I woke up the morning of January 8th, 2008 elated to be alive! I guess you can say David and I grew up together. We met when we were 12 years old. My soulmate. I've held only his strong hands, kissed only his beautiful lips, and slept next to only his gorgeous body. My husband always said I was a "happy" morning person and that morning was no different. Still dark outside when my alarm went off, I gave my body a nice long stretch and as I released my breath the words, "I love you" effortlessly made their way off my lips. I was giddy! I couldn't wait to talk to him again! I checked my phone... No missed call... Ringer volume... on high. I turned my computer on, signed into my instant messenger and turned its volume also on high.
Throughout the day I'd casually checked my phone... no missed call. I wasn't worried. I never had to convince myself he was busy because I knew he was and he'd call as soon as he could... he always did. My phone rang!! ...My mother... I ignored it only to have to ignore it two more times. Finally, I called her back... on the other side of the phone was a quivering voice. I could tell she was trying to stay calm but something was wrong. She convinced me she "wasn't feeling good."
"My heart hurts. Please come home."
"You want me to tell them I'm not coming into work today?"
"Yes, please. Nicole, be careful driving. Drive slow."
I began my drive to my parent's home, my mother's words replaying again and again in my head. Her "heart hurts"?! Confused, I rushed home. Got out of the car. Walk into the house. Dropped my bags. "What's going on guys? Is something wrong with Dad?" My brother was on the couch making no eye contact and my mother was shaking when she began to say, "Nicole, it could be nothing, but the Army is here." And they were. I turned around to find two uniformed soldiers walking up to the front door.
“…On behalf of the Secretary of Defense… On January 8th of 2008... SGT David Joseph Hart... died... in Balad, Iraq from wounds sustained while on a combat mission.” I couldn't believe those words just came out of a soldier’s mouth. I couldn’t believe they knew my husband’s name! Twenty minutes and a couple signatures later, they were gone. My husband, my best friend, and love of my life, died the morning of the 8th. He was killed while I was sleeping and I had no idea.
Papers! Papers! Papers! No one bothered me with the details of the paperwork, which I appreciated, they just told me to “sign here.” The following morning, I was sitting at the kitchen table when more papers were brought to me, I was signing where told... when I saw "it"... A box to be checked next to the word “WIDOW.” I lost it! Literally, I began to scream. My husband had only been dead for a day and at 22 years old I was having to check a “widow” box?!
I've come a long way since my first encounter with the word "widow." It no longer makes my skin crawl or my heart drop. Instead, I can say it as proudly and as easily and I can say, "I am David's wife." There are days when I'm left shaking my head in complete disbelief... Days when I slip into my "dark place." But I am not alone. It's been over a year for me and I know my journey through widowhood has only just begun but -hands down- my greatest gift given to me while on this new journey with David has been having another widow by my side.
David always believed in something bigger/greater then himself. Having the honor of serving the American Widow Project has made that real to me. Love. Love is the life of my soul... Love is unstoppable. Love is bigger than me. I know without a doubt my journey with David does not end with death. I am proud to be his wife and widow... to represent him, to hold his legacy and keep it alive. I would live this life the same again and again because I know he's mine for eternity. My love for him increases often! My husband, my soulmate, my warrior liked to say, "Our love is stronger than death..."
So much reminds me of David and of Hope... all things strong, beautiful, young, and pure. Today... my heart is confident. I am loved.