Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Miss You Todd

Three months have passed since my husband 1st LT Todd Weaver was killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan. On September 9Th 2010 Todd was killed by an improvised explosive device while on a reconnaissance mission in the early morning hours of that day. There have been many moments since that day that I have been brought down by sadness, but many more moments that have lifted me up and brought me the peace and strength that Todd would have wanted me to have.

September 9Th : I heard a cry, it was Kiley through the baby monitor. I noticed that the clock was reading 5:45am and that it was still dark. Then I heard the doorbell ring. I was scared but knew I had to answer it. I went to the door and the two uniformed officers where standing on my porch waiting for me to open the door. This is when my nightmare begins. After pulling Kiley from her crib and being so scared my body is shaking I sat down to hear them tell me that Todd was gone. My world was instantly destroyed by these two men for whom I felt so bad. They had to wake up that morning and get dressed in those uniforms and drive to my house to tell me the worst news that I could have ever received.

I am lucky enough to say that the Army has brought me the best friends I could have ever hoped for no matter what the Army lifestyle was a to bring our way. In my first moments of darkness I called one of these amazing ladies, Kelly Ivey, and told her what happened. She was at my house six minutes later, with the rest of my friends close behind. These women were there for me for whatever I needed, or what I didn't know I needed.

September 10Th: I flew to Dover Air force Base to receive my husband, to welcome him home. Dover is a wonderfully peaceful and professional place where they are very attentive to your needs. We took a bus out to the flight line where from a distance you could see Todd's transfer case draped with an American flag, sitting high above the ground on the 747 jet. It couldn't be happening to us, could it? We got off the bus and took our places alongside the jet as we waited for Todd to be brought down. Due to a policy the loved ones are not allowed to approach the case and express their condolences at that time. I know that the only thing I wanted was to run up to him and touch that case and tell him I loved him but I couldn't. Because of this I asked that the General that was overseeing Todd's arrival relay a message for me. I asked the General to let Todd know that I would try to raise Kiley with his values and the same character that he had in this world. I also asked the General to tell him that Kiley's eye's were gray. Since that day we were active in having that policy overturned.

September 24Th: The night before the memorial service our high school honored Todd with the retiring of his football and baseball jerseys at the first home football game. All of my great Army girlfriends were able to join me there as well as most of our graduating class and Todd and I's families. It was so touching to see how everybody came together to honor Todd, when in life we move in so many different directions we can always come home.

Early September 25Th: After the football game I went back to the condo that was Todd and I's first home together. All my girlfriends were there and we prepared ourselves for the next morning. I was very uneasy because of the things I had read about the Westboro Church and their plan to picket Todd's memorial service. How could these so-called Christians say the hateful things that they do and disrupt the services of our great soldiers that lost their lives in the fight to protect the very rights that they are now abusing? Sleeping was that night was not easy.

A knock on the door that morning and behind it was a weathered, hardy, grey-bearded biker. The Patriot Guard Riders were there to escort us to the Chapel safely -as to not be harassed by the Westboro Church. It was an emotional moment when I pulled up to the Chapel entrance. The streets were lined with American flags and over a hundred men with flags stood at attention as we went inside. There were many hugs, many looks that said the "I'm sorry" without vocalizing it, many many tears.

Todd continues to influence me in every decision I make. There was a time in my life that I would have stayed in the background, content with never leaving my own little world. Todd helped me learn that there was a whole world out there, that I couldn't live life in the shadows. Saying the eulogy at Todd's service was something that I know Todd would have appreciated and as his wife I wanted to honor him publicly with what he meant to me. As I listened to Todd's brother and sisters and close friends reflect on his life I was again uplifted to live life as fully as Todd did.

October 15Th: Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most peaceful places on earth. Knowing that Todd would be there in the company of his fellow American heroes was comforting. The day of the funeral was rainy and chilly. Todd was awarded both the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals as well as numerous other recognitions. Everybody in attendance joined the family in walking behind the cason as we headed to the graveside service. While we were walking the light rain ceased and the sun made an appearance. The service was moving and emotional for me as I held Kiley on my lap. At one point while the Secretary of the Army was talking to me he had to help keep Kiley from wriggling her way down the chair. That flag that I saw atop his transfer case the month before was now being meticulously folded and presented to me. It now sits in a beautiful flag case with his awards and decorations.

October 18Th: I went back to Tennessee to begin the process of packing up the house and putting it on the market. I wanted to be able to spend as much time with the girls that I decided to stay there for a few weeks. It was unfortunate that during that time one of my friends was going through a rough time in their life but I was glad to be able to be there and help in any way I could. There are challenges built into our lives and it is fighting those challenges that we become stronger and recognize when we have to turn our troubles over to God and let him guide us.

I received Todd's laptop computer that he had in Afghanistan. When I opened it I was overwhelmed with emotions as I stared at the desktop. There were two word files, one that says "Dear Emma" and another that says "Dear Kiley". I opened them and read the words my husband had written to us in case something were to happen to him. While they were so hard to read because it just reiterated that he wasn't coming home--I was brought so much peace hearing his voice through those letters. I couldn't imagine being at war and seeing what he did everyday and then having the courage to write goodbye letters to the one's you love. He was so strong.

Saying goodbye to Kirby, Amy, Pam, and Kelly was hard that I couldn't help but cry as we pulled out of the driveway. The closeness that comes with Army wives isn't like the TV show, it is truly a family. My casualty assistance officers both in Tennessee and in Virginia have been a blessing. At one point I was talking to Cpt. Soriano and he was expressing sadness for not being able to go over with the rest of his men, instead staying with the rear detachment unit. I like to believe that some of the purpose of him staying back meant that he would be integral in helping me through this process, becoming very good friends.

Beginning of December: After staying a couple of weeks with my brother-in-law and his wonderful family I was able to move back into the condo that Todd and I once shared. Knowing that I was coming home to Williamsburg to start this next chapter of Kiley and I's lives, I wanted to be comfortable there. The condo was in need of a little attention and I was blessed to be helped by the good people at the Williamsburg Community Chapel. They came together to help completely update our home and make it more safe for Kiley. When I walk through the door everyday I am so thankful for the efforts of the Men's group and the contractors that were involved.

And as I left my blog a year ago on a Thanksgiving/Christmas note I will do so again. If you've ever read a book on grief you may know that they tell you to start new traditions when the holidays roll around. But I agree with Todd's mother very much in her stance on this. She knew that what our family needed at Thanksgiving was to honor Todd by continuing the traditions that he was used to. Thanksgiving was the last time most of his family got to see him before he left for Afghanistan. What we didn't want was to turn Thanksgiving into a dark day. And this year the kids decorated the tables, we gathered in prayer, and thanked God for the time we had with Todd.

I celebrated Christmas early while I visited Todd's grave two days ago. I brought him a little Christmas tree with a stocking that I put Ferrero Roche's in. They were his favorite. I brought candy canes to decorate the wreath that lays at the base of his headstone because putting candy canes on the tree was a Weaver tradition. I thanked Todd for continuing to be with me everyday in spirit and for watching over us. I told him that Kiley has 11 teeth and say's goodbye to his picture before bed. Last year we videotaped him reading The Night Before Christmas so tomorrow Kiley will hear her Daddy read to her again. I hope that as we go into this next year Kiley and I continue to be blessed with good friends, family, and support as we remember and honor the life of 1LT Todd William Weaver. We love you Todd and I will see you in my dreams.