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Picture for Debbie's blog
Ray's Close Call

~ Debbie Newhouse, Survivor

July 21, 2014

Just when I thought things were getting more normalized, life changed. I was a school teacher finishing up the last couple years of my career, my husband Ray was busy working as a stockbroker, and my two kids had just graduated from high school and were preparing for the next phase of their lives. My son Nick joined the Army. After basic training at Fort Benning and then being stationed at Camp Casey in South Korea, he got orders to deploy to Iraq.

We got to see Nick in June and I felt a sense of impending doom when Nick informed me that their starting date was 9/11. We did get to see him in February of 2005 for a few weeks when he was on leave. But he wasn't the same. The war had definitely changed him, and I was quite concerned. I got him to the plane on February 24, never knowing that this would be our final good-bye.

Life continued. I taught fourth grade, Ray worked as a stockbroker, and Becca was attending her first year of college, working and doing very well. Little did we know that life as we knew it would change dramatically on March 11, 2005 with a knock on the door at precisely 6:15 p.m. Twenty-one years after Nick came home from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, he lost his life in Iraq.  

Shock, denial, sadness, isolation, withdrawal, lost reality, and deep dark depression ensued. Life was not good. Then, after months of feeling like I should've died also, Becca and Ray helped to get me back into life. I started going to every group I could possibly find, only to find nothing that fit my needs… until TAPS!

The 19th Annual National Military Survivor Seminar in 2013 was my fourth year at the TAPS national event. Attending the seminar felt great. I had become a TAPS peer mentor, and had worked through so much with therapy, journaling, and help from TAPS. I felt like I was not only receiving, but giving back to others. I felt in control of myself, not borderline emotional. During the seminar, I participated in many activities, talked to many vendors, and spent time connecting with survivors. We went to many interesting workshops and learned so much. We were treated to great food there and reconnected with people we had grown to know as our "new family."

But on the Saturday of the conference, Ray was not feeling well, and we assumed it could just be heartburn. We thought that a walk might be beneficial. But soon Ray was sweating profusely, his left arm was tingling, and he was not able to keep up with me, which was unusual. We made it back to our hotel room and Ray collapsed. I called 9-1-1 and pretty soon we had eight emergency medical technicians and firemen in our room. During this time Ray lost consciousness and heard Nick say, "It's not your time, Dad!"

Then, off we went to the hospital. Ray had had a massive heart attack and was in the hospital for a week. My question throughout the ordeal was "Why now? Why here?" And the answer soon came to me: we were surrounded by our TAPS family and I felt supported by so many. Throughout his stay, our TAPS family visited and called and really made him feel loved.

Thank you, TAPS, and everyone who helped us. We'll be back next year and the next year and the one after that for many years to come. 

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Saturday Morning
Saturday Morning Message: TAPS Magazine Favorites

July 19, 2014

Good Morning,

We each find content in the TAPS magazine that touches our heart. This week survivors were asked to share one that was special.

Leslie, mother of Eugene, wrote about an article that was helpful to her: The TAPS magazine is something I look forward to reading whether or not it's all applicable to me. This time the article called "The Second Year" made the most impact in this particular magazine.  It's very true...you pass by the firsts, but in the second year the reality is really pushed into your face and your heart.

I am approaching the 3.5 year mark. It stinks. People think that you are passed it. Not many understand the continued pain. You learn to live the new normal and are successful much of the time, but the death is the nightmare you don't wake up from.

My own personal favorite was an article called "Healing through Writing". by By Artis Henderson, Surviving spouse of CW2 Miles Henderson and author of Unremarried Widow.   I have always found writing to be helpful when times were rough. It helps me to organize my thoughts and also connect with others who don't live near.The Saturday Message came to be in much the same way that Artis's book began. When I was a peer mentor for TAPS and working full time, I came up with this idea of writing a weekly message with a theme. Soon other survivors wrote their ideas about the topic of the week and I began to add their thoughts as well. It was interesting to me to read how writing helped Artis Henderson heal as it was such a wonderful process for me and had the added benefit of  supporting other survivors.

The summer is a time of travel for many, so you may find that you read the magazine later than you usually do. We would like to add your thoughts on a favorite article or section in a future Saturday message throughout the summer, so please send your ideas to carol.lane@taps.org.

