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The Love that Travels: A Grief Relief Column

The wind whipped across his face as he traveled down one highway after another, the top down on the old convertible they splurged on years ago.  Her picture sat upon the dashboard and stared at him with that smile that both tortured and ignited his heart at the same time and he brushed back the tears determined to stay focused on his trip- the miles quickly fading behind him.

They sincerely loved to travel and had started making a point to experience and create memories in every state early in their marriage.  By the time retirement came calling, they had already marked the majority of them off their list, so time was spent revisiting and dedicating time to their favorites.  His mind whirled at every mile and every click of the odometer, memories coming fast and furious of places they had been and things they had seen- together.  Recreating this trip alone was a challenge and he still wasn’t sure exactly why he felt it needed to be done, but he was focused on finding his wife around every corner, envisioning her riding co-pilot beside him, and by some minor miracle, he was finding happiness and contentment in the journey.

Family attempted to keep him from going, worried and afraid that he was “too old” or “too fragile” to make the trip, and yet he stoically told them that this trip was a part of his healing, that sitting home alone day in and day out inundated with the loss of his wife was slowly killing him.  He knew that her body was just down the road in the local cemetery, but for him, he could not feel her spirit there.  Instead, he knew that her spirit lived in the mountains or within the bubbling rivers; he heard her laughter at outdoor theaters and concerts, her voice singing along to the music they both loved.  He found her spirit in nature, the walking paths and trips to National monuments or parks, or in the friendly conversations she struck up with the locals- never meeting a stranger that she didn’t like.  And, every time he encountered visions such as these or crossed over bridges that thrilled her, each time he put another state behind him and tasted the freshest fruits and vegetables from a roadside stand, he felt her presence and it made him smile big.

For him, it was all about making connections and feeling close to the wife that he felt like he had lost forever.  Trapped in his home, he couldn’t breathe or even function properly, but out here on the road, he felt himself coming alive once more.  Sometimes he even went over the speed limit imagining her gentle voice that would scold him for driving too fast, but then he remembered how she would laugh uncontrollably with excitement at their attempt to “stay young and carefree.”  She called it “living on the edge” and it was a mantra of theirs that helped keep their marriage healthy.  Goodness how he missed her, but for the first time since her heart stopped, taking a piece of his with her, he felt her guiding hand and knew without a doubt that she was waiting for him in every moment, every passing mile.  Glancing in the rearview mirror, the highway clear behind him, he pressed down on the gas and accelerated towards finding their next shared memory.