Erasing The Guilt…

Isaiah 57 1-2

Guilt implies that a person has committed a sin or an act of transgression. But, we also tend to use the word to imply a state in which we wish we could have done more.  It’s a word I’ve heard frequently since Jason’s death, and one that I never really can provide a solution for.  Each person I spoke with after Jason’s death seemed to have some form of guilt: “if only I would have talked to him one more time,” “maybe I should have forgave him,” “what if I had been here instead.”  In living through 8 months of grieving and watching others grieve around me, one thing I am familiar with is guilt.

And the people around me aren’t the only ones wrestling with their own guilt.  The night Jason was hit, my cell phone wasn’t working properly, and I was anxious to get to the store to have it fixed before too much of Jason’s shift had passed.  As an officer’s wife, I hated being without a form of communication, especially on the nights he worked.  And, in my rush, I decided to leave for the store before Jason left for work.  In my mind, I would have the phone fixed before he started his shift, and all would be well in the world of an officer and his wife. I hugged him, kissed him, told him to come back to me. Instead of his normal “always,” I heard, “I’ll try.”  I hated that answer, but I didn’t really press it. Instead I left for the store to get my phone fixed.

The last message I remember sending Jason was something to the extent of,” yay, my phone is finally fixed. Hope to ACTUALLY get to hear from you at some point tonight. Love you and stay safe.”  Of course, no reply – I didn’t really expect one.  It was the first week of summer vacation, and they were already busy.  That night, I laid down to bed and forgot to turn my phone on loud, and because of that, I slept through 22 straight phone calls, and was awoken by a knock on the door.

And while logically, I know there is no reason to feel any guilt associated with my early departure, or my decision to let the, “I’ll try,” comment go, it didn’t matter.  The guilt was still present, and it ate away at me in the hours when I attempted to sleep at night.  I know that staying longer, never leaving, forcing him to reply with, “always,” wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but as humans when tragedy results in the loss of life, we always associate the feeling of wishing we could have done more with guilt.

In reality, I guess it’s the closest word we can find to describe how we truly feel.  The feeling that had we known the events of the night, we would have done everything possible to change them, to alter them, and to never have to live through a sleepless night of “what ifs.”  Yet, we know all of the impossibilities associated with that wish, and so, we describe how we feel as guilt.

And with guilt comes confession: the need for someone else to “forgive you.”  However, in Jason’s situation there isn’t anything to forgive.  We feel this “guilt” because we struggle with outcomes outside of our own control.  The events of June 14th and 15th were outside of our control the moment Jason checked in route to the call.  Even so, I spent a considerable time replaying the last conversation we had, wishing I wouldn’t have left so early, and begging for forgiveness, although in reality none was actually needed.

In one of my 3 am wide awake moments, I was debating in my mind of starting this blog, following what I felt was my calling, and I was providing God with many reasons I was undeserving of this calling, and why all of these thoughts and feelings should remain in my own mind.  I admitted how scared I was to share them, and how vulnerable I felt I would be.  I’ve written before about the dreams I had concerning starting the blog and the organization.  And, I struggled because I allowed my guilt to cause me to feel unworthy of my calling.   Actually, I still do that.  I still struggle with the unworthy feeling, and the admission that Jason’s death caused me to be a better person.

And, so when people admit their “guilt” to me, I often times clam up.  I provide generic answers, and I  don’t really know how to tell them to erase their “guilt.” I tell them it’s not merited; I remind them I’m not angry; I tell them I understand nothing I say will erase it, because I do understand that.  I understand it on a level few actually can.  I understand that no human can take away that guilt, and they can’t provide you a feeling of peace.  And every time I walk away from one of those conversations I’m secretly grateful that I’m not alone, but I’m upset with myself for my inability to say more.  I want to scream my feelings of guilt to them, and I want my feelings to erase their feelings; yet, it never happens that way.

Nothing anyone says to me erases mine; it’s still here, although it’s smaller and a little easier to manage.  It has less of a hold on my daily life, but it still haunts me each time I blog.  Blogging is therapy, but it’s also my reminder that my calling in life changed when my husband died…and then there’s that guilt again.  Yet, it’s lessened, and here’s why:

“Good people pass away;
the godly often die before their time.

