I was asked recently to speak at an AA meeting in my old community in NJ.
I’ll be traveling there at the end of this week. It’s been 3 years since I’ve connected with family and friends there. Family and friends who knew Chuck, who knew me when I was with Chuck.
Memories will hit hard. I’m not trying to set myself up for that; I’m merely acknowledging the fact.
Family and friends will surround me with Love.
That’s a good thing.
So the topic of the particular meeting that I’m speaking at is “gratitude”, which is a really tough word for me to grasp.
Because here’s the truth of the truth of the tree of life that is my life since Chuck died…
I don’t feel gratitude for anything in my life. I know that’s a terrible, forbidden thing to say, in life, but, I think, especially as a widow.
We’re supposed to have gratitude for, I don’t know…everything.
But it’s hard to feel gratitude anything when I don’t feel gratitude for life.
Which is also practically sinful to say, I realize. How can anyone not feel gratitude for being alive?
Alas and alack…I don’t.Read more
Tomorrow marks 6 months since Tin has passed. How am I already here? How does time move so slowly and so quickly at the same time? Honestly it is Life’s biggest blessing and curse. As I look back at these 6 months, I see a new road behind me that I have paved on my own. Of course there have been others to help me through the thick brush but I had to be the one to cut through the weeds. Every once in awhile I see something amazing and I catch myself talking to Tin. Sometimes it feels good and sometimes it causes an upset. Either way I never expected to be where I am today only 6 months after my greatest loss.Read more
I just returned from my 500 billionth Camp Widow.
Okay, I'm exagerating, but not by much. Besides, I lost count long ago on how many times I have been honored to be a presenter at this amazing healing place called Camp Widow.
July 13th was the 7-year mark of Don's death. Camp Widow began on July 13th. Friday the 13th. Nothing incredibly weird happened on Friday the 13th at camp, other than the fact that my entire life is incredibly weird all the time.
This time, at camp, I was going there as both a presenter and also a new author, my book being out on Amazon for over a month now, and on sale at the Camp Widow bookstore. The entire weekend people came up to me and asked for their book to be signed. It was my honor. My favorite part of that was sitting there and penning the name "Kelley Lynn Shepherd" over and over, knowing that I did not take my husband's name when we married, but that I would now take it on the pages of this book. Writing that name again and again made me feel so emotional. So filled with pride that I was well-loved by this incredible man. So happy to share with the world, pieces of our story.
At camp, I met new friends and saw old ones. I attended some workshops that helped me to heal just a little bit more. I had lots of drinks, hugs, and support down by the pool. I dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean - on two different days. I sat in my widow friend's bed and ate chocolate chips with her while laughing at our strange lives. I waded in the pool, floating from end to end without a care in the world. I went on a sunset cruise to celebrate Soaring Spirits 10-year anniversary in existence. I ate lunch at the famous Hotel Del Coronado, with two widow friends. I stood on a balcony from my hotel room, admiring the gorgeous view of San Diego, and appreciating all of the beauty in nature. I enjoyed an unexpected upgrade into a suite, where I spent the morning of July 13th reflecting quietly, and alone, and with my dead husband. I gave my presentation to the largest crowd I've ever had at Camp Widow to date. I danced to Prince out on the dance floor, and held out my arms and empathy when a fellow widowed brother had an outburst of tears overflowing.Read more
I’m all finished with school for the summer and heading to Hawaii with David! By the time this posts on Thursday I will already be there actually. I’m really excited to go. We have a lot of exciting things planned to do. Planning the trip was easy with David because we were interested in the same activities. If he found an idea of something he liked I was always super excited about it and vice versa. As we were planning, we started a shared document to use as an itinerary and for the first time since Mike died I was actually excited to use it.
I think I mentioned in a previous post when I was on vacation with my friend Heather about how I had lost my enthusiasm for trip planning. I had still wanted to go on trips but I didn’t have the motivation, concentration or memory to be able to plan the details of flights, cars, stay, and researching and coordinating things to do. It was frustrating to me because I had always been good at it and enjoyed it. It used to be my thing. Then after Mike died I couldn’t seem to care less even though I tried. And even when I tried I missed important things that could have caused a disaster travelling. I eventually just started to go with the flow of someone else organizing everything but I felt a bit numb doing that.
