The Broken Road That Led Me Home

I will not date…or, if I do, hell would have to freeze over before I would ever remarry.  I couldn't see myself not married to Phil, and besides, wasn't it a widow badge of honor showing that we were a once in a lifetime love?  If I dated, wasn't it disloyal and besides, what man could ever understand the equal but different concept of loving.  Yep….I just couldn't see it and I certainly didn't want to believe that I could love or need someone in the same manner, but very different manner, than my Phil.  While I applauded the other widows that someone found love again, I just couldn't allow myself to be vulnerable enough to let someone in to the level of not being able to live without them…At least until Stan.

I have not been the easiest to love.  We met in the one place I said I would never meet anyone-online.  While I had signed up for the online site as a lark one night, I never did anything with the site.  I was afraid.  Afraid of psychos.  Afraid of the men who shopped for the next best thing.  Afraid of men looking for a sugar mama.  Afraid of –well, quite frankly, everything.  I was afraid enough that I ignored the messages that flooded my inbox for 6 months until I found out I was taking a job in MO.  I had never lived in MO and moving to a small town meant that I wanted some information.  I was more afraid of the job change and the location change than I was of any man because I was NOT going to date especially online.  While I didn't mind hanging out with men I considered a safe bet (as in never ever or remarriage never ever), I wasn't going to do anything except ask questions about this small town.l  I e-mailed the men and women in my age window about the local area.  How was I supposed to know that by sending an e-mail that essentially said that I was just looking for information, that they would get an e-mail that I was really into them?  Gads.  Had I but known.  I never would have sent or done anything.

When Stan e-mailed me back, I spent many, many e-mails telling him that I wasn't worth dating and that my story was too big.  I just wasn't interested in a pen pal or some icky man who serial dated (my thoughts).  I wasn't interested in inviting the psycho to my house in the middle of nowhere.  I wasn't interested –and that is all there was until a shared faith and friendship emerged in those e-mails.  Even when we met the first day I moved here, I looked at Stan as vanilla.  You know,  a really nice guy, but just not interested.  My sister in law convinced me that I needed friends (males included) in the local area and maybe we could pursue faith activities together.  She and my brother also called one day and convinced me to ask him to Branson for the day.  How did I know Branson was three hours away and that we would be in a car for more than 12 hours and that by the time those twelve hours were over, I would recognize that we made really good friends?

That level of comfort led to Stan coming over and helping me set up my house.  Those evening of unpacking and putting up curtains  developed into that kind of friendship that resets a person's batteries.  That kind of friendship led to me realizing that I could really hurt Stan if I wasn't careful.  It took Stan a long time to kiss me.  That was a good thing because when he finally did, I was finally waffling on the well, maybe he can be more than just a friend.  Maybe, just maybe, he was worth taking a chance on.

The fear lingered, though.  It was two steps forward, one step back.  I told myself that while we could be companions, there would never be a marriage.  When Stan proposed on Valentine's Day, my heart literally stood still.  I have never been more afraid or unsure, but in what probably felt like forever, I whispered a prayer and then I knew.  I knew that this is what God had promised.  Many of you know this because I have written about it before, but Stan and my story started before Phil died.

Phil's and my last face to face conversation was the what if conversation.  We had never had it before and Phil was deploying to somewhere he felt was safe and besides, Air Force Academy professors do not get shot working with other NATO troops advising.  As I tried to stop the conversation and then to deflect the conversation by making jokes about Raul the pool boy (I do not have a pool, nor do I know any Raul's), Phil stopped me with one simple question, "Linda, if you died first, would you want me to be happy again?"  Well?  Duh.  He told me that is what he wanted for me and that my heart was big enough to love another. I told him that he would have to push someone into my arms and make it abundantly clear.  Even when he was alive, I still remembered that conversation because it was our last one eye ball to eye ball, heart to heart before he got into the departing cab.

