The Entire Mourning

  • by Albert Berkshire

It doesn’t fade. People, sayings, inspirational quotes that invade your preferred social media feeds even; they all offer a hopeful lie. In turn, we all grab ahold of the wish bar and get pulled along for the ride of disappointment. 

Somewhere, as we float through the clouds; bob across the waves; peer, squinting, over the mountaintops, we hope the lie can become truth. Perhaps the one quasi-inspirational quote to ring true is, “It’s the hope that kills you”. 

So true is the mourning. 

Years ago – at least it feels like years ago – my partner informed me that should she pass, I had to wait one full calendar year before taking up with someone new. I’m sure it was brought on by the discovery that a person we knew had found a new partner mere months after the passing of their recently deceased life partner. I promptly informed my wife I would never marry again…which may have been delivered with incorrect intonation, thus prompting a stern look… and a tepid reception to my somewhat apologetic clarification. 

She, in turn, informed me she only had to wait six months – because someone had to cook. I suspect she wouldn’t want to ski or ride alone, either. But it was definitely the former that was of most concern. Not everyone likes to cook. I think 3 months is ample time for her. One should not risk scurvy. 

Truth be told – unlike the aforementioned social media quotes that so many love to mindlessly repost for their own self-help (as if posting said jargon-filled cries for help would somehow solve their collective predicaments) – it would be much more than a year for me. And I speak from experience when I confirm for you the falsehoods found in the promise the emptiness and pain will fade. If anything, it amplifies with surges, not unlike a king tide – something we should remember happens with the push and pull of the moon. A cycle of frequency, ever present in our little piece of the timeline in which we humans plod along. 

A surge of grief does not respect your mid-flight joy to be headed on a vacation, nor does it care you’ve just harnessed the ideal 15-knot wind on a beam reach, or even that you just spent three hours climbing the side of a cliff to reach a flat, safe, stress free summit. No untracked powder run; no flowing singletrack; no glass-water paddle gives you reprieve. Those are the moments of joy and relief struck aside by the inappropriate arrival of the reminder you can’t pick up a phone or send a message to share your achievement. The lines of communication have been severed. There is no tech support capable of reconnecting you. The reality of abandonment lingers. 

This, of course, is not to say everyone abandons their loved ones on purpose. Quite the contrary. Aside from a few in unrelenting pain who willingly and rightfully choose to travel on to the next plane of existence – or not – depending on their belief system, very few accept the end of their life with grace. 

Regrets, I’m sure, are the first thing to offer up. We might choose to self-eulogise in a reminiscent fashion, give definite instructions to our friends and descendants, or even spend our last days, hours, or minutes worrying about how others will cope in our absence. The latter, I’m inclined to think is utter arrogance. In turn, we the diligent bedside sitters offer comfort to the soon to be deceased that “we’ll be just fine” – another example of arrogance an observer of the human species would find typical, if not amusing. We really are brutally self-indulgent…right to the bitter end. 

And that’s where I have to leave this uncomfortable rambling. The mind of Albert is not a reliable source for calm thought. No quotes should be heeded. No ramblings should receive more than a minor deliberation. When colleagues joke about about my extended holidays and random work hours, and lightheartedly quip, “I want to be Albert”, I promptly remind them, “No. You do not. No one should to be trapped in this mind”. There are no self-help posti-quotes that will repair this brain…or heart. 

But one must try…arrogant as that may be. Even if it takes the entire mourning.  

My mother, Norma Mary Hartery-Berkshire, passed away ten years ago today – 14 January 2013. She was ready to go, having stated, “I’ve had enough. I’m outta here.” It was a final, definite declaration from a lady who knew how to end a debate with grace. In hindsight, it’s funny; however, to be candid, it’s been awful. But it’s time to start writing about happier things. 

Perhaps the happier writings will finally make the mourning fade to black. 

Norma was a delight. She had quite a presence for such a tiny lady, and could fill a room with her curiosity and interest in others. Most of all, she would debate anything just for the joy of conversation. How fortunate were we to have shared in her life.

