So, I was dreading this day for a few weeks. I alternated between wanting to bury my head in a pillow all day, or go hiking to stand on a mountain top and scream in protest all day. I settled for a compromise.
I posted pictures of Robin on facebook, from her family albums. Jac had given them to me for safekeeping on the day of her memorial in April of 2016.
I wanted to post them so that Chris, BJ and Jac could see them when they woke up. I wanted them to remember her as the wonderful person that she really was, not as the sick person that theycame to know as their mother.
Then I posted pictures of Charlie and a post about the day he was born:
28 years ago, this hour, I was getting ready to go into Littleton Hospital to give birth to my new child. So excited we all were. Lisa Stavig was in charge of making sure Katie Hughes had a great experience. My mom and dad came down to be with us. At 5:39 pm, our son was born, with the chord wrapped around his neck 3 times. It was a few scary moments and then the doctor lifted him up for us to see… a little blue smurf. They whisked him away to get him oxygen and then gave him to me. As I held him close, Charles Hughesbeaming by my side, little Katie leaned over and gave him a kiss on his brand new cheek. Remember the great times, remember the great times, remember the great times. #ForChar Charles Everette Hughes III
I had originally planned on going for a hike by myself to the Enchanted Forest Trail, one of his favorites. I was going to scatter some of his ashes at the top of the trail, in the cool shadows of the pine trees. Then I wanted to sit down and meditate and try to talk with him. It didn’t happen. I just didn’t want to be alone after all.
So, Chuck and I decided to go to Brainard Lake instead. That way he could fish and I could hike. Why this lake? Well, when the kids were little, we camped here in the RV. That was in the middle of summer, and we were rained into the RV for the first day. The day before that trip, Blackie, our dog, got sprayed by a skunk. After bathing him, we sprayed him with this crap that Petsmart had recommended. It just made him smell like a floral version of skunk. So you can imagine what rainy dog fur that smelled like floral skunk was like in an enclosed RV with antsy pre-teens. We listened to audiotapes of the Hobbit, played Trivial Pursuit and checkers and listened to the lightning crash and the thunder roll at timberline. The next day, the sun burned off the moisture, they went fishing and I went hiking. Great times, great memories. I guess I just wanted to remember –them in place.
As we started up the Indian Peaks Wilderness Highway the wind came whistling down off the mountain and I realized that we were not prepared for this trip today. As we drove further in, the wind got worse and it started to rain. We decided to do it anyway, even if we just sat in the truck and looked at the skyline. When we got to the lake, we parked and stepped out of the truck. The sun came out of the rapidly swirling clouds, the wind died down a bit and I decided to go for a short hike close in, because of weather worries.
I put on my sweater, followed by a rain coat, slipped a red Tshirt on over my rain coat, pulled up the hood and slipped my pink tartan cap on over that. Chuck loaned me his neon yellow work gloves. There is no way that a hunter could possibly mistake me for a moose, which is the game currently being hunted up there this time of year. We fiddled with the bear mace, I put it in my pocket and away I go.
The sign at the trailhead says Beware of mountain lions, really. Like, as in, we aren’t kidding. As I stood there, I was overwhelmed with the most urgent need to stop and go no further. The sign goes on to say, do not hike alone, bring a dog, carry a walking stick, look big, act big, talk big, and if I have to fight, don’t give up, fight like hell. Really, it said all that, minus “hell”. But, if you were fighting, wouldn’t that be what you’d fight like?
I went back to get Chuck’s cane. Go back to the trail. And once again, it was like the wind was talking to me, no, yelling at me NONONONONO. So, I said, what the hell and went back to the truck. I walked a few feet away to the edge of the lake, easily in sight of the truck, sat on a wet rock and said screw it, I will meditate here.
