Baby, It’s Cold Out There

Baby, It’s Cold Out There.

Baby, It’s Cold Out There

Baby, it’s cold out there. Loneliness creeps up on a person. In unexpected traumatic death, there is no preparing for being alone. My Phil died in the prime of his life. He had finally realized many of his dreams coming true and felt the need to give back. I didn’t think he was in danger for he had deployed numerous times in 26 years of service and I worried more when he was living on a compound in South America fighting the drug wars. I looked at his deployment as a inconvenient road bump to what came next—our first assignment without our children who the last of had left our house the same year he deployed.

 

Like many military families, my circles had narrowed through the years. Without even noticing, I had become really good at three year friendships. I could instantly connect with my neighbors on base, but when one of us PCSed three or four years later, the friendship became shallow. I could run into these people ten years later and immediately take up where we left off. I lacked 911 friends—you know, the ones that know what you need without uttering a word? The friends that will come and just breathe with you? Cry with you? I never thought about how I had put everything into Phil and the children. With the children out of the house, I looked forward to more time with Phil. I looked at the deployment as a waiting period for what came next; I never considered what I would do if he didn’t come home.

 

The shock and the pain of losing the one as violently and unexpectedly as I lost my Phil created a body slam so deep that I felt physical pain. I withdrew. Three years later, I am looking around and wondering about where I fit. I feel like the society misfit at times. I am too young to have had to plan a funeral and bury a husband who was younger than I. I am no longer a military spouse, yet I work on a military base. I am at an age where most people still have children in the house. I have no idea where to live because home was a person versus a place after living the nomadic military life my entire adult life. I am too old to go home to my momma, and too young to live with my children. The connections I have made through this loss are all far flung connections.

 

I long for a friend to call when I feel blah, want to get a pedicure, or talk to when I doubt myself.   I long for giggling and venting. People who camp establish a fire fairly soon after finding the site to pith their tent. Fires provide more than warmth. Fires provide companionship and security during the cold night. Deep friendships do the same. I am the problem, however. I am wary. I have always held myself at a distance due to shyness and insecurity. Having Phil in my life deepened that chasm. I struggle with wondering if there is anything else besides work, far away children and friends, and wondering where I fit. I look in the mirror and the face that stares back is mine. The person that needs to change and to reach out is me. I am broken somehow, but I want to fix me—need to fix me because it is cold where I stand.

 

 

 

 

Fire

More Than a Soldier

More Than a Soldier.

What Is It That Is Worth Standing Up For

What Is It That Is Worth Standing Up For.

What Is It That Is Worth Standing Up For

People often stand on shifting sands in terms of what they stand for or are willing to give of themselves for. When the cost is presonal, people often waffle. Many do not even know what is worth standing for or assume that because an issue isn’t personal to them, it doesn’t matter. Today, I was reminded point blank about why Memorial Day should mean something to all of us.

A woman from Sudan is about to be stoned for a heinous crime of Christianity. She is pregnant which is why the public outcry. Her only crime is that she will not renounce her faith and because of that, she will die an horrific death. While people can argue that is the barbaric culture that she is a part of, as a woman and as a mother, I am thankful for the rights my American citizenship give to me. With that thanksgiving comes an awareness of knowing that while my country is certainly not perfect, many men and women have stood and fought the bullies of this world so that I can have certain rights which include the freedom of religion.

My Phil was not an American by birth. He was a Venezuelan/French citizen. He grew up in a country where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. He grew up in a country where people are forced into embracing an ideology or be victimized. Crime at every level controls the citizens. At 18, my Phil enlisted in the Air Force to receive the gift of American citizenship. 26 years later, he gave his life to an assassin who sought to destroy the American spirit and the American gift of helping to establish a country. His crime? He was helping to set up the communications for the clinic, but more than that? His crime was what he stood for.

You see, Phil was the flag. He could have retired long ago or he could ahve taken the easy road and returned to teaching at USAFA when he finished his PhD. He decided that it was time to give back to the country that had given him so much. When I balked and asked him not to go, he told me that he had to go. he had to go because he wanted to be able to mentor both future military members and those wanting to change an oppressive society. He wanted to be a voice the embodied what is right and true in our country. He never wavered from his loyalty and thanksgiving for the freedoms and opportunities given to him with his citizenship. he chose to be the red, white, and blue American flag waving in the wind.

Today, I met another man who stands for our flag–who is the flag. I asked for a military discount at Biaggi’s in Peoria, IL. Biaggi’s does not give a military discount, but the chef extended one to me any way. When I told my waitress to tell the chef that this Gold Star wife appreciated him, she did not understand, but Michael, the chef did. You see, Michael is a wounded warrior who left part of himself in giving opportunities and freedoms for others. Michael stood tall and proud as he shared his military service with me. Few understand.

