Lorraine Wagner, who was married to her lifelong love for 48 years before her death, was the type of woman who liked to plan.
She planned family adventures, she planned her own funeral and she even had a plan to help her husband and family cope with her death.
She had everything specified “down to a gnat’s eyebrow,” as her husband told the Chicago Tribune.
Lorraine’s husband, Charles Wagner, has been driving around the United States on an epic road trip that his wife planned for him to enjoy after she died.
Along the way, Wagner has stopped to spread his wife’s ashes, remember her life and legacy, and reconnect with old friends and family.
Wagner’s road trip actually began with a flight to Hawaii, to revisit the hotel restaurant where he first laid eyes on Lorraine while serving in the Air Force in the late 1960s.
“I asked my friend why he wasn’t dancing with the beautiful woman sitting next to him,” Chuck recalled. “He replied, ‘She doesn’t dance.’ Lorraine added, ‘I’d be glad to dance with you.'”
When he visited home over Christmas in 1968, he and Lorraine met up when he decided to seal the deal.
“We were sitting in her car, and I said, ‘We’ve got to get going. I want to get to Fond du Lac before 5 o’clock‚’ and she said, ‘Why?'” he explained, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“I said, ‘Well Uffenbach’s closes at 5.’ She said, ‘What’s Uffenbach’s?’ I said, ‘It’s a jewelry store my family uses.’ She said, ‘Are you asking me to marry you?’ And I said, ‘Yeah. I guess I am.'”
“I knew I had somebody who would be with me through thick and thin,” Wagner told WISC-TV.
The couple’s friends agreed, often referring to the pair as the “golden couple” who shared an enthusiasm for life and for one another.
While in Hawaii, Wagner spread some of his late wife’s ashes in the Pacific ocean, noting that one day, he wants his children to do the same for him, in the exact same GPS location.
After leaving Hawaii, Wagner’s continental United States road trip began. He traveled throughout the southern part of the country, making stops in places that had been part of Chuck and Lorraine’s life story.
Wagner estimates that he has driven around 11,000 miles over the past two years, a road trip that he says has been cathartic after his wife’s death.
“I’ve got those memories,” Wagner said. “Nobody’s going to take that from me.”
Wagner has thoroughly enjoyed living out his wife’s final wishes, a journey that certainly has its bittersweet moments.
“I love what I’m doing right now,” Wagner said. “It’s just been a great life, and I just wish she was still with me to share it.”
“My mom was really special,” Lorraine’s son, Steve Wagner, said. “She had that spirit of living for every day. She would always say, ‘I never wanted the party to end.'”
While Lorraine is no longer physically with him, Wagner still feels like she is close, especially when he sees a hummingbird or butterfly, both of which he associates with her.
“Lorraine’s love lives forever, and I think that’s the way it is,” Wagner said. “And I was blessed to find her.”
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