Words. And Words. Yet…none~

My dearest D,

It’s been 4 years and one month since you left me. I know that you didn’t want to leave me. If it had been possible, you would have fought tooth and nail, with every breath in you, to stay with me.  You couldn’t…the cancer that ate away at your body demanded nothing less than your life as its’ price.  And on that April night, when the night air was filled with the fragrance of oleander and orange blossoms, you took your last breath and gave up your spirit.

I don’t know where you are, D. Do you know where I am? I’ve made everything as pink as I can, just in case you can see me from somewhere.  From anywhere.  Can you see me?

I keep going. I keep trying. I swear I do, D. And I will always keep going, but I need to tell you that I’m broken inside. My heart is so broken that you are gone, that our life together is no more.  The heart that was yours for all of 24 years is shattered into pieces of shard glass.  The heart that was yours is still yours; it always was and it always will be, but it is in pieces.

I wish I could tell you that I’m getting along without you. I suppose I am, to the outside world. I put all my energy into the outside world, living on your legacy of Love.  I invite people into my world every chance I get so that I can bank the love and support they offer me.  I do everything I can to keep my heart open and willing.

But at the end of the day, I’m alone and I look around my tiny trailer that is my home, and I stare at the pictures of you and I through our years together and I shatter inside because you are no longer here with me and I don’t know what to do with the sadness and emptiness.  I am adrift in this world without you and I make no apologies for it.

How am I supposed to do this, D?  Year after year?  Yes, I’ve gotten through 4 years but what accomplishment is that when my heart is yet broken and I yearn so desperately for you, for your touch?  Oh, to have you touch me again, to have your hand take mine, to feel your kiss upon my lips or my forehead..to feel loved by you again, protected by you…to make sweet and wild love with you again, our bodies twisting and turning each with the other, sweat pouring off of our bodies, words gasped between breaths…

This life is agony without you.  I long for your touch, for your eyes catching mine across the room and lighting up, for the sweetness of your smile at me and your slow wink as your glance and mine meet, for the entwining of our fingers at night as we drift off to sleep, safe and secure…

You are ever my beloved husband, the man I loved above all, my cherished lover, my dearest heart, the man I love still.  I carry you, always, in my heart, and I am bereft without you…

Ever yours,

 

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…

 

Tu Me Manques…

 

My beloved husband,

You have been gone from me forever and a day….mere minutes ago, as measured by my heart’s yearning.  One thousand four hundred and fifty nine days, as measured by the Roman calendar.  I love you.

There is no meaningful way, really, to measure the depth of the grief in my heart that you are gone from me.  Perhaps the only true measure of this grief can be found in the exact measure of my Love for you.  In these four years and forever and a day, my Love for you has only grown.  I love you.

There is an emptiness to my life now, an emptiness that is the shape of you…your broad shoulders, your strong hands, the smile that lit your eyes as you looked out at life…as you looked at me.  That emptiness that is in the shape of your lips on mine as you kissed me, and the grasp of your hand behind my neck.  It is the shape of your arm around me as you pulled me into you as we danced, our bodies moving in synch across a dance floor.

The most painful thing I’ve ever done is watch you in that bed in your final weeks, tending to you, hurting for you, smiling for you, touching you, holding your hand as I sat in a chair next to you, exhausted but never as exhausted as you were, speaking to the nurses, trying to find ways to shield your body from the cancer onslaught and never succeeding, but trying again and again because it was unbearable and unacceptable that this was happening to you, my dearest husband. I loved you beyond measure in those moments, in a way that was more intimate than ever before.

The most painful thing I’ve ever done is draw the blanket over your face for the last time, kiss you for the last time, say goodbye to you for the last time.  I miss you.

Life is lonely without you, D.  I don’t know what to do with myself, don’t know what to do with the aching of my body without your touch, what to do with all the beautiful memories that remind me of times past and a future gone.  All this Love I had for you, have for you…I reach out and you aren’t there to receive it, so my Love lingers in the air, an energy of its own.  Love with nowhere to go.

I gaze up at the sky, day and night.  The bright blue skies and the darkest blue of night, wondering.  Wondering if you’re somewhere out there, seeing me, missing me.  Are you there, D?  Do you see me, wanting you, missing you, wishing you?

