Veterans Day–Thank You to All Who serve and Have Served

Today is Veterans Day.  A day to honor ALL who have served in our nation’s military… ALL who have signed on the dotted line…. ALL who have raised their right hand and swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

Today I honor those individuals.  The brave men and women who, since the birth of our nation, have served our country and who signed the blank check payable to the “United States of America”.

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I am fortunate to know, to count as friends and to love several people who have served our country.  I have relatives now currently serving and those from the past who have served in all branches of the military, during times of war and times of peace.  My husband comes from a long line of military men, from the beginning of our country, serving in all branches of the military and serving in every war fought as well as times of peace.  We are truly blessed.

My husband is one of those Veterans as well.  Not a single day has gone by when I have not been proud of him or his service to our Nation.  At 18, he signed on the dotted line and wrote that blank check to the United States of America.  He served his country in the Air Force, for 30 years, following in the steps of his father who served 20 years in the United States Air Force.  His brother served in the Marines.  Both of his grandfathers served in the Army.  He comes from a proud military family.

I am blessed to have been by his side as he served in the Air Force.  And blessed to have met many, many military men and women who served proudly in our great Nations Air Force, some still serving.  Every day, I was blessed to know these men and women, to know that I was safe and free because of them and their willingness, selfless willingness, to keep our country free.  They ALL signed that blank check.

Today I say THANK YOU!!  To every man and woman who has ever worn the uniform, THANK YOU!  To every man and woman wearing the uniform today, THANK YOU!  Because of you, we are free!  Because of you, I get to go to sleep every night knowing that I will wake up in the morning in the greatest Nation on this earth.

Every Veteran deserves thanks, today and every day!  Every Veteran deserves to be recognized for their selfless sacrifice for our country, for my family and for me.  THANK YOU!

And to my Veteran—Thank you, for protecting our country and for protecting our family!  I am as proud of you today as I was the day you enlisted!  I love you!

Plant–Bloom–Grow

Dirt.  There is just nothing like getting your hands in the dirt.  And planting something.   Nurturing it.  Watching it grow. 

This year I have rediscovered my love of gardening, of getting my hands in the dirt and nurturing something as it grows. 

I enjoyed gardening as a kid.  Mom bought a house that already had a garden in the backyard.  Strawberries were already growing in part of it, which I was so excited about.  And then mom said my sister and I could each have a section to plant what we wanted.  I planted a few flowers and corn.  I was ecstatic to plant corn.  I planted the seeds, watered them, weeded around them as they grew and enjoyed caring for my plants.  Then the corn grew, and I got 1 ear of corn.  Just one.  But it was mine.  I grew it.  I got to play in the dirt and saw the corn grow.  And when it was ready to be plucked off the corn stalk and cooked, mom cooked it for me.  I had just gotten my braces on, so eating the corn on the cob was NOT going to happen.  So, mom, lovingly cut the corn off my one cob so I could enjoy it.  It was the best corn EVER!  To this day, it is still the best tasting corn I have ever eaten! 

Through my teen years, I found that getting my hands in the dirt, whether it was planting or weeding, was calming.  It was therapeutic.  And I enjoyed it.

When my husband and I started our life together and moved to our first base in Grand Forks, North Dakota, I wasn’t so sure about gardening.  We arrived in February, just after a blizzard and with all the snow (for MONTHS!) I could not picture anything growing.  But then spring and summer came, and I finally got to dig my hands back into the dirt.  And I planted, flowers.  I grew vegetables, just a few that we could pick and eat throughout the summer. 

I loved getting in the dirt.  I still love getting in the dirt.  There is just something relaxing about it.  Over the course of my husband’s career in the Air Force, I had opportunities at times, to dig in the dirt and plant my own garden.  Not every place we lived, but some of the places. 

It has been a while now since I had my own garden, nurtured a plant and watched it grow.  The last couple of places we lived, I just didn’t have the time or the energy to plant.  But this past spring I was able to rediscover my joy of gardening.  We planted around our back yard.  I planted in pots on my back patio.  I enjoyed getting my hands dirty and boy can I make a mess!  I enjoyed the mess!  There is just something calming about playing in the dirt and in nurturing a plant as it grows. 

