Done, and Doing~

How I’ve survived/lived since Chuck’s death on April 21, 2013…

And, yes, I do keep track of how long it’s been. In days and moments and months and years.

Yes, every moment of this life is defined by his death because the only reason I’m living this life as I am is because he died.

Yes, every moment of this life of mine is defined, equally, by the enormous quantity of Love that he left behind for me.

I strive, each day, to sift all that is this grief, which is much more than sadness, through the filter of Love.

In the beginning time of widowhood, by which I mean the first 5 years, this wasn’t possible for me to do. I knew the Love we’d shared was there, but it didn’t matter, because he was dead and it wasn’t enough.

It still isn’t enough, but I take all that is unbearable and impossible and sift it into that Love that he left behind for me.

The only thing I know to be true in this life without Chuck is that, if it is at all possible, he left all that Love behind for me when he died. untitledl

So.

Chuck died.

We were in a rental in southern CA. I had no physical home to return to; Chuck was my home, as I was his.

We’d spent our last 4 years together living full time on the road, staying at inexpensive hotels and at military base lodgings.

The idea of settling down without him, anywhere, freaked me out in the extreme. I didn’t want to be where he wasn’t. Maybe I’d find a connection to and with him out on the road somewhere, was my thinking.

I bought a trailer to go with the new car I’d bought with his life insurance money. No, I didn’t feel guilty or sad about that. I used the money exactly what it was intended for; creating a life for myself after his death.

Before he died, having told him that my plan was to continue traveling, I told him, too, that I would paint my car pink so that he could find me out on the open road. I’ll forever remember the small smile on his lips as he looked right into my eyes and responded I’ll be looking for you. 920592_10152805925115441_611082349_o

I was terrified to set out on my own. Grief is isolating. I knew nobody out on the road. If I did as I’d promised him…paint my car and trailer pink…that would draw people to me and keep me from isolating myself.

If I started writing about navigating widowhood and the open road, in the midst of devastation, if I posted something everyday on our Happily Homeless fb page, then maybe, if I didn’t post on a particular day, someone would notice and reach out to me, asking if I was okay.

All I wanted to do was drive into the desert and disappear. It took everything in me not to do that. On some days, especially now in the midst of the trauma and chaos of our world, I still fight that urge.

My wardrobe, already pink in most ways, became almost entirely pink. Chuck said to me, in his last week don’t mourn for me in black. It isn’t your color. Wear pink.

I wear something pink everyday since he died. My goal is to wear pink everyday, ultimately. And I’m proud to say that I’ve gained a rep as that lady in pink.

I haven’t allowed myself to disappear, no matter what.

As I drove around the country, I discovered workamping as a method to support myself, and I worked at an opera camp where I drove a tractor and learned the New Orleans strut from our sous chef, and a renaissance faire, where I learned about theater and spoke to a Prince and my personality began to shine again.

My voice strengthened as I projected it, as my job required to interact with thousands of guests each day. I started repurposing clothing, even though I don’t sew. A bit of trim here, an old button there, taken from an old piece of clothing, and added to another piece of clothing. IMG_3262I grew comfortable wearing what most people consider costuming, especially while out on the road.

A beautiful pink top hat that I decorated with feathers and trim.  A bright yellow bodice made for my faire days, but worn as a top over a bright pink blouse. Lace leggings with a jangly scarf tied around my hips. Knee high boots with sparkly necklaces wrapped around the instep.

It doesn’t bother me in the least that people stare at me. And they do. Honestly, I assume they’re staring in admiration, wishing they had half the nerve to dress how they please, but don’t dare, for fear of judgement.

Also, people staring at me is a bit of the point.

Too often, widows hide themselves from the world, for too many reasons.

Too often, the words we wish to speak choke us before leaving our throats.

Our words, our hearts, freeze in place, because we fear that judgement from others.

And yes, that judgement is there. For me, too.

Here’s the trick to that.

Don’t give a fuck. Not with anger, but with Love for self and survival.

The knee high boots I wear, draped with jewelry, are perfectly capable of kicking in doors, figuratively speaking. Kicking in and kicking down the doors of judgement and silence as our culture shuts down the unpleasantness of grief that we represent.

The pink clothes I wear are the armor that I don every morning. I refuse to fade into the shadows. The sparkle and glitter I wear ensure that light casts itself on what is real. Shadows and light. I wear armor because I know…have known…since I learned, one month before Chuck died, that I would soon be a widow, that I was in for the fight of my life and it would, and does, require every ounce of strength and courage that resides in my bones. I am a warrior.

