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…

 

Ending the Search~

It’s confusing really.  This grief, I mean.

It takes time.  Don’t rush it.  Allow yourself to be where you are.  You sound like you’re giving up.  It’s your time frame, not anyone else’s.  Just be.  Get busy.  Don’t get too busy.  You need to date.  Don’t date too soon.  

I do it all.  What’s suggested to me, what I think of doing on my own.  I do nothing.  I do everything.  I move.  I maintain stillness.  All in an effort to figure this out.  Or not figure it out.  Or whatever is in between.

So, here I am, days shy of 2 years since my beloved husband died.  I’m going to counseling, where we’re using aural acupuncture and will, in the near future, use EMDR, to assist with the trauma.  Because yes, there’s been trauma.  Not only because of the bullshit that happened when he was in hospice and how it played out in the months after, but, quite simply, because of the intensity of our relationship and the every day of being without him.  As simple as that.

On a daily basis I use St John’s Wort, which is a natural mood enhancer.  Essential oils that assist in release of grief, homeopathic remedies that bring me through those horrible moments that happen 24 hours a day, and intense exercise with the Warrior training program 3 times a week, to help move the grief energy through my body.

And yet…I’ve been told (by professionals and everyday people) that the pain of this particular grief, the grief of missing-ness of one’s spouse (because it is, or can be, hopefully is, such a close, intimate relationship) can last for up to 10 years before there is any true relief, before the memories bring comfort instead of pain.

Here’s my conclusions about grief.  First, it makes no impression on me any longer, the judgements cast by anyone regarding where I am with it or how I’m doing it.  This is my grief, after all, and my body knows what and how I need to do it. Secondly, I suspect that any sort of relief or peace of any semblance will happen in my heart and soul and body only when I come to grips with the idea that the new normal that everyone refers to, means that I just have to accept the fact that this grief will always be present in my blood and heartbeat, as opposed to continually searching for ways and means of being without it entirely.  Of course, if you say any such thing to the public at large they immediately say oh that’s your choice as to whether or not you allow that grief to stay present.  That all sounds very Zen and Buddhist etc and I’m glad for those who seem able to so easily dismiss this depth of emotion, but, hey, whatever each person is able to attain, right?

It’s kind of like being able to say that, in a world that is not in any way okay, and me not being okay within it, I’m okay.  Saying that releases people from feeling obliged to fix this shit.

What I do know for certain.  My life changed forever at 11:21 pm on April 21, 2013 when Handsome Husband died, and I’ll never be okay with his gone-ness.

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A Daughter’s Promise~

It was a deathbed promise made to her dad.

Look after your mom, he said.  I will, she responded.

A promise kept. But the how’s of keeping that promise? It was done in ways that not many could manage, or would be willing to attempt.

I was already on the road in PinkMagic, making my way towards our two older kids in Arizona last year when our daughter Rachael-Grace (Rae), called me up and offered to go on the road with me in my Odyssey of Love. Initially, I thought she said two months. No, she corrected me.  Six months.

And she was true to her word.

Rachael-Grace is in her early 30’s, married to Sean. They discussed uprooting their lives so that she could do this with me and for me and decided they were strong enough as a couple to make it happen. What this young woman did needs no embellishment, so I’ll just tell you simply.

She and her husband gave up their apartment, putting their belongings in storage.  Sean camped out in the desert and stayed with my son occasionally.  For 6 months he changed his entire life so that he could support her in this endeavor.  Shades of Handsome Husband there.

She saved up enough money to pay her bills while on the road and paid them faithfully.

She helped me create ritual as we visited each of the places Handsome Husband requested I visit to scatter his cremains. When privacy for doing such seemed impossible, she brainstormed and dreamed meaningful intention into being.

It was she who chronicled our travels in pictures, from the beginnings in Arizona, to the West coast, eastwards along the northern states to New England, south to Key West, and west again to Arizona. Without that, we’d have no record. I’ve lost interest in picture-taking for the most part.

