#CharlieMike, Faith, grief, Loss, Vulnerability, Words to Live By

Grief is like an Onion

Grief is like an onion, sounds cliche right? It is, but it truly is like one. I strongly dislike onions, and I strongly dislike grief too. There is an exception, I’ll eat a blooming onion from Outback, no idea why, but that is the only way I will eat an onion. I am finding that everyday more and more layers are peeled back, some make you cry harder than others, much like onions. You don’t know what each layer is going to uncover either, so you could be just getting comfortable with the last layer and BAM! It smacks you right in the face again. For me, its the simple things, I can finally say, “he died,” and not skirt around it by saying things like “when all that happened,”

I am still having a hard time saying i’m not married, I still very much feel married to him, present or not. Saying i’m a single parent, can’t do it, even though I very much am. The word single in and of itself terrifies me, I haven’t been a single person since high school. That is terrifying.

This past weekend we went to Colorado and I got to meet my newest niece, and I had to come to terms with the fact that I will never have Nate’s baby, ever again. We spent years trying, we really thought this would be our year, we finally had a doctor who was figuring it out, long story short,  it had to do with brain stuff, and hormones, and the production of male hormones, something that no one really wanted to treat, or talk about, and at first we were just going to allow whatever happens to happen, but we finally decided to address it, and things were looking positive, and then he died. I carry a lot of guilt with that, it took me longer to decide we needed to work on this than it did him, and I can’t help but think if maybe I agreed sooner? Who knows, its a rabbit hole.

So that opens up another layer of onion, one I didn’t want to think about but my brain went there. Will I EVER have another baby? The thought makes me want to throw up, but I have time, and I don’t know what my future holds, what will that look like, how will I ever explain to another man that he will never be Nate, and Nate is my true love, and yeah, too much, I can’t right now,  it just opens layers and layers of onion that I just can’t even think about. I told Nate once if he died before me, that I couldn’t go on, I would have to die first because I literally wouldn’t be able to stand, and if he died first I couldn’t guarantee I would want to live. He told me that would be a complete waste, that if he died first I better just live my life, and do it well.  I couldn’t imagine my life without him, and yet, here I am, standing, on my own two feet, I’m okay, most days. Some days I crumble, but I pick myself up, and move forward. I feel a little stronger every day.

With Memorial Day coming up, I think i’m carrying a lot more this week, I’ll be out of town, but I’ll be able to go to Arlington and pay my respects to some friends that I haven’t been out there to see yet. I have worked through not being here to be part of that with Nate, I think he would be okay with this, we have amazing friends who are going to make sure he is taken care of here, so that helps too. The kids and I are attending the TAPS National Seminar, so it will be a good time to heal, and grow. I am going to meet up with a friend that I awkwardly avoided the last time I was in DC too, (loooong story, but a very onionesque one that I may blog about in time, )  so I am looking forward to that. I can’t help but  wonder though, is there ever a time you peel back all the layers of the onion? What happens then? Does the onion just go away?

#CharlieMike, Faith, grief, Loss, Shaken, Vulnerability

Trigger Warning: Suicide

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. Helmuth(5of227)

#CharlieMike, Community Service, Faith, grief, Loss, Shaken, Vulnerability

What’s best for three.

About a thousand times, I have heard, “Just do what is best for you and the kids,” Or “you have to do what feels right.” Does that mean what I think is best,  or what you think is best, which definition and whose opinion are we basing this off of? Is it what feels right to me, or to you, and when? Because we all know, I am currently a minute by minute kind of person, I have to be. Sometimes, things are really good, and other times I crumble, and there truly is no rhyme or reason to it.

You begin to second guess yourself when you have a thousand opinions in your ears, a thousand people who think they know what is best. I am grateful for those who truly know me, and who truly knew my husband beyond small glimpses of things. You see, there was a lot people didn’t know about us, about our life, and about my husband. He struggled way more than most of you know, but we kept it within the confines of our 4 walls, and those closest to us, because he truly wanted what was best for us, and that for him was to be a provider, and to be strong, to lead us to Jesus, and to put aside his own struggles for the three of us. He never wanted the attention to be on him, not for a second.

