It has been exactly two years since my brother-in-law Ronny, a Captain in the Special Forces unit of the Army lost his life to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on August 2, 2009. The last time I saw him was on the 4th of July, less than a month prior, in Wilmington, NC. As I left my sister’s house that night where we’d all celebrated with fireworks and a barbecue, the last words he said to me were, “Take care of yourself.” Those words stated just a few days prior to his deployment were so selfless and so within his character to care more about others than himself. The motto of the Special Forces is De Opresso Libro, or Liberate the Oppressed, which is exactly how he lived his life. He was known in his family to be Superman crossed with Jack Sparrow, and all 9 of his brothers and sisters recall how he was their best friend.
As I flipped through the pages of my diary from that year, I looked at the last entry prior to hearing about Ronny. It was July 27th, 2009 and I remember that night, not being able to sleep at all. I must have had caffeine after 12 noon, and so I ended up scribbling the following out to the light of my cell phone:
In the puzzle of our family
those that have left us are like the missing pieces
we try to fill in with the
cobwebs of our memories,
A patchwork compilation of lives
strung together by blood
and the persistence of memory.
After hearing the shocking news about Ronny, it made us all wonder how life would ever be the same. Perhaps “normal” re-assimilated. Every 4th of July carries extra meaning, seeing pictures of Arlington National Cemetery immediately spring forth a well of tears, and every August 2nd makes us feel heavier in our chest knowing what an amazing brother, son, husband, and father we’ve lost from this present reality.