She quietly sat with me as my body convulsed into pain and grief and made no judgement. She spoke with me of memories of her dad as I spoke of my husband.

She learned to tow PinkMagic, to set her up and break her down. If we were stationary for more than a few days she took it into her hands to create an altar for us, to establish our outdoor living space, and she cooked meals to tempt my poor appetite.

She made me laugh because she is irreverent and cryptic and, like me, suffers no sacred cows.

She assisted me with technology, locating us on her google maps and pointing us (mostly) in whatever direction we needed to go.

She patiently (mostly) listened to me tell the Odyssey story over and over again, as we met new people along the way. That couldn’t have been easy for her, I know.

She encouraged me, she pushed me, she called me out when I needed it, she tough-loved me. She taught me not to fear the dark places and shadows of grief and held a light for me to provide direction.

She listened to my (way too intimate at times) stories of me and my husband and our romance. Long before we arrived back here, her sensibilities had toughened. She knew I needed to tell my story and she opened her heart to my words and we learned to joke about it.  She became more than my daughter.  It wasn’t long after we began that the lines between mom and daughter (always close), disappeared and we became, quite simply, two women on the road, honoring a man we both loved, and who loved us.

It wasn’t easy for her and I never for a minute though it was.  It was a gift of Love she gave ardently and graciously to me but I fully realize it took an emotional toll on her.  For six months she was present every minute for me, subduing her own grief in many ways, so that she could stand strong with me.  There were many times in our months together when I know she, and her grief, must have felt invisible.  Widows generally are “seen” more than grieving daughters.  I sensed that happening and we spoke about it, but I know it had to be difficult at best.

She missed her husband desperately as PinkMagic ate up the miles and it gave her a glimpse into my world and it hurt her heart and she expressed that to me;  her husband was waiting for her when we were done and mine wasn’t and never would be again. It added yet another layer to her grief.  She was not only grieving her dad;  she grieved at watching her mom in such pain.

For six months, as we drove this Odyssey, Rachael-Grace brought life to my life. She brought Love, she brought continuity, she brought poetry and music and hula-hoops and her natural joy for life.  She brought acknowledgement and gave space and created magic for me.

She is grace personified. Her dad could never have imagined how she would keep her promise to him.  Wherever he is,  if he is, I hope he saw.  I hope he knows.

She kept her promise~10350356_10202636515534966_4300709640610250417_n

This Odyssey-and Magical People~

They seek me out.  I’ve no need to find a psychic or a medium and pay for them to fish in my life in order to give me reassurances about Handsome Husband or what I’m doing.  Not that I’ve ever been tempted; I’m actually kind of suspicious of anyone who receives payment in return for telling us about our loved ones.  Not that I have a problem with the entrepreneurial spirit at all-it’s just that in the case of psychics, I always figure that they’re very good with reading people and cast out such generalities that someone in the audience is bound to connect.

Here’s the thing.  Since I began this Odyssey of Love, following Handsome Husband’s death, there have been people I would term either intuitives, or actual angels (sometimes), who have sought me out, and the things they tell me leave me, most often, breathless with their accuracy.

My daughter and I are in Key West and while wandering Duval St yesterday, we chanced upon a shop and entered on a whim to browse.  She quickly found a few articles of clothing that are perfect for hooping and went to the dressing room while I continued to check the racks.  The proprietor, (Leslie by name, as we discovered), had been very friendly, bidding us hello as we came into her shop.  But nothing more, really.

Until.

As I moved hangars around on the rack, Leslie, who was standing not far from me, looked over at me and said You’ve been through a devastating change recently, haven’t you?  I was startled and didn’t reply immediately and she went on to say  You know you’re okay, don’t you?  Even though you don’t feel as if you are.  You’re okay.  And whatever it is that you’re doing, you need to continue doing it.  You’re on the right path.

