Life…where I am

what-is-critical-thinkingAs I sit here, finally writing again after a hiatus, I begin to think about life and all the events that have led me to today.

A little over three years ago my late husband was killed in the line of duty by a drunk driver.  The drunk driver has since been charged and is incarcerated.  She will be let out next year and will go to a rehabilitation center.

Mike siteMy children have grown three years older…they have begun to be removed from the immediate tragedy of their father’s death.  I hold their not so little hands now and feel such gratitude to have these two in my life. They are moving forward with the memories their father left them and of what I remind them.  Each year we visit the site where their father took his last breath.  Every year it is different with new emotions and new perspectives.

My own life went from safe to chaotic and back to feeling safe again with a change of perspective.  Knowing that life can be cut short and being present (in the now) is far more important than I thought it would be.

I was an emotional basket case, although some may think that I have a little bit of that emotional roller coaster hanging in the balance.

I am at a point, wondering what next?  Where do I go from here?  There have been many paths that I have carved out in the road that I have walked these last three years.  Going forward, I am at a crossroads.

I have volunteered with a couple of organizations that support fallen officers, done many speeches about my book and being a surviving spouse. Maybe the most challenging of those speeches comes when I am speaking about the effects of drunk driving.  Trying to educate others on what it is like to lose someone to a drunk driver and the impact it has on one’s life and to children. This is hard to put into words.  I wish that at times I could have a video of all that I went through to show people.  The raw emotion is unforgettable.

weddingThis summer I got remarried to a federal agent.  This has created a family unit again.  My children were glowing, as I was at the wedding.  They think very highly of their step dad, as do I. We are a unique family, as I believe all families are.  As my youngest son puts it…he has a dad here and one in the sky.

My question still remains…where do I go from here?  I feel a great sense of accomplishment in my life now, but I am searching for where my place should be in this world.  When I ask this question, I mean with a career.

How can I continue to impact lives and continue to create a sense of accomplishment with what I do?

Which path do I take and should I continue to follow what Ralph Waldo Emerson said…Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

I am in search of answers and know I will find them, until then…I remain searching.

 

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Journey Through Loss- Guest Post by Carol Hampson

carol_croppedCarol is a professional storyteller. Performing for live audiences was a vital precursor to writing her first book. The sudden loss of her son in 2003 inspired the memoir, Freedom to Fall. Carol lives in Denver and Costa Rica.

 

Ten years ago my son, Christopher, died rock climbing in Yosemite National Park. Looking back, I pause to reflect on where I’ve been—the pathway leading up from despair, learning to keep my bond with Chris alive—a journey founded in love.

On that fateful day in May 2003, when word came in the night, I could feel Chris’s loving presence and knew that he was with me. But that sense was fleeting, coming between spells of shattering grief. The overwhelming reality was that Chris was gone.

It wasn’t a given that I could keep the bond between Chris and me alive. I had to cultivate it and to believe in it. Most especially, I had to learn to let him go.

Releasing Chris came in many guises over many years, only as I felt ready, and with frequent backsliding. Mainly I took tiny steps.  But a few noteworthy stories emerge as illustrations, steps I took that first arduous year, setting a precedent for the years that followed.

The idea of letting go had its inception in the time before Chris died, for that had been my orientation towards motherhood.  To learn to release Chris, knowing he was never coming home, was in keeping with my deepest belief about parenting.

I had believed in relinquishing my children a little at a time, encouraging them, as they were ready, along the pathways of their own callings. Chris, like my daughter, was temperamentally a free spirit, making my job easier—

When Chris was in college, he would call me on his climbing trips to surprise me, for I never knew when he would leave or where he might be.  After he moved to Breckenridge Colorado, I’d drive up and take him out to dinner. When we met at his house, he would show me his photo album with his latest climbing pictures. Some of those pictures scared me.

One night as we dined by candlelight, I told Chris that the parent is supposed to go first, not the kid. Chris replied that when it was time for him to go then he was going to go.  It wasn’t about how long he lived but about living his life and loving every moment of it.

