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)

488219_10152215693950400_1546075241_n

 

Life in the Hood…

I’ve grieved before.  My brother and my mom died within 6 months of one another, back in 1996.  It knocked me senseless for…hmm…4 years or so?

After the first year I volunteered at a local hospice and sought out one training after another, getting certified in various aspects of grief and crisis response and compassion fatigue.  Which led me to training that allowed me to facilitate bereavement groups for the community.

I knew shit, you know?  Ask me a question about grief and the impact of grief and the many ways people grieve and I could tell you shit that would make a difference in your life. I have stacks of notes and testimonials citing the many ways I helped people.

And then Chuck died.

BAM!

I don’t know shit about grief.  Or rather, I know a shit load of stuff about grief and what I know doesn’t make a damn bit of difference to how I’m grieving and I question my sanity as much as any newbie and I feel the same disconnect between my heart and head as many in my groups expressed to me in their time.

I don’t know shit.

And I depend upon my friends in the bereavement field to tell me naw, you ain’t crazy. You’re grieving.  Make sure you hydrate.  Remind yourself to breathe effectively.  Call me when you think you’re crazy and I’ll listen.

Even more so I depend upon my widowed community.  Those people get it. Big time.  I’ve met numerous widows who fucking rock their widowhood.  Not because they’ve gotten it all figured out but because they are so open and vulnerable about it and with it.  Which I admire to the nth degree.  Honesty also makes a person vulnerable to judgement and criticism, of course, and cries of oh you must be positive you must flip that switch so that you’re happy instead of sad you are choosing this way of reacting…and blah blah blah.

Life in the hood, as my son laughingly called it and I loved that he laughed when he said it, is fucking hard.  I’m beyond blessed that I have a strong, supportive, community around me for the most part.  And by that I don’t mean people who yes me to death how fucking boring that would be but people who understand that there is a difference a ginormous difference, between encouragement and judgement.

Encouragement is I’m right here with you this sucks the big one want to talk about Chuck or would you rather be distracted?  It’s understanding my blunt response when you ask if I’m having fun and I say fuck no because that word and its’ definition don’t even register with me and that’s okay.  It’s just cheering me on in my sometimes huge strides and my more often desperate yet intentional attempts to make something of this new life in the hood.  It’s not just moving your lips when you say there is no timeline to grief but meaning it in your heart and giving me that space while I figure this shit out. It’s working with me on ideas to earn money and stay on the road or just joking with me about how fucked up all this is.  I’ll take care of the emotional shit.  Help me with the practical and/or logistical.  But no trying to fix that, either.  Just work with me.

Look, grief is hard.  I know it.  You know it.  I think you do.  I hope you do.  Except actually not because it means that a loved one of yours died and I don’t wish this shit on anyone.  I’m not going to sit here and compare one grief over another;  it sucks no matter what.  What makes life in the hood just a difference in matters of degree is this:  most often, when 2 adults partner up for life, is that every fucking area of your lives entwine and entangle.  In a good way, not in a and this comes with judgement in tone but as a woman you’re supposed to be your own person even if you’re married!  How horrible that you weren’t your own person! Where’s your own identity?  How could you lose your own identity? 

Fuck that.  Keep your judgements to yourself, right?  Also, let me introduce you to what being really, deeply, passionately, in love is like, hmm?  In that most wonderful way that you feel stronger and more confident in your own sweet self as you have ever felt.  Ever. Because you were married to this incredibly cool guy who pushed you and encouraged you and supported you and your dreams in all the ways that he could.  Because he, you know, loved you just as much, if not more, than you loved him.

Let me be totally and brutally frank and honest here, okay?  Cover your eyes if you need to, peek between your fingers if you wish, clap your hands over your ears, or don’t read beyond this point if your sensibilities are too delicate or you’re one of our kids.

