I guess, now that things have settled some, I should take some time to address the elephant in the room. I’ve been asked, friends have been asked, it’s been said in front of a large crowd, there is this quiet buzz kind of going around. The topic no one wants to talk about, but everyone wants to talk about. Cryptic messages, slight side eye looks that come with phrases like, “Did he….was it….was he one of the 22? ” No one ever wants to outright ask, Did he what? Was it what? Did he kill himself? Was it suicide? No, the answer is NO, my husband did NOT take his own life. Does this mean that I won’t continue doing the work I do in the space of Veteran Suicide Awareness and Prevention, absolutely not. This is a cause that has been important to me for a very long time, and will continue to be, let me take you down a rabbit hole really quick…
I wrote this in 2011,
I wanted to write you a letter, but I don’t even know your name, I didn’t take the time to get to know you, to know your story, to feel your pain. There is no way I could have known. The closest thing to Military I ever knew was the ex Army guy who drank with my Dad, oh and there was a Marine I messed around with the summer before my senior year. In my naive teenage brain, they certainly were not hurting, or maybe they were. Looking back they certainly were. They were trying to burry they hurt.Is that what you were trying to do? Soldiers are supposed to be strong, I thought I was strong,I was doing my job, but you, I thought you weren’t. I didn’t know. I thought you were so stupid, so ignorant, what could ever be so bad that you had to take your own life. If it sounds like i’m making excuses for myself, I am. I think about you all the time. I can’t get you out of my head. Your half smile, your eyes and the way they closed so peacefully,your smell, that god awful stench that is forever imbedded in my nose. The way your barracks room was left in perfect order, nothing out of place. Did you do that on purpose, or is that just how you were, I want to know, I want to know you. Its cold here today, when it gets too cold and my feet start to change color I think of you, you looked cold the way the blood pooled in your feet. Where were your friends that night did they care? Maybe they didn’t know, or maybe they ran at the first sign of shit hitting the fan. That’s what people do I guess, we run, run from our problems, from our fears, we run as far and as fast as we can never looking back. Now, now… I get it. I get that you tried to run and no matter where you went or what you did these images, these thoughts, the guilt, it haunted you, it chased you down until you couldn’t run no more; until the light at the end of the tunnel, the sacrifice of the very breath you breathe was the ONLY way out. This is me… running, from you, trying to escape the image, the guilt I feel for not even knowing your name, for not taking one minute out of my life to TRY and understand what several combat tours did to you, for jumping to conclusions about your selfish motives.The images, the the thoughts, the smells, they never left did they? I saw a picture today of a young cowboy, reminded me of you, he was rounding the corner of an old brick building, light behind him and darkness up ahead, I can’t stop looking at it, not for a second.His clothes, the way he wrapped his bandana around his neck just like you did, like it was comfortable, you probably did it all the time too, but this time would be different, THIS time it was a tool to cover the weapon that ultimately took your life. Anytime I see those cords I choke a little bit, I don’t keep them in my house, I can’t. Life…and Death for that matter are crazy, every moment preparing you a little more for the next, this moment being the start of a journey I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined. I think you may have saved my marriage, that moment of self realization that occurred within me, that moment I realized that it could be me, it could be anyone, that moment was my saving grace. I owe that moment to you.
This cause, will always be important to me, but this is NOT Nate’s story. Nate fought hard, were there moments where he questioned his purpose, I won’t lie to you and say no, we had our moments, there were times I thought he was going to be come THAT statistic, but he didn’t. He became another one.
I’ll dive deeper into this brain stuff in another post, but for now, this needs to be said.
My husband did NOT commit suicide, he died of heart failure. His heart failed due to hypertensive heart failure, directly linked to his brain injury. He lacked the ability to regulate his blood pressure even on extensive medication, he was hospitalized several times in the last year for low blood pressure, for insanely high blood pressure, and for uncontrolled fluctuations. No matter what medication they put him on, they couldn’t fix the damage to the brain that controlled this. It was only a matter of time. We knew this, sort of, we didn’t have a number of days, but we always knew it was a possibility. He chose to love deeply, live like it mattered, and live every day in a meaningful way. Now all that is left to do is for me to fight at least as hard as he did.