Ghost Dancing Into the Forever of You~

I will sing you to me.
As the days and moments and years pass by,
I will sing you to me.
As I gaze up at the mighty Universe each night,
From wherever my pink trailer happens to park,
I will sing you to me.
And as my heart wanders this land,
Seeking you, not finding you
But wishing desperately to connect with you and to you,
Somewhere, anywhere, everywhere,
I will sing you to me.
The words of Love our hearts exchanged
As we lived our years and our Love story,
I will sing you to me.
Where are you, my dearest Love?
On this night when the veil lifts between me and you…
Where are you?
As my hand reaches through the veil,
As my heart bleeds for you
And I lightly touch your picture your compass your wallet your moustache comb
Seeking to feel your presence again,
I will sing you to me.
As our music drifts lightly into the night air and my feet move slowly in remembered steps and my hands lift to just the right height, where the breadth of your shoulders wait for my touch,
And I ghost dance with you under these stars in this Universe in the world you left, where I am now, without you, my dearest Love,
Through the years and the moments and the days that stretch into Forever…
Into the Forever, my dearest Love, where you exist and I don’t,
My body will move with you and, yes,
I will sing you to me, always.
Forever sing you to me into the Forever of Time…

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What I Know for Certain~

But don’t you want to be happy? Don’t you owe it to your kids to remember you as happy? Life is supposed to be happy. Maybe you’re depressed. Don’t you want to be happy?
If you’re a widow/er, then you’ve heard the same questions and comments. I know you have. Or, if you’re public about your grief, as I am, you hear it from the general public. Less frequently, possibly, as the years pass. But you hear it. Such comments were more prominent somewhere in the second half of my 3rd year. Apparently, if one is still grieving in the 3rd year, bells of doubt start ringing in the minds of those around you, whispering words like depression complicated grief not moving on not getting on with it medications therapy etc…
I’m embarrassed to admit that, upon hearing these comments (and let’s be honest, it’s thinly veiled criticism because it comes across exactly as it sounds: a judgement, as if I’m doing something wrong), I initially and inevitably ended up defending myself, and trying to explain myself, even as I knew I had no reason to defend myself. But those words made me feel defensive and attacked. So, I defended.
No longer. No. Longer.
Guess what? I’m perfectly content with my legacy. If I were to die right now, this fucking minute, I’d have zero regrets. None. Nada. Zero.
And I owe my kids nothing, because they already have all the Love in the world from me.
I know exactly how my kids will remember me and I know what my kids will remember about me. Whether I die today, or tomorrow or years from now.
Our mom was THE most kickass mom ever. She and pop had a Love story for the ages. They sold everything and traveled the country together and remember when we’d call them up we’d ask them where are you now? She nursed him with so much Love through his first cancer and they kept on traveling and when the cancer came back, she did it all again, and bigger. She ensured that all of us had one on one time with him in hospice and she honored and supported us through our own grief, even as she grieved. She bought a trailer after he died and painted it and her car pink and she dressed in pink and she drove all over the entire fucking country, honoring him and their Love and connecting with people everywhere. She was a connector. She inspired people. She was colorful and crazy and she was the Love Warrior and a Fucking Warrior Goddess and she did all that while she was grieving because she loved pop so much and her life felt empty without him and she fucking did it all anyways. She left an example to all of us and to her grandkids about determination and grit and Love. She cried and she laughed and none of it meant anything and all of it meant everything and she lived when she didn’t want to live and she talked to us honestly about the impact of his death on her and she loved hard because Love was all that was left amid the ashes of her life when pop died. She was unapologetic about her grief and her Love and she lived in spite of it and with it. And we are proud of who she was and what she was because she was real and being real was all that mattered. She was a Fucking Warrior Goddess.
No. I have no qualms about the memories I’ll leave behind for my kids, or for anyone else who might remember me.
My epitaph will read Here lies a woman who lived the duality of Love and Grief, who made everything around her shimmer and sparkle with Love, with a shattered heart, and she did it all in pink. She was a Fucking Warrior Goddess.