What takes widowhood to that whole different level is, let me put this delicately, or try…the continual exchange of bodily fluids over the course of a healthy marriage.  Passion? Sexing? Doing the nasty?  Okay, fucking.  You know, that thing that married people love doing I hope you loved doing it as much as Chuck and I did sorry if you don’t.  When you have that with your person, when you do that regularly because you are in a really amazing, excellent, loving. relationship/marriage, it brings a whole level of intimacy to the life that you share and is the very basis of everything else  that you share.  Sex, finances, chores, more sex, love, jobs, kids, daily life, sex…it all entangles you, hopefully, in a gorgeous package of intimacy;  legs and arms and hearts and minds and tongues and words and souls and bone and I swear, cells of your damn body and thoughts in a sweaty heap on the bed.  Or the floor. Wherever.

And that is what takes life in the hood to that deeper level.  No comparisons to other grief, I promise. Just sayin’, right?

Did I just veer completely off my original talking point?  I think I did.

Anyways…encouragement is a good thing, okay?  Let’s do a judgement free zone, hmm?

Thank you.

*I blame the raw honesty of this blog on those of my widow sisters *you know who you are* whose favorite word is fuck and the widow sisters who write openly about sex in the widowed community *gasp*.  It’s your fault and, also, thank you*

*Also this does not apply to my own support community because they you, pretty much rock*

 

 

 

I’ll Be at my Hotel~

I remember these words from my mom, spoken many years ago at a time when one of my younger brothers was dying.

Family and friends had gathered from around the country to say final goodbyes.  As it happened, he didn’t die until many months later, but it seemed like the end, so…there we were.

There were 8 kids in our family;  our folks were divorced, but we were all there that long ago weekend, and, as is normal at such a time, emotions were running high.  It’s funny to me, really, to think of my mom at that time.  She’d been alcoholic for decades but, as I came to recognize as I grew and matured, that was only one aspect of her personality.  Mom was also an intellectual, wise beyond wise, realistic, and she had a hugely funny cynical sense of humor that I totally loved.  She’d been an Army wife for 20+ years, a demanding lifestyle that took her overseas frequently, and around the USA, oftentimes as she was ready to deliver another child, or having just delivered a child.  The strength that was molded into her bones didn’t come easily or lightly, and there was much to admire about her, in spite of her alcoholism.  In the decades since her death (she died of breast cancer just 6 months after my brother Kysa succumbed to Hodgkins), I’ve come to admire her even more and sometimes wondered, given all that life pushed on her, why she wasn’t also a drug addict. (I say that with a sense of humor, because, really, looking at her life, who wouldn’t want to anesthetize themselves as thoroughly as possible?)

Anyways, back to the topic at hand…my brother dying and all of us gathered together to say goodbye and emotions running rampant, except that mostly it seemed none were being expressed (our family didn’t do emotions well, if at all). Which made for very dicey possibilities, none of which sounded good.

A meeting was called at a sibling’s house, to discuss…shit, I don’t even remember anymore what exactly needed to be discussed. I do recall that there had been a few angry outbursts and there was an air of uncertainty floating about, as if anyone in the area might need to take cover momentarily. Like the  heebie jeebie feeling that I imagine might crawl along one’s spine prior to a major engagement involving weapons (not that any of us were packing).  In any case, my mom, being the smart woman she was after raising 8 kids, beckoned me over to her and in a very calm voice requested that I drive her back to her hotel.  But don’t you want to join us at the meeting?  I naïvely asked.  Mom shot me this deadpan look as if taking my crazy temperature, and said if you think that I’m going to put myself in the middle of whatever is going on, you’ve got another think coming.  I’ll tell you what. You go and then come tell me all about it. I’ll be at the hotel.  Watching TV.

All of this to say, and why I’m telling you this, is that my mom gave the greatest response ever and I think of it whenever I’m with my kids and their spouses and their kids, when emotions are running high and it’s all kind of chaotic and undecided with the almost sure outlook of exploding fireworks and I just want to tell them, seriously,  I already did all this when I was in my 30’s and figuring it out and I don’t need to be part of all of your figuring it out, so thank you anyways, but…

I’ll be at my hotel.

