These Few Words~

 

I will sing you to me…..

These words curve around my lower right leg, from knee to ankle.

My 3rd tattoo.  My first one says nothin’ but love, our credo in hospice.  Those words swirl in a circle on the back of my neck, with the circle ending in a small heart, and the circle is left open.  As my heart must be in this new life without him.

My second one simply says Love, and is on the inside of my left wrist, in the exact location where the tumor I named Wilson, first showed up on Chuck.  It took a 11-hour surgery and 4 reconstructive surgeries afterwards to rid ourselves of Wilson and reconstruct Chuck’s arm.  His right thigh looked like hamburger when they were through.

Each of my tattoos carry special meaning, as all tattoos must.

But…my 3rd tattoo…

Chuck and I both enjoyed watching the movie Australia; a movie set in pre-WW2 Australia, dealing both with the invasion by the Japanese, and the kidnapping of mixed race Aboriginal children from their parents.  The kids were sent to orphanages where they were taught white ways. 

One of the most charming characters in the movie is a little boy named Nullah, a mixed-race boy, taken in by the character of Nicole Kidman.  The two are separated, in the movie, by the kidnapping of Nullah.  As she stands on the pier, desperately trying to keep him with her…as he is taken away to an island for orphans, he says to her I will sing you to me.

And she responds and I will hear you…

In our Happily Homeless travels, Chuck and I visited the huge bike rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.  We didn’t go there specifically for it, but it was going on when we were there, and we walked around and admired the bikes and fell in love with the state.

In the second year after his death, my daughter, Rachael-Grace, went on the road with me for 6 months, supporting me in my Odyssey of Love.  We crisscrossed the USA, and, in the process, ended up in Sturgis, SD, and, again, happened upon the Sturgis bike rally.

South Dakota is home to Crazy Horse National Monument, one of the places Chuck and I visited together, and the final place he’d asked me to return to, to scatter his cremains.

Rae created a beautiful ritual at Crazy Horse, and was the one to scatter her dad’s cremains there.  And then we walked around Sturgis.  Which is where I found the tattoo artist who created my 3rd tattoo.  I’d told him about our Love story, about my Odyssey of Love, and though I didn’t know when I first got there to SD what my tattoo would look like, the words came to me as I walked about, and he did a quick sketch.  Unfortunately, the cost was too much for me to justify, and I was honest with him about that.  Another of the artists, who had listened in to my story, told me that he thought I really needed to get the tattoo there…it was the last place Chuck had named, after all, and given the words I wanted, it was perfect. So, he offered to pay for half, stunning me.

I will sing you to me….

Words spoken in the movie Australia, among the Aboriginals, when saying goodbye to a loved one, with no idea whether that one will be seen again.  Words of hope for the future, maybe…

I’ve no idea whether this phrase, and the concept behind it, are true to the Aboriginals or not.  I honestly don’t care; the idea of the words touched my heart years ago, and they touch my heart now.  And I seek comfort where I can find it.

I will sing you to me…

These words that wind around my calf speak of my wish to believe, even as I struggle with believing, that I will see Chuck again someday.  Somehow, maybe, he will greet me when I die.  Maybe.

Meanwhile, in this life that I must live without him, maybe I can sing him to me in my heart, by living the Love he left behind, by reaching out with kindness, in service to others. 

I will sing him to me…

And the other half of the meaning of those words for me?

Maybe, maybe, maybe, I will sing my future to me even as I live each moment without him, as I continue this Odyssey of Love.  The future that I still don’t want, that I don’t care about, but one that seems as if it must be lived for all the days of my life until my own death.

I hold these words to me, written as clearly on my heart as they are written on my calf.

I will sing you to me…

 

From Our Past…in my Present~

St Thomas Aquinas said that Love feels no burden, thinks nothing of trouble, attempts what is above its strength, pleads no excuse of impossibility.  It is therefore able to undertake all things.

To hear your laugh again did wonders for my heart.  I feel so deeply for you and want you to be as happy and fulfilled as you can be.

I know that Betty is now free of pain is with Kysa, and both are celebrating their new life.

