I held my wife’s funeral service a year ago today. On that day I could not fathom how I would keep putting one foot in front of the other, let alone dance with Chico in the kitchen.

Jane used to tease me about my ‘black and white’ autistic thinking style. She would say that I just didn’t get the greys. The irony being I often knew the greys intimately.

But what I have learnt over this last year is that even through immense grief there are times that are much worse than others. The greys within the black and white of living and grieving. But, if you let yourself just be and you are open to living again, there are sometimes moments of pure gold.

I did not think I would ever live again, that I would merely exist. But this has proved to be untrue. My friends, family and whanau have walked alongside me, holding out their hands, whether metaphorically or literally. And I took those hands and I learnt that human connections are made of kindness, compassion and love. That connected people do not need to be in control or be controlled, that they can and do accept me as I am, no judgment or requirements to be anything other than me.

I had thought Jane was the only person who let me be me and helped me navigate a world that can sometimes be cruel and confusing. The world is still sometimes cruel and confusing but now I have learnt to either let it go or ask any number of those walking alongside me.

I care when I have accidentally hurt others through my literal interpretations of language but I am not going to beat myself up for the complexities of life and the choices of other people. I accept my choices are being made because I am stuck in this thinking pattern that kept me going when Jane died, but now keeps me trapped in a warped tunnel that leads nowhere.

I think that there is no happy ever after, that there never can be because all relationships end. Either they leave for someone else or they die. I cannot bear the thought of pretending that there may be a happy ever after, that someone may want to grow old with me after the one I wanted to grow old with didn’t make it to anywhere near old.

And yet, I still think others can have a happy ever after. I dream that my son can find his soul mate and they can live happily ever after. I want that for my nieces and nephew and believe that they will find this.

I cuddle my fluffy dog and know that he loves me and I love him. I pot plants and hope I can keep them alive long enough to see them fruit or flower. I bake bread and make fruit desserts, nurturing my self and sharing the gifts of my labour with friends.

I have not liked many people in my life so far. But the people I like, I am fiercely protective of. But I am slowly learning that there is more good in most people than not. That it is worth being open to new friendships and it is ok to walk away from people who do not accept me for who I am, with my mix of literal genius and autistic challenges.

I have things to offer those around me as well as the wider world. I cannot offer anyone anything if I am merely existing. I have to live to connect and share, whether I am sharing ideas or moments of gold.

Jane always said she wanted me to live. To keep working on the research that I was passionate about, to keep making a difference, to be there for our son, my parents and our whanau and finally to have a new family/partner. I am not sure when I will be really for the latter but I am able to do all the former now.

Jane taught me so much in life and in death she has continued to teach me. I loved you so much Jane Mary and I will always love you and the gifts that you gave me, including our son and our whanau. Thank you and Arohanui Jane. The photo is tonight’s sunset with vibrant colours leading into a still hot and dark night