The dirt here in Arizona is hard!  Really Hard.  Digging in it is quite a workout.  The dirt needs preparation.   And as I helped to plant some of the most recent flowering shrubs, I began to see how gardening, planting and growing applied to our military life all those many years. 

Each time we moved to a new place it was a new garden to be planted in, and we were the new growth.  The new plants.  The new seedlings.  All of us ready to be planted and nurtured. 

Then as we left places where we had grown, it was the season of pruning, cutting back and transplanting…to make room for the new growth that would come behind us. 

At times the soil was very fertile, making it easy to establish our roots and grow strong.  Our blooms blossomed abundantly.

Other times the soil was not as friendly or easy to work with.  Sometimes the soil was hard, packed dirt, making it difficult to cultivate and grow.  Those times and places, we had to work extra hard to get our roots to take hold…. And that meant extra nurturing, a little tenderness and a lot of patience.  Though difficult to grow, it was not impossible.  The roots took hold and we bloomed. 

Life in the military really did reflect the quote “Bloom where you are planted”. 

The past few months, as I watered my growing shrubs and flowers and trees, I remembered all the places our family planted our roots… all the places they grew deep…. all the places those roots were shallower.  I remembered how we nurtured our family so we could grow and how our Air Force family nurtured us so we could grow.  And I thought about the ways we prepared the soil for the next plantings, the new families coming in behind us.  My hands in the dirt reminded me of all those times we had to be uprooted and transplanted and how we bloomed.  

And I smiled as I thought, that just as the seed blows through the wind and sprouts where it lands, we too did just that.  Every move we made.  Every community we lived in.  We grew where we landed. 

Just like my flowers now blooming and bringing smiles to my face and calm to my soul, our Air Force garden of friends and family and memories also brings a smile to my face, a calm to my soul and love to my heart.

And now, in this new season of our life, of our garden, my husband and I are planting roots we hope to grow deep and we plan to bloom here for many years to come. 

Got My Privacy Back!

Been a while since I have written.  And I thought I should update things after my last blog post. 

I didn’t realize how stressful that camera was going to be…. Is…… yet I still found a way to work through it….. at least I tried.  Hard. Every. Day.

I spent the week after the camera first went up, just trying to ignore it.  Harder said than done for me.  But I did try. 

I kept my blinds closed.  But that made me more stressed because I couldn’t look out and enjoy my flowers, the sun or the birds with the blinds closed….so I opened them.  And tried not to look toward the camera.

We discovered that our over-sized umbrella was a good privacy block for our patio, one door and two of our windows.  So, every morning the first thing I did was go out and put that umbrella up and angle it to block the cameras view…. At least then I could sit on my patio without being watched.

And when I realized that one of the windows in view of the camera was reflecting the images from the pool….. and us in the pool…. well, I found a way to jimmy-rig a towel to cover the window and prevent reflection of our pool from being viewed…. Now I could swim in private. 

I wrapped the biggest towel….a blanket towel…. around me when I walked out to the pool just to stop the camera from seeing me in my swimsuit…. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am not super comfortable in my swimsuit and don’t like to be seen unless I invite you into my space….. I have to trust another person before I am that comfortable (part of why I like a pool in my backyard, so I don’t have to go to a public pool). 

So, I was dealing with it and trying hard not to let the camera and the feeling of violation rule my life.  And each day got a little easier….. until I would see the camera and well….. maybe I made a little hand gesture toward the camera a time or two…. Oops…!

I was doing all of this while my husband and I were trying to find a way to block the camera that would also be enjoyable to look at and not break the bank.

And we found it.  The day we ordered the decorative privacy panels was the day a weight lifted off my shoulders.  There was relief coming.  There was a way to be in my own private space again.  And that made me happy and just a little less stressed.

