When something tragic in our lives happen, we remember all the details of where we were when we found out. You remember how you were sitting. You remember what you were doing. You remember who told you the terrible news.
Today marks the six year anniversary of a tragedy that struck my soldier's family. It was just over a month after we had broken up and about a week after my beloved grandfather passed away. We both grew up pretty quickly in that time frame.
The visitaion was the first time I saw him since we broke up. He was my first boyfriend, my first kiss, my first love. The pain from not being with him was still fresh. The loss of my grandfather still weighed heavy on my mind. The last thing I wanted was to go to yet another visitation of someone we lost and see my ex-boyfriend at the same time. But I knew he needed me. A huge part of me knew I had to be there to support him. So I took my older brother with me to the visitation so I didn't have to face all of my emotions alone.
I remember being nervous as we pulled into the funeral home. Maybe I wasn't ready to face such sorrow again so quickly. Maybe I was scared to see how he would react to me being there since I had not seen him or talked to him since we broke up. I don't think I talked the whole drive over there.
We walked in to see the casket and a wave of emotion took over my body. My heart ached for his family and my stomach flipped when I thought of what I was going to have to say to him. These were not the circumstances where I imagined myself seeing my ex-boyfriend for the first time.
When I got to the family receiving line, his oldest brother was first. I was relieved he was the first person I came into contact with. Despite our nine year age difference, he was always the sibling I was oddly close with. When I saw him, there was nothing I could do to keep myself bursting into tears. He wrapped his arms around me and I buried my face into his stomach (yes, stomach. I was still a petite 14 year old girl and he was a six and a half foot grown boy just weeks shy of his 23rd birthday). As I stood there, suffocated by my tears and his shirt, I heard him say to me, "Don't cry for me. Don't be sad for us. There was nothing we could do about this. The only thing you can do is be with him and help him through this. He needs you now more than ever." I knew who he was talking about. He was talking about his brother, my ex-boyfriend. I walked straight to him and gave him a hug. We were both in too much shock to speak, so I left. And cried the whole way home.
In the six years after the accident that changed that family's life forever, I have only heard my soldier mention it once. We talked about it one day in a long car ride when it was just the two of us. He talked very softly about the events that occured. He stated the facts and when he was done, changed the subject. And that was the first and last time we have talked about it.
It struck me as odd that he didn't tell me much more than facts. Very few emotions came through in his story. Mainly just anger and pain. I could tell this was something that had deeply effected his family and his life and I wanted to know more. I wanted to talk about it, but I didn't push the subject.
There was only one other time he talked about death to me. We were sitting out over looking the river one day and he brought it up. He talked of how he was overseas and something went wrong. They were blindsided by the attack. He lost a friend that day. But just as quickly as he brought the subject up, he changed courses onto something else.
I know I will never know somethings my soldier has seen. I will never know of some of the personal heartache he has had to deal with. There are details of his life that I will never hear about and I have to learn that this is okay. I have to accept that he can't tell me things, no matter how much I want to hear about them. This is a struggle I may deal with the rest of my life. But there are many challenges associated with being in the military life. Unfortunately details can be another thing that is out of our control. We can't know everything our loved ones go through, but we can support them and be there for them every step of the way.