I was five months pregnant with Finley and home with just Roscoe as Miles was on his fourth deployment to Afghanistan. It was night and I was up in our office on the phone with my sister, Kate. Later in the conversation she said our mom was calling her on the other line and told me to hold on a second while she answered it. She came back and said "can I call you back?" There was something in her voice that made me think she was upset - so I asked if she was ok and she quickly said "yeah, I just gotta go" and promptly hung up. It wasn't much longer until my phone rang. But this time it was Miles. He just said "hun" and I, happy to hear his voice, said "hi babe, how are you?" there was a brief pause before he said "I'm umm, I'm coming home." I knew something was wrong. I stood as my chest tightened up and I held my breath while spitting out the words "are you ok?" He sounded choked up. My mind immediately flashed a picture of him hooked up to a ventilator, calling from a hospital bed. I don't know why I pictured that when I knew he could talk, but that's what I saw. I thought that's why his speaking was fragmented. But he said he was ok. He said, "I'm fine. But, umm, Daren was killed today."
The next thing I know I was on the floor. It wasn't like I fell over, though I guess I kind of did. I just couldn't stand anymore. I was on my knees sobbing, not wanting to hear what he was saying. All I could say over and over was "I'm so sorry." Miles then said he needed his parents phone number. He didn't have it memorized and didn't know if they knew yet. He thought he would have to tell them. My hands were shaking as I pulled my phone away to look up their numbers. I said it would be the hardest call he had to make and told him how much I loved him. He asked if I would be ok and I told him I would call a friend to come over. Then we hung up and I sat upstairs and sobbed. Roscoe came over and sat down by me. He wouldn't leave my side the rest of the night.
Miles did call his parents, but they had already been notified by a Casualty Assistance Officer. I'm thankful he didn't have to be the one to tell them. But when the CAO arrived at their door and told them their son had been killed in Afghanistan, they had to ask "which one?" The thought of that breaks my heart. To wonder what it was like for them to open the door and see the CAO and the Chaplain. Unexpected knocks on the door make my heart sink every time Miles is deployed. His father was in the military himself, he knows what those two individuals knock on your door for. As it turned out, Miles' dad wanted to ensure that didn't happen to me. They offered to send someone to my house to let me know about Daren and he immediately said "don't you dare - she will think it was Miles." I'm forever thankful he prevented that from happening. Miles' parents had to call their youngest, Carmen, and their eldest, Jared and tell them their brother had been killed by an IED. They called my parents and told them what had happened and asked if my parents had any numbers for my friends in Georgia so they could have someone come to the house when I found out. They didn't know if Miles knew and had to assume he didn't and they would need to get word to me (without me thinking it was Miles who had been killed). My mom had called Kate not knowing I was on the other line with her. She told her to get off the phone with me, but to not say anything yet, as they didn't want me to be alone.
My friend Rhiannon came over and just sat with me. I am not even sure how long - I think a few hours. She wanted to see pictures of Daren and hear stories about him. She was with me when I got through to Miles' parents and talked to them. Just as before, the only thing I could think to say was "I'm so sorry."
I flew out two days later to meet Miles at Dover Air Force Base where he would escort his little brother home.
February 20, 2011 is so vivid to me. Even writing this out takes me back and makes me cry. We weren't sure what we wanted to do today to mark the occasion of his passing. Daren's birthday is coming up on March 4th. We want that day to be more of a celebration, especially as Finley gets older. So today we somberly remember Daren. We will laugh at his goofiness and cry at all we've lost, and on Saturday we will be participate in the Hero WOD CrossFit created for him through the efforts of his brother Jared. It will probably make me puke or pass out (maybe both), but I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to being able to do something small, for someone who did so much.
About a week ago Finley was playing with Miles' old cell phone while I was in the bathroom getting ready for the day. "Halo, halo" "bye-bye" and on and on he goes, while "talking" on the phone.
Then he pushed some buttons and I realized that not only has he turned it on, he's making a call. The phone isn't connected to a network, but when I pick it up, this is what I see. Finley had called his Uncle Daren.
It made me laugh. It made me cry. I held the phone to my ear before hanging up, wishing I could hear Daren's voice on the other end.