Love’s Guiding Force~

Today is the 21 anniversary of my brother Kysa’s death.  January 26, 1996.  Two decades plus one year.

I sat with him as he transitioned and was with him when he died.  It was the first time I’d ever been with anyone who died and it was a very physical process for him. None of it freaked me out, really, as much as it left me in awe and wonder.  What I was privileged to witness gave me a glimpse into what I believed was a world beyond ours; it was enough to leave me shaken for years as I strove to make sense of it and find a place for it in my life.

In the month before Kysa died, family and friends sent lengths of colorful cloth to wrap him in for cremation.  My brother-in-law made a sturdy and lovely oak body board for him.  We were all very hands on in his last hours, talking to him, moistening his chapped lips with ice cubes, wiping his brow, drumming softly with animal skin drums and fanning him with feathers.

I felt like a cheerleader as he died, quietly encouraging him to relax into what was happening.  Near the very end, as he choked and the death rattle took over, I found myself chanting go Kysa you’re almost there keep going as if I was cheering him to a finish line.  And indeed, that’s how it felt.  It felt like I walked right up to the veil between this world and the next and pulled it back aside and then stepped back, because this was his time, not mine.  And as I gazed upon his quiet body, relaxed against the sheets, I felt, of all things, pride.  Pride in him, that he’d won some invisible marathon and was now beyond the veil, hands triumphantly raised in the air.

We, all of our nearby family, went with him to be cremated.  We held a service over his body on the gurney, tucked flowers into his shroud, murmured blessings, quoted poems, and then stepped outside to give his widow her time with him. 792143_10152488276805441_1728747169_o

It was the most powerful moment of my life.

Until Chuck died.

What we did with Chuck in hospice, how we tended him and loved him, and the way we cared for him as he lay dying, the way we bathed him ourselves, and dressed him, then shrouded him with soft blankets…supported his body as they lifted him to the gurney to take him away, went with him to be cremated, covered him with flowers, tucked notes into his shroud…the Love that guided my finger to press the switch that opened the doors of the crematorium…the grace that held me up as I heard the loud swoosh of the flames…

I knew to do what I did for Chuck because we’d done it for my brother all those many years ago.  Because of Kysa I knew to challenge the narrow parameters of thinking that I might otherwise have had.  Our homage to my brother opened my heart to light and Love.  What I learned at his bedside in 1996 remained in my soul and as I watched my beloved husband die, as I gazed upon his still body after a death that was unbearable to witness, I knew that what I did and how I did it was only about Love, not about fear.  All that determined how I and our daughter and Chuck’s daughter did what we did was the law of Love.  Tending the body of my husband after death couldn’t be left to strangers, as careful as they might be.

In those moments after he died, I remembered Chuck’s words to his doctors after the many surgeries resulting from his first cancer a year and a half earlier.  His left arm and right thigh from knee to hip looked like hamburger from grafting of skin and blood vessels and muscle tissue.  The bandages required twice daily renewal and the dr. wished to set him up with a visiting nurse.  Chuck thanked him and refused, telling him that he was sure they’d do a good job but I would do better because you see, Dr. my wife loves me and that makes all the difference in the world.  Mind you, I’d never done such a thing before and was most definitely not a nurse.  But Chuck was right.  I loved him and it was a service I could do for him. Did for him. With Love. 043

Which is precisely how I felt when he went into hospice in April 2013 and died 3 weeks later.  I looked at the man I loved lying on that bed, his breath forever stilled and knew that no stranger could care for him in the same way I could.  And in my mind I saw him smile at me as I dipped a clean cloth in the warm, soapy water and began washing him, and then dressed him in street clothes again because I knew he hated the hospital gown and, finally, wrapped him in colorful blankets.  A week later I gently pressed the switch to open the doors to admit his body into the flames and turn his beloved body into ash. photo

My brother Kysa in 1996 and what I learned from being with him as he died empowered me to do the same, and more, with my beloved husband Chuck after his death, many years later.

Love gives me the power to do all that needs doing and it opens my heart to possibilities and deeds never imagined.  Love is all that matters.  collage

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

The Art of Night~

Are the nights without you harder than the daylight hours and the crush of remembrances?  How does one measure the rhythms of the heart?  Is conscious awareness more difficult than sleep-induced memories?

