We Remember

It’s Memorial Day. Families are going to the beach, cooking out, having parties.
My kids and I are staying home, keeping things low key. Because today, we’re remembering a man. Remembering him the way he wanted to be. And we’re remembering the men and boys and women and girls that he remembered.

I’m not a gold star widow. Let’s be clear about that right up front. I’m the second wife of a man who once was a boy who went to war. I’m the widow of a man that only partly came home from war. A troubled man, who fought the demons in his head for most of his life. He fought until his body and mind wore out, and the darkness engulfed him like peace, and he sighed, and let go of my hand. He felt unworthy of love. And I loved him. For all of it. For all he was. I always will.

Like many soldiers did then, he went to war as a child. He saw no other answer to fix his world. The boy who grew up carrying a radio on his back, running like hell, while ash fell around him. The young man who went to sleep in Cambodia, next to a foreign boy, protecting each other, and woke up the next morning on opposite sides of the conflict, with a knife in his ribs. The young Marine who, months later, hanging out of a helicopter with that radio pack on his back, caught a two year old girl who had been thrown into the air as the copter lifted, and held her in one arm, and road through the storm to safety.

He came home. Built a productive life. He became a lead paramedic so he could save lives~to balance his ledger. He championed for the children. He was their angel, spiriting children and their loving parent away from abusive situations, taking them to safe houses, to start new lives in freedom.

Freedom. It was so important to him. He did come home. But he was never really free. He was a prisoner of his mind.

I think of him on this day, because there are so many he thought of. He told their stories. How they had carried the radio before him. How they had carried the flag. How they had carried each other. How there came to be so many that needed to be carried. How their sacrifice gave him life.

He raised his glass to them, grilled the steaks, set off the fireworks, even though it meant weeks of nightmares to follow. Because remembering them, their stories, their lives and their sacrifice, is important. It is part of our stories.

So today, I sit home quietly, often with tears flowing down my face, my sweet daughters checking to see if I’m alright. Me checking on them.
And we tell the stories.
Their stories.

Their sacrifice will not be forgotten.

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falling into grief

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-3,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

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I wrote the following a year ago in April 2017. Little did I know that three months after typing these words my most horrendous grief experience would crash down around me like a relentless and unstoppable tsunami:

“Grief is ever-changing like the moving water in a river or ocean, never stagnant or completely still. There is always something happening, something stirring under the surface or above, or both. Sometimes grief is a like a river in how it winds and twists and turns. Sometimes grief is like an ocean with its strong currents, undertows, and merciless waves coming again and again and again. Sometimes grief is like a ferocious hurricane over the waters, gathering force and spinning out of control, bent on destruction of some sort or another, affecting whatever is in its path. Sometimes grief is like the constant drip drip drip of a leaky faucet, always there and annoying in an innocent dutiful naive manner. Sometimes grief is like a rainstorm on a tin roof that sings a comforting song with its melody.

I hate grief. And yet. It is cleansing and clarifying, and altogether terrible and sweet and relentess, all rolled up into a world of its own. Like water can be, at times it is comforting and warm; but it can also be jarring and dangerous, even life-threatening. It is a world I never feel I belong in, yet when I visit I no longer feel a stranger there, I feel like it is a place I have been before and know well, yet wish I never had to visit again. And yet. I often feel connected in ways in the throes of grief that somehow feel solid, that allow me to feel close to what and who I have lost. That closeness seems at times to fade or go in and out of focus, like a tether to that long lost loved one, or a camera that just cannot seem to find its sweet focus spot anymore, the connection changes as the grief changes. Some days it is undeniably strong and unavoidable like the pain of a fresh burn; others it is a faded other-world-ness dream of a life lived in an alternate space, a space that often seems just out of reach if I try to touch it. Grief crashes, drowns, tricks, surprises, contorts, burns and cracks, and yet it also envelopes, hugs, clears, strengthens, and straightens. Grief is ever-changing.” (Zoe Turner, April 2017)

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Present day: Well fuck me. Holy fucking shit. Yeah, I guess I thought I knew a thing or two about grief a year ago. I did know something on some level, but now it’s like walking along the streets of a town and feeling the wind and air hit your body versus reading about traveling to that particular town and what it must be like to visit there. Worlds apart, at least this is my lived experience. Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for the suicide of my beloved person, my spouse. None of the former griefs, they all paled in comparison. My missing then dead spouse trumped them all, hands down. My world literally exploded. There were no patches large enough, no way to keep everything put together.

I’m learning to engage with grief better. I’m learning her ways, her tricks, her truths, her shortcuts, and her long winding paths. I’m going to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how hard, because I don’t get a do-over, there are no replays, this is it, this is my life and I will live it.

Grief, I’m falling into you.

{zt}

No man ever steps in the same river twice. For it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

{Heraclitus}

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We have this physical experience in loss of falling toward something. It’s like falling in love except it’s falling into grief.

And you’re falling towards the foundation that they held for you in your life that you didn’t realize they were holding. And you fall and fall and fall and you don’t find it for the longest time. And so the shock of the loss to begin with, and the hermetic sealing off, is necessary in grief. But then there comes a time when you finally actually start to touch the ground that they were holding for you.

~ David Whyte
On Being with Krista Tippett, 4/7/16

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#suicide