My soul requires broad open skies now, no hindrances blocking the way of the horizon in any direction.  My soul craves the skies we opened our sunroof to when we traveled, the skies that meant freedom of the open road to us. There is such vastness in the depth of my sorrow that it can be contained only by the endless expanse of sky and Universe.  Each cloud in the day, each star in the night…each is a marker for me.  Are you there?  Or there?  Maybe there?

It isn’t as simple as missing you.  Of course, I do, and there is no way to express the enormity of this missing.  But it goes beyond missing you, D.  More than me missing you is that you are missing from me.  The French have a phrase for it…tu me manqué.  You are missing from me.

I grow anxious at times, wondering what you would think of me now.  Would you be proud of how I’ve lived without you? Would you be disappointed?  I know that you’d hurt for me that I hurt so much without you, but I know you’d understand, too.  Mostly I know that you’d be proud of how I’ve done this, even with all the pain and sorrow and missingness.  I know this to the bottom of my heart.  I want to do you proud, D, and I believe I have.  I hope I have.

You are my dearest Love.  You will always be me and I will always be you and our hearts will always be connected, no matter how far apart we are, no matter how long a time we are separated.

What remains of you is Love, strong and sure.  You are Love and I am yours and you are missing from me and I miss you and I carry who you were and who we were in my heart day and night and I’ll carry our Love with me until my final hours and minutes.

And when the time comes, I hope, I hope, I dream, I wish, I demand, I whisper, I implore, I beseech…please find me.  I don’t know where you are, but you know where I am and I need you to come find me.

Until then, my dearest, my most beloved husband, my lover, my heart and soul…

Tu me manques.  Tu me manques.  Tu me manques.

 

From the Depths of my Soul~

 

My dearest love, my beloved husband.  D.

It’s 4 years since you and I drove to the ER at Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Springs.  It is now 4 years since you and I began our final Happily Homeless travels, travels that began on a sunny May day in NJ in 2009, as you got into the UHaul truck with the few of our belongings that we’d kept after the sale of our home, and I got in our car, having just signed the papers and closed on our house, and we headed west to drop those few things into a storage unit in Indiana and visit with your mom for a few days.

And then we headed south and west and our adventures began.

We had our last 4 years together traveling the USA, hiking trails, climbing to the highest heights, discovering history at our National Parks, visiting family and friends, gazing upon views I only ever thought to see in books.  I pushed boundaries I never thought to push, and we fell more in Love each and every day, rejoicing in the times it was just us, far away from responsibility and distractions.  Just us.

Life and reality hit hard with your first cancer and shocked us and horrified us through all the surgeries you had to endure, but endure you did…we did…and we didn’t let it stop us.  You came through it and we continued on.  You were a cancer survivor.  I’d never met a cancer survivor before.  The big C was a disease that had already taken so many from me, and I cried when I realized you…my beloved husband…you were the one I got to keep.

Until this time 4 years ago, when I took you to the ER, your breath raspy, your body doubled over in pain, your face creased as it had never been before as you struggled to maintain some sense of self.  For the first time, though, you couldn’t hide it.  You couldn’t reassure me any longer.  I knew the truth of what was in front of us even before you did.

These 4 years of widowhood, my emotions wouldn’t allow me to write to you.  I haven’t been able to speak to you.  All I’ve been capable of saying, as I’d look up at a night sky glittering with stars, out on my own travels across the USA, is…I love you.  Find me.  I don’t know where you are.  You find me.

I still can’t speak to you, but I need to write to you.  I need to force my fingers to type words to you.  I need to vomit words of pain and grief that you, my beloved, are gone from me.  Have been gone from me for almost 4 years now.  Speak to you of my anguish and horror as I watched the cancer decimate your strong body, watched the drugs muddle your mind even though we tried as hard as we could to minimize those drugs, wanting you to be as present as possible.  You were insistent on that and I wanted to honor your wishes even as it added difficulties into a confusing time.

There are those who say that power shouldn’t be given to memories such as pour from my heart and mind and soul; memories that deepen grief and pain and loss, but I disagree.  The very few weeks we spent, 4 years ago now, as test upon test occurred, as I watched you lay in a hospital bed, as our kids gathered, as you and I found tumors exploding in every limb of your ailing body, as doctors spoke to us of cutting edge treatments that sounded impossible to me, because I knew…I knew…on that very first night in the hospital, your time on this earth was so limited that there was no time no time, to even attempt such treatments.  I watched as if outside my body as I spoke to the social worker, begging him to tell me how to tell you that we had no time.  How do I tell my husband, this man who is my life, that it is time for us to find a hospice, that we must prepare as best we can for the impossible and unbearable time of his death?  How do I tell him that there is no time for treatment without him thinking that I want him to die?

