So, I became a widow – at 47 – on April 22, 2008 at 3:38am. I was going through all the motions, dealing with the Funeral Home, the Organ Donation things, Memorial plans, Life Insurance, Police, Investigators, Attorneys, the house and family/friends that just wouldn’t seem to leave me alone for any length of time. I was oblivious to reality. It was as if I was walking around in another dimension, when I could function at all.
I had to pick up the ashes, and ordered bracelets/pendants for all the kids with compartments for ashes, so they could keep their dad with them all the time. I bought a small blown glass urn, in green (his favorite color) for some of the remains, and made plans to send a cup of ashes off through the funeral home to have a Lifegem (diamond from ashes) made. I had to wait for the insurance settlement to pay for all of this stuff, and did so as soon as it came.’
The organ donation organization sent me cards/letters about and from recipients for what felt like forever, and thank you notes. There was always something in the mail I received from them directing me to counseling which I never took advantage of.
The memorial was beautiful. Just a group of people who loved him. Friends and family barbecuing down by the river at the Lumber Mill Company park. We had pictures of him, and family set up on a table. A microphone, and a guitarist to accompany my rendition of Freebird. As I sang, balloons were signed and grouped together to release (my balloon was in my hand, already scripted with my message to him) at the moment when the lyrics stop and the music speeds up. The bouquet of balloons and mine, traveled separately until almost to the sun (visually speaking), when my balloon caught up to it, and they all reached the sun together. It was a good day. I made it through without any public sobbing, and it was good to see how many people he had impacted in such a short time here in Oregon.
The Life Insurance people came and we did paperwork right at the house.. the settlement came within a few short days. It wasn’t enough to pay off the house, as we had planned when we bought it in Arizona for the one we built there, and we never increased it when we built the new one. I knew I had to make some decisions quickly as far as where I was going to live since I am disabled on a pension that would not cover even the house payment.. but couldn’t deal with it right then.
I had to deal with the Oregon State Police.. not only to beg and plead for them to do a complete accident reconstruction (which they did not) and to investigate further what made him move to the side of the road. They did a simple accident investigation. They found the presence of alcohol. They left it at that. I requisitioned a copy of the 911 recording and had to travel all over Southern Oregon (It was like a wild goose chase – each place sent me to another, each jurisdiction said it would be available at another level – like they didn’t WANT me to have it). I played it before I sent it on to the attorney.. there were 3 calls, not one – as the police report had said – yet another fishy thing about all of this.
I had contacted an attorney when Russ was still comatose, through BAMM (Bikers Against Motorcycle Manslaughter) at the suggestion of his parents, and he came down from Eugene the following week, meet my daughter and me at the accident scene and took pictures of every inch of the site. He also loaded up the bike from the wrecking yard and put it in his storage facility for the investigator to go over. There was absolutely no doubt that Russ was responding to some sort of road hazard, and the small amount of alcohol in his bloodstream did not contribute in any way to the accident or impair his ability to maneuver – as evidenced by the length of controlled skid he left on the side of the road. His expert riding ability was also a factor, as he had raced Desert Motocross, and test rode for Harley Davidson. No response from anyone to the ad in the paper looking for witnesses, though there were 3 calls to 911 – nobody was talking about who was on the road at the time of the accident besides Russ. The eventually full investigation solidified the idea that someone left the scene, but the insurance company (motorcycle insurance) could not pay a Phantom Vehicle claim without a witness to the effect that another car/truck had been involved. This attorney would not let me give him a dime. Not even storage fees. He is a true angel.
All of these things I needed focus to be able to deal with.. and I had none. I didn’t know which end was up, or what to do next. I did nothing. Literally, nothing – after I dealt with the things that HAD to be done, for 2 full months. I woke up every day either already in tears, or about to cry – knowing when I opened my eyes that it was not all just a bad dream. This, was my reality. I was alone. I was scared. I was abandoned. I was numb. I would walk down the hall to the kitchen, make a cappuccino, take it to the end table next to my spot on the couch by the fireplace and sit there. Staring either out the french doors to the woods out behind the backyard fence, or the round stick-on wall protector that prevented the handle from putting a hole in the wall. All day. The television would usually be on if someone else was home, but I never focused on it… I didn’t even hear the noise coming from it most of the time. People would come by, bring food, try to say/do the things they needed to do in order to feel like they DID something – some effort to do the right thing – though there is/was nothing they could do. I felt like no one in the universe knew what I was going through. My kids lost their dad, but I lost a spouse. His parents lost a son, his sister a brother.. many people lost a friend.. but I was different. I not only lost my husband, I gained a title – a label – that I never wanted to wear.
I became a widow… and I didn’t know what that was. I was a long way from knowing what that meant back then.. and months, miles, and many tragedies away from knowing who I was, or where I was going to end up.