This past week has been my most difficult here by far. On Saturday evening I got online and was messaged by a friend back home. She was breaking the bad news that our friend Greg had lost his battle with cancer a few hours before. Greg was a truly amazing person, someone who in his short time here on Earth touched a great many lives. No matter what he was going through in his own life he was always there with a smile, a hug, and words of wisdom.
I wish that I had gotten to know Greg better while he was here. When I met him he had already been diagnosed with the illness that would claim his life. I never got to know pre-cancer Greg. Yet, I will always cherish the times that I did get to spend with him. He was one of those people that had the ability to leave a lasting impression on you, even if you only met him once.
While Greg and I only knew each other for a short time he has known many of my nearest and dearest for the better part of 25 years. He introduced people to Burning Man for the first time, officiated at their weddings, and generally stoked the world anyway that he knew how. I hate knowing how much pain my chosen family has been in the last week. Hard not to be there to give them hugs, a shoulder to cry on, and to share our memories. Wish I could be there with you all right now, that I could watch the temple burn in the desert, or that I could attend the Greg memorial party. Just know that I’m thinking about you all everyday and am with you in spirit.
I’m pretty much just staying sane knowing that one of my best friends will be here in a little less than two weeks and that I can finally hug someone from back home. When I get back to the states there’s going to be a major hugfest with you all, just sayin’ 😉
After finding out the news I pretty much barricaded myself in my room, watching funny movies, eating chocolate, and crying. Wasn’t really in the mood to be around anyone here. On Sunday my host grandma asked me if I wanted to go swimming the next day. Knowing it would probably be good for me to get out of the house I agreed. Didn’t know any details about the trip though. Figured there might be a watering hole around here somewhere.
The next morning I asked my host sister to explain what was going on. She told me that we were going to Kobuleti to swim. Her and her brother would be staying there for 10 days, but grandma and I would return that night. In the early afternoon we crammed into a car and headed off to Kobuleti which is near Batumi on the Black Sea.
We arrived 2.5hrs later, had lunch, and changed into our swimsuits. Kobuleti was really quaint. The main street is lined with outdoor cafes, pool tables, shops, and places to dance. The beach is this long narrow strip of rocks lined with giant stone stadium style seats/steps. Towels were laid down and we took to the sea.
I spent quite a bit of time floating on my back, letting the waves move me around. It was a great time to reflect on life and death. I read somewhere that one thing that can help in the grieving process is to talk to the person who died. Actually started doing this a few weeks ago when we were told that Greg’s condition was worsening. Before his death my thoughts were less conversation like though and more sending positive energy style, but since his passing I actually have little ‘conversations’ with him. Maybe this is really weird, but seems to help me. Told him about the sea and how beautiful it was. Felt good to think that I could kind of bring a part of him across the world.
I continued this meditation of sorts later as I sat next to my host grandma on the rocky beach. We sat so that the waves would come crashing into us. Sometimes they were so strong that they knocked us over. We’d fall down laughing and help one another back up. I just closed my eyes and let the power of nature consume me, running my fingers through the pebbles. It was just what I needed.
After the waves had slammed me around for awhile I went to dry off and lay in the sun. You know how when you go to the beach you get sand inside your swimsuit and stuck in all sorts of places? Well, here it’s like that, but with rocks. Swear every time I thought I’d gotten rid of them all I’d find more stuffed in my suit. Also, I thought that since everything I read stressed how conservative this country was that I needed to wear a one-piece suit. How wrong I was. Even my host grandma was wearing a bikini. I was one of the only people there wearing a full bathing suit.
As I laid on the beach I heard English being spoken next to me. My host grandma pointed and asked if they were Americans (they were actually Canadian). I watched for a little bit thinking that the woman looked really familiar, but still not sure. Then, as I looked a little closer I saw that there were two women there, both from my training group. Soon one more person from the group showed up. How random! Out of all the places they could have set up shop on the beach they just happened to be right next to us. I spent a bit of time hanging out with them, and took another dip in the sea.
This time while we were swimming someone yelled, “Bear!”. Not something you normally hear while in the water. I looked where they were pointing and lo and behold there was a guy walking a bear. Like on a leash. Was in the water so I couldn’t get a photo, but it was a small bear on a leash. First time seeing that. Also saw a man trying very hard to walk his Caucasian Shepherd dog. These dogs are native to the region and it was bigger than the bear. They are seriously gigantic. Look like they would be the perfect animal to sleep with on a cold winter night.
Doing my best to stay positive and keep Greg’s spirit alive. Know that so many people will continue to spread his love around making the world a better place. When faced with life’s challenges we’ll ask ourselves, WWGD? ❤