From the Depths of my Soul~

 

My dearest love, my beloved husband.  D.

It’s 4 years since you and I drove to the ER at Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Springs.  It is now 4 years since you and I began our final Happily Homeless travels, travels that began on a sunny May day in NJ in 2009, as you got into the UHaul truck with the few of our belongings that we’d kept after the sale of our home, and I got in our car, having just signed the papers and closed on our house, and we headed west to drop those few things into a storage unit in Indiana and visit with your mom for a few days.

And then we headed south and west and our adventures began.

We had our last 4 years together traveling the USA, hiking trails, climbing to the highest heights, discovering history at our National Parks, visiting family and friends, gazing upon views I only ever thought to see in books.  I pushed boundaries I never thought to push, and we fell more in Love each and every day, rejoicing in the times it was just us, far away from responsibility and distractions.  Just us.

Life and reality hit hard with your first cancer and shocked us and horrified us through all the surgeries you had to endure, but endure you did…we did…and we didn’t let it stop us.  You came through it and we continued on.  You were a cancer survivor.  I’d never met a cancer survivor before.  The big C was a disease that had already taken so many from me, and I cried when I realized you…my beloved husband…you were the one I got to keep.

Until this time 4 years ago, when I took you to the ER, your breath raspy, your body doubled over in pain, your face creased as it had never been before as you struggled to maintain some sense of self.  For the first time, though, you couldn’t hide it.  You couldn’t reassure me any longer.  I knew the truth of what was in front of us even before you did.

These 4 years of widowhood, my emotions wouldn’t allow me to write to you.  I haven’t been able to speak to you.  All I’ve been capable of saying, as I’d look up at a night sky glittering with stars, out on my own travels across the USA, is…I love you.  Find me.  I don’t know where you are.  You find me.

I still can’t speak to you, but I need to write to you.  I need to force my fingers to type words to you.  I need to vomit words of pain and grief that you, my beloved, are gone from me.  Have been gone from me for almost 4 years now.  Speak to you of my anguish and horror as I watched the cancer decimate your strong body, watched the drugs muddle your mind even though we tried as hard as we could to minimize those drugs, wanting you to be as present as possible.  You were insistent on that and I wanted to honor your wishes even as it added difficulties into a confusing time.

There are those who say that power shouldn’t be given to memories such as pour from my heart and mind and soul; memories that deepen grief and pain and loss, but I disagree.  The very few weeks we spent, 4 years ago now, as test upon test occurred, as I watched you lay in a hospital bed, as our kids gathered, as you and I found tumors exploding in every limb of your ailing body, as doctors spoke to us of cutting edge treatments that sounded impossible to me, because I knew…I knew…on that very first night in the hospital, your time on this earth was so limited that there was no time no time, to even attempt such treatments.  I watched as if outside my body as I spoke to the social worker, begging him to tell me how to tell you that we had no time.  How do I tell my husband, this man who is my life, that it is time for us to find a hospice, that we must prepare as best we can for the impossible and unbearable time of his death?  How do I tell him that there is no time for treatment without him thinking that I want him to die?

And then going into your room and telling you that I will do anything you want to do I will make it happen I have your back but I don’t think we have time and I think we need to find hospice. 

Gazing at your face, D, in those moments, as I stifled my sobs through the words I had to speak to you…the look on your face is sealed into my being forever.  A few very quiet ticks of the clock passed and then you took my hands in yours and you said okay.  And I sobbed more, and we spoke of the magnitude of this, and we began to realize that we were saying goodbye to us, and you said how you would miss us more than anything else in your world.

You signing the papers that would admit you into hospice, the ambulance ride, the 3 weeks of multiple hearts breaking as the cancer gnawed at your body and ate huge chunks of who you were, you staring into the mirror, a look of confusion in your eyes, striving to recognize the narrowed face and sharp nose of cancer staring back at you and me taking your face in my hands, gazing directly into your eyes and saying you have been my hero you will always be my hero…god, every fucking moment of horror and drugs and breathing machines and treatments and doing slow jogs through the family gardens to work off my shock and anger and despair and every other goddamn physical emotion roaring through my own body…and returning to your room and your side to offer you all the Love that was in my body and soul, all the Love that you’d given so freely and willingly to me in our 24 years together, your vow of Love that you spoke, the vows of Love that I spoke, on our wedding day that we lived and honored and grew, every day that we had together and apart.

How can I not honor and remember our final days as we stumbled through the halls of hospice and spoke words to one another that I can’t remember?  How can I not honor every painful and loving and sacred moment of those moments that lasted for 3 weeks and for eternity all at the same time?

These almost 4 years later I remember, and I honor those days and I honor you and me and us.

“I remember the night.  I remember the sound.  I remember the light, when the moon came ‘round.  The night flowers bloomed, the air so sweet.  I remember you. I remember me. “ (Sara Watkins)

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Just Love~

When calls my heart

To the distant past that is both yesterday and incalculably forever ago.

