Tuesday, October 12, 2004

GRIM REAPER

Sometimes I feel like death is haunting me, chasing me, like a bounty hunter whom I can’t escape. Other times its presence is less obvious, like my watch, which I always have on but don’t always notice. The one constant is that death is always there, the possibility that it will hit home.

I don’t mean for this entry to be morbid. But this subject of death is with me so often, it seemed a natural topic to write about. People always ask me, “How do you do it?” Implicit in that question is more questions: “How do you deal with the danger that your husband is in, how do you deal with the possibility he might die?” To me, I am at a time in my life when many things are out of my hands so I am dealing with it the best I can. The only other option would be to stop functioning, to fall apart. And I don’t know of any army wife who has made that choice. I’m sure any of you would cope just as well, or as well as can be expected, if you were faced with this situation. And you would be amazed at what you can endure, the human capacity to take on hardship. But that is not to say I don’t have my moments.

You are told that if your spouse is killed, two military officials will come to your door. So I dread the unexpected knock or doorbell ring. The first time it happened, or didn’t happen, I should say, I felt like my stomach had dropped to my toes. I hadn’t heard from my husband for several days and we had already heard that two guys from his unit had been killed in fierce fighting just a day or two ago. It was 2 am and the noise of two car doors slamming woke me up. I immediately imagined two uniformed officers slowly walking to my door, preparing themselves for my reaction when they told me something had happened to my husband. I just lay in bed and waited. But the knock never came.

A few weeks later, the doorbell rang unexpectedly. Again, my initial thoughts were of my husband. But it turned out to be a cub scout selling candy. In the weeks that followed, my unannounced visitors included more cub scouts, fire department officials and others. It’s strange but now I feel like those moments have become a part of my routine life. But my heart still skips a beat every time it happens.

Before he left for each of his deployments, my husband and I discussed funeral arrangements, wills and all of the other details that are associated with death. I always wanted to be realistic about what could happen to him, that he might not come home. Some army wives could not bear to have these conversations with their husbands, they couldn’t face the outcome that always comes with war. Before the guys were deployed a second time around, one of my friends drove past a cemetery and started crying.

All of this talk of death does not mean I have stopped living my life. I am still forging ahead with my career. There are many times in the day when I feel happy, when I laugh and feel amazed at life’s possibilities.

I just hope that if my husband is killed in Iraq, I do not allow anger and hatred to consume me. I hope that my sorrow does not turn into feelings of revenge. Instead, I hope I will have an open enough heart that I try to understand the forces that brought my husband and his killer to that moment, when one life ended and another continued.