No one seems to understand that

God is protecting them from the evil to come.

For those who follow godly paths

Will rest in peace when they die.”

Isaiah 57:1-2

Jason’s death had nothing to do with anything any of us could have done or actually did that night.  It wasn’t because of our actions; it was because of God’s.  And while at first that might make a person angry at God – it did me.  In the end, I have to trust that Jason’s death was part of God’s bigger picture for my life and all those who were present at the scene, the hospital, the funeral home, and even now in our lives.

Jason’s death has brought with it so many supportive, understanding, and caring brothers and sisters in my life.  And experiencing his death is part of God’s plan for their lives as well.  As difficult as that is to accept, just as accepting Jason’s death has allowed for me to finally get the chance to follow my own calling, I firmly believe we all have a choice after Jason’s.  A choice of how it is going to impact the remainder of our lives.  For some, maybe that means their calling changed – just like mine.  For others maybe it means they change for the better.  And still others, maybe it means they start actually living life.  But the point remains, Jason’s death was part of the plan in our lives, and how will we use that to change our lives for the better? Or better yet, how will we use it to change another’s life for the better?

And while I would love to erase that “self- imposed guilt” from your mind, the reality is, I can’t.  But, God can.  Jason’s death caused many to evaluate their lives, and I pray it is causing many to somehow better their own.  And, maybe the guilt will still be a battle we all fight in our own ways, but you can’t allow it to rob you of your happiness, your calling, and your contribution to other’s lives.  Allowing it to win, means we are yet another victim.

So, while I may not be able to tell you these things in person. While I can’t look you in the eye and admit my own guilt, or tell you how to erase yours.  I can use my calling, my talent, and my words here to hopefully reach into your heart, and remind you that you aren’t alone in your “guilt,” and that together, we need to make sure we use Jason’s death to somehow better our own lives and those around us.

As I continue to follow my calling, create a support group for officer’s wives, and hopefully find the courage to fulfill a few more portions of my calling, I pray that my words resonate in the hearts of my brothers and sisters who have stood by me from day one.  I pray that they too pray for me – that they pray I won’t allow my guilt to win, and that I will continue to follow my calling.  Please know, that whichever way you chose to allow Jason’s death to change your life, I’ll support, but I pray that you find the courage to follow whatever calling it has set in motion in your life.

And in the end, please know:

“The heart of the man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9.

While your path towards your calling my cause you to wander, I think it is safe to say that “all who wonder are not lost.”  Don’t allow your guilt to cause you to lose your way.  Fight it, and instead as you wander, make sure you impact the lives of others around you.  I assure you, that you’ve already impacted mine.

The Greatest Gift J Ever Gave Me

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Sunset strolls along the beach…
Small notes in the pocket of your jacket…
Flowers on the table after a hard day at work…
Cupcakes made just because…
The way my hand fits perfectly into yours, and immediate sense of safety that follows…

All examples of the love we show someone else. I’m sure you could come up with a million more ways we demonstrate our love for others. And each time we initiate an action, there’s always some kind of response from the person receiving the “love.” Grant it, the response may not be exactly what you are searching for, but a response is generated nonetheless.

We spend our entire lives demonstrating our love for others: the daisy the little boy picks and runs to his mommy when he should be catching a ball in the outfield, the adorable and quite “perfect” pair of shoes the mom slowly returns to the shelf because her daughter needs new dance shoes, or the birthday flavored ice cream and root beer the husband returns from Wal-Greens with at 12:30 am. Each relationship we enter into by choice or birth requires demonstrations of our love for that person in order for the relationship to prosper. And each time we show our love, a response is given….

7 months ago today, I lost my response. And, in traditional me fashion, I’ve been reflecting quite frequently the past few days on love. I have been pretty down because both my 30th birthday and Valentine’s Day are quickly approaching, and for the first time in 8 years, J won’t be there to demonstrate his love, and I won’t be able to give him a response. Now, for those of you who knew J, you know that the love he showed me on my 30th birthday would have been in the form of teasing me to no end about the “old” lady I am becoming. But, my birthday and Valentine’s Day have always meant more to me than just the events, J proposed to me on my birthday, and we celebrated Valentine’s Day on the same day. So, for the first time in 8 years, there will be no flowers, no reminiscing of the day he proposed, no “happy birthday” texts, and no responses back from me.