I often wonder what many would have said to him, if they knew how much he struggled on a daily basis, if they knew how much pain he was in daily, if they knew he fought to do basic human things, and yet he was the first to work, and the last to leave every single day. He worked alongside me in the community despite his pain and struggles, he supported the kids whole heartedly at all of their activities, even beauty pageants, he was an amazing pageant Dad! He painted an image, he paved a path, he made his life what he wanted it to be despite struggles. More importantly, despite the opinions of others, Nate did what Nate wanted to do. We were told in 2008, he would never hold a job, that he would never have the mental capacity to complete school, that we needed to accept that he served honorably, and now it was time for him to rest. That wasn’t what was best for him, or us, so we fought it.

Almost 10 years later, Nate had the life he fought for, he graduated from UF and fulfilled his dream of becoming a Gator, he had one of the highest GPA’s in his class, and was excelling in his career. He still was in the same position health wise that he was 10 years earlier, and in retrospect, even worse. If we listened to everyone’s opinions then, where do you think we would be? The move to Florida for Nate to go to school was the best decision we ever made, and the judgement was laid on thick for that one. We literally sold everything we owned to take a chance, for him to make his life what he wanted it to be. In his eyes, this is what he fought in Iraq for, for the freedom to choose, for the freedom to make life what he wanted it to be,  for the freedom to do what is best for three. MM_0175-1.jpg

 

Faith, grief, Hero Missions, Shaken, Truck, Uncategorized, Vulnerability

Spoiler Alert; This wasn’t supposed to happen.

I’m not good at talking, I can’t find the words to say when we sit face to face, probably because I’ll crumble, maybe I fear the reaction, maybe I fear judgement, I don’t know, but I can write. I can write because I can spew, no reactions, and then, I can walk away and be done with it. There is so much of this that can’t be fixed, nothing that anyone can do or say can fix this. I have to work through it on my own. Im angry, everything hurts, everything. Just breathing somedays hurts because I can’t understand why it had to be him and not me. We talked about this, we talked about how I thought he would be stronger than me, and he could live without me, but I could never live without him, and yet, here I am without him. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Simple everyday things were not supposed to feel like this.

The list of things I currently hate includes, but is not limited to;

Restaurants we have been at together

Restaurants we have never been at together

Driving his truck

Not driving his truck

Having his things in the house

Not having his things in the house

Living in the house

Thinking about NOT living in the house

The fact that he is soooooo loved

How prepared he was for this

Sleeping

Not Sleeping

Not being able to have stupid arguments

The fact that we EVER had stupid arguments

Hearing songs that remind me of him, or special moments

Bonfires

The VA

Putting things in JUST my name

Kids activities, this week Dads and doughnuts, we avoided it.

Math- that was his deal, and I am not smart enough to help my kids.

Going to Church

Not Going to Church

Meeting People who will never know him

Working

Not Working

Hanging out with couples without him

Traveling

Not Traveling

Leaving my kids for even 5 minutes

Not being able to leave my kids

Being far from my siblings

The list is not all inclusive, but that should give you an idea of the plethora of emotions I go through on a daily basis just trying to get through every day tasks.

The one thing though, that I hate more than anything else in the whole world right now is the fact that he knew the real me, the me I am so good at hiding, the me that is not as well put together as you all see. He held that together because when I fell apart he picked me up, he he was my punching bag, my voice of reason, my everything. I keep people at arms distance so I don’t have to let them in, I’m really good at that, always have been, I let him in, and now I’m here, without him, and I don’t know which way is up.

 

Spoiler Alert; this happened, we are here, and now I’m stuck.

 

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#CharlieMike, Community Service, Faith, grief, Loss, The Mission Continues

Charlie Mike

No one tells you how to plan a funeral, thankfully for me I have a really great friend who happened to have spent some time in that space during their time in the military. That is truly the only reason I had a clue, and truthfully, I was so out of it, even if I did know what to do, I don’t think I could have done alone. I never imagined being 31 and having to make decisions about the burial of my husband. It still feels unreal to me. I guess you never really expect for your husband to randomly collapse in your home and never come back, so I need to just give up on expectations.

