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.

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Love, on this Odyssey of Love~

Perhaps one of the most helpful things I’ve learned in a little over 5 years of widowhood is this…
I don’t have to be anything different, feel anything different, aspire to anything different…before going and doing whatever it is that I feel I must do to live this life without Chuck.
I don’t have to have hope. I don’t even know what hope looks or feels like.
I don’t have to have faith. Seriously, I have no clue what faith is, especially as related to religion. Which I shed many years ago in any case, with no interest in returning to it.
I don’t have to have confidence. Mostly, since Chuck died, the road I’m on diverges and changes at any given moment. I’m living a life completely removed from the life he and I lived, even as we spent our last 4 years living full time on the road. I started out on my own not having a clue, and, though I believe I present a fully confident face to the world, each day is another day of figuring it all out. Even if I have some of the technical stuff figured out, about living in a trailer, the emotional components leave me, often, wandering in circles.
I don’t need to feel any of these to do what I’m doing.
Then what do I need? What does get me through each day and each night?
I get that question a LOT.
It’s quite simple, at least to me.
Love.
It is only Love that keeps me driving mile after mile, getting up each day, and wrapping me in its’ embrace each night.
Love.
I stop and think, sometimes, what this widow life would be like for me, if I’d settled into an apartment after Chuck’s death, and I’m fairly certain exactly what would have happened.
I would have closed the door, drawn the shades, and the only thing that might have possibly drawn me to the outside world would be the occasional need for groceries. I would have had to get a job, so I’d have forced myself outside for that, and then retreated as quickly as possible to the rooms behind the closed doors.
Isolation would have been public enemy number one. It is for many of us in the widowed world,  I expect.
Instead, I bought my little trailer and painted it pink and began my Odyssey of Love.
It began as a tribute to the Love that Chuck left behind for me. It was a tribute to our Love story.
I added his name, in decals, to the back of my rig, in my 3rd year of widowhood.
In my 4th year, I realized that this life of mine without him was bigger than me and Chuck…bigger than the Love story he and I shared. So I decided to ask around my widowed community for who might like me to add the names of their person to my rig, PinkMagic.
Very quickly upon that thought was…it’s about our Love for them, certainly…but I want to honor those of us left behind. So I added the names of my widow sisters and brothers too.
My thinking continued to expand…
This Odyssey of Love was, and is, about all the Love left behind, and it’s about honoring those left behind, but it’s also, quite simply, about Love and all the power that is carried in those 4 letters.
I was workamping at Opera in the Ozarks and many of the students there, and orchestra, were coming to me to read Oracle cards for them. We’d have deep and insightful conversations borne of the cards they drew, and I started inviting them to sign my rig with messages of Love. We’d get pictures of us together after they signed it.
They wrote lovely poems and true messages of Love, cheering me on my way. They’d even write messages of Love to my rig, PinkMagic, thanking her for carrying me on this Odyssey.
All of this energized me, and I put the word out to everyone who follows my Happily Homeless is MoonStruck page, to send names of those they love and I’d add those names. Send a message of Love you’d like me to write and I’ll write their names on PinkMagic. People started sending auto paint pens to me so that I could write and write and write on PinkMagic and the words and names would remain, no matter the weather.
My rig is covered in names and words of Love. Front, back, sides.
As I continue my Odyssey of Love, driving along the roads of this country…highways, 2 lane roads, back country roads…people passing me by will see those names, read those names, find my blog and know the power of Love.
My god, the fucking power of these names and words of Love….the sheer fucking power of Love.  iPiccy-collage
Every time I glance in my side view mirror, I see those names. I step outside my rig and I read those names and I feel all the Love that those names represent.
I don’t know what I’d do with my life if I wasn’t doing this. It’s the only thing that gives me any sense of purpose in this life without Chuck.
And what I found out, as I began this Odyssey of Love 5 years ago, is that the only thing I need to do this is believe in the power of the Love that Chuck left behind for me. I only knew it intellectually when I first began, and that was enough to get me going.
It took me almost 5 years to feel it in my heart, to feel the connection to him in my heart, but that’s okay.
I still struggle with feeling it, but that’s okay.
I don’t need to do any of this perfectly.
I just need to do it.
Because ain’t nobody going to do this life without him, for me.
It’s all that I trust in, in this widowed life.
Trusting in his left behind Love. Trusting in all the Love that I meet on the road. Connecting with as much Love as I can, every mile.
Trusting that Love will continue to carry me.

