What Choice Do I Have?

What Choice Do I Have?

A little more than three years ago, I thought I knew what my life was going to look like. Phil was supposed to have his happy reunion and we were supposed to spend the majority of his military career in Colorado Springs, and we were supposed to grow old together and one day die. That day seemed far away. There were so many events that we looked forward to before that. We were in the middle of adopting two more children, being grandparents, watching our children thrive, marry, and find their footing, and vacations with just the two of us. That dream and vision of what should be ended with a terrible act that is unfathomable and hard to ever understand. A vile monster chose to assassinate nine individuals who trusted him and who should have been able to trust him because the nine people he assassinated would have defended his life and would have given their lives defending him. Death of a loved one is never easy, but senseless traumatic and violent death is harder to recover, if one can recover, one’s footing from, but at a certain point, there is a choice to pick up the pieces and to try to create a life without the dreamed of future.

     In the beginning, the loss of Phil was so great that I physically hurt. It hurt to breathe and my body seemed to reject the food I put into it and sleep was an elusive concept. The body slam hit me on every front. I could not concentrate, read, or wrap my arms around my life. I questioned every decision and every day was a battle in my heart. I could barely breathe and many friends stepped up and carried me. I didn’t even know I had people who cared for me like this. In fact, I didn’t know many of the people who stepped up and became those lifelines. I couldn’t have made it without them, but at a certain point, I recognized that it was time to make a choice to pull up my big girl panties and start to look forward versus behind me.. In no sense of the word, was that choice an easy choice and there are many times that I still put my hand to the plow and look back yearning for what I had and what I wanted. I am not immune to pity parties and a quiet longing for a soft place to land, yet I realized that I was limiting my faith, the love Phil had for me, and the belief he had in me. I realized that it was time to close my eyes and leap into Linda’s future.

     I decided to use my surviving spouse benefit and go back to school. In ten months, I finished another master’s degree in military resiliency counseling. I began to face my fears and to speak about the journey I travel, and most importantly, I began to look at other people. By becoming the hands that reach and the feet that go, I look past my own pain. In being a lifeline to someone else, my life is richer and has meaning.

   I see people mired in sadness and loss years later and it makes me hurt. Somehow I innately know that it would crush my Phil if he knew that I gave up living or being the happy person he loved. I also recognize that if I give up being fully present in my own life that I have given the assassin my life, also. I cannot be a living, walking corpse. If I stand up and live a life filled with purpose and meaning, if I live a life focused on being grateful for the people in my life, and if I fall into my faith on the days when I simply miss the past and the dream of what I should have, then I can quietly step forward knowing that even if it hurts, I can do this and it will be okay. The choice is sometimes a daily fight, but in the choice to seize life, I am able to honor the man who loved me well and I am able to honor the life I have been given. I stand trusting in my future days and that one day I will dream of a future again because I made a choice to trust the faith I claim. In that choice, I have strength and I have what I need to face the storms.

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