Throughout my husbands life, there has been a consistent theme, and it didn’t get pieced all the way together until his service. Again, another thing I didn’t know how to do, but the pieces came together beautifully, and not by mistake, God was all over this. The theme throughout his life was that he was a fighter, he pushed through challenges in such a beautiful way, at least from the outside looking in. He never made his struggles overshadow anything or anyone else. He lived in constant pain, but it never once took away from me and the kids, it never once took away from his coworkers, or his extended family. Nate was so selfless it was unbelievable. He always found a way to rise up from his falls, and continue on.

Nate always found a way to ” Charlie Mike” which for those of you who don’t know, means Continue Mission in military terms. The plan for Nates life really began to show itself throughout this whole process, and that was a constant as well. Since 2014 I have been volunteering with an organization called The Mission Continues, the whole premise behind the organization is to empower veterans to continue serving after military service. Now, in true Nate fashion this sounds like something he would be all over right? Well, yes, and no, he stood behind me 100% and helped with whatever I needed, every single time, but he didn’t want the spotlight, even though this lined up directly with what he believed to be the right way, he selflessly let me have it. The thing we always at The Mission Continues, is Charlie Mike.

I asked Sgt Sosebee, a leader that Nate served with if he would speak about his time in the Army with Nate, I really wanted to give his family, and the community a broader look at who my husband was, I didn’t tell him what to say, I wanted it to be from the heart. Two things really stood out to me about what he said.

  1. He said that after mission Nate did 3 things, he would write his wife, work out with Hammerstone, and read his Bible.
  2. He said that he always remembered Nate coming over the radio and saying                   ” Charlie Mike.”  (I cried so hard when I heard him say that, it was remarkable that in all of this without every saying a word to him about anything, that was something he remembered.

Yesterday, his headstone was placed, and as paralyzing as that was for me it was breathtakingly beautiful. As a friend said to me, ” Now you can share part of his story with the world.” He was right, this is his legacy.  I felt some relief that the VA didn’t screw it up being as they called me like 8 times to clarify that he DID NOT serve in the Persian Gulf, and that I did NOT want his headstone to read Charlie & Mike. I felt like saying, “You know what, go ahead and add Whiskey Tango Foxtrot while you’re at it, because 9/10 people who called me wouldn’t have known what that meant either.

It wasn’t the relief I had expected, but it was relief nonetheless.

It became very obvious very quickly that my husband had established a theme for his life, for our life, and standing there yesterday solidified it further for me.

I will love you until the end of time, Nate. Until death do us part is a stupid phrase because you are always with me. My vows continue beyond the grave, and I vow to always fight, to always be a blessing to others, and to live my life, and teach our children to live their lives in a  way that will bring honor to you.

#CharlieMike

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Community Service, Faith, grief, Hero Missions, Loss, Shaken, The Mission Continues, Words to Live By

Night to Shine

On October 28, 2016. I made a choice to pull my son from school, and take him to Orange Park mall for a Tim Tebow book signing, now maybe that is frowned upon, but I believe in giving my children life experiences on top of regular school education, and this was definitely a life experience!  Now, our love for Tebow goes way back. My husband being a Florida boy it came naturally, but being involved with Wounded Warrior Project, he got to meet him a few times. In fact, he had this picture framed and displayed, not a picture of me. Thats okay though, we had an understanding. He loved him, so I could too, right? I was out with friends the other day and the topic came up, and we were talking about how amazing he is, and my friend said something to the effect of, “he was MADE by Jesus,” Yes, yes he was.

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The morning of the book signing, we had seen on Tebow’s Facebook page where a man from Buffalo Wild Wings across the street had said, “I am stuck at work all day, come see me after.” Well we decided to do what Tebow would do in that moment, and so we got an extra book, and afterwards we took it over to Buffalo Wild Wings and presented it to him. It was a great opportunity about teaching my son to give to others. After, he treated us to lunch, and a molten lava cake, not because he got a free book, but because he thought it was refreshing to see a child do something like that. He told him, “that’s what Tebow would do.”

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Being such huge Tebow fans, we absolutely could not wait for the day when we could get involved with the Tim Tebow Foundation, and The Night to Shine.

