Words in a Book, From the Grave~

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. untitledvv.png
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.

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Scary. Because, you Know…Widowed~

Widows scare people, I think.
Even if they (we) are ordinary in appearance.
No warts on our long noses.
No narrow, scraggly, fingers with sharp nails (for poking).
Oh, wait.
I’m describing witches.
We do (sometimes) wear black though. Like witches in the storybooks do.
And I do believe that we frighten people.
Family people and strangers people.
Because we’re (shhh, don’t tell anyone!) dark, you know.
We carry death with us.
Some of us are even (gasp!) sad.
And we talk about dead people! Our husbands and wives. Who are DEAD!
Which makes people uncomfortable.
I think, too, that we frighten people, family and strangers, because they think we might need something from them.
Maybe money.
Or we might want to live with them, so that we have a sense of connection at a time when the loneliness is overwhelming.
Maybe we can’t afford to live on our own. Because, you know, money. And because it’s too freaking expensive to live in a decent place on one salary.
It’s like we’re teenagers again, going out into the world for the first time. Living in a crappy place in a crappy, unsafe, neighborhood. A crappy, undependable car and a job we keep only to pay the bills.
We’re dating again, some of us.
Having to play that game again. Yuck!
It’s adult teenagerhood.
We scare people. Nothing can convince me otherwise, 5 years and 8 months in. I read the stories. I talk to other widows. I see the reactions in my own life.
Even though we go out of our way to live independently and are ardent in our efforts to show how un-needy we are, how intent on not burdening anyone…
They get nervous.
There isn’t a place for widows in our culture. In most cultures. Our culture shuns in a more civilized manner than many, possibly, but the shunning is still there.
Get over it. Get on with it. Stop talking about death. Don’t bring your darkness around me. Fake it, for my sake. Be who I want you to be, not who you are. Do this the way I think is best for you, not the way you know is best for you.
We stand our ground as best we can, while fighting to hold off negative energy rays coming from such people.
No wonder we’re so tired.
Sometimes we cut those particular people out of our lives entirely, because we have to.
Widows.
Scary people, right?
Especially the ones decked out in pink~

