Mr. Virgo: Guest Blog by Ginny McKinney - Marshmallow Ranch

I'd like to share Ginny McKinney's personal story with you. It is her story about love, loss, and learning about what matters most...and about navigating grief one campfire at a time.

Mr. Virgo 

I looked at his profile picture and gasped. This was the most gorgeous man I had ever seen. Tall, silver hair, bull beard, piercing blue eyes, sassy smile. Oh, my…I think I just then realized the true meaning of “swoon”. I had no real hope this Adonis would pay me any mind, but I sent off my little note of introduction, inviting him to review my profile, you know…in the off chance he might still be available. I didn’t hear back for four months as he was in the process of moving, I later found out. But, when we did finally connect, it was magic. We were an instant hit and were engaged within months of our first date.

Mr. Virgo. I called him this because…well, he was such a Virgo. He was organized, neat, tidy. He had a preferred shopping pattern when he entered a store so as to not miss anything. He wanted everything in its place. Me? I’m a Gemini. A true Gemini. I get easily distracted. I make piles, I create the best when I can reach exactly what I want when I want it so my Gemini brain thinks that means leave it all laying out on the workbench. I know where everything is…I just can’t always find it. I always go for the sparkly bits. Mr. Virgo was the string that kept my balloon from floating off the face of the earth. We were a good team.

In early 2013, Mr. Virgo’s cousin nearly died so we had “that conversation”. We talked about what we wanted. End of life decisions, distribution of possessions, expectations of the one left behind. It was not an easy subject. We began to think about retirement. What did we want it to look like? How would we keep stimulated? We decided to buy a travel trailer and hit the road to see this beautiful country. I traded in the old 4Runner for an Expedition that could easily tow. Five days later, we took off for Grand Junction to look for the perfect camper.  While we were standing in the fourth one, my handsome Mr. Virgo had a heart attack and died. The life we had planned died right there in front of me.

When you lose your spouse, grief takes hold of you and you can’t eat. You can’t sleep. I remember a couple of days after Mr. Virgo died, I was lying in bed at 3:00am, my iPad clutched to my chest. I was looking at pictures of him and crying. I couldn’t imagine how I was possibly going to live through this. I instinctively knew I needed to put something joyful in front of me. I let my mind wander and tried to conjure up joyful images. I thought about that camper we were going to buy. I initially felt a stab of disappointment that we wouldn’t get to do that. Then I had an epiphany. It was as if a soft voice whispered to me,” Darling child. He died. You did not. This was your plan…this was your joy. Go do that!” I started dreaming about campers. I loved the little vintage campers that were flooding my Facebook and Pinterest pages. I remembered hearing about a group of women who gathered and camped together and “had more fun than anyone” and decided I needed to check into that.

I dried my tears, picked up my iPad, and searched for Sisters on the Fly. I discovered that someone had recently published a book about the Sisters so I looked it up on Amazon. There it was…my passport to joy! I bought it and had it expedited to my home. It arrived the day before the funeral and I threw it into my suitcase. A week after the funeral, I was in Denver to start healing. I read that little book over and over and over…cover to cover. And I realized I had found my people! Two weeks after the funeral, over Spring Break, my daughter and grandchildren went and picked out a small, sixteen-foot camper with bunkbeds for the kids. As soon as the snow melted in the Spring, I left for a three-month junket. My grief journey began in earnest. I got as far back in the wilderness as I could and stood on mountaintops, screaming at God for taking my man. Screaming at Mr. Virgo for not taking better care of himself. Just…screaming. Finally…after my last screams were sent to the heavens and the last echo from the valleys below had ceased, I dragged my spent body and soul back home to try to live this new life I had been given.

The following summer, I couldn’t get away from work for long stretches and I ended up parking my camper in front of my house. I realized somewhere in there that I was living in my camper and using my house for a very expensive laundromat. I didn’t love my house anymore. It needed expensive repairs. I study the tiny house movement and decided I’d much rather have experiences than stuff. Besides, when my mother died, I was left with a huge mess to clean up and I didn’t want to do that to my family. I purged 95% of my belongings. I photographed treasured Items to keep in a file where I can revisit them without dusting them. I scanned countless photos and documents and then sent them on to the folks or descendants who were in them. I sold and donated anything of value and tossed the rest. Every load I removed from my home made me a hundred pounds lighter.

I wish I would have had Barbara Sedoric’s LastingMatters Organizer when Mr. Virgo died. It would have been an incredible tool to help me get through the settlement of his estate. I wish I would have had it for my mom. You can rest assured I’m going to buy one for everyone I love because we all should have the opportunity to spend all our energy on grieving…not the act of distribution.

I sold my home, traded in the 16’ camper and bought a 30’. I traded in the Expedition for an F-150. And I left. I’ve driven over 25,000 miles since then, crisscrossing the United States. I have camped with the Sisters on the Fly, I have spoken to groups of people, I’ve been interviewed for Girl Camper: Going Places, Doing Things Podcast and the New York Times. I’m editing a book I have written. I write a blog everyday on Facebook called Marshmallow Ranch.

I navigate this grief journey…one campfire at a time.

Ginny McKinney