It’s been 17 months since you suffocated to death.  17 months since the flames of cancer extinguished my life with you.  17 months since I lay down to sleep without you for the rest of my life.

In the months after your death, I struggled mightily with the trauma of your time in hospice.  I thought I’d created beautiful for you only to be told of the agony I’d brought to you.  In those months my heart fought desperately to know what my brain knew and now my brain battles my heart in the same way and in the darkness of the night thoughts seep in and wake me with pounding pulses.

The art of dying is a canvas on which is splattered the history of complicated and unresolved relationships and issues and so it was when you lay on that bed in a southern California hospice.  It isn’t about what I did or didn’t do; what creeps into my heart in the darkest hours of the night are agonies that have no answer.   My brain knows that thoughts of your own dying, medications, your body turning on itself as mini strokes and tumors devoured you-all these things caused flights of fancy and forgetfulness and you might have wondered where I was or had doubts about what was going on around you.  My anguish is that I didn’t know of your doubts and the one who knew said nothing to me, and you were left in confusion.  You were stung with a past that wasn’t yours and it followed you into your last breath.

Days are impossible for me as I navigate my way through grief.  Nights are unbearable as these memories hum in my unconscious and wake me reaching for you.  Your flag sits at the head of my bed and my fingers find it and I remember the warmth of your presence and my heart aches again.  I quickly monitor my thoughts because there is no purpose in painful memories.  My brain knows what I created for you.  My heart knows that you knew how passionately I loved you.  Your agony is over and you are at peace.  But as quickly as I insist on sleep again, these thoughts invade and the process begins again.

That you suffered needlessly sears me to my core.  It all played out as needed.  I get that.  And I’ve come to terms with so much of it.  But in the darkness, as I sleep, my mind wanders and my heart weeps and it all multiplies into racing pulse and accelerated heartbeat and adrenalin rushes into my blood and another night passes.

You are missing from me.

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Cancer Fucking Sucks

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(from Rachael)

I just learned that the mom of my two oldest friends (sisters that I have known since the fourth grade) has been diagnosed with lung cancer. I grew up with this family. Their parents were like a second set of parents to me. I was their “adopted” third kid. Summers were full of swimming in their backyard pool, almost nightly slumber parties, roller skating, fashion shows, climbing up into the rafters of their garage, dinners, walks and bike rides, waiting at the bus stop together…the list goes on. Needless to say you can imagine how heartbreaking this news was to hear. Tears have already started flowing- some for me, but mostly for this wonderful family.

Cancer is not a death sentence for everyone. And I obviously wish the very best for them. I also understand the realities of this diagnosis. Even if the treatments work and their mom gets a clean bill of health, it does not change the fact that right now, it’s fucking scary as hell. I know because even though my story did not come with a happy ending, I still remember how it all felt. And there is nothing I can do for them to make it go away. All I can do is show them the same love and support that they showed me and my family when we were living and grieving through my dad’s cancer.

Family and friends (humanity in general really) react differently to this kind of news. Naturally people want you to stay positive and strong. Of course they do. Most have the best of intentions with Hang in there!, If anyone can survive this, (fill in the blank) can!, Think positive thoughts!. That’s all well and good, but you know what else  you need to hear? That this really fucking sucks. It’s not about pity, it’s about allowing them to feel whatever they need to without everyone else telling them to buck up. You know what I say? Cry. Scream. Be scared. Be hopeful. Cry some more. Talk it out. Write it out. Be with it. Go for a run. Pray if you pray. Dance it out. Blast some music to help drown out all of the thoughts that may be running through your head. Do WHATEVER you need to and don’t have any judgement about it. Know that everything you are feeling is OK and NORMAL. And don’t apologize for it.

However this all turns out, I just want them to know that I am holding them all in my heart. I am wishing them all nothin’ but love. I will be an ear for listening if and when any of them may need or want one. And I am pulling for their mama with every fiber of my being.

I love you guys. *HUGS*

Love and the Lack of DNA~

Once upon a time, there was a man who was a single dad (of one) who fell in love with a woman who had 3 kids.  This is just a short vignette to tell you about him and another dad.  The first dad is known to you as Handsome Husband.  The other is our older son, Alec, sometimes known as Snads.

These two men shared so much in common.  They are proof positive that DNA actually can have little to do with, well, anything.   Technically, they had a step relationship.  Lots of people didn’t know that about Handsome Husband’s kids.  As far as he was concerned, my 3 were merely added to his 1 from his first marriage and all 4 of them were his.  He never spoke differently of them and, even at his memorial service last September, there were those who were surprised to find that out.

