I had to say goodbye to someone I loved a few weeks ago after a sudden and quick battle with stage 4 lung cancer. He was a husband of 44 years to my mother in law, a loving father to my husband and sister in law, a devoted grandfather to my step kids, niece and nephew and to my own kids as well as to his great grandkids. He was a good son, brother, and neighbor. He was a hard and dedicated worker through his years of employment, and he was a long- time friend to many.
To me, he was my father in law, and most of all a kindred spirit. Some days he challenged me to swallow my pride and accept things for what they were. Other times I stretched the limitations he placed on himself and what he believed to be normal. Together we shared a love of vintage objects, old classic songs, sweet treats, and creating unique pieces of art and handcrafted items.
When he took an early retirement, he approached me to join him in sharing a weekly Farmer’s Market booth at the Ilderton Farmer’s Market as well as some special craft fairs. When I was forced to leave my career the following year because of my health, I drew up plans for a mobile shop to be operated out of a vintage trailer and presented them to Charlie with the request for his help. Although it was a stretch of his sensibilities at the time, considering I was just diagnosed with a brain tumor, had no idea of what the outcome might be, we had become a one income family after losing my job, and quite a bit of work was involved with this project, still, he knew how important it was to me and he was the one who found me Thelma the trailer, in her former life.
With a little help, that trailer was gutted, rewired, rebuilt from the inside out. (I did the outside), and together an amazing little shop was created. For three years, the shop took to the streets and I sold a collaboration of handmade items, some made by myself, some designed by me and made by Charlie and some designed and made by Charlie alone. I also sold a variety of vintage items that we both were fond of. Along with his wife Janet, he regularly attended the events I appeared at. He was always open to a new design challenge and he was quick to call me up to show me his latest creation.
Besides our creative collaborations, Charlie dedicated a lot of time bringing me to and from all my medical appointments and tests as my husband worked and I could not drive. We shared a lot of thoughts about life, living, fears, frustrations, hopes and more during those times. He told me I was brave, he told me he admired me, he told me he didn’t think he could go through all that I had to endure. He encouraged me to overcome.
We talked about things we would like to do. My husband Dave and I said we would buy a house in the country with a big workshop and he would come and create pieces of art there with me or just tinker around. He agreed he would teach me how to weld, and how to use all his woodworking saws. I agreed I would paint his garage door for him with a mural of his choice. We would all take a trip to Alaska, and Hawaii and he would lend his advice on converting Thelma back into a camping trailer again for the next brilliant scheme I came up with.
When he got his cancer diagnosis, he welcomed me into his circle of support and we connected over mutual experiences with MRI’s, Cat Scans, PET Scans, collapsed veins during blood work, loss of appetite, and nausea. I made him meals and brought him treats to help him eat when he was rapidly losing weight, I made him a special pillow to hold his ice pack when his pain got to be a bit too much. I attended all his appointments along with Janet, Dave, and Jen. On the day, he was admitted to the hospital, he grabbed my hand and when no one else was around said: “watch them for me”. I am pretty sure he was asking me to help keep Janet and David and Jennifer strong and moving forward and I am pretty sure he had a feeling he was not going to leave the hospital.
He passed away that weekend, much to the disbelief of everyone who loved him, one month after his diagnosis. We had a celebration of his life and tried to honor him as best as we knew how.
Now we pick up the pieces and continue on, one step at a time.
I thought we would have time to do all the things we planned, I thought he would win this battle, we all did. You just never know when your story ends.
In just three years, I lost my best friend Dana, my inspiration and the muse for my business, Dear Thelma, Love Louise and I lost my father in law Charlie, my collaborative, creative business partner. During that same time, I have had to battle my own health demons. I have struggled with the thought that maybe I need to put this whole Dear Thelma, Love Louise project and dream to rest as well. But, just when I question if this is meant to be, my online Etsy shop sales have started to pick up with 1-2 sales each week of usually 2-4 items per order! I have a feeling Dana and Charlie are somehow behind this!
So with a sad heart but also one filled with hope and determination, I will continue on with this Dear Thelma, Love Louise adventure, and with life, without Charlie and Dana and others, I have loved and lost who supported me and encouraged me and helped me to become who I am. The hardest part of healing and moving forward is recovering the “you” that went away with them, and creating a new version of you and a different connection with them. Life may be short, there is no time to waste, we were put here to live, love, share and learn and create and leave behind our legacy, our legends, and our lessons.