 

This 4 Letter Word~

I don’t know what hope looks like. Are you cringing yet?  Hope is a word that is tossed around in grief circles…in life circles, really, as an antidote to, I don’t know…despair? Which is all well and good and I’m glad for those who grasp its’ meaning, and have it.

The word just doesn’t resonate with me, in this life without Chuck. It never has, on any of the 1,942 days since his death.

I know that we, as humans, are encouraged to have hope, to cultivate hope, to find hope, to reach for hope, but I don’t know what hope looks like.

Hope, to me, implies the ability to see light in my future, and I don’t see light or comprehend how life can even feel any lighter with the continuing absence of my husband, and the burden of figuring out life completely on my own.

It isn’t that I can’t figure out the complexities of life; of course I can. I’m an adult. It isn’t that I’m not okay with being alone in the world. It’s the idea of being alone without my husband, for the rest of my life.

Do I already hear cries of but you have to be okay with being alone! You’re a strong woman! Stand on your own! Like being on your own! What’s wrong with you? You’re depressed! Medicate yourself! It’s a choice to be happy! You must have hope! Forge your own identity! Blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda…

But all is not lost, so simmer down, folks.

I do know what Love looks like.

And people have said to me, as these 1,942 days have passed, and I’ve driven thousands of miles on this Odyssey of Love, honoring Chuck, honoring the loved ones of people I meet on the way, paying tribute to those left behind, and gathering Love around me, that my strong belief in Love is the same as having faith, as having hope.

I don’t rule out that possibility. Words carry different meanings for different people, as we all know.

All I know is that my belief in Love is so strong, so determined, so fervent, that it gets me to my feet each morning, leads me to interact with each and every person I meet throughout my day, no matter where I am, and directs my every action.

Love leads me to reach out to people and new situations, counteracting my instincts to isolate myself. It leads me to keep my heart open to each new day, even as Chuck’s absence looms so largely. Love leads me to keep at it…at life…with all that life brings.

This isn’t the life I wanted to lead, and that’s just the truth. It’s the life I have, because Chuck died. And, somehow, that makes it second best, honestly.

And, no, I don’t take into account what he’d want for me. You know, that he’d want me to be happy, yadda, yadda, yadda. Of course he would, and I know that better than anyone else, thank you very much.  I also take into account that Chuck isn’t the one left behind to manage life without me, and, if he were the one left behind, he’d have his own struggles, living without me. Sooooo…

So hearing shit like that has no impact on me.

What I have resolved is that, if I must live life without him, and apparently I must, then it will be the most colorful life imaginable. It will be…already is, in some ways…a life lived outside the box of expectations. It will be…is…a life dedicated to honoring him and our Love story and all the Love that is in this world and in my life. It will be…is…a life of reaching out, with Love, to everyone who crosses my path, pushing boundaries and comfort zones.

I refuse to live what I consider an ordinary life. The life I lived with Chuck was too powerful with Love, to allow anything less now, without him.

I remember Chuck’s Love for me, and mine for him.  That’s all that I need to know, now. And as long as I keep our Love alive, and seek to focus on the Love that is so present in my world, still, then I’m not concerned about whether or not I have hope or faith.

Love is all that matters to me.

Only Love~

In Love with…a Dead Man…Gasp!

