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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Blessed

blessedToday I sit here with so much ahead of me.  I think about my children and how they are growing.  They seem to be advancing faster than I can keep up.  I do constantly tell them that I plan on putting a brick on their head to keep them from growing.

I think about my “new” life with a man that has welcomed myself and my children into his life with open arms.  Now as a widow you have a little baggage that comes along with that.  So the mere fact that I got a second look from him after knowing this was a win for me.  My life with him seems different that that of my late husbands.  I was not sure how I could love anyone as much as my late husband, but it is possible. To have two men in my life that love and loved me for who I am is quite a blessing.

I am a different person now than I was before though. I sometimes wonder if my late husband would recognize me and we would still be the same as I am not.  I also think about how strong and confident my fiancé is.  How he accepts the facts of my late husband and I.  How he lets me grieve when I need to holding me tighter with each tear.  How I must have done something right in my life to have this now, after I thought for so long that I would never have another deep love again.

So today, I sit here, blessed with my life, children, future husband and all of my family (which does include many sets of in laws…lol).

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!

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!

 

Finding words for love…

hands in heart shape with the sunset filtering through the heartDefining love…that can be difficult to put in words and yet we can feel it throughout our whole body.  Wikipedia says “love is an emotion of a strong affection and personal attachment. Love is also said to be a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection —”the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”. Love may describe compassionate and affectionate actions towards other humans, one’s self or animals.”

How do you define love?  Does your definition of love change after you lose someone close to you?

My definition really remains the same in regards of your significant other.  It’s loving someone with their good qualities and ones that might not be so favorable.  We continue to love them even after mistakes have been made.  I believe there is some conscious decision in loving someone, but there is some unconscious decision that happens when we fall in love.

Before my husband died, I knew how much I loved him.  The part that I did not know was how much it would hurt when he was gone.  The pain that consumes your body is almost unbearable.  It permeates through your body and mine started in my heart when I received the news.  The aching that came after just to be able to see him again was excruciating.

It’s amazing to me how one emotion can remain even as you have anger, sadness, frustration and a whole slew of other emotions. I believe that meeting Mike made me love more freely.  He taught me what love felt like and what it felt to lose it.  I am now more vocal about my feelings.

clouds showing rainI am able to love again.  I love myself, my children, family, friends and another man.  There is a saying that goes something like love is in the air…when there is love there is an energy that absorbs you and the people close to you.  That’s what I believe the saying means.  That you can almost smell it when you walk in the room, you can definitely feel it drench you like a spring afternoon rainfall…creating the fresh undisguisable smell.

What is important to me is to speak my affection and express my love.  I try to find the words to tell my feelings and at will speak those words.

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…

“By changing nothing, nothing changes.” -Tony Robbins

the-road-to-changeAs the New Year has just begun, I sit back and think about last year.  I have been able to do some very exciting and interesting things.  I have been able to reach out to people who have lost loved ones.  I have been able to encourage them as I was encouraged after my husband was killed.  This has been more fulfilling than I ever imagined.  I believe that this is my path.  I do not like the circumstances that led me to this place, but appreciate that I am able to do something positive after my life was turned upside down.

In a previous post I shared I have been presenting material in training with law enforcement individuals on the severity of driving intoxicated.  To be honest I didn’t think much of it before.  I think I was like so many others and thought “oh, if they think they’re okay to drive, they are”.  After my husband was killed by a drunk driver I take it much more seriously.  I wish I had this passion before.

This is one example of how a tragedy can change your perspective.  Our life experiences mold us into the individuals that we are today.  There are typically two paths we can choose after an event happens to us.  Those are the hardest decisions we have to make.  We may even veer off the path a few times before sticking to what makes sense for us.  I believe that is okay.

I am a person that needs answers, I need to know who, what, where, when and why.  I have learned we may not ever get all those answers and I need to be okay with that.  You can waste so much time looking for answers instead of focusing on the solutions.  Solutions are where we can create something great… sometimes something even bigger than ourselves.

For example, I look at my children and I see so much potential in them.  I see who they were when they were just babies, when they lost their father and who they are now.  They are such capable individuals and I wait for the day they are old enough to see their endless potential.  I am not a patient woman so waiting is not going to be easy for me.  I believe with my encouragement and telling them how proud I am of them they will have the confidence instilled in them to conquer whatever lies in their path.

Last year I began volunteering with an organization that works with families and co workers of fallen officers.  The people in this group are so passionate about what they do.  They inspire me to move forward and support as many individuals as I can.  We held a holiday party and being a part of that was amazing.  Seeing the faces of so many people who have lost loved ones is ground breaking for me.  Sometimes you don’t get to see how many people one person touches in their lives until they are gone.  It reminds me of my husband’s funeral and seeing all the people in one room that my husband touched.

This makes me even more conscious of the conversations that I have with each person.  Relationships are built one conversation at a time and when you lose track of that, you lose track of the relationship.  I am learning to really listen to what someone is saying to try and understand what they might need or what they want to accomplish.  At times, that can be difficult, because they might not even know yet.  Just as I sat lost for many months, but I let myself be lost.  This is when I began recreating myself to move my life forward.   I am not the same person I was.  I have a lot of the same characteristics, but a lot of my perspective has changed.  Once I realized that, I was able to get to know myself again.

I sit here eagerly waiting for the events of this year…the ways in which I will be able to continue to support others and hopefully inspire.   The changes that I hope will happen with one conversation at a time.

“It doesn’t matter where you are, you are nowhere compared to where you can go.” -Bob Proctor

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.