She spoke to me for maybe another 20 minutes and I said nothing.  Really there was nothing for me to say;  I was just trying to take it all in.  At one point I almost reached for Rae’s hand to steady myself because there was a buzzing sound in my ears and I was actually seeing stars dance in front of my eyes.  Ultimately, I told her of my husband’s death and my Odyssey of Love and showed her a picture of my rig.  She was more than ever convinced of her message to me.   She told me (paraphrasing) that she had become aware of the energy around me when I entered her shop and felt compelled to speak to me and tell me what she did.  We left the store after an hour, with my head still reeling.  I didn’t seek her out.  I solicited nothing.  No money exchanged hands.  I’d never seen her before.

Last year as I made my way along the FL Gulf coast, as I took a break from driving at a Target store, an employee in the women’s section complimented me on my pink shirt and this led into a discussion of the color pink and my rig, etc.  We weren’t too far into the conversation when she took both my hands in hers and very earnestly said to me I have the ability to see things, and I want you to know that you are surrounded by angels.  They are all around you.

I’ve already written of the woman I met in NJ last year who, having no knowledge of my life, of Handsome Husband (other than to know that he had died and we’d traveled together), took my hands and looked directly into my eyes and said He wants me to tell you that he wouldn’t leave you without a road map.  And many other things that were…well…true.

I don’t know what to think about any of this, except to say that, as Handsome Husband was in hospice, I knew that something big was going on.  Not just his death, as huge as that was, and is.  But something bigger than his death and the grief that ran with it.  I termed it as something magical because I didn’t know what other word to use.

All I know, since he died, all I believe in, is that he and I were very much in love and I have to believe that the love is still present and that is what fuels me each and every day as I drive this Odyssey for him.  Meeting the people I have, being approached by messengers, the affirmations I receive from them, the messages they deliver to me, at no prompting from me…that is the magic and I can’t explain it but I know, I know, and I know, that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.  I don’t have much money and I wonder if I should fret and worry about it running out, as it will soon, and I’m new to this full-time trailer life-style, and there is so much that could freak me out.  And yet, it doesn’t.  I don’t know why;  I’ve always worried about money.  Always.  Except now.  Not because I think money will magically appear in front of me, but because I know that this Odyssey is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and it will be okay somehow.

Our younger son, Fireman Nick, when I told him about yesterday, said to me, Ma, Pop said he wouldn’t leave you without a road map and he never broke his word.

This type of thing never happened to me prior to Handsome Husband’s death.  Never.  But even I can’t ignore that, in this Odyssey of Love, magic is very much afoot.  Somehow.

Love.  Grief.  Magic.  The open road…to what?

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Not Done~

I’ve fulfilled Handsome Husband’s requests:  Dry Tortugas, Crater Lake, Little Big Horn, Crazy Horse.  His cremains now rest in each of those spots around our country.  I went back, I held a ritual, I scattered his cremains at the places we loved.  My heart broke over and over.  It shut down in pain and opened up in love.   And, it isn’t finished.

As the months since he died have passed, (not quickly enough for me but that’s a different topic), I realize that he was intentionally setting me on a road that would take me through his spoken request that was seemingly about him.  But he had a knowingness for me and about me, even in his dying time (maybe even more so because of his dying time) and he was stamping his love for me upon me.

Did you ever watch the movie “P.S. I Love You”?  Bear with me on this because I’m seeking feedback.  Bullet points will make it more succinct.

*He and I watched that movie several times over the years.  We watched it the night before I took him to the ER in southern California.

*While he was in hospice, I teasingly told him one day that he needed to do for me what the character had done in the movie when he knew he was dying (sending his soon-to-be widow messages, etc).  Handsome Husband replied that was too much pressure and he said I‘ll tell you what.  Watch the movie.

*Right before his voice weakened, I asked him to call my phone and leave me a message, so that I would have his voice to bring me through the years without him.  Which he did, and at the end of the message, he said P.S. I love you.