When Handsome Husband and I got married, he readily took my kids under his care.  Emotionally, financially, spiritually-in every way he became their dad.  He’d tell me that he’d always wanted a big family; he just never figured getting it the way that he did.  My ex chose not to be in his kids’ lives.  Early on, after Handsome Husband and I married, our daughter Rachael came to me, an emissary for her brothers, and, at age 6, asked me what they should call this new man in their lives?  Dad?  Chuck?  What did I think?  My response was you know what, Rachael?  You and your brothers can choose because all that matters is that you have as many people in your life to love you as possible.  What you call them isn’t important. Coddllage

They chose to call him dad.  He was their dad.  He had the toughest time with our older son, Alec.  The usual growing up stuff but Handsome Husband used to get so frustrated because he’d tell me that he’s the one most like me why is it so hard with him?  I could have told him that it’s exactly because he’s so much like you and just be patient and it will be okay.

Issues between Handsome Husband and his son Alec smoothed out years before his death.  Respect was strong between them.  During his dad’s hospice time, Alec spent a grueling 6 hours coaching him in taking one breath and then another when his breathing became completely compromised.   Alec brought his girlfriend to California and Handsome Husband was able to feel his grand-daughter -to-be move in the womb of her mother.  She was born two months after he died.

Upon his death, I saw our son Alec grow up overnight.  He’s had to struggle to maintain his right to be a dad, same as his dad had to struggle after his divorce.  Single dad parenting, when the dad really wants to be a dad, isn’t always an easy thing.  But Alec has his dad’s determination to not just be a babysitter but to truly be an involved parent.  He’s got a good example in front of him.

This is Alec’s first Father’s day.  He’s a single dad who revels in his daughter’s growth and who is the dad to her that his dad was to him.  His love for her is as deep as the love he learned from his dad.  He will teach his daughter to be of service to others.  He will teach her to expand her mind and her horizons and not be stopped by obstacles in her path.  He will teach her joy in family and he will tell her stories of his own dad, a man who opened his heart to 3 kids not of his blood and  who never stopped loving them.  She’ll probably roll her eyes at times, as Alec did when his dad told stories, but someday she’ll treasure those stories, as Alec does now.

Two men of two generations.  One made such a difference in the lives of his 4 kids.  The other is making a difference in the life of his one daughter.

Father’s day now connects them even more strongly.  I miss my husband.  They miss their dad.

Happy Father’s day to the man who was our patriarch.  And  happy Father’s day to the man he was proud to call his son~Collage

How I wear my grief.

ImageI wear my grief differently. It was a discussion my mom and I were having today. I mentioned how people are constantly asking me how she is doing, and basically how, well, I’m tired of it. It has nothing to do with not caring. It’s just that I feel people are looking for a response that I simply cannot give them. What they are looking for is hope. It’s understandable. They want her to be ok. Of course they do, so do I. Hell, she wants to be ok too. But guess what? She isn’t. Her husband is still dead, and her body screams at her in pain. There is a huge gaping hole in her heart, and it fucking hurts. 

And then it hit me. When was it that people stopped asking me about how I’m doing? I can’t really even recall. There are a few here and there who ask, but overall, it’s always, “How is your mom doing?” I don’t hold it against anyone, it just got me thinking, and here is the conclusion I have come to- I wear my grief differently. My mom is constantly posting, writing, and talking about her grief- every day, in some form or another. It’s out there. She tears up and falls apart more frequently. She doesn’t hold back. Compared to her, I appear to be ok. And on the surface, I am. I teach my classes, I socialize, I laugh and smile, I post positive and loving messages, I am outwardly excited to be heading out on the road for 6 months with my mom. For all intents and purposes, my life is “normal” again. Until it’s not. And it comes on sudden and unexpectedly. Triggers are what we call them, and they can be a real bitch. 

I think because I appear to be happy, most folks assume I have moved on (whatever that means). And that’s likely why they don’t ask. Now mind you, I don’t want people asking all the time, cause guess what? The answer is still the same. My grief is still very much present and a monumental part of who I am. It has taken me to a depth of compassion, understanding, love, and heartache that I never would have been able to comprehend without my experience. I just don’t wear it on my sleeve anymore. Neither way is better or worse, they are just different. My relationship with my dad was different than the one he shared with my mom. Obviously. Neither of us love him more, just differently. He was a part of her day to day. I haven’t had that since I lived at home. It’s easier for me to imagine he is still adventuring out on that great open road- that I just haven’t talked to him in awhile, but will soon. 

