Joyce Helweg challenges us with her back cover blurb, ‘Have you ever dared to take a change in direction and do something you have never done before.’ This describes her first book, which tells of her wilderness trek with her husband.This series of short memoir pieces, describe with humour the 300 mile journey on horseback in north central B.C. ending at the Stikine River. Yet here’s the challenge, this 40 day trip is Joyce’s first experience with riding a horse.
Joyce shared these pieces against the backdrop of living on a 700 acre property, while working the hayfield, cattle and horses. She then turned us full circle to her present work. With softened eyes, the down to earth, no nonsense gal opened her heart by revealing the unexpected and sudden death of her husband in 2014. Reeling with grief, Joyce set up a plan on how to survive the first year. She went traveling, yet started a series of letters, talks she had wanted to share with her husband if she had more time. Even though she was busy, grief still arrived in unexpected ways. Joyce described waiting in a subway in England where there was a recent terrorist bombing. As her mind strayed to those passengers who innocently set off to start their day, not knowing how their lives would irrevocably change, she herself was assailed with emotion as though a bomb had exploded inside of her, leaving her overcome with the force of her loss.
This newest book in the form of letters is not only her personal work of healing, it is a roadmap to many of us on how to traverse such difficult passages. When life takes us on a complete change in direction, we are left with asking the questions, ‘What now, how do I respond now?’ I cannot help but think of a line from one of Shane Koyczan’s poems, ‘If your heart is broken, make art from the pieces.’ That is exactly what Joyce has offered to us with this next book. Thank-you Joyce for such an inspiring example of how to be fully engaged with all of what life has to offer. You have shared a daring adventure, both by challenging your physical capacities as well as the unbridled reins of the heart. It was a gift to hear you read.