Oh, how I'd love to tell you about the wonderful purchase of our bikes. What a joy it was to finally decide and buy two brand new Kawasaki KLR650's. We viewed the bikes last Saturday (30th June2007) and were so impressed by them we went for it, even though they were $1000 more each than I'd budgeted for. They deal was worth it and we were over the moon, only $9300 for both; thats cheaper than one new in the UK. There was a black and a red one, despite insisting I'd have first choice on bikes I allowed Cai his pick and he went for the Red one. Oh why, just why didn't I stick to my guns and have my first choice, which was the Red!!
Riding down the Interstate 55 we were headed for the Pacific coast highway, which was our first planned route. Both of us were so looking forward to it. As the bikes were we had to deep the revs down to 4000 rpm for 500 miles, which means about 60 mph. The ride was going well, we took turns leading and stayed together, rarely being out of sight at all. We were separated by other vehicles pulling in between us but that was no concern. My attention was diverted by a van driving worrying close behind me, by the time that situation was over I checked for Cai and there was no sight of him. I reduced my speed and waited, but still no sign, so I pulled over to the hard shoulder. Another driver also pulled over and told me there'd been an accident, Cai was hurt but alright! I sped back up the hard shoulder to the scene to find Cai being cared for by other motorists with experience in such first aid.
Cai just wanted me there to hold him and hug him, he was in a lot of pain but wanted me to know what had happened. As he pulled over to another lane his engine lost power, the next thing he know a large freight truck plowed into him.
As we waited for the emergency services he was having problems staying conscious. When they took him to the hospital I was left to ride my own bike there, where I was denied access to see him and given a sheaf of paperwork to sign. After about four hours of surgery and resuscitation they couldn't restart his heart.
I expect to get his body back home by the beginning of next week where we'll have a service and wake for the multitudes of friends and family who Cai meant so much to. Just this morning I have found out his grades from his International Baccaluareate were excetional, top of his class and plenty for him to be able to study medicine. He was so keen on using his life to help others, to have an positive effect on our imperfect world.
I will forever treasure the all too short time Cai had alive, he was the dearest friend and the most wonderful person I've ever known. He was my life!!
Getting back home has brought everything much more into focus again. The calm Iíd managed to achieve in California has been shattered by arriving back. I dread meeting people because I do not want to talk about the details or the pain. All I really want to do is run away, go back to California and live our dream of riding the Americaís. I never would have wanted to do this alone, but now itís what I need most. I will return as soon as I can sort out things here, a few weeks tops. Iíll at least ride round the USA and Canada, maybe re-assess the situation after that.
What an awful time it has proved to be, repatriating Caiís body and trying to grieve without losing it completely. All Iíve really wanted to do is curl up in a ball and pretend nothing has happened, maybe if I stay like that for ever I can fool myself it hasnít. But there again, Iíve never been that good at fooling myself! Holy shit, I canít begin to imagine what the rest of my life will be like without Cai. Already choices are determined by what I think Cai would like, but without him here there is no point to any of it. Nothing could have prepared me for this experience; Iím sure no-one imagines seeing their offspring dying before them.
Fairly recently Cai and me were talking about death, how its the survivors who suffer most. Once a person is dead their suffering is over, though it is only just beginning for their loved ones. We agreed that it is the good memories that should be concentrated on and cherished: not a fancy coffin and the most money thrown at a florist.. What a waste it is to see an ornate casket roll through the hatch and get torched, has our world really resources to burn in such flippant consumerism? The suffering felt from losing a loved one is painful and hard to come to terms with; yet every day we hear and ignore so much about death and suffering in places like Darfur and Iraq, to name but two. Maybe we should keep our minds open to the bigger picture, and be thankful that Cai had so many opportunities in his all too short life; many are nowhere near as lucky. But this is of little consequence to me now, so overcome am I by my loss. Of course it matters to me that thousands are starving and facing death everyday, but Iím too grief stricken to be concerned.
Iím surprised over the press making such a meal of Caiís death. Although it feels good, the world should know what a tragedy it is my son is dead, its hardly national news status! They seem to be contacting anyone they can to try and get a story, what a shame they're not coming with offers of help and support. At least I've been left alone by them.
