Introducing Rachael Hill
Author: Rachael Hill
The year following my husband’s death was undoubtedly the most difficult year I have ever had to deal with. Never in a million years did I think I would be a widow and a single mom to 3 and 5 year old little boys at just 31 years old. That's the stuff that happens to other people...not to me. My husband was young, healthy, and full of life. This couldn't happen to him. We had so much going for ourselves and we were so in love...with each other and with our boys! That morning I watched him put on his boots, gave him a hug and a kiss, and sent him off to work. Just like I did every other day. He called before he stepped to fly, just like he always did. The weather that day wasn’t very good and I remember when I asked him if they were still going to fly he said, "yeah, we're gonna knock it out real quick" and he would be home after dinner. I told him I loved him and to fly safe, like I always did. It was just another day and just another flight....and then it wasn't. With one quick phone call my world came crashing down and I went from military wife to military widow. That couldn't happen to me....but, it did. Some days it feels like Jeff's accident was just last week, while other days it feels like it was years ago. I'm honestly not sure where those 365 days of my first year of widowhood went. They are a blur...
I know that a lot of people wonder what it's like to lose your spouse, as well as what you would do and how you would handle it if it were you in that situation. I know I did. I saw friends do amazing things after losing their husbands and I thought to myself over and over again, "I could NEVER do that." However, you'd be surprised what you can do when it's you...and you don't have a choice. Now that being said, I believe that overall I do have a choice. I can choose to either stay in bed feeling sorry for myself and dwell on my situation, or I can choose to get up and start my day with the most positive outlook I can. The absolute best advice I got was from a friend who had lost her husband 2 years and 1 day before I lost mine. She told me that every day she got up, took a shower, put on her make-up, did her hair, and lived her life. Let me assure you that isn't always easy to do, but I always try...and that's really all I can do anyway, right?! Just try.
I think a lot of people are also wondering how I'm really doing. Well, as I'm sure you can imagine I have good days and bad days...good weeks and bad weeks. I miss Jeff more and more every day and am reminded of him every time I look at one of our boys...not that I need a reminder! I never knew it was possible to think about someone every minute of every day and even now, a year later, he still consumes my every day thoughts. While I am genuinely happy for events going on in my family and friends' lives and absolutely want to share in that joy and excitement, it's really hard seeing people get married, have babies, PCS to new assignments, graduate school, etc. Why you ask? Two reasons. Number one, it’s hard seeing people happy when I feel so miserable, and number two, it’s hard watching people "move on". People move forward and continue on with their lives and while I know that I need to and eventually will, I feel like "moving on" means moving on without Jeff, and that is a very difficult pill to swallow. More than anything, I just don't want to leave him behind.
I often have people ask about my "future". Really?! What future? It's a given that when you get married and have a family you create your future and make plans centered around that family. You expect to grow old together and to be able to follow through with all of those big ideas and plans and if you knew my husband, you would know that he had some great, elaborate plans in the making! But what do you do when the key ingredient to that future is taken away? My "future" was in that airplane! In a matter of seconds, all of that was gone. No more plans....no more future together. Then what?
That's where I am today. In some respect I know that Jeff isn't coming back. He's not just on a trip or deployed to some remote location and can't call home. I understand that and it is now up to me to create a new future with my boys. I am still not exactly sure how to do that, but we are slowly starting to figure it out. Jeff will always be a part of our lives and I know that he will live on not only through our two boys, but also through me, our extended families, all of our amazing friends, and through all of those who Jeff touched through his journey in life. He had a personality that drew people to him. You didn't have to know him long to feel like you had been friends for years, and he genuinely wanted to take care of people. I often wonder how I got so lucky and why he picked me!
I will also say that all of the support I got throughout the year is what kept me going. All of the seemingly random phone calls, texts, cards, Facebook posts, etc. were not random at all, but honestly came when I seemed to need them the most. I got a lot of questionable looks and comments when I decided to stay in Alaska and not move "home" to be closer to family. I chose to stay here for a number of reasons but I do have family here...my Air Force family. I have had more support than I know what to do with and it is such a blessing. I could never have gotten through this time without it and while I do wish I could be closer to my actual family, I feel so lucky to have the people here that I do.
I truly believe that people are brought into our lives for a reason. I could go on and on with stories to validate this but in short, my journey during that first year brought more people into my life for specific reasons than I could have ever imagined. God does have a plan and I believe people are put in your path when you need them there the most. I truly believe that through our 13 years together, Jeff was the one who taught me how to handle this situation. He taught me how to come out of my shell and be confident, how to be independent, how to handle people, and even how to do those "man jobs" we tend to rely on them to do. He always explained things to me (whether I was listening or not) and I still hear his words echoing through my mind whenever something needs to be done. His influence created the person I am today and I will forever be grateful for that. I'm grateful I got the chance to have such an amazing person in my life, grateful that my kids have such an amazing role model to follow, and grateful that he is now watching over us from a place where he can see and know everything. I know he will always be here whenever we need him...he has already proven that. He continues to give me signs that he is still with us. He will always have a piece of my heart and I will miss him forever! My life is already better just for knowing and loving him.