Something that a fellow widow posted in our online group tonight brought up a lot of emotions, and I think it is finally time to purge it all out. This is a painful and difficult thing to admit to, but I feel like it is finally time for me release it. [warning, this is long, and if you are close family maybe tread carefully.]
I know I’ve mentioned before that from the very beginning, something felt different about this deployment. There were numerous moments throughout where we both commented on it, but just attributed it to having Little Man and the changes that caused. Then there were little things, like my insomnia and the flag that I mentioned in this post and our phone call that I talked about in this post, that could be seen in hindsight as significant. But beyond these small feelings, there was something greater going on that I never told anyone about. Not even The Hubs.
You see, I think I knew he was going to die.
Let me rewind. Since I was young, I’ve always placed a great importance on intuition. I believe strongly in your ‘gut feeling,’ that still small voice that is God + your heart + your mind all coming together to lead and guide and support you. My intuition has led me through every major event in my life and is always spot on. Now, whether I listen to it or follow it is another story…but it is always there. I’m not saying I can predict things or always have a feeling about everything, but major things have always given me this visceral, instinctual response.
And our last deployment was no exception.
It started slowly. Actually, if I’m honest with myself, it started way back in 2003 with an experience I’ve only shared with a few people. We were newlyweds, 19-year-old kids who were learning about life and marriage at the same time, doing everything (loving, fighting, growing) with a fire-like passion. Life was intense and we loved every moment. One night, completely random with no apparent trigger, The Hubs woke screaming from a nightmare. I’ll never forget the pure horror in his voice, the whites of his eyes in the shadowed room, the sweat on his skin. I was first terrified then deeply worried, trying to calm him as I watched his fear dissolve into tears of sadness. I held him for a while as he came out of that confused state that happens when you first wake up out of vivid dream…and when he was finally able to speak, he told me he had dreamed he was killed in action. I can’t remember now all of the vivid details he recounted, but in the dream he was involved in a firefight and was shot. After telling me about the dream and calming down, he looked at me with that look that I knew meant something was serious and said, “I’m going to die young.” I’ll never forget the look on his face, the conviction in his voice. He said it was a deep feeling he just couldn’t shake, and he just knew it. Of course I did what you would expect and tried my best to comfort him with platitudes that it was ‘only a dream’ and ‘there was no way of knowing that’ and ‘look at how many AF EOD techs are on the wall, the odds are slim, you’re going to be fine…’ He was shaken up for a few days, and told me not to tell anyone (I’m sorry babe, but I think you’d sacrifice ‘outing’ you so I can release this). Over time the memory faded and he forgot all about it. It faded from the front of my memory as well and I didn’t dwell on it, but I didn’t forget it either.
Until that fateful day in 2009, when the memory came rushing back…
But as strong as this memory was, you could still chalk it up to coincidence rather than foreshadowing. In fact, I believe that in life we often we attribute a lot of our intuitive experiences to coincidence. But when combined with other discernment they paint a different picture. And there was something huge that happened a few weeks before The Hubs death that I never told anyone about…not even him.
One afternoon, a few weeks before we lost The Hubs, I was home alone as usual with our babe. I don’t remember what I was doing, but I happened to look out the window that overlooked the side street by our house. We lived in a new neighborhood that was still being developed; only one street’s worth of homes had been built and only four or five families lived there. There was no reason to be in the neighborhood unless you lived there, and we all knew each others vehicles. Anyway, that afternoon when I happened to look out, I saw a plain black car idling on our side street. Immediately, I was struck with a horrible feeling of doom that literally made my knees weak. I remember plain as day feeling suddenly lightheaded, shaky and sweaty, and grabbing for the chair at the dining room table that was right by window so I wouldn’t fall down. As I looked at that black car, I was absolutely 100% certain that it was there to notify me that Bryan had died. I couldn’t explain why I felt that way, nor did I try to shake it off. I was convinced. I sat breathlessly glued to that window for what felt like hours (I have no idea how long it actually was, probably minutes), waiting for the other cars to show up and for the uniformed men to get out and head toward the house… Eventually the car just drove away without explanation, but my feeling did not leave with it.
