Thursday, September 30, 2010

Heavy Heart

September 29, a family friend paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. Please keep this dear family in your thoughts and prayers. I love them and am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Senior Airman Mark Forester.

Click to read Tribute to an American Hero - Mark Forester, beautifully written by one of Mark's best friends.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dear Victoria,

Tomorrow we celebrate your 14th birthday. It seems unreal that so many years have come and gone since your father & I held you. In the past, I felt I wasn't "handling" losing you as gracefully as other mothers handled stillbirth. Each mother walks a very individual path, and no one benefits from comparisons. But, over and over again I would wonder: is it because you were my first, because we returned to a silent home with no other children to hold, or because I was naive and Trisomy 18 had never crossed my mind, or possibly because I was only 23 years old and everything I had known and believed, up to that very moment in my life, was crumbling? What a blessing to finally understand that I have "handled" losing you exactly as your mother should. Not in the way anyone else would, but the very way I was meant to manage this life without you.

I want you to know that you have a little 6 year old sister keenly aware of your presence. She speaks of you often, and it never ceases to amaze me. One of my greatest fears was that this world would forget you. That because we never had the opportunity to share birthday parties and school photographs, no one would remember you. I believe, without a doubt, Chloe feels you close by her. At random times, she will ask me to take your box from the closet. She looks at your picture, reads the cards and letters we received during that time, holds your little hat and tiny dress. When I least expect it, she will begin talking about you and how she wishes you were here so she could play with you. Tonight she said, "It would be super fun if Victoria was here because it would be just the same as having another Cade, except Cade's only 12 and he's not a girl." It made us laugh. And I can not, will not, deny that in those moments, I am receiving a true gift from God...sweet confirmation that you will never be forgotten.

It is remarkable, all that I have learned from you. Of course, we both know that for several years I fought learning many of the lessons. Thankfully, I'm finished fighting and much more interested in putting the lessons to great use. Do you know that I never hesitate telling people I love them...even if it makes them squirm a little because they aren't open books, like me. And, have you noticed that I love to laugh? You were probably stunned by how hard-headed I was, by how long it took me to realize that I honor you most when I live my life to its fullest.

I have so many questions. It's hard being your mother and not knowing your favorite color, what your laugh sounds like, your favorite bedtime story, all the places in this world you would have liked to visit, your hopes and dreams. But I've become okay with not having all the answers. I don't understand most of what happens in this life, and I'm finally okay with that too. Because I believe in something far greater than the here and now.

Loving you always,

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


He is home. (Insert tremendous sigh of relief and a huge smile.) Actually, he's been home for almost 4 weeks. I've not been able to write about how I'm feeling until now. And even today, the thoughts refuse to flow fluidly. They are choppy, messy, scattered. Nine months. That is how much time, from my life with him, was taken from me. My husband spent the majority of his deployment in an unsafe, unsecured, remote area of Iraq. I'm unable to listen to many of his stories. Most of the ones I do hear are equal parts heartbreaking and infuriating. I can't begin to express my relief and gratitude that he has returned safely. The fact that many other families do not have such an outcome is never lost on me. That fact is always in my mind. And it is hard to bear. We only gave nine months, many others give and lose so much more.

War has made me cynical, and less capable of trusting those around me. My family suffered at the hands of others' self-serving interests, in ways I will never be able to freely discuss. When it comes to this world of ours, war has left me feeling cold and bitter. Therein lies the contradiction. One moment I feel cynicism gnawing...I am discouraged and overwhelmed with aggravation toward the people with whom I am forced to share this planet. A few moments later, I feel a softness in my heart that overcomes me. War granted me opportunities to see the very best in people. Experiences that have helped me love others more freely. Experiences that have left me ready to live fully, and enjoy my time on this Earth. My family felt the uplifting, strengthening power of prayer, our own as well as the prayers and "good vibes" of many others on our behalf. Selfish isn't it? The way I speak of how war has impacted my life?

What about him? For months, he lived in absolutely disgusting conditions, and rarely had a decent meal. The aid station, where he provided medical care for Americans & Iraqis, was hit. Mortar attacks were frequent, and robbed him of even one peaceful night's sleep. He was often conflicted, and left wondering why he was there. My husband longed to be home with us. It was hard for a man, who loves his family so dearly, to miss events such as his oldest son receiving the Priesthood. But he also missed things like taking the kids to school, Saturday chores, doing laundry...things that most of us find mundane, possibly even annoying. He has returned, a man closer to God. A man ready to live this life to the fullest. He has taught me much about forgiveness and patience. He has been blessed with an answer to the question that often dogged him. He knows, without doubt, why he went to Iraq. The answer is beautiful and has very little, if anything, to do with war. But everything to do with love, inner peace, and purpose.

What about our children? In two words: innocence lost. They lived months apart from their father, and it hurt. But, that separation has made them far more appreciative of the time they now have with him. They take very little of life "for granted". My children have learned the true meanings of gratitude and service, as well as gaining a clear understanding of what it means to sacrifice. They have had life lessons that stretch far beyond those most commonly learned by 12, 9, and 6 year old children. I have learned so much from them.

I thought I knew a lot about war. I thought I knew what to expect. I was prepared for many things, and unprepared for countless more. My eyes have been opened. I have witnessed the very best, and the very worst, in people. My appreciation, as well as admiration, of infantry soldiers and their families has grown immensely. I am eternally grateful for my husband's safety, words can not express how happy I am to have him back. At the same time, my heart aches for others.

Since his return, there have been several days when I've felt like a piece of taffy that's been left out in the sun. Over the past year, I've been pulled and stretched, rolled in a ball, pulled and stretched some more. And now, I'm melting. Melting back into life. A new life, a new normal.

What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.
~Robert E. Lee, letter to his wife, 1864