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*

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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

 

When the World Stopped Turning~

Where were you when the world stopped turning?
It’s the name of an Alan Jackson tune.
It’s about 9/11.
September 11, 2001.
That day is irrevocably entwined with Chuck for me. It’s part of how I miss him.
He was at McGuire AFB, in NJ, working a civil service job.
I was headed to Sea Girt, a military beach a little north of the base, and had just reached the turnoff for the base when I heard about a plane hitting the Towers.
Something in me instantly knew that I had to return home. This wasn’t just an accident.
I returned home in time to turn on the TV and hear about the second plane. The phone was already in my hand, calling the base, trying to reach him.
All attempts were unsuccessful. All communications into and out of the base were shut down. The gates were closed, no entry, no leaving.
I was certain that McGuire was on the hit list for the terrorists. It was a major East coast base.
And I couldn’t call him to ask if he was okay, if we were safe, what had happened…nothing.
The rest of my day was, as it was for so many, a day filled with fear and confusion and anxiety, calling loved ones, calling friends, and always, the TV on in the background, watching as the world turned upside down.
Chuck came home that night, around midnight. And then started working 12 hour shifts as our country prepared for war.
A few months later, I went up to Liberty State Park, as a volunteer. I’d spent the previous months training in emergency response.
Liberty State Park was set up to assist and support survivors, their families, the families of those who died that day, with numerous support organizations at individual tables. Kind of a one stop shop.
Each of the volunteers was companioned with a survivor or family member; we guided them through the process of applications for emergency assistance, made sure they stayed hydrated, got snacks for them, and, in the midst of that, provided a listening ear, an open heart, and shoulders to lean on.
Large round cafeteria style tables were arranged in the middle of the room. On those tables were snacks for everyone, bottled water, and thousands of letters sent by kids around the country, to the first responders, to the survivors, to the families. We’d read them on break.
Outside was the Hall of Remembrance. Well, it was that…remembrance…but the frames that wound their way down the middle of the hall were filled with posters that asked us have you seen this man, this woman? He or she worked in the North Tower, the South Tower. I haven’t seen them since that day but I can’t believe they’re dead. They just didn’t come home. Have you seen them?
My heart broke continually up there at Liberty State Park.

I heard stories from survivors that curled my hair and made me sick to my stomach. I heard about the tires from the planes seen down on the ground. People impaled on iron fences after falling from the skies. Near misses as a man was helped from the basement cafeteria by 2 nurses seconds before the building exploded.
I watched as a firefighter who survived the day, but lost so many of his mates, came into the great hall, found “his” therapy dog, sat down on the floor with his arms wrapped around him, and wept heartbreaking tears. Then got up and left without saying a word to anyone.
I went up to Liberty State Park 3 times, to assist in whatever way I could. I figured if they…those people who came for assistance…could bear to be there, so could I, to bear witness to and for them.
On the way back home, after an 11- hour day, my team and I would debrief. We’d cry and be in shock and talk some more and, basically, emotionally vomit those 11 hours.
And then I’d get home and Chuck would have a cup of chai waiting for me, with a light snack, because he knew my appetite was nonexistent on those days, and he’d sit down at the table with me and listen to me vomit the pain. We’d sit and he’d listen to me til I couldn’t speak any longer, and then we’d go to bed and he’d wrap himself around me and I’d feel safe again.
Where were you when the world stopped turning?
I was married to a man who served his country, who understood things that I didn’t about what went on behind the scenes, who reassured me, in a world gone fucking crazy, that it was crazy but I wasn’t and we had each other and we had our Love.
Chuck was the man who stood with me in life, through that day in September, and all the other days for 24 years.
I felt safe with him in my world.
I don’t know why I’m thinking of that September day, on this night. What I do know is that Chuck is linked to every memory I have of that day, and the missingness bubbles through my veins. And I miss him even more as it bubbles.
He was my strong shoulder, he was my reassurance, he was who walked through it all with me.
And my world is not anywhere near the same, without him~

 

Your Death. My Amnesia.