Tragedy seems to bring out the best of people in many ways. Splintered social groups pull together; people who havenít really associated for some time can be seen together, sharing in their grief and their efforts to help those most effected. For me this was appreciated so much; a furnished house to come home to instead of the deserted and empty shell I left it as. Even plants have been reinstated to their former positions, shame Iíve got to water them again! But I have food for sustenance and a steady flow of friends bringing comfort and support. Its so nice to share time with Caiís friends as well, such a nice bunch! It makes a change to meet youths that arenít ignorant little shites. Yet another sign of Caiís character, having good quality friends.
Caiís body is in the funeral home over by Gabeís. Theyíve been to see it, I havenít yet. I donít know what to do! I said my goodbyes in the hospital when he died; I really donít know if I need to see a waxen figure laying in a box. I have so many wonderful memories of my life with him maybe that should be enough, only his face and hands are visible anyway. Jeez, I didnít mean for it to become an issue. I didnít even consider seeing the body again, ď been there, done thatÖÖ.Ē Oh well, at least this time it wonít leave me stinking of hospital disinfectant for days after.
The service (a tribute) is to be held at Bangor Crematorium 12.30 pm Wednesday 18th July. Itíll be nice to see support there from all Caiís friends, afterwards there will be a Wake at Hendre Hall, Tal y Bont. If youíd like to share some time celebrating Caiís all too short life join us there. Iím sure thereíll be tears aplenty but we hope to treat it as a celebration not a gloomy, depressing affair. Thereíll be many others to share memories of Cai with.
And how do we feel today after a visit to Madame Toussourdes? Remarkably unfazed! Iím glad Iíve been to see Caiís body, but it bears little resemblance to my son and offers no extra in the way of closure. The biggest wish for most people who say the body is why they couldnít see his hair; his trademark! Personally I wondered why any sane person would dress an 18 yr old manís body in a white satin cover, with a frigginí bow at the neck. Poor lad, he had so much more style when he was alive.
A day where I didnít break down into uncontrollable tears is surely one to be noted. I knew it would be hard coming home, no more so than meeting Caiís peer group. Iím not doing my head in with guilt, but seeing them made me wonder if I should have been more protective at that initial stage of our riding America. Not that it matters now, to late for all that sort of crap! There ainít no actions, money or thoughts that can turn back the clock. So the only way is forward. Bit of a shame my forward thinking capabilities seem to be a wee bit skew-iff at present.
The funeral is tomorrow and weíve got just about everything sorted at the venue for after. I was so worried it was going to turn into a tacky show for all, a load of false sentiments expressed by people of no import. But a bit of trust doesnít go amiss; people donít want the obscene or absurd. Now isnít the time to question the needs of others; now is the time to help them achieve their needs, offer whatever it takes to help them through this time of grief.
I have to admit though, Iíve been so tempted to pull off a stunt to raise a few smiles. I just canít think of the ONE thing that would make EVERYONE laugh! I suggested kidnapping the body and legging it with the pall bearers, theyíd all have to be in collusion though. Of course, thereís the fake customs and excise raid to take the body into custody on suspicion of being used to smuggle drugs from the Americas. But really, I donít want a laugh, or just a body, I want Cai back! And of course, he ainít coming; so I might as well let people get on and find some closure. I canít pee people off with ďCai would want this and Cai wouldnít want that,Ē this isnít for Cai: its for those he mattered to. I thought filling display boards with hundreds of photos of Cai was too much, too bizarre. But after looking and crying every time, they sort of grew on me. It was then I realised I wanted to minimise those reminders that might be too much for me. So why the f**k should I want to do that, Iím so proud of the strength of emotion I have for my son. If losing him makes me feel like crying; Iíll cry unashamedly. Iíll be grateful to share those tears with all available.
Stiff upper lip? Putting on a brave face? WHY?? Why shouldnít I show my emotions publicly? How pleasant it is to be amongst those who can understand, those who care; I only hope their support for each other will continue for many moons still!