And then going into your room and telling you that I will do anything you want to do I will make it happen I have your back but I don’t think we have time and I think we need to find hospice. 

Gazing at your face, D, in those moments, as I stifled my sobs through the words I had to speak to you…the look on your face is sealed into my being forever.  A few very quiet ticks of the clock passed and then you took my hands in yours and you said okay.  And I sobbed more, and we spoke of the magnitude of this, and we began to realize that we were saying goodbye to us, and you said how you would miss us more than anything else in your world.

You signing the papers that would admit you into hospice, the ambulance ride, the 3 weeks of multiple hearts breaking as the cancer gnawed at your body and ate huge chunks of who you were, you staring into the mirror, a look of confusion in your eyes, striving to recognize the narrowed face and sharp nose of cancer staring back at you and me taking your face in my hands, gazing directly into your eyes and saying you have been my hero you will always be my hero…god, every fucking moment of horror and drugs and breathing machines and treatments and doing slow jogs through the family gardens to work off my shock and anger and despair and every other goddamn physical emotion roaring through my own body…and returning to your room and your side to offer you all the Love that was in my body and soul, all the Love that you’d given so freely and willingly to me in our 24 years together, your vow of Love that you spoke, the vows of Love that I spoke, on our wedding day that we lived and honored and grew, every day that we had together and apart.

How can I not honor and remember our final days as we stumbled through the halls of hospice and spoke words to one another that I can’t remember?  How can I not honor every painful and loving and sacred moment of those moments that lasted for 3 weeks and for eternity all at the same time?

These almost 4 years later I remember, and I honor those days and I honor you and me and us.

“I remember the night.  I remember the sound.  I remember the light, when the moon came ‘round.  The night flowers bloomed, the air so sweet.  I remember you. I remember me. “ (Sara Watkins)

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The Rhythm of Memories~

 

Here is the deepest secret that nobody knows.  Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life….

I don’t know why the rhythm of this particular poem rings so deeply in my heart, around so much of what this widow life is for me.  Chuck kept a copy of this poem in his wallet for years;  I’d printed it out many years ago to give to him, and I read that copy at his memorial service.  The rhythm and flow of the words, e.e. cumming’s lack of capitalization, this poem above all resounds through my heart continually.

The words of e.e. cummings fit my soul as I think of Chuck today.  I think of him every day.  I think of him every minute of every day and every second of every minute.  I think of his life and our life together and his death and how it was for me, how it was for him, as he lay dying, and what this life is without him.  What my world is like without him. These are the things I think about as I go about my daily life.  I’m looking at you and talking to you and working and doing and I’m present in that moment at the same time as I am fully present in the life I live with Chuck in my heart.  Before he died, ten thousand years ago and 10 nanoseconds ago, I thought that a person could only have one thought in their head at any given moment but I’ve found that to be untrue.  I consistently and continually have 2 thoughts, 2 lives, in my mind and heart at the same time.

Here is the deepest secret that everybody who reads anything I write knows.  Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of this tree called life…

 

I am still very much in Love with my husband.  I am still very much in Love with Chuck Dearing.  As much in Love with him now as when he was alive.  More, if such is possible, because I was very much in Love with him when he was alive, and I told him so daily and I showed him so daily, and now that he’s dead, he is the very rhythm of my life.

 

His absence has only made my heart grow more with Love for him.  Not in such a way that I’ve raised him to saint status, which is what many do when a loved one dies, but in a way of remembering him as he was, which was as a real man who walked on this earth and swept me off my feet for each of our 24 years together.  I don’t even have to dress him up…his life and his character and our Love speaks for itself.

I’m still very much in Love with my husband.  In Love with Chuck.  The only thing is about this is that…he’s dead.  I’m in Love with a dead man.

And I don’t believe that I will ever not be in Love with him.  How, after all, does one make oneself fall out of Love?

