Later that night, I was enjoying the evening with two friends who also lost their husbands in Afghanistan. A lady who knew them but not me felt the need to tell everyone who was part of our conversation that I was at "that" table with them. She said it over and over, as if I wouldn't know what she was referring to, and as if her friends would somehow pick up on the fact that I was a widow as well. I was careful to make sure I didn't touch anyone that night, to make sure they didn't get infected with my disease. "That" table felt almost like a scientific observation- where everyone just observed what the "widows" were doing, how they were acting, and their every move. But, no one dared to approach the specimens. Only the bravest of the brave.
This brings me to the reason why I decided to name this blog "leprosy". I have often compared my status of being a war widow to this incongruous disease. As soon as people find out that I have this derangement, they run away as fast as they can and do not want to get near me. As sad as this may sound to many of you, it is the truth. It is a common trend that I've heard all around the world with people who have lost someone close to them. The general public does not know how to deal with death or loss. I do not mean this blog to be mean to those of you that do not know how to deal with death or address someone who has been so closely affected by it. I am just trying to be real, to be honest, and let you see what my life is like, what our lives our like- as an American war widow.
Whether it be my neighbors who stare at me when I walk outside, and when I turn my head to look back and smile, they quickly turn the other way and pretend they never noticed me, or whether it be my own best friends who don't know what to say to me, so they say nothing at all- the world seems to love avoiding me. Many of you who will be reading this don't know me. I don't walk around sulking in my own misery. I am the same person I always was, but I have lost a huge part of me. I don't start crying at the drop of the hat, and don't make situations awkward. I am about as normal as open as someone in my situation can be. I just have one problem...I love to talk about Chris. I love to talk about his life, his accomplishments, and our love. The problem is, other people do not want to talk about it with me. They don't know how to address the issue, or even to let me talk about it with them. I recently took off my wedding ring because I needed a break from the questions. Not for my sake, but for everyone elses. See, I don't mind telling people my husband gave his life for their freedom- they are the ones that cannot handle it. They are the ones that change the subject or all the sudden have to go to the bathroom. Or, they tell me that they know exactly what I am going through because they just lost their dog. Or, they say, "Oh, I just sprained my ankle, I know exactly what you're feeling." I know people mean well, but people just have no idea how to deal with death. Please don't compare my husband's horrific war death to your goldfish dying.
See, when someone loses someone special in their life, I've noticed that they still want to talk about them, but other people do not want to talk about it with them. In my situation, where my husband was killed in war, I want to talk about him all the time. I want people to know about the sacrifice he made. Chris cannot walk around and show people his battle wounds, or his Purple Heart, because he is dead. The only scar of his that remains is me. I am the only remnant of his sacrifice. There is no one to remember him unless I do- and you do. We must preserve his memory, and let people know that there's still true patriots that are willing to give it all for the American dream, and the concept unknown to the world other than America- freedom. Please don't let him be forgotten.
After Chris was killed, many thought and assumed that the military community rallied around me. A few people did, but those that were closest to us fled far away. I want you to know that this is not a blog to make anyone feel bad, to point fingers, or to say anything negative publicly. I am simply stating what happened in my life. All of the military wives that I had some kind of contact with previously ran far away. Nobody knew what to say to me, and nobody wanted to look at me. I needed help, and no one was there. I was a fresh open wound, I represented their worst fear- and I still do. To this day many people will not look at my face, they will not get close to me. I go to functions, I smile, I say hi. Some people come and just want to hug me, but most, run far away. It's almost as if I'm a leper. People do not want to face their fears, they do not want to face reality that a soldier has been killed, and people do die in war. Although the general public cares, and they want to be there, there's only a small group of people that really get my husband's sacrifice. America likes to be an America at peace, and a military at war. They don't want to know what goes on over there, they like to live in their little peaceful houses, with their little wicker outdoor sets, and barbecues, and they don't want to face the reality that people like you and I, their next-door neighbors, are dying in Afghanistan and Iraq. America's war weariness is very high, they're sick of this war. Many just want to forget about it. I have even been asked if we are still in Afghanistan. Many people thought the war ended years ago. People do not pay attention to the news- they do not pay attention to our country.
They say that if you don't know what to say, don't say anything at all. I do not agree with this. We want you to say something, we want to know you care. We are not going to infect you with a disease. Do not be afraid to ask me questions about my husband, do not be afraid to talk to me about him. Believe it or not, we are not flooded with help. None of us are. Don't be afraid to offer help- or to just do something without asking. After my husband died, so many people thought I was overwhelmed with help, but this was not the case at all. It was the same with almost every other war death I am familiar with- very few people actually were there for us. We are living the cost of war- it is our life. Do not be afraid to approach us- do not be afraid to acknowledge our loss, or our life. It's always more awkward and more offending when someone doesn't mention the elephant in the room. When my husband first died, and I would see people that I haven't seen since he was killed, it was always more awkward when I knew they wanted to tell me that they were sorry for my loss, but they didn't know how to say it and didn't want to offend me. It was always much better once they got it out of the way, and then we could move on with our conversation.
Please remember that nothing you will ever do or or say will change the fact that I still think about Chris every minute of every day. So if you bring him up, it's not like, "Oh my gosh I forgot this happened, and you just reminded me." It's not something that I'm ever going to forget about, and it's not something that will ever bother me to be brought up. It is the greatest honor of my life to be Mrs. Christopher David Horton, and it always will be my honor to keep his memory alive. After all, not many men lived with such a sense of honor, duty, and patriotism as him. It is a story that needs to be told, and a hero that needs to be remembered.