Sunday, April 10, 2005

Bittersweet

It’s been about four days since my life was temporarily whacked off course. And now that I am back on course, I realize that I take my steps a little more deliberately, and a little more hesitantly. I realize that the ground below me can fall away without notice.

I was just chatting with one of the other wives, and she was saying how afraid she is that she will get cheated out of her fairytale life, too. The helicopter crash was a slap in the face to everyone, not just the families that lost someone. It was a reality check.

It wasn’t as if we weren’t aware of the dangers, it was just that we really didn’t think that something this bad could happen. Perhaps a crash landing, but not such a deadly crash. We were confronted with death, with the reality of how quickly loved ones can be taken away from us, how quickly our whole lives can be taken away from us.

In the aftermath of every accident, people start to reassess their lives. People who have been confronted with death or near-death, either their own, or friends or loved-ones, start seeing their lives in a different light.

My experience of the accident was completely different from my boyfriend’s. We haven’t yet talked about, except for the simplest details. I imagine it went something like this: They probably heard there was a helicopter that didn’t make it back yet, that they had lost contact with. At that point they probably thought it was a communications issue. Then they probably were notified by Afghani officials on the ground that a helicopter had crashed, and they realized it was their buddies. At that point they probably hoped that there were survivors. When they realized that there were no survivors, the numb shock probably set in. Probably a few people knew which crew was missing, and that was spread around informally.

And then they waited. And waited. And waited. For two days they weren’t allowed to contact family and friends. They weren’t allowed to give us a sign of life. It wouldn’t be fair to the families of those who perished, they have priority. And even though they probably wanted to tell us they were alright, knowing the anguish we were going through, they had some comfort knowing that our anguish would eventually end. But a few families anguish was just beginning.

For all intents and purposes the whole unit was pretty much put on hold. There were no flights. So what does one do for two days, after friends have died, and you have no work to throw yourself into? I can imagine that some sat together and talked and cried, and some shut themselves away, wanting to run as far away from there as possible, but were stuck. Stuck in a place which just reminded them even more of the tragedy. No matter where they went, or who they met, they were all in the same boat. They probably wanted to cry a lot, but they were afraid, because they didn’t know if they could stop crying once they started. Sleep brought no rest. Their mind was still dealing with the trauma and wouldn’t release them to the sandman.

And I can imagine at that moment, they started thinking about their lives. They started missing their family more than ever before, missing the life they left behind for a year. Realizing how precious life is. They would like to hold their loved ones, and touch them, more than the whole time they have been there. I can imagine that some people were thinking of things they would like to say and do. Wanting to make sure that their loved ones know how much they are loved. Or making promises to themselves.

My experience was similar, however different. It was more focused on just my boyfriend. Not my whole life. I realize that seeing him during R&R is going to be heart-breaking. When I see him and hug him for the first time, the hug will no longer be a “I am so happy you are here, and I missed you so much”-hug, it’s going to be a “I am so happy you’re alive, and I don’t know how I am ever going to let you go again”-hug. When I came so close to losing him (in my mind it was close, because for about 30 hours, it could have been him), it will now be hard to forget that.

I don’t think a tragedy like this needs to happen for us for us to realize what is precious. I think I was always aware on a certain level, but somehow this experience has strengthened my love for him, even though we went through this separately. I don’t want to become afraid for him all the time now. That would be debilitating. But I do appreciate what I have more, when I came so close to losing it.

Nothing will ever bring back those who died. Life is bittersweet. If we didn’t have the bitter, we might never truly appreciate the sweet.

4 Comments:

Blogger Toni said...

Cali - that was really wonderful. Puts the whole ordeal from all levels into some perspective for those of us who haven't had to go through that kind of experience. Pretty tough stuff. Thank you for putting it into words.

4:20 AM  
Blogger katiedid said...

Oh that's a lovely sentiment - what an excellent articulation of what it's like.

2:04 AM  
Blogger Homefront Six said...

Very well said.

3:50 AM  
Blogger Kayla said...

You would be amazed at how strong you get during a deployment. The first few months are pretty bad...then you get used to it. And realize that worrying isn't going to matter when it comes to life and death. And when he comes home from R and R you will realize just how much you do love him. My husband just went back from r and r. Our best friend was killed over there while he was home and we went to the memorial service and the funeral. Being an army wife is not fun. Worrying all the time if your husband is ok. Mentally and physically...but we get through it somehow!! Take care!

7:15 AM  

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