Grief is something for which most of us are not prepared. It is hard to find people who are willing to  talk about how to deal with those feelings. We still eventually have to go back to work or do the day to day things that need to be done, but grief doesn't leave us quickly. That is where TAPS and the Saturday Message comes to play. Here we support each other by writing about what has helped us and pass that on to survivors who are newer to finding a "new normal". The questions for next week are in two parts and they are common ones that  many new survivors have asked. They are: What are some of the strategies you use to help  when those feelings of grief come over you? and What helped you get enough sleep to function?  You can answer either one of the questions or both. Your responses this week will help new survivors and even those of us who have been on this path for awhile, and may have those  feelings at certain times. Thank you in advance for your replies.

If you would like to send a response to the question of the week or have a subject you might want to hear responses from other survivors, email me anytime at carol.lane@taps.org. I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. It doesn't have to be a reply to the Saturday message. Sometimes just writing to someone is helpful.

Hugs,

Carol

Parent Chat
Date: Monday, July 21, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson

General Support Chat
This chat is open for all survivors
Date: Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections. 

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Time Keeps Ticking On... picture for Michele
Time Keeps On Ticking...

~ Michele Hiester Marcum, Survivor

July 14, 2014

As the mom of a rambunctious elementary student, I've recently had the "pleasure" of helping him master the art of telling time. The old-fashioned way, that is - on a clock face with two swinging hands. To say this has been a frustrating process for us both would be an understatement. It seems the preference for digital format doesn't end with iPads and gaming systems but rather, extends even to this outdated skill I seem to take for granted.

 I'll show my age a bit here, but I remember back in the day when we learned to tell time by securing cardboard arrows to the center of flimsy paper plates with tiny tarnished brads. We'd draw the numbers on the corrugated edges with crayon and then see how fast we could change the time by spinning the pointy hands around the white surface. I couldn't wait for school to be out for the day, for summer to arrive, for vacation to start, for adulthood to come knocking. Real time could never keep up with those rotating hands… or with my own expectations.

 If only I could turn back the hands of time now.

 More than nine years have disappeared since my brother died in Afghanistan. Nearly 3400 days. Or more than 4,896,000 minutes, if I were counting.  I would give anything to have captured even one of those 17-million minutes he lived on this earth. Sealed it in a bottle, stashed it in a lockbox for safekeeping. The irony can't be ignored. All the time I once thought would never come… finally came barreling through in a frenzy, slamming the door with a vengeance on its way out.

And that, I think, is a universal truth, especially in grief. Time starts out dragging her feet, refusing to move her hands, moaning tick tock in a tormenting echo. The moments drudge by, the pain proliferates with lightning speed, and breathing seems impossible. And then suddenly, she's nine years down the road, waving those sassy hands, squealing "catch me if you can!" It's a confusing paradox that pits exhaustion against relief. And generates a new version of grief that must now battle guilt. It's just plain weird.

Early on, right after the funeral, I remember the fogginess of merely trying to remember what day it was. One day literally bled into the next, and one moment could not be separated from another. They were all just one big lumpy mass of raging red anguish. It hurt to remember. But it hurt not to remember that which I could never forget. I couldn't sleep and didn't want to. And then I wanted to sleep but still couldn't. I hurt from the sheer exhaustion of simply being awake, and the tears erupted at the slightest provocation.  Everything hurt.

So much has changed since that time. I still face some sleepless nights on occasion and even some teary days. A song will trigger a memory that might slip a smile on my face… and simultaneously break my heart all over again. I'll drive by the cemetery and feel guilty for not stopping, or I'll drop his name into a conversation automatically, and my breath will catch when I somehow suddenly remember all over again. It's not that I forgot (how could I?). It's just that I hadn't opened the door to that memory… in that moment. And to a grieving person, I think moments are all we have.  Minutes don't matter, nor do days, or weeks or months. What really matters is the moment, no matter how long that moment is. Time is not measured by the tick or the tock but by the tears we've cried 'round the clock.

Time is just a wily, independent character who can't be trusted to behave. She can't be captured, stalled or tamed, much less defined. She roars with the wind and slithers with the snail, somehow seemingly all at the same time. She passes in the blink of an eye and yet she stands right where she is. How can that be?

I miss my brother more now than ever before. It's not the sharp, stabbing pain it once was, but it's more of an aching sense of loss. It's the realization that with every moment that passes, I'm missing out on new experiences that can never be. It's not just the disappearing milestones like birthdays, holidays and anniversaries. It's also the vacations that might have been, the decision-making that evolves with parenting, the discussions about future retirement choices and the stories shared of perfect grandchildren yet to be born. I can't even count the number of times I've wanted to just call him up and talk about nothing at all. I still have his number programmed in my phone simply because I like seeing his name listed there in the contacts. As though we could somehow pick up where we left off. False hope, I know.

