Monday, April 27, 2009

Just talk to me....

I was asked to write an article on how to interact with Gold Star families. My first thought was just talk to them! So often people are so afraid to say the wrong thing or have no idea what to say they say nothing at all. That hurts worse than the poorly worded phrases we have heard repeatedly.

In the Beginning:

When Micheal was killed one thing I heard too much of was how strong I was. In that moment I was so numb that I could not respond to anything. It truly wasn't strength but numbness. later knowing I was expected to be strong made it very hard for me to take my moment in time to openly and truly grieve for Micheal. my younger children were told to be strong for us. Which was unfair to them. they had lost their hero and big brother. they did not need to be strong they needed to grieve and hurt too.

It was like being in a foreign country in a fog with no map or language dictionary. I had no idea how to do it so I did the best I could. I was given advice on how to deal with loosing Micheal but for each of it is different there are no rules are right way to grieve. for that matter there is no real wrong way to do it either

Something one of the guys said to me probably bugged me more than anything else said. i have heard it from others to. "You are taking this so well." Or "I'm glad you are recovering so well." Fact is I am not taking the death of my son well. I am just not behaving badly. When you loose your child or anyone you love for that matter you don't recover or get over it. It's not a cold or the flu. You don't recover. This pain is now a part of who I am. I have learned to cope with this "new normal" and live again but I will never accept my son's death. I understand it. I know he is gone but I do not and will not accept it.

Most of the people we knew before Micheal's death are no longer a part of our lives. By their choice. Not sure if it was guilt or fear that made them walk away but most did. Only one civilian friend remained. the rest that stayed were military. That hurt a great deal. Back to the saying anything is less hurtful than saying nothing at all.

And Now
When new people meet us now and find out Micheal was killed in action they are not quite sure how to respond. Condolences are of course given but beyond that they stammer away. Congressmen Charlie Dent of PA responded best of all the people who were told about Micheal. He sat down next to me and said.. tell me about Micheal. And I did. Fact is I like to talk about Micheal. I also like hearing other peoples stories about him. And I honestly do not want to hear how someone is against the war. I still support the troops and their mission. By tell me how it was wrong to be in Iraq and we just went for oil, you are telling me my son died for nothing and in vain. Well I don't believe that nor do the Iraqi people who are grateful to our troops for their new found freedom.

It really comes down to I am still me. I still love coffee so ask me to go for some. I still love books so recommend one. And I still love my son so talk or ask about him. Don't ask me about his injuries or how he died.. ask me how he lived! As much as I miss him. as much as it hurts to know he is gone, as empty as that place in my heart is... I am that PROUD of my son too. He inspires me. And of the other gold star families i have met I know their fallen loved one inspires them too. Let us tell you their stories and be inspired by these men and women. If hearing the story of our loved one is too much... then ask us about something else. Our grief is not contagious but our inspiration just might be.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A mission to focus on.....

Had no choice but to go shopping today. Just picked up a couple of things because I still avoid Wal-mart on Sundays as much as possible. It just takes me back....

Anyway I ran into the only other gold star mom in town. Her son-in-law was killed in al Anbar 3 years ago. She asked me how I can be so positive in such a short time. As my last blog stated I have tried to find my smile again. And when I really think about it I have been amazingly blessed in some ways this past year also. As much and I miss my son and hurt that he was taken from me I am that proud of him also. It is that pride in him that drives me. I have told people often that Pokey is my inspiration and that I hope he and those who served with him will inspire them also.

Sgt. Lewis, who knew my son well, told me just a couple days after we lost Micheal that is was easier in theater to loose a man because they had a mission to focus on. It would be some time before I told him that his word saved me from the deepest part of the depression I battled. I kept in touch with a lot of Pokey's brothers in arms. For a while they thought it was a gratitude thing. In some ways it was but in a larger much more important way they and all those who serve became my mission in life. I explained it to my son's brothers like this. My job was to be a mom and take care of Micheal as best I could while he was in Iraq. That meant being supportive, positive and sending the hugs in a box we call care packages. Micheal's job was to take care of the men he served with. when Micheal was killed he couldn't do his job anymore. Nor could I do mine. So I am now doing Micheal's job for him. I try to take care of his brothers and sisters in arms as best I can. It doesn't matter to me if the service member ever knew Micheal... the military is one big family in my eyes. I do as much as I can to help them. Whether it be sharing the positive news of all they do, send care package, talk to them on the phone, or try to get laws passed to protect them. My favorite part of my job is when I get to take care of our Wounded Warriors. These are some of the most inspirational people you will ever meet. Their positive outlook is heart warming. It is also a remind to me every day that if they can fight to over come what ever wound they have I can fight too. And I do look at some of what I do as carrying on my son's fight to rid this world of bullies. God he hated people who picked on the weak and defenseless. No I am not saying our military men and women are weak and defenseless. However they can't always get or bring attention to things I can as a civilian. I have been given an opportunity to be a voice. It is a gift in my eyes and I hope I am using it well.

I love our military. they have seen me through a very hard year and then some. I must give back to them. I must honor Pokey and all those who have fallen. I can't do anything more for my son now but mourn and honor him. I however can make a difference in the lives of those returning home. Especially our wounded.

Hug a soldier today.. tell them thank you. Hug the spouse or parent of a soldier today and thank them also. Those who love those who serve, serve too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Finding a Smile Again

So here I am a little over a year since the knock on the door and my world fell apart. Some days I have learned to smile and even laugh again. Not as completely as I once did but still they smiles come now. And sometimes they come with guilt.

Two very wise men have touched my life in the past month or so. One gentleman was with the SAS and he spoke of how he lives his life so that in the next he can look into the eyes of those friends he fought beside who did not come home and tell them without a doubt he did his best to honor them. The second gentleman was a WWII veteran, Medal of Honor recipient and 99 yrs old. His words struck my heart through. " We can only mourn our fallen. We honor them by taking care of those who come home especially our wounded" It is those two thoughts, beliefs, that I have tried to live this past year by. Although only recently put into words for me.

We knew the moment they spoke the words that day there was no more we could do for Micheal but mourn and grieve. Which is why our first question was " Was anyone else hurt?" from the looks on the Sgt and Chaplain's faces I don't think it is a question they get often. To this day I am grateful now on my son's brothers were seriously hurt. Although I have found out since that some of the injuries they received were not as minor as they would have likes me to believe. All the same I have hug each of them and they are safely home now.

The smiles come more frequently now. Laughter is not as forced as it once was. I suppose we have found that place in life other Gold Star families have described to me as "the new normal". I have found myself on a path that I actually enjoy. In a way I share it with Micheal... I wish he were here truly.... but he does inspire me in what I am doing now. And I think he is sitting up there grinning and putting people and events in my life that will help me heal and grow.

Thanks Pokey.. I love you. I would trade it all for one more hug kiddo.