During the dark times in our lives; be they tragedy, loss of a loved one, illness, or abuse...our hearts build up walls as a way to protect itself from further pain. How much can one heart take after all? I know that in my own journey of losing my husband, 1LT Todd Weaver, that while simultaneously feeling comforted by knowing he is in Heaven watching over our daughter and I, that I built up my own walls so I might never have to experience this again. My mindset was one of independence and resilience. Kiley and I were going to be just fine! I wanted nothing except to take care of her and raise her in a way Todd would be proud. I thought I was strong. I thought I had my head on straight. I was learning that God's plan was above my own plan for our lives. I had to be open to listening for what it was He was teaching us now. I thought I could help other's gain a new perspective on death. But I wasn't helping myself.
Something clicked about a month ago. My "resilience and strength" was a wall- a wall to keep away anything or anybody that could hurt my heart ever again. The way I feel about losing Todd has always been that I would have NEVER chosen this for us-but that God knew Todd's life was full and amazingly well lived- and that his sacrifice would save lives, touch lives, and always be remembered. This was His plan. And while I've thought this for so long now I have been cheating myself by trying to manipulate my heart in order to protect myself. I purposefully avoided any thought about "moving forward"- hated words to Gold Star Families by the way- and that Kiley and I could handle being on our own. I locked the door in my mind. But recently the key has been turned and the door was cracked open. I had been punishing myself by avoiding any idea of happiness of heart- as I felt it would be dishonoring Todd - that it was my way of matching his sacrifice. I shouldn't feel that way. And I know that now.
September 11th, 2010, two days after Todd was killed, our family and friends gathered in the Sunken Gardens at the College of William & Mary. The ceremony remembered those lost on 9/11 and an added wreath was laid for Todd, as he was a graduate of the College. There was a man who had come to pay his respects that was a student with Todd. He was a familiar face. He expressed his condolences and tried to brighten the mood by talking about some of the good times with Todd.
A few months passed with a few "hello's" and "how are you doing's". He began to make himself available to listen to our story; a place where I could share what I was feeling and everything we've been going through since the beginning of this journey. He had become a very good friend. I enjoyed talking to him and laughing with him- but I couldn't read him. I wanted to make sure he didn't misinterpret the friendship because that door was locked. And then he deployed.
A few more months passed and the door was still locked. I was just fine with having a friend to talk things out with. And then he got injured. During a training exercise he sustained an injury to his eye that has required four surgeries. He had to be sent back to the states for treatment and that is when I decided I needed to go see him. Because of the number of soldiers being seen at the medical center he was cleared to stay at a nearby hotel. When he opened his door....I unlocked my mind's door.
It has become clear to me that our hearts and our minds will not let us do things that they know we are not ready for. And my heart decided it was ready to take risks again. Because that's who I am. I was built to support the people I care about. To stand beside them in times of trouble. I wish I could have learned this lesson in a book rather than having to live it out- but losing Todd has taught me so much about what I value now, what isn't worth holding onto, and what is. I feel like I've gained an entire life's worth of lessons since Todd's death- and in that I have been able to walk with this man as he navigates the uncertainties of his healing and the future of his career. He had been so helpful to me from early on and I am blessed to be able to give that back.
Todd's fingerprint is permanently pressed into my heart. He will never leave. It is not possible. Our daughter will know him to the best of my ability! My family tree does not change because Todd is gone. He didn't walk out the door....I didn't divorce him....he was sent home to Heaven. I have been so blessed to be continually supported by family and friends when the opposite is all too often the case for widows. They get pushed away. Erased. Knowing how lucky I am to have such a great relationship with my in-laws I am scared of the thought of any of that changing based on "moving forward". Of course this is all in my head and totally irrational. I know they want only for Kiley and I to be happy, but I'm scared. Scared that a new relationship could be interpreted as a replacement for Todd. And now I can't stop crying. I care a lot about what other's may think. And maybe that's something I have to work out on my own.
I don't know what the future holds. I'm not supposed to. What I do know is that I'm happy, hopeful, and as we navigate this relationship and the initial inquisitive looks start to fade- that there will be more to share.