by Kimberli Roth, Guest Contributor
This does not have a title per se. It is actually a long explanation in response to the barrage of questions that comes after a military member dies. A new widow is obviously affected but as a very close friend, you have been greatly affected too. When my best friend’s husband passed away suddenly in a training accident, I experienced everything second hand through her. Every day you somehow put yourself aside to address the immediate concerns and then pick up your own pieces later.
I had been offline for days busied with Casualty Assistance Officers, talking through life with Samantha and helping plan Jordan’s funeral. I answered every message in my inbox that reached out to my friend through me, but for the wonderful people that knew that I needed support too as she and I navigated through these new and foreign waters, I put out this honest image of how things were going.
People have been asking “how I am” a lot these days and I never know what to say. They might as well be asking “who I am,” and let me tell you, I have no fucking clue what the answer is to that question either. I’ve been through a whole lot in a really short period of time.
It’s felt like minutes and it’s felt like years.
I guess it started as a text message and in a blink of an eye, I was in another time zone watching a man die. Watching strong men weep. Seeing doctors and mothers in tears. Living out of my truck in a hospital parking lot. It has changed me and I don’t know the person in the mirror anymore. It’s not a bad thing, just something I’ve yet to get accustomed to. I guess I thought I was much more lazy and much less motivated.
This is my new reality and I am astonished every day that it’s real. This is me. This is my life. Who would have thought, right? This is exactly what we are all so afraid of.
This experience has been nothing less than tragic and beautiful. How do you respond to witnessing a family torn apart and a family come together, simultaneously?
Everyday I think, thank god he was military. It truly is a family.
My heart breaks every day but I find myself able to patch it back up and get things done. Holding my best friend’s hand while she sits in that office in the back of the family readiness center that everyone knows about but no one wants to step into. Never letting go of that hand, we clean out a locker, plan a memorial. Finding a laugh when we can.
I’m in the thick of it. Nothing can prepare you for this kind of thing. Not even watching “Army Wives,” and yes, I’ve seen this episode.
We all know this could be us. Our spouses have dangerous jobs. There is nothing wrong about being grateful that it wasn’t you. This time, it wasn’t.
I sat on the phone with my own husband yesterday and planned every detail of his funeral. I told him I love him and then he took a plane into the air. The silver lining right now seems so thin but it’s SO bright. There is beauty here if you will have it.
I tell Samantha all the time that though being this person is hard, I’d be this person again, and again, and again.
I tell her that I feel like I’ve gone through some crazy initiation, that the worst has happened and that we’re “real military wives now.”
Never doubt that when the universe strips us of our foothold and we are left vulnerable and raw, somehow we are strong enough to keep standing. Sammy taught me that one. We have our lifetimes, however long that might be. We have all been given this chunk of time – and no one knows how long their time is.
We must be ready and happy always. There is no time for the toxic people in your life. There is no time for hesitation. And my god, if you love someone, tell them.
I still don’t know how or who I am right now and that’s OK. All I know for certain is what I am and that is a friend, a sister and a proud military wife.
My name is Kimberli Roth. I am an art photographer, graphic designer and a military spouse of 3 years. My life is full of laughter and love. Staying connected and involved with my local military family is a passion second only to creating art.