Friday, August 19, 2011

The First Day...

Breathe in, breathe out; stop, think.  How does one describe emotion?  How does one describe the feeling of having their heart torn out and their world shattered?  The pain and the emotion cannot be described, but I can at least tell you the story of that day and the days to follow and hope that you get some basic idea....

I'd been staying at Josh's house that night.  We had argued through most of the night and I already had to wake up early for work that day so, needless to say, I was a bit pissed when he woke me up at 0600; a whole hour before my alarm was supposed to go off.  He had this frantic look in his eyes and his voice was calm, but there was a slight sting of urgency behind it.

"Meg, you need to get up, you need to get dressed."
"But I don't have to get up for work for another hour!." I curtly replied and pulled the sheets over my head.
"No, I already called Dr Kanner; there are some people coming to see you, Meg, you need to get up and get dressed."

This confused me.  People were coming to see me?  Who the heck was coming to see me at six in the morning?  I tried to coax Josh into telling me what was going on, but he wouldn't.  That's when the nausea hit me.  It was like a full force tidal wave rushing over my entire body.  I shouldn't really call it nausea so much as it felt like someone had literally stuck their hands in my stomach and my heart and was squeezing both with all their might.  It HURT.  I knew something was wrong and my heart kept telling me it had to do with Ian, but that just didn't make sense to me.  Ian wasn't deployed - he was home!  I had moved out to CA so I could see him more!  There was no way anything could have happened to him, so what was I feeling?

I got dressed with shaking hands, located my bible, and clutched it tightly to myself.  Who could possibly be coming for me?  Is something wrong with me?  What is going on?  I was so scared I started to cry.

Finally, after what seemed like a life time, there was a knock at the door.  Josh led me over and I opened the door to see the 3 familiar faces of Benjamin Lepping (Gus), Roxanne, and Amber.  One look in Amber's eyes and I knew something was wrong with Ian.  She had this haunted look on her face and her eyes were large and puffy from tears.  Roxanne had this look on her face that was completely indescribable - it was as if she was off in a completely different place seeing a nightmare that I could not even dream of.  Why else would his 3 best friends be standing at my door right now?  Was he in a motorcycle accident? Was he okay?  No, Ian was not okay; I could tell this much just by looking at Amber's face.  Had my brother... died in a motorcycle accident?  The thoughts rushed through my head, but I held myself together.

"Can we come in?" Gus's voice broke the silence.

I nodded and Josh and I led the group to the dining room where I sat down with Gus on my left and Amber on my right.  I already knew Ian was dead, but it wasn't until Gus confirmed it that I broke down and cried.  I cried for maybe a minute before I took a deep breath, clutched my bible tighter, held Amber's hand, straightened my posture and looked Gus in the eye before asking the big question, "What happened?"

The answer that came was not at all what I was expecting.

"Your brother commited suicide, he shot himself."

Complete shock, my world was spinning, crashing, diving, I was falling down a black hole of despair.  He did what!?  Not Ian!  He had just been accepted to MARSOC, his little sis has just moved out to live closer to him, he lived in CALIFORNIA for heaven's sake!  Sure he and Amber had recently broken up, but that was not effecting him at all; he was fine with it and had even moved on!  I broke down again, this time for maybe two minutes before gathering myself again and putting my best business face on. 

"What now?" I asked. 

Gus went through to explain the whole process of how NCIS was doing an investigation and how the Marine Corps would be finding a place to keep my brother's body until it was time to go home as well as the whole process of what would happen after that.  Josh informed me that Pastor Matt was on his way over and, sure enough, Matt showed up at the door about 5 minutes later.  It was so good having Matt there to remind me of God's presence through all of this, but I still felt cold.  Being my typical self, I did not have a single care about how I was doing.  Instead, I busied myself with making sure someone was going to tell those close to Ian such as Zac and Kayti Hemmerling (I even took it upon myself to call certain individuals) and I called my mom to make sure she was okay.  We exchanged our 'I love you's' and promised each other we would get through this.

I received several phone calls from people from Barabbas Road Church.  (Matt had asked if he could pass along the word.)  After making sure I had solid support and would be okay, Gus and Roxanne left to go take care of some more stuff with this whole ordeal. 

I held tight to Amber's hand and talked with Matt, Josh, and Amber while excusing myself ocasionally to go outside and take a phone call or two.  A few conversations still stand out to me as they were the most difficult:

I texted Kayti at one point saying simply 'Call me when you find out...'
'Find out what?'
'love you.'
'Call me later, k?'
'Sure thing' 'What's going on?'
'love you.'

It was about 30 minutes later that I received another text from her.
'I just talked to St Dennis at Ian's shop.  I'm in shock.  I'll call you later.  Love you. Don't text Zac.  He needs to focus on the range.  I'll tell him when he gets home.'

I got a call from Zac about an hour later.  Kayti had told Zac once he got home from work.  Zac and I both broke down on the phone. Both of us expressing questions that the other couldn't answer.  I made sure Zac was okay and made him promise to check back soon.

I remember texting Michelle then having her call me.  It was a huge shock to her (as it was to everyone else..._
I remember calling Sarah Meissner.  I don't know who was more difficult to talk to, Sarah or Zac.  I did not have to tell the news to Zac, but I did have to break it to Sarah.  I had to literally choke the words out.  I could feel my heart breaking all over again as I heard hers breaking over the phone.  Sarah would later become one of my strongest supports through all of this.  (And not just for me, but for my family as well)

The rest of the afternoon was pretty much a blur.  I sat in silence for the most part; the only time I really talked was when my phone rang.  Amber eventually went over to her sister's place and Matt was replaced by Scott.  It was a huge comfort having Scott there, especially when he took out his guitar and started to play... it reminded me of all the times I needed comforting so I would go into Patrick's dorm room and lay on the floor and listen to him play guitar. 

I'd excuse myself on occasion to go cry.  Each time I felt like my entire heart was being wrenched out with my sobs.  I took a nap in the afternoon and a shower and felt a bit better.  I managed to pull myself together enough to go to my church's 'Core Group' with everyone.  It was difficult to keep from crying half the time, but people were so good and I felt their prayers all throughout the week.  It was a fun evening and I was able to smile and laugh through it all thanks to having an awesome chalking group (Libby, Matt and Scott) and an open air jeep with the stereo cranked and Scott sinking down in embarassment in his seat.  I was able to put aside the hell I was going through and pretend everything was normal again.  I would give almost anything to be able to stay like that, to continue to pretend that nothing had happened, but I wouldn't be able to pretend for long... The nightmare I'd dreamt for years was no longer just in my sleep; it had become my new reality.

To be continued...
McConnell out.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:38-39


Adopt The Memory said...

Meg, I know you have allowed your blog to be public, but don't know if you want public comments back. I haven't seen any. If you don't want comments about your very personal posts go to "settings>comments" in your blog account and select "only members of this blog." Thank you, however, for sharing your poignant writing which describes what many of the Gold Star Families I know live each day.

Jim Krieger, Patriot Guard Rider, Vietnam Veteran, founder