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…

 

Tu Me Manques…

 

My beloved husband,

You have been gone from me forever and a day….mere minutes ago, as measured by my heart’s yearning.  One thousand four hundred and fifty nine days, as measured by the Roman calendar.  I love you.

There is no meaningful way, really, to measure the depth of the grief in my heart that you are gone from me.  Perhaps the only true measure of this grief can be found in the exact measure of my Love for you.  In these four years and forever and a day, my Love for you has only grown.  I love you.

There is an emptiness to my life now, an emptiness that is the shape of you…your broad shoulders, your strong hands, the smile that lit your eyes as you looked out at life…as you looked at me.  That emptiness that is in the shape of your lips on mine as you kissed me, and the grasp of your hand behind my neck.  It is the shape of your arm around me as you pulled me into you as we danced, our bodies moving in synch across a dance floor.

The most painful thing I’ve ever done is watch you in that bed in your final weeks, tending to you, hurting for you, smiling for you, touching you, holding your hand as I sat in a chair next to you, exhausted but never as exhausted as you were, speaking to the nurses, trying to find ways to shield your body from the cancer onslaught and never succeeding, but trying again and again because it was unbearable and unacceptable that this was happening to you, my dearest husband. I loved you beyond measure in those moments, in a way that was more intimate than ever before.

The most painful thing I’ve ever done is draw the blanket over your face for the last time, kiss you for the last time, say goodbye to you for the last time.  I miss you.

Life is lonely without you, D.  I don’t know what to do with myself, don’t know what to do with the aching of my body without your touch, what to do with all the beautiful memories that remind me of times past and a future gone.  All this Love I had for you, have for you…I reach out and you aren’t there to receive it, so my Love lingers in the air, an energy of its own.  Love with nowhere to go.

I gaze up at the sky, day and night.  The bright blue skies and the darkest blue of night, wondering.  Wondering if you’re somewhere out there, seeing me, missing me.  Are you there, D?  Do you see me, wanting you, missing you, wishing you?

My soul requires broad open skies now, no hindrances blocking the way of the horizon in any direction.  My soul craves the skies we opened our sunroof to when we traveled, the skies that meant freedom of the open road to us. There is such vastness in the depth of my sorrow that it can be contained only by the endless expanse of sky and Universe.  Each cloud in the day, each star in the night…each is a marker for me.  Are you there?  Or there?  Maybe there?

It isn’t as simple as missing you.  Of course, I do, and there is no way to express the enormity of this missing.  But it goes beyond missing you, D.  More than me missing you is that you are missing from me.  The French have a phrase for it…tu me manqué.  You are missing from me.

I grow anxious at times, wondering what you would think of me now.  Would you be proud of how I’ve lived without you? Would you be disappointed?  I know that you’d hurt for me that I hurt so much without you, but I know you’d understand, too.  Mostly I know that you’d be proud of how I’ve done this, even with all the pain and sorrow and missingness.  I know this to the bottom of my heart.  I want to do you proud, D, and I believe I have.  I hope I have.

You are my dearest Love.  You will always be me and I will always be you and our hearts will always be connected, no matter how far apart we are, no matter how long a time we are separated.

What remains of you is Love, strong and sure.  You are Love and I am yours and you are missing from me and I miss you and I carry who you were and who we were in my heart day and night and I’ll carry our Love with me until my final hours and minutes.

And when the time comes, I hope, I hope, I dream, I wish, I demand, I whisper, I implore, I beseech…please find me.  I don’t know where you are, but you know where I am and I need you to come find me.

Until then, my dearest, my most beloved husband, my lover, my heart and soul…

Tu me manques.  Tu me manques.  Tu me manques.

 

Long Live Love~

In the before moments

As you hold tight while trying to let go

Waiting for that last breath

Dreading that last breath

Holding your breath waiting for that last breath

Gasping in your breath as he exhales his last breath

Long Live Love

As you sit and stand and pace and stare

Wondering at this new world of without

With only your breath in it

Where once the two of you breathed the same air

Restless and sleeping but not sleeping til you don’t even know what it is to sleep and wake rested

Long Live Love

As you stumble and fall and get up and fall again

And determination and grit lock your knees and stand you up day after day

While you can’t imagine living

But you aren’t dying even though you don’t understand how you aren’t dying

Because how can you not die of a broken heart

But you somehow keep living

Long Live Love

And birthdays and anniversaries and death days seep into one year and another

And the missing-ness is impossible and unbearable

Yet here you are still

Determined and broken and broken but determined

And all you know to do is let Love be stronger until it becomes bigger

Long Live Love

Our Death Valley Dance~

The Death Valley dance.

I know-it sounds so theatrical, doesn’t it?  To call it such, I mean.  I only named it that in hindsight. All I knew on that February day in 2013 was that this was a moment to remember, as Chuck and I remembered so many of our times together. We knew what was important in life. We grasped that life was impermanent and it needed to be grabbed and appreciated and loved and marked in that spot in our hearts that remembered such moments.

Nothing but wide-open road in front of us, there in Death Valley. We’d had this place on our go-to list, and this was our last evening here.  Our day had been spent mostly driving through the various canyons because Chuck wasn’t feeling well-his strength was minimal and he was in pain. We thought it was the die-off from a fungal infection. We thought it was a pinched nerve.  So we moved more slowly that day, and I took the wheel.

