Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Shortly after we first moved to Germany in 2005 Rob was deployed to Kuwait where he would be traveling on convoys into Iraq.
After going through 8-weeks of combat convoy training in the states, being in Kuwait for a few months, and experiencing convoys into Iraq first-hand, one of the trucks on such a convoy was blown apart by an IED. Rob was not on this particular convoy, but he knew the guys that were, worked with them, ate with them, lived with them. Two were killed - security forces personal that had families back in Alaska where their unit had come from. In those moments Rob knew grief like he had never known before. I can remember him calling me (on one of those horrible connections where we're only allowed 15 minutes to talk) and he didn't say anything except hi. We just sat and listened to each other breathe until he said he had to go.
I, too, was shaken after the deaths of those airmen. I can remember driving home from a kid's activity and seeing the Chaplin and someone else standing on my doorstep. I didn't stop, I just drove by. I drove around for hours avoiding their news, protecting my young children. Maybe there really was someone on my doorstep when I drove by, maybe there wasn't. When I finally returned home there wasn't anyone there and, thankfully, I had an email from Rob waiting for me - so I knew that he was ok.
I thought about that story as recently as this past August - after the cancer had metastasized to Rob's brain and the doctor's prognosis changed to "immanent" - when someone asked me if I thought it would be harder to lose Rob to war, when he was deployed, or if it was harder to watch him fight against an illness for which there is no cure.
I thought about that question last Friday when watching the news unfold from Connecticut. I also thought about that hospital room where I watched my husband take his last breathe. When we, he unconscious, sat silently and I listened to him breathe. I try not to dwell on those images, they haunt me enough when I am sleeping so I push them aside when I am awake. But I was thinking a lot about that room, and those last hours, on Friday.
The truth is, when I was asked that question back in August I couldn't answer. I only know what every military wife does when you send your loved one off to war: sometimes young men die. I lived with that fear through all his different deployments. Maybe, I even had a taste of what someone would go through - when those boys that Rob knew died - and I imagined those men on my front porch. But, he came back. Not ever the same - that experience changed him forever. Shaped who he was from then on and redefined his commitment to God, to his family, and to his chosen profession in the military. but he was whole. so, I don't know. I still can't answer if it would have been harder to lose him then, or watch him slowly lose everything about himself and waste away to a devastating illness.
On Friday I caught myself comparing my grief to those effected by the shooting. "My grief is easier because.... their's will be easier because....." But the truth is: Grief is Grief. I have no conception of what those families have lost or what they are going through, just as they could never understand the depths of what I, what my kids, are going through - have been through. But we do know about grief. A grief that changes us forever, shapes who we will become. Redefines our commitment. I know about that. My kids KNOW about that.
I have no advice. there are no words of wisdom I could ever offer to anyone grieving the loss of their child. Or even their spouse. But I can understand grief. Raw. Real. Tangible.
I have received books, blogs sites, pamphlets, videos, etc. on managing MY grief. This seems so selfish to me because I find that I am most sad for the things that I think Rob is missing. Stupid stuff like the new Star Trek movie or stuff I wish I could just talk to him about (that all 3 kids made the honor roll, or Noah was chosen as assistant senior patrol leader). There's important stuff that I think he's missing, too, like dance recitals, piano performances, camping trips... But then I realize feeling like that is really selfish, too. Rob, resting lovingly in the arms of his Saviour, no longer longs for this earthly place. It is only MY desire to have him here.
A lot of the Bible verses that I am drawn to lately, the ones that I recall from memory in quiet moments, have to do with seeking God with your whole heart. When I am not, that is when I selfishly long to have him back with me - in any way, at any cost. When I AM, I know that this is part of a bigger plan than me and that he truly is not suffering anymore. I'm not saying that it makes sense. Nothing about this makes sense to me. Nothing about what happened to those kids on Friday can be explained, justified, or made to make sense. I'm also not saying it's wrong to miss him. Or to mourn for those lives lost so young. To seek him with my whole heart means to know there is a God who cares so specifically and individually for me, for my kids, that I don't have to make sense of it.
I can't compare my grief. I can't imagine your loss. But I "get" GRIEF, I am (we are) changed forever by it. and I'm starting to "get" seeking God with my WHOLE heart.
I don't think I'll figure it all out, but I'm also starting to get that maybe, just maybe, I don't have to.