My wonderful husband worked hard, over two days to install nine privacy panels.  And they are beautiful.  We have planted vines on each end of the panel wall, planted more palms and hibiscus plants and put lights behind the panels so they look awesome at night.  As the vines grow and fill in the top of the panels, we will have even more privacy than we do today.

Good things always come from uncomfortable or bad situations, at least that is what I believe.  It may take time, but good does come.  Yes, this started in a really uncomfortable place for me and took me back to a place where I never want to go again.  But the result is wonderful.  The cinder block wall looks a little less prison-like behind the pool now.

It feels even more like a resort oasis in our backyard.  And as our plants grow and bloom it will be even more resort like.  We have our privacy back in the spaces that matter the most to us.  Our windows are all now out of view of the camera and so is our patio and our back doors. 

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I can sit outside, like I am right now writing this, and be alone with my thoughts, knowing no one can see me unless I invite them in. 

Trusting my husband with my discomfort paid off.  He found a way to make me feel safe, give us back our privacy and create ambiance along the way.    

Be That Safe Place For Someone

It comes out of the blue.  Completely unexpected.  And when it does, it shakes me to my core. 

The memories.  The feelings.  The fear. 

Sometimes it is right there, under the surface but I don’t know quite what is going on…. Sometimes I don’t realize the impact until…. BAM!

I am a survivor of child sexual abuse.  I am a survivor of teenage sexual assault.  This is a part of my story.  A part of who I am.  But it does NOT define me, most of the time…. Which is why I say I am a survivor, NOT a victim.  I survived.  And I am who I am today, because of all I have survived and been through in my life.

I don’t share the details of my abuse, not even with my husband.  No one needs to know the details.  But I do share the effect, the emotions, the pain.  It is hard to talk about.  If you have survived sexual assault or abuse, then you know how difficult it is to talk about.  How hard it is to say it out loud. 

I don’t like to talk about it.  So why am I writing this today?

I find myself in the midst of emotions right now, and memories are popping up again and I am feeling somewhat discombobulated and unsafe.  Not a place I like to be.  Not a place I seek out.  Yet, here I am.

There is usually a catalyst that brings me back to that little girl who can’t find a safe place and feels so violated, scared and ashamed. 

Twelve years ago, I went through a major AHA in my weight loss journey.  And it was while losing the weight, that I started sorting through the excess baggage of my life.  I dealt with the baggage, one at a time… one memory, one moment, one abuser at a time.  As I sorted through the baggage, long hidden memories surfaced and shook me to my core.  I had to deal with them.  I had to face the fear.  I had to make the little girl feel safe.  So, I dealt with each moment and memory as they came back to me, sorted it, faced it, comforted the little girl, and when I couldn’t face it any longer, I closed that bag and rested.  Then when I was ready, I started sorting through the baggage again, throwing away those parts of my life that did not help me and keeping the parts that helped me to grow and become the person I was meant to be. 

That was hard!  REALLY hard!  But I got through it and moved on to a better place.  I was a survivor.  I am a survivor, and NO ONE will EVER make me feel unsafe or violated again!  NEVER AGAIN.

I even got to a point where I was able to forgive my abusers, yes there was more than one.  I never told them.  But I wrote letters to each of them.  And at the end of each letter I found peace and forgiveness.  Forgiveness was more for me than for them…. Which is what forgiveness is really about.  By forgiving them, I was able to let go and be free.  I was able to take the power away from them and stop being the victim.  I took MY POWER back! 

Seven years ago, I went through a really rough period and once again emotions, pain, shame and fear popped back up, coming from no where and completely unexpected.  My father’s death and a difficult person in my life were the catalyst, and there I was again.  I still had some work to do, that obviously I had not been ready to deal with previously.  I faced it again.  It took time, but I got through the memories, the pain, the shame and the fear.  I AM a SURVIVOR. 