J proposed at the very end of my birthday party. I thought we were there for a birthday...

J proposed at the very end of my birthday party. I thought we were there for a birthday…

And, it’s easy to get caught up in all the “ways” we demonstrate our love to one another. It’s easy to become upset that those physical or verbal demonstrations will no longer happen. To wish with all my heart that roses would appear on the doorstep, or we could lay on the couch, hands intertwined and watch a movie. To try to force myself to believe that one more “silly love poem” he would write to me could somehow make its way down from heaven.

And so the past few nights, I’ve found myself praying before I go to sleep that God would just let me dream about J, that maybe in my dreams I could hear his voice again, feel his touch, and in turn feel his love for me radiating through my dream.

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Each night before going to bed, I’ve focused on all the different memories from our times spent together, and I replay them over and over until I finally fall asleep. You see, when I met J, I was determined I was finished with trying to find “love.” That it was just about me and God; together, He and I would be just fine without marriage. I was a strong and independent girl, we could handle it just fine on our own. And while I’m sure that was true, God had different plans. And, slowly throughout the years of our marriage, almost all of me became wrapped up into who J was, and who we were as a couple. I now look back and can see how that “strong-willed, independent” girl slowly became a wife who gave herself over to her husband, and sought his validation, opinion, and desires. And, we grew together because of that. Each day demonstrating our love for one another. Through the ups and downs of our marriage, we still found ways to demonstrate our love…and each time the reaction of the other kept us going. And in time, all of me was wrapped up into our relationship, being a mommy, and loving the two most important guys in my life.

And then, 7 months ago, it abruptly stopped. The day we spent in the hospital, I prayed, and prayed for him to be able to give me one more sign of his love. One more syllable, squeeze, blink- anything. And the harder I prayed, the less likely it seemed it would happen. And, I remember vividly thinking, I pray he knows I love him. I hope he can feel it. That time in the hospital, I did everything I could to demonstrate my love, in hopes that he would feel it, and that somehow that would change the outcome. Maybe if I just squeezed harder, or said it with more “love,” this could be over, and he could show me once more just how much he loves me. That somehow my love would penetrate his wounds, heal them, and bring him back to us.

I recall a dear friend who was a nurse on J’s floor, trying to prepare me for the worst, and I remember being rude to her and saying, “no we’re going to be optimistic. I’m not ready to say goodbye.” And, I curled up on my small couch, and I just willed him to feel this love that I had tried so hard to demonstrate to him all day. I remember laying on the couch, alone (by choice), and willing him to feel my love.

And, then less than 45 minutes later, another knock on the door of the room I had barricaded myself in. Immediately, the anger rose up, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. And, as I looked into the face of the man who had knocked on my door less than 25 hours before, I heard him speak in what seemed like slow motion. I heard him present the same facts I’d heard 45 minutes before, and he stopped me before I could retort. And he said, “Stephanie, I want you to tell me what you have to do. I want you to say it out loud.” And, my world crashed before me.

