Posts Tagged ‘loss’

Pain and Loss

Posted: September 27, 2014 in General
Tags: , , ,

I am a firm believer that just like most things in life, the way we deal with loss and death is firmly rooted in our childhood.  We can later in life emulate the examples we see, whether that be with hysteria, isolation, coldness, or any other color in the spectrum that grief shows itself.  Exposure to death at a young age is one of the foundational stones as we construct our lives.  Generally, we learn about death by just a few common ways, there are some notable exceptions, particularly given the last decade plus, but discounting war we generally are exposed by the passing of an older relative or family friend of such standing they are considered a relative, or, the passing of a beloved family pet.

DISCLAIMER:  Before I go further I just want to make clear that I am not trying to put the same weight of a loss of a pet as that of a loved on.  That is not the topic I am trying to address, and hopefully the narrative that follows will make that clear.

My first exposure to death that I can remember is that of my grandfather way back in the 70’s.  He was relatively young, only in his 50’s and passed away as a result of some complications from a workplace accident and with the addition of some health choices that were probably in this day and age would not be the best ones to make.  I was 6 or 7 years old and I remember the viewings and the funeral, and the stops at the cemetery to pay respects on subsequent trips as I grew up.  I do not remember much about the viewing other than I was dressed up, spent time playing with my cousins, seeing how my parents handled it and my nana’s grief.

This morning my daughter learned about passing on through the loss of her beloved cat, Smudge.  She has been sick for a few weeks now and nothing was helping.  As things got worse through this week my wife took her back to the vet again where they determined it could be any manner of potentially terminal things which was followed by my wife making a middle of the night trip to the pet hospital emergency center.  Things were not going well and this morning, with my daughter present my wife made the decision to end her suffering and let her go.  On top of all of this I am almost 300 miles away closing out this current chapter of my life completing my retirement, so I was unable to be there for my wife and children while this was going on.

Both my son and daughter possess levels of empathy that they could never have possibly inherited from me.  I would go so far as to say my little girl in particular is an outright empath.  While she may occasionally treat our pets in the irresponsible manner that all children do, each and every one of them is beloved by her.  When she is not running them ragged she lays open her loving and caring heart to them and never holds against them their own nature when they do not always respond in kind.  She is an animal person through and through.

Neither my wife nor I are people who believe anyone or anything should suffer.  It does not matter if it is from illness, disease or personal choice ( this is not necessarily our outlook for consequence of illegal activity or acts of evil).  We have tried to pass this on to our children as they grow up as well.  My son is a little older and has been through it with pets.  Being in high school he has had classmates pass and he has seen me deal with the loss of comrades.  He has enough callous built up that he can continue what needs to be done as he deals with his own grief.

Today, my little princess has gotten the first scuffs on the fabric of her life.  She  has reached an age where she does not forget what happens.  Swiftly approaching double-digit years her memories are being written and cataloged.  The foundation we have been trying to lay in solid bedrock is being built upon and it is my firm belief that in events such as these we can either provide her the tools to build upon that foundation properly or we can completely screw it up and she will end up with a shack where a palace should stand.

We each deal with our grief in different ways.  My wife loved that cat no less, possibly even more, than my daughter.  I know her and she is probably second guessing every decision up to the one to end Smudge’s suffering.  She wants to figure out what she could have done to prevent it and will eventually come to her own conclusions.  I have not yet spoken to my little girl but I imagine she is in her own way trying to make sense of the lessons we have taught her.  Up to now, like most things parents try to pass on, there has been no actual context for it.  A lesson is only words until you have the experience in front of you.  What she knows right now is that she will never get to hold and love the little white ball of fur with the smudge of dark on her forehead.

My regret is that I cannot be there for them in person.  I cannot be the thing they take their anger out on, their shoulder to cry on, or the person to simply hold them and tell them things will be alright.  These are the moments I have missed too many of over the years and why I have no regrets about retiring.  To my wife, my daughter and son, who will deal in his own way, I have nothing to give right now but my ear and my sympathy.  I have never been a cat person but my wife has had quite a knack for picking out ones that I can get along with and have shown no fear with the dogs.  Smudge was a beloved part of my family and she will be missed.

