Honoring our fallen BP agents in Tucson Sector…

BP Coin

BP Coin

Hello…I am Samantha Gallagher, widow of Border Patrol agent, Michael Gallagher.  I want to first thank the Border Patrol for asking me to speak today and to all of you that came here to honor our fallen heroes and what they died for.  This is a gesture of honoring our brave men and women who gave their lives protecting our borders…our country.  It is also about remembering those of us that stood behind the men and women wearing the badge every day…we are the families of the fallen agents.

September 2, 2010, was an ordinary day. I was working from home and remember calling Mike around 9:30 am. I was really frustrated that he didn’t answer his phone when I called.   I even thought about the lecture I was going to give him when he got home. What I didn’t know was that he had just been struck by a drunk driver in his service vehicle.  He had only been in his vehicle about four minutes after leaving the Border Patrol station near the U.S. border with Mexico.

It was around 11 am when I got the knock on my door.  I remember running to the door wondering who it could be.  When I opened it, the US Border Patrol was standing on my front door step.  It takes the breath out of me just thinking about it.   I wanted to shut the door hoping they would disappear.  Instead I stood there; not knowing that what would happen next would change my life.

I looked at this man in his green uniform and noticed he was a higher ranking agent.  He had sweat on his forehead and his dark eyes were difficult to read.  He began to speak and I focused in on his lips.  The words came out slowly. It reminds me of watching the movie Sandlot with my sons. There is a scene when the camera zooms in on a police officer’s mouth as he says,

“- F O R E V E R-“ and everything goes into slow motion.  Except the words coming out of this man’s mouth now were, your husband has been in an accident.   After hearing those words I looked up to find Mike’s friends, agents as well, standing behind this man.  I looked into their eyes and saw with disbelief the news that I didn’t want to hear.  Still I held onto hope that they were only going to say he was in the hospital.

The agent then asked to come in.  I backed away from the door and motioned to them.  I could not speak at this moment.  It was as if someone was strangling me, squeezing my throat harder with every breath.  My heart was racing as they entered.  Around the corner came a man I did not see originally. He had a black shirt on with a notebook in his hand.  I remember noticing his young face seemed very nervous.  I stood in the foyer as they all entered my house.  The man in the black shirt looked around at the empty room and said he thought it would be better if we went in and sat down.

They followed me as I walked into the family room.  I took a seat on the couch and the higher ranking agent sat next to me facing me.  I watched the other man clearing toys from the floor to sit in front of me on the other side of the coffee table.  I remember thinking to myself that I wished I would have cleaned up the boys mess from the night before. Our friends had taken places around me on the couch. When I looked up the higher ranking man sat up straight and looked into my eyes. The words he began to say came out like knives piercing my heart.

“I am sorry ma’am, but your husband died.”

Today I stand here feeling as though my life as wife of Border Patrol Agent, Michael Gallagher, was a dream. But what I want is to make it a reality for my sons.  As a mother I have suffered from the tragedy of the loss of my late husband, but more for my children that lost their father.

My children have passed by his empty chair, longed for their father’s love, that is no longer physically there. With their little broken hearts and tear filled eyes they have looked up to the sky to see a precious soul fill the sky. They each have their memories that float through their minds. Some of their memories make them laugh, others make them cry.  The times they shared and the laughs they had are what they think about now when they think about their dad.

They do know that they have the memories to carry with them.  But they miss his laugh, nerf wars and the things left to be taught.

After their father’s death their reality was filled with fear and with few smiles.  When they wanted a warm embrace from their dad. Yet they still have the last hug and kiss their dad gave them before he left for work the night he did not come home.  The last “goodbye” is something they have tucked away in their hearts.

Today as my children sit in this audience with all the other children that have lost their father, they can look around to see all of you that have come here to honor their dads and other fallen agents.  It will give them the pride and comfort knowing their dads died heroes.

Today is not just about my family.  It’s a day when we stop and consider the sacrifices these Border Patrol agents have made. On a day like today the world should stop, for a brief moment, to honor all of the fallen heroes. For those that have given their life for the call of service, morality and personal responsibility.  I believe a true memorial is when a new culture is created from the sacrifices people have made. With that we can give them the recognition they deserve.  We’ve learned from our fallen agents that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

I would like to end with the following poem…It is called:

In the Simple Performance of Duty

In the simple performance of duty,
he pinned on a badge,
checked his gear with a practiced eye,
and kissed his loved ones good-bye.

