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My Margaret - My Iron Lady - Who Am I?

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This is my first post here - a little background, if I may:

If I don't use the correct words or my grammar comes out all skew, then please pardon - English not being my mother tongue.

For a long time now, I was reading through the topics and I found comfort by just reading them - I thank you for this.

It is now just short of 18 months that I lost My Margaret - we were "joint-by-the-hip" since ages 12 and 11 - got married when we were still children actually - me being 19 and she 18. Married for just short of 44 years, having 2 daughters and a son.

Throughout the years we considered one another as a gift-of-grace from God - we always thought that our main purpose in life, was to love and be with each other - and SO it was! She was my everything - morning, noon and night - 24/7 - we were so blessed!!

My Margaret were one of those people who "light up the room" by their mere presence - she made a HUGE impression on people in general - in her working environment, she was an icon and rollmodel - very low profile and hated attention - when she spoke, people listened - very wise she was and a student up to the end - she was a registered operating room nurse (a "sister" we call them here) - having an impact of which people will talk about, for years to come.

We were very active backpack hikers for 22 years, hiking long distances - very fit and healthy thus. Mid September 2013 we were already at the starting point of a 301km (180 miles) ultra walk - we knew that "something" was not 100% right with My Margaret but she insisted that she'll be "ok" in a day or two - late the Friday afternoon (we were due to start the walk on the Sunday, two days on) I told her "no, it is my call now" - cancelled the walk and rushed back home, 1 000 km from the walk.

The short version of what happened next: she was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer with mets to the liver - and passed away just more than 4 months later, on 7 February 2014.

Since her passing I struggle with a lot of things - I became a champion procrastinator (I trust that is the word), the complete opposite of what I was before - and struggle to "know" who I am - my whole life and being, was defined by My Margaret and our mutual love for one another.

I found a LOT of comfort in a book (not sure if I'm allowed to mention it here) called, Healing After Loss by Martha Whitmore Hickman - by working through the book (I also have the audio version) I at least came to the conclusion that I'm not going mad or lost my mind.

I would greatly appreciate it if someone, anyone, can perhaps tell me - if I, in time, should "find" myself again because as I say, I'm lost and do not know who I am.

Any hope for me?

For a first post, maybe I talked too much - I cannot help myself - can write books about My Margaret!!

Thank you for "listening" - much appreciated!

Regards from South Africa


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Dear Andrè,

I am sending my deepest, heartfelt condolences to you on the loss of your beloved Margaret. Your story of her is filled with deep love. She sounds like she was a beautiful person.

The book you mentioned by Martha Whitmore Hickman, Healing After Loss was one I found to be of great help to me after the death of my husband after forty years of marriage. I still go back to it.

I do not know what you have done to work through your grief, but I do know that with work you will emerge a different you. You will never be the same, but you will always have the essence of who you were. We are different Andrè because of our situations.

I am 38 months out and every day I miss my Jim but I am beginning to focus on many of the good memories of our life as that is what he would want.

Perhaps your focus can be on what would your Margaret want.

I think she would want you to live your life to it’s fullest. Love your children and spend time in nature. Have you done any walking yet?

Do you have a picture to share with us?


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Andre - my sympathies on the loss of your Margaret. I know how devastating it is. I, too, read Healing After Loss, in fact, my library renewed it for me for 9 months straight (yeah, 9 months, I love those ladies).

Is there hope? Yes. But it comes, slowly, in its own time. I've found that I can have both grief and joy, at the same time. And thus it's been for a a long while. At some point I realized that this loss has changed me, and changed me for good. I'm ok with that, but it took a while to accept that I wouldn't be the same person I was before. How could I be? It wasn't just acceptance that Joe was dead (and that took a while), but acceptance that I was still alive (and that took a good long while), and further, acceptance of myself, who I am now. And not meaning this to be a downer - I've kind of amazed myself with what's come out of the ashes. Just be gentle with yourself, and how you feel. Hugs, Marsha

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Thank you Anne and thank you Marsha - appreciate you replies.

Anne: I DO focus on what My Margaret would've wanted - and I promised her that I'd be "OK", as she was so worried about me - when I find myself to be rock-bottom, I found myself to be thinking just THAT - "what My Margaret would've wanted" and that usually lifts me out of the hole and make me less negative.

The walking you ask about: I've promised My Margaret that I'd keep on walking - she asked me to do 2 specific walks - the 301 km one from which we returned when all was not well with My Margaret (she has done it the year before) and another famous one, the Otter. I've done both since - the 301km was a sort of a pilgrimage walk for me and a very emotional one - I've done well on it and meant a lot to me - the other one (the Otter), I also managed well. Subsequent to these 2, I've done another in March this year - the 85km Outeniqua hike which we (My Margaret and I) have done 19 times - I wanted to do it one more time, to get my 20th - on THIS hike I have not done good at all - I struggled for the first time on a hike - although strenuous, it was the mental side I struggled with most - so much so that, halfway through the 5 day hike, I've quit - a first - I just couldn't finish it - from day one I battled and could only make it halfway.

BUT - I promised My Margaret (and myself) that I'd keep on hiking and living our dream - it is my intention to succeed. At the moment I am preparing physically and mentally for a 101 km walk, in our Overberg mountains, starting out on 1 September - I trust it will go well.

Anne, you ask to share a picture - yes, I have many - although she just hated to be photographed, I shot many pics on our hikes - I'll embed one here (not sure if it will show) - it is a composite of My Margaret, the main pic being on the very same Outeniqua hike - the words (in My Margaret's handwriting) at the bottom of the pic, has its own "story" - I have millions good memories of our hikes - we've done 62 long hikes together. During the past 18 months I've gone through our hiking pics for hours and hours, into the early hours of the morning - also compiling short videos and slide shows with favourite songs of My Margaret - I've posted a couple on You Tube, for the benefit of her colleagues working abroad.

Thanks again and regards.

20031255440_2f700df002_c.jpgMy Margaret by Andre Wheeler, on Flickr

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I am sorry for the loss of your wife, Margaret. You've spent a lifetime together, it's natural it should upset everything within you to lose her. What a beautiful lady!

You ask if you'll ever find yourself...your old normal is gone, but you will discover and create your new normal. With me it took years to process and come to terms with my loss. It is not something you ever "get over" or "move on" from, but rather something you learn to coexist with and incorporate into your life. You learn to reach down inside of you for your spouse, for the love that always existed, still is. I have learned to find comfort and encouragement by doing so, for that is how he always was with me.

I'm glad you aren't a reader only, but have shared part of your story with us. We hope to get to know you and Margaret through your postings in the days to come and I trust you will find encouragement as you continue here.


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KAY: Thank you so much - it already feel I'm amongst friends - I will take what you say, to heart and it gives me hope - I promised My Margaret that I'd be "OK" - and I will - I am "searching" for myself, within myself - as I said in my original post: to a large extent I always felt that my own purpose in life, was to love My Margaret - be with her, be there FOR her (as SHE was there for me) - and now she's gone - thus, my own purpose in life is also fulfilled - but not, because I'm still here - in this massive void - and it is within this void, that I will have to find myself again - the "new" me - I also know that even the new me, will be hugely influenced and formed by what the two of us had - the day I will then find myself, I will be able to celebrate what we had - it can never just disappear.

When time allows, I will share some of the stories about My Margaret and also the two of us - if I may - throughout the years we had many many adventures, especially when backpacking - out there we were at our happiest - climbed the mountains together, crossed the rivers together - everything TOGETHER - but this journey I am on NOW, I'll have to do alone (but not) - and I will do it for BOTH of us - at least My Margaret was spared THIS journey - I will carry the load - I owe it to her!!

Thanks again and regards.

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Andre, so very sorry for your loss and your love for your Margaret sounds special and deep and your words are a great honor of her. She was a beautiful lady and your life together sounds like it was bliss. Being so new to this myself I don't always know what to say, because it hurts and we do feel so lost. I just wanted you to know that I am thinking of you.

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We have another "climber" here on our site (feralfae). We would LOVE to hear your stories about Margaret and you, when you are ready. I feel close to the people here, I've been here for over ten years and when people write from their heart on a near daily basis, you really get to know each other. I count some of the people here my truest friends. That is one of the "silver linings" in the cloud, gleaning from this site and all we have learned through it and in our journey.

It took me a lifetime to find my husband, we were so very happy together, so in love...we spent all of our time (when we weren't at work) together. I've never had a connection with anyone in the way I did with him. We were made for each other. There's not a day goes by but what he isn't in my heart and on my mind. I miss him with all that is within me, and yet I have learned to do "life without", as I've come to think of it. It's evolved...in the beginning I was in shock, I felt panicked, I didn't see how I could live 40 years without him. Now I've gotten more used to this existence. Having lost my sense of purpose was one of the hardest things I've had to deal with. George was my big purpose in life, but now I have smaller purposes, just as he was my big joy in life, now I've learned to look for and appreciate the smaller joys that are mine.

You are right, what you had will never disappear. In fact, it is in remembering that I am able to go on, because for the rest of my life I carry with me the knowledge that I have been truly loved and our relationship is one that could never be surpassed.

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Saintb - thanks for your reply and the kind words - I certainly know the feeling when you say "I don't always know what to say, because it hurts and we do feel so lost." - the words are in one's heart and the head cannot express them "properly" (for me anyway) - so, let us try (together) to just BE - I'm sure HERE, we will understand one another - because of! Thanks again - much appreciated!

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KayC - thank you - I already get the feeling that you are one (one of many?) of the much valued members of this group - and you know how to string your heartfelt words together - I thank you - appreciated.

Another "climber" on the site? - that is great - although we (being backpack-hikers), are not "climbers" in the true sense - would be on the lookout then, for the climber. I'm busy preparing for another 101km walk in our Overberg mountains - starting off on 1 September - not a backpack though - just a super walk over 5 days - through yellow Canola fields, some whale watching en-route and then some.

I would love to share some of our hiking stories or "adventures" with you all - just not sure WHERE - mostly under "Remembrances", I think?

For instance - the above composite (sort of) image of My Margaret - you see the handwriting at the bottom? - it is HER'S - there's a story behind it - not a BIG story but a story nevertheless (BIG for me yes!).

Thanks again and regards.

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You can share your stories here if you want, we will look for them. You can share any stories you want, I will look for them.

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So sorry for the loss of your beautiful Margaret. It sounds like you had a wonderful life together, albeit too short as so many of us feel.

I have lost a spouse and a daughter to cancer, both in the last 27 months. Even after that length of time, I am still trying to "find myself". You are brave to revisit so many places that you and Margaret frequented. In the beginning, I could not even go to the grocery store alone. In time , the agonizing pain has abated replaced by just "being". The "self" you find will never be the same as before, but perhaps a new accepting "self" will emerge. I too, was married 40+ years and it is very difficult not having your soulmate around to love, confide in, enjoy life, and just be whole.

We were hikers in our younger days, nothing like the long hikes you describe, just wilderness hikes in the mountains. Still liked the freedom of being away from it all, but hubby became ill in the mid 90's and could no longer hike. Still liked to drive around in those mountains, though.

Feel free to post any pictures and narrative that you wish. It is healing to each of us.


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We hiked in to Diamond Creek Falls just two weeks before George died. The Lord was merciful in not allowing him to die on that hike...my son and I would have felt terrible forever! I had no idea he had such serious health issues at that time. A week before he died, he helped our friends move, doing all of the heavy lifting, refrigerator, etc. so the other man wouldn't get hurt. Little did we know!


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Thank you Karen, thank you Kayc - what a beautiful waterfall that is - reminds me of the many waterfalls we encounter on our Amatole Hike - there is just "something" about waterfalls, not so? - I can stare at them, for hours on end - soothing, calming, healing!

The little "story" about Margaret's message/note on the image I posted above:

Translated it means: 22/3/13. Lovely, Just wasn't here long enough. Andrè & Magriet Wheeler.