I graciously extend the invitation to all of you, dear readers, to use this response, especially those of you who are parents with adult kids. Especially when the hackles on your neck rise in family situations that are beginning to sound explosive…listen to those hackles.

This is a mighty useful phrase to use at such times.

Thank you to my mom, Betty Catharine Miller~

27954_1300330231515_4561658_n

The Pulse Beat of Love Over Everything Else…

I have to remind myself, as many of us do, I expect, that this widowhood is, as I learned in AA, a matter of progress, not perfection. Because I, for one, consistently seem to expect more of myself than is realistic. By which I mean, I continually scan my body and mind and heart to see where I am in this grief and why I’m not further along, even as my mind tells me to stop such nonsense and lays out all the reasons why I need to stop such nonsense.

Still it continues. But I’m getting better at just letting it be and not gauging my grief by anyone else’s grief.

So…progress, not perfection.

In the months after Chuck died, I remember writing on my personal blog about an issue that arose in terrible ugliness while he was in hospice. Without getting into gory detail (because family issues are rife at such a time for many of us, I know), what I’ll tell you is that in the 2nd week of our hospice time, which was the week before he died, I was told by his daughter that he’d asked her to be his medical advocate. Instead of me.

Because my career was in hospice, death/dying/grief were fairly regular topics at our dinner table. Chuck and I had done all the paperwork of wills, advanced directives, etc. I’d written particulars down on a piece of paper so that I’d have an easy reference sheet.

Once he and I went on the road, and most especially after his first cancer, he and I spoke even more frequently about such matters, clarifying our individual wishes. I was as clear on his wishes and desires as he was with mine.

The day previous to being informed of this matter, he and I made a personal pact: whatever he needed, I had his back. I recall him holding up his pinky finger (which he’d never, ever, done), indicating for me to do the same, wrapping mine with his in pinky swear. I promised that I would have his back and kick ass and take names as needed. It was intensely emotional.

And then the next day I was told what I was told. And, no, as implausible as it sounds, I never questioned him about it. I believed that, if I did, it would further agitate him because he’d feel caught between me and his daughter and I would not, would not, would not, add to his agitation.

There were many comments and actions in his hospice time and the weeks and months after his death that pretty much sent me over the edge, and, though I don’t wish to be overly dramatic about it, the added trauma seeped into my bones and marrow.

What I recognized even amidst the devastation of this conversation with her was that my husband had needs to be met in regards to his daughter and it was my responsibility as his wife, as the woman who loved him, to ensure they be met to the best of my ability. It wasn’t necessary for him to articulate those needs to me; after 24 years together, my instincts regarding Chuck were sound….so I stepped aside, I stepped back, and gave space to his daughter.

Now, lest you start crowning me with halos, let me quickly disabuse any notion of saintliness or such nonsense on my part. I struggled every day and night with the decision I made to step back and was talked through it every day and night by my sister, who called me daily.

However, because I’m not a fucking saint, stepping aside as I did, though done with and for love for him, also raised in me a sense of helplessness and rage…and rage while in the insanity of grief is what I felt when I lifted the cover of the box he was in for his cremation and it horrified me that this was my last feeling for him, when I’d never in all of our years together felt such an emotion towards him.

Today’s EMDR therapy took me into the depths of that rage and helped me delve more deeply into the layers of it. I realized that Chuck’s supposed request of her to serve as his medical advocate made me feel betrayed; clearly he must have thought me to be weak and incompetent and incapable of handling his illness.

The reality is that I don’t know what he said to her, if anything, and whatever he said, she heard what she needed to hear and ran with it, due to her own issues and agenda. Chuck and I were square on everything and I suppose, as I think of it, that’s a good part of why I was able to step aside, even as I craved more time with him.