Our Moonlit Dance Through Time~

We danced under the moonlit, starlit, skies
You and I
Your right arm around my back, your left hand grasping mine.
We turned and swayed and moved our feet not only to the music from the player
but to the hushed beat of our two hearts.
Under the starlit skies in our backyard.
Everywhere and nowhere
For no reason and every reason
Our bodies moving so well together
Even when it looked like we were walking side by side
We were actually dancing
Because we were so in sync
You, on my right side because you had hearing loss in your right ear
I still keep my right hand free when I walk
Just in case
Maybe….maybe someday I’ll feel your hand take mine again
We moved and swayed together for 24 years
In passion, in motion, in love, in sync
That space on my right side?
There is a gaping emptiness there that is as tangible as your physical presence once was
And my physical body reaches towards that emptiness
Only to find air
And I think it just kind of remains suspended there
Not knowing where to go or how to go, differently
I don’t know how to go, differently.
But I move and I sway sometimes
In my memory
Under moonlit skies I raise my hand to your shoulder and place my right hand in yours
Universes and stars and moonlit darkness gleam as our dance floor
And I spirit dance with you~  Collaccge

Grace Absorbed~

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This picture expresses it all for me.
Where I am in this widowed life.
It was taken 3 years ago, but even then, without knowing….I was determined.
Determined that Love must be bigger than the devastation.
Determined that if I knew nothing else, if I remembered nothing else, I would know and remember the Love that Chuck left behind for me.
And I would make it shine forth from me so brightly that it would rival the sun.

And it does. It shines and it shimmers and it glows.
It isn’t any easier for me than it is for anyone else in this widow life.
What you can’t see in this picture, what is invisible to the human eye and completely visible to my eye, is the humongous shape of Chuck’s absence that is always with me.
His physical and tangible absence right there to the left of me.
That’s the side he walked on, always, because of deafness in his right ear.
The day this picture was taken, I very consciously chose my clothing, wanting them to reflect the fucking warrior goddess that I was determined to be.
I chose a clear crystal to wear around my neck, on a strand of pink beads.  Clear crystal, so that the light would shine through. Pink because, well…pink, and Chuck said wear pink to mourn for me, not black.  Pink is your color.
I wore leggings that I laced with pink thread. They were a bit ragged, which suited me.  I was ragged and torn up. I still am.
A lace shirt to remind myself of softness and light and my femininity. What I was, what I felt, when Chuck and I were together.
A laced suede vest denoting armor.  Widowhood is not for sissies.  Life is a battle for me, everyday.  I make the decision every day to get up and suit up and show up, and I armor myself in pink, for strength.  For Love.
A sword. But a sword for Love, not violence. A sword because a fucking warrior goddess must have a sword.
I purposefully went barefoot that day, as I crossed streams and climbed red rocks to get to a rise above the earth. I wanted my feet to sink into the ground.  I wanted them dirty and natural and bare.  Bare and as stripped down as I felt.
And, as I posed and lifted my face to the sun above me, I felt, even as my shredded heart beat beneath my lace shirt and suede vest…I absorbed the grace descending upon me.
Grace.
What I needed then, what I need now, to carry me, along with the Love that is the only real and tangible thing to me in these 4 years and 3 months of without-ness.
I lift my face to the sun, still, and I lift my face to the moon and stars at night, as I travel my Odyssey of Love.  I speak to Chuck and I ask him to send even more Love here to me, more Love to hold onto, more grace to continue on.
Love…the Love that Chuck left behind for me, the Love that I feel for him now and always, is the very breath of my existence. It fuels me, it gets me going, it keeps me going.
I lift my eyes to the skies to absorb Chuck, wherever he is, if he is…and I breathe the Love from him into every step I take, every mile I drive.
It’s all I have.
And it isn’t enough.
Except that..
It is.

It must be.