And then while driving home from a magical day in Sedona, AZ, my mom’s car slams into a deer (or rather, that ass of a deer slams into her car). Suddenly, in that moment, my world is turned upside down. I want my dad. I want him for me, but honestly even more, I want him for my mom. He was her person. I at least had mine waiting for me at home. Want to hear something even more strange? I have momentary guilt about that. It’s completely irrational, and intellectually I understand that. But my heart screams anyway and starts playing that fun game of the why’s and what if’s. “Why is it that I get to run into the safe, loving arms of my husband, but my mom doesn’t?” *meltdown*  “What if my mom had been killed? She is the only parent I have left.” *meltdown*  “What if I had been killed? How would my mom handle that?” *meltdown*  They come sporadically, but when they do they hit like a ton of bricks. Sobbing, loss of stability in my legs, nausea, hyperventilation….and I am never prepared.

Be assured, my grief is ever present, but settles in a way that isn’t so obvious- even to me at times. The one thing I do know is that this is all NORMAL. And that brings a weird sense of comfort.

 

 

Class dismissed.   

 

Allow me to introduce myself…

ImageMy name is Rachael. I am Alison’s daughter, or KamaHooptra, as most of you may know me. Handsome Husband (as most of you know him) was my dad. I miss him dearly- everyday. The stories of my parents travels, my dad’s time in hospice, and his death, have been told. You have all carried them/us in your love and support over the years. I was there when my dad died. Witnessing him take his last breath was the most horrific, sacred, and humbling experience of my life, thus far. I hated every moment and yet, wouldn’t change it for anything.

This is my first blog post since the Happily Homeless/MoonStruck blending, and it won’t be my last. My presence here will continue to grow stronger as it evolves. It didn’t start out this way. We were both happy going about our separate ways. My parents (well, my mom mostly- my dad really just wanted to be retired!) traveled about as Happily Homeless, documenting their adventures. MoonStruck was an idea that my mom and I started together, but I was the primary one behind the scenes. And as you all know by now, that has changed. Life had a plan of its own, so here we are- a couple of FWG’s learning how to maneuver through this vast new ocean.

In less than a month, I will join the rankings of Happily Homeless, but this time with a twist. I will take my place next to my mom in the newly restored Pink Magic, and we will hit the road together for 6 months (with the intention to not hit a deer again, or any other animal for that matter!). Most people hear about what we are doing and think it’s wonderful and amazing. Other people look at me like I have two heads- “I love my mom, but there is no way I could travel with her for that long!” “Your husband is going to let you be away for 6 months?” “You’re going to be offering what?” Here’s the thing- my mom and I are great friends. Like, the best. She was my maid-of-honor in my wedding. People who used to call our house often got us mixed up. My dad always swore that we were a couple of witches (in the best terms of course). We both love pink and glitter. We have the same sense of humor. We share clothes- minus pants, as I have a number of inches on her. We gossip and chat like two girlfriends who have known each other for lifetimes. So yes, we will be fine. As for the husband thing- my husband doesn’t “let” me do anything. We have a discussion, and come to an agreed upon decision. He knows if I really want to do something, I am going to do it- and vice versa. He has been wonderfully supportive of this venture from day one. Yes, it will be a challenge to spend so much time apart, but we will make it work because that’s just who we are. And finally, FWG workshops, blessing ways, and moon circles seem like a foreign concept to some, but to us they are things we feel driven to offer. They will connect us with (mostly) women across the country, and will continuing spreading our love story. We were given so much during our time in hospice and it is now our wish to give back.

This entire partnership as Happily Homeless and MoonStruck, and as mother and daughter, is a mission of love. It can’t NOT be. Our time together will be filled with laughter, tears, storytelling, dancing, grieving, magic making, and adventure. And it will absolutely extend beyond these upcoming 6 months together. I look forward to seeing how our relationship deepens. I look forward to seeing how my relationship with myself deepens. I am not the same woman I was before my father died. I can’t be. I now allow myself to sit in the shadows when I need, I love more fiercely, and I speak more freely. It is my desire to unfurl magic and light into the darkest corners of the universe. And I am more determined than ever to leave my mark of love on this planet.