On 24 June 2011, I broke.  The military had sent me the autopsy report and pictures.  When the words didn't match what I had been told, I looked at the picture of Phil's bullet-ridden body.  I cannot begin to describe the images that still live in my nightmares, but I broke.  I crawled under the covers of my bed and I wept.  I cried out to God.  I did not have a death wish, but I asked why Phil and why not me.  Phil had so much more to live for.  He was liked and he was successful.  He had so much unfinished business.  As I wept as only those with no hope weep, I felt a jolt like an electric shock.  As I felt the jolt, I saw myself standing before a minister with another man.  It wasn't Phil.  I could see the love and feel the joy that was shared between me and the unknown man.  I could not see his face.  I just knew.  I immediately denied what I was seeing and wept more.  It  happened again–stronger this time.  It terrified me.  I leapt out of bed and tripped in the blankets.  As I lay on the floor weeping, I looked up.  Through my window, I saw the first complete double rainbow I had ever seen.  God was giving me a modern day miracle and a promise that one day, some day.  I dried my eyes and thought God has his work cut out for him.

On Valentine's Day, in that whispered prayer of my soul, that visual flashed again and I just knew that Stan was the promise many, many years ago.  Over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to write about facing my fears.  It isn't easy.  It takes courage.  My courage often falters, but I never doubt that I am better with Stan that without Stan.  I am thankful for the gift of love even as I often want to run afraid.  I won't because I know that by running, I would be less of a person and that my life would be emptier.

Until Now

Source: Until Now

Until Now

Until now, I have never been much of a risk taker.  I was the child who feared discipline, letting people down, and conflict.  Taking the path of the least resistance was easier even if it meant that there were times I was left longing for more in my life.  When Phil was assassinated and I was thrust into a position of making decisions for myself, trusting myself, and doing what other people questioned;it was foreign and difficult.  CS Lewis famously said that he was surprised at how much grief felt like fear.  For a person who lived in the shadows, fear was my constant companion until terrorism threatened my own life at the Boston Marathon of 2013.  In that moment of fleeing for my life and  cowering under a table, I found courage and my natural spunk to get back up.  I simply cannot let terrorism take any more from me, thus I began to embrace the fear.

 

It has taken time and intentionality to push myself.  While I always had a Bucket List, I never really saw myself completing it or doing anything by myself.  With pursuing my Bucket List came the decision to embrace the pain and work through it one step at a time, one mile at a time.  If I concentrate only on the step ahead and not on the big picture, I know that I will get to a point where the pain is manageable and that I will feel good about life again.  In that vein, I am facing my fears of the unknown.  One of those unknowns is traveling the world taking back my life from what I relinquished in fear.  I am running the 5 world major marathons and the seven continents.  This is about more than exotic vacations; it is about learning myself, pushing my boundaries, and meeting people from different cultures and faiths.  Two weeks ago I traveled to South Africa even though I was encouraged not to.  This race and trip taught me some key lessons as it pertains to life, grieving loss, and moving forward while honoring the past:

 

 

  1. Challenge Yourself:  The Africa marathon tied for the hardest marathon I have ever run (tied with the Great Wall of China Marathon).  This marathon was harder than running the Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado.  The hills were incredibly steep and even the downhills were too steep to run.  There were rocks and sand to slosh through and a few of the sparse water stops were out of water or electrolyte drinks.  The race hurt–a lot.  It was hard to fly across the world to a place where I knew no one, but by looking at the step in front of me, I was able to get through the pain one second at a time, one minute, one hour, one mile, one marathon at a time.  Grief is like that.  Initially, the pain hits all day long.  For me?  I couldn’t see a moment when I would be able to function or do anything but survive.  It has been a battle.  Somedays it is a raging war within myself to face my fears, but by stepping up, closing my eyes at time, and pushing on, I have learned to thrive versus survive.