Brain Activity. Or Something~

I’m so fucking lonely without Chuck. Not because I don’t know how to be alone, duh…but because I loved being with him and around him and breathing in his scent and looking into his eyes and because I was in love with him. Duh. What does me being lonely without him have to do with not knowing how to be alone? If you love someone, I’d think you like to be with them, but maybe that’s just me.
My body aches for him.
I wish I cared that I don’t care about the future, but I don’t care that I don’t care.
I wonder what it would be like to kiss another man. Will it freak me out or will it intrigue me?
Chuck hoped that I’d find another man to love someday.
I don’t care that Chuck would want me to be happy. Let him be the one to live this life without me, then we’ll talk.
I hate drama of any sort. People who get upset over bullshit irritate the shit out of me. And naming something as bullshit is a personal judgement, yes.
Do I hate being on the road or do I love being on the road? I don’t know. All that I do know is that it’s the only life I have, and the only life I can imagine.
I dream of a pristine hotel room with clean, soft sheets and a nearby, equally pristine bathroom with a huge soaking tub even though I don’t like taking baths. Lovely scented lotions line the rim of the tub.
I feel so hardened. Not bitter, just hardened from surviving. From doing it on my own.
I can’t say that I’ve learned anything of value with Chuck’s death. I was already deeply compassionate and loving and caring. What exactly am I supposed to have learned from Chuck’s death? How strong I am? I already knew I was strong before he died. So did he.
This is bullshit.
I love my kids deeply. Also my grandkids. And none of those relationships replace what I had with Chuck. Why does that surprise anyone?
Chuck was the handsomest man I ever met. Still the handsomest man I’ve ever seen. It seems to me that there are an awful lot of men who don’t take care of themselves physically. For god’s sake, stop wearing what I consider pedal pushers; those baggy shorts that hit right below the knees. Especially denim ones. You look stupid. Wear a clean t-shirt. Know how to dress up if the occasion calls for it.
Are there any real men left in our world? Masculine men? I don’t think there are.
I miss Chuck’s sexiness. He was an excellent lover. He could turn me on with a glance.
I feel aimless in life. Mostly it’s just something to get through each day, til I can go to sleep again.
I used to hate night times. Now I appreciate them so that I can be completely alone and not have to put forth energy into interacting with others.
I cry frequently, when I’m alone.
I look so strong on the outside.  Looks are deceiving.
I long to dance with Chuck again, moving against him, his arms around me.
I look at women who have their husbands around, who seem to hate having their husbands around, who bitch and complain at them and micromanage them and get pissy especially over shit that doesn’t matter, and I wonder what the fuck is wrong with this world, that my husband is dead and theirs is alive.
I also look at women who look at me, as a widow, those who judge my grief and wonder why I’m not over it, and think…yeah, just wait and see what it’s like for you, sister. Just wait. And I hope to god you have compassionate people around you when it happens. Because it’s pure, fucking, unadulterated, fucking hell that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
I get that death is a part of life. When someone says that to me, I just want to respond to them What the fuck does that have to do with anything?
Sunsets make me cry. So does looking at a full moon. The beauty of both reminds me of watching them with Chuck. No, the memories don’t make me feel better. They make me miss him more, okay? What the fuck makes you think that remembering the good times makes me feel better?
I do remember the good times.  That’s why I’m sad, for god fucking sake. There are no more good times to be had with the one I had them with, and…that makes me so sad that I can’t stand it.
How do I keep getting up each day? And why do I keep getting up each day? I hate that about me.
Sometimes, like a comet flashing across the sky, images of Chuck on his deathbed come to me and freak me out again. When was the last time he was conscious and looked at me, I wonder? Did he glance at me for a last time and I wasn’t aware of it? Did I miss his last glance?
Does he know that all I do is think about him, even as I’m doing all the goddamn shit I’m supposed to be doing to re-engage with life?
My heart hurts for our kids. Their dad should still be in their lives.
My heart hurts for me, too.
Chuck still had so much living to do.
I really don’t want to be here but I don’t say that aloud very often because people will think I’m unstable or ungrateful for life or some stupid shit like that.
But I really don’t want to be here. Life without Chuck is lacking in color and energy.
I loved taking care of him. It was a turn-on, actually. And it turned him on to see me ironing his clothes, of all things. He also loved it when I wore his shirts. I wear his denim shirt to bed now, or when I’m alone in my trailer, even though he isn’t here to turn on anymore. I also put his favorite Key West t-shirt under my cheek when I sleep. I curl my fingers around his flag that rests next to me on my pillow.
I cry a lot when I’m alone. I already said that earlier, but believe it or not, I don’t let myself think about my emotions very often, or admit to them. So, I’m saying it again. I cry a lot when I’m alone.
As a liberated woman, I don’t think I’m supposed to admit that my life revolved around my husband, around what I could do to show my love for him, show my Love to him, but it did and I loved loving him. Chuck made it easy, because he did the same for me.
Life without Chuck is unbearable but you’d never know that by looking at all that I’ve done, all that I’m doing, in the years since his death.
It freaks me out that I’m headed towards year 5. I close that particular gate in my mind whenever the thought intrudes.
Chuck is only dead one day at a time for me. Otherwise I can’t do this.
I’m in love with a dead man.

