I could be setting myself up for failure tonight as most of what has been weighing on my mind is difficult to discuss. The repercussions could potentially intensify how alienated I already feel, but after some lengthy conversations with my personal advisor (Mom), she gently reminded me that if we don't talk about the hard stuff....we don't change the hard stuff.
Since last year's global backlash of sharing my husbands last letters to my daughter and I, I have been less apt to put myself in a situation where I could feel that much judgement. After reading more hateful comments from people that just must have thought I hadn't suffered enough- they certainly gave me cause to hesitate. I turned down a national television show knowing that as much positivity and hope I could give would never be worth repeating that experience. But wouldn't you know it...I don't have to say much at all and judgement is a daily hardship for me. Can we talk about this, please? Because if I sit on it much longer I'm scared that I'll build up so much resentment to those I feel abandoned by that when I'm finally pushed away that it could be too late. This being Father's Day I was motivated to reach out and hopefully connect on this issue after this morning's sermon at my church. I felt like in a room of over 1,000 people that our pastor was just sitting across from me at a coffee shop maybe, hearing my heart and everything I have been through and learned, and verbalizing it in a way that I never could. That will stick with me forever.
Something to consider: Being a widow, young or old, with kids or without, does not mean that they lost the ability to decide what is best for them or their family. You trusted and loved them when they married the man they lost, please be there for them when they try to pick up the pieces of their lives when they need you the most. Many people aren't aware of how much added burden is placed on somebody experiencing grief when opinions and expectations of everybody else are constantly on their mind. I'm going to tell you something I haven't talked about before, and I wish I didn't feel like I had to now.
The day before Todd deployed we were sitting upstairs in the office finishing my Battle Book. For those of you who have never heard of a battle book it is a directory of every important piece of information that you could ever think of in order to take care of a military spouses daily routine in an emergency. Like if during Todd's deployment I were to be hospitalized for whatever reason somebody could look at this book and know when to feed the dog, where we kept medicine, what Kiley's needs were, etc. The more important part of that book goes through subjects we don't ever want to have to consider could be our reality. But it is. We talked about funeral wishes. We talked about wearing uniform vs. civilian clothes. We talked about what he would like to take to Heaven. And as painful and upsetting as they were, if he didn't tell me and if the worst were to happen I may have questioned every decision that I did make wondering whether it was what he wanted. Harder than any of that conversation was the part when he told me about wanting to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He'd of course never mentioned that before and I didn't ask why. That's what he wanted and I didn't need an explanation- if my husband has to come back to me under red, white, and blue he gets whatever he wants. No questions. But what I did want to know was whether that would mean that when my time came would I be able to rest there with him? He just stopped writing, looked at me, and said "well I've always assumed you would remarry"....followed closely with "Kiley needs to have a Dad". I can't imagine how difficult that thought had to have been for him. It hurt me to hear it because it wasn't a reality I wanted to live. His tone of voice said more than his statement did.... different than I would have expected. He was serious and tender at the same time. A lot of what Todd communicated in life never had to be said- and during this moment etched into my memory forever I felt his desire for my happiness come through in a way I'd never experienced before. I've been trying to come up with a way to express the significance and depth of this conversation but I can't. I can't because nobody else would understand, it was a bond that only we shared- so different than any other - friend or family alike.
Not having shared this intimate detail of our lives until now it has been hard to cope with the reactions of others from the moment I started dating Alex. Having the peace that I do, knowing my husband's heart better than anybody, somehow got buried underneath the blanket of unspoken disapproval and abandonment I feel now. I started to question whether what Kiley and I needed for our future could ever be embraced with love and understanding. To be totally honest I don't feel like I'm even a factor in some people's minds anymore. Emma Weaver was replaced with Todd's widow. A bookmark in time....placed at Sept 9th, 2010. Losing a spouse is so emotionally devastating but what makes it worse is that not only have you lost them- you've lost hope that you'll be supported, and you've lost your identity. Take care of a widows heart. We just ask for understanding when the time comes for us to move forward in our lives. Maybe our decisions aren't the same as what you'd do/hope/expect. But you haven't lived what we have....haven't lost what we have. Your silence speaks volumes. And this is the only way I can hope to reach an audience, maybe not mine, but somebody out there will hear this call...
This next part is where I'm going to call myself out and others too. This is where what I have to say can potentially be the last bit of communication I ever get to have with some people. All I can do is pray that by acknowledging my awareness of it and my desperate hope to connect my heart to yours that it won't be.
Lets talk about Facebook. I take Todd's memory and all that I can teach and share with Kiley very seriously. She needs to know what a great man she has for a father. And at the same time I want to balance that remembrance with our present and our future. Being able to express happiness again is amazing, something as simple as a status update or life event is monumental...to me. So like every other person out there that's what I do. Except I started to take notice of who commented, liked, or messaged me. A trend was starting to appear. Any time I talked about Todd or tagged a picture of him I was overwhelmed with positive feedback. Battle buddies, co-workers, old friends, new friends, mentors, strangers, family, you name it. It was encouraging. Sadly though my audience that comments on anything having to do with the concept of "moving forward" is much smaller. A more defined audience as well....women mostly, new friends, people who grew up being my friends and knowing me for me, soldiers for whom Todd would speak highly of and valued on a professional level, and those with children of their own. While that was encouraging too- it hurt at the same time because I was acutely aware of the differences I was seeing. I can only hope that although I'm letting you know how painful is has been to feel like not only have I lost Todd but I'm losing those ties to people he cherished on Earth....that you'll hear my heart now. Todd doesn't get to grow old and reminisce about the old days, he doesn't get to go to reunions, he doesn't get to share his daughter with the world. I do. I would like to be able to do that for him if you'll have me.