This 4 Letter Word~

I don’t know what hope looks like. Are you cringing yet?  Hope is a word that is tossed around in grief circles…in life circles, really, as an antidote to, I don’t know…despair? Which is all well and good and I’m glad for those who grasp its’ meaning, and have it.

The word just doesn’t resonate with me, in this life without Chuck. It never has, on any of the 1,942 days since his death.

I know that we, as humans, are encouraged to have hope, to cultivate hope, to find hope, to reach for hope, but I don’t know what hope looks like.

Hope, to me, implies the ability to see light in my future, and I don’t see light or comprehend how life can even feel any lighter with the continuing absence of my husband, and the burden of figuring out life completely on my own.

It isn’t that I can’t figure out the complexities of life; of course I can. I’m an adult. It isn’t that I’m not okay with being alone in the world. It’s the idea of being alone without my husband, for the rest of my life.

Do I already hear cries of but you have to be okay with being alone! You’re a strong woman! Stand on your own! Like being on your own! What’s wrong with you? You’re depressed! Medicate yourself! It’s a choice to be happy! You must have hope! Forge your own identity! Blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda…

But all is not lost, so simmer down, folks.

I do know what Love looks like.

And people have said to me, as these 1,942 days have passed, and I’ve driven thousands of miles on this Odyssey of Love, honoring Chuck, honoring the loved ones of people I meet on the way, paying tribute to those left behind, and gathering Love around me, that my strong belief in Love is the same as having faith, as having hope.

I don’t rule out that possibility. Words carry different meanings for different people, as we all know.

All I know is that my belief in Love is so strong, so determined, so fervent, that it gets me to my feet each morning, leads me to interact with each and every person I meet throughout my day, no matter where I am, and directs my every action.

Love leads me to reach out to people and new situations, counteracting my instincts to isolate myself. It leads me to keep my heart open to each new day, even as Chuck’s absence looms so largely. Love leads me to keep at it…at life…with all that life brings.

This isn’t the life I wanted to lead, and that’s just the truth. It’s the life I have, because Chuck died. And, somehow, that makes it second best, honestly.

And, no, I don’t take into account what he’d want for me. You know, that he’d want me to be happy, yadda, yadda, yadda. Of course he would, and I know that better than anyone else, thank you very much.  I also take into account that Chuck isn’t the one left behind to manage life without me, and, if he were the one left behind, he’d have his own struggles, living without me. Sooooo…

So hearing shit like that has no impact on me.

What I have resolved is that, if I must live life without him, and apparently I must, then it will be the most colorful life imaginable. It will be…already is, in some ways…a life lived outside the box of expectations. It will be…is…a life dedicated to honoring him and our Love story and all the Love that is in this world and in my life. It will be…is…a life of reaching out, with Love, to everyone who crosses my path, pushing boundaries and comfort zones.

I refuse to live what I consider an ordinary life. The life I lived with Chuck was too powerful with Love, to allow anything less now, without him.

I remember Chuck’s Love for me, and mine for him.  That’s all that I need to know, now. And as long as I keep our Love alive, and seek to focus on the Love that is so present in my world, still, then I’m not concerned about whether or not I have hope or faith.

Love is all that matters to me.