He strides through my mind on a daily basis.
My heart yearns for the Love I felt so strongly with him.
My soul remembers back to the years we shared.
My body yearns for his hands upon it.
It’s been 5 years and 3 months since he left my world.
I’m in love with a dead man.
I can almost hear the shrieks of dismay and shock and see people draw back in…
I’m not sure why they would draw back upon hearing this from me.
Maybe it’s too morbid? I’ve been accused of morbidity.
Maybe they feel that it says something slightly crazy about me, that I’m in love with a dead man…
And I speak so openly about it.
Maybe they think that being in love with a dead man will keep me from being in love with a man who is alive.
Not that any opportunities have presented themselves.
Here’s the god’s honest truth…
I think about my dead husband day and night.
My pulse beats to the memories of our years together.
As I go about living this life…interacting with those I meet along the way on a daily basis…
I’m thinking about him.
I think of how he would handle tough situations.
The toughest situation being the one where I have to live without him.
He is my first thought upon waking,
My last thought before sleep claims me,
And every thought in between.
I do all the things I do and I live this life and few, maybe, suspect that I’m living a life in my heart where he is still with me.
He is my every moment and, honestly, I have no care for other’s opinions of that.
And, if ever a man should materialize in front of me…a man who is perfect for me…I’ll tell him right away that I’m in love with a dead man, but the human heart expands to love,
And I can be in love with a breathing and walking around man, even while I’m in love with a dead man.
And always will be.  And he won’t be second best. He’ll be the living person that I’m in love with.

So, there you go.
Maybe this small bit of writing is what I’d use on a dating profile.
It’s a pretty good filter, I expect.
*Only serious and very strong, enlightened, and courageous men need apply*

This Pink Anniversary~

Today, Tuesday, is an anniversary of sorts for me.
It isn’t an anniversary connected to Chuck, since it happened after he died.
And yet, it is entirely connected to him.
Because today is the day, 5 years ago, that I picked up my new Ford Escape from the garage, and the man, I’d taken it to after buying it from the dealer.
I took it directly from the dealer to a man named Anthony, who had his own garage.
He and I had spoken a week or so earlier, when I’d called him and told him that I was looking for someone to create a shade of pink for me and paint my car in the created color.
I shared with him the Love story that Chuck and I had for 24 years. I told him what Chuck said about me wearing pink after his death. He knew I’d need color around me. I told him about our Happily Homeless travels for our last 4 years together. I told him that I was staying on the road, alone, and I was terrified and devastated and didn’t know how to do it, but I was doing it.
The price he gave me was just too high for me, but I told him how very much I appreciated that he listened to me and we hung up.
Not half an hour later, Anthony called me up again and quoted me a lower price. He really wanted to create a color for me and paint my silver car.
The first shade of pink that he did was too dark, and I told him to lift the brown out, and add a creamy white, but that I didn’t need to see the second shade. Paint my car in the color you get and it will be the exact right shade.
A couple weeks later I went with my daughter to pick up my car. She cried and I cried when I saw it, and we cried more when Anthony handed the can to me, with the formula for the paint on it…and the name he’d named it.
The name….
It’s to give you courage to return to the road on your own Anthony said.
Chuck’s Watchin’ Over Me was what he’d named the color.
God, did I cry.
And a few months later, I bought my tiny trailer. It’s a T@b Teardrop, and before taking it off the lot, I gave the guy my paint can with the formula on it and said anything that’s yellow, paint it pink! 16114600_1227243173997281_3474194353379356472_n
I was terrified to return to the road on my own. My heart was shattered into pieces and it felt as if a meat slicer was in my chest. Alternatively, it felt as if my heart had been seized from my chest and thrown on the ground and a sharp-edged ax was slicing at it haphazardly.