Distance isn’t enough.  People love over distance all the time; they have through the centuries.  Of course, this distance is incalculable, for I’ve no idea where Chuck is.  If he is.  Perhaps I’m in Love with a dead man who has no existence in any realm any longer.  I fully acknowledge this. And that is the fuck of widowhood.  Love with nowhere to go…

 

As these ten thousand years have passed, as each 10 nanoseconds pass in the here and now, I remember how he loved me, how I loved him.  I remember his calm spirit and his groan-worthy jokes.  I remember his dedication to the military and how glad he was to retire, having done his time.  His quiet rebellions that grew from holding his own counsel and just going about business in the way he knew he needed to do.  It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, he told me many times, and that carried him through his military service.  I remember how he not only read the Big Book of AA but read what it all meant, and the history of it; he gave context to AA and the 12 Steps and Tradition, and living a life of sobriety.  Chuck lived his sobriety as honestly as he could, every day.  Not perfectly, but as well as he could, and he earned the respect of many because of it.

 

His promise wasn’t given lightly, and I could count on his promises being kept.  His promises were his word, given as a gentleman of old times would have given his word.  It was his honor, and he held true to it, whether that promise was made to me or one of our kids or a friend or anyone else. 

 

He would, as knights of bygone days of chivalry and honor, have given his life for me.  Sometimes, in my mind then, as he was living, and now, since his death, I picture the two of us strolling through shadowed hills of a glade, or the bare red rocks of the West, and, if this were times of old, he’d have my hand in his, and a sword in the other.  It is as if, when he took his marriage vows, he not only promised to care for and cherish me, but to protect me with his body and his strong arm.  And I can hear those who are less romantic minded, scoff at such imaginings, but here’s the thing that will make you secretly drool with jealousy…Chuck was that man.  I knew he would protect me with his life.  He was a lover and a warrior both, and I was the most fortunate of women to be his chosen.

 

His kisses melted my knees and left me desiring more.  He was the loveliest of slow dancers, holding me firmly against him and guiding me around the dance floor, smiling down at me, sometimes humming along (in a voice that was kind of always off).  He was the most passionate of lovers and I returned that passion in spades.  We were well suited to each other in our strength and passions.

He was all that I’d never dreamed to be possible.  Until it became possible one day when he knocked at the door of my mom’s house and I answered it, wearing my military issue ugly frame glasses and holding a book in hand with a finger marking my place.  He remembered that moment to me often over the years.

And now my lover, my warrior, is dead.  And I love him, am in love with him, no less now than when he breathed the air I now breathe alone.

If this is all that I will have for the remainder of my life…the memories of his kisses, his arms around me, his glances at me across a room, the feeling of swaying against him in a dance where only he and I existed…if all that I have forevermore is the memory of his body and mine twined together before sleeping…well, then, that is more than many, if not most, find, and I will be content in journeying back to those moments of ten thousand years ago, ten nanoseconds ago.

Memories don’t keep me warm at night, but oh, they are such memories and I hold them close. 

Yes, I’m still in Love.  It’s just that I’m in Love with a dead man. And my heart aches.

Ah, well, we must each have our quirks, I suppose.

And that is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called…my life….

 

Love and Magic…Does it Still Exist?

 

“Sometimes I feel like there’s a hole inside of me, an emptiness that at times seems to burn. I think if you lifted my heart to your ear, you could probably hear the ocean….I have this dream of being whole. Of not going to sleep each night, wanting. But still, sometimes, when the wind is warm or the crickets sing…I dream of a Love that even Time will lie down and be still for.  I just want someone to Love me. I want to be seen.  I don’t know.  Maybe I had my happiness.  I don’t want to believe it, but…”

These are words spoken by Sally, one of the characters in one of my most favorite movies…Practical Magic. She writes them to her sister after she, herself, is widowed.  Wondering about Love and life, as so many of us do.  As I wonder, often.

Did I have my Love story?  So many women and men don’t get one Love story; how greedy is it to think that I could have two?

And yet, I hear of second Love stories happening in the widowed communities.

I also hear of the nightmare stories of dating again.

Of the first I think how amazing and beautiful and unlikely and brave beyond measure.  What kind of Love must it be that a man or woman willingly opens his/her heart to Love again, knowing the ultimate outcome?  You’ve lived it once and you’re willing to live it again.  That’s purple heart brave in my book. But that, folks, is the power of Love.

