Storyboard – No. 03


I have no home.

I am a guest anywhere I am. 

I want to go home. 

The place I seek, I can no longer find. 

I want to find 

my comfort, 

my heart, 

my sanity.

I float now in the dense air of darkness.

Gaps in between stars speak to me.

Their presence that calls to me is the without, it is the absence. 

My mind is only playing tricks on me. 

The pinpoint stars cast high-relief shadows on my skin. 

I squint because I cannot decide on their distance.

I close my eyes tight to their brightness. 

The cracks on my pained face are filled with my tears that do not dry.

Air stings and presses the salted wet, more tears spill out onto my burned cheeks.

I know I’m falling now, but when I open my eyes wide, I have not moved from this fixed space. 

My fingertips throb yet are numb, a pale reflection of what’s inside 

my skin,

my mind,

my soul.

My body is being twisted from the outside in, muscles torn under the strain.

The stillness has wrapped itself around me, no sound is allowed to escape.

I have no home.

I am a guest anywhere I am. 

I want to go home. 

The place I seek, I can no longer find. 


Ontario, Canada – July 3, 2017


We have arrived on our island, and it is much smaller than I expected. There will be no place to run, and of course I am without my bike. Walking up from the dock, it feels like I’m going back in time to something familiar, but I have not been here before. Cabins of different shapes and sizes dot along the sides of the cement and stone path. Many of the structures are painted a bright, medium yellow, masking age and wear. It reminds me so much of the yellow-painted foyer in our Minnesota home of years past. It’s that kind of bright. Our cabin is down by the water. It is still being built. As we approach, I see it does not yet have its siding completed. It stands unapologetically naked, stripped of its skin, and it’s pose says “look if you dare to see what I’m made of.” This cabin: it’s like I’m looking at myself in a mirror. Like me, it’s underneath is exposed, it can’t cover itself up. That’s exactly how I feel on this trip. All of my feelings that I’ve been able to hide from family to this point, will not be hidden this week. I am only thinking about myself. All I can think of is wanting to find refuge somewhere, in my own bedroom maybe, to lock the door when I need to so the others do not see my sadness and hear me cry. I am determined this cabin will be my skin, my clothing. It will protect me. 

Ontario, Canada – July 6, 2017
Dear Jon, 

Today is July 6, marking nine months since you died. We set sail your ashes yesterday, but you already know that. I feel the air around me now like a thick, invisible fog. Sunglasses today are a must to protect my swollen eyes. What is left here of me today is like an empty bird’s nest just like the ones we would find in nearly every Christmas tree we decorated. I’m dried up, brittle, and kind of falling apart. I took these pictures today. I was thinking about you and our family. I love you. ❤️ Puskie


Everything seems to be washed clean through the night, colors seem brighter, the air smells fresh. We are down at the dock getting ready to resume our fishing today. We will be having another shore lunch, cooking what we catch. I look out on the water now and I’m trying to see you. All I see is calm water, a clear blue sky, and a bright sun… like nothing ever happened. I wish none of this had ever happened. Maybe I’m really dreaming right now? When I wake up, you’ll be next to me, all of these nine months washed away. Better still, rewind before cancer, when we could have changed that perfect storm that lead to your diagnosis. 


Cancer has its own twisted logic: it can bring people together or break them apart. I’ve discovered grief can do the same. This family trip showed me many views of togetherness and separation. It’s the pain, anger, and sadness of losing you that have been so difficult to share with our family. I don’t want to hurt or offend our family, but yet I feel like I have, and do. I’m guilty of letting you go. I’m guilty of being angry about being alone. I’m guilty of turning to new people and going public about our once very private life as a way to deal with my new reality. I’m guilty of becoming a new person I feel my family does not recognize or like. The risk of causing more pain to those I love is unbearable, even excruciating just thinking about it, and yet right now I’m doing it. Add to that, I can’t take in listening to how they feel, taking in their pain, adding it to mine. I doubt I can do it. So much weight. How do I hold myself together while supporting others, when I can’t even support myself? Is it simply not wanting them to see me in such despair, knowing that nothing will change the fact that you are gone? I see two boats, so close, dragged to shore, waiting to be set out in the water again to be useful, to do what they were made to do. They do not touch, but yet they are very much together. Communication by sounds of the water lapping against their hulls. If only being here now were that easy. 


I’ve walked away from the group, lost in thoughts of you, the “who is not here,” not wanting to look at what’s in front of me, all reminders of “who is not here.” I can’t go away and I can’t stay, both states bring sadness to my heart and torture my mind. Looking through these trees, this is a special scene. They are perched on the edge of this rock, holding it in place with roots that find their way through cracks and sediment. At this moment, I see each tree trunk standing silently, separately. To look out straight through them is to see the in between and how they are apart from one another. This is like my family now, each of us carrying grief in their own way. I only later realized that if I had looked up, I would have seen how they were together, their branches intertwining, leaves chatting in the breeze. Separate but together, it is a balance. We are each grieving differently, separately, but yet together we all grieve over you, our shared loss. We all love and miss you so much. 


If you want to find me, this is where I am. I will be waiting for you. ~Paula

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