In a horribly selfish way I just wanna get back to California and start my ride. I canít walk around my village without feeling cut up by memories. Its sensory overload! I have plenty of memories, I can take them with me and do my grieving, on the move. Let it mean something; not for it to be the end of a dream, just a small hiccough!! For my own headspace I need to go away, much as I hate to cut and run; I canít take it at home!
Thank you, to all those whoíve sent their messages of grief and support. Thanks for the huge presence at my home and at Gabeís. This event obviously means a lot to many people, so lets shed some tears, smile some smiles and let the memories of Cai light up our future efforts in life.
My head is scrambled and my emotions are in tatters! The numbers present at the crematorium were staggering, and so many people attended the wake. It was heart rending to meet friends of Caiís whoíd only just found out. What a nightmare, get back off holiday to meet news like that. So many I didnít get a chance to talk to and so many I could find no words for. Thank you, to all of you; for the tears, the hugs, your looks of sorrow or devastation. Thank you for showing up; or your thoughts, if you couldnít make it. Most of all Iíd like to thank everyone whoever meet Cai and shared in his life. It was a great life! Maybe short, but great all the same. Very few people have the opportunities to experience so much, in such a short time. And Iíll be eternally grateful I got to share so much of it with him. Here's a photo of us two doing fire poi back to back.
I canít remember the personís name, a woman I think was called Julie, gave the nicest memory I could have. She is agoraphobic and was talking to Cai about the travels heíd done abroad. He told her all about our proposed trip and that Iíd ridden my bike around Turkey last year. She was really jealous, saying how sheíd love to visit Turkey. The way I remember her relating Caiís words was, something like, ďwell go on then, donít be an old ladyÖgo and do itĒ. Despite her agoraphobia, she did! She went to Turkey and achieved something she never thought she would do. Not only that, she came to the crematorium alone, on the bus and also made the wake at Hendre hall. I didnít get to talk to her again, but it was the topic of many conversations I had. Thank you so much for that memory! It is wonderful to find how special my son was to people. I wish I could meet you all.
Funerals do funny things to people, all too often the biggest fuss is made by those whoíve no reason for it. Seeing people upset is expected; but acting as if the deceased was their closest and dearest can be hard to stomach. Am I being too cynical? Maybe guilt is the bitterest pill to swallow! Maybe death is good for bringing people together, it certainly seems to allow people to forget differences between them. Shame it has to take death to achieve, but better than never, eh? Cai certainly didnít hold with harbouring bad feelings, a true advocate of the "live and let live" philosophy. So thanks for anyone who shared their grief, even if thats all they shared.
Another thing said to me concerned Cai's idealistic enthusiasm. More importantly, it recognised that Cai will not have to endure getting his idealism kicked out of him by our society. He was optimistic, but not always. At a very young was pessimism endured and overcome. He was only about 6 yrs old when he worried about our planetís future, seeing no escape from our apparent doom; all due to my truthful answers to a constant torrent of questions. He was all gloom and doom over it for some time. I think he always carried a little of that despair, deep down; but carried it he did, and learnt he could make a difference. All I ever saw in his last years was a greater and greater resolve to get somewhere and make a difference. Well, he got many places and made a lot of difference to those he meet.
Now the organising is over and a new life must begin. Never again will I get to hug Cai, never again will I hear his voice, wash his clothes, cook him a mealÖÖ.. Shit, this just isnít fair; a life without Cai isnít really much of a life!
Its strange to say things in an open and honest way, the wrong people have this bad habit of thinking its making a point about them. I could so easily swear with frustration. For anyone who has doubts about their actions in connection with Cai's death: DON'T BE BLOODY STUPID!!! We all need to deal with death in our own way. Giving support to those left alive is just as important as grieving for Cai personally. Helping a grieving person is an admirable thing to do; so don't be paranoid. Its only hypocrits and voyeaurs my angst was aimed at.
Amazement is felt at how quick the initial pain can be overcome. I can get through days without breaking down, read items and look at photos without crying. How amazing is the human system for redirecting our pain? Seems to filter it out so we can cope easier. In one way I wish I could open the flood gates and let out all the pain in one foul swoop. Could I take that much all in one go? Probably not!
