Quite a few years ago, although sometimes it seems like only yesterday, my previous life ended in a most moving and unanticipated fashion. The love of my life, my husband, passed away quietly and simply without any warning, leaving me bereft of his presence. The certainty that I had found in the world prior to his leaving was gone. In its place lay an open door, a world of possible choices. Far too many, I recall feeling at that time. I had never dreamed that I would be left alone staring at life ahead without him.

I contemplated my life as a single woman. My life as a wife was over. This, I found profoundly upsetting. I had been a wife for so long; I had no idea what it meant to be a single woman. Indeed, I had never lived alone until that time. I had always been a daughter, a sister, a wife, and a mother. I had many other roles in the community as well, for I was also an academic, volunteer, mentor, and friend. But first and foremost, I considered myself to be a wife and a mother. Now, my rabbi gently told me, I was considered a single woman. My motherly duties also came to an abrupt halt. One daughter was to be married and the other was to go to a university in British Columbia. The sorrow of a funeral and a wedding was overwhelming.

I needed to be in a place where I would be free to writeI found myself on the threshold of a new beginning. Synagogue, Shabbat and the various festivals and observances framed my life and made sense of it. Always introspective, I found myself going deeper and deeper within myself to discover what I could do with my life in an effort to transform the world into a G‑dly place, a place of spirituality and sanctity. I strongly believed that my life was a part of G‑d's plan, and then, indeed, my husband's passing was also part of that plan. In the world of Torah and mitzvot, we are commanded to live lives that are directed towards a greater cause rather than indulge in self-centered existence. But I had no idea how to attempt this lofty idea.

I know that there is a purpose for every human being. For me, that purpose had to be to leave all that I knew and what was familiar to me, and to start over. I knew that I could find the resources within me, with G‑d's help, to become more than I was. I also knew, that as a writer and an environmentalist, I needed to be in a place where I would be free to write without restriction, and where I could participate in a sustainable lifestyle. Therefore, British Columbia was an obvious choice.

I arrived on Pender Island in the late autumn of 2004 together with another single, Jewish woman who was to be a part of this adventure. My friend, Malka, is a wonderful artist. A deeply spiritual person, her tiny frame belies the intensity of her work. She truly has a gift from G‑d, and one that must be shared with the world. To this end, she was possessed with a passion to build an art gallery, one that will remain as a permanent endowment. And so it was, we arrived on Pender Island late at night, in total darkness, not having any idea how to find the house we had rented whilst a house and art gallery were being built for us.

As time passed, I felt more and more cut off from patterns that had previously given shape and meaning to my life. This took its toll in the form of acute anxiety. Fortunately, my work consumed much of my time so the anxiety did not drift into meaninglessness or despair. Rather, it became an overwhelming feeling of loss for all that had been familiar. I also experienced an ever-growing fear of the dangers that we were presented with due to our isolation. As there are no physicians on South Pender Island, a medical emergency could involve a helicopter ride to a mainland hospital. With vivid images of physical isolation, the mind conjures possibilities and fantasies of every conceivable kind. Without the reassurance of a community, the mind and the senses deceive. It was the type of loneliness that makes the self feel far, far away from others, to the extent that one could literally disappear and it would not be noticed.

Each challenge made me more determined to push forwardI did know that I was not crazy. I just could not help from feeling that I was. I struggled in social situations, not understanding the patterns that permeated their culture. I felt that huge chunks of my interpersonal life had died from emotional starvation. I no longer had validation for any of the internal parts of myself that made up who I was, and I felt that I had been stripped of an identity. Yet, despite the constant gnawing anxiety, not once did I ever think of giving up; each challenge only made me more determined to push forward.

Over time, I was elected to the executive board of the tiny medical center on North Pender Island. In this position, I am instrumental in overseeing the building of a large extension to the existing facility. Near completion and funded primary by private donations, we are hoping to open later this summer. In addition, I hope to be able to negotiate for a female nurse/practitioner to service the needs of women and girls. Also, during the past three years I have been able to create some environmental initiatives by learning how to recycle and store rainwater for crop irrigation.

Recently, I was sitting in the house listening to the hum of the generator as the power was off again. And I thought how incredibly lucky I am to live in a world of modern technology. We now have a telephone that works most of the time. Our generator pumps water from our well 700 feet from the house and allows us to have potable water. It also gives us light so we do not have to sit out the fierce windstorms alone in the dark forest. And, finally, I have dial-up Internet service on an old computer that allows me to connect to my old community. Now the framework of my life has been reinstated due to an electrical current.

Through Chabad, I can define and separate my weeks according to the Torah portions. I can connect with Jews all over the world through the internet. I can feel the joy of a wedding by reading an announcement. And I can grieve with a community at the loss of a loved one I have never met. Through reading The Jewish Woman, I am able to span time and space and connect once more to my essence. And finally, I know that I will be just fine.