Birthdays~

Chuck threw me a huge birthday party for my 50th.  To be honest, our daughter, Rachael-Grace, helped out with it quite a bit, but it was lovely.  A dear friend, who died the year before Chuck, baked a red velvet cake.  My friends were there from all walks of life.  Our kids were there; it was a memorable 50th.

Life changes quickly, and the following year, for my 51, we were just beginning our new life on the road and Chuck surprised me with a trip to Graceland.  I’d always been a huge Elvis fan and he knew this would be a huge hit. As it was.  I didn’t have any idea where we were headed until I saw the sign that said Memphis.  We stayed in a hotel that had framed Elvis pictures in each room, a guitar shaped swimming pool and Elvis music playing throughout the grounds. All songs which I knew and Chuck got such a kick out of me singing along with them.

One of my earliest birthday memories, after Chuck and I married, is the year he took the time leading up to my birthday to get my address book and ask everyone in it to call me on my birthday.  He also alerted his family and friends.  I spent the day answering our, yes, land line phone, and hearing Happy Birthday, Alison!  Chuck made my birthdays so special, every year.

My next few birthdays were spent on the road; I don’t even remember where. What I do recall is that I spent them with him, hiking and exploring the USA.  We had all the time in the world together and that was the greatest gift of all.  With lots of wild and crazy birthday sex.

The last great present I received for my birthday, my 55th, was the news that Chuck’s first cancer had been eradicated numerous surgeries.  He was cancer free, with really really really good odds that it wouldn’t return.  God, did we celebrate…I knew a cancer survivor! and that cancer survivor was my beloved husband.

I’m 59 today.  Chuck has been dead for 4 years.  Fucking cancer got my cancer survivor after all, and my birthdays have never been the same.

I know, I know…I can hear it now.  But you must celebrate you! You must grab life and savor it and live it!

Here’s the thing.  I know, because I’m a smart, loving person, that I must allow our kids to celebrate me. I must allow my friends and family and all who love me, to celebrate me. And I do and it means so much, especially since Chuck is no longer here to wrap me in his arms and plant a huge, lonnnngggg kiss on my lips, leaving me dizzy.

In just the past month, I’ve received 2 gifts that touch my heart in the only ways that matter:  I was reunited with my younger sister, after many years of estrangement, and my wee grandson, Owen Charles, was born.  Each of these huge events touch my heart.

But there is a loneliness that goes along with my birthdays in the years since Chuck’s death and that’s just a fact of life.  It’s the new world that I live in.

So, today, here in the Ozarks, at the opera camp, on my 59th birthday, living a life I’d never imagined or planned for (emotionally), my gift to myself is telling each person that I meet that it is my birthday and I want hugs.

I want hugs from every person who comes within my radius today. Hugs, hugs and more hugs.  All the love that comes with those hugs is what keeps me going, and my heart expands with each hug.

And that’s what I ask of you, too.  Anyone who is reading my words today.  For my birthday, your gift to me is to hug people you meet along your way today.  Stop for a minute, share some time with them, connect with them, and don’t leave them without hugging them.

And maybe, whisper a word to Chuck, whether you know him or not, that you’re all looking out for his girl.

Thank you.

Happy birthday, me~

 

Memories and Remembering and Love~

Chuck never wanted to be one those people who retire and die the next day or the next week.  He wanted time to enjoy his life without work, time to relish waking up together and lingering abed. Time to travel and be with each other and grow our marriage even more.

In April 2009 he sent an email to me at home.  This is what it said.  And this was my response….IMG_2851.pngWe put the house on the market, sold or gave away most of our belongings, and packed everything else into a U-Haul truck to put into storage for future use.  We’d need some shit to start up again, right, when we settled down?