The biggest revelation for me today was this: in our hospice time I loved him even more perfectly than I’d ever loved him. Even as the cancer consumed his body, I made his final few weeks about life and living for him. I encouraged his Air Force buddies from around the country to visit him and made sure he had alone time with them. I encouraged numerous of the men he’d sponsored in AA to come from Jersey to California to bring him meetings and meet one on one with him for final sponsorship and so that he could say his final goodbyes to them, and that very important aspect of his life.

I advocated for him every minute of every one of those days and I made it all about the love he’d brought to so many and most especially to me. And he died knowing how much he was loved.

Death is, in the simplest of circumstances, I believe, traumatic for those who witness it, who bear the grief of it afterwards. Which is not to say we ought not to witness it; I’d do every big and small thing again and again. But memories and words and anger and pain from emotion-wrought times seep into the marrow of our bones and become trauma and it gets carried through our bodies and into our hearts and minds, even as grief swirls around and through us.

If Chuck were here, he and I would have a conversation about what happened and he’d clarify to me what he said to his daughter and we’d work our way through it, as we worked our way through all issues. Ultimately, he would tell me how proud of me he was for what I did and how I did it, and he’d thank me and tell me how much more he loves me, even now. That is the man he was to me for 24 years and that didn’t change in hospice. He spoke highly of me to his friends and co-workers through all of the years of our marriage; his pride in me and his love for me, shone brightly, always.

Grief is indeed a matter of progress, not perfection. We put our own pressures on ourselves even before the world does, to be more, to be better, to be different. Trauma sets into our bones and we may not even be aware how it simmers into that progress and chokes it until it chokes us so that we can’t breathe.

There is a sense of relief in me after today’s therapy. Perhaps as I consider the revelations of this consciousness, the tide of trauma will wash out to sea and the soft lapping of the love he left behind for me will become my pulse beat.

This man I loved more than my own life…he left so much love behind for me. How I miss him with every pulse beat. But maybe now, as I allow the trauma to wash through me and out of me, this grief will have cleaner lines to it.

Maybe this is where the twin sides of simple grief and love can now dwell…with love becoming the stronger and mightier of the two…10685434_807833169271619_169846425441466326_n

Holding on~

I’ve put off writing this blog as long as I possibly can this evening. Fiddled around on face book, pinned some pins to pinterest. Organized some of the pictures cluttering my desktop…

This blog must be written. Not for any other reason except that the words are burning in me and need to be gotten out of my system and onto paper. The idea of zoning out to a stupid show on my computer, with my glasses off as I nod into sleep and wake a few minutes later only to nod off again, is tempting, rather than acknowledging in words where I am right now, emotionally.

Honestly?  Emotions are roiling my insides and it feels like I’m swirling in the confusion of the days and months after Chuck’s death, dealing with memories and devastation anew. The reason for this is that today I underwent my first EMDR, which, for those of you who maybe unfamiliar with the therapy, has to do with the bilateral rhythms of the brain and reconstructing them.  Or something.  I can never remember the exact terminology but it has to do with reliving traumatic events while a trained therapist taps (in my case, on my knees) which somehow, (and even the trained brains don’t know exactly how or why it happens) causes a re-processing of said traumatic event, easing the level of distress and trauma.

All of which is to say this will hopefully help me break through the blockage that has me stuck in this godawful grief.

Isn’t it funny how conversations can start casually, and meander along for a few minutes, seemingly innocuously, and then suddenly BAM! you’re in the midst of this massive groundswell of emotional vomiting?  All my therapist did was mention about moving boxes of books this past weekend so she could de-clutter, and I mentioned how I’m an artist at living small now, since I live in my T@b, and then about how Chuck and I sold everything in Jersey and went on the road, which is where he died, when we were in southern California, and, well, there you go… all the stories and details of his final days in hospice and his death were spilling from me.

Which was good, insofar as I was suddenly talking about exactly what I needed to talk about, and she began her tapping.