I've concluded that time doesn't heal all wounds. In fact, I don't think time heals anything at all. The only thing time does is put me a little further away from the pain. The greater the distance between us, the harder it is to focus and clearly see her. She's a little fuzzier, perhaps less intense, but still rooted there at the core. Like the arrows on that paper plate, I'm forever tethered to that spot where new memories stopped. I might move outward, pull at the constraints, reach beyond, but my feet will never leave the circle that encompasses that hole, punctured within the center where my heart belongs.

Time keeps on ticking, the hands swishing around her face, the old memories looping over and over again.  She moves forward, picking up speed, but never backward. It's an unforgiving circle. But it's manageable. If we focus on the moment.

 

 

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Saturday Morning
Saturday Morning Message: Helping Other Grieving People

July 12, 2014

Good Morning,

Grief changes a person. After the death of my son, Bryon, I became more conscious that the needs of grieving people go on longer than I thought before. I always sent a card and went to the calling hours or funeral if I knew the person or the survivors well. Now I do something in addition. After everyone goes home, the survivor can be lonely, so I arrange a meeting to talk with the survivor knowing that merely saying the loved one's name is comforting. While we are talking, I share a memory of this person who was so special. These simple things help in ways I never knew before. That is the way I have changed. Several survivors wrote in this week to talk about other traditions they have added to help friends and family heal.

Looking over articles in the TAPS magazine section, I came across this one by Howard R. Winokuer PhD, LPC, FT called "After Grief: The Process of Healing". In it he lists some techniques to heal which would be good for all of us and thoughtful ways to help others in their grief.

Many of you recently received the latest issue of the TAPS magazine . The question for this week is: "What article or section of this issue was most helpful to you and why?" I look forward to your replies. If you didn't receive a copy of the TAPS magazine, sign up today.

If you would like to send a response to the question of the week or have a subject you might want to hear responses from other survivors, email me anytime at carol.lane@taps.org. I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. It doesn't have to be a reply to the Saturday message. Sometimes just writing to someone is helpful.

Hugs,

Carol

From TAPS Survivors:

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: Recently a neighbor that lives on the same block as we do and is a fellow parishioner from the church I attend lost her husband very unexpectedly. Amanda was one of the many that I do remember coming to our house with food. I remembered her mainly, because she made a comment that her daughter's first kiss came from Blake! That caught me by surprise so it stuck in my mind. I knew Amanda could not drive so I gave her a card with my name and number on it and told her to call if she needed a ride anywhere. It wasn't long before I received a call from her wanting a ride to church. I gladly took her to church and checked with her after mass to see if she needed to stop by the grocery store. She said she was reluctant to ask, but she really did need to get some groceries. This went on for a number of weeks until her mother came in from out of town to stay with her for a while. Her mother drives and is teaching Amanda how to do so. I've also checked in on her at the store where she works to see how she is doing and to give her words of encouragement. I wanted to let her know I'm there for her. She is very appreciative of anything I do to help her out. I just want to make a little easier for her.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: Prior to my son's death, I looked at someone's passing as part of life. I was respectful and polite.  I sent a card and food. I attended funerals and visited without having much to say. Most I knew who passed were quite elderly.

Recently, a friend's daughter in her 30's passed. She passed from head trauma after having fallen downstairs holding her baby up so she wouldn't be harmed. This time when I visited the home, I stayed and had plenty to say to her parents. Some things were for immediate comfort and some for long range thought. I felt I could use my experiences and help. From what I hear that made an impact on the family.

From Anne, mother of Michael: I have always had empathy for people who have had losses. I guess growing up in a funeral home has made me somewhat different to my approach on life and I am happy for that.  Whenever someone passes away in my neighborhood, I always reach out to that person either through a phone call or a card or a visit!\

From Ruth, mother of Jim: How have I changed?   I thought back to 1952 when my grandmother drowned.   It was the first death of someone I truly loved.  I had no idea that death could be so complete.

The end of 1965 my only sister was murdered at the age of 22.  She left a four year old daughter. I picked out my favorite white blouse and Pendleton pleated skirt for Margaret to wear.  I do not remember any flowers coming to the house.