Today is the first time I've enjoyed riding since getting back to North Wales. Partly due to how much better our new bikes are than Cai's bike (which I've been riding whilst back); but also not being focussed on the road. Actually, riding has not been the relaxed, easy going experience I'm used to. Hardly surprising, but it has always allowed me to focus and clear my mind under almost any circumstance. Even riding 150 miles straight from Cai's death bed calmed me down. Strange though, being home makes me feel everyone who sees me riding down the road knows what's happened and is looking at me with pity. I know they can't all be, and I shouldn't give a damn anyway, but I hate being seen in that way. Its a double edged sword as well; again allowing people to express their sorrow without allowing it to aggravate mine. Ain't no easy answers really. Of course people want to offer condolensces, but it makes me feel awkeward; for me and them.
It seems so short a time since arriving home, its actually been twelve days. Though I'm certainly ready to go back! It has been good for me to come home, but more so for all those who cherish Cai and me. It seemed to upset people that I felt going to the ashes spreading was more for others than myself. It has been very important for me to be there for others; not just to revel in the attention and support heaped upon me. Its been important for me the support and grieving is a reciprocal thing. It should work both ways, it ain't healthy for life to be one sided. The last thing I should allow to happen now is to waste too mcuh time wallowing in self pity. See for those who meet me, slap me if I've succumned.
Numb and empty sounds such an awful way to feel, but its not! They're much better than devastated, guilt ridden or angry, but so far from happy, joyous or even content. So I guess being somewhere in the middle can't be too bad, however precarious that balance is. Trouble is how easy it can be for the crap feelings to flood back again, yesterday it was seeing the latest report in the papers, today a tear rolling down a friend's face. I expect this will continue for some time! I'm not afraid of my tears or ashamed of my grief, so let 'em roll!
I really appreciate the support and encouragement over my return to LA and the continuation of the trip. Why did I ever think people would think it weird or selfish? Oh well, I reserve the right for moments of temporary insanity. Being at home is hard, I don't think it would be easy to move forward while staying here. And I don't feel like I'm running away from anything. My grief is with me at all times, where-ever I go. Always just a short step from reducing me to tears, or worse. I used to scorn people claiming they had panic attacks, I thought it was just a sign that someone was incapable/reluctant of handling something. I thought it was an excuse, a ploy! Not any more; ain't I glad for all that meditative and other methods to relax. I have to say I think physical pain is so much easier to handle; so long as its mine.
I'm struggling a bit with imagery from the accident. Not just what I saw, which is bad enough, but what I imagine. Scenario' keep running through my mind trying to decipher exactly what happened. Or what could have happened if I hadn't let Cai ride at the back, or have the red bike, or ridden the bikes back. And I know full well none of this matters to Cai, it can't change anything; especially helping me feel better. But I guess 'its all part of the process' (shit, that's a Morcheeba line, is that from the funeral track?) and I need to go through that, and lots more before I can start to envisage a life without Cai. That is the hardest thing at present, imagining any sort of life that doesn't involve Cai. Attempts to look ahead get lost in an impenetrable void. Drifting off into such voids have become a normal part of life, it'll be nice when normality means more than this.
Time's getting short and its only days before flying westward again. A new start, with a heavy heart! I look forward to riding again, just been too damn wet and blowy to enjoy it round here. Plus, I've been lent a car while some friends (thanks J&A) are away.
Only another few days before I return to LA. I'm not exactly anxious about going off and doing the trip on my own; I think its more a worry about my sanity. And NO, I'm not losing it! But spending long periods of time riding alone tends to create your own reality. Greater appreciation for your surroundings and complete freedom, its heartbreaking I won't get to experience Cai discovering this. Being exposed to nature, whilst on my bike, with all my gear strapped on and no-where I have to be must be one of the best ways to travel. So why the worry? I know I've got a lot of heart-ache to get out my system! Shit, last year I was riding through the Turkish mountains with tears streaming down my face. And that was just thoughts of missing Cai once he went off to university. I know I'll get really lonely, and want to seek company at times. I also know the tears will flow, probably for some time yet. But I also know I have the strength and will, not just to do the journey, but to gain a hell of a lot from the experience. Wouldn't it just complete the picture to be able to see some poor folk, in a piss poor village, get an unexpected bit of charity, raised by people in memory of Cai.
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