Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Getting back in the saddle

One of the toughest things to do when you are grieving -- especially when your tragedy has been such a public thing on so many levels -- is to try to get people to let you do your job again.

This week, I am at a review meeting for a national program I'm involved with, developing new therapies to treat our war-wounded. There's a lot of work to do -- we have reviews for all of our projects, there is media to manage, strategic planning to be done for the year, as well as re-affirming the team of nearly 300 who have to get all this work done.

This is the first time since we lost the Bug that I've seen many of my colleagues. Most of them know what's happened and their first priority is to check in and see how S and I are doing. It's only been seven weeks, after all, and the grief can still be very fresh at times. Some of them don't know what's happened, and I'm left with how to answer the question, "Gosh, I don't think I've talked with you in MONTHS. You must be busy. So how are things going?"

The first instinct is to go with the standard, "Good. Things are going well." But in truth, things are NOT going well. I've been through the worst hell imaginable. But of course, you can't answer that way, either. So I have to take the deep breath, stand up tall, look these people in the eye and say, "My husband and I lost our young daughter the day after Thanksgiving."

And then there is shock, and pity, and tears. I've told the story so many times, it doesn't even make me flinch anymore. Once again, my job is to help everyone else process my tragedy. We talk about faith. I share a story or two. I talk about what a lovely, caring man my county coroner is.

Invariably, they all ask me, "How are you doing this? Shouldn't you just take it easy?" They don't really feel this inside -- their sense of urgency matches my own. I tell them that "taking it easy" isn't the reason I'm here, nor the reason any of the rest of us are here. We're here because there is work to be done, and if we don't do it, the result will be more mothers having to tell stories about how they lost their children.

And then we have to move on. Because we have work to do. Because there are other lives at stake. Because the Bug told me, more than once, "You have to help them take care of those men, Mama."

Baby girl, today I am looking into the eyes of each and every one of these soldiers, their doctors and their caretakers. I am looking for the thing in each of them that you would see -- the reason each of them deserves to feel love, the reason each of them deserves the best I can bring to this. And I'm honoring you while I do it. Thank you for helping me be mindful of the reason I do my job, and for the love and compassion I need to bring to it to do it well.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I cry everytime I read your blogs. You and daughter taught me to never take my daughters for granted. You just never know what the future holds. I think of you often even though I don't know you. I pray she continues to visit you in your dreams.
~Tracy G.

bhd said...

Beautiful Bean.

K8 (short for Kate) said...

I'm sure you handled everyone else's feelings with your usual grace and caring. Please remember to take care of YOU and S while you are away! Love you!

Debster said...

I find your writings and your ability to act strong in your most vulnerable time amazing. It was good to see you both, you are both special to me.

ResearchGuy® said...

Your courage astounds me as I know I would fold in the face of such things.

Justine's HouseWreck said...

To your hope, dedication and kindness...