I’d never camped and I’d never towed anything.
I knew nothing about what I was about to do, and I was fucking riddled with anxiety. Waking up every morning was unbearable. How could I do this when I didn’t even want to live? When I felt numb and breathless with pain at one and the same time? When I couldn’t focus on maps and reservations and routes? When I didn’t know where campgrounds even existed and how to make reservations with them? How far would I drive each day? What if I broke down? What if I was attacked? What if I just couldn’t do it suddenly, and I stranded myself somewhere?
How could I possibly do any of it, when all I wanted was my husband?
Maybe it was fortunate that I didn’t have a home to return to. Maybe it was fortunate that I was too young (55) to live with my kids. Maybe I was fortunate that I didn’t know what else to do. Maybe it was fortunate that I was so filled with fear and anxiety that it opened my eyes to doing the impossible. Maybe it was fortunate that the fierce grief and exhaustion, even as it killed my energy, forced me on.
I learned as I did it. I didn’t have a fucking clue what I was doing or where I was going. So I learned to make myself vulnerable and ask for help from whoever happened to be standing near me.
I learned as I joined every fb group of campers and military people that I could find, so that I could reach out with my concerns and confusion.
I learned as I began writing my blog and posting daily on my Happily Homeless is MoonStruck page, knowing that all that I held inside my heart and soul was impossible to hold inside for long.
I learned as I began saying why not to any idea that came into my head, no matter how outlandish it might seem.
I learned as I began listening to my heart, trusting it to guide me much more than I trusted my brain.
I learned as I insisted, to myself, that the Love Chuck left behind for me must must must be fucking stronger than the grief, or I’d go over the edge completely.
I learned as I reached out to my widowed community and began visiting them around the country. I got so many hugs and each one took me another mile.
I did whatever I had to, reached out, pushed my boundaries and comfort zones and grew Love bigger.
I miss Chuck unbearably to this day, 5 years later. I always will. Life is less than without him. My heart and soul get so tired. My body gets tired, being out on the road constantly. When it gets to be too much, I find rest with family or friends.
What I learned, most importantly, I think, is that there ain’t nobody going to do this for me. This is it…my life. I had 24 years of Love from a man I adored, who adored me. And my world now, will never be the same. And that isn’t okay in any way. But this is what I have.
And by fucking god, I will, and I AM, living it in color, living it as much over the top as I can manage and I’m doing it in Chuck’s name and in the name of our Love story, and in the name of Love.
That’s it in a nutshell.
All the pink. It’s the color of my courage and determination and the Love Chuck left behind for me, and the Love that meets me on the road daily.
You don’t have to wait to feel better to do whatever it is you think you might want to do. You don’t have to wait til you’re not as sad as you are now. You don’t have to wait for anyone’s approval.
You just pack every damn bit of that stuff up in a suitcase and take it with you.
It’s in the doing that you learn. It’s in the doing that you gain some measure of confidence. And it’s in the doing that you find that dark bit of humor that lets you announce to the world that you really don’t have a grand flying fuck clue what you’re doing….
But you’re doing it anyways.
So, no, this anniversary isn’t about Chuck. But yes, it’s all about Chuck and the mission that he started me on, as his cancer filled body lay on that hospice bed and I told him that my plan was to continue traveling, as he and I had done, and he asked me to return to our favorite places and scatter his cremains but he only named 4 places because the other places would be up to me, and I’d have to keep my heart open in order to know them. And, in keeping my heart open, I know that he hoped I’d create a new life for myself.
My Odyssey of Love continues, beloved husband.
My knight, my lover, my hero, my light, my life…529438_552029828185289_1995679461_n