In the simple performance of duty,
he reported for work,
joked with his buddies at roll call,
and made his last trip down the squad room hall.

In the simple performance of duty,
he answered the call
to help the helpless, to find the lost,
no matter the danger or how great the cost.

In the simple performance of duty,
he lay down his life,
for those in peril he tried to save,
our brave friend went to his grave.

In the simple performance of duty,
we honor his deed,
as we carry him to rest in a flag-draped casket,
long after the world has forgotten,
we shall never forget.

Never judge or regret, what he did,
In the simple performance of duty

THANK YOU!

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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

Crazy Courage

Crazy courage banquetLast week I was asked to speak at a banquet for survivors.  They asked me to be the honoree guest and the banquet was called Crazy Courage.  The program said inspired by Samantha Light-Gallagher (my book is called Crazy Courage).  I cannot express how much it means to have been asked to do this.  To see this on the programs was pretty amazing.

I wanted to share with all of you what I read.  It is what I think Crazy Courage was about that night.

Hello… I want to first thank the 100 club for honoring the fallen heroes tonight and for honoring myself and my late husband. 

On the morning of September 2nd, 2010 I receive a fatal knock on my door. The Border patrol was standing on my door step. They said I am sorry ma’am but your husband died. That day with those eight words, thought my life ended.

My late husband and children’s father was Border Patrol Agent, Michael Gallagher.

Mike was a man of honor, integrity, vigilance and optimism.  As we sit here tonight we remember our fallen heroes.  We remember their laugh, their touch or the last words we spoke to them. We also feel the pain, anger and many other emotions that came with and after we were told of their death.  Over the days, weeks, months or even years after the death of our loved one we have likely experienced a diffused focus, diverted attention and perception or a wondering mind.

But tonight is not only about remembering our fallen heroes… it’s also about honoring those of us that stood behind the fallen heroes. Underneath their badge there was a man or woman that had children, a wife, a husband, sister, brother and parents…they had a life. Many of us in this room stand behind our heroes every day in their choice to serve our streets, cities and country.  We watch them leave in their uniforms, ready for another shift of work…telling them goodbye, not knowing that it might be the last time.  We continue to push on to honor our fallen heroes and we push on with crazy courage.

Tonight is about Our Crazy Courage. 

It’s the strength that each one of us has deep inside.  It’s the courage to push past your pride, ask for help and accept the support people want to give you.

Crazy courage is doing what is right for you, doing what you have to when you are in an emotional state that can become self-defeating, when you have lost the passion for life itself. Courage is when you stand up and brush the dirt off and face all the difficulty, uncertainty, and pain by overcoming the fear that has overtaken your rational mind.  When you add the crazy to the courage you are adding an intense enthusiasm which will show others that you have a mission to complete, even if that mission is to get out of bed.  It is when you ignore the voice that is telling you, you can’t do this.  It is not letting those fears and the pain control you anymore.  It will give you the strength to surpass all of the weaknesses you may be feeling at that moment.  The state of vulnerability you may feel is scary, but if you can learn how to eliminate that and replace it with courage you may have control again. It is what it takes to become yourself again and  allows change to happen. Crazy courage allows you to tell yourself the truth.  We may lie to ourselves so often that we begin to believe those lies. We cannot close our eyes in hopes that this will all go away.  We need to listen to that crazy courage voice inside of us, the one that is telling us we can do it and ignore the voice that may be telling us we can’t.  We can take some deep breaths, count to ten, close our eyes and listen to what our body and mind are saying. 

So many things can scare you once you feel you have lost control of your life.  Out of all the things I had to do, the scariest thing by far was to face my children. To look in their innocent eyes and tell them their Daddy was dead.

I believe you need to face what scares you.    You have a lot to face with the loss of your loved one. You may be scared, because you have lost what you once knew as your life.  It left when your loved one died.  You may be standing there with the new unfamiliar life staring back at you. Trust me when I say you do not have to take a step without support. There are many organizations that are built by survivors like the AZ 100 club, AZ COPS and BP Foundation that will not let you begin your journey alone, unless you want to.

