3.10.2012

Grief

I don't know where to begin. I don't know HOW to begin.


I 'discovered' Lex back in either 2004 or 2005. I had been blogging since 2004 and was starting to learn my way around the MilBlogosphere at that point. There weren't a ton of MilBlogs in 2004 and really not all that many in 2005 either. Some came, some went. Some stayed. Lex stayed. I think I followed a link from Greyhawk, poked around, was captivated by Lex's style, and never left. He just had a way about him. But I rarely commented because, in all honesty, I felt completely out of my league and nothing I could say would add anything constructive to the incredible conversations there. So (for once in my life) I kept my mouth shut and just listened. And learned.


The MilBlog Conference started in 2006 and I was fortunate to be able to attend that year and the following year. Lex was at the 2007 MilBlog Conference and was on the Live Fire Roundtable. That year proved interesting in that the Army had gone ahead and passed another knee-jerk reaction to what they perceive as an OPSEC issue. That issue led to some quite heated debates over the wisdom of such a decision and a very interesting panel discussion. It was quite civil but interesting, nonetheless. Noah Shachtman from Wired Magazine took a lot of hits during this panel because of his views on the MSM and how it reports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While I did not agree with him on many points, his ideas were his own (big, in my book), and he did a pretty good job of trying to keep an open mind. The panel was actually a lot more reserved than I had hoped, especially with the new Army regulation coming out about electronic communications and the impact(s) it would have on blogging. I was hoping that Lex would push Noah a little harder on his thoughts but it never went that far. Always the gentleman.


The conference wrapped up and the fun began. The nitty-gritty details (some of them...) are in my AAR. But one of the things I remember most about Lex at that point was the fact that his voice in real life - the way he spoke, the thoughts he conveyed, the way in which he conveyed them - mirrored the way he "spoke" on his blog.


I write pretty much as I speak but I'll go back and look at something I wrote months ago and think, "I wrote that?" because it just doesn't mesh with how I hear myself most of the time. Or maybe it's just the voices in my head, I'm not sure. There was a funny bit going around on Facebook and Pinterest a short while back - a picture of Morgan Freeman and a quote of some kind. And the last line in the quote was something to the effect of, "you are now reading this with my (Freeman's) voice in your head." And the funny thing is that, after meeting Lex and spending the evening just listening to him tell stories, his voice stuck with me and I hear it every time I read something he's written. Every time. Because how he wrote was how he spoke.


We had all been drinking - some of us were rather inebriated - and car keys were taken, for safety, of course. I teased him once that I saved his life and he owed me. He promised to repay and he did. When life hit the fan a short while ago and many people I thought were my friends scattered like cockroaches on the kitchen counter when the light goes on, he was one of several people offering a voice of calm reassurance in the midst of a very dark time. He dropped me a note early on and asked if I was ok. I was not and he talked me back from the edge on several occasions - always with the gentle reassuring tone. And once things had settled down a bit, I could count on him to drop a note here and there, especially if he hadn't seen me at his place or if I hadn't been posting here. Kind of like Pogue and BillT, in that sense (thanks, friends!).


We stayed in touch sporadically and he was always quick to respond if I emailed him, even though (like others have said) there were dozens of us and only one of him. He was good at making you feel special. Even if you weren't.


I remember the first time I commented - not so much which post or subject was discussed - but the joy that was had when he responded. Again, feeling incredibly out of my league over there, commenting took a lot of courage as I really felt I had nothing to contribute to the incredible conversations taking place there. Occasionally I'd get it right and I'd be rewarded (as it were) with a blue rectangle below my comment (indicating the author was responding). I was like a child who's parent acknowledges their hard work. I think I rode that high for the rest of the day and into the next.


I think that was one of the things I liked best about him - he had the same, gentle way about his as my father. And I'm sure he's rolling his eyes right now on being equated to my dad. But that's how it felt - he was kind, generous with his knowledge, always looking to impart some wisdom, and I admired the hell out of him. I am grateful that I had the chance to tell him that in writing and in person.


