Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Warm Embraces

You never know what unexpected gifts lay ahead of you on your journey through life. This September 10th, on the second anniversary of when Tyler was killed in Afghanistan, I received a gift of compassion in the form of a warm embrace from the First Lady Michelle Obama.

 When my family, Tyler's and my friend Erik, and I all showed up at Arlington National Cemetery we had no idea what a special surprise awaited us. We had all been spending some time reminiscing and placing special items around Tyler's stone when we were approached by the secret service. They informed us that the Obamas had planned a surprise visit to section 60, to pay their respect to our soldiers that have paid the ultimate sacrifice since 9/11; and to any families that might happen to be there at the moment. They informed us that the President and First Lady were arriving at section 60 in just a few minutes and that they would like to visit with us if this would be alright; and if it would not be an infringement on our personal time. They said we had just a few minutes if we decided we would like to leave the cemetery before they arrived; but we of course said we would be honored and all the while were a little stunned that a series of random events that morning had apparently all lined up to bring us to such a special moment. Erik and I both had mixed emotions at first about if we should stay or not because we didn't want attention from the media, and we both know that Tyler never liked drawing attention to the fact that he was in the military. However, we both also knew that because of his service and ultimate sacrifice he deserved the president's attention to his name, his service, and his sacrifice, so we made the quick decision to stay.

In a matter of minutes the White House motorcade was pulling up to the curb near us and the President and First Lady were walking towards us. As I introduced myself, each moment seamed to become more surreal and before I could even soak up what was unfolding, I found myself in the compassionate embrace of both the President and his wife. They spent quite some time visiting with us...asking about Tyler, learning about who we are, and then offered sincere words of sympathy and encouragement to me that I will treasure my whole life. 

I'm still not sure whether the events of this September 10th were more for Tyler or from Tyler :o). It felt as though he sent a little wink to say that everything is going to be alright and to keep being strong as I continue to move forward into the life and blessings that lay ahead of me. I still miss Tyler very much, and tears continue to flow from time to time; but I am blessed beyond measure and have many exciting chapters ahead of me that I know he is happy to see unfolding. Losing Tyler in my life has been the most excruciating experience I have ever been through, but two years later I can now say that despite the continued pain, there is new joy and happiness in my life and that I know I am exactly where he wanted to me to be if he didn't come back home to me...

"Meggie, If I don't come back I want you to find a man that adores you as much as I do and encourages you to be everything that I know you can be...find a man that helps you pursue all your dreams and talents...and  I want you to find someone that can take care of you and make you happy..."

Two and a half years later after he laid his hard working calloused hands on my shoulders and spoke those words, as much with his determined piercing blue eyes as he did with his voice, I know that I have found someone who does just exactly what he wished for me. And with some encouraging words from the First Lady I will continue to be the kind of strong women that Tyler fell in love with, so that I can live in the present and be everything that I need to be for the one who now holds my heart in the pocket of his own uniform every time he leaves.

When you are the girlfriend, fiance, wife, mother, or any other relation to a loved one lost in the service of the military, you receive a tab on your heart's 'uniform' that will remain there the rest of your life. This deep scar on my heart has become a part of me and is sometimes easy for many to see; it is my story, it carries my fears and doubts, it is painful at times and numb in other moments. Most importantly though is that I remember to choose to look at this scar as our solders look at their Ranger Tab upon graduation from the course. When you wear the deep emotional tab of loss on your heart you and those around you know that you have survived something that only a select few can make it through. The scar on my heart has changed me but it has not damaged me. I will continue to march forward and live my life just as Tyler ask me to do. 

I will continue to let love in and openly love, and I will choose to have courage and faith each time as I raise up on my tiptoes to place a kiss on the cheek of the man who now tenderly cares for my heart and the scar within.


(4 Photos taken by Associated Press)