But, as I steered the car over the road, looking at the changing colors of the rocks around me, I knew that here was a moment that we needed to imprint upon our hearts. Something in my heart told me to mark this memory deep into my bones, so I maneuvered the car to the dirt on the side of the road and said let’s dance.  We loved to slow dance, and Chuck was a master at it.  Today, he wasn’t as sure of his footing on the rutted dirt of the roadside, but I said let’s try.  And he gamely smiled at me and stepped out of the car.

It was that most beautiful part of the evening that the Scots call the gloaming, when the day is done but right before night sets in and it was quiet, with no traffic from any direction.  We were the only humans on the planet at that moment, and the rocks glowed golden from the dying sun’s last breath. Silence surrounded us as I met him in front of our red Ford Escape and the strains of You’re My Inspiration by Chicago, wafted from the IPOD I’d plugged into the radio.   Chuck put his right arm around me and clasped my right hand in his left, wrapping his fingers lightly around mine.  In spite of everything, his body was strong against me and that strength flowed from him to me and back again, and all the Love in the world between us simmered and shone.

I knew something was wrong with him.  He did too.  Maybe we both wondered if his cancer had returned, but were afraid to voice the thought aloud.  I don’t know.  I just know, at that moment in time, with that particular tune playing, my heart called for me to remember this moment.

So there, on the side of the road, in the setting sun… there in Death Valley, we danced our last dance.

It was nothin’ but love~

 

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

This Ugly World…but, oh….the Love~

It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?  The ugliness of the world, I mean.  At a time when I, and many other widow/ers are trying to figure out our own smaller worlds, without our beloveds in our life.   At a time when the world already seems so unsafe and so uncertain because that person, our person, is no longer here, and then…another big ugly thing happens.

Chuck was active duty during 9/11.  He wasn’t able to come home until near midnight on that day and I was filled with anxiety, anticipating that McGuire AFB, where he was stationed, would be the next target for the terrorists.  But he did come home and I felt safer and reassured as soon as I saw him and was able to hug him.  He was able to tell me things  in the days and weeks after that made me feel more okay even though the world remained insane.  He was there with his solid presence, his calm manner, and…I felt better.

There have been numerous terrorist events since his death, and at each one, I have missed him more.  I’m grateful I have my adult kids, my friends, to whom I can speak about my anxieties, about the ugliness of it, but, at the end of the day, his side of the bed is still empty and the conversations continue in my head, because his arms aren’t around me.

My world felt safer with Chuck in it.

I was at a Where Womyn Gather festival in the Poconos when Orlando happened.  I didn’t hear about it til the late afternoon;  I was off the grid.  As a group, a couple hundred women stood around a huge fire that had been kept burning through the weekend and we offered our prayers to the skies above, and we hugged each other.  A lot.

That’s really all I know how to do since Chuck died.  Hug people, I mean.  My brain doesn’t seem to function as well as it did as far as figuring shit out, so I don’t think much.  And so much doesn’t matter to me anyways.  Mostly it seems that much of what our culture, and the world at large, values, carries no value for me.  And I feel overwhelmed and helpless when it comes to the ugliness of the world.

So, I hug people.  And I accept hugs from people.   Then I drive somewhere else and I hug people there, wherever there happens to be.  The pink of my car and trailer bring smiles to those I meet on the highways and  backroads of this country, and I’m glad for that; smiles are good.  The color of my rig draws people to me and they tell me what is in their hearts or what lies heavy on their minds as we sit in the pink chairs that I put out next to my trailer.  Sometimes we share a glass of pink lemonade that I make sure to have on hand.

In a world of what I can’t do, I find what I can do.  I can, and do, open my heart to Love, more fully than ever.  I hug more people, and I hug them tightly.  I’m a really good hugger.  In some circles, I actually have quite a reputation for being an excellent hugger.  In that, if you’ve been hugged by me, you know you’ve been hugged.  I like that I have such a reputation.  If that is the only legacy I leave behind, then I’m pleased.

I have to focus on the Love that is bigger, or go insane with grief.  Not only personally, because of my own grief but grief for  the world at large.  Yes, another man took his rage that had many sources, and murdered 49 people.  And a man in France, using the same excuse, horribly stole the lives of a husband and wife and left their 3 year son an orphan.  Yes, yes, yes…the ugliness continues on and on, forever.

But so does the Love.  I insist upon the Love.  It’s all I can do.  It’s the only power I have.  I don’t have it in the huge, world sense, but I do have it in my small world sense and the Love I give in my small world has the possibility of rippling out into other’s worlds, again and again and again.

I hold onto this, in this time, again and again and again, when I cry out for Chuck to put his arms around me and tell me that, in the midst of nothing being okay in this ugly world, it’s still okay, because there is always, always and forever, Love that is always present and bigger, even though it seems not present and much smaller than hate or grief or uncertainty.

My soul insists and demands that Love must be stronger.

Remember that.  Hold onto it.  Surround yourself with it.  Immerse those around you in it.  Send it out to the loved ones who are new to the world of grief.  Send it out again and again and again and never stop.

Please, never stop.

#LongLiveLove

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…