These Few Words~

 

I will sing you to me…..

These words curve around my lower right leg, from knee to ankle.

My 3rd tattoo.  My first one says nothin’ but love, our credo in hospice.  Those words swirl in a circle on the back of my neck, with the circle ending in a small heart, and the circle is left open.  As my heart must be in this new life without him.

My second one simply says Love, and is on the inside of my left wrist, in the exact location where the tumor I named Wilson, first showed up on Chuck.  It took a 11-hour surgery and 4 reconstructive surgeries afterwards to rid ourselves of Wilson and reconstruct Chuck’s arm.  His right thigh looked like hamburger when they were through.

Each of my tattoos carry special meaning, as all tattoos must.

But…my 3rd tattoo…

Chuck and I both enjoyed watching the movie Australia; a movie set in pre-WW2 Australia, dealing both with the invasion by the Japanese, and the kidnapping of mixed race Aboriginal children from their parents.  The kids were sent to orphanages where they were taught white ways. 

One of the most charming characters in the movie is a little boy named Nullah, a mixed-race boy, taken in by the character of Nicole Kidman.  The two are separated, in the movie, by the kidnapping of Nullah.  As she stands on the pier, desperately trying to keep him with her…as he is taken away to an island for orphans, he says to her I will sing you to me.

And she responds and I will hear you…

In our Happily Homeless travels, Chuck and I visited the huge bike rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.  We didn’t go there specifically for it, but it was going on when we were there, and we walked around and admired the bikes and fell in love with the state.

In the second year after his death, my daughter, Rachael-Grace, went on the road with me for 6 months, supporting me in my Odyssey of Love.  We crisscrossed the USA, and, in the process, ended up in Sturgis, SD, and, again, happened upon the Sturgis bike rally.

South Dakota is home to Crazy Horse National Monument, one of the places Chuck and I visited together, and the final place he’d asked me to return to, to scatter his cremains.

Rae created a beautiful ritual at Crazy Horse, and was the one to scatter her dad’s cremains there.  And then we walked around Sturgis.  Which is where I found the tattoo artist who created my 3rd tattoo.  I’d told him about our Love story, about my Odyssey of Love, and though I didn’t know when I first got there to SD what my tattoo would look like, the words came to me as I walked about, and he did a quick sketch.  Unfortunately, the cost was too much for me to justify, and I was honest with him about that.  Another of the artists, who had listened in to my story, told me that he thought I really needed to get the tattoo there…it was the last place Chuck had named, after all, and given the words I wanted, it was perfect. So, he offered to pay for half, stunning me.

I will sing you to me….

Words spoken in the movie Australia, among the Aboriginals, when saying goodbye to a loved one, with no idea whether that one will be seen again.  Words of hope for the future, maybe…

I’ve no idea whether this phrase, and the concept behind it, are true to the Aboriginals or not.  I honestly don’t care; the idea of the words touched my heart years ago, and they touch my heart now.  And I seek comfort where I can find it.

I will sing you to me…

These words that wind around my calf speak of my wish to believe, even as I struggle with believing, that I will see Chuck again someday.  Somehow, maybe, he will greet me when I die.  Maybe.

Meanwhile, in this life that I must live without him, maybe I can sing him to me in my heart, by living the Love he left behind, by reaching out with kindness, in service to others. 

I will sing him to me…

And the other half of the meaning of those words for me?

Maybe, maybe, maybe, I will sing my future to me even as I live each moment without him, as I continue this Odyssey of Love.  The future that I still don’t want, that I don’t care about, but one that seems as if it must be lived for all the days of my life until my own death.

I hold these words to me, written as clearly on my heart as they are written on my calf.

I will sing you to me…

 

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The Rhythm of Memories~

 

Here is the deepest secret that nobody knows.  Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life….

I don’t know why the rhythm of this particular poem rings so deeply in my heart, around so much of what this widow life is for me.  Chuck kept a copy of this poem in his wallet for years;  I’d printed it out many years ago to give to him, and I read that copy at his memorial service.  The rhythm and flow of the words, e.e. cumming’s lack of capitalization, this poem above all resounds through my heart continually.