For a couple of days now, I have been feeling….. fear…… unsettled….. discombobulated….. and have this underlying feeling of being violated.  It came out of the blue.  Once again, I did not see this coming.  But here it is.  This time set off by a camera put up on the back of my neighbor’s house, high up near the roof line.  The camera points into their yard and my backyard…. my back yard that is surrounded by a 7-foot block wall.  No one can see me when I am back there (well sometimes you can see the top of my head…) and no one can see me walk from the back door to the pool in my swimsuit.  I can sit back there and know that I cannot be seen… Not from the street or my neighbors’ houses.  We purposely looked for a house that had no 2 story homes behind it, because we wanted to be in our backyard and in the pool we would build without being watched.  Something very important to me. 

I didn’t know how important until this week.

Our neighbors sent us the screen shot of what their camera sees when we asked.  And yes, the camera sees my yard, my patio, my windows, my grill, both of my back-doors.  My neighbors are nice.  We like them.  And they said they would try to adjust the angle away from our yard.  My mind knows they are probably not sitting there watching us….

But….

Here is the thing about sexual abuse survivors, especially ones who were children.  Being watched, the perceptions of being watched, having a private space invaded and no longer private is disconcerting and feels like the violation is happening again, right now.  Being watched without my knowledge or my permission is a violation that transports me right back to the unsafe space that the little girl lived in.

I know my neighbors are nice people and they are not doing this for any nefarious reasons.  But when I walk outside to grill or swim or read…. or walk by my window and catch a glimpse of the pool or birds on the wall, I SEE the camera.  IT IS THERE!  Seeing the camera EVERY time I step outside rips the band aid off all over again. 

I feel violated.  I feel unsafe.  And I can’t stop the feelings. 

I should feel safe inside my own home.  I should feel safe in my private backyard.  I should not fear walking outside.  But here I am.  Feeling re-victimized again.

As a survivor, I still deal with the memories, and they come at me at unexpected times.  In unexpected ways.  And usually I can deal with them.  The catalyst that causes it goes away on its own or I remove it. 

But this time, I have no control over that damn camera.  And no control over the feelings of violation that the invasion of my privacy is causing me.  Or the memories it is bringing back to me. 

I will work through this. I will get to a safe place eventually.  I always do.  But right now, in this moment, I am scared.  I find myself covering up more (and it is really HOT here right now, too HOT to be wearing things that cover me completely) and I am keeping the blinds closed more, which prevents me from enjoying the view of the birds in my yard and my pool and my flowers.  I hesitate in going out the back door, because I know I am not alone out there any longer.

For most people it can feel like a violation when they are being observed on a camera and their privacy is invaded, but it doesn’t cripple them… makes them angry maybe, but not fearful.  But for sexual assault and abuse victims, it is a gut punch…. And then we are right back there, where it all began, feeling the terror, the shame, the pain…. It is as if we are being victimized all over again.  It is a creepy feeling to be watched when you think you are alone. 

Why am I sharing all of this?  Why talk about the current catalyst?  Because every person, knows someone who has been sexually abused or assaulted.  And I think we need to see some things through their eyes.  My husband is bothered by the camera, but it doesn’t stop him in his tracks when he wants to go outside and swim.  He is upset, but not crippled.  I am.  I am frozen.  I am fearful.  It is crippling me.  The tears are flowing, and I cannot stop them.  And I don’t want to feel this way.  I wish I could just ignore it.  I wish I could just brush it off.  But the memories are there.  The memories I will never forget.  The memories that sometimes shake me to my core and take me to a place I don’t ever want to be.  THAT is what is happening right now, every time I walk out my door.  And I cannot control it.  The camera or my memories and the emotions they bring up in me.  Deep in me. 

So, comfort that person in your life who may be struggling a little right now with memories of that long-ago abuse.  Understand that what doesn’t seem like a life altering thing to you, can destroy another.  And understand that a victim of sexual assault and abuse can and will survive but being a survivor does not mean that the affect of that abuse and assault won’t rear its ugly head.  Know that anything can be a catalyst to the volcano of emotions that erupt unannounced.  Don’t tell them to get over it, move on.  Instead comfort that person.  Let them know they have a right to feel that way and deserve to feel safe. 

Before you put up your security camera, check with the neighbor whose privacy will be violated by your video and make sure they are okay with it, they will appreciate your kindness.  Remember, not everyone wants “big brother” watching their every move, especially in the privacy of their own home or private, non-public outdoor space.   