Without fancy detail, here’s the gist of it:

Initially, before beginning tapping, the therapist wants to establish a safe place to which a client can return, if and when talking becomes too emotional. Trying to establish a safe place was, for me, a fail; I couldn’t come up with a safe place because, pretty much, there is no safe place for me since Chuck died. So we’ll revisit that next week.

I spoke of washing him after he died, and turning him over and seeing a hole the size of a quarter on the base of his spine, which allowed me to see inside of his body. The bed sore in the tumor had eaten his skin away.  And, yes, in response to the unseen person asking the question…yes, I needed to be the one to wash him after he died.  It was a final act of service to this man I loved so deeply, and I have no regrets.

I spoke of the night his daughter laid on his bed sobbing, with him begging her to tell him what was wrong, what had happened to her, while, in the hall outside, I held my sons back as they fell apart because it was their last night with their dad but they couldn’t go in with her there and she wouldn’t leave (and we didn’t feel we could barge in on whatever was going on).  When she finally came out, they only had a few hours left with him, and he fell asleep and they left in the morning and never saw him again.  Chuck told me the following morning what she’d told him and he was in tears (it was something pretty bad and he was in agony that he hadn’t been able to protect her).  When I remarked upon that information in the months after his death, she denied telling him any such thing.  For the first 2 years after he died, I’d wake from nightmares, my heart pounding and riddled with anxiety that she’d spoken to him of what she told me had actually happened to her.  (I don’t mean to sound mysterious but that part is her story, not mine).  It made me physically ill that he had to bear any of that on his death bed.

I spoke of my almost breakdown brought about by the horrific things said to me by her after he died, about how I’d agitated him, how he questioned my care and love of and for him, how he’d dated other women during our engagement;  horror, once again, brought about because, in my broken state I allowed her words to penetrate my brain and I actually questioned whether I’d even known the man I was in love with and who loved me.  And I spoke of the rage I felt at Chuck when I lifted the cover of his cardboard coffin prior to cremation.  Rage because he’d never said to her what needed to be said, enabling her to feel free to behave as she did and say the things to me that she did.  It horrified me to have rage be my last feeling for him before his body disappeared, when I’d never felt that emotion towards him in my 24 years with him.  I felt like I’d betrayed him.

These things I’ve carried with me and in me.  Rationally I know that he loved me and I loved him and I cared for him and made an impossible time as sacred and beautiful as I could for him and he knew it and loved me more for it.  In my heart, I’m carrying all the trauma from those 3 weeks when I went into auto pilot, (as we all do at such a time). Those 3 weeks where I was as present as could be to the best of my abilities as he and I said our goodbyes and my heart broke into pieces that were so huge and so small that they became invisible shards, but 3 weeks where I wasn’t really present at all to myself because I couldn’t bear what was happening.

My favorite military term that I learned from Chuck is the word clusterfuck. That’s what it was then, and that’s what it all feels like now. T ruthfully, it has never yet stopped feeling like a clusterfuck, and that’s what I’ll be addressing in the next few weeks as I continue the EMDR. I need to deal with the trauma of it, and then we’ll get to the grief.

In some ways, as emotionally exhausting as today was, as done in as I am at this moment, it is also kind of freeing to just fucking openly say You know what, world?  My husband’s death was traumatizing.  The months afterwards were equally traumatizing and I don’t know how I didn’t end up in the looney bin.  I don’t know how I’m even walking around.  I don’t know how I’m upright.  How on earth am I making any kind of sense when I speak?

But you know what, part 2?  In spite of the trauma, I’ve still gone out and done shit and I’ll continue to do shit even while I deal with this and maybe, maybe, maybe, this will make a difference for me, but even if it does, I know that this treatment isn’t about not missing him, not longing for him.  It’s about easing the trauma, and I’m not going to apologize to anyone for what remains after I work through this part.  I’m not going to pressure myself to be better, or feel happiness or joy or any damn thing because for me, life isn’t about such words.  Life is only about letting love be stronger than grief.  I’m going to get to the other side of this trauma, at least in part, by admitting that, yeah, the word trauma pretty well fits what it was and what it is and it’s actually liberating to hear someone identify it as that and speak that word openly to me and then work with me on the trauma itself and not worry about trying to make me feel better or dose me with medications or label me as insert label here.

