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.

 

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!

 

“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

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

My First Date continued…

front car window.  A man and woman holding hands resting on a center consoleAs we drove away from my house, we settled into the ease of our friendship, talking about what we did that day.  I looked over at him with disbelief, how can a person’s heart feel so much pain for months, feel like it was broken beyond repair — then in a given moment transcend.  The two feelings collided, creating a hurricane of thoughts and emotions ready to explode like a shaken soda bottle.  

We arrived at an ice skating rink, which was a surprise to me.  I had only been skating once in my life, unless you count the times growing up where I had put on old skates and tried to skate down the gravel road next to my house after an ice storm.  He had played hockey growing up, so skating probably came second nature to him like riding a bike.  

people on ice skating rinkWe snapped our skates on tightly and walked to the ice.  I went on hesitantly, but soon was skating with some comfort.  I watched as he gliding around the ice, lapping me a few times.  Then he came up behind me, grabbed my sides and pushed me along.  His touch on my hips sent tingles up my back and this assured me that the feeling I thought I was having was most definitely true.  I had feelings for him beyond our friendship.  We skated around, laughing and enjoying ourselves.  In those moments, I was able to wipe away all the anguish that had consumed me and there was even more hope in my journey and in my life story.  

Hunger called and we left the rink to eat.  During dinner, I decided to start the conversation that I had been waiting to have for some time now.  I told him how I felt and that I never imagined feeling this way about someone after Mike died.  

I thought that those possibilities of love left the day Mike took his last breath – that my heart would not mend and be capable of love again.  

He looked back at me over his salad and we discussed a line that would get crossed.  A line that he was not sure if he wanted to or would be able to cross.  It was about brotherhood, about respecting Mike and about what was right no matter how he might feel about me. 

This invisible line was hard for me to understand and took me time to really “get” what he was saying.  I knew though, that I needed to be patient because committing to me would be a decision that needed to be weighed in his mind.  He was a man of respect and integrity.  He needed to be all in and make that leap with confidence.  I had adoration for that.  This is one of the reasons I was drawn to him. 

Leaving dinner that night, I was a bit confused.  I was not sure how this would turn out in the end.  I knew that I wanted him in my life.  He had helped my children and me through some of the hardest moments.  I just preferred it be more than a friendship, but I was willing to compromise if I needed. 

It was a quiet drive home.  The sun had set and darkness had fallen.  I began to fall asleep. I think the emotional struggle I had built up drained the energy out of me.  I reached over and grabbed his hand into mine.  I was hoping for a sign, either he would embrace it or shy away.  With delight he held my hand back.  This was a turning point and I knew that our life would begin together in the near future. 

“Love isn’t love until we share it, but the real fulfillment in life is finding love and sharing it with someone who can freely and without any conflict love us faithfully in return.” – Joe D. Mango