I am lucky.  I have a wonderful husband who has been with me through all of this, who helped me sort through the baggage and made me feel loved, wanted and most of all, safe! 

Be that safe place for someone! 

Nature’s Music Soothes the Soul

I had been irritable for a few days.  Little things were bothering me that normally didn’t.  I was short with my family.  I was just plain irritable.  Life was off….. and I wasn’t sure why.

Until….

This weekend when I got up early, before any of my neighbors or my family and got in the pool.

It was so quiet.

It was so calm.

The sun was just coming up and I was alone.

I needed to do my lap swimming, part of my summer exercise routine.  So, I set out, swimming.  Still feeling irritable and off, like I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed… again!

It was so QUIET!  There were no flood lights shining into my backyard, blinding me.  There were no loud phone conversations, to which I should not be privy.  There was no base booming in the air or reverberating through the water and up my spine.  It was QUIET.  PEACEFUL. SERENE.

I didn’t need music.  I didn’t need my phone or TV.  I was disconnected from the very connected world we now live in.  It was just me and I could enjoy this morning, with the birds and yes the bugs!

I swam, different strokes on my back and on my stomach.  Listening to what was going on around me.  Ducks flew over my head.  Birds I had never seen or heard, were on the wall and trees singing to me, beautiful songs.  Birds I was used to seeing, sat on the wall watching me and making sure I knew they were there by the sounds they made.  The gentle breeze through the fronds of the many palm trees in our yard and in our neighbors’ yards created a melody that was soothing.  The sound of the waterfall into our pool soothed my weary soul.  Bees buzzed my head to land in the pool and take a drink (I didn’t enjoy that so much!).  And a beautiful, red dragonfly, like none I had ever seen before, swooped and dived around my head and my pool, following me and entertaining me.  This was Nature’s music.  This was Nature’s dance.

What a beautiful song it was!  What a spectacular dance it was!

And halfway through my lap swimming, it hit me.  THIS is why I had been so irritable.  I was missing my quiet time…. not just any quiet time, but the time I spent outside enjoying Nature’s music.

It is HOT here in Arizona, so outside time is limited to water time, which for me means pool time.  It is too hot to hike.  It is too hot for walks.  It is too hot to be outdoors. Period!  (For me anyway.  Yes, others get outside and hike, bike and walk, but NOT me in this heat!  I don’t like to sweat!)  I was missing the outdoors.  Last year, I was able to spend every morning and every evening in the pool, exercising and relaxing and enjoying the birds and bugs, the sunsets and sunrises, and the stars.  But this year I haven’t been able to enjoy it as much.  My quiet time had been hijacked and I didn’t realize how much I needed it or missed it.  Until my swim on Saturday morning.

I need time outside.  I need time in nature.  I need time disconnected from a very connected world.  I need to turn it all off and just be….. and time outside does that for me.  That is why we have created the backyard oasis we have spent the past year and a half building.  It gives us a place to get away.  A place to disconnect and breathe.  Something I really need.

Whether it is in the woods or the desert…. on the beach or on a mountain….. at the ocean, by a lake, on a river or in a pool…. in a national park, a forest or my backyard…. hiking, walking, swimming or just sitting….. I NEED to be outdoors.  And I need nature’s music to sooth my soul.  And outdoors, in the natural world, is where I feel closest to God.  It is where I feel spiritual.  It is where I can clear my mind and heal whatever my heart needs healing.  Nature is wondrous, a magical place with healing attributes.  Nature shows me what a mighty God I have and ALL that He has created.

At the end of my very long swim, I was at peace.  I was smiling.  And the feeling of waking up on the wrong side of the bed was gone.  The irritable feeling was gone.  My equilibrium was back.  I felt like me again.

All I needed was to be outside, where I could hear nature singing to me.  Then I could finally breathe……

A lesson in Change Through a Trip to the Store

I have been in this store a million times in multiple states.  And the store has been the same wherever I went….well maybe there were a few small differences, nothing to really throw me off or make me notice them. 

There are quite a few of the stores near me that I can shop at, making it easier because I know if I can’t find it at one store, I will find it at another.  And I can stop in, no matter where I am going because there are so many to choose from.

So, this week I walked into a Target store near me that I hadn’t been to in a few months…. I stopped in my tracks when I walked through the doors.  Where was I?

Really??  Where were the electronics…. They were here near the door the last time I was here.  Ugh!

The ENTIRE store was changed.  I didn’t recognize it AT ALL!

REALLY??!!

Why rearrange the store?  Where did everything go?  I was on a mission with a time constraint and I couldn’t find anything…. Nothing was where it was supposed to be.  Seriously?? 

Change is inevitable.  I get that.  I used to spend all day rearranging the kitchen, or the living room, or the dining room, or my kids rooms, trying to get the rooms just right in the house where we were living at the moment, because I wanted it to feel like home, even though I knew we would be moving again.  I was freaking out, feeling lost and uncomfortable because NOTHING was where it was supposed to be…is that how my boys or my husband felt when they came home after one of my rearranging days?  I wanted to turn around and leave the store and not return until it was back the way it was used to be…. Did my kids and husband want to turn around and run from the house when I changed things?  Hmmmm…..

I was beginning to see how change affects me.  I have always had a difficult time with change.  Change was not always a good thing for me.  It didn’t always bring positive things to my life.  But some change did.  Still, change is uncomfortable.  I want to control the change in my life (thus my rearranging when I WANTED to). 

And well, I figure that after 30 years of standing beside my husband as he served our country in the Air Force, after ALL the moves, ALL the TDY’s (when my husband had to go away for training or other reasons also known as Temporary Duty for those not familiar with military lingo), and after the ALL the deployments, missed holidays, missed birthdays…. Well you get it…. After all the change that was required of us by the military and that was completely out of my control, I think I deserve a “change free” life for the rest of my life!

Yeah.  Like that is going to happen!

My trip to Target proves I will NEVER have a “change free” life. 

Shouldn’t each individual have an “out-of-our-control-change” quotient and once reached, then only change that we can control is allowed?  So, Target should have checked with me before they changed the store!  Shouldn’t they have known that only change I approve of and control is allowed for the rest of my life?

I guess they didn’t get the memo!

So, I cannot control change around me.  I cannot stop it from happening.  But I can control how I handle it.

Yes, it freaked me out to enter a store I did not recognize, when I should have.  But I have gone to new places and not known where things were and it didn’t make me want to run away.  So why did this completely throw me?  Because it was familiar before and now it wasn’t.  When the comfortable and known becomes the unknown it also becomes uncomfortable.  So, how do I make it more comfortable?  By pushing past the discomfort and moving on.  By trusting and taking a leap.

Change is inevitable.  It is going to happen whether or not I want it to.  It is going to happen whether or not I like it.  It is going to happen whether or not I control it.  And though change in my younger years was negative and brought about a lot of pain, NOT ALL change will be negative.  There is positive change in life.  And there is something that can be learned.  Something that can be taken from change that can help me grow as a person, even the negative change. 

Walking into my favorite store this week reminded me that stepping outside my comfort zone creates growth.  And showed me that if I just go with it, then it will soon become comfortable and familiar and it will make shopping their easier in the long run.

Maybe that was Targets plan all along! 

I finished my shopping trip, found everything I needed (though it took me MUCH LONGER than it should have), and my day was NOT ruined by this change.

I just need to take the leap and push through that discomfort, whatever it is, and growth will come!

(I still don’t like change, but I am learning to accept it and learn!)

My Big Brother

I picked up my phone today.  I wanted to call.  It hit me.  I can’t.

My brother is gone.

Today is his birthday.  And I wanted to call to wish him a Happy Birthday….. but I can’t…….

January 13, 2010, my phone rang.  It was an Idaho number and I knew it had to be him, my brother.  The brother I searched my entire life for.  I had had his name for over 20 years and longed to hear his voice and to see him.  I knew it was him calling.

