Tuesday, March 26, 2013
I just don't know if I can get past this.
I keep feeling numb. And empty. And angry. And just... stumped.
Even now, I stare at this empty computer screen. Knowing. Knowing that I need to write about this in order to be able to move on. In order to process the pain. In order to honor my friend.
And yet, nothing comes out.
Because, as Siobhan says, there are no words.
The other day, I went to Target. I simultaneously bought two cards to celebrate the upcoming birth of my little brother's baby boy, and two sympathy cards.
Why am I standing in this aisle at Target, staring at sympathy cards? Sympathy cards, in their sea of light blue, and silver, and italics. Like any piece of paper can do a loss like this justice. Sympathy cards are the worst. How in the world can the writers at Hallmark know what to say any better than we do? How in the world do you comfort a mother, and a fiance who shouldn't be saying goodbye?
I bought two cards, anyway. I hate them. I hate this whole situation.
Tomorrow, Michael and I will get up early, and drive to Walter Reed to go to Derek's honor ceremony. I am just sick to my stomach thinking about it.
I can't imagine driving through that gate... without bringing a bunch of food for him and Krystina. Without laughing with them, and hanging out, sharing stories, and reading Derek's writing, and talking about politics.
I was standing in the kitchen last week when I got the text message from his mom that he had passed away. The no-words thing started then. I couldn't form words. I just walked into the living room, and handed Michael my phone. Within seconds, I was on my knees on the floor, my head in Michael's lap, crying. He stroked my hair. He wrote text messages I couldn't, and he was so strong for me.
I called my mom, and we wept. I called my sister. Michael called my dad.
I knew I had to get a hold of my brother, who is overseas.
I had to go to work that night. I didn't even bother with make-up.
I remember sitting in my SUV in the driveway, seeing the garage door close on the van that Derek and Krystina gave us.
I'll never forget that day I was in my hotel room in Salt Lake City, and my phone rang and it was Derek, telling us they were going to give us the van. What an unbelievable, life-changing blessing it has been in our lives.
The song playing on the radio as I drove to work that night went something like: "You make all things work together for my good," it was that song "Your Love Never Fails."
Songs like this in times like this are tough. Because sometimes, no matter how deep and strong your faith is, it's SO HARD to believe, because things like this are not okay!
It's not okay that Derek, a healthy, strong, young man stepped on two IEDs in Afghanistan, was blown up, went through SO MUCH to fight to keep his life, only to lose it out of nowhere.
It's not okay that a week ago, Krystina was planning her dream wedding, and now she is canceling everything, and saying goodbye.
It's not okay that Siobhan has lost so much, her life, her job - getting Derek to where he was, and now next week, she will be handed a folded flag.
It's not okay that Jessica Allen has to tell her two little girls that Derek is gone.
It's not okay that I have to tell my brother that his Army brother is gone.
It's not okay that I will know this name when it pops up in my work email inbox as a DOD casualty notification.
It's not okay for Derek. It's not okay for any of these young men and women. It's not okay for their families and their friends and the medical teams that work so tirelessly to save them, and their military brothers and sisters that they serve with.
It's not okay!
And I do have faith. I do. I do believe that Derek is whole now, is not hurting, and is at peace. I do believe that all things work together for good in the end. But right now, it doesn't feel good. Right now, it's not okay.
And I don't know when it will be okay.
I know this.
I am changed for knowing Derek. And Krystina and Siobhan.
I am changed, for the better.
I know that for the wounded, the fight never ends.
I want to always be a part of the healing.
And I challenge you to be a part of it, too.
We have to take care of our warriors, you guys! We MUST.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Last night we received word that our friend Derek had passed away.
We met Derek in summer of 2011 when he was admitted to Walter Reed in Maryland. He was injured in an IED blast in Afghanistan serving with Chris, Dana's brother.
In the first few months Derek's mom and girlfriend hardly left his bedside. They ate cafeteria food or fast food and slept in the base motel or his room. We took them meals, visited them, and did our best to encourage them.
To say Derek was injured doesn't do him justice. He lost both legs and almost lost his right arm. Doctors pulled off a medical marvel piecing him together. But he worked tirelessly the past two years.
Alongside were Siobhan and Krystina. They were there for Derek and others in the ward. They supported their fellow warriors and their families. They lived through the victories and hardships.
The past year--despite many medical and bureaucratic hurdles--his life, no, their lives moved forward.
Siobhan moved home, but was still around.
Derek proposed to Krystina. They moved to an apartment. He learned to walk on prosthetics. They received a new, wheelchair-accessible van (giving us their old one). They planned their discharge in the next few weeks. They planned their dream wedding. They were going home!
