Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | July 13, 2011

Shakedown Street

My husband the Deadhead would be so happy to hear the title of this post.....Dear friends,

If you are part of my virtual life here on the internet you may know I was crying joyous tears recently, for a change. An essay I wrote won a scholarship for me to attend Camp Widow held in San Diego the weekend of August 12-14.

Having my writing chosen to represent what Camp Widow means to all of us on this unimaginably dark journey is a HUGE honor. Words fail me, and my throat tightens with emotion each time I think of it.

When I learned there was an essay contest on Why I Want To Attend Camp Widow, I determined to let fate decide. For months I’ve been longing to go, and financially, realistically, there was just no way to swing it. Before I even wrote down a single word on Why I Really, Really Want To Go To Camp Widow, I decided that if I won I would figure out a way to go, and if my essay was not chosen, it was not meant to be, and that would be the end of it for this year.

So I wrote the best essay I could, here:

and pushed through the fog of clinical depression to beat the deadline by six hours. And I WON! So grateful, so happy, so humbled to know that my words were chosen. Have barely even moved on to the thought of attending the nitty-gritty workshops or actually meeting all the women and men who have been there for me in so many ways, which is truly the key part of the whole weekend.

The scholarship pays for the conference, which is a weekend of workshops like Turning Pain Into Power and Grief Into Peace; and Creating Your Own Financial Legacy; and Being the One and Only Parent. So many excellent subjects it will be hard to choose. There may be some incidental money in the scholarship as well, and the fine folks on the board will help me find a roommate and other ways to cut expenses. But I still need to come up with somewhere around $1000 for the hotel and airfare from Maine to San Diego. This is a lot of money for someone whose adjusted gross income for 2010 was $5296.

Yes, really. And it was the best year in a while.

As I said in my essay, once Jeff became really sick, no one in my house worked for many months. And losing a spouse and partner means losing so much more as well. There are holes it will take years to climb out of. I am now sl-o-o-owly beginning the process of figuring out what I want to do next, and rebuilding my life without my husband and friend of 30+ years, but it is the hardest work I have ever done, and baby steps indeed. I am days away from the two year anniversary of his death, and just beginning to see glimmers of light.

My daughter is midway through college. We are truly and deeply blessed by the beneficence of her school, but there are myriad expenses, of course. I work only part time these days. My 25-year-old business is in a shambles; it is really more of a hobby at this point, which of course is what happens when you don’t answer the phone for two years. My brand new vocation brings me some measure of happiness but not so many billable hours. So this thousand dollars I need to come up with in the next couple of weeks is a sizable chunk of my annual income. Like so many other things, it’ll go on a credit card and stay there.

A comment from friend B. gives me the temerity to write this now. B and I have an incongruous friendship: we live in the same town within a Venn diagram of overlapping circles (as one does in Portland, Maine) and have many experiences and decades-old friendships in common, yet we have met only a few times. But in the virtual world we are staunch allies and friends who easily share the most intimate and important parts of life, bitter and sweet. A widowed friend and I were more or less publicly bemoaning the financial impossibility of attending this conference, and B. wrote:

“You both must go and share a room which will cut the hotel expense in half. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Figure out how much you need and friends/family/facebook friends will help you get there. You know how people who care about you feel helpless when tragedy strikes? This gives them something to do. Put it out there. If all else fails charge a piece of it. This is priceless. You’ve got 2 months. GO!!”
“You better get your butt out there. You should win the scholarship hands down, but if not just say the word and we’ll hold a virtual fundraiser. No excuses!!!”

Immensely sweet things for her to say since we have met InRealLife maybe three times. She had somehow read some of my tearjerker stories, but I believe we did not know each other at the time Jeff died.

One of the harder lessons I am trying to learn since losing Jeff is to ask for what I need. (If only I’d learned that 20 years ago many things would be different….but as they say, it is what it is. Heh.)

If you know me, or even if you don’t, you can probably imagine how it pains me to ask for help. But here I am, asking. If you have any frequent flyer miles sitting around, if you have connections with Marriott or Hyatt, if you have some other idea for a way to ease these expenses, please message me. Jeff’s erstwhile Paypal account is now set up to receive: funds can be transferred securely from credit card or bank into my checking account via my email address. (Who knew such a thing was even possible?!)

I am saving my pennies and hoping for the best. I’m going, regardless. I fervently hope this letter does not offend. Please feel free to ignore. As a believer in serendipity, I am casting seeds to the wind, not knowing where they may catch and sprout. Who knows who may have some useful contact in San Diego? Also, I’m hoping — determined, even — to pay forward in the future all the many kindnesses that have already been given our family. Grace is all around us; we are blessed indeed.

There is someone else here in my town who needs to be there that weekend among our kindred spirits at Camp Widow. And she can afford it about as much as I can. ( Which is Not At All, obviously.) But it is no less important for her to go. If we can do it, I want her to be able to go, too.

I usually write these notes and blog posts in an hour, in a blizzard of adjectives and prepositional phrases. This one’s been sitting as a draft for two weeks. Apparently I am ambivalent about finishing and hitting Publish, which is not the message the universe needs from me now. Also, I’m wondering how to end this humbling appeal for help. Was hoping for a witty tagline.

I got nothing. I guess I will just put it out there and say please, and thank you.

Please. And Thank You.

Walk in peace and beauty. And love. Always love.



  1. Hi sweetheart. What terrific news!! I’ll be in touch (still here geographically & mentally :), online life otherwise pared to minimum). Will try to contribute. Call me sometime @ home. Chris


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