I knew it was coming, my son was turning 12 in January 5th. I had reminders set to sign up as soon as volunteer registration popped up. What I didn’t expect was for my husband to die on January 6th, just one day after my son turned 12. This shook me to my core. It knocked me on my butt, and honestly, I am still trying to find my way up. If you can imagine, I probably look like a turtle on its back with its arms and legs flopping all around, or some sort of sea lion or something trying to stand, yeah, its that bad.

In the moment I thought it was a great idea to push forward and go anyways, for my husband, for my son, but I am human and I started feeling bad for myself, and the first opportunity I got to almost bail, I took it.  There was a miscommunication on age, and I was told my son could not go. Lucky for me, I have friends who won’t take no for an answer, and she pushed for us to be able to go. I had to really suck it up, find a dress, get beautiful which at this point is a seemingly impossible feat.

Night to Shine Jax, was the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. The pure joy that was in the hearts of these men and women as they got to come down the red carpet like royalty and into a party where they would be treated to food, and dancing, and fun like nothing they had experienced before. The tears of joy the streamed down the faces of the mothers, and fathers and caregivers of these amazing people overwhelmed me, and reminded me that my struggles may be hard, but we continue to push through, and God will provide us with Joy. I felt ridiculous complaining about my life when I stood there with my beautiful blessing of a son who is perfectly healthy and does not have to deal with some of the things these other children do. I got to spend the evening seeing amazing Military Children experience the evening thanks to Hero Missions. Hero Missions was developed to address the overwhelming needs and vulnerabilities that children of wounded, ill,  injured veterans suffer from. Their Exceptional Little Military Hero Program provides resources and events to wounded, ill, or injured veterans and their special needs Little Military Hero.I also got to serve alongside my favorite people from The Mission Continues Jacksonville, a local nonprofit volunteer group that empowers Veterans to continue serving when they come home.

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There was a moment where I just wasn’t going to do it, I didn’t like my clothes, didn’t like my hair, my makeup was awful, I didn’t have shoes, my husband is dead, my life is basically over.

In all the mess of this, my son looked at me and he said Mom, in the book Shaken, Tim says, ““You never know how the tough times you are going through today will inspire someone else tomorrow.”

That awkward moment when your son drops the mic. Yeah, that just happened. I didn’t have words, I just scraped myself up off the floor, and got myself ready, and I am glad I did.

 

Faith, grief, Loss, Truck

I Drive Your Truck

Grief has a really weird way of manifesting in me. There are two things that I have clung to this whole time. Aside from my children, if I only had those two things, I think I would be just fine; your truck, and your Bible. The two things that aside from me and the kids were probably most important to you too. Your bible was, and always has been your foundation, your rock, your refuge from the storm, as it should be. I find so much piece in reading it, and finding places you marked, things that stood out to you, or things that helped you through tough times. I wonder what you were going through when you marked them, but in a way, they are there for me, it’s like you knew and marked things for me to find later. The closer I feel to Jesus, the closer I feel to you.

I guess we wouldn’t be human without some sort of draw to materialistic things, especially in times like these. I really question sometimes if you loved this truck more than you loved me, no I know the truth, but it’s fun to joke about. Well, I love this truck, and right now, I’m obsessing over it. I even said…..wait for it, that I would get rid of the Jeep if that was what I had to do. I know, thats the last thing anyone ever thought they would hear come out of my mouth, well this is the last thing I ever thought would happen too.  I keep saying I put cameras up at the house just to make sure no one messes with it. It may or may not be true. You would be so proud of how awesome I back it in to the driveway. I don’t even run over the grass! 🙂 Pulling in forward, well thats a different story, lets just say I’ll get my exercise parking a mile away so I don’t even have to try.

This truck is a symbol of everything you have worked so hard for. When you came home from Iraq in 2007, we were very uncertain of our future. We thought we had it all figured out, and then came the problems, and the pills, and the doctors telling you that you would never be anything other than what you were in that moment, that you did what you went to do, and now its time to just be. Sorry, you married a stubborn woman who doesn’t exactly take no for an answer, so we asked the tough questions, we pushed the limits, and we overcame, so much, together. You wanted nothing more to continue serving, and though that wasn’t in the cards in the way you imagined, we found ways for you to do it, and you found ways to be successful in all that you did. You always put me and the kids first, and never did things for yourself, so this was a big deal, and even though you annoyed the life out of me that day spending like 748394 hours in negotiations with the dealership, I forgive you.