I want you to say it out loud…
I want YOU to say it OUT loud..
I replayed the words over, and over, and over in my head. But they weren’t in my voice, or even the officer’s, they were in J’s.
The response I had prayed for 25 hours for, was sitting there before me…not through J’s actual voice, but through words the exact words he had said to me years before when we miscarried, and the pain was just too much. So overbearing, that I just wanted to forget that it happened, to pretend that my world was perfect, and to erase the pain. But, he coaxed me into talking, deciding, and working through the pain….
And, reflecting back on that moment today, I can see where my view of love started to change. Where it changed from relying upon actions to demonstrate it, to feeling it within my own body. J couldn’t demonstrate it himself that night, but I know God placed the words I needed to hear into my life. And, in the early hours of June 15th, I got to perform the greatest act of love I could ever show J – I made the decision to let him go. And no, that act doesn’t make the world’s “top 10 best ways to demonstrate one’s love to a person.” It isn’t going to win a Valentine’s Day “romantic getaway.” Even though, in my book, it was the single greatest act of love I could have ever shown J.
And, in the hours that followed my decision to let him go, we waited for the doctor to come around to inform him of the decision. As we waited, I had an overwhelming feeling that J would in some way be able to reciplicate his love for me one more time before he left. He did…
J in his death, showed a love for me that I could never deny. J defied the medicines he was on, and he chose to die.
And in doing so, that final act, gave me peace that could never be described. The peace that the decision was his; no guilt on my own. No selfish thoughts of “hold on just a little longer.” Just pure love. I firmly believe that in those moments J made a choice out of love – despite what the doctors ensured me was impossible. And, maybe I just have to believe that because it makes my life bearable, if so, that’s fine.
J’s decision, although it means he’ll never get to “demonstrate” his love for me again, or give me a response when I demonstrate my love for him, was the greatest gift he could have ever given me. The past 7 months have been difficult enough, but the peace I’ve felt about the decisions made in those early morning hours, is priceless.
As I find myself “down” the past few days, a close friend asked me yesterday, “are you really okay…” and all of these thoughts I’ve just elaborated upon came spilling out. Word after word, and as I sat last night, unable to sleep, I thought about all of the words I typed through text message earlier in the day, and I realized the journey I’ve made. How the past few days, I just wanted a sign, a response, of J’s love. I wanted to feel his touch, hear his voice, so much that I prayed to dream about him. And, then it hit me. Nothing would ever demonstrate his love as much as his final action. The outcome of death was inevitable, yet, J chose the way that made it the easiest on us. My decision to let him go, and his decision to go, weren’t “demonstrations” of our love. They weren’t flowers, cards, hugs, “I love yous…” they were sacrifices.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

In the end, our decisions during those early morning hours, meant that we’d never be able to demonstrate our love to one another again in person, but it ensured a lifetime of peace in my mind. And, in those quiet moments, when I stop and let myself truly feel that peace, I know that I still feel his love as well. The greatest demonstration of love, is sacrifice. And there’s no greater example that God sending his own son, sacrificing him out of love for us – as flawed as we are.
In those moments of peace, J’s last gift to me, I feel “death ends a life, not a relationship.” And I just have to remind myself that those moments of peace are the best I can get, and honestly, maybe you think I’m crazy, but those are better than any dozen roses I ever received.

Mercies in Disguise

To those of you who follow regularly, you know that I frequently discuss what I have to come to feel is my calling in life after J’s death, or maybe as a result of his death.  I don’t like how that last part sounds though; I don’t like having to lose him in order to attempt to touch lives.  In fact, when I woke up this morning, I’ll be honest, I didn’t even want this to be my calling.  I spoke with a good friend about sometimes praying that this wouldn’t be my calling, that I could have an easier one.  Maybe that seems selfish, but, I’m sharing it with you anyways, because like always, my pity party leads to a blessing. You see, my reason for not wanting this to be my calling is because I want one that only allows me to suffer, and not my sweet little boy. I feel like even though I shouldn’t have to endure this experience, he should have to even less.  And, truthfully, I’ve debate TIME and TIME again about starting this movement and putting myself and my emotions out there.  I debated about whether or not people would believe in this cause, whether they would back me, and whether or not I could really honor our family’s decision to walk the line and be a part of the good in the world.  And, really, for a long time I thought it would be easier to grieve if I didn’t make it so public.  The reality is, the exact opposite is true.

Today, as I was walking through a local craft fair, I began to reminisce about the last year I attended the same fair.

How J and I had watched C’s eyes light up as he witnessed Santa appear by helicopter, as he got to sit on his lap, and walk through the crowded aisles holding our hands and pointing out toys he wanted. I also distinctly remember him wanting a VERY pricey fire truck, and J having to carry a four year old out while he was kicking and screaming about said fire truck, while I got to stand in line and wait for our pictures.  As I watched J carry C out, I remember thinking how lucky I was to have such a wonderful husband who supported me in parenting our child.  And how C was blessed because he had a daddy who required a level of behavior from him that would eventually lead to C becoming a responsible adult, even though at the time C was not appreciative of said behavioral expectations.

