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~

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If These Gods~

If all things that are impossible
Became impossibly real,
And the unimaginable
Became impossibly imaginable,
And what is impossibly, unimaginably, inconceivable,
Became entirely plausible.
In a world where my fiercest and most impassioned pleas,
Ringing forth from the depths of my shattered heart…
Could be heard pulsating through the days and nights of the almighty Universe,
And the gods of the Romans and Greeks and all gods through Time
Were to hear my cries,
Bouncing off the stars and the moon and the sun…
Especially…most especially Aphrodite and Pothos and Eros…
And Mars, that fierce god of war, who understands passion and ferocity,
If these gods, dancing among the stars,
Were to hear my fervent keening,
And, in response, radiate their powers into one lone energy that would shape all that is impossible,
Into the possible,
With a nod to the mighty Thor for use of his valiant hammer…
They would, on the winged feet of Mercury…
Convey you, my dearest Love, my beloved, my husband,
To my side once again~

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.

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

 

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~