Saturday Morning Message: Living Life to Fullest

Author: Carol Lane

Good Morning,

Linda Ambard in PhiladelphiaAs you read answers from survivors, living life after the loss of a loved one is not easy, but we all take up the challenge in different ways. The picture today comes from the recent TAPS Magazine article by Linda Ambard, spouse of Air Force Maj. Philip Ambard , titled "The Journey of Hope Never Ends." In this article, Linda talks about looking at things that she wanted to accomplish and what she has learned about grief. This article is included this week as an example of how a survivor has dealt with change in her life. TAPS has many programs and resources to help survivors find a way to contribute to others while helping themselves. The program that seems to fit with this week's question is the TAPS Peer Mentor Program. If you are at least 18 months beyond the death of your loved one and find you are ready to listen in a caring way to another survivor, this might be just right for you. This week's message is one that is full of hope.

Would you like to share a question or read how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have? I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. You can also submit favorite songs that are meaningful to you. It can be helpful to read and hear how others cope. If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who wrote this week, send it to me and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them.

In addition to the ideas shared below, we can also honor our loved ones by communicating with each other through writing. You never know how your words may touch the heart of another. I encourage you to reply to the Saturday Morning Message by emailing carol.lane@taps.org. In order to have your reply included in the week's Saturday Morning Message, it is best to send them to me by Tuesday of the following week. You can also write how a survivor response has touched you. I will be glad to share your words with the contributor. Of course, only your first name will be sent. This week's question is located below my signature. Thank you to everyone responding this week and those who read this message. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

As the season of winter begins, a TAPS staff member suggested this as an idea for a question: What is your favorite winter or holiday song?  Please include a short paragraph about why this song is special. 

♫ Song for the Week 

Merry, mother of Wesley, sent the song this week. Merry wrote, " I have a song that I think Wes would have loved. It pretty much describes how he felt about himself and his friends. It's "Ordinary Average Guy," sung by Joe Walsh and the Eagles. Two radio hosts here in my hometown use it for their theme song and I think Wes would have loved knowing them, too. They are hilarious but don't take any guff,  just like Wes. I think at some times, although he served his country valiantly, he just considered himself ordinary. 

Answers from Survivors 

From Thais, mother of Dwayne:  I work in sales. I don't think of it as my job. I make it my gift to others to see that they get just what they hope and dream for their personal and family holiday.  This my way of coping. I go home - no fuss, no muss. I just think back on the smiles that happened during my day. This continues through New Year's Day.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene:  Do I feel I live my life to the fullest? That is a tricky question. Given that my son is missing, I will answer this way. I do live my life to the fullest. I met a man who we both believe was heaven sent. Neither of us were looking for a soulmate, but we found each other. Our extended family gave my surviving son two stepbrothers and one stepsister, along with their spouses and growing families. We have nine grandkids so far.

The tricky part to answer is that if Eugene lived, how would things be different?

From Donna, mother of Eric:  For my new normal, many days I can now live to the fullest. Compared to the old me, it doesn't seem like I live much at all.  

Like Mary, I'm at my best when with other Gold Star moms. I feel accepted, understood and not judged for anything I feel, whether it be happy, sad or mad. I read a blog on Facebook about things learned since losing a child. One of the things the author wrote about was how she had an instant, permanent connection to every Gold Star mom she met. I find this to be my sentiments exactly.

My next best days are spent volunteering for my favorite local veterans organization. It seems to me that helping veterans is the best way to honor my son. I'm not a veteran, but they invite me to join them for every event. I just went quail hunting with them and learned I'm great at skeet shooting.  

I believe I'm here to continue my son's memory, so any day I get to give a speech or discuss him or he is honored by a group I feel is a good - hard, but good - day.

My new normal days other than the ones above seem to just be existing.

From Cheryl, mother of Jack:  I feel like I am living my life to the fullest. I go through the gambit of emotions, but I choose to embrace them. Here are some things I do or what my life is like:

I wake up early. I like to drink a cup of coffee, read a devotion and look at a few things on the iPad, like email or Facebook, and play Words with Friends.

Then I get out and walk or run with my dog, Bear. He appreciates me getting him out and that makes me happy.

I do have to admit I anticipate getting up, excited to see what the day has in store for me. I have been working at a childcare center but was laid off because they are closing. I was feeling down, but I started thinking of things that I hadn't been able to do because I was at work. For example, my 19-year-old grandson will be going into the Navy on Dec. 7. He works nearby and he can come over for lunch.