Planning for Hawaii has been so completely different. I feel like me. I have been on top of researching what I want to do, where, and when and following up with companies about booking. I have every little detail documented in order with confirmation numbers, times, location etc. I printed all the excursions, car, stay, flight confirmation emails and put them in order. Maybe it’s a little intense but organizing and planning makes me feel good. I had just been in a shift for a while. I don’t want to say my trip planning “is back”or I’m the “old me” because I don’t believe you ever really go back. Plus, this trip is so different than anything I had previously planned. It is a very active, adventurous trip. It’s full of a lot of things that I probably wouldn’t have done before. I’m not just making lists of possible sites to see; I’m planning, booking and gathering the needed gear for some pretty intense activities. I think I’ve used my previous organization skills to be my basis for planning for a more rigorous, absolutely-need-it-all-figured-out and be prepared trip. It’s my 2.0 version of planning.Read more
Today, Tuesday, is an anniversary of sorts for me.
It isn’t an anniversary connected to Chuck, since it happened after he died.
And yet, it is entirely connected to him.
Because today is the day, 5 years ago, that I picked up my new Ford Escape from the garage, and the man, I’d taken it to after buying it from the dealer.
I took it directly from the dealer to a man named Anthony, who had his own garage.
He and I had spoken a week or so earlier, when I’d called him and told him that I was looking for someone to create a shade of pink for me and paint my car in the created color.
I shared with him the Love story that Chuck and I had for 24 years. I told him what Chuck said about me wearing pink after his death. He knew I’d need color around me. I told him about our Happily Homeless travels for our last 4 years together. I told him that I was staying on the road, alone, and I was terrified and devasted and didn’t know how to do it, but I was doing it.
The price he gave me was just too high for me, but I told him how very much I appreciated that he listened to me and we hung up.
Not half an hour later, Anthony called me up again and quoted me a lower price. He really wanted to create a color for me and paint my silver car.
The first shade of pink that he did was too dark, and I told him to lift the brown out, and add a creamy white, but that I didn’t need to see the second shade. Paint my car in the color you get and it will be the exact right shade.
A couple weeks later I went with my daughter to pick up my car. She cried and I cried when I saw it, and we cried more when Anthony handed the can to me, with the formula for the paint on it…and the name he’d named it.Read more
I'm writing you tonight from my hotel room in Seattle – en route to a four-night stay in Alaska. I hadn't really given any thought to what I was going to write today for this post, as I've spent the better part of the day running around like crazy. It could have been about the usual stuff of Valentine's Day... like how bitchy I've been all week leading up to today. Or how I went into Walgreens yesterday for some picture hanging wire and was assaulted by the pink and red décor that vomited all over the store interior. Or about how sad I was when I woke up this morning or how hard I've tried to stay off of Facebook all day.Read more
Grief illiteracy has been on my mind quite a bit in the last couple weeks. Even if you don't know that term, you'll know what I mean when I tell you about my face-to-face with it. And you'll nod your head and say to yourself (or to the room in general)....oh, yes....
I keep a personal blog in addition to writing for Widows Voice, and I have for years. It began as a way to chronicle my and my husband's travels. After his death it became, and remains, about the most difficult of travels; alone and without the man I love next to me.
As I write this, I'm sitting in a plane, flying from Los Angeles to New York. I'm back in the USA for Camp Widow East next weekend and decided to make a holiday off it, fulfilling a life-long dream of visiting the Big Apple.
I'm almost in Tampa for Camp Widow, arriving early from Arizona. This has been a long road trip for me, and taxing in a different way from my previous travels, emotionally. Perhaps it's the knowing that this really will be for me, as so many have assured me, a life-changing weekend. This grief is exhausting and I want it to shift for me but at the same time, being honest, I suppose deep in there somewhere is fear also. Fear that it will be so life-changing for me that I won't recognize myself afterwards. Not that I recognize myself now. All I know is that I'm not the woman I was with Chuck. Everything else is up for grabs.Read more