I say give it 30 seconds of crazy courage and you will be surprised by what you are able to accomplish. It takes a lot of crazy courage to face those things you don’t want to do, but you have to do them anyway. It’s the courage you use to get out of bed and face the world again.  It’s the strength that you find inside yourself to do what is necessary to survive.   

It may mean to sit with a friend in silence in a moment of despair or confusion, to stay with them in an hour of grief and bereavement, to tolerate not knowing…not healing, not curing…being a friend who cares.

Crazy courage is supporting people in our lives, to do more than just exist, to help others achieve inwardly what they can show on the outside with a smile or a laugh. To allow others to achieve their own happiness and acceptance.  Now I ask you how will you touch others…

There have been several times when I have used my crazy courage to face my reality.  One of those times was visiting the crash site. I needed to see the place where Mike had taken his last few breaths, the place where he last saw the world.  It gave me back a little bit of the control I was missing in my life.

Crazy Courage is about awareness. When I became a widow I was no longer part of the society I had been before.  The one that has a husband, wife and children.  My reality was a dysfunctional part of society.  At times the only place where I could feel like I could be myself was when I was alone in the dark in the corner of my bedroom crying in the fetal position.  It was who I was at that moment, lost, not knowing what to do next and losing my sense of identity.  My late husband was as much of my identity as my own self.  Now I had to find out who I was now. I began to understand what self awareness really meant. Being okay with the fact that I may not fit into otherness. Otherness is a term I heard in a speech once. It’s the self we create because of others’ perceptions on how we should be.

I took in my crazy courage with each breath, became aware of my reality and became a survivor. It may not be the group I wanted to be a part of in society.  But it is a group that I am proud to be a part of.

There are many ways to look at life… to understand why a tragedy happened to you. To experience more than just breathing, to look at your lifeless eyes in the mirror that are stained red from tears.  To hear the roll call during your loved one’s funeral, to watch their ashes being lowered into the earth and your child’s little hands scraping the dirt to place on top of their daddy’s urn that is now interred.   

One way of looking at it is like this quote I recently heard, it states…”People will ask you the questions ‘how is life treating you?’ But my question is ‘how are you treating life?’ On that your happiness rests”Thank you for your time this evening and may all of you use your crazy courage!

 

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.

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

My Crazy Courage…

Red background with Black letters spelling courageCrazy courage is doing what is right for me, doing what I have to when I was in an emotional state that can become self-defeating, when I lost the passion for life itself. Courage is when I stand up and brush the dirt off and face all the difficulty, uncertainty, and pain by overcoming the fear that has overtaken my rational mind.  When I add the crazy to the courage I am adding an intense enthusiasm that will show others that I have a mission to complete, even if that mission is to get out of bed.

It is when I ignore the voice that is telling me, you are not able to do it.  It is not letting those fears and the pain control me anymore.  It gives me the strength to surpass all of the weaknesses I may be feel.  The state of vulnerability I may feel scares me, but when I learned how to eliminate that and replace it with courage I have control again.

Crazy courage is what it took to become myself again or some form of myself. It allows change to happen. It’s the courage to push past your pride, ask for help and accept the support people want to give you. Crazy courage allows me to tell myself the truth.  I would lie to myself about my own reality and at times I would believe those lies. I cannot close my eyes in hopes that my truths will go away.

I listen to that crazy courage voice inside of me, the one that is telling me you can do it and ignore the voice that sometimes tells me I can’t.  I take some deep breaths, count to ten, close my eyes and listen to what my body and mind are saying.  At times, the crazy courage inside of me was soft whispers that hard for me to hear, but if I sit long enough and I will hear them.

When I hear and feel the crazy courage, I pull it out and bring it to the surface.  I might wear it like a mask if I need to so I can get passed the first 30 seconds.  I got to a point when I no longer have to listen to the whispers and it is on the surface so I can face what scares me.

I say give it 30 seconds of crazy courage and you will be surprised by what you are able to accomplish. It takes a lot of crazy courage to face those things you don’t want to do, but you have to do them anyway.

This level of courage is obtainable by anyone and I used it.  It’s the courage that I used to get out of bed and face the world again.  It was the strength that I found inside of myself to do what was necessary to survive and to continue to be a mother to my children after my husband was killed.

There are still times when I feel something inside of me saying, I do not believe you are strong enough. But I am strong.  I just have to continue to believe in love…for life and for myself.  And use my own crazy courage.

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