And the nightmare stories that I hear?  They sound all too familiar to me, from my dating days back when I was first divorced.  I wasn’t good at it then, and I’m fairly sure I’d be a whole lot less good at it now.  I’m older, I’ve loved a man fully and completely, and been loved the same way in return.  Very high standards and no willingness to lower them in any way.  Add in the whole widow thing…i.e. talking endlessly about my dead husband and what a lovely man he was…I’m thinking buzzkill. But how can I not speak of Chuck?  I am the woman I am because of my life with him and my life is what it is because I am his widow.  Jesus, a mere explanation of all the pink in my life, which is unavoidable, opens everything….

I’ve been told frequently, as I’m sure you have, that I must keep my heart open to Love, so as to be ready for it when it happens.  How exactly does one know that one’s heart is open, I wonder?  And how the fuck can anyone know for certain that they are ready or not ready?  My brain tells my heart to be open, and I believe that it is.  I know that Chuck would want that for me but, seriously, how the hell do I know the answer to either of those questions?  For the most part, in any case, I believe that life is random.  Good things and bad things and everything in between happens.  Or not.

I met Chuck randomly.  I wasn’t necessarily ready to meet him.  I’d been divorced for a few years, had 3 kids and was very sure that I’d never meet a man with any desire to take on a woman with, you know… 3 kids.  My heart was actually kind of sealed.  I was angry at men, disillusioned, seeking recovery in AA, going to counseling…the whole nine yards.  And one day he knocked at my mom’s door, seeking an after-school babysitter for his daughter.

 

Remember Tienneman Square in China in the 90’s?  College students protested and the government sent out the troops.  The picture that went around the world was one lone student standing implaceably  in front of a huge tank, the gun pointing directly at him.  And he stood there, refusing to move.

 

I was the tank.  Chuck was the student.  He didn’t move.  In the face of my lack of ability to trust, my anger, all of my self-defenses…he didn’t move.  He stood there and loved me and he loved my kids and he showed me a way to life that I’d never known existed.  I learned to love, to be in love, to trust, to discuss issues…it was beautiful and hard and we found our flow and got better at it every year.  I absorbed him and his kindness and his love and humor and caring and oh, the romance that he brought to my life! And my spirit thrived.

 

I wasn’t ready for any of that, and my heart wasn’t open.  Now, without him, I consciously strive to be open and ready, but what the hell do I know if I really am? 

 

Is there a check list somewhere?

 

My heart craves to be someone’s one.  To be someone’s sweetheart, as I was Chuck’s.  As I still am.  As I will always be, no matter what.  My spirit craves a human and present connection.  I crave to be swept off my feet with romance…the kind that comes truly and genuinely, not just as grand gestures meant to impress.  I crave, again, a love that even time will lie down and be still for.  But even as I crave that, I can’t imagine it and I don’t even know that I want it or can accept it from another man.  And even if I can and do, I will still and always crave it from Chuck and how the fuck does that work when he’s, you know…dead.  There cannot possibly exist in real form, a man who can be all Chuck was, be his own, and fully accept that Chuck will always be present in my life, always in my heart.  Is there a man out there strong enough to be all of this?

I don’t know.  Who does know, really? 

But still…

 

I dream of a Love that Time will lie down and be still for…in my heart or in reality…I don’t know….

 

 

 

Just Love~

When calls my heart

To the distant past that is both yesterday and incalculably forever ago.

When calls my heart

To those feelings and emotions that seem so far distant

And so deeply buried

That they are unreachable.  Unrememberable. 

Cherished.  Loved.  Nurtured. 

Secure.  In Love.  Joyous.  Passionate.  Spontaneous.  Upbeat.

What becomes of this heart

And those words that described a life, and a man,

Who gusted into my life and took my breath away with a whoof!

I knew, of course, the possibilities of Love happening in my life before he came into my life.

Zero possibility.

And then.

He called my heart and Love opened my heart

And I breathed Love and I lived Love and I loved him and he loved me and our passion burned brightly

And non-stop

For all of our years.

As we lived our Love story.

Until and then

An ugly and relentless and starving beast took that man who called my heart and opened my heart.

Took him into a world I couldn’t know.

Couldn’t go.

And left behind, calling my heart?

Still Love.  Only Love.  Always Love.

Not enough.  Never enough.  But has to be enough.

Love.  Love more.  Love hard.  Love always.

His words.  His life.  His actions.  His message.  My words.  My life.  My actions.  My message.

Only Love.