Only Love~

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A Roar of Defiance~

Along about the second year, definitely going into the third and then the fourth…I just wanted to scream at people.
Not in anger, but in shredded grief and pain…
Why can’t you just let me be sad? Why does it feel like I must defend myself against you? Why does it then feel like I have to defend my grief even to myself? Why does it feel like I can’t just feel what I feel, be whatever I am? Why must I expend all this energy defending my right to feel all that this is? Why is it not okay with you that I can’t find my feet and I’m feeling so disoriented that my stomach continually wants to heave its’ contents? Why are you trying to make me feel like I’m doing something wrong?
Why can’t you just let me be fucking sad?
These are a mere sampling of the piercing reactions that took up so much space in my heart and soul and mind in the first years of grief, in reaction to all the well meaning mostly discussions that people would have with me. To me, really, because they weren’t seeking discussion with me as much as they were telling me where they thought I should be with this, or how they thought I should be with this.
Grief, I mean.
How I was grieving vs how they thought I should be grieving.
They didn’t realize this is what they were doing, of course. At least, I hope they didn’t realize this is what they were doing.
Whether that was their intention or not, shaming is how I heard every word.
And every word from them shattered me more, because I, and we, already judge ourselves so much, when we grieve.
Am I grieving too much? Too little? Am I “okay” too soon? Not “okay” soon enough? What if I break down in public? I’m so exhausted…should I go out or not? They expect me…does that matter? Can I just get in bed and pull the covers over me and not go out for a year? Is that okay or not? Does that mean I’m depressed? Am I depressed? Should I go on medication? I don’t want to go but I’m going to go so that I can show everyone that I’m “okay” even though I’m not okay by any stretch of the imagination but I don’t want them to worry so I’ll go. If I talk about him, how much is too much? How much is not enough and then they wonder if I’m forgotten him? I need to get back to work for distraction/money/I’ll lose my job but I’m so exhausted. I can’t function but I have to. Hold the tears back. Okay, now cry. Breathe hard…
All these questions, and ten million more, are questions and doubts that we hold already in our hearts, when we grieve. And then well-meaning people voice them to us and this widow thing becomes more impossible, more unbearable, than it already is.
I knew I didn’t have to defend my grief, or my right to grieve, of course, even though it felt like I did. My grief would not be denied; it streaked through my DNA and took up residence and I wrote about it and made my writings public so that grief wouldn’t kill me. Which was, and always is, a risk, but it was one I had to take, or vaporize into a mist of non-existence.
Here’s the thing. It is normal to grieve. It is normal to grieve hard. With tears, with tearing of hair, with a closet full of black or a closet full of color as we scream our rage and defiance to the skies. It is normal that exhaustion set in that we think results from the strength of our emotions but is really a more holistic exhaustion that comes from, well, all that is grief. It is fucking normal to react however you react according to your situation, your history, your relationship, your background…your everything. It is NORMAL.
It was somewhere in my fourth year that true acceptance set in with me. Not acceptance of the death, which is what we’re told acceptance is all about. Acceptance, for me, wasn’t about the death. It was about my right to grieve in whatever fucking way I needed to grieve, for as long or as short as I needed to grieve. When people, possibly in true ignorant fashion, seek to instruct me, now, on proper grieving, I say to them thank you for your opinion, and continue on my way.
The ever popular anger stage of grief…which isn’t actually a stage of grief at all, but a step in the process, as written by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, for those who are DYING, having nothing to do with the grief of those left behind so for god fucking sake, people, can we get rid of that..is, I think, anger at those who shame us as we grieve. Yadda, yadda, yadda, give them that they love us, want us to be okay, want us to be, ultimately, who we were before, so that they can feel comfortable with us again.
To which I say….bless you! in the same manner that Whoopi Goldberg, as the nun in Sister Act, said bless you to the guy who was going to blow her head off at the end of the movie, and she wanted to curse at him but the Mother Superior was standing right there and being a fake nun and all, instead of fuck you she said bless you!
I was angry a few times but did my best to respond diplomatically to those who were outright cruel in their words, as I grieved. Diplomatically because I’m not one to be cruel in return, and because, initially, I was in such shock, and it’s only as I look back that I see the intensity of my shock, that I didn’t fully realize then. Diplomatically because I’m not a cruel person.
But what I wanted to say to the family member, who was very close to Chuck is…how dare you bring your bullshit to this sacred space we have created for him? How dare you bring your darkness to this man who is leaving all that he loves behind him? How dare you try to sully his memory with the ugliness that you hold in your heart? Keep that to yourself; there is no place for it here. Ever. Take your doubts and your guilt elsewhere. Not here. Never here. And…bless you!
And to my friend who was loved by Chuck, but who decided, 3 years in, to take confidences that I’d shared with her about the family member and make them her own and cast her own darkness into them and onto them and throw them at me…the friend who told me that I needed to settle down and get a job instead of gallivanting around the country, dragging my husband’s name through the mud…you clearly never knew me, and you most certainly didn’t know Chuck, and, quite simply, you betrayed him because of the darkness you carry in your own heart and in your life and that’s not on me or him, so…bless you!
At 5 years in of this widowhood, I don’t know what I’m doing, mostly, but I’m totally confident about doing it anyways, whatever this is. I don’t give a grand flying fuck about other’s opinions about me or how I’m doing this. I focus on Love every damn day so that I don’t lose my fucking mind because, guess what, folks? In spite of the grief shame you sought to cast upon me, I’m still grieving! You didn’t make things better for me…surprise! I miss Chuck so damn much it takes my breath away…yes, even 5 years later! My nights are unbearably lonely and I reach for his flag that I was given and I trace the stars on it and I clutch it close to my body, with the same passion that I used to draw him close to me. My heart hurts and it aches and I feel numb and I feel disconnected in every way…so I get up every damn day and I wear something pink and I go out and I find the Love.
I find the Love, wherever and however I can. And I miss him and my vision literally blurs with tears that I must live without him but the tears don’t keep me from seeking out Love…wherever I can find it.
You know what I do with my grief, all you grief shamers out there?
I fucking find the Love~

