A snapshot of strong {Part 2}: Wendy.

September 1, 2012

 … I am not strong. 

I am not strong. 

I NEED my husband. 

He cannot be gone. 

Please. Please. PLEASE! 

I don’t care whose husband it is, just please don’t let it be mine.

What if it is him? 

What will I do? 

Do I know where his Dress Blues are?  

Wait.  Is that what he wanted … or was it the Greens? 

Goodness … what is the green uniform called? 

Crap.

How come I didn’t pay more attention to these details.  

We talked about what he would want if something like this happened …

But will I remember everything he said? 

What will I do? 

I start pacing the house …

More panic sets in.

What will I do? 

How will I care for my daughter without him? 

Hmmm …

I will go back to Vet school. 

Yes. 

I run to the computer and pull up the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine web page …

Wait …

While I am online, I can hack into Jeremy’s email and see when he last wrote or read an email. 

Yes!

Then I will know if he is ok. 

But there is no evidence that he has read any emails for days. 

So I send him an email … I will check it first thing in the morning to see if it has been read. 

Knowing the baby would be up at 7am, I needed to (try to) sleep.

I took my laptop and my phone to bed with me and set it on Jeremy’s pillow and left it on all night. 

Maybe I would get an email from him in middle of the night. 

I comforted myself one last time by repeating: I don’t care whose husband it is, just please don’t let it be mine. 

Morning came.

No email.

No phone call. 

A quick hack into his email only to see no change in the status of read vs. unread …

The email I had sent to him the night before was still sitting there.

Unopened.

Unread. 

My heart starts to hurt. 

My stomach ached from being in knots for the past 9 hours. 

I get dressed and walk to the front window to peak down the driveway. 

No unfamiliar cars, thank goodness.

Ok.  I’ll feed the baby and check out the window every now and then. 

I imagined how I would react if I saw a car pull into the driveway and two uniformed men approached my house.  I would want to scream and collapse and cry … but I knew I couldn’t do that and scare Baby Jaime.  She was only just 6 months old … 

(She was only just 6 months old …. hasn’t even had a chance to know her Daddy). 

I came up with a plan.  As soon as I saw the soldiers coming up the drive, I would call my parents and tell them to come over immediately and get Jaime.  Then I would stand tall and strong while I listened to them tell me the news …

And I would KEEP IT TOGETHER until my parents got Jaime safely out of the house …

There. 

I had a plan. 

I was no longer paralyzed with fear (please, please, anybody else’s husband, please …). 

I could go about my day, pausing to look out the window now and then. 

I fed horses,

I made lunch,

I watched TV,

I checked Jeremy’s email,

I called his mom (if only to tell her nobody had come to the house yet) …

I paced the house,

I wanted so badly to call my fellow deployed spouses and ask if they had heard anything …

But I didn’t dare. 

What if I called and they had been notified … 

I couldn’t make it THAT real just yet. 

And what if they knew something I didn’t? 

Oh my goodness. 

Please, please, please …

Just after 7pm, just after I had put the baby down for the night, I received an email from the FRG Leader. 

It simply stated:  All spouses have been notified.

 

ALL SPOUSES HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED. 

 

I had not been notified …

Therefore Jeremy must be ok …

Yes!  Yes!  YES! 

I was not a widow. 

I was not going to raise my Baby Girl all alone. 

Oh the relief! 

I began to cry the tears I had kept inside all day so as not to concern Baby Jaime …  It was so overwhelming that I collapsed on the couch and cried tears of joy that I had not just been widowed.  I allowed myself to enjoy this feeling for about half an hour … 

I called his mom.

I called his sister.

I called my parents.

I called friends whom I knew were waiting to hear some news … 

Then I started to call my deployed spouse friends …

At least one of them, possibly two, had their lives changed forever earlier in the day …

It took three phone calls. 

The third call was to my friend Csilla, wife of CPT Sean Lyerly. 

She didn’t answer but a family friend did and offered to take a message. 

No. 

No. 

I wanted to talk to Csilla. 

I needed to know if Sean was ok. 

No.

Sean was not ok. 

Csilla had been notified earlier that CPT Lyerly was piloting the Blackhawk that had been shot down. 

Sean was gone? 

It was Csilla’s husband? 

No. 

No. 

NO! 

While I was still relieved that Jeremy was ok, the guilt immediately smothered the joy I felt. 

Can you believe, just the night before, I sat there in my home wishing it to be anyone else’s husband but mine? 

And it WAS someone else’s husband! 

It was Csillas. 

Csilla was now a widow. 

Csilla was now going to have to raise her 2 year old son without his father! 

Oh the guilt. 

I am such a terrible person

I am not strong. 

I am so not strong …

But I am strong. 

I survived that night and the following day… 

I came up with a plan of how I would handle myself with the news and I made a future plan of how I would take care of myself and my daughter should we find ourselves alone … 

I also tightened my boot strings and rearranged my plans to be with Csilla.  Along with other close friends and military spouses, we stood by her side while she watched her husband ceremoniously unloaded off the plane.  We kept her strong during the nights when she didn’t want to sleep.  We helped her stand tall during the funeral and helped her in the following months while she found her new way in the world, a different person … changed by a tragedy that hit too close to home for the rest of us. 

I thought I was strong before that night …

I had made myself believe I was strong, which was an excellent way to cope at the time. 

But that night really made me strong. 

As horrible as it was it made me face my deepest fear:

The fear that our Goodbye was Forever. 

The remainder of the deployment I knew I was stronger. 

I was suddenly a “veteran” to deployment in my own right. 

I was no longer naïve. 

I knew I would survive. 

I knew I was strong. 

We had to endure 8 more months of this deployment.

With way too many helicopters crashing.

Way too many soldiers lost.

But none were “ours”. 

Happily, with an element of sadness for Csilla, we welcomed Jeremy home in September 2007.  We held on to each other non-stop for 3 months while we learned to live our life together again…  He took to being the best Daddy he could be to Baby Jaime, who was 15 months.  

We reminded each other every day that we love each other … because life can be gone in a moment.  

We knew there would be more deployments in the future, but we didn’t focus on them just yet … 

I cherished having him home with me and as I hugged him each night, thankful he was there to hug,

But each night I also thought about Csilla and her desire to hug her husband …

if only once more…

Next deployment, I will be strong again … 

 

{This was Wendy’s first deployment experience … they are currently on number three!}

~M.

More about Molly Huggins

I am an unrepentant extrovert with an ongoing, passionate affair with coffee, ellipses, and the written word. I write because it’s how I’m made to worship. I am a story teller, because redemption has a story to tell. And always, I want to be a story collector. So have a virtual seat at my beat-up kitchen table. Read my story. Tell me yours. Stay awhile. And P.S. ... for more about me, click on my mug in the sidebar;)

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