Other deaths came and went.  And then one day the dreaded knock on the door with soldiers to notify us that our child would not be coming home.  Flowers arrived almost immediately.  The first bouquet came from Jim's high school girl friend.  Our house was soon filled with flowers, food and friends. They protected us from falling with so much love. Family began arriving, soldiers who had served with Jim came.   So much love in each gift they gave us.....  gifts mostly of love, hope and understanding.

Before we lost Jim, I never realized that when you read the obituaries in the paper, and you know the person or family you have an obligation of love and understanding to give.  I don't give advice, because that is not what a person needs.  The world will never be the same, it will never be alright, and time does not heal all wounds.  Instead I send flowers, food and any other items to help,  but the main thing I now do is sit down with a pen and write a note to the family telling them something special I remember about their loved one.   I want them to know that their loved one was so important to the world and especially to me and my family.  I treasure each note that written to us when Jim died.

General Support Chat
This chat is open for all survivors
Date: Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat
Date: Thursday, July 17, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Kim Suggs and Carla Stumpf-Patton

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections. 

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Picture for Linda's blog
In This Dress

~ Linda Ambard, Survivor

July 7, 2014

I have a dress that sits in the back of my closet.  I wear it on special occasions.  This dress is special to me not because it is anything stunning to look at, but because of what it has come to represent.  To understand the dress and its impact on me, one must look at why I bought the dress...rather, who I bought the dress for.  I bought the dress on a whim while Phil was deployed.  I bought this navy polka dotted dress just after I booked what would have been our first trip ever without any of our children.  We planned to meet in Venice in October 2011 for Phil's two week R and R.  I made plans to have pictures taken in the dress.  I planned to send the pictures for Father's Day with the simple message, "I will be the girl in the polka dotted dress stepping into your arms come October."  Instead, I wore the dress to his funeral.

In this simple dress, I find bravery and the strength to face down my fears.  I find a quiet confidence because instead of reminding me of what I no longer have, it reminds me of what I did have and it reminds me that I cannot let the assassin have me too.  My knees may shake, but in this dress, I find the new Linda.  I have worn this dress for many interviews, days that poke my heart, my dad's funeral, and today, I donned this dress to begin a new job.  This job is not a job I ever would have considered prior to Phil's death, and this job required me to return to school for another degree, but this job is the job the dress gives me the push to do because I have changed.

Perhaps it is a choice or a shift in paradigms, but the dress that once represented reconnecting with a man that I will love until my dying breath now shines for the Linda he always knew was there.  Today, I donned "the dress" to celebrate my growth and the broken heart that led me to get another degree so that I can work with my military family and help so that maybe somewhere, somehow, I can put a band-aid on someone's brokenness.  Before Phil was killed, I could never have imagined standing in front of thousands, being on television numerous times, being published, and being asked about military matters.  I loved teaching-still do-but right here, right now, this dress represents the fire that is blazing within.  It is deeply humbling to see the woman I am becoming.  I still do not feel comfortable in my own skin.  I still feel like the girl who was content to live in the shadow of her military soldier and her five children.

In a strange twist of fate, I have become a better version of the girl I once was.  I trust myself more and I value my relationships more.  My dreams ended on 27 April 2011, but the dreams that have risen from the ashes have given me a voice and vision into meaning making. Where I once could not see myself as anything but as a wife and as a mother, I have become a simple mouthpiece for military loss and personal growth through that loss.   The dress has become a beacon of light during some of my darkest moments because each dot represents the tears of my broken heart, but the sea navy blue shines with fire tested iron.  I may not want to do some things.  I may not feel equipped to do other things, but in this dress, I can do anything.

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Washington Monument Fourth of July
Saturday Morning Message: Independence Day

July 5, 2014

Good Morning,

Independence Day or what we now know as the 4th of July is the date that our country celebrates its birthday through the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  I thought I would add a bit of the commemoration in today's Saturday message as we read about summer memories survivors shared with us since for many of us it is the start of the summer season. If you are thinking of a TAPS event in your summer planning, look through the activities on the TAPS calendar of events page. We would be glad to see you.

In the Saturday Message for June 28, we wrote about what others did for us when we were early in grief. As we continue on this journey, many of us have found that we have changed the way we look at death and what we do to comfort others when they are in the midst of grief. This week's question is: How have your actions changed when you read about a death in the area in which you live? I look forward to reading your responses and next week I will share some of my own.

If you would like to send a response to the question of the week or have a subject you might want to hear responses from other survivors, email me anytime at carol.lane@taps.org. I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. It doesn't have to be a reply to the Saturday message. Sometimes just writing to someone is helpful.

