#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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#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.