 

  1.  Adapt:  There is absolutely no way to prepare for the unthinkable.  I flew through London to get to Africa.  When I reached London, I had a 10 hour layover.  I let the airline talk me into relinquishing my carryon which had my running shoes and my medications.  When my flight was cancelled, I called the airline to ensure that my bag was onboard.  Despite the reassurance, it was not.  I did not have a jacket for the frigidly cold hour long rides.  I did not have running shoes, and more than that, medications that I must take.  For three days I had nothing.  I had to run a marathon in borrowed worn out shoes 1.5 sizes too big, borrowed clothes, and without the usual medications or energy gels.  There was no way to push myself to the limit on this race.  Survival was key.    Faith, awareness, and slowing way down carried me to the end.

 

 

 

  1.  Gratitude-When Phil died, I could never see a time when I thought I would embrace life.  It made me ill to think of all of the opportunities and resources I was given based on how he died.  I was in the mindset that I had been cheated out of my future.  My hopes and dreams for what I thought my 50’s were going to look like imploded the day Phil was killed.  Until the Boston Marathon of 2013, I idled in that useless wasteland of wanting what I could not have.  The shift in my paradigm is this simple–I am thankful for the 23 years I did have with my Phil.  Many people never get that.  I am thankful that I loved well and was loved well until Phil’s last breath because it taught me to invest in the people in my life that matter, to cherish the moments, and to fight for my friendships and relationships.  I am thankful for the opportunities to live a full life, too.  My life, my journey forward, the choice to speak and write, and the bigger choice to fight for happiness has led to a life I could never have imagined for myself.  This life is bigger and beyond anything I dreamed.  As I run, speak, and write, I am able to remember, to honor, and to remind people of a man gone far too soon.  I am able to make something good come out of the worst day of my life.  I cannot change the cards that I have been dealt, but I can choose how I want to play them.

 

  1.  Breathe and Trust Yourself:  While in Africa, I whitewater rafted and bungee jumped off of one of the highest bridges in the world.  To enjoy the experience, one has to embrace the unknown and the feeling of losing control.  While I cannot say that I liked the loss of control when I lost Phil, I have come to recognize that not everyone will understand the fire I carry for standing and speaking for our military families, nor will they comprehend why I had to leave my beloved Colorado.  Moving overseas gave me the opportunity to figure things out and to grieve without feeling like I had to be strong every minute of the day for everyone around me.  I could quite simply hide when I needed to.  In the aftermath of Phil’s death, everyone had an opinion as to where I should live, what I should do about work, dating, financial, or even grieving.  My journey is not the same as anyone else’s journey–nor should it be.  I am the only one who knows what I need and how to reset my batteries.  Sometimes I don’t know me.  During those times, I patiently breathe and cry through the pain, and I wait until I am able to move again.  As Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too…” is key to calculated risks. Playing it safe and hiding is not a life.

 

  1.  Lean in on Friends:  Since I had no clothes or medications at the Africa marathon,  many people who were then strangers stepped up to lend a hand.  It is hard for me to ask for help, yet there were people willing to lend or give me clothing items.  There were people willing to share what they had so that I could fulfill my dream even if it meant that they had less.  When Phil was killed, I had been a lone ranger for so many years that it was overwhelming to cry, not to have the answers, and to feel like I had no control over any part of my life.  I was forced to make decisions that I wasn’t prepared to make about where to live, finances, burial sites, media interviews, and I could go on.  Every single time in the past six years that I have been down, overwhelmed, or even happy, people have stepped up to the plate and either celebrated the good days with me or let me lean in when the hard moments came.  These people became my tribe of friends.  Over time, I have been able to pay it forward to those who hurt, but the soft place to rest and those who let me talk about, behave, or shut down when I needed to taught me much about friendship.  I am a better friend because I know that we have one another.