Will you join me?

 

A One Year Dance~

Grief is an emotional, mental, physical, gut-wrenching, life-changing, soul-shattering, struggle.  Grief is endless nights  of cat-naps but blessed relief if unconsciousness actually happens so that the missing-ness can temporarily recede into nothingness.  Grief is getting up one more day and appearing normal on the outside (not because you’re trying to appear normal but because you just weirdly appear normal in spite of)  while the insides, right behind the eyes and right underneath your skin, are churning with the debris brought ashore by the tsunami that killed your life.

Is that over-stating it?

Family begins arriving today.  Our niece, Stephanie, who has been busily traveling the world, comes in from California, her first port of call after months in SouthEast Asia.  Tomorrow Fireman Nick and SugaPie fly in from Connecticut.

The reason?  Monday marks the one year point since Handsome Husband died.  Each stroke of the alphabet as I type that three-letter number slices into me.  The cognizance that one year just passed doesn’t make this time more painful to me; it makes it only more surreal to me.

Friends will join us at Bell Rock in Sedona, Arizona on Sunday for a ritual to remember Handsome Husband.  Not everyone will be there-life interferes with no accommodation for sadness.  My step-daughter has 2 children to tend, with the attendant school and care issues so she’ll adjust the time difference (she’s in Vermont) and remember from afar with us.  Our NJ peeps, Bruce and Mary Ann, and so many others there…same thing.  All around the country, they’ll be remembering with us.

Words fail me (in spite of how much I’ve been writing recently).   At some point grief reaches such a saturation point that there is nothing left to say and silence falls.  I think back and remember this happening when my brother and mom died.  After 6 months, after 1 year, what is left to say?  It becomes repetitious.  I’m sad, I’m grieving, I’m desperate, I’m lonely, I can’t stand this life, I’m lost.  Understandably (but no less annoyingly) the general public starts to look at you and think “depressed”.  Cue the threatening music.

Grief is so much not depression and to name it that is condescending and dismissive and it also leads to the easy fix of medication.   (No, I’m not dissing medication as a personal decision.  I keep homeopathic remedies on hand to help me through the worst of it;  I’m just not going to get myself involved in prescriptive medication).   By its’ very definition, grief means a lack of.  Lack of focus, lack of sleep (though sleeping too much also happens), lack of joy, lack of patience, lack of most of what used to be.

Primarily, lack of the one who died.  Lack of their love, lack of their touch, lack of…them.

And it takes time to adjust, time to build a new life, time to find your feet underneath you so that you can build that new life.  Not one year, very often not two years.  Whatever time it takes.  You can’t just lay about and wait for it to happen though.  You have to get out there and do it, in spite of.  Which I’m doing.

Grief is a seesaw of emotions and not because emotions veer back and forth.  At least in my case, I’ve found that my emotions are fairly stable, in that there is nothing but pain as a baseline.  It’s a seesaw because we must search out balance again.  We must plant our feet in the middle of that seesaw, moving our weight from side to side until both ends level.  Not an easy job in any way.

On Sunday, at Bell Rock, I’ll play music  to celebrate Handsome Husband and we’ll all dance and I invite you, dear readers, wherever you are, to join us at 3 pm and dance your own dance.  Dance with us as we remember a man who touched our lives, and touched so many lives because of us.  Dance with me as I shout my love, and defiance of the death that took my most beloved husband from me last year on April 21.  Dance with me and our kids and our family and our friends and shout out your love for those who left you behind but also left so much love behind.

Dance it out.  Shout it out.  Love it out.

It matters.  IMG_8964

L-Day~

I won’t say I’m not nerved up about it.

In a few short hours, Fireman Nick, SugaPie and I will take the 5 minute drive to her parents, where I’ve stationed the 2nd half of Pink Combo Magic, and hitch the two together.   As early as it will be, her parents will be out in the freeze with us, wanting to document the moment with their cameras and properly send us off.  Which is so lovely of them.   In my time here, they have enveloped me in their family happenings (and I’ve seriously eaten more than any one person’s share of Thanksgiving in the last 3 days).  1395328_10200850455406853_1545244780_n

Our destination tonight is Ft Meade, MD and a military campsite there.  The gratitude I have in my heart that our younger son is accompanying me for the next couple of weeks cannot be measured.

