#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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#boymom, grief, Loss, Pregnancy, Shaken, Walmart

That Awkward Moment

The last month of my life has been full of awkward moments, from telling the officer at the hospital about how I stole a piece of candy from the candy shop when I got the call and then eating it right in front of him, to the hours spent staring at each person who came in for hours in my kitchen, and thats just a small list.  There was a time when I had 50 pizzas in my kitchen because any means of communication I once had went out the window the night I lost Nate. The person I was is no longer, and I don’t know how, or when I will ever find her again. Probably the most awkward moment though was running into someone I kind of know at Walmart, 1 week after Nate died, looking like a zombie. I went early in the morning to try to avoid seeing anyone, I looked like I hadn’t slept, because I hadn’t, and I just didn’t want to deal with anyone or anything. I parked, made my way into the store, grabbed what I needed and rushed to self checkout because lets be honest, dealing with a cashier at that point wasn’t what I wanted to do either. The walk there seemed so long, I looked at everyone I passed hoping they weren’t someone I know, and then it happened. There I stood face to face with someone I knew, it wasn’t someone I knew well, in fact, we didn’t hug, and we only exchanged a few words. A few words that probably wouldn’t have happened had she not heard about Nate. She said, “How are  you,” and you know how we subconsciously look to see what people are buying, and you secretly judge the, and then secretly yell at yourself for judging them?  Yeah, That happened. I guess I would have been shocked too. She glanced down into my cart, looked up at me with a face like she saw a ghost, said, “Have a good day,” and walked away really fast, because that isn’t awkward at all. It was that moment when I wanted to play the role of the person you see on TV who just lost her husband, you know, the kind in a lifetime movie, the one who screams in Walmart really loud at the woman, but I didn’t. I just pressed on, and I went to self check out, and I proceeded to pay for my multiple Pregnancy tests, my mentos, and my Diet Coke. Because #boymomlife I’m not pregnant by the way, and I’m not sure how to feel about that. We’ve wanted that for so long, obviously there were bigger plans.

Pregnancy test due date on calendar

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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Faith, grief, Loss

3:11

In the first few days after losing Nate, I didn’t sleep at all, I barely remembered to eat, or shower. I just sat, I didn’t know what to do. I had friends helping me complete the most basic tasks. I simply couldn’t function. I still don’t know how I will ever live without him, but in those first days, I really didn’t know if I could even try. I guess I’ve gotten stronger. By Tuesday of that week I was so exhausted, I thought I’d attempt to rest. I woke up sobbing in the middle of the night, 3:11 to be exact. I couldn’t go back to sleep so I made coffee, I didn’t know what else to do. I crumbled onto my kitchen floor and I cried, and cried, I screamed, I cried some more. Im surprised I didn’t wake anyone else who was staying in the house. The days continued to be a blur, and I continued to try to sleep. Wednesday night I woke again at 3:11, I screamed at Nate, “Why did you do this to me, what do you want me to do, I’m tired, I can’t do this, what would you say to me if you were here, please help me,”  and in a moment of quiet that followed, I felt like I knew exactly what to do, like he told me exactly what to do. I walked to his side table by his bed where I knew he kept his bible, and I pulled one out. It was his Soldiers Bible, presented to him November 2004 by his Mom and Dad upon leaving for basic training, the same one he continued to use through his time in the army, and his deployment to Iraq.  I opened it, and looked down to see Ecclesiastes, I brought my eyes to  3:11, it had to mean something right?!

I sobbed when I read it, Nate was, and is still very much here, and this is what he told me.

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

For 3 nights following I awoke between 3:11 and 3:14, and that is when I called out to God, I called out to. Nate, I asked them what I was supposed to do, I looked for answers on big decisions, it was my most clearheaded time in those first days.

I continued to read the verses that followed 3:11

12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.
13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.
14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

 

Nate, I know you are here, all around me, just not in physical form, I know you have your arms wrapped around me, and I can still come to you with everything just like before. I love you so much and I know these are the words that you would say.