 

 

  1.    Keep faith:  Facing fear and terror is not easy.  I still have nightmares about the Boston Marathon bombing and my husband’s broken body, but I have faith in what I cannot see.  I have faith in a life beyond this one.  While the physical connection is over, the spiritual connection is still very much alive.  When Phil deployed, I prayed every day for his safety.  Many of our friends and family were also.  Phil had faith, and yet the answer to the prayers was not what most could comprehend.  Sometimes it is still hard, but my faith changed.  I no longer look at God as Santa Claus, but there is an unshakable confidence that there is more to life than  what  I can see or know here on earth.  I truly believe that Phil and the other 8 were surrounded by angels and received into heaven.  Phil’s assassin had a choice.  We all do.  For me, it made every bit of difference in choosing my faith.  When I was faced with running a brutal marathon after 3 days of not taking medication, I was forced to believe that all would be well.  If I had started and had to quit, I still knew all would be well.  The key is recognizing that even Jesus felt pain.  Jesus wept (the shortest verse in the Bible).  Surely he can handle a few tears, doubt, and feeling adrift.  My faith has changed in that I can acknowledge not understanding why, but make no mistake, I believe that there is more than what I can see.

 

 

 

  1.  BE Kind to Yourself:  I walked more than I wanted to in the Africa marathon.  I committed the cardinal sin at the end of the marathon–one that I had not made in 41 years of running.  I crossed the finish line twice and was credited with the latter time–24-26ish minutes after the first finish.  I knew better than to give up my carry on.  I also knew that I would be taxing my body more than I should without medication.  It didn’t matter how I got to the finish line, but to get there, I had to allow myself to rest, rely on others, to celebrate the finish.  While grief is not a process that ends, celebrating the victories such as going back to work, celebrating a birthday, laughter, or relating a story about a loved ones are victories to be celebrated.  When I have fallen down, sometimes it has taken me awhile to get back up.  Sometimes I have had to crawl forward, but allowing myself latitude to feel the emotions, set up boundaries that work for me, and retreating at times has set my course to a place where I embrace life.

 

 

Running Africa was an experience that no words can convey.  Africa was life for me.  It was clarity on the way ahead, an acknowledgment of who I am and what I stand for, and it is a memorial that honors and remembers.  Each step is a victory of sorts and traveling to Africa was a foot stomp against living paralyzed in fear.  Each race is a series of steps and breathing through the pain.  Each goal represents a victory.  Each finish shows me just how far I have come and how strong I am.  Each set back and tear forges a bond that is strengthened within my tribe.  As I live my dreams and discover who I am without my Phil, I am becoming a better version of the girl I once was, and I am living bigger dreams than I ever could have dreamt for myself.  I suspect I have an angel looking down saying, “That’s my girl.”  I suspect he always knew she was there.  #thrivingvssurviving19620148_10155742228567841_312656785846368090_o

 

Forgiving the Unforgivable

How does a person forgive the unforgiveable? Almost four years ago, my Phil was assassinated in the very worst way possible by someone he liked and trusted. He did not die when the first shots hit …

Source: Forgiving the Unforgivable

Two are Better Than One:  The Road That Led Me Home to Stan

Love after traumatic loss is a gift—a gift that often begins before the death of a spouse and comes in unexpected manners.  There is no timeline on grief, nor is there a  limited capacity of the he…

Source: Two are Better Than One:  The Road That Led Me Home to Stan

Two are Better Than One:  The Road That Led Me Home to Stan

Love after traumatic loss is a gift—a gift that often begins before the death of a spouse and comes in unexpected manners.  There is no timeline on grief, nor is there a  limited capacity of the heart to fully love another again.  One feeling does not negate the other.  I will always love Phil, but it isn’t an either or thing.  I love Stan with everything in me—the me that came from being loved well for 23.5 years.  The me that emerged from the ashes.  Stan loves me for the girl I have grown into because I had no other choice, and he shares and lives the same faith that is central to who I am.  That faith is my rock and where the story starts.

My story with Stan began in the last face to face conversation I had with Phil.  I wanted nothing to do with the what if conversation because Phil had been in the military 26 years.  We had never talked about the what ifs until his last deployment.  Because he was going over in the role of an officer training military members, it felt safe.  It was supposed to be safe;  it was supposed to be a year -long interruption of our life together.  I made jokes about Raul the pool boy because I did not want to consider living without Phil.  I made jokes because I thought it was stupid to be wasting our last few minutes together talking about something that wasn’t going to happen.  We all know how this deployment played out, but the biggest gift Phil gave me was this simple statement—“Linda, stop it.  If you died first, would you want me to be happy again?”  Well, yes, yes, I would.  He gathered me in his arms, kissed me, and said, “I  love you so much that I want that for you.  Your heart is big and would be able to love someone in a different way than you love me.”  I never forgot that conversation and thought about it often both before and after he was killed.  Equal but different….