The words of e.e. cummings fit my soul as I think of Chuck today.  I think of him every day.  I think of him every minute of every day and every second of every minute.  I think of his life and our life together and his death and how it was for me, how it was for him, as he lay dying, and what this life is without him.  What my world is like without him. These are the things I think about as I go about my daily life.  I’m looking at you and talking to you and working and doing and I’m present in that moment at the same time as I am fully present in the life I live with Chuck in my heart.  Before he died, ten thousand years ago and 10 nanoseconds ago, I thought that a person could only have one thought in their head at any given moment but I’ve found that to be untrue.  I consistently and continually have 2 thoughts, 2 lives, in my mind and heart at the same time.

Here is the deepest secret that everybody who reads anything I write knows.  Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of this tree called life…

 

I am still very much in Love with my husband.  I am still very much in Love with Chuck Dearing.  As much in Love with him now as when he was alive.  More, if such is possible, because I was very much in Love with him when he was alive, and I told him so daily and I showed him so daily, and now that he’s dead, he is the very rhythm of my life.

 

His absence has only made my heart grow more with Love for him.  Not in such a way that I’ve raised him to saint status, which is what many do when a loved one dies, but in a way of remembering him as he was, which was as a real man who walked on this earth and swept me off my feet for each of our 24 years together.  I don’t even have to dress him up…his life and his character and our Love speaks for itself.

I’m still very much in Love with my husband.  In Love with Chuck.  The only thing is about this is that…he’s dead.  I’m in Love with a dead man.

And I don’t believe that I will ever not be in Love with him.  How, after all, does one make oneself fall out of Love?

Distance isn’t enough.  People love over distance all the time; they have through the centuries.  Of course, this distance is incalculable, for I’ve no idea where Chuck is.  If he is.  Perhaps I’m in Love with a dead man who has no existence in any realm any longer.  I fully acknowledge this. And that is the fuck of widowhood.  Love with nowhere to go…

 

As these ten thousand years have passed, as each 10 nanoseconds pass in the here and now, I remember how he loved me, how I loved him.  I remember his calm spirit and his groan-worthy jokes.  I remember his dedication to the military and how glad he was to retire, having done his time.  His quiet rebellions that grew from holding his own counsel and just going about business in the way he knew he needed to do.  It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, he told me many times, and that carried him through his military service.  I remember how he not only read the Big Book of AA but read what it all meant, and the history of it; he gave context to AA and the 12 Steps and Tradition, and living a life of sobriety.  Chuck lived his sobriety as honestly as he could, every day.  Not perfectly, but as well as he could, and he earned the respect of many because of it.

 

His promise wasn’t given lightly, and I could count on his promises being kept.  His promises were his word, given as a gentleman of old times would have given his word.  It was his honor, and he held true to it, whether that promise was made to me or one of our kids or a friend or anyone else. 

 

He would, as knights of bygone days of chivalry and honor, have given his life for me.  Sometimes, in my mind then, as he was living, and now, since his death, I picture the two of us strolling through shadowed hills of a glade, or the bare red rocks of the West, and, if this were times of old, he’d have my hand in his, and a sword in the other.  It is as if, when he took his marriage vows, he not only promised to care for and cherish me, but to protect me with his body and his strong arm.  And I can hear those who are less romantic minded, scoff at such imaginings, but here’s the thing that will make you secretly drool with jealousy…Chuck was that man.  I knew he would protect me with his life.  He was a lover and a warrior both, and I was the most fortunate of women to be his chosen.

 

His kisses melted my knees and left me desiring more.  He was the loveliest of slow dancers, holding me firmly against him and guiding me around the dance floor, smiling down at me, sometimes humming along (in a voice that was kind of always off).  He was the most passionate of lovers and I returned that passion in spades.  We were well suited to each other in our strength and passions.