I promised Chuck before he died that I’d spend the rest of my life ensuring that every person I met would know his name and who he was, not only to me but to the world at large. I’d get out there and kick ass and take names.

All in the name of Love.

My pink car and my pink trailer, with the color named in Chuck’s honor. It’s my chariot.

My chariot, not only painted pink but covered in hundreds of names and Love notes from chance met people on the road, takes me where I need to go on this Odyssey of Love. It is covered with Love. A traveling tribute to Love.

My two selves battle each other every morning when I swing my feet to the floor.  One self doesn’t want to live this life without Chuck.

The other self hopes that I have enough time left on this earth to accomplish all that I want to accomplish, with my Odyssey of Love. This self wins out every day, if only begrudgingly.

I know who I am, even as I create myself. I know my why, even though I have no end game. I’m completely comfortable living with one foot in the past, with Chuck, and living this life as a fucking warrior goddess. I preferred that life, but this is the life I have and I will, by god, make it as grand and passionate as the life I lived with Chuck.  And, since this life pales in comparison, in my mind, I’m also completely comfortable with the fantasy life I live in my head. A life that is filled with romance and Highland warriors and passion and intimacy and, well, all that I had with a man named Chuck D.

I know I was loved more than any woman was ever loved, by a man who touched my life deeply.

I know that I’m a fucking warrior goddess, and I have much to do in order to complete the mission that Chuck set me on in that last conversation before he sank into oblivion and took his last breath.

And though I am, of course, vulnerable as a human, I am fucking invincible in spirit.

And that, my dears, is how I survived, and how I live.

I am armored in Love.

Curious people along the way have admired my rig and said oh, it’s like a Barbie house!

I’ve hidden my disdain well, but I very pointedly respond that no, this is most definitely not Barbie pink.

It’s FUCKING WARRIOR GODDESS PINK, and it’s my color only, not some pale ass Barbie color.

Said, of course, with all the Love in the world, because I have no room for any other emotion.

Don’t mess with this pink.

Don’t mess with this FWG.

Ultimately, I will draw you into the weave of all this Love, and you will feel strengthened and braver than you ever thought you’d feel, and I’ll tell you about Chuck and we’ll speak of Love and how it is the most powerful force in the Universe, which is how we live on, no matter what.

I promise this to you.

As I promised it to Chuck.

All because of Love~

 

Just…This~

I hope, someday, if it hasn’t already happened for you,

that life allows you to experience

the beautiful intimacy of fully

entrusting your body,

your heart,

your soul,

your very being,

into the hands of a man

who will hold it tenderly, and with care.

Who will cherish the gift of all you are, and call you beautiful.

I hope, someday, if it hasn’t already happened for you,

that you take into your own heart and soul

the deep down truth of his pledge,

as he kneels at your feet,

As knights knelt in days gone by,

and promises to protect you with his life,

as he offers his own heart’s troth to you.

I hope, someday, if it hasn’t already happened for you,

that he takes your hand in his,

and presses his forehead against it,

as he swears his fealty to you,

then raises his head and stares hard into your eyes

as

you are mesmerized by his steadfast gaze, and the truth of his promise,

as he lightly kisses your hand with warm lips, half smiling,

then rises, hands entwined.

I hope, someday, if it hasn’t already happened for you,

that life gifts you with a man to stand with you,

beside you, 

his arm around you,

Strong. Sure. True.

Together.

I hope, someday, if it hasn’t already happened for you,

that life gifts you with the surety of such Love,

as it so splendidly gifted me.

Even as my heart cries out for him in his absence.

Even as my soul whispers his name into the Universe.

Even as I stand alone, facing into the wind,

Alone but emboldened with his strength, his Love, his protection,

Enfolding me in shimmery armor crafted from who we were,

Together.