God’s promise was the second thing that has brought me to Stan.  This one is still hard for me to talk about, but I have written about.  It scared me and it came from the absolute worst day of my life.  The worst day of my life was not hearing that Phil had been killed—it came about six weeks later when the pictures of my husband’s very broken body came in the mail.  I broke.  I went to my bed and wrapped myself in all of the blankets.  As I lay weeping and with every bit of hope gone, I wondered why my Phil and why not me.  I cried out to God begging for death and for release from the shattered shards of my heart.  A jolt zapped me and I felt and saw a light everywhere inside and outside of me.  I saw myself standing in front of a minister with a man who was clearly not my Phil.  I couldn’t see his face, but I felt our love and our joy.  The man clearly adored me.  I denied it and cried harder.  “No, God.  Please no. “  I didn’t want to consider another person then or for a long time.  As I wept harder, the jolt came again.  The jolt and the vision was stronger than before.  It terrified me.  I jumped out of bed and tripped on the covers.  As I lay on the floor weeping, I looked up.  Through my bedroom window, I saw the first complete double rainbow I had ever seen.  I knew then that God was promising me something.  I just didn’t want to consider it.

It took me a long time to date.  I went on a date here or there in the past year,  but nothing felt right.  Something was always off in the person.  They weren’t bad people, but they were not someone I saw myself with in terms of marriage.  There was always a sense of something missing.  The missing piece was always the understanding of the faith that compels me to be the woman that I am.  That faith has defined me and carried me since I was 6, but never more than at the moment of Phil’s death and in the journey that followed.  This is not the life I imagined for me and my speaking and writing emerged from the fire of the Holy Spirit calling the least able, least willing, least prepared, and least ready to be the girl that stands before you.  I am a hider.  This is not natural for me, and yet, this is what I have been called to do since the start.  In the past, the few dates I had, they couldn’t understand.  I don’t understand.  I just obey.  In that obedience, I took the only job that felt right to me this summer.  That job was in Missouri—Misery.

I got offered many jobs this past summer, but none of them felt right.  I got offered jobs in the states that I felt called to go to—WA and CO, and the job that brought me to MO wasn’t even the job I loved, but when I was offered the job in MO, everything clicked.  My heart quieted.  I knew that I was being called to a state I never saw myself living in.  I bought a house without seeing it by letting my brother pick it.  I just came.

The next part of God’s humor in our journey is something that started when I saw my daughter more than a year ago.  She had encouraged me to try online dating.  I wanted none of that because I felt like people grocery shop for looks and that people were looking only for hook ups.  I was afraid of the psychos.  I signed up with her encouragement and then did nothing with it (nothing for the entire more than a year) until I was offered the job.  I went online to see if there was someone about my age to get information from, but I did not want to date the psychos.  I found Stan who was just starting his dating journey.  So there we were, two jaded people.  I wrote to him about this new area I was moving to and told him all of the reasons I wasn’t datable.  We became friends.  I looked forward to having a good guy friend in my new area.

We went to dinner the first night I was here.  I liked him, but I still considered him a vanilla friend.  It wasn’t until he agreed to spend hours in the car with my brother and his family going to Branson that I began to look at him in a different light.  As my brother probed him about his faith and about his life, I recognized a kindred spirit.  I recognized that we had potential.