He was all that I’d never dreamed to be possible.  Until it became possible one day when he knocked at the door of my mom’s house and I answered it, wearing my military issue ugly frame glasses and holding a book in hand with a finger marking my place.  He remembered that moment to me often over the years.

And now my lover, my warrior, is dead.  And I love him, am in love with him, no less now than when he breathed the air I now breathe alone.

If this is all that I will have for the remainder of my life…the memories of his kisses, his arms around me, his glances at me across a room, the feeling of swaying against him in a dance where only he and I existed…if all that I have forevermore is the memory of his body and mine twined together before sleeping…well, then, that is more than many, if not most, find, and I will be content in journeying back to those moments of ten thousand years ago, ten nanoseconds ago.

Memories don’t keep me warm at night, but oh, they are such memories and I hold them close. 

Yes, I’m still in Love.  It’s just that I’m in Love with a dead man. And my heart aches.

Ah, well, we must each have our quirks, I suppose.

And that is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called…my life….

 

When He Smiled at Me~

Sometimes it can be too painful, after a loved one dies, to look at pictures of them.   Not because we don’t want to see their faces and remember back, but because the very act of remembering back is a stark reminder that those times are gone, never to return.

That happens to me when I look at pictures of my beloved husband, Chuck.  It tears into me that those lovely, loving days of being loved by him, of being his special someone…those days are gone, never to return.

And yes, I’m so beyond grateful that I had those years with him.  But that has nothing to do with this grief at his death, or the daily missing-ness of him.

But, even so, I look at pictures of him.  Often.  Even as it causes daggers to my heart and tears choke me.

I look because I know he’s looking at me.

In most of the pictures I have of him, he’s smiling.  And I know that he’s looking directly at the camera…at me…the woman he loved, as I snapped a picture to preserve that particular memory.  So even as the tears come, I smile, because I know he’s looking directly at me, smiling at me with all the love in his heart showing in his eyes as they crinkle, and on his lips.  Sexy smiles, devilish smiles, smiles of love and joy, his eyes glinting at me, sharing secrets that we carried between us. Smiles that conveyed promises of passion and enjoyment for both of us, later on when we’d be alone. Smiles of love.  I half expect him to wink at me from those long ago moments…

I’m the recipient of that smile.  I was the recipient of his smile for 24 years and what a gift it is to me to know that little ol’ me brought such a smile to his face.

I love you, D.  Always.  Collage1Collage2

Grief…Preplanned. Ain’t it Precious?

“When my husband goes, I’m not going to hang on to my grief. I’m celebrating the time I had with him and the memories. Each and every person deals with it in his or her way, but I don’t think my husband would want me to be sad and carry that burden. I told my husband if I go before him, re-marry with my blessing and don’t spend time living in grief over my maybe departure. I would want him to be happy and not be bowed down with my passing. I would miss my husband, but I would not carry it on for years. he would want me to move on with my life and remember the times we had together. and not be grief stricken a long time. I would make friends and make the most out life. It would be sad, and I would feel it, but I would let myself heal.  I have a pink car and trailer but I’m letting it go for him when he’s here to help him money wise.”

This blog plopped directly in my lap, gifted to me by a woman who wrote the above comment in response to a picture I posted on one of my camping pages.  Mind you, the picture was one of me smiling, triumphant because I finally, 3 years later, completely emptied my storage unit, leaving me with what travels with me in my T@b trailer.   My mistake, obviously, was that I also mentioned that it was a significant accomplishment, not because of the stuff, but because it was a letting go of the future my husband and I planned together.