However, the flip side of that is the grief that I'm swimming in right now. I don't think anything aside from my father's death and the death of one of my students has ever hit me like this. And part of it is the fact that the community that he built up at his blog - the incredible people behind those screen names whose wisdom, insight, and humor I have come to cherish and crave - no longer has an anchor. We are unmoored - literally and figuratively. And that's about how I feel right now - unmoored. Lost. He was an anchor in my life - someone I could turn to (even if it was just virtually) for insight, wisdom, and usually a laugh - and now he's gone. I can't explain this to people outside of the MilBlogosphere. They don't 'get' it. And that's ok but doesn't do much to help the moms in my homeschool group why I'm a hot mess this week. So I just told them that I lost a very good friend this week.


A friend and I were talking earlier this week about the fairness of it all. Not so much his death but the manner of it. Was it fair to subject his family to the small agonies of military life? Was it fair to subject them to the horrible agony of dying as a result of that life? Lex pondered 'the separation thing' in one of his earlier blog posts - one that rings very true today.

There are many wonderful things about a life spent flying fighters off of aircraft carriers, many great rewards from sailing the seas in your country's defense. But I have lost thousands of days that I will never get back, days gone forever. And there are times, gentle reader, when I wonder if it was worth it.



I cannot speak for Lex's family, nor can I speak for my friend (who posed the question in the first place, moreso regarding his own military service as opposed to Lex's) and his family. I can speak for myself - it's worth it. I've told MacGyver on several occasions that I want him to do what fulfills him. I've watched my husband work in a position he didn't want, doing jobs he didn't want to do but doing them to the best of his abilities, regardless. I've watched him fight losing that zeal for life during that time. And - from a more detached and distant viewpoint - we all watched Lex go through the same thing. Life in the cube was sucking it out of him in many ways. As hard as MacGyver has had to work to get back in the cockpit, it's all worth it because that gleam came back into his eyes. His fulfillment was worth it.


If it's your time to go, it's your time to go and it doesn't matter if you're tooling around the Middle East in a flying school bus or flying jets, training the next generation of pilots in the Nevada desert or sitting on your couch watching 'American Idol'.


I just wish it hadn't been Lex's time. I miss my friend deeply. The 'unbearable lightness' is gone and I am unmoored.




Song found in the last video he put up - Ahab.




Pau.




- hfs

12 comments:

Crista said...

Sorry for your loss, friend. Sounds like he had a great impact on you and many others in the blog world. He will live on through all of you.

One day at a time....one day at a time.

Hogdayafternoon said...

Thanks for reaching out to me in England. Military life does all sorts of bad stuff to us families (have 1 young family member in the army waiting to ship out to Af. Another came out a year ago, 12 months after being IED'd, surviving the blast that took his sergeant. Also, I have recently inherited a daughter-in-law who has 2 brothers in the USMC). In my 30 yrs in the police I lost a very few buddies to criminal acts of violence, but I feel Lex'x loss no less than theirs.
Its nice to reach out to each other. Thank you again and bless you and yours.

Tammi said...

You captured everything I've been thinking and feeling so perfectly. Thank you.

And I owe you another Thank You. Rachelle remembered that you had the one picture of Lex and I taken at the MilBlog conf. I hate me in there but it is now one of my treasures. I pulled it off you AAR this morning. Thank you for that.

Teresa said...

Like you I believe that when it's your time, it's your time and it doesn't much matter where you are. I also am glad that he was doing something he loved doing rather than something he hated - somehow it would have made things much worse had he left this life in a car accident on his way home from the cube farm.

I'm so glad he was there for you when you were going through such dark times. That's a wonderful memory for you to keep.

I also must apologize for not dropping you an email during that time. I mistakenly thought there were any number of people in the milblog community rallying round to give you some moral support and I didn't want to say the wrong thing at the wrong time (I more than take after an up and coming young man we know with Asperger's when it comes to having the right words to say - ha). Seems I was wrong about that. *sigh* Figures.

As for Lex, if we can remember him with laughter that would be a most excellent tribute to him indeed. I think he'd be very happy with that.

Bryan Strawser said...

Thanks for the Mumford & Sons video - I had not seen this one and really like their music. A fitting piece.

Bryan

Homefront Six said...

Bryan ~ Kris pointed me to it. I love it, even if it breaks my heart every time I hear it.