I know that love is a powerful emotion and if anything can help, it is love. 

Together, in love and through love, we will get through this difficult time.

For most of our 24 years together, my beloved husband, Chuck, and I kept a journal for Love Notes to each other.  We did this instead of exchanging cards.  I’d write a note to him, a page maybe, and then place it on his pillow for him to find.  Or he’d write a note to me before leaving TDY (military travel) and put it on my pillow to find and read while he was gone.

Our Love Notes journal has traveled with me for all the years since Chuck died.  Mostly I haven’t opened it; it’s been too painful.  But it resides snugly with his flag and cremains, within hands reach each night, whether I’m in my trailer or in a room somewhere.

A few nights ago I opened it again.  Just read the first couple entries I told myself.  That much is bearable.

Our first few entries began the same year my mom and brother died.  Each of them had a different kind of cancer.  My younger brother died, and when I called my sister to tell her that our brother had died, she told me something was wrong with my mom.  Six months later my mom died.  Chuck was newly retired from the military, unable to find a job, money was tight, and death seemed all around us.  It was an impossibly stress-filled time.

The quotes above are Chuck’s words that he wrote to me in the first two entries of our Love Notes journal.  He writes the words about my brother and mom, about grief, about death…but he is speaking to me from the grave, isn’t he?  Because the words he wrote are what he believed, they tell me his concept of the afterlife, his fervent belief in the power of Love, and yes and most especially, what he wanted for me then, what he would want for me now.

These words are so very important because I’ve agonized since Chuck’s death, trying to remember what he believed of an afterlife.  I know we must have had numerous conversations about that, and about a Higher Power but I can’t recall any such conversations.  I don’t know what I believe and it has literally sickened me that I may not ever see him again, that maybe our 24 years is what we had and that’s it and it’s done and over and I can’t bear that thought.  I just can’t.

Within those sentences, within those words that I read night after night so that I can memorize them into my heart…I read them and I physically felt my heart begin to pound.  Here it is, I thought, here they are…his words Chuck’s words his beliefs here they are!  I don’t need to try to remember any longer because they’re right here to read, in a tiny journal of Love Notes, words that were written from him to me over 20 years ago.

His words echo what my heart and my instinct have told me continually since I began my Odyssey of Love.  That Love is all that matters, that with love and through Love, I can get through this.  It’s what I have left of him and what I live daily, mile after mile, year after year.

Chuck spoke to me from the grave yesterday, powerful words on the pages of a little book covered in stars and moons.  He spoke to me in the here and now, from a day in the past, and told me what he believed and what he hoped for, and what he wanted for me, and each and every one of his words are what he would write to me today, as I widow my way.

Love is powerful.  Love is what he and I shared for 24 years and Love is what he left behind for me and Love is all that matters to me now and forever.  We were Love and now I am Love.                                                                                                                                img_6451

Our Death Valley Dance~

The Death Valley dance.

I know-it sounds so theatrical, doesn’t it?  To call it such, I mean.  I only named it that in hindsight. All I knew on that February day in 2013 was that this was a moment to remember, as Chuck and I remembered so many of our times together. We knew what was important in life. We grasped that life was impermanent and it needed to be grabbed and appreciated and loved and marked in that spot in our hearts that remembered such moments.

Nothing but wide-open road in front of us, there in Death Valley. We’d had this place on our go-to list, and this was our last evening here.  Our day had been spent mostly driving through the various canyons because Chuck wasn’t feeling well-his strength was minimal and he was in pain. We thought it was the die-off from a fungal infection. We thought it was a pinched nerve.  So we moved more slowly that day, and I took the wheel.

But, as I steered the car over the road, looking at the changing colors of the rocks around me, I knew that here was a moment that we needed to imprint upon our hearts. Something in my heart told me to mark this memory deep into my bones, so I maneuvered the car to the dirt on the side of the road and said let’s dance.  We loved to slow dance, and Chuck was a master at it.  Today, he wasn’t as sure of his footing on the rutted dirt of the roadside, but I said let’s try.  And he gamely smiled at me and stepped out of the car.