*note to self; never, EVER, mention grief to anyone, or my husband if at the same time as mentioning that he’s, you know, dead, and that makes me kind of sad and I miss him because people get the heebie-geebies when real emotions get expressed*

So here’s my response, and, yes, I get so many frickin’ points for diplomacy and efforts to educate, and, also, patience…

Dear woman whose husband isn’t dead yet but you’re smart so you’re pre-planning your emotional response to the time that he does become, you know…dead;

How precious that you know how you’ll respond to your husband’s death!  How further precious it is for you to be so far-sighted to plan for that certain event!  I see that you also covered the possibility that you might go first, leaving instructions for him to remarry (though you seem to allow him some small amount of time to grieve so that’s big of you).  Why, it just fills my heart with warmth as I’m assured that you want him to be happy and not bowed down by grief and that he’ll just..you know…get on with it.  As will you if he dies first.  There’s just nothing better than pre-planning an emotional response for which you have no real world experience, and it saddens me that I, and so many of my widowed brothers and sisters didn’t just tear a page out of your planning book!  Why, there’s no telling how great we could all be doing right now!

I, of course, had no idea that the secret to going through this grief was so simple and I thank you for enlightening me.  Who knew that instead of allowing this grief to take its’ course and allowing it space and being honest about it wasn’t the answer?  I’VE BEEN DOING IT ALL WRONG!  I see now that all I needed to do was celebrate the years we had together and resolve not to be sad and make friends!  It’s precious, I tell you!  Precious!  Because for all these 3 years of Chuck being, you know, dead, I’ve allowed myself to have the normal, natural reaction to the death of a man I loved more than life itself, and I’ve been thankful for and loved the years we had together but…fuck!  My mistake was that I’ve allowed those memories to break my heart because every time I remember, I also remember that those times are gone.  Well, just seriously FML!!  I’ve made hundreds of friends and connected with people all around the country but FUCK! none of them have replaced him in that place in my heart and that’s clearly my bad and a conscious wrong choice on my part.  WHEN will I ever learn, right?

I just don’t know WHY it doesn’t matter a tinker’s damn to me that Chuck wanted me to be happy after he died; a failing on my part, I acknowledge, and if he were here and insisted that he wanted me to be happy, I’d tell him IT JUST DOESN’T FRICKIN’ WORK THAT WAY and I’d be happy to go round and round with him that you just don’t tiptoe through the fucking tulips when shit like this happens.  I do know that I knew…know…my husband enough to say that he’d look at me like I was bat shit crazy that he wouldn’t know that and he’d understand completely that it takes the time it takes, but I’m so, so, SO, glad and happy for you that you’d carry on so easily and oh, I know!  Perhaps you could write a book about being a widow before you even become one and you could show those of us who are already widowed the RIGHT way to do widowhood and you could help other women and men pre-plan their emotional response to the death of their other half and you could get rich and be on Oprah and everything and that is also just so precious that I almost want to throw up in my mouth but I won’t because that wouldn’t be precious…

It’s just the silliest thing ever that I still feel sad and miss my husband and I just know you know that!  Why, 3 years is way too long to go on and on and carry on about him and what we had together and how much I miss that and, why, I won’t even mention what it’s like to no longer have passion and wild sex in my life with a man who was just as much in love with me as I was with him, just to name one thing that’s gone, because really, who cares about that stuff and it just isn’t proper, you know, to talk about such things!  And my goodness, it just doesn’t matter, does it, that the life I had with him in the present and the future we had planned just evaporated and poofed away and how on earth anyways is that grief-connected?  Apparently, you are so upset by my expression of my emotions that you don’t even see the smile of triumph on my face in that picture, or my celebration of this huge undertaking (do you see what I did there?  Undertaking…get it?  I wrote undertaking, which sounds like undertaker, the person who is, as you know, the one who takes dead people away.  Like my husband.  Who was dead.  Who is dead.)  Apparently you see it as no accomplishment at all that, hand in hand with my grief is a massive amount of love that gets me in my car every day to drive and drive and drive around this country, meeting and connecting with people, hugging and getting hugs.  That I do this even though it would be much easier to just lay down and die.  That every widow/er I know has the guts to get up every day and live WITH their fucking grief, and that we have the fucking guts to walk with each other through this foreign terrain and laugh and smile with each other and keep company with each other and give hope to each other when we don’t even know what the frickin’ word means…well, woman who knows how she’ll do this and dares to judge me for how I’m handling this fucking widow clusterfuck…I don’t know what to tell you about us except that we KNOW what this is like and we’re doing it and one of the ways we’re doing it is by talking and writing and making it as real to others as we can.

