We like to believe that the tragedies of life come to others. The neighbors across the street or others in our communities, but not to us. I suppose that thought is a mechanism to help keep us from being totally paranoid about living in a world where none of us are immune from the most unexpected heart breaking experiences. And with that comes the question of faith, the purpose of life, the questions to God (if we are believers): “Okay, what do you want me to do with this basket of lemons? How do I fill this emptiness and find solid ground again? What do you have in store to help me stop fluttering around with no sense of direction? When will this pain stop?”
Yes, I know all the quotes and cliches like, “If He brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it. Or “You’re not alone, He is always with you. David and Patrick are with you.” People don’t get that lines like that aren’t the most helpful words. Hell I’m human! Don’t treat me like I’m above being human! Don’t tell me I’m strong! Those who say such words haven’t walked around their home with the thundering silence brought on by being the survivor of a child who died and also a husband. They don’t know what it’s like to not be able to touch them in the flesh, or not hear those words or phrases that only they said in a ways like no one else could, or to not observe a certain way they moved while you watched in silence and smiled with an overpowering love.
All I can say now in the aftermath of that October night and those that followed AND all those that came before regarding Patrick is that I’m cut, torn, battered, and bruised as a human, but my spirit keeps searching to fulfill my continued journey, although, with honesty, there are days I say enough is enough. And wish I could fade away into the clouds where I could leave behind the pain of hearing that February morning that Patrick was dead in Iraq, and that October night that not only were a couple of ribs cracked, but there were several spots on my husband’s left lung, and most likely the ribs were already weakened from suspicion that those spots meant the big C word. An oncologist was being called in. …………………….
I met my husband, a lean mean fighting machine, a U.S. Marine, Devil Dog, in June, 1983. He was 38 and I was 28. And our meeting is definite proof that destiny strikes out of the blue, because no timid, insecure, Georgia country girl like I once was would ever have it on their radar to meet and marry a man who had already been in the Marines for eighteen years, traveled the world, and served in Vietnam. I didn’t know one military rank from the other. I knew that Fort Benning, Georgia, Home of the Infantry at the time, was within 30 miles of where I lived, but I knew nothing about military from any branch. I grew up in a low class family of cotton mill workers, carpenters, waitresses, moonshiners, drunks and fighters. Only by the grace of God and His journey for me did I take a different path, although that journey included getting married the first time too young and for all the wrong reasons.
After completing high school, I was too scared to go out on my own, but didn’t want to stay in an environment where alcohol and other family dysfunction was more than I wanted to live in. If I lived with my maternal grandparents who I had spent much of my life with after my mother, an only child, got pregnant with me at sixteen, my grandparents would always treat me like a child and have strict rules, plus I never knew when they would want to throw a drunk and lay around that way for weeks. If I stayed with my mother and stepdad she would require a majority of my paycheck which was less than a $80.00 a week for 40 hours working as a receptionist at the Medical Center Emergency room after high school. So a few months afterward completing school, I married the brother of a friend who was almost seven years older than me. He had been sweet on me for a while and came from a good family. The small town gossip passed around that I must have been pregnant. But I wasn’t. That came six months after I married. Although Jack was a great guy, he was more like my big brother, and I had not even turned eighteen. I knew the day I walked down the aisle in the $18.00 dress that I bought from J.C. Penney’s, that I was not doing the right thing. But I didn’t know how to stop it. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. So I was married and over a year later gave birth to my son, Phillip. So in small town America where no stop light existed and the Baptist Church sat across the street from the Methodist Church and the main two lane Highway 85 ran through the center of what was called town with its two gas stations and post office, I was set to live down Hog Waller Rd in a mobile home on a lot shaded by towering pecan trees.
Then ten years passed and I found myself needing to escape the small town cage where “everyone knows your name” and nothing changed except the seasons, who had died, who the new owner of the local gas station was, or the name of the new Methodist or Baptist Church ministers. And yes, I changed, and wanted a divorce. I was going to Texas where my half sister lived. Then on a June day at a ball field in Pine Mountain, 20 miles from my small Georgia town, I was with my son Phillip who was about to turn ten. He played on the Little League Team from our part of Harris County with two youngsters that were his best friends. While I was seated at a small table in the shade of a canopy of tall trees surrounding the ball field, and keeping the score book for the game, the dad of my son’s friends walked to me with a man he introduced as his foster brother, Larry Tainsh. I said, “hello,” and turned my attention back to the ball game. I didn’t find a bald man very attractive! But at that very moment, a new turn in my life’s journey was set with chapters that would cover the next thirty-one years. But If you want to make God laugh, make a plan!
Before October,2014 arrived with trips to the emergency room, my husband and I agreed to renew our wedding vows in December for our 31st anniversary. We wanted a special event to share with friends we had grown close to over the past several years and with our son Phillip. After all we were married on Decembeer 22, 1983 at the Vista, California court house. Dave’s best man and a witness was his Sergeant Major and my maid of honor and second witness was the Sergeant Major’s girlfriend. It was a memorable day. Later that evening with Dave in his Marine Corps Dress Blues we went to what was then the Flying Bridge restaurant and bar in Oceanside. Because it was the holiday season, there were a lot of people in for dinner and celebration, even a group of Marines from Camp Pendleton, the key military base of the area, who kept champagne flowing for us. We slow danced to Anne Murray’s “Could I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life.” We called that our song from that moment on.
But I could never have imagined journeying down a road that not only included the death of a son, but also led to sitting in an Oncologist’s office with my husband just a couple months from our 31st wedding anniversary and learning he had stage 4 lung and brain cancer.
Locate my books: Heart of a Hawk: One family’s sacrifice & journey toward healing AND Surviving the Folded Flag: Parents of war share stories of coping, courage, and faith at www.militaryfamilybooks.com or Amazon.com
Love’s Return @ Amazon.com