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.