Still, it took us seeing one another almost every day to recognize that what we share is truly the Ecc 4:9-12 love.  That verse says that two are better than one for if one falls down the other is there to pick him up.  That verse recognizes that a person cannot keep warm alone and that shared faith is the tie that binds a lasting love.  I felt this only once before and I eloped after knowing Phil for 7 months.  When I was making jokes about Raul the pool boy, I told Phil he would have to shove someone into my arms for me to recognize love again—that he would have to make it abundantly clear.  Well….God has the greatest sense of humor because here we stand as two people leery of online dating, leery of relationships and intentions, leery of marriage.  We share our faith and we share loyalty and commitment to not only each other, but to God.  We share a love for our children and for the people in our lives. Stan understands and is proud of what I do and why I do it and he is there for me whenever I need him.  There is no wavering, no doubts.

While we are figuring out how we can marry and when we can marry due to benefits and retirement, all we know is that we want to spend our days building a life together.  We want to grandparent together and travel together.  We want to honor God and be the people we are being called to be.  I recognize what is in front of me because of where this journey started—well before I met my Stan.  My heart echoes and is full because I have been doubly blessed in my life.

As Job says to God, until now, I had only heard of your blessings, but now my eyes see you (42:5).  Now—you have the rest of the story.

That’s What Faith Can Do

It is easy to claim faith when everything is going well. When the hits start coming or when a major body slam occurs, it isn’t so easy to believe that a loving God would allow bad things to h…

Source: That’s What Faith Can Do

That’s What Faith Can Do

It is easy to claim faith when everything is going well. When the hits start coming or when a major body slam occurs, it isn’t so easy to believe that a loving God would allow bad things to happen to good people of faith. It is hard to believe that prayer warriors can have unthinkably terrible things happen to them or to people close to them. Isn’t prayer and faith supposed to insulate a person against trauma, tragedy, unfairness, or evil? Isn’t faith supposed to mean that the believer has somehow won the lottery in terms of immunity against failure, tears, or loss? While the Bible relates story after story of loss, betrayal, and unfairness, I thought that if I prayed hard enough or believed well enough, my life would be blessed. While I had setbacks and hard moments before Phil was assassinated, nothing—nothing-prepared me for that moment of devastation or loss.

I prayed daily for my Phil just as other family members and friends stood in stead for him. Phil prayed for his own safety. Nobody wanted to come home more than he did. In fact, he refused to drive across the compound because it took him outside of the wire. He walked instead and told me time and time again that he would hide or run or—whatever—to avoid the unthinkable. He had me convinced that it was just a one year inconvenience before we started living and planning of next page of our chapter. He had me convinced that Air Force officers are far removed from danger. I believed him to the point that the prayer almost seemed like an afterthought because surely Air Force professors do not get assassinated. Surely working as a trainer or an advisor with higher ranking Afghans meant that he was far removed from considering the cost of wearing a uniform. I lived in a quiet smug knowledge of thinking that the Air Force was the country club branch of service. I convinced myself, others, and my children that being an Air Force officer was the safe, easy way to get an education, see the world, and to give service back to one’s country. I never once thought of the what if. On 27 April 2011, the what ifs and the word assassination and betrayal became a living reality for me.
There I stood in shocked disbelief hearing words I had watched a thousand times in movies. As the walls crowded in on me and my heart clenched in an iron fisted vice, I dropped to my knees keening. One thought crossed my mind. How could I claim to have faith if in my darkest hour I turned from the faith I claimed. I chose to trust, to believe, and to fall into that faith that I had claimed for as long as I could remember. I didn’t understand why my Phil; I still don’t understand. I chose to believe that in the wasteland of devastation something good could come from the shards of my heart, the ashes of my life, and the loss of every dream and hope I had for my future. The funny thing is that I remember bits and pieces of that moment, but I have never wavered on that nano-second decision.

I truly believe that I was called to make a choice and that choice has made every bit of difference. I don’t understand, but I have been able survive and then thrive. Initially, it was breathing through the pain. Everything hurt. I woke up crying, couldn’t keep food down, my bones hurt, and I was lost on every front. Many times I could not even pray, but God met me through music and through people. I survived knowing that he was going to work through the ashes. As I made simple choices that felt right to me, the way forward has unfolded. The way forward has given me a voice and a purpose by allowing me to honor and remember the past. The way forward has given me an opportunity to utilize the talents, interests, and prayers of my youth. It wasn’t supposed to unfold this way, but I prayed that God would make me the woman he was calling me to be for five years. I knew I was being called to be more that the woman of faith the way I was living.