I’m sorry you only got to love your truck for 6 months, but like everything else, you loved her fiercely, and I will do the same.

Faith, grief, Loss

Some Wounds Never Heal

Because sometimes, there aren’t words for how you feel, but in the crazy, tragic, confusing mess that is my life, there is a song, one that was written specifically for us. Thank you April and Luke for your beautiful rendition of something I treasure so much.
Listen to Some Wounds Never Heal.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_n7eAjctguTLbHGwOcbdDaPDqZNIH6um/view?usp=sharing
1 month ago on my son’s 12th Birthday, I would climb into bed with the love of my life for the very last time. I wish I knew, I would have held on just a little longer before going to sleep that night, I would have kissed you 100 more times. I would give anything, everything for just one more chance. This pain is unbearable.
Faith, grief, Loss, Vulnerability

Vulnerability

vul·ner·a·bil·i·ty
noun
  1. the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

The loss of a spouse does something to you, aside from ripping your heart out over and over multiple times a day, it forces you to be vulnerable. Things I would ordinarily need my husband to do, i’m either forced to figure out, which honestly, is my first choice, or I have to ask for help, and in most cases I would rather rip out my own eyes before asking for help. Im stubborn as mule, and i’m not afraid to admit it. It’s made me who I am. My whole life.

Right now, everything feels HUUUGE to me. Whether its, buying dog food, I had not personally bought dog food in I can’t even tell you how long, because Nate did that, every single time, I am so spoiled that I walk to the container, scoop out the food, and it was never ending. Well, it ended. I didn’t know what kind to buy, and I had a total meltdown. Doesn’t seem big, but it was to me. Then, I had to admit that I was hurting to someone I didn’t know as I cried over dog food. It’s hard! I am

Every Single thing about my life right now is hard. There is not a day that I get up, ready to take on the world feeling like myself. I feel anxious, terrified, sad, physically, and emotionally drained, and every other feeling in existence all at once, I really cannot handle much more than just getting me and my kids through, minute, by minute, sometimes second by second. That said, I felt like in my vulnerability I needed to just get a couple things of my chest today.

  1. I still do not know exactly what happened, so just as you are waiting for answers, so am I, and more importantly my children, so when I know, if you are someone who should know, you will too, if you never know, well then i’m sorry but it probably wasn’t your business to begin with. So while this means continued curiosity for you, this means my children and I have a very uncertain future. There is very little you can do without a death certificate, so mull on that a minute before you ask me again.
  2. No, the VA does not cover THAT, whatever thing it is I may be asking for help with, or when people make scholarships for my children and you want to question it, if you have never worked with the VA, be thankful, but again, don’t speak unless you know, because as mentioned above I have zero answers, and until I have those the VA can’t do a thing for me, and even when they do, it will NOT be a smooth process. They probably won’t even mail it to the right place, you know the one you have lived at for 6 years. Yes, that already happened.  If you have not noticed, my husband’s services were weeks ago, and of course there are costs associated, so you do the math. If you need a class in VA i’d be happy to break it down for you.
  3. No, there are not a million non profits out there who can help me because guess what, while he was wounded, its been made perfectly clear to me that he is “no longer wounded” of course he isn’t, he is dead, so thank you for that friendly reminder of the thing I must not have known prior to calling you. We have never been ones to ask for help, and I remember why now. Someone dropped the ball on us once years ago, and we committed to doing whatever it was we needed to do to make it, because you fall through the cracks so easily. So, that is what I will do, I will find a way for me and my kids.

 

I am going to go snuggle my babies a little longer before we go to church today, but I challenge you, not just with me, but with all people, just think before you speak, you truly never know when the person you are encountering is dealing with really huge things, when something you take for granted has been ripped from their lives.

 

You can’t always see what others are seeing, but this, this is what I saw the first time I walked in the Church of Eleven22, far before my husband was ever there, and this is what I will continue to see.

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