My wife and I over the years have met our fair share of lost souls.  Addiction, depression, disease and the whole gamut of what life has to throw at you, we have known people affected by them.  Some have been able to overcome or come to peace with their conditions while others have not been so fortunate.  We have striven to teach our children that because they suffer a loss they do not have to become lost in it.  If they do so it is ultimately up to them to seek out the resources they need to find themselves.  No amount of intervention will help if it is not received with the intent to use it properly.  Grief is no less a significant condition than any other yet it is no more easy for many to reach out for help to deal with it than the others as well.  Hopefully, how we have taught our children on the subject will help them as they go through life and experience the joys and sadness of it.

Smudge 9/27/2014

Smudge
9/27/2014

Advertisements

Gold Star

This is my last Memorial Day in uniform.  Next year after 21 years of service I will be a Mister again.  I wonder how that will feel when it comes around next year.  We will still celebrate my daughter’s birthday as it always falls right around the Memorial Day Weekend.  I am pretty sure that I will take a little time to reflect on those I know who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and the families they have left behind.  Hopefully by then I will have found some other former members of the military who are familiar with the pride of having served our nation.

During your celebrations this weekend remember that there are Gold Star families who are not celebrating, but are instead memorializing  the loss of a loved one.  There is no shame in having a BBQ for your friends and families and celebrating this great nation of ours, just remember that this day was paid for with sacrifice and is much more costly than the beer and hot dogs we grill up.

Every nation I have ever been to honors their military at some point during the year.  Usually, these celebrations are just that, celebrations.  The revolve around some victory or other, usually a grand victory and as the victors history is usually written to glorify the the sacrifices of vastly out-numbered force of patriots and their stunning victory over the aggressor.  Our country however, is the only one I have ever known to simply recognize the sacrifices of those who have served and given the last full measure.

Each year on Memorial Day we honor the Fallen, and their families.  Names are read at countless services and memorial locations across the country.  Flags are posted at each and every veteran grave site across the US.  We are among the few nations on the planet that actually have veteran’s cemeteries.  I have friends throughout the country, interred at these cemeteries or laid to rest with markers denoting their service at regular cemeteries.  At the peek of any war, we have never exceeded greater than 7% of the population on active duty, but the lands of our nation are fertile with the resting places of our service members.  There are few places you can go that do not have some type of memorial to the fallen for a given area.

At some point today, 12:01 PM is the generally accepted time, take a moment to think about the sacrifices of service members and their families have made.  Even if you do not know someone directly, very few gatherings are completely without someone who has known the loss.

Whether you agree with the reasons behind the loss or not, put them aside and recognize that each drop of blood given, each soul moved on to the other side, each tear cried by a child who has lost their hero, has insured that you have the freedom to feel that way.  It is not up to us to agree or disagree with the circumstances leading to their sacrifice, it is our responsibility to appreciate what has been given to us, make things better than they were before and carry the burden of making sure their sacrifices were not in vain.

During your celebrations today place a glass of their favorite beverage out for someone you have lost and let the others know who are in attendance who it is for and what it represents.  If you or your guests have not been directly affected by loss, look up a name of someone local to you who has paid the price.  Do the same, label the seat and the drink and allow no one to sit in it or drink from it.

Honor the Fallen whether you knew them or not, they paid the price for each of us without knowing who we are.

Flag_Pass

On Behalf of a Grateful Nation

 

Over 20 years ago I raised my hand to volunteer for service to my country.  Sometime in the next 12 months I will come to the end of that service, again voluntarily.  For most of my natural life we have had an all volunteer service.  While there have been drafts and conscription during our short history as a nation, we have never had compulsory service obligations for young adults like many nations throughout the world do.  When I raised my right hand and swore my oath, I did not do so out of some misguided, selfless act of patriotism, I did so to finally grow up and make something out of myself.  When I raised my hand that time and all the subsequent times required to re-enlist, I did do so with the full intent of fulfilling my obligations that I signed up for.

Over the last 2 decades I have done so over and over again, often at the sacrifice of the things most precious to me.  I have volunteered for and accomplished the hard jobs, the shitty ones, the ones that an even smaller percentage of military populace, which is just a fraction of our national populace, agree to do.  I and a small community of like minded people have served at the whims of our leadership, sacrificing our lives, our health, our sanity and our families.  We have willingly gone into harms way to preserve the right of stupid people to continue sending us and even more stupid people can continue to vote them into office.