But Monday morning Krystina was unable to wake Derek.
In tribute she wrote,
You gave me the best 6 years I could have ever asked for with someone. I know you'll always be with me. I tried everything I could to help you today. I hope you know that, I'm so sorry. :[ I will always love you.
Caregivers pour so much of their lives into their loved one. In the midst of being attendant, advocate, and cook they still remain parent, lover, spouse, or friend.
We grieve with Krystina and Siobhan and their family in their loss. They have worked so hard these two and a half years toward his homecoming. It isn't fair. They deserve his homecoming and their future.
While our lives go on, they are left with a chasm of indescribable loss. We ache for them. We are angry for them. We stand with them. We love them.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
Sometimes he says something and I think, "Who are you?" because I feel like even now, coming up on 4 years of marriage, we're still getting to know each other.
But, we've been together long enough for me to know:
-that he likes salt on his fries
-that he is fiercely protective of me, he even tries to protect me from myself
-that he is really sweet, down to his core, and it comes naturally to him
-that if he's mad or frustrated or short-fused, something is up
-that God, a good talk, and a glass of wine can fix a lot
We have had a lot going on lately. Especially with transitioning to a new place, and my new job which means being up at crazy hours. Michael has been such a champ.
I hate to see anything mess with him. It makes me want to get out my baseball bat. And I happen to have an awesome swing.
I want to obliterate anyone/anything that makes life difficult for him.
And, sometimes, if I can, I do.
But there are sometimes that we can't fight our spouse's battles physically.
But - we can pray!
Last night, Michael shared something he was going through recently with me, along with this verse:
James 4:10: Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up."
We ended up having a deep conversation about things that we are both going through.
The way best friends do.
I am forever thankful for our ability to have that kind of intimacy.
It is a gift.
Now - I'm going to go get my best friend up for the day, and I'm going to see to it that he gets out of this house, and has some FUN today! I think I'm going to buy him a prize or two, too.
He deserves it.
I look up to him more than he realizes, and I learn from him all the time.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
And I had to go all manager-style and put the kabosh on that for safety reasons.
I woke up, screaming at him.
And, I woke up screaming.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Recently we saw a conversation among several friends in our Facebook group about how under appreciated many of the wives feel as caregivers. At the bottom of it is that most of the women feel overwhelmed. Here's what they shared and things husbands should keep in mind.
Several of the wives juggle the demands of parenting, homemaking, and a job. On top of that they all--to some extent--take care of their spouse's disability-related needs. Typical tasks include dressing, exercise, bathroom care, feeding or preparing meals, medicine, doctor and therapy appointments, cleaning up accidents or wheelchair tracks, and a dozen or more others. By the time they get to bed they're exhausted. However, if their husband needs anything during the night they're still on call. It is never-ending.
Many of them understand that their husbands generally do what they can to help. These guys range in physical ability and time after injury. But many of them aren't necessarily angry with their husband.
This reminds me of a point Dana and I have made time and time again: the disability and all of the stuff that goes with it is a third person in our marriage. It helps us focus our frustration away from each other.
That said, beyond what husbands can do for our wives is what we say to our wives. Overwhelmingly, the wives said it means so much when husbands say "I love you" and "Thank you." Such a simple, but thoughtful step lightens their burden. I find Dana really appreciates when I ask her--not order her--to do something. Finally, the wives mentioned how important compliments and gratitude for the non-caregiver things are; that they like to be reminded she is your wife first.
It's so good to know this isn't rocket science. While compliments and affectionate words won't always trump the overwhelming waves of caregiving, they help fill the sails that keep our wives going.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Look at that.
It's Saturday, again.
These weeks are just flying by!
Working 10 hour days doesn't leave much time for blogging, and I really miss it.
But, I'm here now.
Last Sunday, we went to church.
It was great, being back in church again.
This wasn't just any church. It was the church where I was first born as a little bitty, baby Christian.
I was 16, and I wore nothing but Old Navy, and I drove a 1982 Red Pontiac Firebird.
Jesus changed my life, and fueled everything in between then and now.
Now I'm back.
Not as a 16 year old blonde in a hot car.
But as a 33 year old married blonde (minus my current root situation) in a minivan.
It's a strange feeling - going back to a place that was so monumental in making you who you are today, but being older, wiser (?), and married and mid-career.
I felt old.
But, I'm glad I'm back.
Even with my forehead wrinkles.
And my minivan.
Especially with my husband.
There's no place like home.