I do lament and commiserate with you that you are bowed down and, it seems, threatened by my grief, or any expression thereof.  It must be difficult for you to read how I’m handling it when you clearly know that all this emotion and sadness is so unnecessary because it’s all about just clicking on the happy switch and voila! No more grief…yay!

Just a friendly little note as you pre-plan your response to your husband’s death: 

I don’t care how strong you are, I don’t care how independent you are, I don’t care how sure you are….there is no planning this.  Whoever is left behind…it will feel as if you have been thrown onto a strange planet where no man or woman has ever walked before, and your feet will stumble into potholes and your heart will be wrenched from your body and you will see it on the ground in front of you being mashed into a bloody mess and guess what?  You can’t just flip a switch and make it go away, and years later, tears will still fill your soul and your eyes when you speak of the love that is now only in your heart and you will always miss his arms around you and his kiss on your lips and the surety that you, and only you, were special to someone special, once upon a time…

Or you might not.

Whatever. 

P. S.  Carry on…

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

On Being Cherished…and Kissed~

I was cherished in this life.

Cherished by a man who determined, from the time of meeting, that I was the one for him.

Cherished by a man who set out to show that love to me each and every day of our lives together, in word and deed.

This is the time, 3 years ago, that my beloved husband, Chuck, and I, began, so very unknowingly, our final 2 months together. If possible, as our world narrowed into physical pain and emotional trauma, our love expanded and deepened.

I was cherished in our healthy years, and in our cancer times.  No matter what, Chuck sought to love me even as his brow furrowed in distress and discomfort.

Oh, how he cherished me.  And, oh, how I remember his kisses upon my lips, on the top of my head, and on my hand as he’d take it in his as we finished dancing, and raise it to his lips, as a gentleman of old would have done.

His kisses rained down upon me on every occasion.  I recall reading a book about relationships early in our marriage, suggesting that a couple kiss consciously, rather than, say, a quick peck on the cheek.  I mentioned that little fact to him and he put it into practice immediately.  Our kisses at the door, as he left for work, or at the door, when he arrived home, lingered for up to a minute.  Sometimes we’d tease each other if we left the kiss too soon, so we’d start all over again.

He kissed me under the full moon as we sat on the curb in New Hampshire, our first weekend away together.

He kissed me under a full moon as we gazed at it in New Jersey, when I rented my first apartment after living with my mom post-divorce, and we stood on the balcony, savoring the pure contentedness of having our own space.

He kissed me again under that full moon in Indiana when we visited his folks, and he came to get me, grabbing my hand, wanting me to share the brightness and beauty of that full moon with him from their front porch.

He kissed me, every time he kissed me, with passion, with so much love, with possessiveness, with happiness, with pure pleasure…and I kissed him back with the same fire.  His hand behind my neck, or cupping my chin in his hands, pulling me to him…sometimes stooping down a bit, as he was taller than I, but just as much I loved to stand on tiptoe and put my arms around his neck and feel his arms around me, holding me closely and tightly…

In those final weeks before making our wild and unplanned for trip to the ER in southern California, something in the depths of my heart murmured to me and said remember this and after we kissed I’d stand on tiptoe again, leaning in close to where his neck and shoulders joined and I’d inhale deeply.  He noticed, of course, and asked me about it and I said to him I’m memorizing you…  He smiled, figuring I’d picked up another tidbit from another book.

We kissed in the hospital, and in hospice.  It was I, then, who would lean down to him, in the hospital bed, or at the mirror in the bathroom as he studied his image, wondering, I’m sure, what the fuck had happened to his face and body. I’d see that look and I’d turn him to me and take his face between my two hands and say you’re still my knight in shining armor you’re still the handsomest man I’ve ever met

I leaned down to kiss him when he could no longer kiss me because his spirit was no longer in his body.  In that kiss that I pressed upon the lips of this man I loved more than my own breath was the love of 24 years and every full moon we’d gazed upon, and every dance we’d ever danced and every piece of my heart and soul.

That last kiss held all of the honor he’d given me, and all that I’d returned to him in our living love story. In that last kiss was our beginning, all of our wonderful in-betweens, and our end…

My dearest, my most beloved husband…Chuck Dearing…

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Those Million Days Ago…Yesterday…

This day, 3 years ago…

Handsome Husband and I arrived in Cathedral City, California.

We’d come from 3 months in the Phoenix, Arizona area, where we’d visited with 2 of our kids, and we’d adventured along the way in Vegas, and Red Rock Canyon outside of Vegas, where we’d stayed with an Air Force buddy and his wife. IMG_9612

We’d gone to Death Valley…yeah, how fucking ironic is that? and I remember Chuck teasing me as I’d apprehensively and not terribly gracefully, climbed down a rock facing..

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…stopped at Edwards AFB to visit another Air Force buddy, IMG_0389

…contemplated WW2 at the Japanese Internment Camp in Manzanar, IMG_0364

and vowed to return to the Salton Sea on a day trip as we meandered along I-10.

I can still recall the heavy scent of orange blossoms as we parked our car at our rented condo.  There was a huge orange tree in a tiny grassed area to the right of the stairs.  IMG_110015 steps led us to our 2nd floor temporary home.  I remember that, too, because I counted them as Handsome Husband slowly ascended them.  He, who ordinarily carried all of our heavy stuff, carried a small pillow and our camera…all that he could manage and even that exhausted him.  I walked behind him in case he fell;  he was suddenly tired and frail.  It was left to me to trudge the remainder of our belongings up those stairs;  he couldn’t, and it broke his heart.  I could see the frustration in his eyes as he watched me.

Thus began our final almost 2 months together.  We thought his illness came from a systemic fungal infection.  We were wrong.  The fucking cancer had returned.

Why return to those times, you might ask?  Why submit myself to the pain of it again, by remembering, by writing about it yet one more time?

I don’t know that there is any good answer, except to say that it is my history.  It is our final history together and that matters to me.  There was so much uncertainty in those early days in the condo, but there was also a deepening of the love we had with and for each other.  Our sex life was a thing of the past and I distinctly remember thinking back to our beginning times when I told him that I  was so much in love with him that I wanted to be with him even if we could no longer make love…which was a strong statement from me, because our love life was passionate from the very beginning.  But the remembrance of that early thought was there in my mind, along with everything else that scrambled through it as he and I dealt with his ever-worsening health.

I need to remember these days and weeks as much right now as I need to breathe.  That time wasn’t all of our lives together by any means, but it was a defining moment in the hugest way possible.  Something was so very wrong, and we set our minds to deal with it as best we could, researching alternative methods of treatment and doing all we could, and loving each other intensely in spite of, because of, and no matter what.

In a meeting that only showed as horribly ironic much later, after his death, we met a woman in the hot tub the first time we ventured into it, who shared with us that she was newly widowed. We asked her gently about her circumstances, but didn’t speak too much about it later.  She was the one person we met while in California…the only person we met.  And she was a widow…

I write about that time, at this time, 3 years later, because the death of my husband was and is as much my life with him as our previous 23 years, and because, as traumatic as that time was, and as much as it echoes in me still, it was the time I said goodbye to a man who loomed so largely in my life because of how he loved me and how much he loved me and I will never forget it.

I write about these last times he and I had, to honor him and the valor and humor and love that he displayed, right up til the end, and to honor the love I, and our kids, and our friends, and his Air Force buddies, and his AA buddies, brought to that time, for him, and because of him.

I write about those last times because it was our last times together and I miss him unbearably and in a part of me that directs my blood to continue running through my body…I just can’t believe he’s gone…