It was that most beautiful part of the evening that the Scots call the gloaming, when the day is done but right before night sets in and it was quiet, with no traffic from any direction.  We were the only humans on the planet at that moment, and the rocks glowed golden from the dying sun’s last breath. Silence surrounded us as I met him in front of our red Ford Escape and the strains of You’re My Inspiration by Chicago, wafted from the IPOD I’d plugged into the radio.   Chuck put his right arm around me and clasped my right hand in his left, wrapping his fingers lightly around mine.  In spite of everything, his body was strong against me and that strength flowed from him to me and back again, and all the Love in the world between us simmered and shone.

I knew something was wrong with him.  He did too.  Maybe we both wondered if his cancer had returned, but were afraid to voice the thought aloud.  I don’t know.  I just know, at that moment in time, with that particular tune playing, my heart called for me to remember this moment.

So there, on the side of the road, in the setting sun… there in Death Valley, we danced our last dance.

It was nothin’ but love~

 

When He Smiled at Me~

Sometimes it can be too painful, after a loved one dies, to look at pictures of them.   Not because we don’t want to see their faces and remember back, but because the very act of remembering back is a stark reminder that those times are gone, never to return.

That happens to me when I look at pictures of my beloved husband, Chuck.  It tears into me that those lovely, loving days of being loved by him, of being his special someone…those days are gone, never to return.

And yes, I’m so beyond grateful that I had those years with him.  But that has nothing to do with this grief at his death, or the daily missing-ness of him.

But, even so, I look at pictures of him.  Often.  Even as it causes daggers to my heart and tears choke me.

I look because I know he’s looking at me.

In most of the pictures I have of him, he’s smiling.  And I know that he’s looking directly at the camera…at me…the woman he loved, as I snapped a picture to preserve that particular memory.  So even as the tears come, I smile, because I know he’s looking directly at me, smiling at me with all the love in his heart showing in his eyes as they crinkle, and on his lips.  Sexy smiles, devilish smiles, smiles of love and joy, his eyes glinting at me, sharing secrets that we carried between us. Smiles that conveyed promises of passion and enjoyment for both of us, later on when we’d be alone. Smiles of love.  I half expect him to wink at me from those long ago moments…

I’m the recipient of that smile.  I was the recipient of his smile for 24 years and what a gift it is to me to know that little ol’ me brought such a smile to his face.

I love you, D.  Always.  Collage1Collage2

Just Drive. Just Talk. Just Dance~

In no time at all, I’ll be going back on the road.  Launch date:  May 1 at the latest. My intention is to stay out on the road this time.  I’ll visit friends and family, but will stay in my T@b Teardrop, PinkMagic, primarily.  I’ve missed the coziness of her, the cocoon that she is to me.

This time in Arizona has been what I needed it to be, what I intended it to be. While I’ve fallen off the wagon as far as regular exercise, I have been working hard in counseling. It’s been incredibly intense, now that I’ve added EMDR to the process.

Because it’s Tuesday, my day for EMDR, I’m very tired. It takes a physical and emotional toll on me, which is okay; how can it not be wearying when I’m delving into all the fucking trauma of Chuck’s death and the months afterwards?

So…idle thoughts running through my head:

My therapist who does the EMDR is a knowledgeable woman who gives her all. She’s done the EMDR, guided me through a tapping exercise I can do myself, and today taught me TRE, which is a trauma release exercise. It works through a series of physical positions that stress the body into shaking and tremors, and through those physical reactions, the trauma in muscle memory is released. All of it is fascinating and not completely understood as to why it works; it’s just been found to work.

My Saturday’s are taken up with burlesque dance classes and throughout the remainder of the week I work on my costumes, glittering and sparkling them up. When I return to the road this time, my altar-identity of FWG will be stronger and more vivid than ever. This class has already filled my intention, which was to find some level of creativity again, and awareness of my body.

