If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you will know that I have experienced some significant loss in the last 5+ years:
A couple of years ago, I lost my beloved father-in-law.
Just before that, I lost both of my beloved Siberian kitties, Abe and Ike.
And before that, my beloved Granny Ruth.
As heartbreaking as these losses were, the one thing they had in common made them somewhat easier to bear- all of the people (and animals) I lost up to this point had led long and healthy lives so it didn’t come as a huge shock when they died.
However, I never expected to lose a loved one close to my age- and so quickly. In fact, Ingrid was younger than me by three years. She died on January 6, 2024 at the age of 49 after battling a devastating form of brain cancer called Glioblastoma. She died close to one year after her diagnosis.
Her husband Richard was incredible throughout this year of fear and illness. He is an amazing artist, but took the entire year off work to devote himself to helping Ingrid beat brain cancer. He spent all of his time taking care of her and researching alternative therapies which showed promise of slowing the cancer or ideally, stopping it dead in its tracks.
I can’t imagine being in his shoes and having to make such huge decisions on behalf of the person he loved the most. Ingrid ended up going for radiation and chemotherapy which they were told would only extended her life another 6 months to a year. They drove back and forth between Courtenay and Victoria (a three hour drive) to do these treatments. Ingrid ended up living for a year but suffered greatly from the cancer as well as the treatments she endured to get a bit more time on this earth. She did everything she could to fight the cancer, because she was a fighter.
The Story of Ingrid and Esther: An Unlikely Pairing
My darling hubby and I moved to Courtenay in the Comox Valley from Vancouver in November 2003. Why? Because even though we were both hard-working professionals, we couldn’t afford to buy a house in Vancouver. We really wanted a house with a bit of land around it, and to be able to afford a laid-back lifestyle. Before meeting Nathaniel, I had lived in Victoria for a year and a half after graduating from Ryerson university in Toronto in 1996. I fell in love with Vancouver Island, and vowed that I would end up there again someday. The reason I had to move to Vancouver was because I got into a graduate program at the University of British Columbia, which I needed in order to fulfil my dream of being a therapist.
It turned out to be a good idea moving to Vancouver because I soon met my husband, and we fell in love and got married. We were unhappy in Vancouver because it was unaffordable, too big and loud for us. And even though I wanted to end up in Victoria, it was still quite expensive, and we didn’t have a lot of money at the time. Nathaniel (my hubby) was at the dentist one day in Vancouver and the dental hygienist told him that she was from this place called Courtenay on Vancouver Island, and she thought he would really like it there. So we took a weekend trip to the Comox Valley and decided it was perfect for where we were at at that point in our lives.
We soon bought a house which was incredibly affordable and lovely on a nice plot of land and easily bought ourselves commercial offices on the same street our house was on. My private practice took off and I was in this gorgeous office overlooking the water which had two levels and was over 700 ft.² I only needed half of that at the most, so I started looking around for a tenant that I could share the office with. I wanted someone quiet whose business was a good fit with mine. I immediately thought that a massage therapist would be perfect. So I started looking around to find a massage therapist in private practice.
One day I was at our local health food store doing a weekly shop and I saw a brochure for a massage therapist called Ingrid Watermann. The flyer was beautifully laid out, and Ingrid looked like someone that I would enjoy being around. So I picked up the phone and called her and asked her if she needed a space to work from. She was completely surprised because she told me that she had been looking for a commercial space (up until this point, she had been working out of her home and wanted to separate her home from her work). She came to see the office, we talked a little bit and really enjoyed each other’s company and she ended up staying there for four magical years.
We became very close spending so much time together every day at work, and had lunch together nearly every day. Ingrid had a great sense of humour, and I loved to make her laugh. Now I wish I had recorded her laugh, because it would bring me joy to hear it. She was one of the most positive people I have ever met, and her energy was infectious. She was practical, hard-working, and incredibly bright.
People who came to the office on a regular basis used to tease us about how funny we looked together. Ingrid was tall and commanding and I was short and tenacious. I loved having her around because I couldn’t reach things on the high shelves and she could do it for me without any problems. She was also much more practical than me: one day I told her that Nathaniel was confused because our bank account was low and yet I was working a lot.
Ingrid immediately went to the point-of-sale machine and started laughing her head off because she discovered that I hadn’t settled the sales for each day for seven months. I was gobsmacked and felt ridiculous. I’m not very good at figuring out technical things so she showed me how to run through all the sales and the machine spit out a mile-long piece of paper with all of the sales from the past seven months. Needless to say, my clients were not happy to suddenly be charged when they thought the payments had gone through when they originally gave me their card months before.
Ingrid was German and I am Jewish and people found it weird that we were so close. I still don’t understand why they were so perplexed. We happened to be different ethnicities, but had so much in common that this didn’t matter at all to us. In fact, I think we had a lot in common. We had some amazing conversations about our families-of-origin and how they were both traumatized by World War II and Hitler’s actions.
We both came from highly dysfunctional families where there was a lot of trauma, and were able to talk about this together. I am so grateful that I had a friend who I could totally be myself with, and share some dark things about my family’s past.
I believe that we both had a certain level of post traumatic stress from growing up in the families that we did. We both had a lot of anxiety which manifested in different ways. So we often triggered each other emotionally but were very sensitive to each other’s emotional needs, and made a concerted effort to make it safe for the other person to be how they needed to be in any given moment.
Ingrid was the only true friend that I ever made in the Comox Valley and I cherish her deeply. We were able to remain very close even when I moved to Victoria. We spoke on the phone often and saw each other whenever we could, spending weekends at my place and hers.
Our favourite thing in the world to do together was to check out different spas and rate them. The photo at the very top of this post was taken in 2012 in Maui, Hawaii, where my husband and I joined Ingrid and Richard for a week of fun and relaxation. The photo was taken outside of the fanciest and most luxurious spa I have ever been to. We spent the day there, lounging in pools of different coloured water and getting Lomilomi massages. It was absolutely divine.
I have so many memories of me and Ingrid in white robes and slippers in various spas, being pampered and relaxing together. I can’t go near a spa without thinking of her. She was the queen of spa services and provided the most incredible massages herself, as well as fantastic Eminence facials.
She used to be a massage therapist at the Kingfisher resort and spa in Courtenay. As such, she had accumulated some free nights at the resort, and she took me there once where we stayed in a luxurious room overlooking the ocean. She brought a wide array of Eminence products and we did facials together, while we lazed around in big robes and slippers. This was after having a gorgeous gourmet meal at the restaurant.
I feel very lucky that I was able to go to the Comox Valley at the end of her life and spend time with her in the hospice. We arrived on Friday afternoon, and she passed away at 4 AM on Saturday. She was surrounded by loved ones overlooking the ocean that she loved so much.
Ingy (my nickname for her), I will never forget you and will carry you in my heart forever. Thank you for being you and sharing your gifts with the world. You are with me every day and I feel your presence all around me. Rest in peace, my dear friend. You were taken away from us way too soon. I am so glad that I was able to tell you that I loved you on many occasions before you left us.