Ah, Memorial Day… for many it signifies the kick off of summer, a time for family, fun, sun, barbeques and a glorious three day weekend. For others, it’s a day of patriotism and the unabashed pride we feel as Americans.
For others… it can be a difficult day. The loss of a loved one is never easy, but to lose them in war is separate. I’ve talked in the past of how the pain fuses with pride, that there is no better cause for death than the defense of our country and the fight for freedom. But today… today I will focus on just the loss. The pain. The consequence of loving somebody brave, selfless and heroic.
Today, I will talk about what it means to love a true patriot. We all know that the inherent risk of life, is death. But, when you love somebody in the military, a military contractor or agent in one of those agencies cloaked in secrecy, your heart becomes even more vulnerable. Every day you wake up telling yourself that you are proud of them, because you are, that what they are doing matters, because it does, and that they will come home safe, because they have to. But, for some, those loved ones don’t get to come home. And what then?
Yes, their loss of life is tragic and overwhelming. But for the loved ones who have to carry on with that void in their lives, their heart, their soul, it is more than tragic. It defines them.
Some people fracture into a million different pieces scattered to the wind. For the lucky few, they will be surrounded by loved ones who help piece them back together, however many times it takes. While they can again become their whole selves, the ridges, the fractures where those pieces come back together will always be there, marking the destruction and readying to scatter again.
Others simply split wide open, their emotion pouring out so quickly that they lose themselves in the flood. Drowned. Gone. Never to be seen again. These are the broken few who never move past it, who struggle to wake up every day, who surrender to their grief and fall into the endless ravine of despair. This loss can culminate in bad habits of alcoholism, suicide, drug abuse… the list is endless. The common theme is isolation. Because they lost that precious one, they give up all the other aspects of their life because it becomes too painful to move on with a hole in your heart.
Others handle the loss much better. They are strong enough to reach out for help, to allow people in to grieve with them and pull them along, furthering their life. They keep the lost loved one safe and secure, a precious memory in their heart. They go on to live a full and happy life, honoring their lost loved one and never forgetting their sacrifice. .
The truth is, there is another group of mourners. When we endure loss, we don’t know how to process it. Instead, we shut down. We grow cold and forego not only joy, but the ability to connect with others. We turn our back on empathy for fear it will chip away at the dam we built around our heart and are keenly aware that it only takes one little chip in that dam to cause the entire thing to give way. We become frigid ice queens, unable to establish relationships with others, including deep friendships because life has taught us the moment we care, we lose that person. Eventually though, luck may give us another chance. We may encounter somebody who climbs that wall around our heart. Unfortunately, it takes a heroic person to climb that wall, and if they are another patriot, affiliated with the military in any way… we run. Us ice queens, we know we’re damaged goods, and more importantly we believe in the greater good. If we suffered a loss because of war, we can’t bring ourselves to endure it again. We are strong enough to know we can’t overcome such devastation a second time and are too weak to risk it.
So this Memorial day, please take a moment, a moment to reflect, to remember all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and all those left in the wake of loss, who continue to grieve, to suffer, to endure. After all, we are Americans. We are resilient. Strong. Powerful. Everyday we wake up and our soldiers lace up. Our brave men and women put their lives on the line for a free world, and their loved ones hold their breath, hoping, praying they can wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.
~Jennifer L. Meacham