I said, “Chris, you can have a quality life while protecting the length of your life.”

“I know I don’t know everything,” he answered. “When I’m fifty, I might think something entirely different.”

During Chris’s final days, he told a climbing buddy that he was grateful that I didn’t try to stop him from climbing, even though he knew it frightened me.

“Children are not ours to keep” I wrote after Chris died. “They come through the night, light our days, and are gone. Some die following their dreams. Chris had his gaze on the stars. Deep down in my heart I knew he was going, and I never tried to stop him.”

Another way of learning to let go came with the effort to return to my own life apart from Chris, not just in the motion of it, but with the intent to live again—

For a while I had been dreaming of feeding the homeless. One day I made a chocolate cake, got in the car, and began searching for some homeless people. Some folks were standing in front of the “Jesus Saves” shelter in downtown Denver.  I parked the car and handed over the cake. “Thanks Honey.”  “Are you coming again tomorrow?”  It was my happiest moment since Chris died.

I began taking homemade treats to the homeless every few days. The problem was that I would just hand the food over. I wanted more interaction, to see faces up close and exchange words. To solve this dilemma, I began cooking meals for a crowd, setting up a card table on the sidewalk next to the shelter, and serving folks one at a time.

The first time, some remarked that I was one of Heaven’s angels. “What made you do this?” another asked in amazement.

“I thought you might be hungry.”

“Aren’t you afraid?” asked another.  When I said that I didn’t see anything to be afraid of, he said, “I know there is nothing to fear, but most people don’t know that.”

It was better than I had hoped for. To be up close, see faces, and communicate.

Another day at the shelter, as I set up my card table with pots of steaming hot chili and cornbread, a circle formed around me, like old friends eating and chatting at an afternoon party. Many said, God bless you” and “You be careful.”

It was a simple thing—to step out and feed those with whom I shared a raw vulnerability, where every word exchanged was nourishment for my soul. By putting one foot in front of the other, I was stumbling onto the discovery that with Chris gone, it was possible to go out there and live, with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

On the first anniversary of Chris death, I journeyed to Yosemite, the place that had claimed his life.  I stayed in the climbers’ camp, where Chris had stayed, and met with the climbing ranger who was first on the scene after his fatal fall. On the anniversary day, I hiked Half Dome, circling the 4000 foot giant by trail, from where I scattered Chris’s ashes. Standing high up in the elements, in the deep ethereal blue, surrounded by the granite wonders Chris had so loved, I made a symbolic gesture of releasing Chris to God.

It was never a given that I could grasp the eternal bond between Chris and me.  I had to learn to let go of him, allowing him to be what he had become. Wondrously, each time I let go, I could feel the essence of our love, which encouraged me to keep going. Over the years that sense took root, becoming a daily reality.

Looking back, I can see that with each gesture of relinquishing Chris, a foothold was gained. As I stand at the ten year mark, Chris is with me—a beam of light shining through the sadness.

Excerpt from Freedom To Fall —

When a child is born, you hold that bundle of preciousness to your heart, and every day thereafter, you let go a little more. When a child dies, you unfurl your hands and blow, for the child, endowed with Spirit, is now truly free.

Through days of mourning the loss of Chris, I seek the guidance to release him. Each act of unleashing is an act of love. To encourage the freedom of our children is the greatest gift we can give. It requires seeing them, not as we wish them to be, but as they really are, and nurturing the heartbeat that is them.

