Thursday, 21 June 2012

Day 76 – to David, Panama

5 June    Kms travelled – 17,454

I got up and rode some 200 kms plus.  Both my mind and sight were out of focus.  This time of the year is always difficult for me.  Too much was running through my head, I was reliving the past.  Tears in my eyes, I was not in the right state of mind to be riding a bike.  But ride I did, and it was hard and fast riding at that.  Too fast, and it took the second emergency stop of the morning for that to hit home.  For the second time I had almost ridden into the back of the vehicle in front.  I needed to stop.  I needed to get off the road.  I needed time to gather my thoughts.  I needed time to grieve. 

Five years ago to the day our twin sons Patrick and David were born.  It was also the day that they died.  Much could be written about that day... but not here.  Those events have, however, impacted on this venture... perhaps they are even the principle driving force behind making the trip.  I billed Pat Around the Americas as “... a journey in search of direction...”  In a physical sense the direction has been pretty much to head north!  Direction in terms of my life plans and emotions is a much more complex matter.  But in keeping with my promise to remain true to the journey in these utterings, more for myself than anything, I will record my thoughts here.  My apologies if you were hoping for a ride report today – normal service will resume shortly.

Thought(s) for the day
I have been very lucky in a number of senses in my life, most notably in terms of family and friends, but also on the work front.  On the death of the boys I threw myself into the job.  It provided a valued anchor and was sufficiently challenging and stimulating to keep my mind occupied for much of the time.  I have also been lucky in having an employer that (collectively) has extended a high degree of understanding, support and flexibility in working practice, which I am convinced has helped me considerably over these intervening years.

I have been taking the time out the trip has afforded to reflect on these issues for a while now, and I can´t say that looking back I handled the loss well.  Who does?  While the job provided an anchor and a degree of escape, it is my wife who is the sea in which I live (if you can permit the uncomfortable stretched metaphor).  It is she who supports me and gives me direction.  I am now less certain that I have done as much for her.  On this I continue to reflect.

From the outset I failed to recognise and accept my pain.  I wanted to put the matter behind me and get on with things as if death had not occurred.  Fool!  Only since I recognised and accepted my own suffering, was I able to start the process of coping with it.  I am not sure we ever came close, but I can well understand why some long standing relationships fall apart after such as blow.

I have come to realise that, for me, the phrase “time is the greatest healer” is utter tosh!  Time does not heal these wounds; I don´t believe it ever will.  For me the pain is as real this day as it was five years ago.  It is both a physical and emotional pain, fuelled by the fact that I have little or no happy memories of my sons to cling to.  This is a thought that comes to me often.  I saw them, after they died, but I was never able to hold them... nor was my wife.  On this I continue to reflect.

Self evaluation techniques have thrown up some interesting points.  I have, for example, been so reliant on my “anchor” that I have routinely placed business priorities ahead of needs at home.  Even when the options have been mine to determine.  The work – life balance is often a tricky one the judge, but it is curious that I have not recognised the demands of both with more equal measure.  On this I continue to reflect.

On a practical level I had for some time been investing funds to support the provision of useful things in the life of a future child (college, university, car, motorbike – that sort of thing).  In recent years the presence of this slowly growing financial resource became more of a burden; a cash-based reminder of the loss we suffered.  It sounds a bit silly, but I wanted rid of it.  And in such a way as to provide me with something meaningful in terms of a life experience and memories to cling to.  Hence my “...journey in search of direction...”  Being on the journey itself has, however, thrown up surprising realisations as I spend day after day, week after week with my own thoughts, stimulated as they are by the people I meet and the sights I see.  This trip is an incredibly selfish indulgence, and yet another example of how I put my own issues ahead of what is really important in my life.  On this I continue to reflect.

I am around the half way point in the trip, and the thoughts that have come to mind to date are, I feel, the right ones.  I now have the rest of the trip to help figure out what I am going to do about them.  Losing Patrick and David changed me.  The pain of that loss will continue to be part of me.  How I respond to that in moving forward with my life together with my wife has yet to be written. 


  1. be safe out there...make sure your head is 100% for riding in central america, as you head north the road conditions and drivers diminish in quality.

    find a perfect location and free your mind as much as you can try not moving for a while...your adventure may take a new turn


  2. Can't hope to write anything meaningful in reply to your post mate having never experienced such a tragic loss. However you owe it to Mrs Pat to have your head 100% on the road and keep yourself in one piece so she can welcome you back. In the mean time take care, ride safe

  3. It takes a good man to bare his soul. Grieve what ever way you need to Pat. I have put a post on the ABr site for you mate cheers Spud

  4. Pat
    I lost my 12 year old daughter in 1998 - she had cerebal palsy but was expected to live to a normal age but we lost her to a chest infection - the memory of that day stays with me forever and I had many such days as yours on the long dusty road. Alone in the world inside my helmet I had many hours to shed tears and reflect on the pains of life and I also managed to counterbalance these thoughts with the joys of life and the happiness that I have with the world. These tragedies are the things which shape our character and enable us to become more understanding of life and those around us.

    I can't compare my grief with yours - as you know it is a personal thing but I do understand. Have a safe trip amigo - thoughts are with you and Mrs Pat

    Martin (strimstrum)

  5. Not much I can say what would eleviate the pain of loosing your sons, but besides Mrs. Pat there are others who want to see you again!
    "This trip is an incredibly selfish indulgence, and yet another example of how I put my own issues ahead of what is really important in my life." Well, it might be "time well wasted" for the healing process.
    Take a break, reflect and go on when your ready to ride and THEN roll on, buddy, roll on!

  6. My tears blind me, after they've been woken by your words.

    Take care Pat and return to all that know you with your smile

    Steve T

  7. Gosh - thanks all. For once, lost for words myself!

  8. Pat,
    I am loving following your travels. It inspires me and is giving me ideas for my own trip. Just when will I get the balls to give up my corporate world for the open road?
    I feel guilty for getting stressed and not sleeping due to bullshit at work when so many people out there are going through real problems.
    I wish you luck Pat. You are coming across as a great guy. Take it steady on the road and I hope you find your new direction.
    All the best

  9. "time well wasted" - I like it!

    Thanks for the thoughts Michael.

  10. Incredibly moving blog Pat. I dont have anything useful to say...

    1. I had no idea Pat, i lay here reading your words as the tears roll down my face. I have read as much as i can out loud to Tres but cant speak anymore. Our thoughts are with you my friend..Always X

      Jim Lovell