We do these things for a variety of reasons.  Whatever our individual reasons may be, we did so in that we would receive certain things at the end of our service.  It does not matter how long we serve to receive these promises, provided we have done so honorably and fulfilled our oaths to the best of our abilities.

Most people do not realize the amount of contributions made by the military during peace time, nor do they realize the exponential increase in contributions forged in blood.  The medical and emergency services alone have witnessed a boom in lifesaving techniques, equipment and training changes.  Law enforcement has benefited from changes in our techniques and procedures proven through our mistakes while executing operations where the enemy masquerades as civilians and the civilians end up bearing the brunt of violent outcome.  Business has benefited from the leadership and innovation from talented members of our force who have now joined their ranks.

The communications industry has been the recipient of millions, if not billions of dollars.  We have literally moved from simple phone and text to 4G LTE over the course of a decade and the ability to use that capability globally.  I can live tweet a firefight from anywhere on the globe should I choose to put aside regulation and risk my security clearance.  Do you really think these changes are made without the investment of military dollars?

No country in the history of the world has ever maintained its ability to protect its strategic interests, nor not fallen into civil unrest when it has become accepted policy to forsake promises it made to its veterans.  Rome was on a downward slide already, but it was hastened when it stopped honoring its veterans and it promises to them.  They were a world might until they over-extended themselves and began to remove pension and benefits from those who had made her so.  It has been so for every “state” throughout history.  We truly are a Romanesque nation, however we have no where near the time on the clock which Rome did from rise to fall.

We have been forsaken.  Our elected officials have expanded their power, power guaranteed by the blood of warriors, in order to turn a position of service into a career of power and hubris.  It is not just the politicians who have forsaken us, it is those whose rights we have also guaranteed in blood and sacrifice to continue to feed the ineptness of leadership based on false promises and the hope they will get something without actually having to do anything for it.  There is not simply a partisan divide at the hands of political parties and ideology, there is a nation of apathy, ignorance and entitlement to provide a foundation for the parties to continue to build upon.

I have performed my duties faithfully with no expectation than of that which I was promised.  I have spent almost as much time missing my family as I have actually spent with them.  I miss the brothers I have lost.  I will miss the excitement and fear of the unknown.  I have my demons that I keep locked up tight.  All this because I have served the nation, just as my brothers and sisters are currently doing.  All we ask is for what we were promised when we are promised to receive it.  We are not unfamiliar with sacrifice for the greater good, in fact we are intimately familiar with it.  If we must sacrifice after we have served, we have earned the right to be heard in how we are to make that sacrifice.  It should not be done so as part of political solidarity without sacrifice to all, ALL members of the nation, and should be done so as to be readily measurable and tangibly effective to the benefit of all, not simply the reputation of those who author it.

 

     Flag_Pass

Today we remember those who came before us, who laid down their lives, suffered at the hands of our enemies, became permanently scarred, physically and psychologically, and lived the history of our nation.  Brave men and women have given their all in pursuit of the freedoms we hold dear, or, choose to take for granted; for that is our right as Americans, to choose.  For that we have our veterans to thank.

It is your choice, your freedom, you inalienable right to be an American as you see fit.  That choice is granted by the sacrifice in blood, pain, tears, and loss of those who run to the sounds of battle while others choose to stay away.  We serve at your leisure but that leisure is only available through the actions of others.  Freedom does not live in a vacuum; each and every day someone pays the cost for it and it is with their dying breath that millions more get to live the life they choose.

Veterans do so with a clarity of vision for vaguely defined strategic objectives.  Decisions are made and acted upon that have impacts far beyond the battlefield in which they are enacted.  Heroes come at unexpected times, immortalized at the moment of their action.  Most often they are eulogized and memorialized.

Today we remember.  Those of us who have known the loss first hand remember our comrades at arms who have paid the ultimate price.  Today is the most somber of veterans remembrance days during the year.  When it was Armistice Day, it was intended to be.  It is not a day of celebrating, it is a day of remembrance and reflection.  It is a day to wear the buddy poppy in remembrance of someone you knew who served or in recognition of a nameless individual who sacrificed their all so that you can have what you do.