There is order and beauty in the universe. Our children deserve to pursue their freedom—to die even—when God calls.

http://morningsongreflections.wordpress.com

http://morningsongbooks.com

@carol_hampson

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Freedom-to-Fall-by-Carol-Hampson/136499403176194

April’s Widowed Blog Hop

Come check out what we are all talking about this week…

Janine of One Breath At A Time

Red’s The M3 Blog

Christine of Widow Island

Tim’s Diary of a Widower

Running Forward: Abel Keogh’s Blog

Tamara of Artful Living After Loss

Jessica at Buttons to Beans

Missing Bobby: A Widow’s Journey

The Grief Toolbox

Ferree of Widow’s Christian Place

The Widow’s Mite: Encouragement for Widows

Interment

cemeteryRecently I have been thinking about interring my late husband.  He was cremated when he died and has remained in his urn in my bedroom.  There is some conflict with this as it is a final goodbye to him.

I have come to believe that a person needs to be interred.  All may not share this belief, but it is one I do now.  Before my husband’s death, I never gave much thought to it.  I have been to several funerals…mostly of my grandparents.  I have seen both an urn and a casket being buried.  For some reason, seeing a casket being lowered into the ground felt more emotional than an urn.  Maybe it has something to do with my subconscious.

I really have no idea how I will feel once Mike is laid to rest.  I wonder if the fact that he was cremating and seeing the urn will have any less impact than if it were his casket.   All I can say is that I recently have had a lot of anxiety about this.  It also came with some emotions that I was not prepared for.

People say that time makes things easier and I am not sure if that is completely true.  I think it does make some things easier (a.k.a you can control your emotions a little better).   I just do not think I will be able to prepare myself for this, just as I was unable to prepare myself for his death.

Thinking about this has also created a desire to plan my own funeral and make all the decisions that come with it.  I know I am young, but so was my husband when he died.  I am one week away from being one year older than my late husband at his death.

It’s remarkable how events continue to change your perspective and continue to center you to allow you to question what needs questioned, speak freely and hug what’s important to you most.

Guestpost on Terri Lynn’s Happy Talk

Terri Lynn asked me to write a guest post on her blog.  Terri is an expert at choosing happiness and using the Divine navigation system. As a sales manager she motivated and inspired others and became known as Fortune Cookie. She lives in Newtown Square, Pa. with her son Dan. Her intention is to show the benefits of putting happiness first.

Thank you, Terri for sharing my words.

Guests Bloggers

Choice to Be Happy
by Samantha Light-Gallagher, author of Crazy Courage: A Young Widow’s Survival Guide

Choices are made every day.  We make choices about what we are going to eat for breakfast, if we are going to exercise or what route we are going to take to work.  These are just the small choices in our lives.  What about the choice to be happy?

A big question might be: do we choose to be happy or do our life events make those choices for us?  I believe we make the conscious or maybe at the time unconscious choice to choose happiness.  If you look at two people with the same  events, many times the person’s attitude impacts the turnout. Read more…

December’s Widowed Blog Hop!

an egg with bold letter HOPIt’s the first Wednesday of the month and you know what that means…Widowed Blog Hop! 
 
Life is full of surprises.  There are moments when you feel like nothing good will come of it and others when a light shines on given opportunities.  I asked myself quite often how I can change or influence others in a good way.  How I can take the death of my husband and use it to benefit others. This may sound like a “crazy” question, but that is what goes through my mind.  I want other widows and widowers to not feel alone in their grief.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a journey that you will get through on your own but we all need support. I feel blessed that I have been able to connect with some great people who have something in common with me.  And that’s losing their spouse.

We are all in different places in our journey, but have taken a step forward in our life story without our spouse.   The support you get from someone who has been down your path or some variation of it is irreplaceable. 

I want to commend all of the men and women that take the time to give us a glimpse of their reality.  The words they share can bring a whole realm of emotions and that is when you know it is written honestly from the heart. 

We have some new participants this month and I encourage all of my readers to check out what they have been doing and posting. 
 
For ease, below is the list of participants in the hop. 
Thank you for taking the time to hear our stories, feelings and what we think. 
Samantha

Justice needed for closure…

Picture of a gold scale od justicePetraeus is involved in a new scandal centered around integrity, honesty and being faithful.  I find it interesting that these allegations are coming to light during the hearings for the Libya attack.  They seem to overshadow the fact that Americans were killed in Libya on September 11th.  The personnel who are involved in the scandal now may have a tarnished and diminished character. This may impact how their testimony is received for happenings in Libya; what they testify as to what happened during Libya might be taken with a grain of salt.  