I will never forget that phone call.  The first time I heard my brothers voice and his laugh.   We talked a while that first phone call.  We laughed.  We cried.  We asked questions.  It felt so good to finally have heard from him.

My brother.  The one I longed to know.

We called each other quite a bit over the next year and connected on Facebook where we could share pictures and catch up on our lives.

And then came the day I would finally meet my brother and the rest of my siblings.  I met him and my older sister at a hotel.  It was wonderful.  That first hug!  I will never forget that.  Or his laugh.  Us girls talked and talked, and he listened and laughed at us and with us.

And then it was time for all 6 of us siblings to finally be together.  What a wonderful weekend that was…… a weekend filled with laughter, stories and bonding.

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I spent some time alone with my brother that weekend, sitting in his car in a parking lot waiting for our sister to meet our father.  We talked about our birth father.  My brother heard the emotion in my voice, saw the way I was struggling with seeing our birth father from a distance and he made me get out of the car and meet our birth father.  I will NEVER forget that.

After that time in the parking lot the three of us headed back to the cabin to have dinner and hang out with all our siblings.  We had a great meal, sat around the fire talking, and had a great time just hanging out.  So much laughter.

After that first meeting in 2011, my brother and I talked on the phone and stayed in touch via Facebook.  I would call on his birthday.  He would call me on my birthday.  And we would talk in between.  I really enjoyed those conversations. And his laugh.  He would tease me….  I so enjoyed having my big brother in my life.  It was part of what I had been missing in my life.

IMG_2328 copyWe didn’t see each other again until November 2012.  My husband and I went home to Washington for Thanksgiving that year.  I let my brother know we would be within a few hours of him in the tri-cities in Washington for a night on our way back to the west side of the state and he made the effort to drive a few hours to see us, meeting us for a late lunch.  It was the first time he had met my husband.  Such a nice visit, short, but nice.

The next few years brought lots of phone calls.  This was what I had always wanted.  My brother was a part of my life.  I wished we had grown up together, that we had had those years of memories to talk about… but we didn’t.  All we had was now.  Precious time to get to know each other.  I am so grateful for the time we did have, the short in person visits and the many phone calls.

I loved my big brother…  He was funny, had the biggest heart and loved the outdoors.  He could fix just about anything.  And he could play the harmonica!  He was so talented!

The end of December 2018, my brother came to Arizona, wanting to escape the cold winter in Idaho.  We were just one stop on his trip through California, Arizona and Nevada before heading back home to Idaho.

He arrived a day after my youngest son and daughter-in-law had arrived.  Finally, one of my siblings was going to get to meet my sons.  I was so excited to have my brother here.  The first night he hung out with us for a while, had some dinner.  We talked and laughed.  It made my heart so happy to see my brother with my family.  Another day he went fishing with my oldest son and stayed one night here with us instead of out at the lake in his camper, the night before my birthday.  It was a wonderful feeling to wake up on my birthday and have my brother here, in my house.  We spent the first half of the day just talking.  It really was nice to have him here.

And then he left again, heading farther away from us and then eventually back home.

May 29, 2019, I got a message to call his younger sister, the one who had helped my sister and I connect with our long-lost older siblings.  She wanted me to call as soon as I could.  I knew something was wrong.  That phone call….. I won’t ever forget…. She told me our brother was gone.

If only I had known that the night he spent here would be the last time I would see him….. if only I had known….. I wish I had been able to spend more time with my brother while he was here.  We thought there would be more time.  We planned for him to come back next winter and we would have more time together, we would plan it better.  If only……

That is the thing about death, it makes us question everything.  And it makes us wish for more time…for one more day…. One more hour…..

Today I wanted to call my brother to wish him a happy birthday.  I had 9 years with him.  It wasn’t enough time.  Yet I am so deeply grateful for the time we did have.  I am so grateful my boys got to meet their uncle.

I miss you, Nathan!  I will always miss you!  I will always love you, my big brother!

Happy Birthday!  I hope you had the best party EVER in heaven!