Last Saturday I went to a reunion at the airbase in Jersey from which Chuck retired. The reunion was made up of crew and maintainers of the C-141’s, the cargo plane that my husband flew on as a flight engineer. That was before my time, but he spoke of those days, and, more so, the plane, often, in our years together. He was so proud of his time in service, and I was equally proud of him.
They invited me to join them, and it touched my heart. I went as Chuck Dearing’s widow, and they welcomed me as that, and they welcomed me for myself, an FWG traveling the country in honor and memory of a man we all loved and respected.
I heard so many stories about Chuck and connected bits of stories to those I’d heard him tell me over the years. And I interviewed a handful of those who served with him so that our kids could hear the stories first hand also.
Every moment of that day was precious to me. There were those among them who held me and cried their own tears that he is no longer present here on this earth, and in their world in some way.
Those tears touched me to my very soul.
Being there among them, being there for Chuck, being there without Chuck…it grabbed my heart yet again that he is dead. And how unbelievable that fact still is, in my heart and my head both. How can it be and how is it, that he is dead, and I’m still here? Through the day I could physically feel the harsh reality of his death clanging in my mind, clashing against the thought but he can’t be dead…
I almost didn’t go, at the last minute. There were supposed to be marches in cities around the country and I didn’t want to get stuck on a highway and possibly run into trouble for myself. You know…a pink car and a pink trailer and all. Hard to hide in that, right? Plus, I suddenly wasn’t sure if I could handle all the emotions that were rising up in me as I anticipated the 8 -hour drive from NH to NJ. Except that, truthfully, they weren’t rising up in me so much as I was uncertain of my ability to hold them down enough, which is pretty much an everyday situation anyways.
But I did go. And I climbed the stairs to stand in the 141 and talked to as many people as I could and hugged and got hugs and shared stories and….and missed him so goddamn much. So fucking much I could barely breathe.
Still, in my 4th year of living without him, any breathing I do has to be done consciously. Or at least, effective breathing must still be done consciously.
The other side of the grief is numbness. Both are different sides of the same coin and I wonder at both. How can I be so numb and so disbelieving and so devastated and yet feel the real-ness of his death all at the same time? And how is it that I've functioned as well as I have? Seriously...how the grand fuck have I driven almost 90,000 miles and camped and met people and managed? Do you ever ask yourself that?
And when the fuck does this change and does it change and how do I trust that it will? I know because I speak to other widows and hear from other widows and I see it in front of me with widows from our Soaring Spirits, that it can change but I just cannot fucking conceive of that for myself which I know is also normal and why I need to connect with other widows but I also hear from many other widows who are further out than I am that it still just hurts and no, nothing is ever the same and if they’re really being honest, they tell me that they’re just doing time, so to speak, until they die too.
So….what to believe? Who to believe? The patterns of grief are individual, I know that also, so nobody can truthfully answer these questions, but….
Even if we find someone to love, and be loved by, again, I know, too, that the missing-ness remains, but is it different if you have someone to hold you through it and sit with you? Someone who gets you again? To what degree does it change, if it does? What makes the grieving and missing-ness different, if it does?
Other than having someone special in your life again, how else can this ever be different? Being alone is so incredibly lonely but is that alleviated to some degree by being special to another person again?
Maybe some of you can respond to these questions. I’d appreciate it if you would.
This past weekend made me feel more without Chuck than ever before. I shared in a part of his history and felt his absence so strongly.
My body craves his touch. My spirit craves his energy next to me. My soul cries out for him. My right hand stays open to grasp his, as it did when he was here.
How the FUCK is this ever going to be okay again?