Hugs,
Carol

From TAPS Survivors:

From Ashley, sister of Michael: Summer was always a fun time when my brother and I were kids. School was out, which meant lots of time to go swimming, play basketball, roast hot dogs on a campfire, eat lots of custard, watch Cardinal baseball games, go to our county fair, and celebrate the 4th of July. This holiday was always a big one for us. We would  have a huge barbecue with all  the fixings. My brother and older cousins would then set off fireworks; I and my younger cousins would run around the yard with sparklers. Later in the evening, our dad would take us to go watch our town's fireworks display. During the holiday weekend, we often made the trip up to St. Louis to the fair.  Looking back, I realize just how lucky I was to be the younger sibling. Since both of our parents worked, Mike would often have to keep an eye on me when we weren't at our grandfather's farm. I was his tag-along. He was not always thrilled about it, but he made do. Our summers as kids are memories I will always cherish. It was when I learned a lot about life... that the most precious things in life are not materials, but rather the moments you spend with those you love - family and friends.

From Ruth, mother of Jim: Summer sun warmed the coast, a gentle breeze cooling the day.   Jim had decided that he wanted to raise ducks.  The cute little duckling we brought home and put in a box soon grew into a big duck, too big to be kept at the edge of Jim's bed.   The duck had been named Bandit.   A Jim thing because the duck didn't look like a bandit. A large lake at Lakeside attracted many ducks so we decided to take Bandit and let him make his home on the lake.  Tears streamed down both of our faces as we drove the 20 plus miles to the lake knowing the duck would not return home to us.  Jim sat in the back seat stroking the feathers of the duck sitting on his lap.  As we got out of the car Jim let Bandit slip from his arms and watched him as he waddled down to the lake joining other ducks.  Such quacking.   Jim hugged me and said, "Don't cry mom, we can come and visit anytime we want.  Forty plus years later we still go to the lake and watch to see if just for a moment we can catch a glimpse of a duck that a little boy called Bandit.  We just have to shut our eyes and there he is just as he was so many years ago held in the arms of a little boy who loved animals.

From Kim, spouse of Milton: My favorite summer memories with my husband Milton are grilling in our back yard with a glass of tea and his (as he called it) best BBQ'd chicken in the world. He did the chicken and I ended up doing everything else that went with the meal. We would spend time together just talking and enjoying. The quiet times like these are the ones I cherish most.

From Annette, mother of Joseph: We have been trying to celebrate Joe's life and remember the good times and funny stories of which there are many. Just the other day his sister Lauren and I were laughing and telling the story of when he was about 3 yrs. old.  We had an above the ground pool with a deck around it and a ladder that swung up and locked.  However, since Joe was such a daredevil and loved the water so much we had him wear a tube which was bright orange and attached to a tank top.  We almost never took it off of him except to go to sleep, because we knew if we ever forgot to put up the ladder or turned around for a minute he would be in that pool.  We have pictures of him eating and playing in it.  It was a part of him for an entire summer.

 

This chat is open for all survivors
Date: Tuesday, July 7, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Widow-Widower Chat
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Kim Suggs

 

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections. 

Photo Credit: By Camera Operator: SSGT. LONO KOLLARS [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Picture for Shanette's blog
I Was Married. I'm Widowed. I'm Still Married.

~ Shanette Booker, Survivor

June 30, 2014

He was a tall caramel complexioned man. His smile lit up when he walked into the room. He had a sense of humor that would cheer a person up no matter their mood. His hugs melted away the bad and made your days better. He was born Andre Booker. I knew him as Dre; his military family knew him as Booker. He was a son, a brother, a father, a Marine, a Soldier, a friend, and my husband. What a great combination to find and have in a man. All of these things wrapped up into one human being has to mean he's inhuman- supernatural. No, it just means he was a blessing for all who met him.

We met in April of 2004. By October of 2005, we were married. The day we wed was the happiest day of our lives. I remember joking with him saying, "First is the worst; second is the best." It was the second marriage for both of us. We both knew that we were destined for each other and that we were meant to be together forever. There were even jokes made between us about growing old together and sitting on our front porch in our little rocking chairs. I imagined myself crocheting something and Dre fussing at the neighborhood children running through our yard. We couldn't wait to see how old and wrinkly we would be many years down the road. We were in this for the long haul. We were committed and dedicated to the life we envisioned with each other and the very, very long-term end results.

