Death for me over the years has rarely been difficult to process and move on. I've buried quite a few, only mourned a couple. The two I mourn are now memories I guard so earnestly a mother bear could not rival my ferocity. These two people immediately bring on the wet eyes and short tight breaths when I just so much as think on their lives, their influence, and my loss.
This past January I experienced a third loss of someone very important in my life. It's hit me very hard, and I am surprised it's taken me this long to be able to pick up a pen and put it to paper finally. It's been thirty days, and this is still difficult to even bother to proof read. I did pour out my initial shock and pain all over social media. I tracked every article on his death I could find. I even found video from where he was that day and watched a VBIED explode in the distance. I had to somehow be there. Witness his chaos, hear the intensity, and visualize the finality that damage brought on in the war he volunteered to fight in.
Albert Avery Harrington had volunteered to fight with Kurdish forces against ISIL two years ago. When he had initially announced his plans, I debated, I argued, and I even pleaded for him to reconsider and find another way to render aid. I knew he would end up severely injured, or worse, dead. But he went anyway, fully accepting the almost guaranteed risks that would change his, and the lives of all who loved him, forever.
He sought life and purpose on his own path, and if death found him, at least it was while he was in pursuit of what made his existence fulfilled. This outlook on life is the only reason I can accept his death without anger or regret. No anger at his dying in a situation that he willingly allowed danger to follow, or regret that I never convinced him to put down this flag for a noble cause.
Our last goodbye was back in September. He'd asked me if I could use my press privileges and get him in to Kurdistan. I'd laughed him off, quietly relieved he wasn't currently in harm's way for the moment. I knew it was only a matter of time though, and once again I would get erratic messages from the front lines in Kurdistan where he would complain about needing sleep and I would promise him the juiciest burger money could buy once he got back.
But he didn't make it back. January 18th he and four others were hit by not one, but two, VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) during a special offensive titled "Wrath of the Euphrates" in a small village called Suwaydiya-Saghirah village in Raqqa. The goal was to cut off the supply line to ISIS's stronghold in Raqqa. Three men were instantly killed, and Avery succumbed to his wounds in the morning hours of the 22nd at age 50. He is listed as a martyr with YPG/MFS Kurdish forces and buried in the land where he fought to defend innocents against ISIL's tyrannical cult. It appears their sacrifice has paid off since Kurdish forces have wrested control of Kukhkhan and Bir Said villages from ISIL in northern Raqqa.
While the progress made since his death has been bittersweet, seeing the word martyr was a difficult thing to process at first. See, like myself, Avery was an atheist. He was living proof of atheist in foxholes and he was very much a humanist. One I try to model myself after. Honestly, I don't know how he gave so much of himself to so many. I get exhausted, but Avery thrived on it, I believe. "Give me a mission," he would say. So, when I saw him being referred to as a martyr, my teeth began to grind. The days to come proved even harder when others began to share their own pain and thoughts on his passing.
As I followed up on news posted on his remembrance page, I began reading the thoughts and prayers comments. I also had to walk away from my computer a few times when I read speculation about whether he'd gotten right with god or turned back to Christ on his death bed.
At first, I interpreted this kind of talk as an affront to what he stood for. His legacy should not be tarnished with the idea he was going to Hell unless he managed a last minute conversion. Could people not see the insult to everything he stood for by questioning his very humanity based on a belief system he did not even ascribe to? Those questions and speculations made me cry. They made me angry. I felt Avery's very purpose of pursuing a larger case for compassion on the world stage had been overshadowed. And after my rage subsided, I realized what was wrong with all these thoughts that were screaming in my head.
The word "I".
The long and the short of it all comes down to the fact Avery is dead. He can no longer be personally offended. He can't feel. He is oblivious to the world as he lays in his box under hundreds of pounds of dirt and rock in Syria. This is about my desire to preserve his memory in my life as I feel it should be. When the desires of other's to do the same do not match up to mine, then I want to stomp them out. And this is incredibly unfair. It minimizes the grief of others, it alienates in a time when coming together is most comforting.
The desire or belief that Avery found God and is now in Heaven does no harm to his memory in my life. It puts a comfort to the personal loss of another, and I don't have the right to control another's grieving process by demanding their hopes be dashed. Just as Avery showed understanding for religious culture and customs of those he sought to protect, why can I not afford the same respect to those who now have a gaping loss to deal with in their lives like I do?
This is a practice I will struggle with for years to come, as do all of us, but for those of us who do not believe in a hereafter, we feel the loss even more permanently than those who do believe. Why should I make a demand for conformity on behalf of those who are dead? Why allow the anger to take away from what we have lost? Do I really need to ask them why their God saw fit to allow such atrocity that eventually motivated Avery to protect those God would not? No, I won't do that. Even if when some say this god supposedly had a plan for Avery.
Grief and loss do not belong to only one individual, though the process is individually different because of perception of the relationship one shared with the deceased. All of us who loved and cherished Avery have one thing in common, his death. Some of us will look forward to dining with him at the table in Valhalla, the rest of us have only his influence to pass on through our own actions so he may life on in the life of others - even if some who will be influenced by him, won't even know his name or know he is the source of their benefit.