As I absent mindedly walked through the aisle of the same fair this year, I couldn’t help but think about how much has changed in one year for us.  And, as I was deep in thought, another officer’s wife came and introduced herself to me.  And while I’m sure she has no idea how much her words meant to me, and how much of a reminder they were, I pray she is reading this tonight.

Just as she began to speak to me, I happened to catch a small phrase of a song that was being sung.  It’s called, “Blessings” by Laura Story.  Here’s the link:

As the officer’s wife was speaking to me, I heard “What if your blessings   come through raindrops? What if your healing comes through tears?” being sung.  And, at first, I really didn’t pay much attention to the song.  I was attempting to focus on our conversation.  As we spoke, she was telling me her own story, her own trials and tribulations, and her own blessings.  And, we talked about the strength it takes to overcome those trials.  Towards the end of the conversation, she told me through teary eyes, that “you have no idea how many people God is allowing you to bless through your loss.”  Honestly, I’m not sure what the rest of the conversation was about, and that isn’t because of lack of interest. It was because I’ve been told time and time again by therapists that the grieving process never ends, but it lessens when acceptance of the event and of your future without your husband finally happens.  I’m by no means proclaiming acceptance today, but before today, I didn’t even entertain that as option in my life.  How does one finally accept such a loss?  I simply thought that this was some “therapist invented word or stage” that was meant to make me feel better in the moment.  Yet, her words struck me, as the first stage of accepting.  We lost J- that will never change. He’ll never come back.  But what is left of my life, my future, that’s where the acceptance begins.  Accepting that we are still here, and because of his loss we can bless other people. I’m not there yet, but I feel like her words planted a small seed.  A much needed one at the time.

As I walked out of the fair, I felt a need to look up the song I had heard such a tiny portion of.  And then, as I read the words to the song. I sat in my car for a long while and simply cried.  While I won’t comment on all of the lyrics, I do want to discuss a few  – the few that provided the affirmation of what the officer’s wife said to me earlier.  It seems paradoxical that I could be blessing people through my own loss.  And, really, I’m not blessing anyone, God is.

“ What if Your blessings come through rain drops? What if Your healing comes through tears?  What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? What if the trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?”

Maybe those words don’t speak to you, but I pray they do.  I’ve always said that my life could be worse, and believe me, God shows me that frequently by others that I am destined to meet.  A new friend whose son is in a group home because of a childhood illness that left him debilitated.  The anger, the guilt, the responsibility, the sense of failure as mother.  Sometimes, I think what seems like the absolute worst situation, could be worse.  Sometimes what seems like a punishment is actually an act of mercy from an all mighty God. Maybe J’s death isn’t the worst thing that could have possibly been handed to me?  And while that seems impossible to actually believe sometimes, I do feel that we have been spared from worse.

As I immediately downloaded the song, and placed it on repeat, I played it over and over again as I was going on about my errands.  And, each time I heard it, I felt weight being lifted.  No, I didn’t want this to be my calling. I want my husband and C’s daddy back. I didn’t ask for this suffering, but in this suffering, so many blessings have fallen as raindrops. Blessings in our lives and more importantly blessings in other’s lives.  While I’m far from acceptance, the idea seems plausible, if only plausible for brief moments.  I’ve spent what seem like a thousand sleepless nights, where I felt alone.  And, yet I always rise in the morning, and in the quiet moments before C wakes, when I sit and reflect on what I need to accomplish that day, and I pray for the strength to do it, I feel far from alone.  The sleepless nights turn into mornings where I’m reminded of His love for me and His presence near me.

“We pray for wisdom.  Your voice to hear.  We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near.  We doubt Your goodness.  We doubt your love.  As if every promise from Your words is not enough.  And all the while, You hear each desperate plea, and long that we’d have faith to just believe.”

