#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

 

#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

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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Loss, Uncategorized

Living My Nightmare

It still doesn’t feel real when I say it, “My husband passed away on January 6th,” “We lost my husband 19 days ago,” “My husband passed away.” I have to say it over and over and over, it gets old, all the questions, the looks of sadness, the awkward staring, it feels fake, like a dream, or a nightmare rather that I’ll never wake up from. I am so guilty of using the word Die, Dying, Dead, in my vocabulary all the time, if a friend doesn’t respond to a text, I’d ask them did they die, if I almost fell, I’d say, ” I almost died,” if someone else almost fell, I’d say, “Don’t die.” But using the word now makes me want to throw up, using terms like passed away, put to rest, etc. are easy, sugar coated versions of the truth. He died, he’s dead, he’s not coming back and there is no sugar coating that. Its raw, real life, and it hurts, it makes me want to throw up, or pass out, or both. That first night was the worst, I wanted to stay with him at the hospital forever, and if I knew how long it would take for them to actually take him from the hospital I would have stayed. I imagine eventually they would have to ask me to leave, but if I didn’t leave him it wasn’t real, right?? They gave me his wedding ring, I put it on my right ring finger, I lied on his chest, just like I would in our own bed, I held his hand, ran my fingers through his hair and his beard, I kissed his head. It felt like a sick joke, just waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and surprise me in an old school ” Punked” episode. This couldn’t be happening to us, we had already been through so much, we were on the other side. It was all a haze, I stayed as long as I could, and I walked out of the hospital without my husband, and it wasn’t just for a little while, it was forever. It was just like in a movie, you could hear a pin drop in that hallway, everyone stared at me as I passed, and every step I took became more paralyzing, I wasn’t sure I would even make it down that hall. I did though, I walked out of the hospital and into a world of unknowns, a world where the very breath I breathe, my life, my world, was taken from me in an instant. I don’t know if or how ill get through this, but I have to now, for my babies, for Nate.

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