I'm not completely sure why today has been so emotional for me. Maybe it's the end of April coming and rolling into May which is always a tough month. Maybe it's just a day and I'm feeling a bitter more sad than yesterday. I don't have the answer for that, but I'm certainly trying to make sense of it all the best I can.
I don't know what the right path is to take at this point. May marks 3 1/2 years that my precious only child entered the gates of heaven and left this earthly world. There is no getting used to that. There is no year that it hurts less. There are no days that I don't think of him and wonder what he would be doing today. There isn't a day that I wake up living and breathing don't I don't long to see that crooked smile, that belly laugh when you really got him to open up, that "Chad" smell, or watching him in amazement as he slept like a question mark in "his" chair. I don't see those things changing. Oh I know, people tell you it gets easier over the years and you don't hurt as much. Maybe they felt like I do today this early on and maybe they are right, but honestly, I don't think that will be the case for me. For 18 1/2 years it was me and Chad doing life on our own. Yes, we had family and friends, but when it came down to the financial and hard day to day stuff, it was me and Chad. With 6 months left of his senior year in high school Tebo and I got married and we became a family. It wasn't easy at first by any means. Chad was used to being the man of the house and we had our routine and we had a lot of learning and adjusting to do (all three of us) and I feel like after a few bumps in the road we made it. Just as we were hitting our groove and things were plugging along he made the decision to enlist in the USMC. I remember the day like it was yesterday. He came to me and Tebo with his intentions and all I asked him was to give it 3 months and consider all options before signing anything. He knew at the time that college wasn't his thing and while I hated that, I respected his decision. I was proud of him for owning that fact and for repaying us for the semester we had already paid for. Did he do that willingly and happily, no, but at the end of the day, he did the right thing and that makes me proud.
Going from high school to college or working full time is a hard transition for any family. I probably struggled even more than Chad as I didn't know how to let go. He always needed me and I needed him and suddenly he needed me less and I started feeling like I was losing him. It was slow, but it felt like all at once for me. I wanted to know where he was always and that he was safe and I was only truly at peace when he was in our house and in his room where I knew where he was and he was ok. That's not what we are supposed to do as parents. We raise them for this world and to be prepared for what the world has to offer (the good and the bad). We always wonder as we are raising our kids if they really listen to us or hear the teachings we try to share with them. Well, after 3 1/2 years with Chad being gone I continue to get confirmation that he listened to me more than I ever thought he had. It does my heart good.
I will give you just a few examples of what I'm talking about. Before Chad passed away he was driving to CA from AR (alone) and I made him call me every hour and if he didn't and I called him, he had to answer or I was panicked and I wouldn't let up until I heard his voice. This child knew this all too well so if for some reason he wasn't able to grab the phone when I called he was quick to call me back. He knew his momma was relentless when I knew I needed to hear his voice and know he was ok. Then during training there would be some guys that would try to sneak better MRE's and shouldn't have, but when they would ask Chad he would refuse to go. Now, the significance of this is important. Those that knew Chad, knew he was a very picky eater. Once he found an MRE he liked that is basically all he would eat, but since his favorite (Mexican meal) was usually the first to go, if he had recently had one he would give his up to someone who had not gotten one. I love that about him. Then if one of his guys was struggling with something he was quick to offer to help them and teach as much as he could. After Chad passed away I started learning more and more things that he did that showed me he had character and leadership that I didn't always get to observe when he was here. That could have been because I was quick to just do it for him, but either way, he was watching, learning, and listening. Just recently one of his Marine buddies gave him the ultimate compliment. I won't share too many details as I didn't get his permission, but basically Chad was his senior and this young man was on that patrol that faithful day of December 1, 2010. He mentioned that Chad was always hard on him. He would push him hard when Chad's peers would cut him some slack. He admitted to me that he didn't like Chad much (most good leaders have people that aren't going to like what they have them do so that is understandable). Then this young man told me something that filled my heart with more pride than I thought possible to have for a child. He told him he knows Chad saved his life and Chad's impact on him didn't stop in Afghanistan. He said even today in his job when he feels like complaining or quitting he hears Chad in his head telling him he will push through and he can do it. I can certainly thank the Marine Corps for teaching him that leadership and all the influences in his life that taught him not only to be a good leader, but an upstanding human being when no one was around to see what he was doing. He was a wonderful son, he was a great grandson, uncle, nephew, and an amazing husband. I don't know how he got to be so good at all these things, but he did and it did my heart good to hear it from someone other than my family.
Parents, don't lose hope that your children are hearing you. One of the things that would drive me crazy was how Chad would (or wouldn't) clean his bathroom. I would show him and walk him through the steps many times. When he enlisted into the Marine Corps and started cleaning his barracks he got high marks for his room and (get this) bathroom being so clean. He was listening and learning when I didn't think he was.
Spend time with your children, even if it feels like an inconvenience at the time. I would love to be inconvenienced right now with having to track him down, help balance his checkbook, or wait up because he was late getting home or he was late for dinner, because he was tracking a deer. Time already goes so fast and we never know when our child will be called into the gates of heaven so live each day as though you aren't sure tomorrow will come, because for some of us, it didn't. That is a hurt and a heartache that just never leaves you.
