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Monday, September 19, 2011

One year later, Still trying to Smile...

It's emotional. No doubt about it. My emotions this week are nearly as raw as they were the first week, minus the shock. I think the shock protected me. Now, however, I have Gabriel to think about, to hold it together for.

Thank God.

This week, for some reason (ha), is muddled with what I was doing one year ago...and also the What Ifs. I have struggled to keep the what ifs out of my head for at least the last three months, with only mere, vague appearances. Those are awful to deal with, hurtful to handle. I know what the "what if" answers would be. It would lead to a life of happiness, togetherness, oneness....Love, Strength, Protection. These are things that I do have, I just have them in different ways now, scattered across the many faces of those who have supported me, and our friends and family with this terrible loss. However, they are not as close as he would have given them to me; to us. They are not as "one" as he would have provided. I am still very, very thankful for them, but it doesn't replace him, and still leaves me with a need of...him.

I did a lot of driving today. I went to my Daddy's and it takes about 1 1/2 hours each way. Both times, the tears flooded their dam, and I could not hold them back. I haven't let that happen in a while. I don't want Gabriel to think that his Mommy is weak. I know he is little yet, but I also don't want to get in to the habit. I know that tears do not make me weak, but the breakdown that follows the tears- that is more pain that I would like him to ever know.

Songs spoke to me tonight. Songs I haven't heard in a while, but they brought back memories and thoughts- good memories and thoughts. When Paige took our engagement pictures, the background of our portfolio was "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon. I haven't heard that song in months, and today, I heard it twice. I could remember that day, I could smell him. I could feel his touch, his kiss, his hug, and his love. I could feel the strength yet gentleness of his hold on me. I could feel the butterflies in my stomach, but those that calmly flutter, knowing with full confidence that I was where I belonged. I could feel the love in my shoulders. Have you ever felt love in your shoulders? It is a wonderful feeling. Where you just know. You just know.

I of course am taking stock of the last year. Who have I become? What have I done? How have I gotten to where I am? Would Matt be proud? I still don't know who I have become. I suppose that will be a long journey, just like it was to find myself the first time. I have done a lot. I have taken on many different personas, trying to find the right fit, and more than anything, I have allowed people to support me, which is something that was previously very difficult. I have leaned on April, my friends and our families a lot, and I am very, very thankful that they were here. I have taken on the most important role of my life- Gabriel's Mommy. I have no clue how I got to where I am. I didn't think I was going to make it this far; I didn't think that God was going to let me (or make me, depending on the day) make it this far. I did. We all did. I know that Matt would be damn proud of me, even with my mistakes along the way. I think that I have done everything possible to make him proud of me, and will always continue to do so.

With that being said, I still have a giant, empty hole. I don't know where it is at. Sometimes, it is in my heart. Sometimes it is in my stomach. Sometimes it is in my head. The lump in my throat has moved to a lump in my heart. I suppose forever it will stay there. It is easier to hide this way. Don't question it though. It is there.

When my hair started falling out, and I finally adjusted to this fact, I used to rationalize. I used to tell myself that I have been blessed in so many ways, and that I just can't have everything. I still believe this. I do still believe this, but it doesn't take away the pain that I feel that he is gone. I am so blessed, and with Gabriel, I am even more blessed than I have ever been before, but I can't understand why I can't have both. I should not have to rationalize having one for having the other. And I won't.

I know if Matt were still here, Gabriel would be OUR son. He would be. I know it. I know that Gabriel came from Heaven, and he came to me- to us- to our family, as part of a Greater Plan. Gabriel may have been carried by someone else, but honestly, if Matt were here, I know I would have carried this exact child myself, or this exact child would have found his way to us. Maybe we would have gotten pregnant on R&R, maybe it would have been when he came home; Maybe this exact situation would come up at the exact time, or maybe it would have come up years down the road- but regardless, Gabriel was sent here for us. Why can't Matt be in the picture? This is why I can't understand why he is gone. I need Matt in the picture.

This brings me to the next song that spoke to me. I first heard it when I was taking Gabriel to a hotel to "bond" the day after he came home from the orphanage. Blake Shelton sings the more popular version, but it is also found on the Christian Channels by David Barnes. "God gave me you for the ups and downs, God gave me you for the days of doubt. For when I think I've lost my way, There are no words here left to say, its true, God gave me You". Since the first time I heard it, I know that it is for Gabriel and I (although people usually probably think of their significant other...)

