A Salute

I recently read an excerpt from the book, “The Letter, My Journey Through Love, Loss, and Life” written by the former Marie Tillman, the infamous widow of Pat Tillman, the NFL player turned soldier.  In it she shares candidly about her struggles concerning his death in 2004.  Here was a man who gave up not only the good life but what seemed to be a great life, the American dream, for a cause that he believed in – America’s freedom. He ultimately sacrificed his entire life: fame, fortune, and family, for this bigger cause.  She shares her thoughts of never getting over his death but as so many other caregivers faced with the same bend in the road, she chose to forge ahead into something new, rather than wallow in something of the past.  She has moved forward into a new life while still honoring his memory and his legacy.  As I read this so much of what she shared resonated as true for myself as a caregiver but in a different sort of way.  Tillman’s death was immediate and therefore she spent a few years after gathering her bearings as a newly widowed woman.  I, however, due to the length of Jason’s illness felt a sense of widowhood long before I was technically branded with that insidious word.  That word never sat well with me as a 33 year old woman.  It’s such an old, worn, helpless word.  It makes me think of so many different women I’ve been privileged to meet over the past few years, mostly women who have been affected with the same malicious demon in their lives, brain cancer.  May is the month for brain cancer awareness.  Brain cancer is such a sad, defeating disease as it robs all of its victims of their strength and youth and ages them far before their time as they lose their sight, their strength, their muscle tone, their ability to communicate and even think effectively.  It brings grown, strong, Samson like men to their knees as it ravages through the most sacred part of our bodies, our brains. A friend who I met through my Carepage journey is in the shoes that I found myself in the end of August 2010.  My heart aches for her today as her strong Samson like husband has been admitted to hospice after battling brain cancer for 39 months.  He is, in fact, probably facing his last 48 hours here on earth. She is a strong woman, a determined woman, and she has done everything in her power to bring any life saving means to his disposal. She was a constant source of strength and encouragement to me as I walked through the dark valley as a caretaker in August of 2010.  Today, I want to honor all of the men and women like Tillman, like her, like all of us, who live our lives for something bigger and better whether it be the freedom of our great country or even just those who display their heroic courage through a battle that rages within their heads.  Or those caregivers, like my friend, who carry the intense burden of being a caretaker to someone far too young to die.  These people have the additional responsibility of realizing that the battle also rages within their minds and within their determination to be able to pick up the pieces of it all when the dust settles and continue in the land of the living.   I salute all, the courageous who give up their lives for something bigger and better and those of us left here to soldier on. May we all run our races, whatever race we are called to run, with perseverance and determination, not for our own glory, but for the much bigger and better days ahead! Just keep livin!!

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