I am rapidly closing in on 20 years of service.  It has not always been easy, fun, or even at times, something I wanted to do.  My family has paid as much of a price if not more so than I.  As I close out my time I hope that I have enough for them.  I admire the respect they show during the National Anthem, memorial services, and to other veterans and their families and I know, deep in my heart that this is what I have served for all these years.  The personal challenges and sacrifices are great obstacles to overcome and achievements to acknowledge for my own self-interests, but it is seeing the pride my my children’s eyes when they speak of what I do and it is in having the most loving, supporting Army wife possible.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month has passed.  Gone is the Day.  If not the person, remember the sacrifice.

Just like most of the country I was deeply affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut this past week.  It is barely conceivable to me how someone could commit such an atrocity against one child never mind an entire class along with several of the adults who dedicated their lives to the educational growth of those children.  Over the last couple of days I have not followed the details of the investigation, I really do not know too many of them.  I have, however, taken a keen interest in those who lost their lives.

Normally when it comes to crimes I pay a lot of attention to the details of the investigation, I love the process and usually it interests me about what is found out about the perpetrator.  In this case I just cannot find it in me.  This tragedy is so senseless that I just do not believe that there are any facts that can be dug up about this coward that are going to make it make any kind of sense.  In this case I believe that the facts will just simply be facts; the perpetrator, the coward, the detestable piece of shit, is not around anymore to put them into any kind of context or to verify any of the theories that are going to be out there.  None of those facts or theories are going to make the relatives of the victims feel any better about what happened anyway.

Between us my wife and I have four children.  The youngest two are in high school and elementary school.  Our teenager falls into the age group that events over the last decade have made me live with that constant tingle of my spidey sense when it comes to his school environment.  Ever since the tragedy at Columbine I have worried about the time he would enter high school and be subject to the utter lack of security you find in them as well as the students whose motivations are no better understood today than they were when I was in high school 25 years ago.  Over the years my wife and I have tried to promote a sense of awareness with him, to be cognizant of his surroundings and who is in them.  We have tried to foster a sense of thinking before acting, knowing when and how to act.  We have also tried to demonstrate that it is the responsibility of the person standing at the point of the wrong being committed to do what they can to help those around them.  This is not to be a hero, far from it, just that good people need to do good things when bad happens and at times that comes with a cost.  I will be a proud dad the day he graduates and not just a little relieved that we will have a few years to breathe before our princess heads into high school.

Come Monday morning I will not just worry about my little girl when she is out of school.  When it comes to high school, I think about the actions of crazy teenagers, when it comes to elementary school, now, it is not the students that concern me so much as the adults that those little kids should all be able to place their faith and safety in.  It is not an irrational fear, not like my fear of snakes and deep water, far from it.  It is the fear that no matter what we do as parents, no matter how well we try to prepare our children for the world out there, there are so many things that are out of our control and we simply cannot be everywhere we need to be at any given time.  The sad part is we need to prepare our little girl for things she should not have to worry about in the first place, well before I ever anticipated.

I have nothing really profound to say.  It would be really easy to get caught up in all the controversies that the media is keeping on the headlines.  Religion, guns, mental health, blah, blah, blah.  I do not want to do that, I do not want to rant at all.  One of the reasons I started this blog a year ago was as a means to help me get my thoughts together when something has affected me, much like the tragedy for those little children and their families has.  The rants and opinionated stuff is all fine, every little bit helps, this is just not one of those times.  The inhuman media hounds and alarmists who want to use this to further their own agendas are shameful; it does nothing to right the wrong that has been committed and does nothing but ensure the pain of these families is part of the grandstand rather than their own to deal with.

My family will be all together this Christmas.  I have never taken them for granted but I know there are many things I have missed out on.  Today I am most fortunate though, I have them; in memories, in pictures and most importantly, physically.  I will not profess to be so grandiose as to say I am grieving along with those families.  I cannot say precisely what this senseless act has made me feel.  I am aware there is evil out there and evil is senseless.  Finding out the hows and the why’s are not going to make it any less senseless or easy to deal with when it shows itself in its next incarnation.

My sincerest condolences to the families and community.  Please take a moment to keep them in your thoughts or prayers, whatever is your personal flavor.  Embrace and love your children regardless of the state of your relaitonship

Rest In Peace

Sandy hook