I hope, someday, that such Love,

finds  you~

Softly Spoken~

Stay with me, my beloved husband.
Don’t leave me.
I don’t want to be without you in this life.
Words uttered only in my heart as my hand gently touched your forehead.
As my hand glided over your cheekbones, sharpened by cancer.
As my two hands wrapped around your fingers, stroking your knuckles. 733925_10152250642650400_2024366887_n
Remembering the strength of your hand wrapped around mine in our lifetime together.
As your spirit slowly faded away from me.
Rest easy, my Love.
Thank you for loving me.
Thank you for showing me how to love.
I will always remember you.
I will make sure that every person I ever meet from here on
Will hear your name from my lips.
Hear who you were to me.
Who I was to you,
And who we were to each other.
I will always remember you.
I’ll always be okay.
I promise.
Just let yourself rest, my beloved.
You are loved.
Slip away when it’s time for you to go.
It’s okay for you to go.
You are loved.
Eyes filled with Love as lips spoke these words aloud.
How could I wish for you to linger on when you were so spent?
So I spoke words that I hoped you would hear even as you traveled on without me.
Words to reassure you,
Words that shattered my heart, 12932923_1006554602732807_3717615266670319827_n
As the very air around us changed and Time ticked minutes and then seconds,
And sacred beauty filled the room,
Even as tears fell.
Where are you, my beloved?
Where did you go?
I don’t know where you are.
You know where I am.
Come find me.
I will wish you into being, as I travel on without you.
Perhaps if I yearn desperately enough for you,
You will return…
Stay with me, my beloved husband.
Don’t ever leave me.
I can’t bear to be without you.
Place your hands upon my shoulders.
Wrap your left behind Love around me.
Let your spirit shine within me. IMG_1745
Let your Love beat strongly in my own heart
Add it to the Love I had for you,
And let our combined Love shimmer and shine so extravagantly
That the world must stop in wonder and awe.
Be with me, my beloved husband,
As I live on, for both of us.
I love you.
I was loved by you.
I carry you with me and within me.
Your Love, my Love, our Love, is my armor. 33384992_1687491431305784_6535730087411580928_n
Chuck Dearing
April 21, 2013
11:21 pm

I Do. Over and Over Again~

I do.

Again, and over and over.

Even knowing that you would someday leave me.

Not of your own will, but because cancer is an evil and twisted demon that seeps into the pores of a healthy person’s body and wreaks havoc within.

You left, not of your own free will.

And I, also not of my own will, stayed.

In the first years that followed, as I stayed, not of my own will, I tried desperately to remember you and I.

You, and who you were with me,

And I, and who I was with you.

I forgot how to move my feet as they moved with yours in a slow dance around the room.

I forgot how we moved together in our last dance, there at the side of that long and Picture1distant road in Death Valley, as the canyons glowed gold and music wafted from our car.

That I could no longer remember horrified me differently, but in the same way, as your death.

I remembered again, though, somewhere in my 4th year.

I remembered how to stand with you, as if your body were pressed against mine,

And raise my left hand to your broad shoulder…

Curl my fingers over your hand,

And dance…

Clint Black…When I Said I Do

Chicago…You’re the Inspiration

These two.

Over and over again.

This night, as I remember what would be 30 years marriage…

Blended family, military life that took you away from me so often, scratching our pennies together, sitting on our swing in the back yard admiring our colorful gardens, retirement, traveling together in our last 4 years, that strong hand of yours on my leg, my hand on your arm as we sat a foot across from one another and explored and adventured…

This night, as I remember saying I do to my life with you, as you slipped a simple silver band on my finger… 24174380_1518274098227519_8389293166807736662_n-226x300

You and I are dancing again, my feet moving in tandem with yours.

You are my heart, always.

We are dancing in the dark and starlit skies of the Universe.

Always~

Yes…He Would~

Quite early on in this widowed life, as I went out on the road and realized that I didn’t recognize myself or my life in any way since the night of April 21…
I remember thinking to myself…though it was more in the way of torturing myself…with the thought…
What if Chuck were to come back to life?
Would he recognize me?
How could he possibly recognize me when I no longer had any sense of who I was or what I looked like and everything inside of me was frozen?
The mere thought that he might not recognize me caused me immeasureable pain loaded on top of the pain of his death.
Because he might come back, right?
Reality had nothing to do with it for me.
It was like shards of glass embedded in my skin, that question.
Embedded in my skin and in my blood vessels as I stood in hundreds of campgrounds around the country, looking up at the night sky in futile frustration, asking what the ever loving FUCK happened to my life?
So I posed that question to our kids as I visited them along my Odyssey of Love.
Would dad know me if he were to return and maybe, I don’t know…see me at some campground somewhere?
Such a simple question, really.
But not simple at all, because at the root of it simmered all my doubts of who I’d become after his death.
Was I hardened? Was I bitter? Was I too shellshocked? Was I…gone?
Each one of our kids responded unequivocally….YES. Dad would know you right away. Even if he saw you from a distance.
Without doubt. Absolutely.
I’ve been widowed for over 6 years now.
I’ve been on the road, alone, for 6 years and 8 months, living in my pink trailer. Driving the roads of our country on my Odyssey of Love.
And this is what I know now, for certain, way down deep in my soul. All the way to my toes and tips of my fingers.
If I were in some campground somewhere, my pink trailer sitting right next to my pink car, my outdoor living space glamped up, a pretty pink umbrella with crystals hanging from each point, music playing…
And Chuck were somewhere nearby, with his own, much more military like, campsite, maybe talking with someone who stopped by to talk to him…
And out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of a whole lot of pink…
He’d turn and look at my campsite in full…
Excuse himself to the person he was talking to…
And stride over to all this pink…
See me sitting in one of my pink chairs, on top of the pink flowered rug, with a clear crystal gazing ball propped on a lace covered table…
He’d come right up to me, with a smile on his face…a grin, really, because he’d be so intruiged…
And he’d say Hi. My name is Chuck. I couldn’t help but notice and he’d wave his hand around and I had to come over and meet the woman who created all of this. IMG_9097
I’d smile. and stand to greet him.
My heart would melt and my knees would weaken, and I’d feel the same surge I felt the first time I opened the front door of my mom’s house, way back in 1988, and saw this handsome man standing there, dressed in BDUs, with that same smile on his moustached face, looking right into me.And our Love story would start all over again…

