Three weeks after the Memorial Service, and still in shock...with a few more weeks of bereavement leave left to become "normal" again! The huge company that I was Regional Manager for had been more than generous with allowing me time to handle the affairs that accumulate after the death of a loved one. In this case, my beloved of 30 years was gone, my friend, confidante and business partner. So much for being that self-confidant professional woman who traveled from state to state, giving motivational speeches, training sessions, hiring and terminating staff, and just being in control of millions of dollars in service goods.
There was no way that I could return to work yet; at least not as the professional I had worked so hard to maintain over the years. During these weeks my world had collapsed literally....I was a basket case one minute, and a zombie the other! After the memorial services were complete, the family and friends had returned to their own normal lives while mine was shattered and on the brink of total collapse. Where had that strong, in-control woman disappeared to?
I was blessed with two wonderful secretaries, and one fabulous personal assistant, who had decided to move in with me after I lost my husband. She worked from home, arranged my personal appointments, drove me to the doctor, the lawyer, and wherever else was necessary. I moved into our family room, made the circular sofa my bedroom, my desk, my living room, eating space, and anything else in between. I refused to return to "our bedroom". For hours I would sit in front of the fireplace and stare at nothing. People came and went, and I was mentally gone, although my body sat and pretended to be present.
My husbands ashes had been placed in a lovely bronze urn, and it was never far from my touch or sight. First it sat on the mantel, then on the sofa, then on the end table so that I could finger touch it as I sat in a trance. I cried with it in my arms, and I cried with it sitting across the room. How long is this supposed to last? I asked myself a million times.
Our fifteen year old grandson had been like our own son for most of his life, living with us, traveling with us, and we were his surrogate parents. Since the death of his grandfather I was unable to keep him with me, as I was doing well to function for myself. He went with my son to live in Nevada, and I told myself it was just "for awhile". After the memorial service he took a few belongings with him, but I promised to take his bed and computer and a few personal things to him by Christmas week.
My assistant was like a daughter to me, and she kept me alive during those early weeks. She drove me everywhere, and simply took over what my husband had always done...driving Miss Daisy around. Lynn suggested that we take the trip to Reno, Nevada while I was still on leave from work, and that it would also give me an opportunity to visit with the grandchildren and family during the holidays. I was not in the mood for celebrating Christmas this year, my first without my love; but I knew she was right...this had to be done.
Lynn rented a small U-haul trailer and had it hitched to my new Durango, and we packed some luggage and set off on our journey. It was still warm in Phoenix, but it was chilly enough to wear warm clothing, and we knew that Reno would be snowing and much colder, so we packed for that type of weather. In the back seat was the urn that held the ashes of my beloved, and it was wrapped in a red velvet bag that I carried with me wherever we went. I promised my hubby that I'd take him everywhere with me, and this trip to see the grandkids was no exception.
The further we drove, the colder it got....and I cried most of the way, no matter how hard Lynn tried to get me to laugh or talk about other things. Everything reminded me of HIM... it was as if the shock was beginning to wear off, and the reality of his leaving was finally taking hold.
It was dark, and snow was on the ground, and Lynn pulled into a gas station to fill up again. I always took this opportunity to go to the ladies room, and get a drink or snack. Lynn was filling up the car, and I ran inside the station, got my drink and went to the cashier to pay. I was taking out my money when the clerk said, "Are you okay lady?.... you look as if you've been crying....is everything alright?" She took me by surprise, as I hadn't looked at my swollen eyes in a few hours, and said, "Oh...I'm okay. Then the sobs began flowing...like a waterfall....Niagara Falls would be close enough.... "It's just...it's just...that....my husband died and I am going to take him to see the grandkids in Reno.... they all loved him so...and I promised to take him to stay for Christmas." She stared at me...her eyes beginning to bulge out of her head...and said, "What do you mean...you're taking him to see the kids for Christmas?" Well, I turned around, with one arm pointing in the direction of the U-Haul and the Durango...I said..."Well, he's back there....I take him everywhere with me... I promised him I would.... and...so... sob, sob.....I wrapped him in his red velvet cover, and tied a huge Christmas ribbon around his neck, and.... the kids will be so happy to see him again... sob sob...."
The lady just stood there with her mouth hanging open...and she straightened herself up... the smile was removed from her face as she said...."Look Lady...You'd better get a grip of yourself! You can't be dragging your husband around all over the country like that! Don't you know it's against the law?....Why....Why.... a state trooper could pull you over and take your ass to jail!"
I just shook my head...sobbed some more and said.... "I didn't know it was against the law.... I promised him I'd always keep him near me, and it's no ones business but mine!" With that, I paid for the drink and cookies, and walked out the door. As I was exiting the station, Lynn was walking into the station. I climbed into the Durango, and patted my hubby's urn....and... just began telling him what that lady said. We just smiled.
Lynn climbed into the Durango, gave me the receipt for the gas to file, and said, "What on earth did you tell that lady in there?" I asked her "why?".... then LYnn said... "Well, she's thinking about calling the state troopers on you..." Lynn then said, "The lady told me that you were crying and told her that you were taking your dead husband to see the grandkids in Reno." "Yes, that's what I told her....so what?" Lynn said, "That lady that you just passed up as you came in the store....she's nuts....she has her dead husband in that U-haul and she's driving him all over the country instead of burying him! My God...some people are sure nuts aren't they?"
We both began to laugh. Lynn said... "I think we'd better get going, before she does call the troopers, I'd hate to get pulled over for carrying a dead body in the Durango!" At least we had a good laugh over that one...and it quieted my crying down for awhile. Later that night, we stopped at a nice motel, and I wrapped my darling in my arms, taking him inside to sleep on the bed with me. Lynn slept in the other bed and said...."I've slept around some in my life....but never with a dead body in the room!"
Well...it wasn't a dead body...it was my darlings cremains, in that heavy beautiful urn...wrapped in his red velvet bag....nice and warm... He would have really enjoyed this night....and it's very possible that it was his voice I heard chuckling a few times on that long, cold ride to Reno.