I’ve created and designed both costumes for my performance, and most of the choreography. The Merry Widow (definitely a play on words with that cuz there ain’t no merry about it), morphs into an FWG.  My entrance onto the stage will be to Leonard Cohen singing Dance Me to the End of Love.  I’ll be dressed in a long, trailing, frayed, black skirt.  Over my head I’ll carry a parasol, draped in black veiling that hangs to my hips.  I’ll swirl to stage center, and, as the words to the tune begin, I’ll dance as if I’m dancing with my beloved husband, not a hard thing to do, as he and I danced to this tune many times.

As that tune ends I’ll step behind a tall screen, which will be backlit so the audience can see my silhouette, and, in very theatrical movements, I’ll toss my parasol to the floor and shed my black widow’s weeds and begin donning the bright pink and orange of an FWG. Two layers, two shades, of pink tutus, with pale pink stockings, pink and silver glittered shoes, and a flaming orange short cape.  My last accessory will be a glittering sword, and I’ll move to the tune of Girl on Fire as I step from behind the screen and assume a Warrior Goddess pose as the lights flash on to the sound of an explosion.

I don’t know where this will lead, this burlesque, and I mostly don’t think about it.  It’s simply one avenue of my therapy for myself.

I do think of Chuck, if he could see me now, doing this. Doing all of this that I’ve done since that April night, and he wouldn’t be so much proud as fucking impressed with the chutzpah that has been required of me to bust down walls emotionally and physically.

I haven’t conquered the grief but that has never been, and never will be, my intention in anything I’ve done in the almost 3 years since he died.  My only intent has been, ever will be, to be as honest as possible with myself and with others, about this clusterfuck of grief.  I swore, right after he died, that I would write directly and in as raw a manner as I needed about it, and not try to pretty it up to make it palatable to the world at large. I need strong people in my life and if they get scared off by how I am or how I express it, then they need to pretty much just get out of my way to make room for those who can bear it with me. No hard feelings, just go over there thank you very much.

I’ve been clear with people regarding the following:

Don’t tell me everything is going to be okay you don’t know that, nor do I.

Don’t tell me he’s with me you don’t know that neither do I.

Don’t tell me I’ll be a better person for going through this that’s bullshit. I was a damn good person before he died.

Don’t tell me anything about God thank you very much, about how He/She/It must have wanted another angel bullshit. Bullshit.

Don’t tell me there’s a plan. I don’t believe it. God, if He/She/It exists, is, I’m sure, busy doing other shit and not looking down to see who can be stricken and killed next.

Don’t tell me there’s a reason and it will reveal itself to me in time. That’s bullshit. The reason he died was that he got fucking cancer and it ate him up and he died. God had nothing to do with it.

But here’s what you can do:

Cheer me on as I continue to make the decision every day to get up and face the damn day and do whatever I can to engage with people and things, even if I’d rather not be here on this earth.

Cheer me on as I face all the fucking trauma of his dying time and saying a final goodbye and sob that trauma out each week in counseling and EMDR.

Cheer me on as I hitch up my trailer again and drive out into this country, going only on my heart’s instinct as a guide, and pass by spots where he and I stopped for lunch, or went hiking. We spent 4 years on the road; there is hardly anywhere that isn’t as a spear to my heart with each and every goddamn and blessed memory.

Cheer me on as I don pink, pink, pink, and glitter it up on a stage, dancing my way through this devastation and in spite of this devastation because it’s what he would expect of me. He knew that, however I did this, it would be in a large way because he knew the woman I am.

Idle thoughts…driving, dancing, sobbing, embracing the pain and grief, keeping my heart open no matter what, gripping the sword of battle in my hand and facing into the fucking wind because it’s what I do and this grief is a battle for me and I don’t take it lightly at all and no matter how often I stumble and fall, and fall apart, I will always,always stand back up.

No matter what.

And She Became~

If I were an author writing a book about this woman who travels the country in a pink car, towing a tiny pink-trimmed trailer, living the legacy of love left behind by her husband, this is what I would write for this moment in that timeline~

And, right then and there, somewhere in the 5th month of the 3rd year of doing this crazy, crazy, Odyssey (because, really, what the HELL was she doing, living a life so far outside of her comfort zone that it was almost absurd, at least to her?) she came to the realization that her grief was SO huge, the devastation SO complete, that all she could do with the hugeness of that LOVE she carried in her heart for her dead husband was to allow ALL of those things to really, truly, exist IN her all at the same time, along with the tears and the laughter and the pain and missing-ness of him. And she’d KNOWN since he died that this is what was real but hadn’t felt the ENERGY of it BECOME in that time. It became not merely intellectually realized manifestation and not only FELT but it became HER.