And so I did. I talked to Charlie about everything I could think of. Basically, I talked to him about how much I love him, I apologized for fighting with him that day, I apologized for all the things that I had done wrong as a parent. I explained that I didn’t mean to do wrong things, that they happened accidentally. Or that I had made a wrong decision or that I had over or under reacted to situations. I reviewed the top 10 things with him. Then, I apologized for the worst one, which was when I left him that day to go with Chuck instead. I should have stayed and taken him to the ER. The whole time crying. The whole time barely able to catch my breath, my grief is so profound and that hurts so much.
And the whole time I am thinking that a mountain lion might be watching me. One time I felt like someone was standing right behind me, touching me on the shoulder. I jumped up, turned around with my bear mace ready. Nothing. So I sat back down, caught my breath, calmed down and continued. As I talked, I watched the wind on the lake water, pushing it in, then whipping it back – like when you vacuum carpet 2 different directions. When the wind whipped it towards the shore, the sun glistened on it and it felt like a sheet of glass was zooming right up next to my feet, whipping back just before it impaled my ankles.
I had a dream a few months ago about how God came to talk to me. He was very exasperated and pleaded with me to talk to Charlie. I said, really, what about? You are God, can’t you do it? He said that Charlie refused to leave hell, even though God had invited him in. I said why? He said that Charlie was ashamed, grossed out and upset with the way he had handled things, with the way he had treated us, with the way he had left things. I said, OMG, that is so Charlie. It is so Charlie to argue with God of all people. God chuckled and said, I agree, but, could you talk to him and tell him you forgive him so he can come to Heaven? In my dream I said yes, but, then I woke up. I have said these things to Charlie many times since then, but, I thought I would sit at the lake and say them again.
So I did. I told him that there was never anything to forgive, ever. That I knew his heart, had always known his heart and that his heart was pure, full of love, full of goodness, full of compassion. I told him that the “bad” things he had done were a result of the drugs and alcohol. That his addiction had warped his heart, had cut his heart and had evenutally killed his physical heart. But, that it was always his heart – pure and full of love.
And I said, “forgive yourself Charlie, let my love for you unlock the doors of your self imposed prison, so you can go safely, peacefully into your next journey”. And I jumped a mile high off that rock, because I swear someone touched me. I wheeled around ready to fight that lion like hell! And there was nothing. Just darkening forest, the truck gleaming in the distance. And the storm clouds were rolling in, little beads of snow ice starting to fall gently.
I sat back down and the sheets of water whipped towards me and I wished that the hawks would come circling in to show me that Charlie, Daddy and Robin were in attendance. I even heard them in the distance, but, no birds showed themselves.
So, I asked Charlie if my grief was holding him back. Were my tears and depression actually causing him to stay behind? Was I being cruel and should I let him go? So, even though I released him in the chapel the night before he died, I released him again. I was hysterically crying now, tears freezing on my cheeks. I said, I release you, please go to that great new adventure. But, if you could, or would, please come back once in awhile, or give me a sign that you are ok, that you are safe, that you are loved, that you are still in existence. And don’t go too far away, so that when I die I can still find you. And don’t change so much that I don’t recognize you when I do find you.
And I thought Chuck must have come down from the truck to get me, because I felt total love, warmth and comfort around me, even in the midst of that freezing snow and ferocious lake breeze. I turned to tell him about my talk with Charlie, and no one was there.
Then, I turned back to the lake one more time, to finish some other unfinished business. I have a friend who told me to go on a hike on Charlie’s birthday and talk to God. I just wanted to try, just because I said I would. So, I sat back down and said hi and kind of explained what I wanted to do. Nothing. My connection speed to God must be broken, or maybe I need a new carrier. Anyway, by now I am freezing through and through.
I said goodbye to Charlie for now, walked back to the truck, got in and we drove home. The first snowstorm of the season on Charlie and Robin’s birthday.
As we were driving away, I was thinking about how jumpy I had been all day, how antsy, anxious and just plain crazy jumpy I was. And then I remember another day that I was just as jumpy and anxious. As I thought it through, I realized something. Those feelings were not from being stalked by a mountain lion, or just random jumpiness. They were from Charlie trying to reach out to me. I had totally, completely missed it. And the hawks didn’t come down today, because at least one of them was already there with me.