There are people and experiences in your life that are more impactful that others. Not sure why that is, or what causes it, it just is. Em was one of those people to me. Way back when I first retired I saw a post on a nonprofit that offered pen pals, I signed up and within a few days I received notification that I was paired with a Pen Pal! I was so excited that I wrote her that day. We never exchanged emails or phone numbers early on. We just learned about each other from our letters. We wrote each other once or twice a month, some times it was less because life makes us live it. Through the years we shared, encouraged and were fast friends. We finally shared some on social media but not much. Mostly it was to say ‘look what happened today’ because we wanted to enjoy our letters to each other.
I would print out photos of things I was doing, people and cats in my life lol and she would do the same. I learned of how amazingly talented she is with her welding, she made welded art pieces. This girl had a knack at making costumes or her own clothes as well. I kept telling her I wanted to sew more. I would send her beaded crafts, necklaces and earrings or bracelets. She loved wearing them and told me once that they fit a skirt she just made. Her talent and joy in it motivated me to keep my own crafting going.
She was so young and had such a brightness to her. Of course there was also the sadness and pains. See, Em’s hubby was a Veteran who was battling PTSD. She worried for him, hated how he had changed but loved him so much. That much was clear in our back and forth communication. I knew what he was going through to a certain extent, I was battling my own PTSD demons. So we shared that with each other too. I loved how free she was, how fierce she lived! Damn it to hell if I admired her love and hate of it all. Look at her all beauty and FIERCE!
She was kind and smiled, had fun and had her own adventures even when others didn’t agree lol. I remember her sending me post cards of places she and Curt went even when they shouldn’t have. They just wanted that adventure.
I only had her in my life for a bit over 3 years. It wasn’t enough, but the impact she made was huge. At that time during our back and forth letters, I didn’t see it. Maybe didn’t really pay attention to it, I don’t know but I knew it was there.
As time went on we would reach out on social media, a quick check in with each other because our letters had gotten sporadic. We weren’t losing touch we just didn’t write as much. Things were getting rough for her and her life she felt was getting harder. Mine was just busy and chaotic but we just had to be sure we each knew we were there for each other.
The afternoon of December 4, 2015 she told me that her husband was missing. They had been trying to find him but couldn’t. I wasn’t sure what to do, I remember checking flights to her area and trying to figure out how I could get there. Traveling for me was not easy, but I wanted to be there for her to help somehow. Later that evening, she messaged that he had been found, sadly he had taken his own life. That was the last time I heard from her.
The next day, I was waiting to hear from Em. I knew she was with family and with friends to begin the process of taking care of Curt. It wasn’t a surprise that I didn’t hear from her. Just happened to be going through some military pages when I stumbled upon a post about Curt, as I read on it said that they just found out his wife lost her battle. I was floored. My heart was broken, shattered and I was just done. I remember walking into our gym where my husband was working out and didn’t say anything. Just stood there because speaking those words made it more real. He had his headphones on in full beast mode lol so he didn’t notice me standing there. Honestly I have no idea how long I stood there crying and unable to get his attention. He finally saw me and I still couldn’t say it. He knew what happened the day before, he is my shield in the battle against PTSD so I share with him many things. He just held me and I was finally able to say what happened. I think I just shut down after because the following days are a blur.
I didn’t know who to contact, didn’t know where to call to get information or anything. I was just lost. There I was going thought the military social media sites to see about a phone number, email address something. There was a go fund me set up and I emailed that person but never heard back.
A few days later I got a phone call, it was Em’s sister Ashley. She called to tell me about Em, about Curt. It meant the world to me that they reached out, to want me to know that Em cared about me. Here I was hearing this from her sister, I should have been the one providing comfort in her loss. I failed. No matter what you say or what anyone says, I failed Em and Curt. She wasn’t just my pen pal, was not just a friend. She was more to me and I hate myself for not doing more.
I cannot tell you why Em’s death hurt so much, I have lost many people in my life. Yet losing Em was a breaking point in my life. So many questions as to why I was doing what I was doing if I failed the one person I never thought I could let down. The one person who didn’t ask for loving a Veteran battling his own demons but she loved him madly.
How can I tell people that I am here to help them when I couldn’t help my own damn friend? Can I honestly say that I am doing anyone any good? Oh these and many other questions came into my head over and over and over.
This doesn’t get easier, time does not heal everything. I think of her and Curt every single day. As I sit here at my desk typing away I see her gifts to me. Every night I go to sleep and every day I wake up I see her post cards. She is EVERYWHERE in my home and in my life, but she isn’t here anymore.
I have stolen some of Em’s moments in time, moments of laughter and joys. Moments that are heartwarming and make me laugh. Then there is that moment the memory of losing her hits and it is tragic. Y’all I cannot tell you why she has such an impact, I cannot even begin to explain it all but she has and she always will.
Maybe I am just a pen pal, who was lucky enough to be paired with her. A total stranger who is a nobody to many. Whatever the reason I know this means something.