On May 29 we closed on our house, and Chuck immediately got in the truck, I got in our SUV, and we headed west, the first of many times we headed west from Jersey.  And we never looked back.

May 29, 2009.  The day we began our Happily Homeless adventures.  We tossed what was left of our belongings in storage and continued further west, state shopping, so to speak. Where did we want to settle down?

Until, 3 months in, we looked at each other and said why on earth do we want to stop doing this? and continued on.  And on and on, for our last 4 years together. We drove over mountains and through desert valleys and crossed miles long bridges over breathtaking rivers and we climbed to the highest points of various states and laughed when they were barely above sea level, and danced among the waves of the Pacific Ocean and visited family and friends and made new friends along the road, and stopped to have lunch and wander among out of the way cemeteries and paid our respects at National Cemeteries and had wild and crazy sex in towns and cities around America and fell more deeply in love and managed our way through Chuck’s first cancer with its’ 5 surgeries and went back out on the road to fucking live by god and visited National Monuments and Parks and learned American history from a local standpoint and we danced to Clint Black in hotel rooms and in military lodgings and we sat 1 foot across from one another in our SUV and discussed marriage and relationships and men and women and roles and our kids and family gossip and our hopes and dreams and we lived and we lived and we fucking lived until we danced our last dance in Death Valley and this man who lit up my world died in a hospice in southern CA, eaten up by cancer but strong in spirit and with love until his last fucking moment.

On May 15, 2013 I began my Odyssey of Love.  I walked down the 15 steps from a condo we’d rented for our stay in Cathedral City, CA, carrying Chuck’s cremains in my arms.  I returned to Jersey to give him well-deserved military honors. I bought PinkMagic.  I’d never towed and I’d never camped and my world was incinerated around me and beneath me and my heart was shattered into glass and my chest felt as if a meat grinder was continually slicing away inside of me. I couldn’t breathe, I didn’t know how to do what I was doing.  I didn’t have a plan, or a destination or a goal.  I was like Sgt Schulz on Hogan’s Heroes, but not in a funny way.hogans-heroes-cbs-198-b

All I knew then, all I know now, all I will ever be able to tell you, all I really care about telling anyone, is this…

Love must be stronger than this grief. It must both be bigger than the emptiness of life without Chuck and fill that emptiness.  It has to be, or I will cease to exist.  I push every day, every every day, to make his left behind Love bigger than anything else.

I don’t know how else to do any of this.  Without that Love I couldn’t have driven over 100,000 miles on my own, tracking down highways and side roads Chuck and I traveled together, stopping to eat lunch at roadside stands where he and I lingered over lunch, seeing the mountains and deserts and bridges and lakes and rivers and prairie grasses and beauty of this country through eyes wet with tears and my heart shattering again and again.

The thing is, for anyone who doesn’t know this already…yes, I have incredible memories. Everywhere I go there are memories. I have memories to look at and memories to hold in my heart…but those memories don’t make this better. Indeed, those memories serve as a stark reminder of 24 years gone, never to happen again. Those memories, though I cherish each and every one of them, are a double-edged sword, reminding me of my alone-ness in the world now, without him. And I struggle with that.

Each day is a decision on my part to get up and make Love bigger than anything else. I don’t ignore my grief; I hold it within the Love Chuck left behind for me, I hold it within the Love I had for him, still have for him.  And it fucking hurts, no matter how I do any of this, and it’s spiritually exhausting, so I feed the Love every day by reaching out to people, giving and receiving hugs, and being of service where and how I can.

Chuck was Love.  I was his Love. He was my Love. He was my beloved, as I was his.  We were in Love for 24 years.  He died loving me and I kissed him for the last time with my heart overflowing with Love for him and the Love he’d brought into my life.  His left behind Love pushed me into my pink car and has fueled me for 4 years and I have to I must always always always carry that  knowledge in my heart and plant it in my mind every damn day so that I don’t lose my mind. 

Love Love and Love harder and more, no matter anything else.

I repeat this to myself now, at this moment, as my heart takes me back to May 29, 2009, watching Chuck climb into the U-Haul, as I remember turning the key to follow behind the truck, headed west, as we began our Happily Homeless adventures…

Love.  Only Love.  C8D2FCE2-F53C-43D6-9CF4-C9D600907140