Then August 2011 rolls around and I wake up one morning and that vision we shared involving our futures together came to an end. It felt like it was over long before it even had a good chance to begin. Now there is going to be no fussing from rocking chairs on the front porch, no counting one another's wrinkles, and no years down the road. Seven wonderful years spent together and almost six loving years spent married together stopped in the blink of an eye. From that moment on, I would no longer be the wife of Andre Booker or SSG Andre Booker, but instead as the widow of Andre Booker or SSG Andre Booker's widow. What a complete blow to my system. The moment he died, I know a part of me truly died with him. I didn't know if I could ever live again the way I did before, and to be honest at that point it wasn't even in me to carry on without him. I know for a while I was going through the motions.

In August 2011, I became a widow, but I am still married to my best friend, lover and husband Andre Booker. We still have date nights, chit chat and joke with one another. How is this possible you ask? It is possible because I refuse to let his memory and legacy die. I love my husband with all my heart and as long as my heart is still beating, then so shall his. I love the fact that our wedding vows say, "Till death do you part."  It's so true; the love we share is still there. Our marriage is still there until death does it part.  Death has not and will not do this marriage part. Birthdays, holidays and all special occasions are still celebrated together. We still enjoy each other's company and all those things we talked about can still take place. No, I haven't lost my mind. I just came to realize that because a person dies doesn't mean that they can't continue to live on in our lives. I will continue to keep him alive through memories and celebrations honoring him and his legacy.  Hi, I'm Shanette Booker, wife of SSG Andre Booker.

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Lighthouse at Pigeon Point - Photo by Deirdresm
Saturday Morning Message: A Light Through the Darkness

June 28, 2014

Good Morning,

This week's question about the most helpful thing that someone did for us made me think of a lighthouse in the dark. I know that for me after the funeral when everyone left, I felt very much alone. My immediate family was struggling as much as I was. That is where TAPS came in. I called the 800 number and immediately felt verbally hugged by the person who answered. She assured me that my emotions were normal and that there was a group who could help support me. This week other survivors wrote about what people did that really helped them. When we think about what helped us, we can assist others and eventually become a lighthouse to someone else.

Since the first day of summer has just passed, next week let's share some memories. The upcoming question is: What is a summer memory of your loved one that you would like to share? I look forward to reading your replies.

If you would like to send a response to the question of the week or have a subject you might want to hear responses from other survivors, email me anytime at carol.lane@taps.org. I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. It doesn't have to be a reply to the Saturday message. Sometimes just writing to someone is helpful.

Hugs,
Carol

From TAPS Survivors:

From Pam, mother of Joe:  A dear friend of mine had lost her son in Iraq 3 years before Joe was killed. When she came to visit she told me, "There will be a lot of ceremony and people wanting to honor your soldier. It will be a media event. Just remember that he is your son first and foremost. Don't let anyone take away that moment for you to mourn as a mother." And she was right.

From Robert, father of Lou: Shortly after Lou's death, I was at the supermarket when a lady from my development came up to me and said "I don't know what to say to you, so I'll just give you a hug.". It came at a good time - I was just sinking and looking to rush out of the store. I was able to stay and get what I needed and had my spirits lifted.

From Diane, mother of Caleb: The most helpful thing someone did....was when one of Caleb's commanding officers called just at the right time - I had just walked away from the table telling the CACO I couldn't do this....pick out a casket for my son, and all those arrangements. The phone rang just as I left the room, and it was Caleb's commanding officer. He spoke to me in the most understanding voice. He knew it was hard, and that I had many decisions to make in a timely manner....his kindness meant more than he will ever know. When we got ready to hang up, he said, "You can do this..." I answered, "Yes." Because of our conversation that day, I was able to make it through the days that followed. I would remember different things he said, take a deep breath, and continue onward. I knew I was not alone.

From Annette, mother of Joseph: I was having an emotional day today. My best friend was at my house when I got home. I saw her and teared up. She gave me a big warm hug. It felt so good. Hugs help.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: I am lucky to tell you about the best thing that happened and helped after the passing of my son. I don't think this will help anyone except to know there are wonderful people out there.

After my son passed, I moved suddenly. After about a month or so, I met a terrific man. I introduced him to my dad and then to my other son. Then one day shortly after meeting my younger son he said it was time to meet Eugene. I thought he was crazy, but we took the long drive to Calverton. He stood in front of Eugene's stone and introduced himself. He then told him that he loved his mother and he could now rest in peace. He said he would always be with me.

We married last August 3rd.