Petraeus, as the Director of the CIA, should be a man whose character emanates integrity, honesty, and certainly faithfulness, as well as having the ability to be covert and prudent…these are all qualities in which suite the man who is the head of the CIA. A person whose job it is to be discreet as possible did not do a very good job of covering up his tracks with his assumed affair.  Talking about his character is one thing, but what about what he has done to his wife?  The shame that he has brought upon his family is evident but in my opinion, he has also dishonored them.  What is this saying about the leaders of America? 

I do not understand how people are unable to keep their pants on, entering into an extramarital affair and breaking the vows that they have promised to their spouse.  These things infuriate me more now since my husband was killed.  I try not to judge, but Petraeus stated that he denied having an affair with anyone other than Broadwell.  Both parties in this case were married.  I cannot understand how people take marriage and their family so lightly.  

Think about the families that have been effected by the Libya attack and the figureheads that were supposed to keep their loved ones safe.  The heartache that the families must feel at the lack of support from the US government. This is just outright sickening!

There are innocent victims and families involved in all of this. The Obama administration  was trying to say a video of a no name person caused all of these riots that led to American deaths, this I find hard to believe.  Finally coming out much later calling it a terrorist attack.  Really?  I mean, it took place on September 11th and would have needed to have been planned out unless it is that easy to raid a US Embassy.  In that case, we may need to look at the security that the US Embassy has in place. 

All in all, this should be about the victims and getting them justice.  It is nearly impossible to feel closure from the death of a loved one until you feel justice has been given to those that have caused the death.  This is going to take a very long time for these families to feel like justice has been served if even they will ever feel that way.  

I hope these families are able to find comfort one day and be able to grieve the loss of their loved one.  To feel closure and for those that committed the crimes or did not do their part in preventing this act from happening get their justice for the victims and for their families. 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Fast Forward

pond in autumn.  woman wearing red coat siting on a benchAfter I heard the words your husband is dead I sobbed for a brief moment.  Then my thoughts went to my children.  How was I going to tell them that their father was dead?  It brought instant pain to my heart.  For the first time in life, I knew how someone could die from a broken heart.  The emotional pain consumed my body.  The anticipation of what I might feel next was overwhelming. 

You might think that during those first few weeks you experience the worst emotional struggle in your life.  Sad to say you haven’t even started…

I know that is not very uplifting, but honesty might get you through the next few moments of your journey.  

You begin to feel numb.  Your tears subside a little and you wonder why.  Is it normal not to cry now every time you hear his or her name?  Yes, it can be.  

Then there is a time when you want to hit the fast forward button to spare yourself from feeling any more.  I would meet other widows who were much farther in their journey than mine, and I would be jealous.  I could not even wrap my mind around how they were capable of functioning.  

I wanted to push fast forward and be in their shoes.  I wanted to laugh without guilt, to look at my children without tears and to face the world without fear.  What I discovered was that they too had walked this journey and that is why they were capable now.  

What made me realize this was meeting others who had lost their loved ones many years ago and hit the fast forward button.  They were still walking in my shoes. They did not let grief take over.  It frightened them so much that they couldn’t.  It depleted them, and they did not let go.  When I was in the room with them I could feel the heartache that was there. The grief absorbed into me.  I got up from my chair, ran out of the room and kept running.  I found a peaceful place near a pond and sat on a bench.  I sobbed.  It felt like I was sobbing for all of them.  I was releasing all of the pain and anger that had devoured them. 

Sitting alone listening to my own sobs provided me with an understanding.  I needed to choose which path I would take.  Would I hit fast forward or face what scared me?  I chose to face what scared me, and in those moments by the pond I began to hear the whispers of my crazy courage.  

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon