This Full Moon, and Me~

I wrote this on a night when the moon blazed so brightly in the sky…
“I remember, barely now, because it’s been so long, the feel of my hand in Chuck’s. His hand so strong and firm around mine. His hand gave me a feeling of comfort, of protection, of belonging… a sense of order in my Universe.
As the nights grow colder now, as the moon shimmers so very brightly above my upraised face, I remember, sometimes barely now, because it’s been so very long, the strength of Chuck’s arms around me from behind, as we stared up at this same moon, marveling at the beauty of it, transfixed by its’ distance from us, and the might of the Universe around us…
I remember, but softly and uncertainly now, because it’s been so very long. It is all memory now, and Chuck seems so far distant from where I am now, in a way that saddens my heart and causes despair in my soul. As if the tether that bound us together for so long snapped, and he drifted away into space, never to be seen again.
I know that his Love is with me still. I know that my Love for him has only grown, as it would have if he were still here with me. Alive. 
And I know that this isn’t enough, but must be enough, lest my sanity take flight and disappear in the same way that he did in that long ago time of only yesterday. 46667943_1952232871498304_2060287432410005504_n
So I look at that far away golden orb high above me, as it was above us, though I remember barely now, and I wonder…
Do you see me? Do you know of my longing as I wander into long ago memories? Were you really here with me at one time in the hugeness of this space? Did we really exist as two?
And where are you now?”
A friend of Chuck’s, who reached out to me after his death, who is a friend, now, of mine, responded to my post with this…
“I know, because Chuck told me, how he loved you. He felt he must have done something right along his complicated life for God to allow your paths to cross. I always thought it corny for anyone to say that they cherished someone. But Chuck cherished everything about your life together.
Alison, I know the fading memories of the feelings of his touch disturb you. But I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that chuck is nearer than you think. And as some memories fade, other memories will come to you, like the whisper of his kiss on your cheek.
You will see the twinkle of his eyes at sunrise and sunset. You will swear you hear him calling your name. Don’t think yourself crazy. His words of Love will ride on the breeze. When the darkness threatens to overcome you…whisper his name. He will hear you and you will feel his hugs in your dreams.
I wish you peace, my friend. My prayers follow your journey of Love. You know he left you a roadmap. Just know in your heart that he hasn’t forgotten how to navigate!”
I don’t think I can add anything more to these compassionate, beautiful, words~

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Accepting the Ampersand~

Widowhood
Submerged me into the tsunami
Of death.
Of grief.
Of a world no longer recognizable.
The world I knew…
Of Love, of security, of confidence…
Of being wrapped in strong arms
Cherished and nourished…
Annihilated.
Devasted.
A wreckage of what was.
Wandering, and wondering. Confused and disoriented. Anxiety ridden and inconsolable.
Grief shamed by good intentions gone wrong.
Don’t you want to be happy? Why are you so attached to that word…widow? You must choose joy. Make a decision.
It’s a light switch, you know.
But nobody can judge us more harshly than we judge ourselves.
So I strove to be somewhere I wasn’t. In a future my heart couldn’t imagine.
Be better. Be different. Be somewhere you aren’t. Get your shit together. Be stronger than grief. Do better.
Using energy I didn’t have to be something I couldn’t be but felt I had to be.
And then…
I discovered the ampersand.
You know the ampersand.
It’s this…
&.
The symbol for “and”.
At which point I realized
That I could be this AND that.
I could be disoriented and confused
&
I could be sure and confident.
I could be anxious and inconsolable
&
I could be strong and, yes, luminescent.
I could be uncertain
&
I could be powerful.
I could be, and am, a widow
&
A Fucking Warrior Goddess.
I am both sides of the coin of life.
This & that.
The one drives the other.
Grief drives the Love.
Widowhood drives the Warrior Goddess.
This, for me, is true alignment.
Recognizing these two parts of me.
And, having recognized
Realized
Accepted
The ampersand…
I have found a strange sort of peace~

To My Beloved Husband~

To my beloved husband, Chuck D, as we approach the 5th anniversary of your memorial service, which we held 6 months out from your death…
I know I did everything as perfectly as I could in those few short weeks between finding the cancer, our hospice time, and your death.
I know this more than I know anything else in my life.
And yet…
Doubt lingers in the corners of my mind and pops out in my most vulnerable moments, such as now. Such as everyday of living without you.
Just one doubt.
Was I at your side enough in our hospice time? Should I have moved into that hospice room with you and not moved until I had to? Did I err in going, every so often, back to our rented condo, to sleep…even though I never slept when I was there. Shadows of your impending death were ever on my mind. I knew I was a widow in waiting, no matter where I was. I didn’t need to hear a clock ticking away the time: my heart was more of a reminder than any clock.
I didn’t stay with you every night, and that thought has more power over me than I want it to.
There were many nights that I did, and I was there every day, but I wasn’t there every minute, even though I wanted to be. What I wanted was to lay down beside you and never move. Hold onto you for every breath. Breathe with you and for you. Take your place in that bed, with cancer attacking my body relentlessly.
I wanted to do all of that.
But I know you worried for me. I know that you watched me as I moved about your room. That you spoke to others of your concern for me. That you loved me beyond anyone else and you would want me to take care of myself, even as I cared for you.
So I preempted the conversation you might have with me, and took it upon myself to kiss you good night and return to our rented condo, having ensured that one of the kids was with you overnight. They would care for you as lovingly as I could and I entrusted your care to them so that you wouldn’t worry about me.
I was told after you died that you would ask where I was at times, and I wonder. Did you feel that I abandoned you on those nights? Or for the few hours I’d take to grab food with one of the kids? These thoughts aren’t logical, I know, especially as I consider the source from which the words came…but I wonder anyways.
I wanted to curl up beside you. I wanted to be so close to you that I became you and our bodies would be one body and even though that meant I would feel your pain, you…you would feel more strongly than ever, the depth of Love I had for you, and that would be so much more powerful that the pain of the cancer would be meaningless. I wanted to clutch your hand in my two hands and squeeze hard and hold on…but I knew I had to tell you that I would be okay and that you could go whenever your body and mind had done this enough. I wanted to look into your eyes and stare into forever…not the forever of death but the forever of a passionate Love. I wanted to turn back time and live our together life again and again, an endless round of Groundhog’s Day…so that our life together would never end. I wanted my fingers to trace the bone of your brow that I’d stroked so often over so many years, run my hand gently through the hair on your arm…while you still breathed. I wanted to breathe deeply of the breath we both shared and make it last forever…not watch as you suffocated and took a sharp inbreath and…nothing.
Instead, because I knew you would want me to take care of myself in whatever way I could, I would kiss you softly and tell you I’d see you in the morning and return to that condo and lie down on that bed that was never ours…and stare into the darkness. Waiting, waiting, waiting, until I could rise and shower and drive back over to your hospice and kiss you good morning and begin a day of living in the moment and offering Love in all the ways that I could while I shattered again and again, watching you disappear from me.   532901_10152250938645400_1112002834_n
I know you would forgive me, my beloved D. I don’t know that I can forgive myself. I know what you would say and how you would say it and how you would hug me and love me even more, for having cared for myself to whatever degree I was able to.
This one doubt crowds my heart sometimes, and mixes in with the godawful missingness of you.
As we who love you approach the 6-year mark of the day of your memorial service, all that my heart will permit me to say to you is this…
I miss you. I love you. I crave your touch. If I could only gaze into your eyes gazing into mine. If I could tuck my hand into yours and feel our fingers intertwine. If I could feel the strength of your arms enclosing me. My life is so different from what it was, with you. I’m so different, in ways that make me feel like an alien to my own self. IMG_4895
God, if I could just sink into your welcoming embrace and hear your heartbeat in my ear. Wrap my arms around your waist. Sink into all that you were, with all that I am, and breathe in, again, the peace that was…us.

A Life of Grace and Dignity~

Each April 26, I post a blog I wrote in the days after Chuck’s death. I called it “Happy Anniversary, Dear Man”. But it wasn’t about our wedding anniversary; it was about his sober anniversary.
One year, when I posted it, I was criticized for posting about his sober anniversary, because it broke Chuck’s anonymity, which is a crucial underpinning of the program of AA.
I understood where this person was coming from, as I myself am a recovered alcoholic, but I take another tack on it, now that Chuck is, you know…dead.
Chuck and I found sobriety together; it was another anniversary that we celebrated. In reality, if we didn’t both have a sober program, our marriage wouldn’t have happened the way that it did.
His program of sobriety was his to live when he was alive, and he lived it with grace and dignity. He believed in carrying the message of sobriety wherever it was possible, to whomever might need it.
In our hospice time, there were more than a handful of men and women who came to his bedside, to bring meetings to him, to receive final sponsorship from him, to learn from him, and thank him for his service and guidance to them.
And they presented him with his 25- year sober coin, even though he died 3 days shy of his 25th year. I had to convince him to accept it when he did. Chuck was very specific in previous years about not accepting a coin until the very day, aware as he was that up to that day, his sobriety wasn’t promised. The thing is, I told him, we didn’t know if he would be alive TO receive it on that day and he owed it to those he’d sponsored to honor him with it.
So, he accepted that coin.
A few evenings ago I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine who was also one of Chuck’s sponsees in AA, and she said to me “Do you even realize, Alison, what a miracle that was, seeing the lines of people outside of Chuck’s room? All of them coming to thank him for helping them change their own lives, because they saw what he’d done with HIS life? The level of sobriety that he had in his life, that commanded such respect among AA, that brought these men to his bedside at the end of his life?”
Chuck was a strong and passionate man. A confident man, but one who struggled with demons from his past. He found sobriety, though, before he and I married, and strove to live his life according to the principles of AA.
He lived a life of sobriety that commanded respect not only from others in AA, but from the outside world who didn’t know he was even in AA…the anonymity thing, you know. He lived a life of grace and dignity, and that allowed him to die with grace and dignity. Nobody was left, afterwards, heaving a sigh of relief that he was gone, and with him, his addiction.
Instead, he lay in his hospice bed for those 3 final weeks of his life, receiving all of the Love he’d given to so many, as they paid their respects to him before his death.
What greater gift is there than to know that you have made a difference in the lives of so many, and just a sampling of that number now stand at your bedside to tell you that, in no uncertain terms.
And then Chuck died.
And I wrote about that time in hospice, and his life of sobriety and what it meant for him and for me and our family.
I have no regrets when I break Chuck’s anonymity, since his death.
It’s how I carry the message now, when I meet an alcoholic.
A couple years after Chuck’s death I met a woman who is also a dear friend. Her husband was struggling with addiction. He had a year’s sobriety.
I’d been carrying Chuck’s 25-year coin with me, not quite certain what to do with it but knowing I’d find a purpose for it along my way.  IMG_1059
That purpose was suddenly in front of me and I removed the coin from my backpack and gave it to her to give to her husband. All I asked was that he remember the name Chuck D, and the life of sobriety he lived. The grace and dignity with which he died. The Love he’d left behind, because of his sobriety.
I carry Chuck’s message of living a life of grace and dignity through sobriety, now, as much as I carry the message of Love that he and I lived for our 24 years together.
Our years wouldn’t have been possible without sobriety on both our parts.
His message is still very much alive, and I carry it proudly.

September Remembering~

My body felt September 11 approaching, even before my mind became aware of it.
This morning, September 11, I woke up and could feel the nerves edging along my skin. The feeling only intensified as I watched snippets of remembrances on TV.
Why, you might ask, would I put myself through watching something more when my heart was already hurting?
To bear witness, quite simply. It’s my tribute to those who died on that day, 17 years ago. If they could bear to go through what they went through, I can bear to watch it and honor them.
This day of remembrance is a day that hits so hard, personally. Nobody I know died that day, but Chuck and I were living in south Jersey, just a little over an hour away from NYC. He was working at McGuire AFB and, as I watched the news, it seemed as if the base might be another target. Nobody was allowed on or off the base and no phone calls, so I couldn’t reach him.
He finally walked in the door around midnight.
My sense of safety in the world, since Chuck died, is gone.
We would speak of that day, often, in the years afterwards, especially when we were flying somewhere to visit family, or when he flew on business.
Chuck was adamant that if terrorists were to take over a flight he was on, he needed me to know that he would fight back. Of course you would, I’d tell him. And if I’m on the flight with you, I’d be right beside you.
He was at my side, and I was at his, through thick and thin. He’d been a safety officer while active duty, and would go over What If scenarios with me regularly. As in…if this bad thing were to happen to you, how would you react? How would you get out of that bad situation? Put a plan in place in your mind. Plant it there, so that you react out of muscle memory, rather than freezing and not responding. Learn how to save your own life. Or, at least, give it your best shot.
I felt so safe with Chuck at my side. Yes, I still go over scenarios in my mind, training my muscle memory. Yes, I keep a go bag at the ready, in case of…I don’t know…all the unexpected shit that can happen in life.
I was as prepared as I could be for his death 5 years ago. Because my career was hospice, death was a familiar topic at our dinner table and anywhere else. We didn’t shy away from it. We’d spoken about our wishes long before his first cancer, and I’d written it all down in a notebook. You know, what kind of service, life insurance, imagined scenarios for me.
Somehow, even as we spoke about the possibility of me surviving him, the word widow never entered the conversation. He’d be dead and I’d be on my own but…widow? It never entered my mind.
With all our conversations about death and dying, with all the responsible shit I wrote down in that notebook, never once could I have imagined the devastation of living without him. Never once could I have envisioned the emptiness of life without him, the sheer agony, the silence.
The silence.
Even though I speak on the phone with family and friends every day, use social media, text, use all the methods of communication that exist in our day and age…the silence is deafening.
The silence is in my heart and soul and it comes from the stark reality of Chuck’s absence. There is no other voice that fills that space, no matter what I do.
And I wonder, on all days, and on special days like this September 11, if I’ll ever feel that sense of safety again. Or a sense of peace. Or lightness.
Yes, I’m a strong woman. Yes, I’m independent. Yes, I can live on my own and be good with that. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
September 11, 2001 took away our sense of safety as a nation.
April 21, 2013 took away my sense of safety, personally.
Chuck was my go to person, at my side on that day, even though he was on base and unreachable. I knew he was there, though, and that comforted me.
There is no comfort to be found in this life without him.
And that’s just the honest truth~

If These Gods~

If all things that are impossible
Became impossibly real,
And the unimaginable
Became impossibly imaginable,
And what is impossibly, unimaginably, inconceivable,
Became entirely plausible.
In a world where my fiercest and most impassioned pleas,
Ringing forth from the depths of my shattered heart…
Could be heard pulsating through the days and nights of the almighty Universe,
And the gods of the Romans and Greeks and all gods through Time
Were to hear my cries,
Bouncing off the stars and the moon and the sun…
Especially…most especially Aphrodite and Pothos and Eros…
And Mars, that fierce god of war, who understands passion and ferocity,
If these gods, dancing among the stars,
Were to hear my fervent keening,
And, in response, radiate their powers into one lone energy that would shape all that is impossible,
Into the possible,
With a nod to the mighty Thor for use of his valiant hammer…
They would, on the winged feet of Mercury…
Convey you, my dearest Love, my beloved, my husband,
To my side once again~

What Remains, After You~

A trifold flag, presented to me at your memorial service.
Where are you, my beloved?
ID tags that hang over my bed or around my neck.
Where are you, my beloved?
3 children you raised with me, though they weren’t of your blood.
Where are you, my beloved?
A grandson who would tower over you in height, and who reminds me of you each time I see a picture of him.
Where are you, my beloved?
A son who lives your example of a life of service.
Where are you, my beloved?
Another son who loves science and philosophy, who holds your strong belief in family.
Where are you, my beloved?
A daughter who gently and quietly offers Love to those around her.
Where are you, my beloved?
The thoughts I have, the words I use to explain them, remembered from you.
Where are you, my beloved?
The simple tasks of daily life…putting gas in my car, walking for exercise, paying bills.
Where are you, my beloved?
The open road in front of my car, looking West, steering me into this new life.
Where are you, my beloved?
Words that tumble from my lips, as I speak with our kids…words that you once spoke to them.
Where are you, my beloved?
Words spoken to me from friends, spoken by you to them, about me and your deep Love for me.
Where are you, my beloved?
You are the whisper in the halls of memory for me, for so many of us.
You are my heart and my soul and my pulse beat, every moment of every day and all through the nights,
The days and nights that are in the thousands now, since we last touched.
You are my beloved.
You are in me and of me,
You are my passion and my pain,
My Love and my beloved.
Your Love for me echoes through these halls of memory,
Burns and singes and sears and sighs and yearns and wishes.
Fuels all that I am. All that I will ever be.
Your beloved.