Last year (2014) on 9 July, I (and our daughter Karen) went to a little place called Prince Albert for 3 days - 900km away from home - this day was My Margaret's birthday date and I just wanted to be at a place which we came to love so much - anyhow, when we arrived at the cottage which My Margaret and me used a couple of times, Karen asked me whether mom has perhaps written something in the guest book - I told her to have a look at +/- the last part of 3/13, because that is the last date that we were here, en-route to hiking the Otter Hike (which came to be My Margaret's final hike, without us knowing it at the time) - Karen then had a look and found the entry, which I immediately photographed - the "lovely" she wrote, obviously refers to the cottage itself - BUT the message to me, became prophetic words - written by Margaret herself - that LIFE was lovely and SHE not being here (in life) long enough - indeed prophetic and true!!! - to others these are merely "words" but to me? - priceless! - 6 months later, she was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and 4 months on (7/2/14), she reached the end of her earthly journey.

Since her passing, I came across several such (at the time) small, everyday things, that now became BIG for me and priceless - like a 30 second voice recording of hers - when I discovered THAT, it felt as if she's next to me and being "home" - I'm listening to it about everyday since - a bit later on, I found another HOUR long recording, where she was the special guest on a local radio program, telling listeners what happens and what they can expect in an operating theatre (she was a registered OR sister), dispelling myths and general untruths - these voice recordings, I treasure.

Thanks for "listening" to one of my many, many little stories.

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Alas, I have no voice recording of George but I hear his voice very well in my mind. I loved his voice! But then I loved everything about him. That is so weird, what she wrote, almost as if she knew? I meant to tell you, that second video you posted, I liked how positive the words of the message are.

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Just a little story, I wish to share - if I may:

Here 2 earlier photos – of My Margaret and me, just to share.

Technically the images are not so good (scans), but it’s the 2 BEST images I have – because of it being priceless – I don’t mind it being technically not so good.

These 2 shots were taken by our friend Izak – who has done the Otter Hike with us – with an old film camera (couldn’t afford digital at the time – too expensive) - anyway:

It was My Margaret’s very first hike (December 1991) – the very famous “Otter”. I was a young 41 and she a youthful 40!

It was day 2 of the 5 hike – about mid-morning, one cross the Elandsbos river – it is +/- at the mouth into the ocean – the tides thus move in and out, affecting the river’s depth and flow – you cannot just cross anywhere – where the narrowest, is usually best.

We decided to cross at this very narrow section because it will be “EASY” – after a while, oooing and aaahing about the beauty all around us, it was time to cross – very narrow section, but still one cannot just jump over – still have to take off the boots and wade through.

I told Margaret (all proud and brave) – today you are doing this crossing without taking off your boots – OK and how would I do THAT?, she asked – say I: “ I take of MY boots, take our 2 backpacks to the other side, I come back and CARRY you over and it’s not so deep – eazy peazy – that will be a treat yes, she said. Our two backpacks already on the other side, can be seen in the shots.

OK – she got on my back and I started the “crossing” – with every step, I (we) sank in deeper, because of the soft sand – laughing like children, while sinking in deeper – we were about a meter from the other side, when I sank in to above my knees – stuck – uncontrollable laughing – Margaret tried to straighten her legs, to avoid the boots getting under the water – I cannot move – to deep now – but she hangs on, literally - and kept on laughing – what now? – the only option was for to fall forward – with her still clinging on my back – we fell bodies half in the water and half on the drier bank – we laughed so hard, that tears were running. I crawled out from underneath her and she was half in the water and half on the drier sand – just kept on laughing, couldn’t get up!

Izak wasn’t sure whether he must keep on laughing or what, but he kept his cool and took these 2 shots – unfortunately it was the last 2 frames on his film, otherwise we could also see how Margaret got up and out – on the opposite side, I’m doing a sort of reel-dance while Margaret is still in the water – soaking wet – clothes and boots – convulsed with laughter! – after a while, she “allowed” me to help her.

Needless to say – she never wanted to “allow” me to carry her across and stream or river – talked about it a lot, for years and just laughed again.

Now, 24 years later, when I close my eyes – I can still feel her clinging on by back - hear us laughing, I smell the ocean – I feel the wetness of the water on our skins and clothes – ALL of it – like YESTERDAY!


Scan combo Izak Otter.jpg

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I love your story, and all the more so since I had a similar experience, only I was dropped halfway across!  :)

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