|photo from Google|
I read her story over my morning cup of coffee, kids watching Backyardigans in the background. What struck me most was her statement: "Maybe if I see the love and support [of the Memorial Day ceremony at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego], it will feel right again, because now nothing feels right. I don't want to go to a pool party or barbecue. ... There's no right way to be a widow."
My heart hurts.
This morning we're off to a baseball tournament and then this afternoon we'll swim with the family, eating tri-tip and corn on the cob. We'll play Harry Potter Clue and shoot hoops, and I'll likely sit at my mother-in-law's chocolate Grand and play Chopin.
Heather, on the other hand, still grieves. Her life will never be the same.
Last year Bookguy and I chatted with a young, handsome Marine named Jordan. He had been deployed 4 times and made it home each time. I wanted to engage him in conversation about this huge part of his life, but I felt extraordinarily ignorant. I didn't even know good questions to ask. And I didn't want to ask the wrong question--trigger something painful or say something that sounds ungrateful. Somehow though, we managed to discuss a few of his deployments, his role, re-entry, and some of the structure of the military.
And I learned. I learned just a tad bit more about what it is like for guys like Jordan.
When Jordan's wife, Lindsay, shared, I learned a little more about what it is like for wives like her left behind.
Not asking someone who has served in the military about his service is like not asking someone who plays in the NBA about his basketball career. Only worse because you can't die playing basketball. Nor do you decide to play basketball to guard the freedom of another. Nor do you see your fellow teammates die while you're on the court.
Maybe if we ask they'll sharply reply. Then we'll know it's sore. But if we don't ask, if we share a pizza and chat only about Modern Family (a fantastic cross-over subject, by the way), will they see our love and support? If we stand side by side on the little league field and we don't ask about their Semper Fi tatoo, the insignia on their hat, or their Navy sweatshirt, do they see our love and support?
One thing I'm pretty confident about: most people who have lost a loved one appreciate the opportunity to talk about him or her. It's you and me who feel awkward about it. We don't know what to ask. We don't know what to say. We don't want to be trite. We don't want to stir up pain.
So we stay 'above' the intimidating waters of their loss. Except they weren't above in the first place.
Showing That We Care
Most of us care. A lot, in fact. We just don't know how to show that we care.
This weekend, I'm making it a goal to do two things: to make sure my children know what Memorial Day is really about. And to demonstrate I care to someone who might be grieving a military loss. This blog post is a start.
My plan is to show the video below to my big kids. I'll also print out a crossword puzzle and word search to teach them a little more about Memorial Day. And hopefully tomorrow we can walk a nearby cemetery and notice gravestones of people decorated with flags. This is my attempt to show Heather, Jordan, our friends Chris and Nate, and so many others we know who have served that we get it. We understand what today is about, and we care.