And with that realization came the understanding that THIS, whatever THIS was, or is, was now who she WAS and she didn’t have to judge any of it one way or the other, or try NOT to grieve or be sad or happy or anything.  All she had to do was ALLOW all these emotions to co-exist, which she always thought couldn’t be done, honestly but time had taught her that yes, they could and not only COULD complete opposite feelings be thought and felt at one time but when she gave them all space together she felt more powerful than she had EVER felt before.

So this woman who drove a pink car towing a pink-trimmed trailer, with pictures of her love story framed inside, with shades of pink and gold and copper all ’round, with tassels and prayer flags and love banners pinned to both windows and on the door and not one bit of it anything but an expression of the love she and her most beloved husband had for 24 years….she made the down in her gut and through her blood vessels decision to make LOVE her superpower in a way never done before, ever. In the history of man, only a select few had ever had this absolute power of Love BECOME to such a degree. And it wasn’t at all, EVER, a gentle birthing; it was an explosion of all she had become FROM love and it tore through her and it burned and shredded all she had been and all her life had been and all that it wasn’t because she was without him and she would always be without him in this world now and now here was THIS, that surpassed the force even of who they’d been together but endured BECAUSE of who they’d been together and.

She became. Love and loss and grief and tears and destruction and light and darkness and nightmare and memory and love again and again and again and she became. She wasn’t sure of how and what or any of those questions humans ask of the world and of themselves. Questions no longer mattered. Explanations for not doing THIS…IT… better, more, differently… self-judgement and care for societal critique of HOW to do IT, to grieve, how to mourn the loss of a lifetime, all of the love of who they’d been and how it must now be….all collapsed into the air around her and swirled as particles and dust until it all crashed and surged into a nuclear surge of what was more than energy or power.

She BECAME in capital letters because that is the only thing she could do with THIS, with THIS that was more potent than she or him or them but WAS because of she and him and them.

A force. A reckoning. Such as this was not a natural occurence. It didn’t come to birth from nothing. Or anything. Or everything. It superseded mere words or ideas of life and love.  It could only come BECAUSE of a Love that crossed all boundaries and barriers and energy fields and became more powerful BECAUSE it must transcend breath and being.

Love became her superpower. It became her breath and life-force. The love the love of her life left behind for her that colored her world into terrifying dark and equally terrifying light when he took his last breath in this world and shattered her into dust with him…surged in her and through her and became her superpower.

And, knowing, feeling, recognizing, realizing that power, even though not fully, firmly, grasping what or how or who or when, she decided to let it all BE what it was, and not try to change it or shift it or mold it to suit anyone other than herself.  She merely decided to HARNESS it and so now there she stood, higher than she’d ever stood…lightly bouncing on that diving board way, way, up there…straddling the clouds almost.  Standing higher than she’d ever willingly stood…in spite of her abject fear of heights and falling and crashing and drowning…

She jumped.

And exploded into being.  Collage

 

 

Becoming…

This almost sacred becoming, and how it happens…

I’ve spent the last 27 months on this Odyssey of Love for my dearest husband.  For the man who helped me become who I am so that I could go out and do this. For the man who loved me with strength and humor and dedication.  The man I loved in return.

I’ve gone to the 4 places he named for me.  He was setting me on his own version of P.S. I Love You.  Minus the actual letters/notes/gifts.  I haven’t had anyone handing me those letters, as happened in the movie, but I’ve had people show up along the road, people who had no idea who I was, what my story is, who might as well have given me those tangible messages.  Instead of that, Chuck sent me actual people to speak those messages to me.

Because this is how the messages are delivered to me, I know that I must continue on the road, finding those other places for scattering his cremains.  This Odyssey is the creative process for my new life without him.