From Tim, father of Thomas: My wife and I had been living in Florida for just a little over one month in May of 2011 when we received the visit telling us that that our son Thomas had been killed in action in Afghanistan. I had just started a new job; we knew almost none of our neighbors; we had established no base in Florida; and then we received this awful news. I truly did not know how we could make it through the trip to meet our son at Dover air base, let alone make it through the grieving process and funeral planning, without the help and support of a social network. Things looked awfully bleak.

When we returned from Dover we felt that people should know of our son's sacrifice, but we didn't want to just blare out to our neighbors that our son had died in service to our country. We lit on the idea of making a small poster with his picture, name and a few words as a way of letting people know. We hung this small poster from our courtyard gate, kissed it, and went inside.

About an hour later, I came out to view the poster and what I saw took my breath away and left me sobbing. Between the time that my wife and I had hung our poster and the time I stepped back out, some unknown neighbor had tied a black bow entwined with red, white and blue tinsel stars on every light post, mailbox, and street sign in our small, gated community. My wife and I were completely taken by surprise and our spirits briefly lifted by this act of kindness and remembrance.

Over the next week or ten days we came to learn the real kindness of our neighbors. It seemed as though each time we went outside or came home from somewhere there was some small remembrance left on our doorstep or next to our gate. Roses, sympathy cards, flowers, even small stuffed animals, were left by neighbors who wanted to reach out to these new people who had suffered such a terrible loss, but were unsure just how to go about it. Several more introduced themselves and offered their condolences.

We buried Thomas on June 8 in San Antonio Texas. I was able to plan the funeral, arrange travel to San Antonio for my family and several others, and carry on through this awful time while providing the strength needed to get through this to our family and those close to Thomas. I'm sure that if I would have had to do it on my own I could have done all that was required of me, because it was for my son; but I'm also sure I was able to do even more than I could have alone because of the kindness, thoughts and prayers of a few people in a small Florida community.

 
This chat is open for all survivors
Date: Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs
 
Date: Thursday, July 03, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Kim Ruocco and Carla Stumpf-Patton
 

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.

Photo Credit: Deirdresm

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Picture for Linda's blog
Baby, it's cold out here

~ Linda Ambard, Survivor

June 23, 2014

Baby, it's cold out there.  Loneliness creeps up on a person.  In unexpected traumatic death, there is no preparing for being alone.  Phil died in the prime of his life.  He had finally realized many of his dreams coming true and felt the need to give back.  I didn't think he was in danger; he had deployed numerous times in 26 years of service and I worried more when he was living on a compound in South America fighting the drug wars.  I looked at his deployment as an inconvenient road bump to what came next-the first assignment without our children. Our last child left the house the same year he deployed. 

Like many military families, my circles narrowed through the years.  Without even noticing, I had become really good at three year friendships.  I could instantly connect with my neighbors on base, but when one of us PCS'd three or four years later, the friendship became shallow.  I could run into these people ten years later and immediately take up where we left off.  I lacked 911 friends-you know, the ones that know what you need without uttering a word.  The friends that will come and just breathe with you.  Cry with you.  I never thought about how I had put everything into Phil and the children.  With the children out of the house, I looked forward to more time with Phil.  I looked at the deployment as a waiting period for what came next; I never considered what I would do if he didn't come home. 

The shock and the pain of losing the one as violently and unexpectedly as I lost my Phil created a body slam so deep that I felt physical pain.  I withdrew.  Three years later, I am looking around and wondering about where I fit.  I feel like the society misfit at times.  I am too young to have had to plan a funeral and bury a husband who was younger than me.  I am no longer a military spouse, yet I work on a military base.  I am at an age where most people still have children in the house.  I have no idea where to live because home was a person versus a place after living the nomadic military life my entire adult life.  I am too old to go home to my momma, and too young to live with my children.  The connections I have made through this loss are all far flung connections.

I long for a friend to call when I feel blah, want to get a pedicure, or talk to when I doubt myself.    I long for giggling and venting.  People who camp establish a fire fairly soon after finding the site to pitch their tent.  Fires provide more than warmth.  Fires provide companionship and security during the cold night.  Deep friendships do the same.  I am the problem, however.  I am wary.  I have always held myself at a distance due to shyness and insecurity.  Having Phil in my life deepened that chasm.  I struggle with wondering if there is anything else besides work, far away children and friends. I often wonder where I fit.  I look in the mirror and the face that stares back is mine.  The person that needs to change and to reach out is me.  I am broken somehow, but I want to fix me-need to fix me because it is cold where I stand.

