  I wandered over to the labrynth beside the water feature and walked the labrynth for a while.  I submerged in the emotions of being a widow and wondered where and when I would surface.

.

.

.

I surfaced at the hotel bar.

I was still in the emotions of widowhood, feeling weighted down, when I realized I couldn’t get into the room I was staying in.   I didn’t want to disturb the women I was staying with – they were out having a good time, so I decided to have a drink with the people who stayed at the bar.

I sat there, having a drink or two with other Camp Widow attendees.

Side note: that’s one thing I love love love about Camp Widow.  I can be miserable.  Sit down beside other widows.  And they will TALK to me. INCLUDE me.  HUG me.  LOVE me.  And laugh and cry and just BE with me.  Everywhere.  Everyone.  We’re all included.

I started chatting with the guy next to me.  He wasn’t a widow – he was the son of a widow.   There volunteering his time.

We talked.  We laughed.  We got silly.  We flirted a bit.

We went on a random walk to 7-11 for hot dogs.   Tried to break into the pool.  Worked out in the weight room.   Talked some more.   Dangled our feet in the water feature.   Checked out the raccoon that was hanging out in downtown Toronto.

Talked some more.  Laughed some more.

I don’t remember the last time I just laughed and had fun and did not worry about anything.   I don’t remember the last time I was just me.

It was 3am before I realized I needed to go to bed.   At that point, I realized my roommates were probably all asleep… and I didn’t know how to sneak into the room without waking them.

Finally, at 4am, I went to bed.   I carefully opened the door, stealthily grabbed jammies and ducked into the bathroom to change.

Came out of the bathroom to climb into bed and there was Angel, thinking I couldn’t get in.  Scared the CRAP out of me.   Good thing I didn’t yell out.

Sleep came quickly.

Quite possibly that was one of the best nights in a LONG long time.   I am so grateful for Jeremy being there to help me remember that yes, I can have fun.  Yes, I can enjoy life.  No, laughter is not dead.  It’s a beautiful, rare thing for a widow to forget for a little while how much is missing in her life.

However… 4am is NOT my friend… I almost missed breakfast… but that’s for part 4.