I started thinking of things I need to do to get my house back in order. I have chosen to do the things I do. Are they easy? No. I embrace life. I know my son did and he helped me to see that.

I choose to go and find ways to help people "up" along the way. I give a cheerful word, a hug, a helping hand - whatever it is. You know it will help me, too.

I hope that you can find the best way to live your life to the fullest. I have tried different ways, but I am doing what is my path. Our children were serving so we could live a full life. I believe that. I can hear Jack's words in my ears as he looked at us and said, "I am doing what I feel needs to be done so you can have your freedom to live your life here."

So live your life.

From Diane, mother of Caleb:  I'm having a hard time with Saturday's question about living life to the fullest. From Mary's example, it seems like it's really asking if there is a time or place where you feel most comfortable, at ease or able to be yourself.

The question itself is about living life to the fullest. How do I answer that? Life to its fullest. Is the definition of fullest being complete, nothing omitted? That is not where my life has been since Caleb has been gone. I live each day the best I can, but there is always that missing part. The closest I can come to saying "life to the fullest" is being with my children. They are the treasures of my life. But, I find it hard to think of using the words "life to the fullest."

Merry, mother of Wesley: It took me several months to even think about a happy future. And then when I started thinking that way, my thoughts would always bounce back and forth from how I could possibly have a good life to yes, I can live and love again. Then, there was an advertisement on the TAPS website about a fun run for moms with a message, "Take back the life your loved one wants you to live." 

I'm learning slowly to take back the life Wes would want me to live. Wes would never take credit or thanks for the contributions he gave to our country. He would always say, "Mom, don't even thank me. You don't know what you are saying." Well, yes, I do as I can go about my daily routine out and about in the community and sit cozily at a Starbucks drinking my favorite beverage while soldiers are in 110 degree heat working to secure our safety. 


UPCOMING VIDEO AND TEXT CHATS
 

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Visit the TAPS Online Community Calendar for this week's schedule of text and video chats and other offerings. We have a virtual gathering most days of the week. Whether you want to share your story or just read how other survivors are sharing and coping, this online grief support community is a way for you to develop and strengthen your connections with TAPS.


Other Items and Events of Interest
 

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#ListenLearnLove 

The TAPS National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar is going virtual. Held October 16-18, you will hear from others who have walked the road you are traveling. Sessions will offer vital information on anxiety, loss and family dynamics, talking to children and more. The grief that follows suicide loss can be uniquely complicated. You are not alone, and we invite you to join us for a time of hope and healing. 

Celebrating 20 Years of Team TAPS 

For 20 years, Team TAPS has honored our heroes and raised awareness and funds to support the TAPS mission. This year, in celebration of our 20th anniversary, we are coming together to create a virtual movement. We will walk, run, bike, swim, and row - find ways to move in honor of our loved ones. We will gain strength, go the distance, and encourage each other. Join us for this adventure

You can discover all the opportunities to connect with your TAPS family on our website at the TAPS Event Calendar.
 

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We're all in this together

Have you lost your job or have reduced household income? How has the pandemic made an impact on your life? If you are grieving the death of a loved one, and their life included military service, we'd like to hear from you.

Your feedback will be used to improve TAPS programs and to communicate survivor needs to donors and stakeholders. Please share how COVID-19 has impacted you by taking our survey.

 

Did you lose your loved on due to an illness loss

If your military loved one suffered with a wound, illness, or injury, please consider taking our new Illness Loss Survivor Survey, so TAPS can honor your loved one through our advocacy efforts.

If you took the survey last year, we ask that you retake it as we've made important updates. Your response could help shape policy and legislation, and direct future TAPS programs and services. To learn more, email illnessloss@taps.org

Those who take either survey will receive a discount to the TAPS store for providing this important and valuable feedback.
 

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AmazonSmile is a simple way for you to support TAPS every time you shop, at no cost to you. Visit smile.amazon.com, log in, and select TAPS as your charity of choice. Amazon will give 0.5% of your eligible purchases to TAPS.


About the Saturday Morning Message

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the Saturday Morning Message is to foster peer-based connection for support and encouragement.  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 Saturday Morning Message is edited for spacing considerations, grammatical corrections and may be used in other TAPS publications.  

To subscribe or contribute to the Saturday Morning Message email online@taps.org.

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at 800-959-8277.