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.