I struggled with starting this post, mostly because I didn't know if I would have the emotional energy to finish it. I decided finally to do it today because I definitely won't have what it takes tomorrow.
I love good anniversaries, the kind that give me butterflies of excitement for my husband to come home from work so that we can go on a trip to celebrate the time we have been married. Or how about the kind that involve watching my baby open gifts and smash her face in cake. Sometimes it is just nice to commemorate the passage of time and the growth that has occurred. But, I am learning all to well lately that not all anniversaries are wonderful. How about the anniversary of the last time you ever saw your best friend and love of your life in this life? Yea, I know. Sucky. July 19, 2009. This post is the story of that day, a journal of remembrance more for me than anyone else. I can run the film strip over and over in my head a million times, but there is something about writing it down that burns the memory into my soul.
The night before he left, we decided to go for a short walk alone. My mom was in town helping with Reagan after she was born, so she stayed back and watched her for us. It was dark outside, so it must have been after 10. We headed toward Fort Steilacoom Park, a place with huge expanses of grass where we knew we could be alone. We chatted lightly about the plan for the next day and the things he had to get in order before then. When we came to a soccer field, we both plopped down and lay on the grass. It was dark and I was laying with my head on his stomach, so we couldnt see each other's faces. Our conversation turned more serious. I asked him, trying desperately to keep emotion out of my voice, if he was afraid at all. I will remember what he said forever, "No. Not at all. Maybe I should be". He asked me if I was and I couldnt lie. "Yes", was all I could get out. We lay in silence for several minutes and just enjoyed each other's company until it started to get cold, and then we headed back. I put Reagan to bed, and then myself, and he continued puttering around the house, finishing up some last minute items.
When my alarm went off VERY early in the morning, he was still puttering, though a little more frantically. I really don't think he went to bed at all that night. He was excited to go. That hurt my feelings, but I understood that this is what he had trained for for years, and he couldn't wait to put it into practice. I got up and then Reagan woke up. I asked Cory if he wanted to get her ready while I showered and got dressed. He jumped at the chance. He wanted to do everything for that little girl. When I got out of the shower, I saw him with her on the bed, getting her dressed, and there were tears in his eyes. It was the most beautiful father daughter moment I had ever witnessed. He was soaking up his last experience with his little girl, for what he thought was a whole year. When he returned, she would be a different baby....a child.
When he was finally done packing, we all piled into the truck with all of his gear, and headed onto post (a 10 minute drive). I felt nervous as we pulled up and I saw all of the other soldiers with their gear and the other families, following their husbands and dads around like they were stuck with glue. Cory ran somewhere to run an errand and I sat in the truck and wrote him a letter to be opened after we said goodbye. I think it just told him how proud we were of him and how grateful we were to have a man of God at the head of our family. When he came back, we walked around outside and chatted with some of the other families. Cory was so cute about showing off Reagan. He wanted everyone to see his girl, and she was dressed appropriately. I was struck by how many other men were leaving behind newborns. It just didn't seem right, but at the same time, it gives you the strength to buck up and be strong when there are so many others in your shoes as well.
After visiting, we went upstairs to his office. I sat and nursed Reagan and he tried to sit, but got fidgety and ran in and out to take care of some business. It was at this point that he told me they were going to all leave for a couple of hours, but they would be back to say goodbye. I would like to shoot the person that gave him this impression. We spent the last time we had together nursing the baby and doing paperwork. Then he ran back and said they are getting ready to leave, so I finished up real quick with Reagan and we ran downstairs and outside and ran over to the buses. I started to get a little nervous when I looked around and saw all of the other families crying. Something didn't seem right. Something seemed too.....final. I had been really strong up to this point and almost prided myself on the fact that I had not cried. When almost everyone was on the bus, all of a sudden he came bounding over to me. I snapped this picture while he was coming. I thought he looked so proud in his uniform.
He ran up and said "Um, I was wrong. I won't see you again. We are leaving right now". I grabbed Reagan out of her carrier real quick and threw her into his arms. He hugged her and then I hugged and gave him a quick peck......and then he was gone. He ran back to the bus and loaded it right away. I remember standing outside the line of buses, fighting back tears as hard as I could, and texting him like crazy "Can you see me? I can't see you!" over and over. The buses were starting to pull away and he texted me "You can't see me, but I can see you". I think that's how the rest of our marriage is going to be. I watched the buses drive away and then went back to his truck, drove away, and fell apart. I drove down the tree covered road from Ft. Lewis to our home and thought that I would never be able to make it a year. A YEAR! It seemed like a lifetime. I am glad I didn't know that it would end up being an actual lifetime, or I never would have let him go. As he said in his letter to me that I got the day after he died "we are apart for a year, but we are together forever". I can close my eyes and see him as he was then, every little detail from head to foot. I can see the scar he got on his shin from running into a weight bench at Sport's Authority. I can see his laugh that you can't really hear because all he does is rock back and forth silently. I can smell the combination of Kenneth Cole "New York" aftershave and Irish Spring deoderant as he kisses me every morning before he goes to work and I am still in a comatose state. I trust all of these things will be the same when I see him again.