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Saying Goodbye to My Pirate

 After losing Danny, I was numb. The one person who had made me crawl out of the dark place following my divorce was now gone from my life.

I cried constantly. Everything was a reminder of him. The beautiful orchid plants he gave me for Valentines Day. The birthday card he’d given me just weeks before he had his accident. The last photos I’d taken of him at the sweet, impromptu birthday barbecue he’d thrown for me. He bought me gag gifts and laughed as I opened each one. We sat outside on the patio, looking over at the neighbor’s sour orange tree laden with fruit.

We ate ribs with his two roommates, who joked about the road trip to Montana we wanted to take together. His roommate Digger said, “I don’t think these two will make it to the state line, let alone Montana.” His other roommate, Ben, laughed and volunteered to go with me instead.

In the days and weeks following Danny’s death, I felt and saw signs from him. There were pennies (as in “pennies from heaven”) which turned up in odd places. There were numerous other signs that I’ve now forgotten but wished I had kept a list of. My grief was so deep that for some reason, most of these really poignant signs have somehow been blotted from my memory. I simply can’t recall them now, exactly a year after Danny’s death.

The signs served their purpose. They reached my heart at the deepest level. The point is, I knew he was still with me. I felt him talking to me constantly. I even understood that he was now, along with my grandmother, one of my spirit guides. Danny will be one of the first spirits to greet me in heaven. I’m certain of it.

Last June, there were many days when I just couldn’t get out of bed. The divorce had been so terribly painful. Now Danny’s death seemed like one more drastic, life changing event I just couldn’t cope with. Several friends made a point to call me every week. They gave me a lifeline by doing this. I really was drowning in grief at that point in time.

By July, Miami’s notorious summer heat was in full force. The days were too humid to sit on the porch. I kept hibernating indoors, putting fresh flowers in a bud vase I kept next to Danny’s picture. I read several novels, eager to escape reality for a little bit. I cried in the shower daily, and fell to my knees sobbing many times a day.

They say it’s always darkest before the dawn. I didn’t yet know it, but my own personal sunrise was just around the corner. A childhood friend was coming to Miami for a visit. What happened while she was in town would be the start of a new life for me.

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Dating A Pirate and Changing My Course

imageWhen I began this blog, I was leaving my Miami tourism marketing job of 12 years. My plan for Pack-and-Go-Now was to travel the world, to grab my passport and do my own post-divorce version of Eat, Love, Pray. I wanted to roam the back alleys of Cairo, eat my way through India, hike to Machu Picchu, parboil myself in the hot springs of Iceland and let go of the pain and stress of the divorce. It was ME time; time to reassess my life, my goals, my future. Time for the healing balm that travel has always been for me.

Of course, as the saying goes, when you make plans, God laughs. Clearly my dream of international gallivanting was not part of His plan. To make a long story short, my first romance after my divorce was with someone I had known since childhood. Danny was a gentle soul with devastating wit, surfer good looks and the bad boy mien that had first enthralled me back when I was a college freshman.

He still carried a torch for me more than 20 years since we had sporadically dated, going to Miami Hurricane football games together and even taking a madcap trip to Southern California to attend the wedding of my college chum. Like me, Danny was a cancer survivor. He had never married. Best of all, he had many, many pirate tales to share with me. Miami in the late 70s and 80s was a very different place, and, for a time, Danny had been part of the drug smuggling scene. He’d also been a chauffeur for a Miami Beach hotel. He’d driven Truman Capote, George Plimpton and Mother Theresa around the Magic City at various times. He had met and driven various White House officials around too, mainly during the Bush Senior era. Oh, Danny had enough stories to fill several books. He was a true pirate.

I started to hang out at his house every night after work. It was a sanctuary for me. I drank goblets of red wine, bitched about my ex and all of the legal mumbo jumbo I was still sorting through. We stayed up late and watched movies. We filled each other in on people we hadn’t seen for years. We laughed at how surviving cancer had changed us. We didn’t sweat the small stuff. We were survivors, tough as nails in so many ways.

Danny was a great listener. He gave me the encouragement I needed to begin healing, put the past behind me, and get back on my own horse, so to speak. We had 10 lovely months together when he died suddenly. He fell and broke his neck in the shower in the middle of the night.

As awful as it was, it was not surprising. He had balance issues from a neck surgery he had needed during his long journey through throat cancer. He also had a tracheotomy, which complicated his life in many ways. I rushed over to his house, arriving while the police were still there.

The policeman sized me up, realizing that I needed closure on Danny’s sudden death and that I was tough enough to go view the body. Which I did, saying a prayer that thanked God for sparing him any pain and for not letting him die in a hospital — which I knew was Danny’s worst fear. He had suffered enough.

Still mourning my marriage, I now found myself spiraling even further downward to a very sad place. I had just lost a dear friend, a confidante, and the one person who’d been able to make me laugh and smile after the dark days that followed the end of a 20 year marriage.