These are the times when it’s difficult to write a column. After Theresa’s powerful message last week, I have nothing more to add. And yet I’ve thought of little else, except what she and her boys are going through. I don’t have any funny anecdotes about my own sons’ behavior, and I don’t have specific feelings about the shutdown. Every train of thought leads back to Theresa and Landon and their children.
In the 13 years I’ve been writing my newspaper column, there have been plenty of weeks similar to this, weeks when it was hard to write. There have been times when I had the flu and couldn’t bear to think. There have been times when we were in the middle of a move, and I couldn’t find my computer. There have been times when I felt sad or depressed, and the last thing I wanted to do was come up with something to say. In 2007, I even wrote a column as I was about to walk out the door and deliver Lindell.
In all those times, however, I only missed one week, and that was when Lindell was in the hospital six years ago.
Today was the first week I felt like being absent again.
Because where do we go from here? How do we complain about the shutdown or the mud the kids tracked through the house when a Navy wife with a brand new baby just lost her husband?
History shows us that we will in fact move on. Think of all the warm and neighborly feelings after 9/11. Think about how quickly we regressed back to honking at people on the interstate, going to the store to buy new shoes we don’t really need, or worrying about what color to paint our living room, or whether or not we need a new couch.
Life goes on. And that’s because sad and tragic things happen all the time. Theresa’s loss isn’t novel. Indeed, her husband’s helicopter accident didn’t even make it onto the mainstream media’s radar. Had Landon died a week later, his death might have been tied to a larger story like the government shutdown. But as it was, Landon was “just” another Navy pilot doing his job.
Yet there’s nothing “just” about this for Theresa.
And so, because I’m at a loss for what to say next—because I’ve thought of nothing else—I’ll tell you how Dustin and I knew Theresa and Landon.
We met the Joneses in Pensacola, Fla., where both Landon and Dustin were flight instructors for the Navy. I remember Dustin talking about how laid back and genuine Landon was. Then I finally met Theresa at a military spouse club meeting. She is tall, with long dark hair and not one single blemish on her face. Like me with Dustin, Theresa was the polar opposite of Landon. She is chatty and funny. We got along smashingly. When I had spouse club meetings at my house, Dustin would take our boys to Landon’s house and hang out.
We, of course, eventually moved to Maine, and the Joneses were transferred as well. Thanks to Facebook and the Internet, however, Theresa and I were able to stay in contact. Her status updates always made me laugh, and her relationship with Landon continued to remind me of mine with Dustin.
So when I woke up that day a few weeks ago and saw that Theresa had posted, “I could really use a miracle right now,” I thought she was being funny. Then I heard there was a crash in the Red Sea. Could it be? Could Theresa be talking about that? Was Landon involved?
It’s weird to watch a friend go through something like this on Facebook, where you can scroll back and see how ordinary their life was before that day. Then you scroll forward and see all the prayers coming in.
Dustin was home from his job at the Pentagon the weekend after Landon died. We thought of Theresa and Landon the whole time. The news colored everything. Monday morning, while the kids were at school, we sat and talked for a long time about how it could have always been anyone. All those times I sent Dustin off to work or on deployment, and I never really thought anything would happen. But at times like this, the risks become horribly clear.
Next week, I’ll move on to writing about new things, but I will not have forgotten. None of us will. Time and life go on, but Theresa’s story, especially as she bravely wrote it last week, will hopefully leave a mark on all of us.
Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley’s writing is syndicated weekly to publications across the country. She and her husband, Dustin, live with their three sons in Bangor. She may be reached at www.Facebook.com/Sarah.is.Smiley.