Memorial Day is one of those days I struggle to find what to write. I struggle to see the sales and the people remarking about the three day weekend. I struggle to find the words to say what it means to me.
Last year, I was approached to write a piece about what Memorial Day means to me, a spouse. I agreed. But I struggled to put into words what it means. I struggled to say what was in my heart because it is painful to remember and I worried what others might feel when reading my true thoughts.
I wrote the most gut-wrenching piece I have ever written. I wrote about a time that I can’t even think of without tears…
This story is something I have shared in private and, as of last year, very publicly. But even more so, it is a story that is something I scream at my husband when he doesn’t understand me. It is a moment that I seem to be frozen in time in. Every moment of my life is defined by thirty seconds.
It took only thirty seconds to destroy the foundation of my life. It took only thirty seconds to forever push me to the edge. Just thirty seconds.
In half a minute I learned the lesson that so many of us have learned. No matter what, no matter who, no matter the circumstance, you can never be sure your husband is alive unless he is standing in front of you or physically speaking to you.
On a date I can’t remember, during some random month in the summer, I was speaking to my husband. He was deployed and I hadn’t heard from him for a while and was worried. The relief that washed over me when I heard his voice on the other line was short lived though. We had barely said hello when there was a loud and frenzied sounding commotion in the background. My husband yelled twice that he had to go… Then the line went dead.
I waited for days.
Seconds have never ticked by so slowly.
The surrealness of the days that followed are nothing I can put into words. When I finally heard from him, I felt the relief of him being safe course through my veins… Then I felt that pang of realizing I would never be able to be feel safe and secure because I would never be able to trust that he was safe and secure again. And I feel frozen in those thirty seconds, doomed to repeat them over and over in my dreams waking only to be unsure in my sleepy state if my husband is truly home.
Sometimes, my husband doesn’t understand. He admits he has no idea what I might have felt. And he admits that he doesn’t understand what I mean when I don’t feel he is ever safe unless he is right in front of me. And when we fight, when he doesn’t understand me, the same panic, the same fear courses through me again, realizing that I can’t just trust, I must know.
So I scream the story at him in fits of frustration. I scream the story at him the way I want to scream it at commercials for no sales tax sales on furniture and people who have forgotten why there is a three day weekend. I scream it at him the way I want those who have forgotten those who have fallen to remember.
I was lucky. There are so many times in my life, in my marriage, that I have been lucky. And it is a kind of lucky that hurts. I have been lucky in a way that so many have not. As a spouse, I have welcomed home my husband with an embrace, when so many did not get to welcome their husbands homes at all. It’s the kind of lucky that you wish you didn’t have to feel because it is so bittersweet.
So I struggle on Memorial Day to write what it means to me. It is with a heavy heart that I feel lucky because there are so many who were not. It is with pain that I remember how close it felt that I would not be so lucky. It is with sorrow that I remember those who are still grieving. And it is with pride that I remember those who gave their lives for our nation, for me.
It is a mixture of emotions that I am unsure I can adequately explain. It is a holiday that is both painful and fills me with an immense amount of pride. And it is a day that reminds me that I need to be the best person and American that I can be, because someone gave it all so that I wouldn’t have to.