I Believe~

I believe in Love.
I believe that Love enriches and empowers and creates and morphs mere humans into magnificent beings.
I believe that life dares us and bids us, at our best and our worst, to open our hearts to Love.
I believe that life challenges us, through strife and perplexity and awkwardness, to continue loving in the face of all that it throws at us.
I believe that life entreats us and whispers to us…allow, yield, concede, open, persevere,
In spite of and because of…
Love. Just Love.
Because Love makes living worth…living.
Love will, and does, always, as it shifts and slides in subtle and magnificent fashion, from present to future to muted past,
Demand its’ own lofty price,
As Love morphs into dimensions not of this world.
Oh, but Love…Love, my Love, all Love, and the reckoning we who love, face…
The reckoning we bear…
Yes, well worth the cost to our hearts…
My heart flaunts a colorful stamp that loudly and fiercely proclaims…PAID IN FULL
Loving you, my beloved, was worth all that is my now.
Love, in our time, was strong and viable and tangible.
It remains so, though you are gone from me.
I will always and emphatically profess to the compelling beauty of Love found
Love lived
Even…maybe…Love lost.
Perhaps…on some yet uncharted plain, found again.
I believe in the paramount power of Love
To transform, lighten, brighten, stun, envelop, wrap, enfold,
One life, two lives, the lives of millions
The lives of many and all.
I believe in the power of Love to carry me through hellfire.
Carry us through this burning inferno.
Through grief
Through life again.
Love lived and spoken,
Transcends all lives,
Love, lived, grows and sharpens and softens and compels.
Love is, ultimately, our most spectacular power.
Carry it faithfully~

Measureable Time, and More~

My dearest, my most beloved husband.

Chuck. Sarge. D.  My heart, my heartbeat, the oxygen in my blood, my very breath…

You were many names to me over the years.  You were many things to me, as I was to you. You were everything to me, as I was to you.

Life was daily living for us both, of course. We had our jobs, our individual friends and interests, and we had our friends in common and interests in common.

But beyond and above and alongside of, and with, we had each other.

You were my life.

What is my life without you? Without my breath? Without my heartbeat?

That madness of the souls that is Love.  That Love we shared that was a single soul inhabiting two bodies…

What to do with all of that now that you’re dead and we are forever separated?

The calendar says that you’ve been dead for 1,735 days.  I have to look on my app to see the exact days but my mind tracks the years.  Four years and nine months.

My heart? My soul? They tell me that you’ve been dead forever.  As the heart measures is the true measurement.  You were dead forever the moment you took your last breath and you will always be dead forever, even as human time apportions out minutes and hours and days and weeks and months and years.

The fractured splinters of my heart shimmer as dust in the wake of who we were together, in the aftershock of your death, in the vague remembrances of who I was with you and because of you and your Love.

I try. And try. And try again. I swear to god I do. I get up every damn fucking day of this life without you and I keep my chin level as I push and muck through and absorb and am at one with and allow and let go and hold on and welcome Love and let Love in and put it out there again.

What will it take to make this life without you worth it?

I’m brave. I’m determined. I look around me and see beauty. I do everything I can. I fucking swear I do. I have to, so that our Love is honored. So that I live a life that honors yours. I live my life because you can’t live yours.

And the splintered, slivered bits of dust that are my heart after your death…they shine in the light of day and glow in the dark of night.

The stars in the inky dark of every galaxy, glittering in skies around the world, shining over my head here in the desert…they are you, I think.  You, shimmering down on me. Maybe. But they are also the particles of my heart, no longer claiming space in my chest. Those far away beacons, too distant to touch, are the dust of my heart, scattered in the unreachable points of the Universe.

My heart cries out to you, my beloved.