What I haven’t yet done in these past couple years and few months is fully own my part in this Odyssey. I’ve attributed all that has happened to the love he left behind for me. And it’s true that is what drives me, but I need to get fully honest with this.

A writer from a glamping magazine recently wrote a blog about my Odyssey *you can find it at http://www.farmgirlbloggers.com/category/suburban_farmgirl*,  which I mention primarily because the article made me really look at myself through her eyes and shifted my perceptions for the first time.  It made me look more deeply into how skewed my perceptions of self are so vastly different from what the world seems to see.  And maybe that’s a good thing; it makes me feel stronger.

I saw what I think is the real me in that article and what I’ve done on this Odyssey for the first time, which I know can sound odd but is the truth.

So this is what I’m now acknowledging to myself:

My husband died and I took that devastation out on the road, when I was terrified to go out on the road alone but I was determined to carry out his final wishes and I bought a trailer even though I didn’t have a fucking clue what I was doing with that and I’d never camped and didn’t have a clue about that and I was worried about navigation and how hitch and unhitch and what if I got on the wrong road and had to back up holymotherofgod and how would I find my way and how would I see through the waterfall of tears and how would I know what to do and, ultimately, how would I live without him?

And I did it.  And I’m doing it.  And the love has fueled me, and continues to fuel me.  And even in the midst of that very early grief, I knew enough to paint my car pink and the trailer too because I knew grief is isolating and I didn’t know anyone on the road and it would draw people to me and fucking force me to not isolate and talk to people and share my story because telling the story is how you get through it and I contacted newspapers and news stations and magazines and joined camping/T@bbing/glamping/women who solo on the road, groups and shared my story with them all and I grabbed emails with names of people I didn’t know and said  I’m a widow and I want to write for your organization and now I am and I began writing my book and I connected with people all over the country and I talked and I talked and I continue to talk and reach out and I respond to emails from other widow/ers and sometimes veterans and people who are hoarders who want to not be hoarders any longer and how did I rid myself of my stuff they ask and not one damn bit of this happened by chance.

I’m going back out on the road this weekend, making my way to Texas, visiting friends and family along the way.  I’ve a long way to go in this Odyssey of Love yet.  Healing and the future and all that both of those words entail mean nothing to me and I’m not worried about either of them.  Honestly, I’m struggling a lot these days; the grief is overwhelming but that’s okay. I have this story and I have PinkMagic and I have the open road and these are the things that will create whatever needs to be created.

This is what I’m promising myself and what I want to say aloud to you, all of my dear friends/family/followers:

The next phase of this Odyssey of Love  is more sacred than ever before.  My heart must be ever more open so that I recognize where I need to scatter my beloved husband’s cremains.  This is on me now.  It requires honesty from me; I must truly own my strength that has been there since the night he died.  Yeah, it might sound overly dramatic to call this sacred but for anyone who knows of me and Chuck, and our love story and the story of our Happily Homeless travels and how it morphed into Happily Homeless is MoonStruck, you will know that no word can better describe it.

He and I had a love story.  That love made me stronger.  That love was…is…sacred in my life.  It is the blood that flows through my veins, it is the beat of my heart, it is the determination in my gut, it is what causes me to turn right or left with my pink car that tows my pink trailer.

This…this is holy to me.  And I don’t have to not feel the grief, not feel the devastation.  I don’t have to change anything in me, I don’t have to stop the tears, not feel torn in every direction, not feel desolate without him, not feel confused and dislocated..nothing.  All of that can, and will, come right along with me and I freely and openly own every bit of it, because this is my love story and I will live it forever because he was mine and I was his and that isn’t gone and it will never be gone and the world be damned if they get tired of hearing me talk about it because I haven’t even begun to tell this story.  The world needs real love stories to balance the cynicism and lack of belief and so, folks, here’s one for the ages.  Hear ye, hear ye…

This girl, who was loved by this man, who knew her better than she knew herself…this girl is on fire.  It’s a sacred fire that will take me in all directions and, if you’re lucky, you might be able to hear it in person.

Living up to what is on my T@b:  FWGFucking Warrior Goddess~ IMG_2607 IMG_2032