I tried to swallow it down. I told myself I was just being paranoid. I told myself it was post-pregnancy hormones. I told myself it was fear, it was worry, it was nothing. But from that moment on, I think I just knew. That event would occur again, only this time it would be real…
Shortly after that, I remember seeing something about a loss in someone’s family scroll across my Facebook news feed and, after offering a prayer for their comfort, my mind immediately went to what I would write if that happened to us…and if people would reply with the generic platitudes I was replying with. Within seconds I chastised myself, telling myself I was being dramatic and that only someone who was looking for some kind of attention would think something as melodramatic as that. But then I found myself thinking what I would do if it did happen, how I would feel or what I would say, what would The Hubs look like… These kind of thoughts began to consume me in the most random moments. I would be fine and then they would just hit and I couldn’t stop them. I wanted to talk about it, but I felt like I couldn’t tell The Hubs. I didn’t want to burden him, worry him, affect his focus with my worries. He was already dealing with enough as it was, with the mission and being away from home and his own feelings from what he had seen. So I tried to pray them away, pleading with God to bring The Hubs home safely…
And then September 12th came.
And although the entire experience was a surreal, out-of-body thing that can’t quite be explained, there was something buzzing in the back of my mind.
I knew it.
I’ve already told the story of that day here, but what I didn’t mention was this. I have a very vivid memory of, probably an hour or so into the whole thing, turning to whoever it was next to me on the couch (I believe it was my sweet friend H, who I only barely knew before but who amazingly and commendably jumped right into being my rock) and saying something to the effect of, “I didn’t want this to happen…I mean, I worried about it but I didn’t think it ever actually would, I promise I didn’t want this to happen….”
Looking back, I can see where that was probably chalked up to babbling of an incoherent grief-stricken new widow, which I was. Of course I didn’t want my husband to die! But at the time, I felt some sort of unexplained guilt…like I had caused it or must have desired it in some sort of way if my mind was capable of thinking like it did. Like my worries had made it happen, like my thoughts were just that of someone who didn’t have enough courage, like I was seeking some sort of drama by thinking that way and I had gotten what I had deserved for even thinking of those things. I mean, what kind of wife wouldn’t have the fullest confidence in her husband, right? What kind of Christian wouldn’t have the fullest confidence in her God, right? What kind of person, who believed herself to be optimistic and who put out positive energy, would allow such negativity into her spirit?
There. I admitted it. For so long I’ve felt like my thoughts cost my husband his life. Like that dream and that car were foreshadowing, that maybe if I had just told someone…
Before you can even begin to say or type it, trust me I know. It’s ridiculous. It’s unfounded, it isn’t logical, and it doesn’t make much sense to allow yourself to be bound by something like this for so long. But unless you could crawl inside my heart, I couldn’t possibly adequately explain it. This is the closest and best I’ve ever come…and it’s taken me SO long to get here.
I’ve lived with an enormous guilt for 3 years, 8 months, and 27 days…a guilt that, unfounded or not, has kept me from completely moving forward in my life. I don’t think about it daily or consciously dwell on it, but it pops up at random moments, consuming me with shame and pulling me back as I try to move forward. Nearly four years after The Hubs death, I’ve come so far and in many ways am a better person now than I have ever been. But the weight of this guilt and shame has kept me from fully opening the wings that have been more than ready to carry me away. I’ve felt guilt over what happened and what my perceived role in it was, guilt over not telling The Hubs what I was experiencing when we told each other literally everything, guilt over not sharing it with his parents whom I love to death, guilt over being too embarrassed and worried of people’s reactions…
But something has finally broken. When my fellow widow posted a question about intuition tonight, the dam broke. Nearly 4 years later, I felt like I could finally unlock the chain and release it all.
You are probably thinking, “what’s the big deal?” Surely from the outside it must look like I am being dramatic even now in explaining it. Or maybe that is just my fear and embarrassment talking. Regardless, putting this out there is HUGE. To purge this is to make myself vulnerable. To be bold (my word of the year). To free myself from one of the final threads still tying me down. To finally give up the last self-induced reason not to live fully. To reveal another layer of the fragile yet shatterproof widow who just wants to move past her inadequacies and idiosyncrasies and ridiculous hangups and just be herself….whoever she finds that person to be.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for helping me unload the baggage. Thank you for listening as I finally free the stories behind the premonitions and intuitions that I experienced when I lost The Hubs. It’s hard enough to lose a loved one, a soul mate, a future….it’s even harder when you think, unfounded or not, that you might have had a hand in causing it.