My husband, SGT Brian M. Crane, was injured in 2004 while in Iraq. He had many medical problems, including TBI and PTSD. He passed away as a proud US Army Veteran; he got his Angel Wings on December 30, 2010. His death was unexpected; sudden…shock doesn’t even begin to cover the feeling. It’s like a vacuum of disbelief, the world stands still, motion is slow, and it seems like a dream. When I got the call, I rushed to the ER to listen to a Doctor prepare me for what I would see. I’m glad he did because I didn’t understand how dire the situation was until I walked through the doors and saw Brian hooked up to all sorts of tubes and contraptions and touched his cold, lifeless body. He was totally blue, and covered in an “air blanket” which looked like a pool lounger with holes in it that were blowing hot air to try to warm his body. They told me they could not bring him back, and wanted permission to “unplug him and stop CPR.” To me it felt like they were asking me to play God and end his life, and I couldn’t do it. They explained he could possibly hear me, so to talk to him. I was lying across his chest holding him and talking to him, and I looked up and touched his face. As I did, a single tear fell from his right eye and slide down his cheek. I knew he heard me telling him how much I loved him and at least some part of him knew how heart-broken I was. The Doctors told me he will never regain consciousness; they’d been working on him for 2.5 hours, which seemed like mere minutes and a lifetime all at once to me. He had bled out and they couldn’t stabilize him. Somewhere in all of this it became obvious he would not wake up. He was going to die; was almost gone, with machines keeping him alive. He wouldn’t ever want to live like this. I remember being grateful that we both had living wills so I didn’t have to make the choice. He had already made it. They unplugged him, and he took his last breaths, which the doctor explained as automatic reflexes from his brain stem because he had no brain activity, and 6 minutes later his life was over. At 40! And, my life was over as well.
Brian’s life was messy, his PTSD and TBI made his life, and everyone’s life around him messy, and as a result of this, I had countless episodes of guilt, and there was no love lost between his family and me. We barely spoke at the funeral, and haven’t spoken since.
However, Brian was in fact, my second husband to die. I lost my first husband, and the father of my children, 7 years previously in a non-military related death, which was also sudden, unexpected, and in an ER, where this time I didn’t get there in time to say goodbye. I was angry at God for having to go through this hell TWICE. I’d been through grief before, and I didn’t have the energy to deal with the intense, heavy, all-encompassing, life-draining black hole that grief brings to bear. But you’re not given a choice, and once more through the “rabbit hole” I went. It’s taken a long time to reconcile; I’m a work in progress!
I survived Brian’s death by remaining hollow, shallow, not feeling anything too deeply, like a hollow, porous shell. I ate and watched TV, gained a lot of weight, and a year later I was able to go back to school for a Master’s in Social Work from USC’s online military social work program. I wanted to help others in similar circumstances. I traveled when I could, I tried to immediately do all of the things we dreamed about doing together, but with older teenagers it wasn’t always feasible. I didn’t want to be on this journey, wanted so much to wish it away, eating at the table was impossible, and the boys and I drifted into our own individual islands of pain. We were living under the same roof, but became detached emotionally from one another. The boys had to lose a big piece of their mother to grief once more. At the time we didn’t realize it was happening. It is clear in hindsight, now that we’re connected emotionally again.
I found The American Widow Project on Facebook by “accident”, if there is such a thing! It took me a long time to actually get to an event–out of fear and not being quick enough with the mouse when events open up! I was put on a wait list once, and got a phone call from Taryn. She put me at ease and I loved her immediately. She will always be an inspiration. I went to my first event, which was a Health and Fitness Widow U workshop, and I felt like I was “home”; I found my peeps! Women who “get” me because they ARE me, WERE me, to some degree or another. We all became widows differently, all have our own journey of grieving, yet we all are the same as well. The workshops are life-changing, wonderful; the first time I felt safe enough and loved enough to allow myself to feel with any depth since Brian’s death. Working with Erin and Rae saved my life. Attending the Get Away events (I’ve been to 1!) are joyful and full of surprises, WHICH I LOVE!! When you’re the Mom, you create the surprises for your kids, there’s no more husband to gift you, bring you flowers, and tell you you’re beautiful, so being gifted is AMAZING!!!!!!! I’m forever grateful I found an organization that aims to help heal the broken hearts and souls—the guts of America’s military Widows and Widowers. I LOVE AWP! I owe my renewed spirit, joy for life, and ability to laugh again to AWP!!! THANK YOU!!!! <3 Margo Crane Proud Military Widow of SGT. Brian Maurice Crane