Recently in doubting my calling, I’ve had my fair share of anger.  Mainly anger that C has to endure this.  That he has to suffer, and feel such a void in his life.  And often times in my prayers, I pray that he can just have a normal life.  That more suffering be on me.  And, still, though I pray, I’ve felt anger.  I’ve sometimes doubted the promises that we are given in His word.  And, I try to have the faith to just believe.  To just feel that in the end, this is somehow a blessing in disguise.  I often times tell people that, but believing it, is much different.  Yet, today, the songs the conversation with a fellow officer’s wife, both are proof that there is a greater plan.

A plan that brings honor to our sacrifice.  A plan that hopefully instills more good in the world.  A plan that allows others to change their lives.  A plan that brings honor and glory to our Maker.  The one who time after time after time, affirms for me when I doubt my calling.  The one who reassures me when I feel like I don’t have the strength to do this, or that no one really will believe in what we are doing.  The one who has given me wonderful friends and places on their hearts the exact thing I need to hear in the moment.  The one who allows me to hear today that through my loss I’m touching lives.  Through my strength that comes from Him, I’m receiving blessings through raindrops and passing them on to all of you.

I’m no where near accepting J’s death as a part of my life. I’m not where near accepting that unfortunately we have to suffer.  But today, I’m able to remember how truly awesome our Maker is.  I’m able to remember that even though our lives are almost unbearable at times, we are still comforted by His promises.  And that our faith is at its strongest when we are choosing to believe while kneeling on our knees. Choosing to believe when it seems impossible that we’ll make it through this.  Choosing to believe that even though the grief that comes with losing J won’t ever go away, in the end, eventually, I’ll be able to see its purpose.  That while its purpose may still be in disguise, eventually, it will be revealed to me. And, I can’t help but think that starting this blog, the 31 acts of kindness, each of you and your support are affirmation of that.

Today as I was on my knees and feeling like nothing else could be worse than my life in this moment, I was ever so “gently” reminded by a friend that having faith while on your knees is a choice.  And, it’s not a one-time choice.  It’s a choice we are forced to make frequently.  Tonight, I am thankful for the timing of our God.  For Him bringing the events of today together, and for Him giving me all of you as my support system.

“What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life, is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?  What if the trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the sleepless nights are Your mercies in disguise?”

Tonight I am thankful for serving a merciful Lord, who is my strength, comfort, and reminder of the greater days to come.  My reminder that even though my life is hard, He is sparing me from much worse.  And tonight dear friends, I’m able to see that and believe it, if only for a moment. Tonight I am thankful for a promise of a life beyond this one. A life I know in my heart J is enjoying, and that someday we will too.  Until then, I pray God keeps affirming to me through all of you, that I have a greater calling on this earth, and that hopefully our sacrifice can become a part of the greater good.

I pray whatever trials and tribulations that are present in your life today, you too can feel Him near.  And that if you find yourself on your knees, that you too make the choice to be faithful, and that you continue to make that choice to believe that sometimes blessings come through raindrops.

Veterans- Personification of Sacrifice

Anything I write will pale in comparison to a veteran’s willingness to sacrifice. I’ll never be satisfied with the end result of this blog. It will never be enough to thank those who made my ability to write this blog a realistic freedom. But, a failure to write anything because I don’t feel it does justice to their level of sacrifice, just isn’t right. So, tonight it’s not about my family’s sacrifice. Tonight, it’s about those who paved the road and continue to clear it again and again, so that we all can continue to be free.

veterans day

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

                                                    -Thomas Jefferson

As a teacher, I’ve often used this quote.  I’ve utilized it in a variety of ways- to discuss hypocrisy, to lead a discussion on sacrifice, to establish a pre-reading conversation on the book, The Things They Carried, and many more ways.  It’s actually one of my favorite quotes.  Its simplicity speaks volumes.