Sweet Sighs, and Crushed Heart~

I thought of you last night,

One night among the thousands of nights that have passed since your hand last grasped mine,

As we lay next to each other in the dark.

I thought of your breath,

Of your arms braced,

As you raised yourself above me,

The passion in your eyes

A mere reflection of mine.

My dearest, my beloved, my knight, my hero, my lover, my husband,

I thought of you last night,

As I turned my body to face where you would be,

In another lifetime and if life were fair.

I turned to face you,

And my eyes lit not upon you,

But on a rectangular box covered in pictures of you when you were here,

and a triangle shape of red and white stripes and white stars. flag

My hand reached out to caress what is left of your physical form,

Fingers curled around those stripes and stars,

And I remembered your strong body raised over mine…

Your eyes…your breath…

Passion, and Love…

So much Love…

Laughing Til’ I Snort~

My wid sis, Lorri, sent me this meme yesterday, and I snorted with laughter til I just about choked.

Seriously. It’s frickin’ hysterical. 

I laugh like a lunatic every time I see it.

Which is frequently, because I printed it out and put it on the wall next to my desk.

This kind of dark humor is pretty much the only thing that tickles my former funny bone. 

You know, the one I had when Chuck was alive and I genuinely laughed at all kinds of shit, and enjoyed life.

Now?

Now it’s this kind of dark humor.

One of my other fond laughing til I snorted moments was last Spring, after I and two of my wid sisters had wrapped up Camp Widow Tampa and returned to MacDill AFB where we’d taken lodging.

Before going to our separate rooms, we hung out in the snack bar near the front desk, knoshing on french fries and sandwiches. 

Talking about CW, people we’d met, workshops we’d attended. How the best part was just hanging out with our wid community, shooting the shit.

Our conversation quickly devolved…or evolved, as I see it…to our dead husbands. Funerals. Cremations. Urns. Memorials. Widowhood. The shit of widowhood. What it’s really like. How we’d love to say to those who are in early stages that it all gets better but mostly it just stays shit and you do life anyways and you make it count because what are the options and dating and marrying again and…everything.

We were laughing uproariously about all of it. Same as me and Lorri, with whom I’m rooming here in AZ, were doing this evening, over this meme.

As we sat in that snack bar at MacDill, and sat in the diner here in AZ this evening, laughing til our stomachs hurt, anyone looking at us would have thought we were having the time of our lives. The server at the snack bar commented to us about the good time we were having and how good it was to see people so enjoying themselves. 

Bless her heart.

If we’d told her that we were discussing rubbing our dead husband’s cremains into our arms after scattering them…or scattering them and having the wind blow them back into our faces…or mixing them in with, say, brownies or muffins and how inappropriate that would be…but would it really be inappropriate?…I can imagine the look on her face, right?

Dark widow humor. It’s my saving grace.

It takes what is real and painful and forever and puts it right there in front of me and you and helps us cope.

Yeah, death takes us all at one point. Of course it does. In any couple, 1/2 of you will die before the other half and the remaining half will be left holding the bag, trying to make sense out of the wasteland you now stand upon.

I’m never been comforted by the memes that boldly state when you can bravely tell your story without crying, that’s when you know you’ve healed. Shit, I don’t even know what the word healing means, other than I’m sure it carries different meaning for each person.

I don’t know what the word hope means, except…shit, I don’t know. 

I don’t care for the meme that says “you can cry because they’re gone or you can smile because they lived. That kind of shit diminishes the real and true and natural and normal expression of grief. I do, however, believe that I can cry because they’re gone AND smile because they lived, etc, etc...

