First things first, time to announce my Vega Energizing Smoothing winner. Congratulations JenniferLynn I will be contacting you shortly for shipping details.
Now that I have that out of the way, I want to talk about today. Today used to be just plain ol’ November 16th, nothing fancy to it, no reason to pay it any special attention until 7 years ago. On this day, November 16, 2005, my family found out that my brother had been killed in Iraq. Instantly, November 16th became a day that I would never forget.
I still remember every single detail about when and how I found out, what time of day it was, even what the weather was like outside. It’s fascinating to me how our brains lock in certain details and keep them forever. I will probably be able to recall the same vivid details when I’m 80. Some day I’ll share them, but this post isn’t the right time.
Roger had been killed with several other Marines while searching farm houses for terrorists as part of Operation Steel Curtain. They came under gunfire and a terribly fierce battle erupted that altered the lives of countless people. My brother was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for his heroism. I encourage you to read the short citation from his Bronze Star; it gives you some idea of what happened that day.
This is from the memorial in Iraq. So many lives lost in a period of 3 days.
From Roger’s funeral; just a few days after Thanksgiving.
Each year on this day I stop by and visit my brother and say hi to him from my Mom and Dad since they live too far away and can’t. I drop off flowers and give him an update on what’s going on. I try not to play the ‘what if’ game but, inevitably, I’m going to lose and sometime today I’ll find myself wondering ‘what if’ he was still here or some variation of that scenario.
While this is a very sad day by all means, I try not to let the past dictate my happiness. I choose to celebrate life instead of pine over death. I choose to remember my brother and all the silly/dangerous/ridiculous things we did together as kids. All the fights we got into. All the advice he passed on to me. His infectious grin.
And tomorrow, I choose to be a kid again. I will run carefree through the streets of New Orleans in a tutu while strangers throw powdered paint at me. (Sounds like fun, right?) When I signed up for The Color Run last February I knew that it would fall this weekend and I thought it would be a wonderful way to celebrate life. Roger was a fun guy and I can imagine him having a blast throwing paint at random people.
Everyone deals with grief differently. It’s ok to be sad, angry, numb, confused, whatever. But it’s important to remember that it’s also ok to be happy. Nothing says that you’re bound to sadness; it’s a choice that’s made and I choose happiness. I choose to cast my excess baggage on God and let him carry the burden for me. After all, his shoulders are much more broad than mine.
The first year after Roger was killed I dreaded today like the plague. I didn’t know what to expect or how I would react. Over the years, I’ve realized that if I make a conscious effort to address that this day (or other significant days like his birthday) are going to be emotionally charged, I have a much better chance of it not affecting me. It’s the times I’m not prepared that really catch me off guard and knock me on my butt. Trust me, I have plenty of spontaneous pity-parties during the year but today, and this weekend, will not be one of them.
To say I’m excited about The Color Run tomorrow would be an understatement. I have been talking about this race since before I even knew it was coming to New Orleans. There’s just something about finishing a race looking like an Oompa Loompa that really appeals to me. I have all of my neon gear and I’m ready to go get pelted with paint! I know Roger would have liked that.
I miss my brother dearly and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him, the other families that lost their hero, and also the men that were survived. I honestly think today is much harder for those Marines that survived and I pray for peace of mind for them.