People say when you get through the first year, then things should start to "normalize". People start to expect that things will be back to normal for those that have lost. One year is not all it takes, I can tell you that right now. This is why I stopped reading the grief books I was reading. But, I desperately wanted a timeline, and I got my answer, as I wanted the "experts" to tell me. No one, except those that have been through this, have the guts to tell you that it lasts forever. It is true, it does get easier to deal with over time. It gets easier to wait until I get home, or I am alone in the car, to cry. It gets easier to push the pain aside until a more convenient time. But I suppose that is more trial and error, understanding triggers and timing than an "Easy Button".

Today, it rained, and it rained hard at times. I cried, and I cried hard at times. Laura Story's Blessings is another song that comes to mind, that helps me get through this. My friend Cinda first pointed this out to me, and it has so touched my heart since. "'Cause what if Your blessings comes through raindrops, what if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights Are what it takes to know You're near? And what if trials in this life are mercies in disguise?"

My faith has been renewed in the last year. Very strongly renewed. As in taken from the dead and risen again renewed. I know that would make Matt proud. I know that is what I want to share with Gabriel. I have had my conversations with God. I have had my horrible, hateful words with God for taking my very life away from me. I also know that He would not hurt me so badly without sharing His glory with me as well. Ultimately, Matt came in to my life, loved me, and made me realize what I am worth. Because of this, I can share with my son. I so wish that Matt were here. I know he is enjoying his life in Heaven, watching down on us, looking over us, and protecting us from above. I just want to FEEL him. I just want to talk to him, to hug and kiss him, to ask him questions, to tell him- to his face- that I love him, and for him to tell me. But, I don't want this as a one time thing. I want it for forever.

I am trying to smile for him, for the man that I love with all of my heart. I know that is what he would want me to do. I can still hear him: "Smile for me, baby baby. Just smile '-I don't want to-' Just smile for me." [And then I do.]. He tells me I have the most beautiful smile, and smiles back at me with the most beautiful smile. I feel his love, even from 10,000 miles away. I feel his love now, all the way from Heaven. I can stomp my feet and grind my teeth all I want to, but ultimately, that won't bring him back. So, instead, I smile for him, again. I always will, but sometimes I might need to hide in a corner for a minute...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It Affects Us All.....

Ten years ago, I was in my senior year of college. I was a Resident Assistant to 40 men and women in the residence halls. I enjoyed life, I was young, naive, and thought I had it all figured out.

At about 8:45, my alarm went off. I had rounds the night before, so was up late hanging out with my residents, and trying to complete a paper I had forgotten about. My alarm went off. It was usually Bob & Tom, because I always jumped up to turn it off, as I can't stand their laughs in the morning. And now what?!? They are JOKING about planes and terrorism?

I woke up from my sleepiness and annoyance for how they actually stooped this low for a tasteless joke. I turned off the alarm, and turned on the television. Every channel, again and again and again, video of an airplane flying in to a building, and then, another hit. I still remember the newscaster scream when the second And then, they fell....

It was a haze. Disbelief. Who could do this? Why would someone do this? It had to be an accident? What about my brother in the Navy? What about my resident's husband who is in the Army? She is now so close to me? What am I going to tell the students? WHAT IS MY MOTHER GOING TO TELL MY 19 MONTH OLD BROTHER?

The campus was silent. There were tears, many, many tears. No one understood what was happening. Candlelight vigil? We could find those everywhere. There were no loud stereos, unless it played "The Star Spangled Banner" or "America the Beautiful". Other than that, there was silence, and windows draped in American Flags. All across campus, our flag waved, or draped, or was carried.

My National Guard residents deployed within the week. We lost them as our fellow college students and peers to those holding our country together in the very beginning of this war in a week.

The world will never be the same. THE WORLD HAS NEVER BEEN THE SAME.

Fast forward eight and a half years later. One of my colleagues and very close friend now has informed me that she personally lost on 9/11. Her sister worked in one of the towers. She told me about her troubles and her fears, and how she has learned to cope, but that it never gets better, just easier to deal with the pain. This is not my story to tell. My friend informed me several times that she was so proud and thankful that my husband is fighting for our country, for our freedoms. She never met him, as I met her just after he deployed. I am so thankful for this friendship.

Last year, on 9/11, I honestly don't even remember what I was doing, other than worrying about my friend. She wanted to be alone, and her husband was out of town. I believe we may have talked about the issue, but I didn't know what to say, other than to be there for her.