*A couple of months after he died, our younger son, Fireman Nick, texted me that he’d found a song that he thought I should sing at Handsome Husband’s memorial service, which I was in the midst of planning.  Having no idea of the significance of it, the song was “Love You Til the End” from the movie, yes, “P.S. I Love You”.   I don’t sing, and I most especially don’t sing in public but Fireman Nick said he’d play the guitar to accompany me and it would be perfect.  So we practiced together and I sang and I didn’t hear myself but my voice felt strong and my soul felt engaged and it was, for me, perfect indeed.

*I met a volunteer at the VA hospital in Tacoma, WA recently and, upon seeing PinkMagic, Kathy, the volunteer, wanted to know the story of this Odyssey of Love.  Afterwards, she barely paused before telling me, with some excitement in her voice, that it sounded like…what was that movie?…it sounded like…yes, “P.S. I Love You”!

The movie isn’t just about the messages he leaves her, is it?  It’s about what she finds while she is responding to his requests and suggestions and how she changes as she is does it.   How her grief morphs and how she is revealed to herself as she accomplishes various tasks and how her heart opens.  As she does these things for him.  But not really for him at all.  Which was his purpose all along.

This Odyssey of Love that I’m living is truly only beginning.  My daughter and I have been to California, Oregon,Washington, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota and, as I write this, we’re in Colorado.  Along the way, as I’ve scattered my husband’s cremains, I’ve met magical people, I’ve met angels, I’ve given and received hugs, I’ve learned to tow a trailer, I’ve learned to adjust to a life that is so outside my comfort zone (camping) (and honestly I have a love/hate relationship with that particular aspect), I’ve learned, out of emotional necessity, to live in the absolute moment of where my feet are, I’ve gained every sort of confidence in speaking to crowds of strangers, I’ve learned to state my needs without hesitancy, I’ve learned to ask for what I need, I’ve learned when to come in off the road and rest…and so much more.

I’ve learned to trust my instincts and let my heart lead me to where I need to be.  And, that, dear readers, is what I need to trust more than ever in this next phase of my Odyssey.  He left me no other stated destinations.  He knew I would have to trust my heart and his love and our love.  This now is where I have to trust that I will find him again, find my connection to him because it now truly does become about nothing but love.  I will have to fully trust what an unknown woman told me early on He says for me to tell you he wouldn’t leave you without a map.

In this next chapter of the Odyssey of Love, I’ll need to fine tune every muscle and fiber of my heart and soul and see more with my third eye-the eye that sees from within.    He got me started and now I have to believe that I won’t be left hanging and that I will connect with him in ways I can’t imagine.  Watch the movie, he told me.  He loved allegories and so he knew I’d figure out what he meant.  Watch it and learn that it’s about opening up and being brave and allowing space and, thus, finding your way.  Because you must.

My grief is huge.  I feel dislocated and detached.  But I’m on an Odyssey and you don’t just quit an Odyssey because it’s unbearable.  Odysseys must be lived.  Especially when it is love-driven.  He set me on this with love in his heart.  I’m doing it with love in my heart.

And we’ll meet on the road.  Collahhhhge

Witness.

10584071_706736189381318_5111626282519408281_n(from Rachael)

“I see you.” Three simple words. People and their stories need to be witnessed. It is our basic human nature to want to fix, but most often there is no fix. Nor is it anyone else’s place to do so. Just be here. Just see me. Just love me. No words need to be spoken. Sit with me. Hold my hand. Hug me. These are the things I have learned over time and have come to understand even more deeply since I watched my dad die from cancer. These are the things that I have held closely and put to practice as I have witnessed my mom’s grief over this last year and three months.