This is the day that has been happening since April 21 when Handsome Husband died.  This is the part where I’m back out on the road without him.  As much as it is possible to be, I’m prepared, in that I’ve laid external groundwork in every possible direction.   The emotions are going to run strongly; how can they not?  That’s okay though (it has to be) because it’s all just part of this grief.   In the past 7 months I’ve exerted every effort to build up and shore up my support systems.

1. I have this lovely, and soon to be lovelier, T@b trailer.  I have the car that I told Handsome Husband would be painted pink, so that he could find me out on the road.  He told me he’d be looking for me.  The color combination (and the cuteness factor of the T@b), brings conversation to me at rest stops, restaurants, pretty much everywhere, as people ask me the whys and wheres and everything else.   Grief is isolating.  Being out on the road alone is isolating.  This will keep me telling my story, which is a major part of the grieving process, and what will, ultimately, help me find him again.

2. I’ve connected with widows and widowers around the country, building my emotional support network to see me through this godawfulfucking grief.  They are a click away on social media, sometimes a phone call away.

3. I’ve connected with other “Tabbers”, a network of fellow T@b trailer owners, up and down the East Coast.  I have phone numbers to call if something should go wrong on the road or I need a boost of confidence, especially if I have to back the damn thing up.  I intend to extend that network as I travel north along the Gulf Coast (after Key West), and then West to Texas.

4. Handsome Husband’s Air Force buddies, many of whom I haven’t met, have reached out to me in support and invitations to stop and visit them as I travel towards Texas.

5. So many of my blog followers have emailed and messaged me with queries as to meet-ups if the Pink Magic Combo takes me through where they are.

I’m not alone in the big picture.  I know that.  I know that.  I know that.

And yet.

Younger son Fireman Nick spoke from his heart to me recently and said maybe the reason I don’t feel Handsome Husband with me is because I’m looking for him  in the way he’s been with me for the past 24 years-in the energy of his physical body.  I suspect he might be right.

And, so, as I go out on the road again, not only will the geographical horizons open in front of me through the windshield of my car, but I will task myself to broaden my emotional horizons, my heart horizons, so that I will find Handsome Husband again.  I don’t know how that will translate but I want to be open to however it might express and show itself.

I remember back to the excitement he and I felt when we had an open road in front of us and “time wealth” as he described it.  I remember our excitement at heading to Key West the first time.   The road ahead holds so much pain for me;  memories are going to be trigger-bursting from all directions.   That has to be okay too.  It’s  part of the picture.

The pain, the grief, the heart-shattering missing-ness of my long-time, joy-sharing, strong arms wrapped around me, kissing, adventure companion-that man isn’t with me for this and I would give every fucking breath in my body to have him back.  To look at him next to me at the wheel and share grins of excitement as he turns the key in the ignition…that would soften my breath and lighten my body.

I think for Fireman Nick that, yes, there is excitement because he’s never done a road trip (especially in a pink car towing a pink-trimmed trailer-did I mention how cute it is?) or been to Key West, but inside of that is the full knowledge of exactly why this is happening this way.  It will be a road of discovery for him in huge ways, and for me, too, as we find our way not only to Key West but towards some lightness and bring to the fore of our hearts the love that we had for the man he named Pop and the man who was my husband, and maybe leave some of the pain of grief along the way.

The open road is out there and today my new life begins.

 

 

Things and Stuff~

Grief, at least mine, has run a scorched earth policy through my life and its’ made me think about things.  In this case, physical things and stuff.  Stuff that can cause so much uproar when a loved one sickens and dies.  The stuff they leave behind.

I’m not preachifying.  Things and belongings, and our reaction to them  affect us humans in different ways.  We become attached to things and rules and “shoulds” and “have to’s”.  Maybe too attached, do you ever think?

Handsome Husband and I spent the last 4 years ridding ourselves of external, material things.  Every time we went to our storage unit, we rid ourselves of more.  When I stopped there on my way East, after his death, I stopped there again and went through everything of ours, his and mine, and donated more.  All of his stuff was either donated or given to our kids or to his friends.  Recently I sold the car we’d traveled in these last few years to our older son.  I had to remove his name from joint accounts, start my own bank account, and close his phone account.  That was really hard.

