Making the Trip

Author: Kelly Griffith

Inching along at a pace so slow that I was sure slugs would cross the American Legion Memorial Bridge before me, my mood went to a dangerous place – one where I could hear sirens in my head warning that an emotional meltdown was imminent. I was sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic at the Virginia/Maryland border. The windows were rolled down instead of using air conditioning, letting the 100+ degree summer air spill into the car and making my skin hot and sticky.

DC Interstate 

After sitting on the bridge for so long, the road ahead and Potomac River to my left and right no longer looked familiar. And I began to panic. I learned to drive in the era before smartphones but after print maps had started to dwindle and no longer spilled out of the glove compartment – it was the time of the perpetually lost. 

So, I did the only thing I could think of; I picked up my cell phone and called my dad. Surely, he would be my guide. I couldn’t tell him exactly where I was; I could only say I thought I was still going north on I-95. Maybe. Or was it 495? The highway numbers ran together in my head, and my breath began to quicken, making me even hotter. Unable to read my mind and without the magic mirror from “Beauty and the Beast,” my dad couldn’t help my nerves. So, I sat in traffic – tears streaming down my face – and made the decision then and there I would never again get behind the wheel without a map or a GPS to guide me. 

Years later, after my brother Sam died, I once again felt myself in need of a GPS. I had lost direction. I felt completely lost in a world where others just seemed to zoom by so fast it made my head spin. I was completely overwhelmed. 

TAPS was that GPS I so desperately needed, and I’ve seen others experience it too. We’re traveling a road we’ve never been down before. Or maybe the road is the same, but it took a sharp turn and nothing looks the same. The unfamiliar sights, sounds and feelings catch us off guard. We feel totally alone, and for many of us, totally afraid. And suddenly, there’s a soft voice telling us we have the option to turn right 1,000 feet ahead to help us get closer to our destination of healing. There’s a sense of calm that comes over us as we look ahead those 1,000 feet, and it allows us to see if we actually want to make that right turn. 

And what if we want to turn left? Or stay straight? That’s okay too. We can find comfort in knowing that voice will be there to recalculate right along with us, even if we don’t choose the same path as someone else. 

This summer, I am headed out on a new journey towards healing, feeling the love and support of my TAPS family. Life is taking new turns, and I’m working on living the life I know Sam would want for me. I hope you will make your own travel plans with TAPS at your side. Maybe you need to make a stop with TAPS Community Based Care to find local grief resources. Maybe you need to feel the wind in your hair and experience a little excitement on a TAPS Retreat or Expedition. Maybe you need to find ways to refuel your life with TAPS Inner Warrior. Whatever your journey looks like, and wherever it takes you, bring your TAPS family along for the ride. 

Turn on a song that reminds you of a sweet memory, and grab some healthy snacks before you head out. Share a conversation with a trusted friend you’ve found in your peer mentor. And find a little peace and comfort with TAPS as you take in the journey.

By Kelly Griffith, Surviving sister of Maj. Samuel Griffith