As simple as it sounds, the choices I felt like were non-choices, became the pathway forward. After the choice to fall into my faith, the second biggest choice was in agreeing to talk to the media to get them off of my children. This quiet and shy girl (at least I was) watched as the media glommed on to my family. Phil had a huge story and the five stair stepped children, four of whom wear a military uniform, meant that nobody was allowed to grieve like a child. They grieved like the military officers they are. One felt like he had less merit because he didn’t wear the uniform. I felt like the wrong person died, yet I spoke so that my children had a choice. I spoke so that my students (his students because he substituted), his cadets, our community could find footing in the worst storm. Imagine a community that is mostly military and a school where every student has been touched by one person. Imagine a community where a family is involved in so many things that it was personal to us all. I knew that if I spoke to the media and if I could speak at the funeral without falling apart, that it would help with the healing. I stand by that choice and in that choice to dig deep during that moment, I found a way forward.

I chose to lace up my running shoes because in the whispered prayers of my feet, I found footing. I was able to quiet the raging seas. peace did not happen overnight or for a long while, but I was able to work thorough the anger and chaos. I was able to find a way to forgive the assassin and Phil’s parents. I was able to recognize that by clutching the anger or wanting what I could not have wasn’t going to bring Phil back. It only took real estate in my heart. That real estate kept me from the happy memories or from fully living. It is still a process because some days, I just don’t have it in me to forgive. It is only in the miles run that I can move past these moments to a full life.

I chose to return to work five days after the funeral. I didn’t have to, but it allowed me 9 hours a day of normalcy where I wasn’t rock bottom. Even as others walked on egg shells or said the wrong things, I was able to find a small rafter to cling to. I wasn’t “that girl”. I was a teacher and the students needed me. I was Mrs. A. Nothing else. I was mom. Nothing else. I was a runner girl. Nothing else. It was safe and it was what I knew.

I chose to write because I didn’t have the words to speak. I could relay my thoughts and purge myself of the roiling raging sea by writing. That writing became a book and it has opened doors for me for work, running, and friendships. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. I was supposed to write a children’s book about Bailey, the naughty dog or Prince Bugle, the naughty sassy bunny. I just knew I needed to write and when the speaking chances came up, I spoke not for me but for those coming after me. I began to heal.

Like a broken bone, my heart has knitted back together. I am stronger than the girl I once was and my faith is what I stand on. Like a broken bone, though, there are times I hurt and ache. Sure, I still wonder why and I still can hurt sometimes, but my faith has changed. I realized two things: evil exists on earth because people have free will and the whole story isn’t what happens in our temporal lives. It is what happens next. Phil’s assassin had a choice. I have a choice. I can let evil destroy my faith and hope, or I can choose to see what lies ahead. I can choose to remember and be thankful for the 23.5 years I had with Phil instead of looking at what I do not have. I can choose to see that while the physical connection is gone, the spiritual connection lives on. I can choose to look at God not as Santa Claus, but I can live with the promise of Romans 8:28 about all things working together for the good of those who believe. I do believe. I see it. I know it.

It Wasn’t About Politics

People have repeatedly pushed me to express my political views or to tell me that I shouldn’t go to the Mother’s Day Tea (Obama’s) or to Inaugural Parade (Trump) because of their own views. To me? It doesn’t matter who is in a position of power, I go to honor and to remember a man who chose our country at the age of 18. I go to honor the man who chose the United States over France and Venezuela because he recognized the freedoms and opportunities given to him with his American citizenship.

 

At the age of 12, Phil came to our country knowing two words of English: sumateamus for sometimes and ewsa for USA. As he approached high school graduation, he realized that he was going to have to return to Venezuela and then to France to serve in their militaries because at the time both had mandatory military service. He had witnessed first-hand what happens if a country does not operate under a true democracy. In Venezuela, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and if a person disagrees with the political party, opportunities dry up. His 90 year old father still has to work and cannot leave Venezuela without giving up all of his assets. Phil wanted the American dream. He wanted the freedoms I had taken for granted since birth.

