I'm on my way to my sister’s funeral. Not something I expected to do in the first few days of a new year, but then bad news has its own timeline. Getting the news of her passing really stopped me in my tracks. After the initial shock and sadness came a great deal of reflection and, yes, guilt.
My 30 years of military life have kept me far away from my California roots. Duty stations on the East Coast or overseas meant that there were many times I did not participate fully in family get-togethers or celebrations. My kids grew up hearing about their aunts, uncles and cousins, but not really knowing them. My life became more and more separated from those I grew up with and I became comfortable with that. I mean, I was a military spouse, how could my family of origin or civilian friends possibly understand what I was going through? I relied on my military sisters to get me through.
But that is where I made a huge error. Our different life paths might not be mutually understood, but they were certainly not a barrier to closeness. We have so much more in common than not, and I should have seen that.
It's easy to be absorbed in our every day, and for military spouses our every day consists of long duty days, deployments and going it alone. But even military life doesn't last forever. One day your soldier leaves the Army. It's inevitable.
Once out, you somehow begin to reconnect again, with friends, with family, with your beginnings. Unfortunately, and this is the hard lesson I just learned, you don't always have the gift of time.
My sister passed the day after Christmas and my military sisterhood offered amazing support and condolences. Those friendships forged over trying times and years of shared experiences never fade. But neither do the connections to my youth. Now I don't take phone calls or texts with my remaining siblings for granted. I will work harder to keep them close. My older sister taught me that.