Next month marks seven years since my darling daughter, Josie, was killed. It also marks two years since my kind-hearted, noble son, Julian, was killed. As I rested my head on my pillow last night, my mind raced back to the night of Josie’s fatal head-on collision. My husband rested quietly beside me… He had been with her that night.

Even though I had heard the details a hundred times, I still needed to know more—somehow it is never quite enough to satisfy my yearning to truly understand what happened, and how it happened. The same is true for my son’s fatal car crash that claimed not only his life, but also the life of his Marine brother, Bailey Spencer. My heart is at peace, knowing they are ok and safe “on the other side,” but I cannot help but to continually retrace the timeline of events and every minute detail leading up to those final moments for them all…

“Do you remember what you guys talked about on your way home that night?,” I gently asked my husband. I know it is a very delicate subject for him to discuss. After all, he was the one sitting next to her when a drunk and drugged driver suddenly appeared in their lane, leaving no time for last goodbyes… The next thing he remembers was waking up to her silence.

I have had to learn these details by asking questions, and also listening with careful patience over the years. They are details that cannot be pried out, and they are also details that many do not care to know—but I do. As a mother, it matters so very much to me what my children’s last moments were like… My only comfort is knowing that they are ok now, and that they are together again.

……………………………………………………………………

In the beginning, I quickly learned that I could communicate freely with my Josie. It was such a clear and concise form of communication, and it came so natural, that I did not necessarily realize that not everyone has that same connection with their loved ones on the other side. Minus the ability to actually see her with my physical eyes, everything else about her presence and personality was more accentuated than ever—I knew EXACTLY what she was thinking, feeling, and saying to me… I realize now that this has been nothing less than a tender gift from God—what He left me to help ease the pain of that gaping abyss that her absence created in what was now left of me.

Tears stream down from my face as I write this… Recollecting that most horrific night, I am so vividly reminded of what a precious gift I was forced to forfeit. Even though she is forever mine, and I am hers, the heartache and yearning to be with her again only seem to intensify with each passing season—I never imagined I could go this far.

The night she was killed was also a blur—even though I speak as though each detail is recorded so carefully. In my own pain, I was too incapacitated to fully be aware of the pain my other children and family members were experiencing—it was physically impossible at that time. I did the best I could, but sadly, I remember very little of what went on beyond the shadows of my own personal radius of sorrow and loss…

For example, my husband spent that night in the hospital, and my son, Julian, and my nephew, Adrian, stayed right there with him. I do not really know firsthand how my sweet family faced that first night. I only know my half of it—driving home alone at one or two in the morning with my my eighteen-month-old, Will, and my nine-year-old, Maya. My dad followed carefully behind us to ensure we made it home.

He did not want to leave that night, but for some reason I insisted we would be fine—I just needed to be alone. After finally convincing him to leave, the three of us cuddled together in bed—trying to take cover from the nightmare in which we were now living. I barely slept, waking every few minutes with my heart pounding in my chest as I gasped for breath…

……………………………………………………………………

Julian was brave and strong—even though Josie had been his best friend. I do not know how he did it… He was the rock that held our little family together. I felt so completely lost without her, but he showed us all how to keep moving forward—how to never quit. He became our hero.

It was hard to not feel motivated and inspired in the years that followed, as we witnessed the tremendous post-traumatic growth that took place in his life. The effort and discipline he put into training to become a Marine was something that made my heart both swell with pride, but also secretly ache inside… I did not want him to go.

God eventually made it very clear to me that my son’s “mission” in life was to serve in the military—I felt it in my soul. After that moment, I endeavored to trust, love, and support my Boi fully in what would be a very long and arduous journey for us all. Tears would inevitably spring forth from time to time in our conversations over the years that followed, but I never tried to persuade him to discontinue his goals or make him feel guilty for committing his life to what he felt called to do. I know he was acting in accordance with what was deep in his heart—it was simply who he was.

…………………………………………………………………..

Life in the Marines was marked with some very low times for my Boi, but it also proved to be some of the best moments of his life. He absolutely loved being a Marine, and he loved his Marines even more—they were truly family to him. Though I longed to have my Boi back home again, I knew that this longing was coming more from a place of my own selfish desires, and that in reality, he was very selflessly fulfilling a part of something much larger and vaster than I could ever imagine…

As the end of his contract drew nearer, he began to contemplate his next steps. This is not an easy process for any Marine—deciding whether or not “to get out” or “to stay in.” Julian knew very well what he wanted to accomplish with his life, but the real question became whether or not that involved doing it through the Marine Corps or if it meant transferring to another branch… He even contemplated getting out and coming home for a time and “training” until he decided on his next move. Special operations is where his heart had always been since a very early age, and he had no intention of stopping now—one way or another, one branch or another…

But he really LOVED being a Marine.

In these moments of intense contemplation, in between MARSOC selection, re-enlistment deadlines, quarantines, and what he dreaded most—forced covid vaccines, he was on the cusp of opting to “get out,” at least temporarily, until he could come up with a better game plan. His options for avoiding that were growing slimmer with each passing day. In my heart of hearts, I was so hopeful and eager to have him home again, but in my mind, I knew that this would never be a suitable option for my Boi.

There were rumors about many unknown side-effects with the COVID vaccines… Among those was infertility. I remember vividly when he told me he did not want to get it, because he wanted to have a family of his own some day. It was not a risk he took lightly… My heart was in pieces like it had never been before—as if that were even possible.

Deep down, I knew coming home would go against everything he had ever worked towards and dreamed of doing…. He was a Marine, because he truly felt called to be there. It was his life’s mission. If he came home now, he would feel he had lost his purpose. I feared that he would then be at risk of becoming another statistic—one of the “22 a day…” I had to be strong.

…………………………………………………………………….

I broke down in tears at the realization that he would inevitably decide to “stay in”—even before he told me. I already knew. God even showed me in a dream the week prior to his forced vaccination (I say forced, because it was, but this is a conversation for another time…). I never shared this with him, because I did not want to lay that kind of guilt and pressure on him for his decision to stay in. In the military, everyone has the mindset that you never know when it might be the last time you say “see you later,” or “I love you.” There is no place for hard feelings when your loved ones are thousands of miles across the ocean, with no return in sight…

My Boi was far too good to “get out” of the Marine Corps. He was as honorable and noble as they come. However, I have also come to believe that he was “too good to stay in”—God had something bigger and better in mind for my precious son. This understanding has brought me much peace, and also helped me work through the own guilt I have felt for not begging him to get out when he still had the chance.

I believe, with all the pieces of my broken heart, that he was called to a higher purpose. He is, and ALWAYS WAS, destined to be a mighty warrior… too good to “get out,” but also too good to “stay in”—they both were. Knowing this, I cannot help but rise with each new day—armed and ready to keep fighting…

I know they expect nothing less.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.