Work on the trauma and that will free up the grief. It sounds simple and it kind of is simple to me.  I’m okay with going through it and reliving it because I know it has to be done.  The way to it has been presented to me, so it’s time to saddle up, right?

Isn’t it strange, though, when my first thought in approaching this therapy is the entirely unrealistic thought that, hey if I go through this trauma and get through it, and prove that I can do it, that I’m strong enough to get to the other side, then maybe my prize on the other side of it will be….Chuck.  It isn’t real to have that thought, I know, but somewhere deep inside of me….well, there you go.

Onwards and upwards. Onwards and upwards.

7 Years of January 7~

Facebook timelines and grief and reflection. Much of grief is about meaning making, about looking back, trying to make sense of stuff that really doesn’t make sense but striving to anyways.

Timeline on fb is a sure way to show us all how quickly life changes:

On January 7, 2009, Handsome Husband and I signed the papers that put our house in Jersey on the market.

srj traveling

Handsome Husband

We wanted to sell everything and go on the road and adventure together. Which is what we did, and loved it. He was “time wealthy” he told people.

 

On January 7, 2010 he and I were on the road as Happily Homeless, IMG_2784and back in New England, celebrating the holidays with our kids and grands.

 

On January 7, 2011, Handsome Husband underwent a 4 hour surgery to biopsy a tumor that, in the space of 4 months, had grown from the size of a bb pellet to the size of a grapefruit. His oncologist was so concerned that he personally walked it down to the lab for immediate results. It ended up taking a couple weeks to determine the type of cancer and all the details. It was a peripheral nerve sheath tumor, on the inside of his left wrist.  189597_1650969277272_3069653_nIt was incredibly aggressive and very rare. Our travels stopped short as we dealt with what would end up being 5 major surgeries. I remember well how, hearing his oncologist say the word “cancer” took my breath away.

On January 7, 2012, with the primary, 12 hour surgery to remove “Wilson” as I called it (the tumor was so huge it needed its’ own zip code and I thought naming it might remove some of the fear), he and I were back out on the road, and in Destin, FL, sitting on the crystal white sands, absorbing the warmth of the sun.  403752_280915965296678_1988399988_n

On January 7, 2013, Handsome Husband and I were on our way west from Arizona, after spending the holidays with a couple of our kids. He’d been ill over the winter months, with what we thought was a systemic fungal infection. We did what we could to treat it IMG_9385homeopathically, as he wasn’t getting any satisfaction from allopathic doctors.

All told, we had just shy of 4 years on the road together, as Happily Homeless. downsized_0813121702

On January 7, 2014, I was a widow, and had begun my Odyssey of Love for him, scattering his cremains at our favorite places.  I’d only been on the road for roughly a month, and was at Sigsbee NAS, in Key West, FL. Our youngest son, Fireman Nick, accompanied me from Connecticut to Florida, to help me scatter Chuck’s cremains at the first spot: the Dry Tortugas, off of Key West.

On January 7, 2015, I was in Arizona, visiting a couple of our kids, before continuing my Odyssey of Love. A 6 month long road trip with my daughter was already in the planning stages and would culminate in a cross-country trek as she and I honored my husband/her dad, scattering his cremains at his and my favorite places.  fueledbymagic.jpg

January 7, 2016…here I am, in Arizona, trying to get my shit together, knowing I need to return to the road.

Life bounces us around gently sometimes. Other times it’s a blood-curdling, holding on by fingernails type of ride. It can rock us slowly, then abruptly turn us upside down and spin us at the same time.

4 years on the road with him.  Almost 3 years on the road without him, making it work somehow, when I didn’t know how to do one day without him. But I bygod have made it work, however messy it might look.

