Sunday, July 18, 2010

Happy Anniversary?

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.

16 comments:

Starlight said...

Happy Anniversary, Brooke.
I love your words and your beautiful story. It takes us right there with you, every detail is special. I so wish things were different and being patient must be so very difficult.
You are loved and he is watching you, but you just can't see him.
Lisa xo

Robyn said...

Brooke
I cried as I read your beautiful personal experience. Your testimony lends strength to mine. Time can be a glorious thing to have on your side, and yet such a robber when it's against you. The only thing I have to say is that the times in my life when I feel like i'm suffering the most, the most desprate and the most alone, I feel my Heavenly Father the nearest. My prayer is that when you feel the most alone, that you are able to realize that your not alone.

Bud & Kim said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I cried as I read it. You are such an incredible inspiration and example to me even though I know this is now they way you would choose to be those things. You are stronger than any woman I know. I am grateful that you are willing to share your feelings with the rest of us so that we will always be reminded how precious life is and that we should always cherish every moment. I love you and my thoughts and prayers will be with you tomorrow as the weight of this anniversary is on your heart. May you feel Cory's presence and always remember like his text that "you can't see him but he can see you."

Sara said...

Brooke, I cried as I read your post. You are an amazing example of faith and strength. Thank you for sharing your experience and reminding us all of the eternal nature of relationships. My husband has a good friend from college who served with Cory in the mission field. We speak of him often. You are so loved Brooke - happy anniversary.

Jill and Cameron said...

Oh Brooke, I'm so sorry you have to have such a sucky anniversary. Your post was beautiful, and my shirt sleeve is soaked. I still think about you daily, and you and your family are in my prayers all the time. Take your time, its okay to be comatose. Love you!!

Heather said...

What a treasure it will be to have these memories, hard as they are, written down. Reagan will love to read it someday and maybe you will, too. We had a new Jenkins family move into the ward this week, and his name is Cory. It got rather quiet when she introduced the family in RS as we were all thinking of you, wishing your Cory had just returned as this brother is going to do tomorrow. There is no doubt that he is watching over you. You touch my heart and I need to go find a new box of tissues.

Griff-Fam said...

Brooke,
You are so amazing to write down your memories... Sometimes, it probably feels easier to forget. I love how honest and REAL your memories are. Life is real, and it sucks.Real life means feeding your baby and hurrying up to wait to say goodbye. It's not like the movies. But, you have your precious memories, and nothing can take that away...
I was at a friend's house for FHE tonight, and an older Sister was there, and mentioned how she likes to spray her late husband's cologne around the house sometimes. And I almost started sobbing on the spot. She still remembers his smell, and you never will forget Cory's, either... I am touched by his bravery, and by yours, too. It is brave to be strong, and not cry and throw a tantrum as you say goodbye to your husband...I hope I can be as strong and brave as you when I have to say goodbye to Roland next year. You are a constant inspiration to me... May God continue to bless you, and use you for the wonderful example you are to so many!

Matt and Staci said...

I think Reagan will be so glad you wrote this down. As she grows, this post will create a vivid memory for her of her daddy.

I am sure this was hard, very very hard, but I appreciate you writing it down and sharing it with us. You are so strong & you WILL be together forever!

Annie said...

Brooke,
Hi. I am Alaina's sister Annie. I met you and Cory in WA when we were camping with Alaina and Roland. You and Cory stopped through our campsite on the way to yours. I only met you both for a few minutes, but I remember my husband and I talking later about what an impression you both made on us. We thought Cory was so mature and he has such a kind spirit that we felt in just those few moments. Alaina told me last year what happened to Cory and I cried for you then and now I am crying with you again. I think it is wonderful for you to write down your thoughts and memories. And as sad and hard as this is to go through you are definitely being watched over by a loving Heavenly Father and He has great plans for you. Thank you for sharing, your strength strengthens me.

Love to you and Reagan,

Annie Selander

The Knight Trio said...

Brooke-
You are truly an amazing woman. Thank you for sharing that, and sharing the strength that you have. I am continually amazed at how strong you are, and your optimism for the future. We think of you and Reagan often and you are constantly in our prayers. Thank you again and again for your example.
Keitra

Tyler and Emily said...

Brooke,
I just sobbed when I read your post. You have always been such a great example to me. I love being around you because you make me happy. I can't imagine what you have gone through. I am so happy that you have your little girl in your life.

Landon and Jill Beyler said...

I love you! what a great entry- I felt like I was there and wished I could hug you. What a treasured memory- I am glad you are recording it all for you and for Reagan.

SJ said...

Sister Stott!!!!!!! You are amazing. I love readying your blog. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for being so strong.

As tave myliu.

Loves,

Sister Sarah Crookston Henriod

Crys said...

Sweatie you'd had me crying to. I'm so glad you recorded this. It is so precious it should be remembered. Love you girl!

Rachelle said...

Thank you for sharing this Brooke...

kimber said...

Oh Brooke, this is so beautiful. Just like the relationship you have with Cory.