In this last month, as my mom and I have traveled from Arizona, to California, to Oregon, to Washington, to Idaho, to Montana, and tomorrow to South Dakota, I have learned to just allow space when it is needed. For her and for me. There is nothing I can say to make her grief less. And when I do speak, it is with words of acknowledgment. I have learned the language of grief- but this language is so much more than just words. In fact, it is most often everything but. This language is in the eyes, the touch, the breath, the being

Compassion and empathy are gifts that some people are more in touch with than others- and that’s ok. It took me a long time to openly admit that I am one of those people. I was afraid to own what I have been blessed with. This gift of mine in part comes from my up-bringing, in part from life experience, and in part from the very core of my soul. I am a space holder. I am a witness. I will allow you your grief OR joy. And I will not judge. Our society openly welcomes self deprecation but seems to have a hard time embracing those who regard themselves in a positive light- and as individuals we are afraid to do so for fear of seeming egotistical, but I am here to tell you that it is time to claim ourselves. And to do so without apology.

Embrace your gifts. Share them with the world. If you can only even make a difference for one person, I promise you it will be worth it.

Nothin’ But Love.

One Week

1908022_686124304775840_8575168731822894139_nIt’s been one full week on this Nothin’ But Love tour. Our first night was spent boon-docking off a forest road just outside of Sedona, AZ. The crickets chirped and the stars were bright. A hot air balloon greeted us in the early morning as it landed by our campsite. Camping for me typically involves not much more than a tent and perhaps a hammock. This new form of glamping (as “they” call it) is so up my alley. Night two in Dewey, AZ welcomed us with a home cooked dinner, storytelling, hula hooping, and a glorious view. Our hosts were warm and generous. The third night took us to a Flying J in Barstow, CA where I had a surprising solid night of sleep. Days 4, 5, and 6 put us in Morgan Hills, CA at USVA Pines RV Park where green vineyards, rolling hills, and tall trees kept us company. It also gave us some time to rest (sort of) and catch up with friends and family who lived in the area and brought with them so much love and many hugs- all of which keep us moving forward on this Odyssey of Love. One more long day north up the Pacific Coast Highway filled with winding roads, a fog covered ocean, and floral dotted cliffs finally brought us to our landing place in Fort Bragg, CA where we treated ourselves to a hot meal and comfy hotel room.

This first week has brought with it a wide range of emotions. Memories take hold and plop a smile across my face as I remember times traveled with my husband. Familiar places fill my heart with love for him. Other moments warm my heart but also tug at its strings as my mom and I happen upon places that she and my dad visited in their first year of travel. It helps me to know and feel closer to my dad as I stand in view of the very same sites he set his eyes upon in times past, but with that comes the grief of knowing that he will no longer hold my mom’s hand as the adventure continues. I also find myself wondering if my mom ever feels out of breath when she turns to look towards the drivers seat and finds me sitting there in place of my dad. Needless to say, it’s been an emotional roller coaster. 10491221_10153133209695400_8993084184656114303_n

I also miss my husband. It’s only been a week so it’s relatively easy to pretend I am simply on a short trip and will return home soon. The days come and go with gentle ease, as they are filled with many distractions. But as the lights go out, I climb into bed, and the sounds of night take over the bustle of the day, I miss him. I miss his arms around me. I wear his college sweatshirt to bed every night and shall until I can crawl up next to him again. He and I have always enjoyed falling asleep wrapped up in each other. It is a place I feel safe and oh so loved. It gives me the tiniest glimpse of the life that my mom is now forced to lead. This is a trip that I chose to do voluntarily, and one that he has been supportive of from day one. He and I both knew that this was something that I just needed to do with my mom. I have no regrets about that but that doesn’t make it any easier. I have left behind all comforts and everything that I know for 6 months to hit the open road. The only thing that I do know is that this adventure is being led by intuition and nothin’ but love.

 

So, what is to become of my life at the end of this time on the road? I have no idea and am completely ok with that. I will be a changed woman at the end of this particular experience- of that I am sure. I am moving forward with an open heart and allowing my world to unfold before me. And you know what? It’s kind of beautiful.