Love is the only thing, as far as I know, that makes it all make sense~ Collage

A Daughter’s Promise~

It was a deathbed promise made to her dad.

Look after your mom, he said.  I will, she responded.

A promise kept. But the how’s of keeping that promise? It was done in ways that not many could manage, or would be willing to attempt.

I was already on the road in PinkMagic, making my way towards our two older kids in Arizona last year when our daughter Rachael-Grace (Rae), called me up and offered to go on the road with me in my Odyssey of Love. Initially, I thought she said two months. No, she corrected me.  Six months.

And she was true to her word.

Rachael-Grace is in her early 30’s, married to Sean. They discussed uprooting their lives so that she could do this with me and for me and decided they were strong enough as a couple to make it happen. What this young woman did needs no embellishment, so I’ll just tell you simply.

She and her husband gave up their apartment, putting their belongings in storage.  Sean camped out in the desert and stayed with my son occasionally.  For 6 months he changed his entire life so that he could support her in this endeavor.  Shades of Handsome Husband there.

She saved up enough money to pay her bills while on the road and paid them faithfully.

She helped me create ritual as we visited each of the places Handsome Husband requested I visit to scatter his cremains. When privacy for doing such seemed impossible, she brainstormed and dreamed meaningful intention into being.

It was she who chronicled our travels in pictures, from the beginnings in Arizona, to the West coast, eastwards along the northern states to New England, south to Key West, and west again to Arizona. Without that, we’d have no record. I’ve lost interest in picture-taking for the most part.

She quietly sat with me as my body convulsed into pain and grief and made no judgement. She spoke with me of memories of her dad as I spoke of my husband.

She learned to tow PinkMagic, to set her up and break her down. If we were stationary for more than a few days she took it into her hands to create an altar for us, to establish our outdoor living space, and she cooked meals to tempt my poor appetite.

She made me laugh because she is irreverent and cryptic and, like me, suffers no sacred cows.

She assisted me with technology, locating us on her google maps and pointing us (mostly) in whatever direction we needed to go.

She patiently (mostly) listened to me tell the Odyssey story over and over again, as we met new people along the way. That couldn’t have been easy for her, I know.

She encouraged me, she pushed me, she called me out when I needed it, she tough-loved me. She taught me not to fear the dark places and shadows of grief and held a light for me to provide direction.

She listened to my (way too intimate at times) stories of me and my husband and our romance. Long before we arrived back here, her sensibilities had toughened. She knew I needed to tell my story and she opened her heart to my words and we learned to joke about it.  She became more than my daughter.  It wasn’t long after we began that the lines between mom and daughter (always close), disappeared and we became, quite simply, two women on the road, honoring a man we both loved, and who loved us.

It wasn’t easy for her and I never for a minute though it was.  It was a gift of Love she gave ardently and graciously to me but I fully realize it took an emotional toll on her.  For six months she was present every minute for me, subduing her own grief in many ways, so that she could stand strong with me.  There were many times in our months together when I know she, and her grief, must have felt invisible.  Widows generally are “seen” more than grieving daughters.  I sensed that happening and we spoke about it, but I know it had to be difficult at best.

She missed her husband desperately as PinkMagic ate up the miles and it gave her a glimpse into my world and it hurt her heart and she expressed that to me;  her husband was waiting for her when we were done and mine wasn’t and never would be again. It added yet another layer to her grief.  She was not only grieving her dad;  she grieved at watching her mom in such pain.

For six months, as we drove this Odyssey, Rachael-Grace brought life to my life. She brought Love, she brought continuity, she brought poetry and music and hula-hoops and her natural joy for life.  She brought acknowledgement and gave space and created magic for me.

She is grace personified. Her dad could never have imagined how she would keep her promise to him.  Wherever he is,  if he is, I hope he saw.  I hope he knows.

She kept her promise~10350356_10202636515534966_4300709640610250417_n