I can’t promise those who are newly bereaved that it gets better, or easier. There are considerably too many components to grief to make such a blanket statement. Too many variables presented to each individual to say such a thing.

Call me a pragmatist.

All I know to really say is get ready for the shittiest, most confusing, exhausting, life changing and not always in a good way, ride of your life. Hang on tight. Hang onto your community. Find your community, as quickly as you can. They’ll save your life and, sometimes, with dark humor, your sanity.

Widowhood….grief in general, whatever the relationship…ain’t for the faint of heart.

So, yeah, I have a great sense of humor.

But it isn’t anything like the sense of humor I used to have.

And I’m okay with that.

Because, you know….

#deadhusband~

If I Could…

If I could…

These 6 1/2 years later than the day after your death that I never thought I’d survive…

I would approach you hesitantly…

I would rush into your arms…

I would stand in wonder…

I would stare disbelievingly at you…

I would shake my head back and forth…

No.

Yes.

Of course…

It would feel so normal, seeing you standing in front of me again.

I knew you weren’t really gone I’d breathe.

Even though I knew you were dead.

Even though I knew you couldn’t be dead…

Because, really, how could you be dead

When you are so alive in all the pictures of you and I together?

You’d reach for my hand as I reached for yours…

And our bodies would touch so closely that all light between us would disappear…

You and I again…

Me and you…

Us.

Yes.

My world would be bright again.

It would shimmer and glow and fireworks would explode around us…

Us again. 

Me again.

Love again.

You again.

If I could…

Roads, Places, and Memories~

70. 20. 10. 65. 85. 60. 1.

East to west to north to south and back again.

The Oregon coast. The road to the Keys. New England. The Southwest. Deep South.

Roads and directions and places and, most of all…memories.

We…you and I…were everywhere together.

I travel to as many places, the same roads as we did.

I don’t go to places though.

I don’t go to National Parks or monuments.

I’m not much interested in places since you left this earth.

Since you and I parted.

None of it carries the same meaning for me.

The thrill isn’t there, alone.

Or with others, really.

So I don’t go places.

But I do go. I do see.

I travel the roads you and I traveled and my eyes light on a roadside picnic table and I think to myself…we sat there under an umbrella and ate lunch, marveling at our surroundings.

I suddenly realize that the road I’m on is one we were on in our red Escape.

I’m on that same road now, in my pink car, towing my pink trailer that bears hundreds of names written in red pen.

It isn’t the same.

I didn’t expect it would be, of course.

How could it be?

It’s powerful.

To me and to so many others.

What my pink car and trailer represent, I mean.

I’m passionate about what I’m doing.

I’ll do it as long as I can.

But oh, my dearest Love, my eyes search for you on these roads.

My heart searches for those memories. It searches for all we felt for each other.

I try to feel it again and it’s there but distant…a memory of my mind because it’s been so long.

So very long since I glanced over at you in the driver’s seat and reached out my hand to massage the back of your neck as you steered us into adventure and you returned my glance and smiled and rested your hand on my knee.

Oh, my Love, my dearest Love…

I wish you back, adventuring with me.

I miss you~

This Uncertain Terrain~

The landscape of widowhood.

Of grief.

The Alaskan tundra.

The Sahara Desert.

The Australian Outback.

Every side road in between cities and towns.

This parched landscape

Of devastation.

This existence of one where there was once two.

I picture nothingness

In the midst of these tundras and deserts.

Nothingness under bright blue skies and a sun so piercing

It makes me squint my eyes.

The only water available streams from overheated eyes…

The eyes he used to look into, and smile.

Crawling on hands and knees, searching for something familiar,

Aching muscles and shattered self…

I don’t know where I’m going with this.

It’s been a rough day emotionally.

All I want is the life I had with Chuck,

And that life is dead and gone,

Same as he is.

Do you ever get tired of being brave and courageous,

Even though that’s a very real part of you?

I think of myself as Thing One and Thing Two now and wouldn’t a shrink have a field day with that?

I’m that woman with parched throat and hollow self, crawling through the tundra and desert,

And I’m the woman decked out in pink, foraging for hugs so that I don’t lose my sanity,

Keeping the Love front and center, so that I don’t lose my fucking sanity.

I’m Thing One and Thing Two and both are real.

I desperately miss my beloved husband, Chuck.

The longing for him, the yearning for his touch…that’s my desert. My tundra. My Outback.

And I don’t know what to do with any of it.

So, I write this…