 

 

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Saturday Morning
Saturday Morning Message: Finding TAPS

June 21, 2014

Good Morning,

Several people replied to the question this week about how they found TAPS. Each answer is different and shows the many ways that TAPS can come into survivors' lives for comfort and support. Just like each journey is unique, TAPS has programs to help by providing whatever appeals to you . You can participate in as many as you like. Lists of these experiences are entered on the TAPS webpage.

You may decide to join with others by attending:

 

  • a seminar (see the seminar calendar)
  • a retreat which is a smaller number of people who share the same relationship to their loved one (retreat calendar)
  • a Run and Remember Team event for those who enjoy running or walking supporting TAPS (running event calendar)
  • or stay home and chat with others in the TAPS chat room. You do have to sign up for the Online Community to access the chats, but it is easy. At the top right hand side of www.tap.org, you will see a link labeled Online Community Login. You need to register by adding your email address and a password. Then click Register with TAPS to complete the process. Check our chat schedule and join others for sharing.

 

Christi's reply this week about a compassionate stranger coming to her door made me think of a new question. We have all grappled with what to say to a grieving person at one time or another. Then the unthinkable happened and we became the griever. Next week, let's share: What was the most helpful thing that someone said or did after the death of your loved one? I look forward to your replies and thank you to those who added to the message this week.

If you would like to send a response to the question of the week or have a subject you might want to hear responses from other survivors, email me anytime at carol.lane@taps.org. I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. It doesn't have to be a reply to the Saturday message. Sometimes just writing to someone is helpful.

Hugs,
Carol

From TAPS Survivors:

From Christi, mother of Zackary:  A couple weeks after my son died, a stranger came to my door.  She said her husband had read the obituary of our son and she happened to drive by our house that was covered in flags with a flag and Zack's name in cups on our fence.  She felt the need to send her condolences.  She brought with her a book on grief a friend had given her when her son died a few months before.  We talked and cried that day for a long time.  She left us that day with the information about TAPS and the National Guard.  It took me a while to find out what TAPS was about, but soon learned what a perfect family it is for us.  We will always thank our angel for leading us to our new family.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: I came to TAPS via IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America).  I had been working with their JAG (Judge Advocate General) lawyer on the bill turned into law for the enhancement of education benefits for veterans. The bill became law just weeks before my son died. I got in touch with my friend and he suggested TAPS. How smart was he.

From Annette, mother of Joseph: We were very fortunate on being introduced to TAPS almost immediately after Joe's death.  Joe had done a summer internship at IAVA in their public relations dept.  Paul Rieckoff, founder of IAVA had someone from TAPS call me immediately.  I will be forever grateful to him.

From Diane, mother of Caleb: I received a box in the mail from TAPS. It was the best thing I received that day. The information was so helpful. I don't recall calling TAPS ...somehow I think I got a call from TAPS. TAPS has been such a lifeline for me. I live in a rural part of the country, where there are not many connected to the military -nor are there any Gold Star families. The people I have spoken to have been so helpful and kind. Included in that box was a candle. I left it in the box, because the fragrance of that candle brings such peace. I open the box from time to time, and it helps. I attended a TAPS seminar recently, and got to know some of our TAPS family. It was truly a blessing. Thank you TAPS.

From Ruth, mother of James:
Six long years have passed along with a million tears.
It seemed like life was filled with a multitude of fears.
TAPS magazines came and filled my mind
of a place and time of a different kind.
I studied each page and read each word...
things I thought I had never heard.
Then one day from deep within a desire formed.
I had to meet this group that even phoned...
There were others who shed the same tears...
lost the same loves.... had the same fears....
In late May we packed our suitcase and boarded a plane,
a new fear burnt in my stomach like a sharp pain.
Just wonder if they really didn't understand...
If it was only words from across the land...
Late at night we settled into our room,
under the light of the Washington moon.
Early next morning we entered the hall...
not knowing if we should be there at all.
Suddenly from out of nowhere people embraced our needs.
Listening carefully and planting small seeds...
Seeds of hope and lasting love....
From our loved ones now living high above.
Hand in hand you have given me strength...
You have lifted my wings from beneath...
I no longer travel this path alone...
I have you to walk me home...
Thank you so much for the gift of love from TAPS..for being there when I hurt, for being there for the laughter.  I love you all.

 

This chat is open for all survivors
Date: Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

 

 

This chat is open for all survivors
Date: Thursday, June 26, 2014
Time: 1 PM - 2:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

 

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections. 

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