I can honestly say that my relationship with Avery ended with no regrets, and the past is forever the past, and tomorrow will always show me where we once were together.
I love you, Avery. We miss you.
Now that I have this, I must wonder immediately, what is to be done with this? Am I to use it as another station for reposting of other journal entries I find to be of quality? Am I to use it as another place to let my basest anger be loosed? Or am I merely to figure out the purpose later on?
I have a date tonight.
Just dinner, nothing exciting. A friend of a friend and I've seen him before at parties and at the bar. In a way I'm happy to be back on the scene, but at the same time I'm tired of it (just like everybody else?).
So many things have changed and/or have been redefined for me in the past year. I know myself much better, but now instead of being super easy-going and open, I've found myself to have a list of terms and conditions. Such as: I don't think I ever want to get married. And I don't want to bear children. Ever. For anyone. And I know now that being myself is more important to me than any relationship, and I am willing to give up any amount of comfort to be me.
I suppose I'm not that difficult to get along with, but my little list is very serious. At what point in a relationship do you discuss your list? Last weekend at the bar, the guy I'm going out with tonight said something about me not having any kids "yet". That's what brought The List to mind when he asked me out. Yet??? How about never? What happens when you get in a good relationship with someone and something like this comes between you? I've never been one to discuss and compromise too much. I just leave. Maybe that's a good thing. I'm one of the few people I know who haven't been divorced yet.
Last year I was dating Casey. I met him at a Halloween party at the local bar and we clicked. He was easy-going and would have done anything for me, but I was smothered by him. When he gave me the opportunity, I bolted. 8 months later, at the same Halloween party, we met again and it started all over. It was good this time. I got him to be more open about himself, and he didn't shower me with gifts and schmoopy stuff. Two months later, I got a text message from him saying that he didn't want to hurt me, but he needed some time alone. I did what I did and said that I would leave him alone. He thanked me and I never heard from him again. A few weeks ago I heard that he met a girl (I'm guessing his time "alone" was with her) and he got married. This is the guy who always said he'd never get married again. He doesn't want kids either. Maybe the girl is knocked up. Anyway, I thought he was smarter than that, but I can't help but think in the back of my mind that the independance I have that he hated just ate away at him and he ran to somebody safe who liked to stay home and watch movies all day and eat a lot of potato chips.
In between dating Casey and dating Casey, I had the most unfortunate experience of dating a preacher. I walked into it so innocently, thinking that when he talked about a relationship with God, he meant that he didn't think a person needed to go to church or follow any church's rules. Duh! At the time, I believed in God but had stopped being a good little Catholic girl for about 10 years. I could go on and on about the BS I endured, but it's boring and I think everybody has heard it. What I did with the BS was research it on the Internet as quickly as it was shoveled to me. I came out of the releationship an Atheist.
So here I am, as non-traditional a young woman as anyone can imagine. At least on the inside. Hopefully that makes me interesting.
It's just past midnight and I'm watching a rerun of "Dallas" on Soapnet. I've never done one of these blogs before, but I'll give it a shot.
I'm going to jump right into my normal issues. One of the biggest things I'm dealing with right now is my fear of the end of the world. Thanks to members of this forum I've been working on it and evaluating the validity of the fear. However, at my job I have coworkers that froth at the mouth whenever we have an earthquake, bad weather, etc.
It all started when Aida (my coworker) and I were walking back from the ER to our deparment (I work at a hospital.) It was about 11:00 A.M. Out of nowhere, she says, "Oh, Mijo (she's hispanic), it's going to be raining this weekend. And there was a 7-point earthquake in Japan. There never used to be earthquakes anywhere, now we have them everywhere all the time. It's the end of the world and nobody wants to believe it." I just nodded my head and continued walking. However, my day was ruined; I spend the rest of the day ruminating over the end of the world.
Then, when I start to come back to my senses, there has to be an 8.7 earthquake in Sumatra. Well of course, my coworkers jumped all over this. I walked into work, actually expecting the end-of-the-world paranoia, but the expectation didn't help prepare me. I sat down at the desk as Aida, Bill and Nora were standing around talking. Bill said "Did you hear about the 8.7 earthquake?" and Aida responded, "Oh, yeah, that's a big one." And Nora, the lady with a bald spot, chimes in and says, "Oh, yes, I was talking to my sister and she thinks that there must be bad people there." Then Bill comes back with "Well, it's written in the pages!" I work with a bunch of fanatics!
I have OCD, and religion does not bode well with me because of that. I've had horrible experiences with religion and I cannot take it when people start preaching Armageddon to me.
Well, I've read that there is a volcano that's erupting over there and sure the "Fin Del Mundo" trio are going to be spewing paranoia. I have two choices: deal with it or find another job. Well, I like my job despite the religious fanaticism, and I'm not willing to give it up over a few people who have a bad case of the crazies. I'm just going to have to learn to put on my "End Times Defense Shield" and let it be.
Thanks for reading,