Teresa ~ no apologies necessary. You didn't know because I didn't say. It was the people I reached out to in that darkness that turned their backs and walked away that hurt. And you're right - the tragedy would have been had he not been doing what he loved. It doesn't diminish the loss but it makes it slightly easier to swallow.

Tammi ~ I had put it up on FB too. I should have just emailed it to you but my brain wasn't thinking. I'm glad Rachelle reminded you. And I think it's a perfectly fine picture of you. That was a good night.

Hogday ~ one of his lasting legacies is this community he created. Like I said, the idea of losing that hurts just slightly less than the pain of losing my friend. Thankfully that doesn't seem to be the case. I'm glad your family member survived the IED. I have one of those as well.

virgil xenophon said...

Pau/

A lovely post expressing so many of the feelings we all have. Although I don't think I've ever commented here before, and didn't visit on a frequent basis, I've sporadically (and apologies, not often enough) visited to review and keep track of/follow your travails. I guess I should have posted words of encouragement, but somehow felt I was intruding on a very painful subject. I now regret that. Sincerely hope all goes well with your husbands career going forward. What a mess this all has been. Lex was VERY inconsiderate in leaving us all in the lurch, gonna have to have words with him about that someday..

Btw, did you ever meet up w. NaCly Dog?
Also, I spent a lot of time in Kansas City years ago, really love that city/area. Get over there much?

Homefront Six said...

Virgil ~ no apologies necessary. It wasn't my 'imaginary friends' to whom I refer - it was the people in real life that walked.

And I suppose I should let it go (I KNOW I should let it go) so I will. So I have.

That being said, I'm glad you stopped by! This IS a very fine mess he's left us with, isn't it? Poor form on his part. I shall take that up with him the next time I see him. *sigh*

I did meet up with NaCly_Dog and we had a wonderful evening hoisting sodas and downing pizza in Lex's honor. Hoping to have the chance to meet up with him again at some point in the future.

I've not spent as much time in KC as I would like - gas prices being what they are and 14 year old cars being what THEY are. Do you have suggestions? I am heading that direction in a short bit and I'm always open to them.

Kris, in New England said...

HF - I am late coming here. And I am glad I'm here. Beautifully written and echoes so much of my own feelings of the past week. Particularly the dad part; he was old enough to be - my brother. And I think of Lex as my brother yet he was so much like my dad.

Thought processes, how he relates to others - they used to say that my dad entered a room full of strangers and left them friends. My dad died in 1995 and like you, I haven't felt this kind of grief since then.

Homefront Six said...

He was only 11 years older than me so not old enough to be my dad but reminded me of him in many ways.

And, as sad as I was when my dad died, it wasn't a gut-punch like this has been. My dad was 80 when he died, having fought lung cancer, heart disease, open heart surgery, and bladder cancer. So the shock value wasn't there - just the sadness.

Kris, in New England said...

HF - Lex was only 3 years older than me so brother is how I saw him. Yet still with all that he had in common he did inspire me like my dad did.

My dad died rather suddenly - age 63 of kidney cancer, 3 months after diagnosis. We knew it was coming but not that quickly. And FAR too young. My dad would be 81 now; and he'd have loved Lex. He probably would have read his blog and commented often.

virgil xenophon said...

Pau/

Apologies for late reply re KC. I really haven't spent much time there since mid 60s, so most of my "gouge" is dated. I DO know that a good nightclub called The Levee" was still going strong circa 94/95, was sort of a landmark. "Country Club Plaza" (near the Rockhill Club) is one of the finer central-city shopping centers, and the Jack Henry Shop there one of the finest mens clothing stores ANYWHERE.

Perhaps the best approach is to contact "Venemous Kate" at her blog "Electric Venom" IIRC she and her husband came to KC direct from Hawaii circa 2004 when he was in the Army for the Command & Staff school @Leavenworth. He later separated but still teaches as a civilian at the school.
Kate would know all the straight skinny for sure.

(BTW I don't think I've ever commented much there, so my name wouldn't ring a bell. She was quite the caustic party animal in the early years--"slither hither"--but with middle age and children has "adapted" as you will see from her now "frustrated housewife" complete w. hairpins house-robe & rolling-pin logo, lol)