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I could write a book about how much I love Vancouver. My mother told me on a number of occasions that Vancouver “fed the soul”. I’d travelled here on vacation as a child, a teenager (twice), and as a wife. I’d learn for myself as well as observing my husband that Vancouver did indeed “feed the soul”.
After many holidays visiting Vancouver, I saw my husband truly being fed. Two months after Jason underwent open-heart surgery, we visited Vancouver again, going to our favourite places and seeing new places. He tired easily at first but quickly I could see the colour return to his cheeks and his eyes twinkling more each day with excitement. He walked for longer periods as our holiday progressed, loving the sea air and the extra oxygen we didn’t feel anywhere else. We talked with a new enthusiasm of the future and seriously discussed moving to Vancouver. Sadly, Jason died in Calgary after suffering a series of strokes in 2008.
After Jason’s death, I didn’t think I wanted to ever live again, let alone in Vancouver. Despite my grief, I visited Vancouver the summer of 2008. It was my first trip as a widow and it was bittersweet. I was numb a good part of the holiday and overflowing with grief and tears at other times. I wasn’t at all sure I still loved Vancouver. I returned to Calgary, working and going to grief counselling but found the longer I was away from Vancouver the more I longed to be there. I looked through photographs, daydreamed, and did research on the internet and in books to see if it would be possible to live in Vancouver or at least Greater Vancouver. I’m sure some would think me horribly naïve. I knew there were crime, poverty, traffic, and longer distances to travel and one of my least favourite buttons to be pushed: snobbery. However, I needed to be near family and I was desperate to visit a city where the temperatures were moderate and that trees and grass remained green year around. I remembered that the sea air was fresh and the beaches beautiful. I also knew that there was a variety of post-secondary institutions I could go to for upgrading of my skills in my chosen area as a library technician. I felt I needed a new life and new chapter.
I moved to White Rock in the fall of 2009 to live with my mother and step-father until I could get my bearing and find my own place—hopefully right in Vancouver. At times, I wondered if I had made a mistake. Could I still love Vancouver without Jason being with me? Would I see nothing but ghosts of him? I made it a mission from the first month to see Vancouver as a new tourist—one who was single. Tears still flowed from time to time but I learned to start living again. My mother had described the coast and especially, Vancouver, as a “healing place that fed your soul.” Each day, I took my back pack and my camera (as Jason and I both did) and got to know the excellent transit system, discovering new neighbourhoods and discovering some of the many wonderful independent bookstores and coffee shops. Despite being a shy introvert, I started to chat with baristas and others around me. Some, holding their smart phones and tablets, didn’t respond but I found that, all around, the majority of the people in Vancouver were very friendly and eager to suggest places to see and go to for resources such as rent and job hunting. Vancouver was a dog-friendly place and I chatted up dog-owners, sometimes talking for over an hour.
I felt like a child again as my mother was my rock, supporting me when my grief overwhelmed me. She still tells me and others about how I’d call, excitedly, about how wonderful and relaxing it was by Coal Harbour, watching boats and float planes coming in. I was lucky to be in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics in 2010. I couldn’t afford to go to any of the competitions but the positive energy I felt reaffirmed that I was in the right place. I remember being downtown to see the torch relay. I tried to climb onto a wall to get a better view and found a warm hand helping me up. I had never seen the man helping me up before and he didn’t know me but he helped me. When I stood in line to see the flame, people offered to take a picture of me with my camera and in turn, I took ones of them. I couldn’t stop smiling and I hadn’t smiled as wholeheartedly for a long time. Yes, it was a special time but even after the Olympics were done and the stands and the flame was out, my enthusiasm didn’t die and I began to realize that, for all of the times I’d visited Vancouver since I was a child, I still hadn’t exhausted what Vancouver had to offer.
Vancouver can be like any city with its traffic at rush hour, self-obsessed residents unaware of others, irritation at the rudeness and the sometimes snobby attitudes of people but I’ve seen those features in most cities I’ve lived in. However, nowhere else did I feel as full of good health (my asthma practically disappeared and I rarely suffered from colds and flu’s). Nowhere else did I feel a consistent positive energy or sense of wonder and nowhere else did I feel my soul healing and being fed.