Memorial Day is about more than remembering. It is about taking stock in what it is that we are willing to stand for, die for, give something for. I honestly took my citizenship for granted until I married my Phil. Having lived and worked all over the world, and with having my children serving all over the world, and with my Phil heaving his last breaths on dusty Afghanistan soil, I know the cost. I know what is worth standing for, living for, and giving more than humble thanksgiving to those who were willing to fight for and die for. The American flag is more than cloth….it is my military brothers and sisters then, now, and tomorrow.ImageImageImage

Choices

Choices.

Choices

Like many people, I fall to wishing and wanting what I do not have. It isn’t things I want, it is what I thought my life was going to look like at this stage. That thought is nothing like my reality, but my reality is much richer than I can see at times. I am blessed, deeply blessed by my children, health, job, and life experiences. I have simply exceeded my own expectations of life and I may never have seen it if the loss of Phil hadn’t shattered my heart. In brokenness, there was no choice if I wanted to continue living. I began to grow when I gave up control and the expectation of what was owed to me, should be, and a sense of fairness.

 

In the initial broken state of shock and deep body racking pain which hurt more than any physical injury or surgery, I lost many of the happy memories of 23 years. I could barely breathe and the weight of what I had lost caused me to crumple to my knees—broken. I survived by keeping in the moment and not looking ahead. One second, one minute, one hour, and then days at a time. I had no plans except to trust God to be enough. I still feel that way, but I have taken tentative steps toward whatever my future holds. It is about choices.

 

Many of you know the story of the young 21 year old that came into my pool. He strutted around in a blue hammock swimming suit. I had just gotten out of a bad marriage and I was actively on the road to going to medical school and becoming a pediatrician. I was not interested in a military man who I thought was flirting with all of my friends. He pursued me and asked me out 19 times before I said yes. When he told me on the 19th time that he wouldn’t ask me out again if I said no, it was a defining moment. The choice I made in faith created a life far beyond my own dream of my future.

 

That choice entailed giving up a dream and a profession, but the gift came in what came next. I was able to be the mom I always wanted to be. I was able to have the five children I wanted and dreamed of because I was loved well. While Phil always thought I would regret giving up medical school, I never did. Yes, there were hard times, but in that choice to give up my dream for what I felt God was calling me to do, and in choosing the choice that all felt was totally wrong, my life grew.

 

In loss, there is the same choice. While I would give my own life to have Phil back, there is nothing I can do to bring him back. Nothing. The choice is in celebrating life, keeping my eyes focused on the here and present, and in trusting the woman that was loved well for 23 years. Time will pass regardless of if I stay paralyzed with grief and indecision, or if I take a step in faith. The future is not a given, but in trusting in my faith and in myself, the blessing will come.

A New Bucket List?

A New Bucket List?.

A New Bucket List?

I had a bucket list when Phil was alive and I had completed most of it. I had very few things left, and those dreams are no longer dreams that I want to pursue alone. It has taken me three years, but I am ready to look ahead and to dream again. In that dream and in that looking toward tomorrow, there is hope. In that hope, I there is a quiet confidence and inner peace that I am right where I am supposed to be doing what I am supposed to be doing. While 52 does not look like what I thought 52 would look like, I am proud of the strength and confidence I have. I never even knew I had it and this change was not a change I sought, but this strength came from walking through a loss that knocked me to my knees and took almost every dream I had left.

 

I have changed; my dreams have expanded and changed also. I have no idea when or even if these dreams are a reality, but my bucket list is as follows (in no particular order):

 

 

  1. For all of my children to be men and women of faith and for them to marry someone who is a man or woman of faith. I want all of my children to be loved as much as they love.
  2. To find a chapter two for me or for desire to sharethe journey with someone to go away.
  3. To write another book that weaves the research in with the personal stories of those who have lost too much, the young widows, the war widows, and the widows of those whose spouses came home broken.
  4. To eventually settle in Colorado or by the mountains or water in a house that my grandchildren will want to come to.
  5. To run the Great Wall of China.
  6. To finish 100 marathons—I am on 83.
  7. To camp, backpack, and canoe again.
  8. To travel to the French Provence region again.
  9. To jump out of a perfectly good airplane and live to tell about it.
  10. To know that I have made a difference.
  11. To take a cooking class with someone.
  12. To become a better mother, friend, worker, and Christian.
  13. To laugh again.

Yep….it is that simple. It may or may not happen, but it is a start to look ahead….to hope and to dream again. As I stand at the crossroads, I see the woman that Phil probably always thought I was and I honor that faith he had in me. His last face to face conversation with me was the what if conversation. I know that right here, right now, I have an angel smiling and applauding. I am not quitting living and I have learned just how short life is. I am going to leap into tomorrow trusting that all will be well.

 

What Choice Do I Have?

What Choice Do I Have?.