Just ten days later, I had a better understanding of how she felt. At 9:30 in the morning, I hear a dreadful, unexpected knock at the door, and an unknown car parked outside my house. I immediately started screaming "No! No! No! No! NO!!!" April came out, wondering what was wrong, but immediately knew when she saw my face. I am so thankful she was there. I can't go in to what more happened that day. I remember it very, very, very vividly. I remember when my friend who was most thankful for Matt's service came to my home, and the notification officers were still there. I could not look at her, talk to her. I was lost in my own mind. She knew why I was going through what I was going through, and I couldn't talk to her. I couldn't form words. I wanted to wake up from the nightmare that I had had several times before that day. I just couldn't wake up this time...

Ten years ago, the ball started rolling for my life as I know it now, as we know it now. Ten years ago, someone, or some group, decided that they wanted to inflict harm on our country, on our people, on our way of being. Ten years ago, we united, we showed our strength, our resilience, and most importantly, our patriotism- Together.

Today, we remember. Today, we reflect, and today, we have middle schoolers who know nothing other than war. My brother, now 11, was just 19 months ten years ago. All of my nieces and nephews have known a world only with war. They have never known Peace.

It makes me wonder, with Gabriel, as well as the other children in my life, and in our country, and in our world, will they ever know Peace? Will they ever be able to turn on the news without the horror of war? Without the hatred that comes along with it? Without the tragedies that occur as a result? War is so far reaching. As I have discussed before, it is not just the military personnel that feel this. It is the families, the friends, the communities, and ALL of us who ever immerse ourselves in an environment with other individuals.

Today, I dedicated Gabriel to a Life with Jesus Christ, where he will know Him as our Savior. As much as my faith was interrupted and questioned in the last 355 days, it has been strengthened and confirmed ten times. I know I want my son to know our Lord, and I know I want my son to know that Jesus died for our sins, so that we may have Eternal Life.

During the sermon, the amazing Pastor who has been an incredible help in my journey, possibly some of the hardest parts of my journey, gave a sermon regarding Holy Response to a Divided and Violent World. His dedication of Gabriel, with an explanation of our situation, tied in beautifully to today's sermon, although it was just chance that Gabriel's dedication was today.

He talked about the violence that has errupted and continued the last ten years. He talked about our responses, first with patriotism, then with anger. He gave us GUIDANCE on how to move forward in this situation. He explained that we are no better than Osama Bin Laden, because, ultimately, we are sinners also. He said that it takes only one sin to keep us out of Heaven, as we are no longer perfect. Luckily, Christ died to forgive our sins, and for us to have Eternal Life in Heaven. He said that Bin Laden needed to find Christ to be saved.

He explained that the Bible says that we should not fight evil with evil. We should not rejoice in the pain of others.

I am so happy he said that. When we killed Bin Laden, I cried. I was in the airport, just coming off the gate and saw it on the television as I walked past, well, walked, saw and froze. I could not get out fast enough. People around me are cheering. I felt like screaming, because I was paralyzed with emotion. I am glad that we caught him. I am glad that we were able to find the man behind the horrendous pain that he has caused our country, the uncountable losses he has delivered to our people, and the unrest that he has forever placed in to this world. I am not glad that a man is dead. A man with a family. I felt guilty I felt this way. I felt guilty that, because of the actions this man started, my HUSBAND is DEAD! Why don't I have extreme hatred? Why do I want to cry instead of cheer? Crying to me now feels like mourning. Am I mourning Bin Laden? The most hated man alive?

I now understand it. I have an understanding of what grief feels like, and I have an actual empathy that can no longer be taken from me. I understand now. My mom and dad always taught me that two wrongs don't make a right. Now, God is telling me that you do not fight evil with evil, and you don't rejoice in the pain of others.

What we did, what the SEALS did, was not evil. It is what we believe as a hurt and scorned nation to be right and just, and deserved. But, today, I learned why I felt so differently than "everyone" else. Today, I was given the ability to understand- FULLY- that sin exists, and then understand the magnitude of the fact that Jesus died to forgive our sins. So that we may act in this world with the best of intentions, but they may not always be as God wishes. With the acceptance of the gifts of Grace, Forgiveness and Jesus Christ, our sins, no matter how large, are forgiven.

My husband did not die in vain. He died for a country he loved. He died for family and friends that he loved, so that we will never have our freedoms taken away, including our freedom to love our Lord. He died as a believer in Christ, and he is in Heaven, clean and free. My husband, I know, has so much joy that I have finally learned the Truth, and that someday, I will join him. I am lucky enough to know my Savior, and share this with my son, so that he may grow and understand, and share.

The American Soldier dies for Freedom. Jesus died for Forgiveness. Without one, you cannot have the other.