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My heart aches for you, for your family, for my family. You were taken too soon, whether God had a greater plan for you or not, you were taken too soon, you were only 21. I can’t wrap my brain or my heart around it. You were such a fantastic person, your smile brightened up the world, and now, your smile shines down on us from heaven. I guess there is some comfort in knowing that or feeling that. The other comfort I feel is knowing you are with Mark, Aunt Mary, and Grandma. Knowing that you are with them and in heaven, still, I feel so angry. And to be honest, I am angry at myself. I am angry at myself for not trying to stay in touch more. I am angry at myself for not making more effort to be in your life. You are my cousin, family, and life; I let us drift apart. I know I am not to blame for what happened to you; no one is to blame, but knowing that still doesn’t take away the pain or the guilt.

This morning, while writing this blog, sitting on my porch, three hummingbirds and two cardinals were at my feeders. And a butterfly was sitting/hanging on my doorbell. I had many visitors this morning, and I attempted to get pictures but was so awe-struck that I didn’t move fast enough. I still enjoyed the moment and the visit.

It’s been six years since you left us, Aunt Mary. There is some small amount of comfort in knowing that you welcomed Ashleigh with loving and open arms. It doesn’t stop the pain from crippling me, but there is some comfort, and I think, for now, that has to be enough.

The saying goes, “Time heals all wounds,” but I don’t believe that. Time doesn’t heal your wounds; time allows you to find ways to cope with and mask the pain so you can go about your day. If you ask me, “Then what does heal your wounds?” To be 100% honest, I have no idea. I am still grieving the loss of my cousin (16 years now), my best friend, and my aunt (both six years). But I wonder if I had had the time to grieve; maybe it wouldn’t be so bad now. My cousin was taken from us for defending a friend, and I can still remember every feeling I felt when I got that phone call from my dad. My breath caught, and I felt tight in my chest; I couldn’t breathe the whole time he told me what had happened and that Mark was gone. My heart broke into a thousand pieces; uncontrollable tears fell for days. Ten years later, when those broken pieces of my heart glued themselves back together, they shattered once more when my best friend died, then again precisely one month later when Aunt Mary died. With the help of an intensive outpatient program that same month my aunt died, my heart blended back together. I say blended because it didn’t heal or glue back together; I learned coping techniques to help deal with the enormous losses and how to deal with the pain head-on instead of holding it in. I’m not going to lie, that program was phenomenal and helped tremendously, and I sincerely encourage it to others. But I also learned that broken hearts will never truly heal. Whether we’re dealing with things head-on, bottling it up inside, or even taking the time to grieve, our hearts will never heal. The broken pieces are blended or smushed together so that we can go about our daily activities. My children help; they do. They are holding those broken pieces together; without them, I can honestly say that I do not know how things would be for me to deal with this loss. And I haven’t even mentioned the countless service members, brothers, and sisters I’ve lost. You would think by now; I would be used to it, as sad as that is to say, or, if anything, numb to all the loss. That is one thing the Army pushes on you very well, hide your grief, don’t show emotion, put mission first, and carry on (which is another topic I will get into later).

I believe that the people we loved and lost never truly leave us. They may leave a hole in our hearts, but they are never really gone. They find us in the wake of dawn when the sun's first lights break through the night. They find us in our dreams, between sleep and awake. They find us in our smushed hearts and tell us we are not alone.

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