 

He joined the military and was granted citizenship at 18. Phil spent 16 years enlisted; 10 as an officer. He planned to stay in until the Air Force made him retire because he loved it that much. While Phil never had recruiting duty, everywhere we went, he spoke to young people about the many benefits of military service. He woke our five children up with Jodies and military cadence chants. He reminded our children that as Americans they should be willing to give back through military service or service to others? Is there any wonder why we have four of five of our children serving?

 

Phil volunteered to go to Afghanistan five days after finishing his PhD because he believed in two things. He believed he needed to set the example for the cadets and his own children that service included commitment and sacrifice. He volunteered because he believed that through education and empathy nations could change. Ultimately, the biggest betrayal came when someone he liked and trusted (should have been able to like and trust) assassinated him. I recognize that Phil’s story is bigger than life because of his choices and his death. It is for that commitment, devotion, loyalty, and love of country that I go to events at the White House.

 

I go to pay homage to those who like Phil, give everything defending those rights for the rest of us. The Inaugural Parade was a chance for me to celebrate my country, my life, and the life of my Phil. To walk the streets of Washington DC with my daughter in law who chose our country also, to see our new President, and to stand united as a nation is what it was about for me. My voice is love and devotion to my flag and my citizenship. My voice is for Phil who is the ideal that our country was founded on. I am the flag.

People have repeatedly pushed me to express my political views or to tell me that I shouldn’t go to the Mother’s Day Tea (Obama’s) or to Inaugural Parade (Trump) because of their own views. To me? It doesn’t matter who is in a position of power, I go to honor and to remember a man who chose our country at the age of 18. I go to honor the man who chose the United States over France and Venezuela because he recognized the freedoms and opportunities given to him with his American citizenship.

 

At the age of 12, Phil came to our country knowing two words of English: sumateamus for sometimes and ewsa for USA. As he approached high school graduation, he realized that he was going to have to return to Venezuela and then to France to serve in their militaries because at the time both had mandatory military service. He had witnessed first-hand what happens if a country does not operate under a true democracy. In Venezuela, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and if a person disagrees with the political party, opportunities dry up. His 90 year old father still has to work and cannot leave Venezuela without giving up all of his assets. Phil wanted the American dream. He wanted the freedoms I had taken for granted since birth.

 

He joined the military and was granted citizenship at 18. Phil spent 16 years enlisted; 10 as an officer. He planned to stay in until the Air Force made him retire because he loved it that much. While Phil never had recruiting duty, everywhere we went, he spoke to young people about the many benefits of military service. He woke our five children up with Jodies and military cadence chants. He reminded our children that as Americans they should be willing to give back through military service or service to others? Is there any wonder why we have four of five of our children serving?

 

Phil volunteered to go to Afghanistan five days after finishing his PhD because he believed in two things. He believed he needed to set the example for the cadets and his own children that service included commitment and sacrifice. He volunteered because he believed that through education and empathy nations could change. Ultimately, the biggest betrayal came when someone he liked and trusted (should have been able to like and trust) assassinated him. I recognize that Phil’s story is bigger than life because of his choices and his death. It is for that commitment, devotion, loyalty, and love of country that I go to events at the White House.

 

I go to pay homage to those who like Phil, give everything defending those rights for the rest of us. The Inaugural Parade was a chance for me to celebrate my country, my life, and the life of my Phil. To walk the streets of Washington DC with my daughter in law who chose our country also, to see our new President, and to stand united as a nation is what it was about for me. My voice is love and devotion to my flag and my citizenship. My voice is for Phil who is the ideal that our country was founded on. I am the flag.

Character Unfolding

I have been broken in life. I didn’t see my body slam coming and I would have wagered every penny with confidence I was never going to know a word like assassination. I didn’t even know…

Source: Character Unfolding