All of it has been hard to do, I won’t lie to you.  It’s been fucking impossible. In many ways I feel like I’ve wiped him out of my life physically, and in most external ways, I guess I have.  What I  travel with now is a small bag of his clothes, his cremains in a box next to me on the seat and the flag that was given to me at his service.  I have pictures of the two of us plastered all over the dashboard of my car so that I can look at them and remember and feel as if he is with me.  I want these few reminders because I don’t feel him around me psychically.  I also have a small filigree cylinder around my neck that holds some of his cremains.  His wedding ring remains on my right hand ring finger, as mine remains on my left ring finger.  I change them around frequently, uncertain about what to do with them but still wanting them.  I still feel very much his, and I like that I do.

There are very few traces of him left in a physical way and that in and of itself is kind of fitting.  He was Buddhist and practiced non-attachment, and he and I together certainly practiced simplicity in our traveling life.  As we shed the external material things, we started looking at the internal things we could also shed:  behavioral patterns, old thinking, social expectations, whatever came up was studied with a critical eye and held onto or shed if we realized it was more about habit than thought.  The same holds true in a different way for me in regards to his physical possessions.  The fewer of his possessions that I hold, the stronger my memories and the love of him become.  There is no external distraction.  What I hold inside is so much more valuable than anything he owned.  He left everything to me in his will and I’ve willingly shared things around with our kids and friends and strangers and anyone else I thought might like to have a part of him.  He would appreciate that.  There’s been no arguments regarding any of his physical possessions.  Any struggle about ownership, so to speak,  has been of him, of his memory, in a more emotional way, in our family.  Which has been resolved by letting go of needing to have ownership.

I always swore I’d never get a tattoo.  Why pay for pain, I asked?  In the last 2 weeks, I’ve gotten 2 tattoos and nobody is more surprised than I.  One on the back of my neck, saying “Nothin’ but Love” and the other on the inside of my left wrist that says “Love” in very graceful lettering.   I thought to have his initials put on the inside of the circle on the back of my neck, but this, my new life, is about more than just him as my husband.  This life, and the tattoos that reflect it, are about what he truly left behind for me, which is all the love and passion that he and I shared in our 24 years together.  Does it make sense to you when I say that is bigger than his initials?  This life I’m creating for myself is about his spirit and mine and that very passion, and the initials would be kind of meaningless.  The stuff I have can never be taken from me by anyone.

Which brings me back to what I think about when I think about material possessions left behind by those who have died, or who are downsizing for any and all reasons.  People fight about them, families are ripped apart, and general chaos and mayhem and ugliness results.  What we’re seeking, when we rip and pull at each other about such things, is affirmation that we mattered to our mom, to our dad, to the one who is leaving this life.  That we are loved and acknowledged.  We can get trapped into thinking that it really is about that THING, when if you really look at it, it isn’t.

I get it.  We’re human.  Shit about stuff happens.  But those things really don’t matter.  Who gives a flying fuck about any of it?  How about instead we connect with each other, as we nurse our loved ones through their final stages of life and then bury them?  How about instead of talking about THINGS, we talk with each other about the memories, the love, and what really matters?  How about if we connect with each other in love instead of hate and vitriol?

Death happens in life.  We acknowledge that in principle but I think we don’t really take it in until it happens and the person you love so much is lying in front of you, their body frozen in death, white as a sheet, unmoving, unblinking, heart stopped.  Death is cold and heartless and we can get protective of what stuff is left when the physical body is no more.  In our need to feel loved, we can end up one-upping the love quotient.  He loved me more.  I was her favorite.  My grief is stronger than your grief.  She wanted me to have this particular stuff of hers.  No, she wanted me to have it.  Disagreement.  Anger.  Shredding of self and others.  All over stuff.  Stuff.  And Things.  Here’s my test for you.  If this person you’re arguing with about stuff were to die tomorrow, would you feel guilty about the argument?  Have regrets?  Wish you’d done it differently?   Feel just plain stupid? Hopefully so, I say hopefully.  If the answer is yes, then open your heart to the discussion about the stuff.  Or don’t even discuss it.  Just let it go with love.

Enough about Stuff.   I know you all know this, so I’m preaching to the choir.   It isn’t Stuff that matters.  It’s Love.  That’s all there is.  Not in a song title way but in a very serious way.   Don’t. Allow. Things. To. Be. More. Important. Than. The. LOVE.