And, as a high school teacher, I quite frequently discuss my students’ plans for the future.  Many of my students want to join the military.  And, sometimes they tell me, “people don’t understand my motives.  They tell me, ‘why would you want to intentionally put yourself in harm’s way?'” And often times, my students can’t verbally express their calling.  They can’t put into words why they feel they should enlist.  Some join because they feel it’s their only option.  Others join because they “need to grow up, and have a better life.”  And then, on a rare occasion, I have students who are enlisting for a far different reason.  In these students, you can see their calling in their eyes.  You can hear it in their voice.  And before we go farther, please understand that I am in no way saying one reason for enlistment is better or more noble than the others.  Anyone willing to enlist is in my definition the personification of sacrifice.

But today, I want to share with you a story of one of my AP students from last year.  A young man who has inspired me, and is wise beyond his years.  A young man who has had military running through his blood since I have known him.  A young man who understands the nature of a sacrifice on a level few people twice his age could. In fact, he hasn’t even been given the opportunity yet to sacrifice for his country, but I can assure you he gets the motive of sacrifice.  He told me that he was enlisting for his 17th birthday present to himself.  I hope that the conversation he and I had will inspire you to be so willing to sacrifice in your life – even if it’s on a much smaller level.

I’m going to quote his conversation verbatim, (please remember he is a high school student):

“I just don’t understand…everybody asks me why I want to [enlist in the Marines], and I can’t give them an [exact] answer.  It’s not a matter of what I want. It’s just something I feel like I have to do for myself.  I don’t want to sign a piece of paper knowing I could be signing my life away. And I don’t look forward to all of the sacrifices I’m going to have to make, but nothing pushes me away from it either.  If anything, it pulls me in more.  It makes me want to do it even more.  I honestly don’t understand how people can live with themselves without making sacrifices.  In my eyes sacrifice builds character. If I’m not willing to sacrifice what I have for something I believe in, then I am too caught up in material things and I’m being selfish. The people that others are losing their lives for are no different than you and I.  I would expect others to sacrifice what they have for me.  And it would be pretty hypocritical of me not to do the same for them.  If people would realize the sacrifices that others make for them and choose to make the sacrifices for someone else, the world would be so much different.  Now I know there’s no way that will ever happen, but that’s just the philosophy I live by.  I’m only one person, and I can only do so much, but if I can do just enough to inspire someone else to live their life that way, then I feel like I have done my job.”

What could I possibly add to that? In fact, anything else I have to say fails in comparison to his comments.  This young man, hasn’t even had a chance to become a veteran yet, but he, and each and every veteran, are the personification of sacrifice.

I loved his honesty with the statement, ” I don’t look forward to all of the sacrifices I’m going to have to make.”  That statement right there is why he and all of our veterans are the personification of sacrifice.  The mere definition of sacrifice implies giving up something of value to a person; it implies hardship or loss on the part of a person.  And often times it requires the same difficulty and loss on the people around the person choosing to sacrifice.  Yet, sacrifice is vital to the progress of our country.  The ability and willingness to sacrifice is what separates those who want to become a better person from those who are willing to remain stagnant.

Yet, despite the loss, the difficulty, and the hardships, our veterans and those who are enlisting today, choose to invest in our country and the well being of its citizens with each enlistement, service, or tour. Each requires sacrifice.  Their enlistment writes a check to this country that we can’t ever repay them for. Yet, they still are willing. Thank you, even though the words are small, my heartfelt feelings are much larger. Thank you to all of my friends, family, students, and those who enlist, and I’ll never know your name. Thank you for being the personification of sacrifice.

And so, I end with the thought, what would our city, our state, and idealistically our country be like if more people were willing to sacrifice, even on a much smaller level.  Willing to go without something, or to go out of their way for someone else?  My vision for The Pink Behind the Thin Blue Line is just that.  Random acts of kindness and organized ones as well, that require small sacrifices on our part, but leave the world in a better place.  While we can’t all be the personification of sacrifice that our veterans are, we can still leave an impact upon the world with our own small sacrifices.  To all who have served, a thank you isn’t enough, but please know that we hope to honor your sacrifices by being willing to sacrifice of our time, money, and resources to continue to invest in our country in our own way.

Look for more information on The Pink Behind the Thin Blue Line organization, its events, and the sacrifices we are currently planning.  For more information about upcoming events, please visit my Facebook page, The Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line.  If I were more tech savy, I could link it, and I’ll work on that for you.