Birthdays, holidays, and other special days are more difficult than the average day. In all honesty, they are just hard. These are the days that I am reminded more deeply that the one I love is absent from my presence. As these times approach, I find myself gearing up for the coming day. I brace myself for what I know is ahead … I make no appointments for that day, I give myself permission to take the whole day to cry if I want to, and I sometimes hide away. These are the days that I expect to be sad. Even though these days are rough, somehow I feel more in control knowing they are headed my way. It’s the days I don’t expect to be sad that catch me off guard.
It was a regular Monday … a normal day with a normal routine. I was headed to a gathering of my favorite quilting friends … yummy food and my president’s notebook in hand. I drove out of my driveway the way I normally do, snaked around the corner and came to the end of my street, ready to turn off to the major highway that intersects there. As I reached the highway, I began to hear sirens coming from what seemed like several emergency vehicles. Within seconds, they were whirring by me … an ambulance, a fire truck and several police cars … flying over the nearby railroad track and coming to a stop at what must have been a bad accident scene. I turned the opposite direction and headed to my scheduled meeting but my mind was already reeling from what I saw.
As quickly as I had witnessed the scene before me, my mind went back … back to the scene of my son’s accident where he drew his last breath. My son died in a collision involving a tank and the military vehicle he was driving, on a dirt road in Iraq, no sirens or fire trucks present I’m sure … but that didn’t matter. What I saw on my own road gave my imagination a ring side seat to his accident. I could imagine the angels standing vigilant over him while the medics tried to revive him, the desperation of his buddies to make him breath, them loading him into the helicopter while they were under fire … and their realization that he would not live through this day. My tears flowed freely at the images in my head. I sobbed like a baby all the way to my destination, chiding myself to get a grip before I arrived. I needed to walk in with a smile and happy eyes … I was the president after all. It’s not exactly easy to explain to eighty women that you have puffy, red eyes because you were … um … what?
Ever had one of those moments? It’s one of those moments where someone walks by you at the grocery store and you take a double take … where you hear someone humming the tune you’ve heard a million times and tears begin to flow … or when you smell that familiar cologne and you find yourself trying to explain to the lady at the pharmacy counter that you really are okay!
These are the moments that catch you off guard, unaware. You can’t prepare for them and can’t brace yourself for them. They are like being attacked by an enemy you didn’t even know was there. They sneak up without permission, grab you by the throat and reduce you to a puddle of tears before you know what hit you … and they often come at the most inopportune times.
These are what we, in our family, have come to refer to as ambushes. Having a name for them helps us all to understand those sometimes random tears without needing explanation … “just having an ambush” … and it gives us one more opportunity to offer a listening ear or an understanding hug to one another. When I’m experiencing an ambush, that’s mostly what I need anyway.
It’s been almost five years since my son left this earth but I still have ambushes all the time. If you’ve lost a loved one, I’m guessing you have them too.
I’ve come to a place where I’m learning to embrace these ambushes with my whole heart and to thank God that I was so richly blessed with the sweet boy that now resides in Paradise.
May God help you to embrace your ambushes as well and to reach that place on your journey where you can smile at the wonderful memories you’ve been blessed with.