Posts Tagged ‘dealing with death’

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Reviewed by Lit Amri for Readers’ Favorite

“The purpose of this road trip was to try to figure out what I should do with my remaining years and how to do it. I’m seventy-six years old, and for more than fifty-two of those years, I was married to the only girl I ever truly loved. I’m not accustomed to making decisions on my own. Charlize is a good listener but doesn’t contribute much, except enthusiasm, to the decision-making process.” Travels with Charlize: In Search of Living Alone by David R. Gross is an open story of recovery.

Gross is on a mission to discover how to live without Rosalie, his late wife. Three-year-old Charlize is his third German shepherd, adopted less than two weeks after Rosalie’s passing. Charlize came with a different name, but, according to Gross who decided to mimic John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, he renamed her. Gross describes their bond as “two injured beings who need to support each other.” His travels with Charlize started with Old Blue, his 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 and The Frog, his camping trailer. Gross was pleased – “Frog pulled like a dream, sticking close to Old Blue’s tail.”

Travels with Charlize is truly engaging. Gross’s skill as a writer is evident. His narrative and thoughts not only focus on Rosalie and the travels, but also include his fond memories from his younger days, his sons, grandchildren and even his previous German shepherds. The pictures included in the book make the reading more appealing. The writing style is straightforward; I love the casual tone of the prose. Readers, whether or not traveling is their forte, should give this book a go and get to know Gross, and especially Charlize.

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Wednesday was not a good day. It was time to do something about arrangements for a headstone for Rosalie. It seems nothing about losing a loved one is easy or simple. It has been eight months and I finally felt capable of dealing with this last, I hope, detail. I made some phone calls and found out what needed to be done.

First, the name of a reliable place to purchase the stone. I made a choice from two suggested and drove to the store to pick out a stone that will serve for both of us. My resting place will be on the same side of her as the way we slept for close to fifty-three years.

The first hitch in the process was that the place that sells the stones and carves the inscription doesn’t sell stones directly for people buried in the cemetery where Rosalie rests. I had to transact the purchase through the cemetery.

Another phone call and I arranged to meet the manager of the cemetery. After I arrived at his office he handed me two books. One full of various designs and fonts for the inscription and another with various symbols to adorn the stone with.  There were way too many choices. Eventually I just made them, Rosalie won’t know and I don’t really care.

But I wasn’t done. I had to make decisions about how I wanted our names inscribed. Should I have them put on Rosalie’s full middle name or just the initial, should I use her given name, Rose, or use the name she always used, should I use her maiden name?

The cemetery manager could see I was struggling and getting more upset. I imagine I wasn’t the first person he had shepherded through this process.

“Don’t worry”, he assured me, “just put it in they way you are most happy with today. I’ll send you a draft of what it will all look like and you can discuss it with your family and make changes anytime before they actually carve it.”

Next we went to the gravesite to make certain the manager would place the stone correctly and to make yet another decision; I had to choose between a concrete base and a granite base for the stone to be set on. He showed me an older grave where the concrete base was starting to disintegrate and one of about the same age where the granite was still pristine. Another several hundred dollars for the granite base.

I only visited her grave three times prior to this, all in the weeks shortly after her death. During those visits the replaced turf had not taken hold and her gravesite was clearly visible. After a wet spring and mild summer I was not prepared to see the struggling, brown-tinged turf that still clearly delineated her grave. I apologized to Rosalie, silently, and communicated my disappointment and displeasure to the manager, aloud.

During all of this Charlize was in the back of Old Blue. When we finally got home she knew I was upset and stayed very close, trying to let me know she was there for me and that everything would work out.

Rosalie often complained that I didn’t talk to her enough. Now I find myself talking to her presence in the house while Charlize cocks her head and listens intently, without judgment.  I feel Rosalie is more of a presence in the house than she is in that small plot of ground so I apologized again for the state of her grave. I promised to make certain that situation is rectified.

I’m still searching for a shred of humor in all of this.

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