When calls my heart

To those feelings and emotions that seem so far distant

And so deeply buried

That they are unreachable.  Unrememberable. 

Cherished.  Loved.  Nurtured. 

Secure.  In Love.  Joyous.  Passionate.  Spontaneous.  Upbeat.

What becomes of this heart

And those words that described a life, and a man,

Who gusted into my life and took my breath away with a whoof!

I knew, of course, the possibilities of Love happening in my life before he came into my life.

Zero possibility.

And then.

He called my heart and Love opened my heart

And I breathed Love and I lived Love and I loved him and he loved me and our passion burned brightly

And non-stop

For all of our years.

As we lived our Love story.

Until and then

An ugly and relentless and starving beast took that man who called my heart and opened my heart.

Took him into a world I couldn’t know.

Couldn’t go.

And left behind, calling my heart?

Still Love.  Only Love.  Always Love.

Not enough.  Never enough.  But has to be enough.

Love.  Love more.  Love hard.  Love always.

His words.  His life.  His actions.  His message.  My words.  My life.  My actions.  My message.

Only Love.

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~

 

Handsome Husband~

As we drove, he would always put his hand on my knee, clasping my hand in his.  Or I’d put my hand on the back of his neck, or my arm under his.

He opened car doors, and all doors, for me.   We only figured this out in our 2nd year of travel.  (yes, it took that long).  He asked me once why I didn’t let him open doors and I had no real answer for him, other than to say that I didn’t think about it.  I just did it automatically on my own.  So he said he’d like me to think about it and let him do it for me.   I did.  And loved it.  He opened doors for me right up until he walked up those stairs at our condo in California for the first time,  2 months before he died.  And I know it killed him that he couldn’t perform this gallantry for me any longer.

No matter where I was in a room, or if I just entered a room, he’d look across at me and smile.  Or wink.  He had the sexiest wink.

When we had a house and it was about time for him to get home, my body could sense when his car approached the turn into our street, and my skin would buzz with electricity.  That feeling never left me, no matter where we were.  Or I’d feel his gaze on me.  And get that same feeling.

We’d be watching TV, or each of us reading, or otherwise occupied, and a tune would come on from something on a CD, and he’d stand up, come over to me and hold out his hand for mine and he’d pull me up into him, take my left hand in his right, put his left arm behind me and we’d dance.  In the few years it took me to get completely comfortable in letting him lead, I’d try to lead and he’d stop us  in our tracks and humorously remind me who was leading.   And then start again.  We weren’t fancy in our dancing, but he did know how to swirl and move his feet and make it look like something fancy.  And he knew how to gracefully dip me at the end of a dance.  I loved that.  He was a good lead in life in general, not just on the dance floor.  And I trusted him enough to follow.

When we went to sleep, he’d curl into me from behind, giving me a feeling of being loved and secure.  When I went into the heat surges of menopause and I’d overheat and he’d start sweating and we couldn’t curl into one another for more than a few minutes, we’d still clasp hands as we drifted to sleep.  And maybe touch our feet together.

He loved being touched.  My fingertips sweeping along his arm especially.  Which actually physically irritated my fingertips, weirdly enough.  So I never did it for as long as he would have wished.  Now I wish I had.

I loved painting our house when we had one, and every 6 months or so, I’d paint each of the rooms a different color.  Ultimately most of our house was painted in some shade of pink, which never bothered him.  I used to tell him that it emphasized his masculinity, standing with such a background.  His wry smile clearly accepted my declaration while not believing me for a minute.  But he never complained.

I also loved moving furniture around, constantly searching for a new look.  I told him I did that because I’d been raised an Army brat, always moving around.  I loved that he was in the Air Force when we got married,  and hoped that we’d move frequently.   That definitely didn’t happen-he stayed put at McGuire AFB in Jersey.  So I moved furniture.  He would joke that it was good he wasn’t a blind man, or drunk,  because when he came home he’d end up killing himself crashing into newly moved furniture in the dark.

He told me frequently that he loved me but was fully aware that love is an action word, so he showed me always.  Fall and winter evenings would see him brewing up a cup of Chai or hot chocolate for me. I can only say it was flavored with love because it was always perfect.  I don’t know what he added to make it so good but since his death I’ve been unable to drink either.   He supported me in whatever made me happy, and was always proud of me.

Just as often I would, of course, tell him I loved him in return.  But I also would tell him in response “I feel loved” acknowledging and affirming for him that all he did was recognized by me.   Such a response gave it an entirely different energy from automatically telling him I loved him too.

I’m still very much in love with him but here’s a harsh reality (I read this in a book recently) that is a truth I need to accept and it’s what the struggle of grief is all about for me.  The was and the now.

I’m in love with a dead man.