Albert Thomas Berkshire is a writer, director, producer, and traveling booze model. He has lost too many to death, and equally, too many to life. To see a happier world though Albert’s eyes, follow him on Instagram for random moments of delight…and of course, some ever-tasty, spouse-enjoyed, self-indulgent food porn. Just not a poached egg. The vortex of poach eludes him still.

The Orphan Girl In The Moon

  • by Albert Berkshire

“Welcome to the club.” she said. “We’re orphans, now, you and me.”

I’d never thought of my life like that. I’d never thought much about orphans. To me, orphans were kids in a Charles Dickens novel, or the unfortunate boys of Mount Cashel. The later, I surmise, would have been better off on the streets than in that horrible place.

But here we were. Two of a kind. Both, it seemed now, without a parent between us.

I don’t remember, particular details of the phone call. I think I went a little numb. We still talked – possibly for an hour or more – but the next part of the conversation when into that strange audio effect you experience in television shows or movies when everything is muted, as if a stun grenade had just detonated and left my ears ringing. A surreal state of bewilderment. You are fully aware of what’s happening around you, but you are just detatched enough to not fully remember details. A generalization of general events, if you will.

As the conversation rolled on, I suspect we had a heart to heart chat about the loss of our mothers, made easier by a fair amount of levity. She always knew when to inject some happy thoughts and quirky observations into a conversation.

When I look back at the almost 18 years we were friends – some days of friendship better than others (as all relationships go) – there were countless funny moments, and lessons on humanity. All, now, are cherished. And like all reflection when a friend passes on to the next dimension, better appreciated. Treasured, even.

From the sublime cartoon clippings that would arrive in the mail – and still adorn the refrigerator door – to the little gifts that lightened my wife’s heart, this dazzling light in our life knew just how to make a friend smile. And she wasn’t just generous with friends. She was a friend to the animals; always being the voice they did not have, and the home they could not find. She took in strays and loved them like best friends. Her husband – and partner through life – always had a sharp sarcasm for the cats that roamed their home, and his silly monikers for the animals seemed to give her great delight. But they never gave her pause. She was undeterred.

She was also ridiculously well read. Vonnegut, I believe was her favourite. Her wit was sharp. Bright-eyed with even brighter lipstick. Her heart was far too big for her body. And her sense of fashion was all her own. Perhaps the most memorable accessory was a string of pearls she liked to wear while mountain biking. After all, she was out, and she certainly wasn’t going to be seen in public looking half-put-together.

A few weeks before she passed away, she posted on Facebook a quote from 17th Century Japanese poet, Mizuta Masahide; “Barn’s burnt down – now I can see the moon.”

Her friends all knew what she meant.

Emily wasn’t a religious person. Not in the least. But just days before she died, she renewed her vows with her husband, Daniel, in a ceremony performed by a priest. And when she died on Good Friday, I looked at my wife, and in a broken smile, said, “Emily died on Good Friday – for the animals. I think she’d appreciate the irony in that.”

It was the night before before she died that I woke up to the brightest moon in memory. I felt like Em was drifting past the window to say hello to some friends. Friends she kept in that oversized, generous heart of hers.

Once the girl in a string of pearls, she is forever the girl in the moon drifting throughout the night sky, keeping pace, shining her beauty on us. Lighting the way, in the darkest moments.

There’s one less member in our orphan’s club, and one more twinkle in the sky.

Hi Ho, Emily. Hi Ho.

Emily Collage
Emily saw humour in everything.


Albert Berkshire is a storyteller. Emily Crumback was one of his most intriguing friends, and the first person to read the final draft of his first novel – We Made A Pact. To honour a friend like Emily, you need only love an animal, read a book, or appreciate music – preferably Van Morrison. It’s all she would ever want. For a shorter, lighter, and less frequent rambling, Albert is found on Twitter @albertberkshire, and anti-socially at