Once Upon A Time

Author: Linda Ambard

People often put off doing the things they want to do because they believe there will be a better time for it. I know that Phil and I put off those couple's only dates and vacations because we thought we had time.  In fact, I pushed for a Phil and Linda vacation together before his deployment, but he wanted to wait because it wasn't his top priority.  It became the desire of his heart while he was deployed, and we had plans for that magical day that we were to meet in Italy for a Mediterranean cruise.  While he was deployed, we also talked often about our dream house and our next base.  We made plans to run the Paris Marathon.  I had dreams of growing old together, being grandma and grandpa together, watching Phil commission our youngest, and of Phil walking Emily down the aisle at her wedding.  Not one of those dreams came true, and all of my hopes have changed and shifted in a major transformation.  As I ran the hills of the Athens Marathon today, I recognize a huge change that I have made. 

Linda Ambard

While I believe Colorado is the place that is home in my heart, I am not sure because home was always him, yet I see a day when I will own a house and when I will be retired.  I hope there is a chapter two, but I am not sure if that will happen.  I know that I will be okay alone, though, and that is where the change has occurred.  I am living my dreams.  Some of these dreams have a financial commitment; some an emotional and time commitment, and still others a physical investment.  I no longer wait for the "right" day. I look for opportunities to live my dreams.  I recently finished my 50th state marathon and celebrated by using my vacation time from work to fly to Europe to visit my daughter and to run the Athens Marathon.

The Athens Marathon is special because the race follows the original marathon course from Marathon, Greece to Athens.  The original participant ran the 26.2 miles to deliver a military message and then promptly keeled over and died.  I am sure his intention that day wasn't to die, but it happened.  His dreams ended that day.  Pondering that story and thinking about Phil's life being gone far too soon made me think about all of the dreams and all of the events that were deferred for a better time.  I am living my dreams because Phil's death changed me, changed my dreams, and opened me up to possibility.  While I would choose the life and dreams I once held over these possibilities that is not an option.  Recognizing what once was is not coming back has opened my heart to possibility and looking at what I want.  Does it gouge my heart and do I long for wanting to grow old with the husband of my youth?  You bet.

As I have opened my eyes to figuring out how to live without the man who knew me almost as well as I know myself, my dreams have evolved.  One of the biggest shifts is in the fire that blazes within me for my military brothers and sisters who have served, are serving, or will serve.  That raging blaze led to me walking away from a teaching job I loved to go back to school in military resiliency counseling.  Every day I get up and go to work with a sense of purpose and meaning born of heartbreaking loss.  I simply must make something positive come out of the ashes, and I must do what I can to help those in the midst of the raging storms of military moves, family separations, injury, loss, or having seen too much. 

With my completion of my 50th state marathon which was one of my two promises to Phil, I have begun to reach for other things.  I want to run The Great Wall of China Marathon and the Dublin Marathon.  I am not recklessly pursuing my dreams, but I am coming up with a plan to make them happen.  Like the ancient runner in Greece, I am well aware that there is always a cost-time, money, emotional, and physical, but the possibilities have opened my eyes to a new day and a new type of future.  While this chapter may look nothing like the future I saw for myself, I recognize that I have the ability to make my dreams possible as long as I have breath.