Today is 12 years he’s been gone. 12 years of fighting to push forward. Fighting to stay afloat… I wont let this beat me. Someone asked me if its still fresh, just like yesterday. In some ways it is.. It keeps playing over in my head.
Our story was over before it began. We were planning a wedding… he was the love of my life. He was my best friend and we were so happy we made it this far. I was 29 at the time. Engaged and preparing to spend the rest of my life with Todd. The war in Iraq just started. It was 2003. It was uncertain if they were going to be deployed or not. He was in the National Guard… “weekend warriors”. Things always changed so we kept planning and hoping we would make it to the wedding we were planning . Things with the war started heating up in January of that year. The wedding dress was bought, the invitations were about to be ordered, things were moving along. But then he called me at work, not saying a word, but I knew it was all going to change. They were going to be deployed..for up to a year. So instead of the wedding we planned, we went to city hall the next week and got married by the justice of the peace. All of our family were able to attend and it was a great day! We were going to have another wedding after the deployment–the wedding of our dreams, but we just had to wait for it to happen. He got the call that night of the wedding, that he had to report the next day to the armory.. they were leaving.
He left me in February to go to Fort Drum in NY. Just married a week.. never got to wear that dress. Now saying goodbye and not knowing when or if Id see him again. I did though. Twice while they were in Ft Drum before they left for Iraq in April. Once in Iraq, we wrote letters everyday. I made mini-cassette tapes so we could hear each others voices.. we sent them back and forth. Phone calls back then were only for 10 minutes once a week.. so the cassette tapes were a God send! We’d talk about the life we were going to have when he returned. We just wanted to be together.
The night of September 1st I got a knock on the door at midnight.. “this is Colonel so and so.. you need to open the door”. “why are you here?” The rest is a blur of crying and screaming..
It still hurts.. the dreams we never had together. The wedding I never had and babies we were planning on having. Baby showers still suck to this day and I try to avoid them as much as possible. I spent most of my 30’s trying to get a grip on life. Trying to survive and recover.. Some days were better than others. My mother in law told me to “keep my heart open”; there’s more to life waiting for you.
I learned so much in my grief journey and I think finally it’s okay. I’ve made mistakes along the way.. I thought I had a second chance with someone new…that we were going to have a family I always wanted. But after 5 years in a no where relationship it ended. I’ve moved several times, changed jobs, thinking THIS will make it better. But I still miss my best friend.. I’ve learned that crying is easier than fighting back the tears. I’ve learned “to make room for joy” .. that there is something everyday to be thankful for. I try not to think of the dreams that were supposed to happen.. because it’s just too sad. I learned to live in the here and now because the past sucks and the future is too scary. I embrace life! I travel. I want to discover new things and new places. I make things happen. I don’t let the small stuff weigh me down.
When I turned 40 I celebrated all year. The 30’s sucked so much that 40 had to be better!! It has.. I think I’m a better me than I was before. Stronger and more confident -that this journey has made me. I met someone new who is my best friend again. He understands and gets me. He says my past isn’t all of me, just part of me. He says I deserve to be happy..for the longest time I didn’t believe that.
I want to tell those of you on this journey .. hang on.. when things don’t seem like they will ever get better.. on the days you just cant do anymore.. hang on. That, eventually, there will be more good days than bad. That it’s okay to make new memories and to make room for joy! The tide changes with time. It’s going to be okay.