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!

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…

“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

Victim’s Impact at DUI training…

Samantha standing in front of the classroom with podium

Samantha speaking in front of class

Over the last two days, I have presented to a DUI training class.  Where law enforcement individuals are being trained on the risks of driving while under the influence.  I was asked to present the story of my husband, that was killed by a drunk driver.  I shared how the drunk driver’s decision changed my children and my lives forever.  I was a little nervous, but overall it went well.  I do need to work on more eye contact with the class.   I think what this group is doing is great!

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