I will love you into forever and beyond measureable time~

 

Idle Thoughts Upon the Exit of 2017~

I’m so fucking relieved to say goodbye to 2017.
Our daughter told me that 2017 was as hard for her, harder in some ways, than the year right after her dad died.
It was harder for me, too, not for any one reason in particular, really. Maybe because our entire world seems on edge. Also, because my husband is dead.  Almost forgot that.
I’ve always told our kids that, no matter the state of the world, life has always managed to continue on, and even improve in some ways. I can’t say that as easily any longer. Life feels very threatening in every way this past year.
When I spoke to our oldest son about this, he agreed and said well, we might not have to even think about any of this anymore in the new year because North Korea might bomb us and the world will end anyways.
Why do I find that strangely comforting?
Does anyone else in the widowhood feel the same, or a similar, lack of enthusiasm for life?
I’m off the road for a few months, staying with my daughter. So much shit to get done.
Getting an income is crucial. Finances for me, like so many of us, are precarious since Chuck died.
Lots of my sentences end with that phrase, don’t they? Since Chuck died…
I hate Christmas. I know…how bah, humbug of me, but there you go. I wasn’t big on it when Chuck was alive…neither was he…but I’m practically Jehovah Witness about it now. I’m good with others celebrating it, of course, and I’ll join in with our kids with it, but I’m so freaking glad when it’s over. It takes energy I really don’t have, to get through it.
I genuinely believe that my Love life is a thing of the past. Love, sex, feeling cherished…all that. I’ll be alone until I die. Of course, if I express that thought aloud to people, they immediately warn me not to think that way or I really will be alone forever.  I don’t believe that for a second. As a single parent, after my divorce, I was firmly convinced I’d be alone for the rest of my life; what man would take on a woman with 3 kids? And then I met Chuck.                                                                                                                                       The thing is, I’m 60 in a few months, I feel as old as Methuselah, and I think I’ve had my Love story for my life. And I don’t know that we get more than one. And even if I do meet someone, I will absolutely compare him to Chuck…duh. Honestly, the more I see the so called men out in the world, how sloppy they are in appearance, how they carry themselves, how they speak…no thank you. Once again, I don’t believe that me believing this has any bearing on whether or not I’ll ever meet a decent, loving, confident, romantic, passionate, well-groomed man again. It happens or it doesn’t. I had it once, at least.
Do you ever want to respond to those who offer pithy comments to you about how you’re widowing, what you’re doing, yadda, yadda, yadda, with…whatever! Like a teenager. Whatevs, bitches.
I’m tired. Tired and lonely and empty. And isn’t that frickin’ pathetic?
I also don’t care what Chuck would want for me. Of frickin’ course he’d want me to be happy, blah, blah, blah. That has no bearing on anything, because, oh, that’s right…he’s dead. He isn’t the one left behind to figure all of this out. So…yeah. Though I’ll be more than happy to argue it all out with him if he’d just come back to me.
My new year begins each year on April 21, the anniversary of Chuck’s death. Who knew that I could control time, right? And yet, I’ve changed when my new year begins! Not on the calendar date 2018, but months later. I am all powerful! It just shows that the concept of time is just that…a concept agreed upon by thousands of people that, on the stroke of midnight on Dec 31, the year changes.  Nope, not for me. April 21, world…that’s my new year.
Random thoughts, indeed, as 2017 becomes 2018~

Return To Me~

Return to me…
Please come back…
Return to me, with your strong arms
That wrapped round me…
And made me feel safe and secure
No matter what was going on around us.
Return to me, with your broad shoulders
Upon which I rested my head
And listened to your heartbeat…
Until our breathing became one breath and I felt reassured and knew, always,
That my world was good, and would always be good
Because you were in it.
Return to me…
With your smile that lit up my world
And brightened my days
Even if we were on the phone and you were far away
I’d feel your smile and…
My world was serene.
Return to me…
With your green eyes that would catch mine across a crowded room
And the one would crinkle in a slow wink
Meant only for me…
A wink that carried promises of passion and flirtation and teasing
And my heart would grow giddy and butterflies flutter in my stomach.
Return to me…
Take my hand in yours again, wrap your fingers around mine…
Return to me, my beloved
I beg of you…
Hold me, touch me, love me, dance with me, put your hand upon my knee, kiss me, envelop me.
My body longs for you
My heart beats for you
My mind wanders to you and me and what we had…
My pulse is your pulse…
And I die inside a little each day, that I don’t have you any longer…
That you don’t have me any longer…
That we are gone and it is just me here on this earth…
Return to me, my beloved…

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…