I've said to people before that said, oh it will get easier over time. Well, I don't want it to get easy to miss my son. I don't want it to get easier knowing I will never see the man he could have been or the children he would have had. I think about how proud he would be of Jorden for going to college and sticking it out when it got hard (proud is what he would be). I think how hard it would be to see Peanut so grown up (it would wear him out I'm sure). I know he would be cracking up at Scooter 24/7 and he would probably egg him on like his BoBo does. He would have been amazed with his aunt Stacy going through breast cancer and then he would be so proud of her for kicking cancer's ass (sorry for the language). He would love the fact that his uncle Leckey build a processing plant (what little redneck wouldn't have been). He would be proud that his aunt Paige has handled Jorden leaving for college with the grace she did and continues to do. He would be tickled to see his uncle Rodney every chance he got and probably beg to go fishing with Brent and be late for dinner or something. I think about how he would have been thrilled that his cousin Timothy got married and I am sure he would have been right there to support him in all he has gone through and accomplished. He would be excited at the thought of his aunt Dawn and uncle Mark potentially moving to AR or OK and being closer especially since his uncle Mark was all into Bob Cats and hunting. He would be shocked at how big aunt Amanda and uncle Jeff's twins, Caleb & Kayla, are and how smart they are. He would definitely want to see them more often. He would love both his aunt Amanda and uncle Jeff. He would feel right at home with them easily. He would be crazy about the fact that Christopher is almost 20 years old and that Cole is into bikes and skater world like he was. He would be super proud of his uncle Clay for going through a few tough life changing situation with the grace and faith that he did. He would still wish he could see his cousins James and Betsy, but mostly he would be proud of his uncle Rae for doing the right thing for himself and his family especially his kids. He would be proud that BoBo stopped smoking and that he and Nana are doing so well. He would love that Granny and Papaw continue to be as healthy as they are and while he would hate to see Granny fighting the fight she is today, he would have empathy for her like he did grandmother. That's just the kind of kid he was. He would be so proud of Tia making a huge move to AR and doing as well as she is doing at Tyson and now going to college, but for also taking care of his mom when I was sick. He would be so proud of Candi and Nathan making their life back in Texas and expecting their first child. He knew that's what they wanted and he would be so proud for them. He would be amazed at how well Trevor has done through his high school years and in One Act. He would get a kick out of seeing him perform and to see what life holds for him after high school. Last, but certainly not forgotten, Chad would be so proud of Katie. He would not have ever wanted her to give up on love and happiness and he would be so proud of all she has accomplished and the fact that she has found happiness again. She also found happiness with an amazing guy that accepts that Chad is part of her life and he allows her not only to contiinue to mourn when she needs to or remember when it's needed, but he also helped her find a place she could go to reflect and have quiet time with her thoughts of Chad since she can't always be at the cemetery where Chad is laid to rest. I've not met him, but I already know that I will like him and Chad would approve. I know my son well enough to know that for a fact. Just one more reason I love him like I do.
Chad would also be so proud of his buddies from high school. Seeing them getting married and some having babies would tickle him to death and he would be a great uncle to all of them. He would love that his Marine buddies are carrying on and he would be sad for those who struggle. He had a heart the size of all outdoors and I loved that about him and I probably miss that as much as anything.
I was blessed for 22 1/2 years wtih the most amazing son that showed me every day that he loved me and truly had a heart for people and especially his family. I can sit some days and just imagine the man he would be today. He would have been 26 years old May 25, 2014. It seems impossible, but more than that it seems impossible to imagine and live this life without him, but that is the hand we've been dealt. I'm still learning how to navigate this new world. I don't like it at all to say the very least, but I don't have a choice.
I'm so fortunate to have such an amazing family and group of friends that truly love me and my family like they do and that is extended to his high school buddies and their wives as well as his Marine buddies. They have just stepped in and made sure we are ok and taken care of. Words can't really describe that. Knowing how much they love him and carry that over to us is just overwhelming that words don't do it justice. I know I couldn't have made it this far without my family and friends and his friends, but certainly couldn't have considered taking the first step on December 2, 2010 without Tebo by my side. He has surpassed any expectations I may have had for our marriage and relationship. He just knows sometimes when all I need is a hug or even just a look and then to be alone with my thoughts and then there are times he knows I just need to cry or talk. He just accepts it and has never once made me feel silly or like I didn't have a right to feel like I do. His entire family has treated me with nothing but love and care. They have mourned Chad's loss right along side us and they may never know what that has meant to me. I know if Chad could look down and see how well Tebo is taking care of me he would want to reach down and give him a huge hug just to say thank you. (Never mind Chad was worried he would have to take care of me the rest of his life LOL)
I know this was rambling, but it was things I felt in my heart and it's my hope that if any parent (or child) is reading this that they won't take one moment for granted with the ones they love and stop long enough to smell the roses and do those silly things that seem inconvenient at the time, because one day it might just mean the world to you. I dare you to give that a shot. I can promise you this, you will never look back with regret for spending more time with your children and family. That's a guarantee from me to you!
|Baby Chad with his curls|
|He was one of their personal barbers in Iraq|
|Hunting Easter Eggs at Grandmother Croft's house <3|
|His football game face...|
|That wonderful TN t-shirt|
|In California (so handsome)|
|In KC waiting to leave for Boot Camp (had to be one of many of the hardest things I would ever do)|
|His first deer!|