You exist in my world in all the ways you existed when you breathed the air that I breathed.
And none of them.
Your image is finally strong again in my mind and heart.
I didn’t remember it for almost 5 years.
I didn’t feel you.
I didn’t see you.
You disappeared from me that night you took your last breath.
The night I took my last breath, in so many ways.
It was as if I had sudden amnesia.
Memories….gone.
You…gone.
What had it felt like to be held by you?
Kissed by you?
To have you hold my hand?
Had you been real those 24 years?
Or were you a figment of my imagination?
You were so fucking gone
I remembered nothing.
Shocking, instantaneous amnesia.
Your body still lying there on that bed,
And I suddenly didn’t know if you’d ever really existed.
If we’d ever really existed.
That thought was as devastating as your death.
Where had I been for those 24 years, if not by your side?
I attempted to voice these thoughts over the following years,
Only to be told that he’s with you, he’s watching over you…
They didn’t realize the strain that caused my heart and mind.
Why did they know that, when they hadn’t known you as I’d known you,
And I didn’t?
Silent agony torched the filaments of my soul each time I heard those words,
As my mind tortured itself, striving to remember all the moments we’d lived
In all the years we’d had.
Doubting myself, doubting us, doubting my sanity,
Where were you?
Now, having sensed or felt or seen or experienced you,
Your Love for me, pouring and shimmering and showering upon me,
Through me, into the furthest regions of my heart,
Even less do I want to hear others say see? He was there it was you, you just weren’t ready…
On and on.
Because, it isn’t theirs to say…anything.
This is mine to experience and it matters not, as it didn’t matter then, what they think,
This is mine to know,
Because, my dearest, my most beloved husband, my lover, my Universe and my stars, my all, your all…
All that we were, all that we are now, though you be forever gone from my sight,
You are my experience to have and to hold in my heart and soul.
You are my beloved. I am yours.
This is enough for me~

My Beloved~

My beloved,
How thin, or thick, is the veil
Between your world and mine?
Is there a world for you?
Or did you just disappear into nothingness?
Are there alternative worlds in which
You and I exist at a different time?
Still together, still living our lives,
Living and loving passionately,
Instead of me, living here, alone,
Feeling all that nothingness that it seems you disappeared into?
Are there worlds beyond the one where we were together?
Is there a world where we’ll be together again,
Or was what we had here, all that will be?
I ask these questions of myself.
I ask them of the Universe.
There is no answer, of course.
But
If it is only a matter of a thin veil between us now,
Then know that I love you just as madly as when we were two,
And that Love that was between us, is between us, still.
It always will be, you know.
Yes, of course you know.
I’m the one that must be convinced of this,
Because you are so gone and it’s so hard to know it,
Until I remember that there is no death that can truly and fully separate us.
Our Love, our Love story…it is stronger than death.
It must be.
I will not allow it to be any other way

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.

5 Years~

On the 21st of this month, it will be 5 years since Chuck died.
Since the man who was my very breath took his last breath.
I wondered, in the days and months and years after his death…
When was the last time he saw me, as he lay on that hospital bed?
What did his eyes see, as he looked at me?
Was he able to see me or were his eyes staring sightlessly into his soon to be gone world,
And staring hard at the world beyond?
And, if he wasn’t able to hold me in his gaze,
Did he feel the Love blazing from my heart to his?
Did the Love that beat steadily in my heart with grace and passion and ferocity,
Wind its’ way to him from the space 10 paces from him?
What did he hear?
Nothingness as his body struggled in its’ final moments?
Did my beloved hear my heart beating in time with his?
Did he hear my breath with each of his inhales?
Did he know…me?
Did he know the agony in my soul and my bones that was only equaled by the pain of cancer in his bones and soul, as we each whispered goodbye?
Did you hear my quiet voice, my beloved, as I took note of the time as your chest moved so slightly on your final inhale?
Did you feel my hands wash your body and dress you and anoint you with oils…
Moving gently and lovingly over the muscles and contours that in times past were strong and sure as you arched over me in passion?
Did you know that, even as your strong body became what cancer did to you, you remained, always, my shining hero, my trusted champion, my romantic protector?
Did you know that I would love you for all the remainder of my days?
Did you know that your Love and our Love, would become the shining beacon for me…my light and my passion, my guide, my fire, my divination, my Odyssey?
My life. My always. My forever~