anger and grief · anxiety · army · cemetery · Compassion · coping · death · Death and Dying · depression · funeral director · funerals · grief · Life After Loss · Pain · TAC · Tim · wreaths across america

six years

this is gonna be a tough one.

it’s been a little while since i’ve written. i have been so busy with work and really just life in general. however, these last few days have been filled with nothing but dread. knowing it was almost here. the one day i hate most out of the whole year. march 31st. before that day, back in 2012, life was very different. i was happy, naive, and oblivious. it was a Tuesday. i had been on leave from work recovering from spinal surgery. things were looking up though. I was healing well, and I was really looking forward to getting back to my totally ordinary and happy life.

then my phone rang. “Tim is gone, he died this morning”. Have you ever seen those memes on social media where there is an image of a person or character and their surroundings are blurred, almost as if they were spinning or shaking? sometimes these memes are accompanied by the word “shook”. It sounds silly, but this is the only way I feel I can articulate how it felt to hear the worst news i ever recieved. I don’t remember the rest of the call. I think I may have vomited. I felt as if i couldn’t breathe. A million thoughts were going through my mind. “This has to be a mistake. Theres no way. He was way too full of life to be dead. He’s so healthy. It had to be someone else that just looked like him” I guess that was the denial stage.

The next week was strange, if that’s even the right word. Even six years later, its still strange. It’s funny how your mind works when it tries to process shock and trauma. There are parts of that week I remember so clearly, and yet other parts, parts that I should remember, that are a complete and total blur. I barely remember helping with arrangements or working on the memorial slideshow. I couldn’t tell you a single word I said when I spoke at the service. I do remember that when I finished speaking and started to step down from the front of the chapel my legs buckled under me, but Tim’s brother was there to grab me. It was an extremely long, exhausting, emotional week. There was a vigil that over 1000 people attended. Both visitations at the funeral home were so full that people had to wait outside in the parking lot to slowly filter in. Not that this was a surprise, everyone knew Tim, and to know him was to love him. He went to two different universities, had been in a fraternity, and had served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan while being stationed at Fort Hood in Texas. So he knew a lot of people. He made friends with anyone, anywhere, in any amount of time. It was incredible to see how many people loved and adored this man I so proudly called my best friend. But at the same time, it was so wrong. This wasn’t right. We shouldn’t be here, not for this, not like this.

The day of his actual funeral, the day that we buried him, his service was scheduled to start at noon. The director allowed me to come in at 9, alone, before anyone else was there. For nearly two and a half hours, I sat with him. I pulled up a chair next to his casket. I studied his face determined to never forget what he looked like in person, not just in photos. I remember staring at his infantry blue cord on his shoulder for a really long time. How did we get here? How could he leave us? It wasn’t like he did this on purpose, but I still had a lot of anger toward him and toward God for him being taken away. How could I ever possibly get married without my best friend by my side? Who will I call at all hours asking ridiculous random questions? That final morning with him, I talked to him about so many things, laughed about inside jokes we had, made him a promise to make him proud and also to keep his memory alive forever. I talked to him pretty much non stop for two and a half hours. For the very last time. I like to think that he heard me, wherever he may have been. Shortly before the service, as they were preparing to close the casket, I slipped in a very full envelope in with him. It was full of special notes, letters from his deployments, photos and other things. These things are still with him today.

After everything was over, the vigil, the viewings, the service, the burial, the reception, I wandered around empty and uncertain of what to do. How do I do this without you? How do I go back to living a normal life now? How is there a world without Tim? For a very long time after that, I suffered from extreme depression and anxiety. I was furious with God, and with the world. It wasn’t fair and I had no problem making anyone and everyone aware that I felt that way. But Tim, one of the best people I have ever known, would have been so disappointed in me, and he would certainly have let me know it if he could. So I began to channel my grief and anger into positive things, just like he always did.

My best friends death inspired me to go back to school, so that I could become a licensed funeral director. There were not many people that could have helped me in my darkest days. But the directors that cared for one of the people I loved most in this world, they helped me so much. Saying goodbye forever to someone I loved so much wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t quick, or neat, or easy or simple. But that funeral director was there every step of the way if I needed anything. He was so patient, so kind, and so caring. A few days later I was writing a thank you card to him, and that was the first time I realized that I wanted and needed to be able to do that same thing for others during the worst times in their lives. I enrolled in the program a few months later. If i had to live with the pain and heartbreak, I would put it to good use. I was determined to make Tim’s death meaningful. Sometimes I wonder if he gave me that final little nudge to go for it. This was a career I had thought about for years, and Tim knew that. As badly as I wish he were still here, his death has made me more compassionate, kind, patient, and so appreciative for life and the delecacy of it all.

To keep Tim’s legacy alive, I am involved with the Wounded Warrior Project, something that was very near and dear to his heart. I also participate in and fundraise for the Wreaths Across America program, specifically at the veterans cemetery where my Timmy is buried. These positive things all help, with the anger and the grief. He did not die in vain, because so much good came after the storm.

I know that he would be so proud of me, that he is proud of me. But there is still exactly one day a year that is just the absolute worst. One day a year when I let myself feel every ounce of pain and heartbreak and anger and sadness. Today was that day. Six years ago today, my life changed forever. Maybe his death indirectly made me a better, kinder human. But I would rather still have him here given the choice. Writing helps me work through the tough stuff. But it doesn’t make it easier, it doesn’t make it hurt any less, even all these years later. Love deeply. Hug longer. Tell the people you love how you feel. Tomorrow is never promised, and I will live with that excruciatingly painful truth for the rest of my life.

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4 thoughts on “six years

  1. I just started following your blog and came upon this entry. Wow–what a journey you have had. My thanks is not enough for your husband’s service to our country. Best to you as you continue to navigate this journey of life after losing someone you love. It will be six years this December that my wife died. It definitely is not always easy but there is life after loss. I look forward to continuing to read what you share. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. James- first of all, I am very sorry to hear about your wife. I would like to thank you for your extremely kind words! Tim was actually not my husband, he was my best friend of 15 years that was more like a brother to me. Nevertheless, thank you again. Take card of yourself!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. No worries at all! I can see how you would assume that. Thank you so much for reading though! I hope you enjoy!

    Like

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