 

Missing Him on 40~

I’m on the road again.
I left Arizona, headed to Arkansas, a few days ago. Or maybe it was a week ago, now. I’m kind of tired after driving some long ass days.
Tune up on my car. New tires, brakes on my rig, PinkMagic, fixed.
Our daughter was road tripping to Arkansas with me, to see the opera camp where I work for the summer. It’s my second year back there, as the groundskeeper.
We were planning a fairly easy trip, stopping to visit family in Denver, taking our time.
Well, as they say…
The best laid plans of mice and men…
We were only 200 miles out when we heard a loud pop from the rear of my trailer, followed by smoke billowing out, and brake fluid trailing behind us.
Fortunately, I’d just pulled off the highway, so that we could drive the main drag of Winslow. You know….
Standin’ on the corner and all that.
Again, fortunately, I have roadside assistance and called them and they sent a tow out to us. He quickly diagnosed major problems and I followed his tow truck, very slowly and carefully, to his garage.
Where he removed the drums and discovered that all rubber parts had melted and all metal parts had turned to dust. They dissolved to the ground as soon as the drums came off.
Not good.
But better than what could have been, which was a fire from the massively overheated brakes, which could have easily burned my rig into nothingness, and taken the car too, I suppose, since it’s all so small.
Scary shit.
We ended up camping out at the garage for 3 days and 2 nights while they sent for parts and worked on the brakes.
High Chaparral Garage in Winslow, AZ; the best people EVER. They went above and far beyond what was necessary to keep us safe while there and take us back on the road.
Hooked us up to electricity so we could sleep comfortably. Put a large mat outside so we didn’t track grease inside PinkMagic.
Worked diligently on the brakes. We were right on the famed Rt 66, so people stopped in to say hi and take a tour of the inside of my rig.
Gave us great tips for exploring the area while we were stranded.
We’d go downtown to the corner and drink chai while watching the world go by.
Before leaving, even though it was late at night and we were all tired, the wonderful guys at High Chaparral tightened up the spare, power washed my car and trailer, signed the back of it with loving words, gave us hugs, told us to keep in touch…and away we went.
During our stay at the garage, I met 2 other widows who were 5 years out, as I am now. We spoke of the ravages of cancer and how it changes lives.
Because I was stationary, albeit unexpectedly, I had the opportunity to speak on the phone to a radio host with a program called Bringing Love to Life, about my Odyssey, and my marriage to Chuck.
Because we were stuck, so to speak, for the time we were, timing was set into place that brought us to a rest stop further on where we met a young couple, themselves stranded, trying to get to Montana to see the young man’s dad before his dad died of liver cancer. Remembering that desperate feeling, we were able to buy them a tank of gas, some groceries, and give some cash to help them on their way.
It’s the kind of thing that Chuck would have done, and all I asked in return was for them to remember the name Chuck D.
Our continued travels took us from Arizona to New Mexico to Texas to Oklahoma and then into Arkansas, and every mile along the way was filled with memories of my and Chuck’s travels, what seems so many years ago now.
How is it possible that it is 5 years since his death?
Next month I’ll have been on the road alone, as a widow, longer than he and I were, together.
That thought messes with my mind.
He is everywhere along Rt 40, through the middle of our country. He is at every roadside rest stop, at the picnic tables where we’d stop to eat lunch. He’s at the national monuments and parks, where we’d visit to learn local history. He’s in the wildflowers growing in the median strip and in the flat lands of west Texas with the huge sky overhead.
He is everywhere, in memory and in my heart.
I missed him for the entirety of 40.
I miss him on that road and every other road that I drive.
And I also know, more than ever, after the experience in Winslow, that his legacy is strong and vibrant and that our Love story is as strong as it ever was, and that I am doing just exactly perfectly heart wide open what it is that I am destined to do…
Live this Odyssey of Love. For him. For me. For all my widow brothers and sisters and their ones. Live it for all those I meet along the way, for all those whose path I cross or who cross my path.
Just, quite simply, live the Love that he left behind for me.
Fiercely. Strongly. Powerfully. Confidently.
Always.

And. Not Or~

We all know the power of words, especially in widowhood.
Words stream at us in loving support, with awkwardness, clumsy grace, and, unfortunately, in judgement.
We hear these words and phrases and they make us stronger or they make us want to hide.
We begin, as time passes, to hide ourselves. To isolate ourselves.
We present artificial selves to protect ourselves from judgements and maintain our daily lives, while our hearts and souls go underground.
Early on, in what I will presume was good intent, a friend told me to just fake it til you make it.
Instinctively, I knew that wasn’t an option for me. It felt like an unhealthy response to a genuinely traumatizing event.
As these few years have passed, I’ve spoken about life without my beloved husband, and the struggles of widowhood, in as real and authentic a way as possible.
I refuse to hide myself from it. I refuse to allow the world and its’ judgements to force me into isolation. I can’t, for my own sanity’s sake.
And I’ve also had to create a life and do my daily tasks, which I can’t do if I’m sobbing my way through my days.
So I’ve put on the face, so to speak, in order to get shit done, like we all do.
But this isn’t a fake it til you make it face.
In what I consider a healthy response, I’ve morphed into two people. Which, as a Gemini, is no big deal to me, honestly.
And I’ve learned that this widow life isn’t an either/or proposition.
It’s an and situation.
I am this person AND I’m that person.
I am devastated empty lonely yearning sad missing him AND I am creating and creative engaging being and showing and receiving Love…daily.
I am a shadow of myself AND I am shining more brightly than ever.
I don’t want to be here on this earth without him AND I am more determined than ever to carry our Love story every day.
I feel empty AND feel so full each and every day.
I am this AND I am that AND I am perfectly okay with this duality.
This duality, for me, is how I widow~