Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Struggle and Peace

As we approach the 6 month anniversary of Todd's passing I have reflected daily on how Todd lived in this world and how I will continue to honor that life. There are always thoughts of Todd swirling around in my mind, hourly making themselves known. Any situation can trigger a memory; doing the taxes this year only reminds me that it will be the first time tackling it on my own. Passing over FOX through the TV guide and knowing that Todd will never be here to quote Bill O'Reilly "the factor is on---TONIGHT". Is it normal to incorporate memories of Todd into otherwise mundane daily tasks? I'm sure that it is, but even so it drains you a little of the energy you have left. When I seem overwhelmed at any point I feel thankful for my faith in Jesus Christ, for which I may never have had without Todd.

Its times like this, sitting in front of the computer, that I question how much I really want to share. But through it all I have learned that if I don't talk about the hard things they certainly won't get easier by not doing so. Todd was a reserved man in many ways and he was always cautious about what he shared with others. And as I try to live by his example I question myself to a certain degree. But for the last several months I have felt pulled in different directions about something that has been on my mind. And because I know that I am ready, PROUD of my husband, and open about some of the more intimate details- I think it is time to really tell you why I'm in such a peaceful place.

Before Todd was killed I would be comfortable saying that my faith in Jesus was lukewarm at best. I tried but nothing was fitting for me. I knew how much it meant to Todd to raise Kiley as a Christian and I was doing what I could to be a supportive wife. My understanding of Christianity was certainly lacking that is for sure. But the moment, the absolute moment that I was told that Todd had been killed there was an unquestionable knowledge that Todd was in Heaven. Little things kept happening for the next week or so, Todd letting me know that I was on the right path and that he was okay.

Most noticeably for me was the experience I had before the memorial service. I had gone out shopping for a dress for the service and picked up a few accessories at a popular store at the mall. When I got back to Todd's parents house I joined the rest of the family for a meeting regarding some details of the upcoming service. My shopping bags were piled on the coffee table and as I was listening to something Donn was saying I happened to look down and see the underside of one of the bags. On it was printed a bible verse. I thought it was strange that it would be printed on the underside of the bag and noted that I should look it up when I had a moment. Later the next day I was on the phone with Kirby and I told her about some of the things that had happened that made me think Todd was trying to tell me he was alright. Which reminded me about the bible verse and we looked it up together. John 3:16 says "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life". A gentle guidance in the direction I so badly needed to go.

I've said before that I have a lot of peace, which is probably hard to understand. My sadness is for myself and Kiley and how we won't get to see Todd again, but my joy is that Todd is in his eternal resting place in Heaven. Todd also gave me an amazing gift, he left Kiley and I each a letter that he wrote on his computer shortly after arriving at FOB Howz E Madad in early June. Deciding to share them is where I have felt pulled in different directions. I have wanted to shout them from the rooftops because of how proud I am of having such a wise and comforting husband. My struggle has been with whether they would be received by others with the same kind of gladness I have felt knowing that I have this wonderful gift. They are difficult to read. But hearing his voice again, even if its only in my head, means I can be strengthened with these words. That being said read on to understand.

Dear Emma:

Well if you are reading this, I guess I did not make it home and therefore, I was not able to remind you again of how much I love you. I love you so much baby and I will always love you. Although I may not be here right now, take comfort in the fact that I am watching over you right now. I am not gone and I will always be with you in spirit. I know this time must be hard for you but I also know how strong you are. Never forget that God knew what was best for us before we were even born. Take comfort in that. This happened for a reason. Although you may not believe it now, you will one day.

I want you to know just how important you are to me. I could not ask for a more caring, beautiful and loving wife. The memories that we have shared over the last few years have been the best of my life. Although it may seem like my life was cut short, I lived a life that most can only dream of. I married the perfect woman. I have a beautiful daughter that amazed me every day. I even had two great dogs - at least most of the time. I couldn't ask for anything more.

If you feel sad, just think back to the memories that we shared. Look at our daughter and how beautiful she is. Be strong for her. Remind her about her Daddy and tell her that I loved her more than anything else in the world. Her birth was the best day of my life and she was the best thing that ever happened to me. Her smile and laughter represent all that is good and beautiful in this world. Tell her that Daddy is in heaven now and will watch over her and protect her every minute of every day.

I love you Emma. But never be afraid to do what you need to do to be happy. It is so important that you continue to find happiness in your life. Although you may think this is impossible right now, have faith. Much better times are coming. You and Kiley have a wonderful life ahead of you and I am so happy to have shared some of it with you. I love you.

Your loving Husband,


Dear Kiley, My Sweetie:

Although you may not remember me, I want you to know how very much your Daddy loves you. I left for Afghanistan when you were 9 months old. Leaving you was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. You are so very special to me sweetie - you are truly a gift from God. The best day of my life was the day you were born. Every time I saw you smile my heart would just melt. You were my sweetie - my life was not complete until you were born.

I am so sorry I will not be able to see you grow up. But remember, your Daddy is not gone. I am in heaven now smiling down on you every day. You are so very lucky to have such a wonderful Mom to take care of you. Make sure you are good for her and help her out whenever you can. Always remember to say your prayers at night and be thankful for all your many blessings. Never forget how important and special you are to so many people. We love you so very much. When you get older and start school, do your best and try to learn as much as you can about the world you live in. Always be nice and caring to others and you will discover that the world will be nice to you. But when things aren't going your way, never forget that God knows what is best for you and everything will work out in the end.

You have such a bright and beautiful future ahead of you. Have fun. Enjoy it. And remember, your Daddy will always be proud of you and will always love you. You are and will always be my sweetie.

With very much love,

Your Daddy

My mom said a long time ago something that really stuck with me. That is that a person doesn't get to leave this world until they have completed everything they had to do on Earth. Todd lived that full life. Even though he was a young man he was cultured, an academic, a happily married man and father, and even though he wasn't here to raise Kiley he left me the tools to do so with our combined values. Like my mom said "When the job is done sometimes you get to go home early".

I found a great website where I uploaded a photo of Todd reading to Kiley when she was about a week old and I had the letter to her superimposed on it and framed. I did the same to a wedding photo for the letter sent to me. They are both hanging prominently in my house so I can see them everyday. Although they are private letters I have thought long and hard about how significant they are and the importance of sharing the depth of wisdom Todd had for being 26 years old at the time of his death.

Thank you Todd for having the courage to write the hardest thing you've ever had to write, knowing full well that the fact that I would even have to read it is the reality of being a soldier. You were the strongest man I ever knew. Your strength will always give me strength.