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~

Casting a Double-Dare Spell into the Universe~

The mere idea of dipping my feet into the dating scene, no matter how lonely I am at any given point, invokes in me a huge HELL NO! The quantity of nightmare stories I’ve heard from the widowed community about the quality of people in that scene, both male and female and what they’re looking for…no, please. There is, I hear, that 1% chance of meeting someone, that wonderful someone who brings beauty to a lonely life, but that’s not enough to entice me into the quagmire. I’m still in love with Chuck, for one thing, even as my heart is open. That might sound like a contradiction to you…widowhood is filled with contradictions…but I believe that the heart expands to Love, and I can fall in love again, with the perfect man. Having said that, the perfect man would have to materialize in front of me, with immediate recognition in both of our hearts that…THIS.    It saddens me that there are many in the widowed community who feel that their widow experience has left them broken, and finding a person to accept their broken-ness seems impossible.  Honestly, I don’t see myself as broken or damaged at all. On the contrary, my experience shows that I’m good at Love, good at healthy relationships. Yes, I feel life intensely, I’m brought to tears by all that is real in life…reunions, watching people fall in love, commercials, the certain blue of sky out my moon roof, stars lighting up the Universe at night…tears are never far away. I live on a higher adrenalin level than I did prior to Chuck’s death, coming from the realization that life really can, and does, change on a fucking dime. But that doesn’t make me broken; that makes me conscious. Which I was before he died, so only more so, now.
No, I won’t join a dating site. But All Hollows Eve is coming upon us, at the end of this month and the following words are what I will write out on paper for that evening, that I’ll put in a lovely bowl, add bright yellow and orange marigold and chrysanthemum petals, an essential oil…maybe “future”, burn the mix and let the ash ascend into the night skies, chanting a spell all the while. I’m creating a witch hat for the occasion, black but with pink tulle and flowers strewn over it.
This is what I’ll write to the Universe that night…
…I’m a widow of 5 years and 6 months. I live full-time on the road, towing a trailer, and I’ve done this since my husband’s death. The car is pink. My trailer trim is in the same shade of pink. The shade was customized for me, in my husband’s memory, giving me courage to return to the road solo, following his death. I wear a lot of pink. Not a wussy, Barbie pink, but a Fucking Warrior Goddess pink.
I’m a recovered alcoholic of 30+ years and I’m comfortable around alcohol but have no tolerance for drunken behavior. I believe in being present and conscious about life and you can’t do that if you’re drunk and stupid. If you have a prison record, if you’re doing drugs of any kind, don’t bother contacting me. Bless your heart and all that and no judgement but I will not deal with that shit and the emotional fallout that comes with it.
I believe in romance and Love stories, because I had both in my marriage. Which makes me a romantic but not a fool.
I’m 60 years old and my hair is naturally bland dark blonde but I color it regularly in whatever shade strikes my fancy. Also, 60 is a lot younger than it seemed to me when I was in my 30’s.
God, I need to lose a few pounds so if you’re someone who exercises, maybe you’ll inspire me to get back to it. I’m a sporadic exerciser at best. But no gym rats, please. A healthy outlook on fitness is good.
What gives me sex appeal is not because I wear skimpy dresses and heels high enough to turn my ankle and a fully made up face but my strength and determination. My blue eyes show my heart. I know how to love.
I know that Love is an action word. Words are easy. I love the words, but Love must be shown, too. I do both and I expect the same of any man in my life. Tenderness and passion. If you’re the right man, you’ll get it.
My financial stability comes from temporary jobs. I’ve already done the 9-5 thing and temp jobs allow me to stay on the road. So, I’m not rich by any means. I can pay my bills but can’t afford to eat out very often. I’m uncertain how finances play out in the dating scene, or even in a relationship at this later part of my life, but I’m sure it could be figured out.
I’m unique because I’m a kick ass woman. Not aggressive, not a bitch, but assertive as needed. I’m kick ass because I make the decision every day to suit up and show up and show Love, when I’d just as soon stay under the covers.
Here’s how strongly I can love, and what a determined woman I am: I went with my husband as he was cremated, and I’m the one who pressed the switch to open the crematorium doors to admit his body. I did this as a final act of love and service to him.
My taste in music runs to bagpipes, tribal drumming, country western, 50’s rock and roll, chanting, whatever suits my mood. No rap, no heavy metal~
My beloved husband was a passionate man, an educated man, an AF veteran, well-traveled, and he loved me with everything he had. I loved him the same way. I’ll accept nothing less from any other man.
I want a man who is masculine but not macho. I hope you know the difference. I want a man who is romantic but not a weenie. I want a man who shows emotions but doesn’t weep all over the place. I know; it’s confusing. But there you go. Think McGarrett on the new Hawaii 5-0. Or Chin Ho. Yes, they’re fictional characters but the same could almost be said of my husband, because of how he was the perfect mix of all that I adore. Yes, I have very high standards. Bless your heart if that intimidates you.
In the movie “Practical Magic”, Sally creates a wish for a man who doesn’t exist, and sends that wish into the Universe. I’d love to believe that a real man, who is strong and confident in himself, actually exists, but I kind of also believe that my beloved was the last of his kind. You may or may not be man enough to prove that premise wrong.
I’m not at all interested in showmanship, though I do love performance theater.  I’ve got a good b.s. meter. I’ve heard from many of my women friends who date who tell me  that the minute they exchange phone numbers with a guy, they almost immediately begin receiving dick pics via text. Believe me, such pictures DON’T impress me in the least. Show me something real, instead. Show me who YOU are. Use some imagination, for god’s sake. I mean, seriously…who the hell came up with that idea and said yeah, I think I’ll impress this woman I don’t know, with pictures of my dick.  Jesus.
Because I’m a determined and strong woman, which I’ve always been, and more so since my husband’s death, I will accept no less than an equal partner, and be an equal partner in return.
If you’re a widower, please be assured that I am not threatened by your dead wife, any more than I expect you to be threatened by my dead husband. A heart that has known real Love only expands with more Love. I will always talk about my beloved husband, even as I love you deeply, and I fully anticipate that you will speak of your dead wife. If you have her cremains in an urn and you carry them with you, cool. You show me yours and I’ll show you mine. We’ll create a beautiful altar for them both, wherever we are, and each All Hallows Eve, we’ll invoke their names as the veil between their world and ours, thins. Maybe we’ll dance naked around a huge bonfire, with drums beating in the darkness.
If you haven’t been widowed, you need to be strong and confident enough in yourself to know that I’m the woman I am because I was shaped by many beautiful years with my husband. He will always be a part of me and my life and who I am. And because I loved him so passionately, was in Love with him, still am, honestly, that means I can love you just as strongly. Yes, it’s possible to be in love with two men at once. At least, it is when one of them is dead.
*Wimps and fakes need not apply*
I send this out to the Universe from a heart that has been broken and shredded from grief but a heart that believes in the power of Love, but also, with no belief that such a man exists in this realm. So, it’s, you know, a safe cast.
Here you go, Universe, I dare you.
In fact, I double dare you~

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~

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.

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~