Saturday, July 16, 2005

A toast to life

A few days ago I got an email from a friend who lost her husband in Iraq last year. For the last year she has been coping with his death, mourning his passing and mouring the loss of the future she was to share with him.

When I saw her here in April, I was extremely impressed with her strength, and the dignity in her grief. I admire her honesty, and her courage. And when I got this email from her, I immediately wanted to share it with as many people as possible, and she gave me her permission to post it here:

A lot has been going on in my life during the past two and a half months. The month of May felt like the world was coming to an end due to the endless memorial services and the inevitable approach of the one year of Erik's death. It was far worse than the previous 11months. No longer numb, no longer in shock I had to face this milestone sober and the pain at times felt unbearable. And as some of you have come to learn, I had to do it my way - a.k.a. alone.

One week later I was sitting in a motorcycle course learning how to ride. Amazingly enough I passed which meant I received my motorcycle endorsement and am legal to ride on the roadways. Though I am far from confident enough to do so. I spent the following week looking at bikes and decided in the end to have Erik's 1200 Sportster altered to fit my significantly shorter body. Learning how to ride just felt like something I needed to do to help me in my grieving, and I was right. For the first time in a year I was excited about something and even felt a twinge of accomplishment.

The last week of June I went to Delta Company's first drill since they have returned. I had not seen any of the men since I was hiding in Europe when they returned and so I was extremely nervous. Nervous for what I am not sure. Perhaps it was the finality of it all. If they were back and Erik wasn't then the nightmare was confirmed. Instead of it being scary it was a relief to see them and gave me a peace I had yet to experience. Two wise men (they would be patting themselves on the back right now if they were to read this) said something to me that weekend, that planted a seed. They mentioned that though Erik's death is a part of my life it does not define it. I'm sure some of you have said this in those exact words or slight variations, but I was not ready at the time. And quite honestly, I believe only a soldier who was there with Erik could have said it in a way to that could penetrate my thick Scottish skull.

That one comment made me start thinking about my life. I realized that a year has gone by and I had nothing to show for it except an indentation in my couch and an increasingly "grumpy" disposition. It was now up to me to decide what to do with my life. I could either sit and continue to be a cranky old lady and allow Erik's death to define me, or I could get up start living life and allow Erik's death to be a part of who I am. With memories of my Great Grandma Carlson coming to mind - my hero - I chose the latter.

Though some of you might think this was the "only" choice or the "easiest" choice you couldn't be further from the truth on either account. It is not the only choice. I have examples in my life of family members who chose the first route. And as far as it being the easy one - wow. Being grumpy and sticking to yourself means you don't have to be around happy couples and families with kids. Choosing to live means choosing to be around those very things that make me the saddest, because those are the things I was suppose to have with Erik. And more than anything, choosing to live means learning how to love again. I don't just mean another man but love in general. Love has not been something I have been capable of feeling or accepting over the last year. True I may have said it to family members, but I never really meant it. To love means you put your whole self out there, you are vulnerable to pain and loss and over the last year I was diligently working on building a wall to protect me from that kind of pain and loss again. But as I told Erik in Scotland as he grappled with the idea of giving me the boot as he prepared himself for the inevitable deployment, God said it best,
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

1 Corinthians 13:13.

So here I go in the only way I know how to do things - 100%. I'm ready to live and love again. Please do not misinterpret this as - oh good Heather is finally "moving on". "Moving on" indicates leaving behind, forgetting and going on to something better. I am not as most say moving on, I am instead continuing to play the game just like you do after you are sent to jail in Monopoly, or sent home in Sorry or rolling the dice again after sliding down a slide in Chutes and Ladders. You start out at a new position impacted by the previous play but still in the game.

So here is a toast to life. May we all have a summer filled with laughter and love to get us through those trials that we can not avoid. One last thing before I go I owe you all a great thank you for putting up with the cranky me.

I don't think any comment I could now make could do this email justice. And I want to thank Heather profusely for sending it to me, because it touched me so deeply.


Blogger airforcewife said...

This seriously brought me to tears. It's an amazing letter -

3:40 AM  
Blogger Army Wife said...

A great example of a great wife. What strength.

6:35 PM  
Blogger Household6 said...

Wow what strength she has! I am glad that she was able to find a place in her life to live and still be proud of her late husband.

AKA Miss Stella

8:00 AM  
Blogger Teresa said...

I'm glad I had a few minutes to stop by and catch this post. What an amazing woman. Like airforcewife - it brought tears to my eyes.

10:06 PM  

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