You can ask me about my son – I never tire of telling his story. It warms my heart to relive the little boy I loved and watched grow into a caring and thoughtful man who loved all of us so much, that he was willing to sacrifice his own life so that we can live in a free country, a country where people live in the land of the free, because of the brave.
I want to say his name. I want others to say his name. If his name is never mentioned and his stories are never told, then it is as though he never existed on this earth. He did exist and he continues to exist in the hearts and minds of so many who knew him, loved him, admired him and continue doing great things because of him. It may be uncomfortable for you, but it won’t be for me.
You can ask me how my son died – I will spare you the gory details. War is horrible and war is ugly. After reading the details and hearing the stories from those who were there on that fateful night, I don’t want to relive the details, but I will tell you the generalities. I know he died defending what he believed in: America’s freedom. I know his death was small-arms fire at the hands of insurgents. I know he died honorably for his country and I am forever thankful to those who were with him at the end. I was there in the beginning, and I was able to thank the one who was there at the end and comforted him in his dying minutes.
You can ask me how I manage life – I have learned to live one breath at a time, one day at a time. During the days and months immediately following his death, I wanted to die. I felt my life was over because someone I loved so much had died. It was a horrible feeling.
I learned that the hurt and pain never go away, but I learned that the hurt and pain become somewhat softer. I learned that I needed to redefine my purpose. My purpose is still a wife, mother and patriot – but those roles are slightly altered. I am a wife to a man who lost a son in combat and mother to three beautiful young ladies who lost their only brother.
I still believe in the greatest country, a country for which my only son laid down his life. My purpose is different and it took me a while to redefine that purpose. I know that I need to have balance in my life. I try really hard to balance my roles in life among all of my family, those who are living and the one special one who died in a combat zone. I have learned that I am living a “new normal.” Our family will never be the same; my roles in life will never be the same.
Please do not ever ask me if I have “gotten over it.” The loss of a loved one, particularly a child, is never easy. We do not move on; we find a “new normal.” Saying “moving on” and “getting over it” is in some way saying that their lives had no substance, that it is easy to get past their deaths. It’s never easy. Finding the “new normal” is what it is.
(Candy Martin is the mother of 1st Lt. Thomas Martin, who was killed in action in Iraq, October 14, 2007. She is also the second national vice president of the American Gold Star Mothers.)
To read more oabout Martin and her fellow Gold Star Mothers, visit http://soldiers.dodlive.mil/2014/09/grief-that-never-dies/.