On a late summer evening in 2018, with the sun slowly setting behind Frank Island, we set a goal: One day, no matter how long it took, we’d walk the length of Chesterman Beach together again from south to north, all the way to the Wickaninnish Inn café to celebrate. We watched the deepening purple and orange silhouettes of the island’s signature stand of Sitka spruce and the 115-year-old lighthouse on Lennard Island, metaphors for hope and resilience that silently urged us on.
September 16, 2017, my 41-year-old wife—mother of two, teacher of many—had a massive stroke. It came suddenly, silently, severely, and she should not have lived. But Ineke is no ordinary person: I’ve seen her carry a backpack half her body weight through the Northern Vancouver Island rainforest, scurry down the side of an erupting volcano, and fight off would-be robbers in Bangkok. The stroke, however, took its best shot, leaving her paralyzed and unable to read or even speak.
As a young woman, Ineke was a ballerina at the National Ballet School of Canada. Later, she was a primary school teacher working with special needs children, many of them struggling with speech. And throughout her life, she was one of the most voracious readers I have ever known. Losing her ability to move, speak, and read was the definition of difficult. But we had a beacon. From the first few days in a hospital stay that would last months, even in the moments when she was clinging to life by the thinnest of threads, I urged her to hold on, to come back with me to the place we’ve always returned: Tofino.