Tag Archives: Marine Corps

Undulations Ahead

17 May

Yesterday I worked late. Yesterday I was joyful with the people I encountered, who encountered me. Yesterday I thought I would be OK today. Yesterday I was wrong. I awoke this morning, May 17, 2017 and was instantly hit with the flashbacks to this day four years prior. The day I lost my son. Being hit with flashbacks is not a new occurrence; they come often. The difference in today is that the mere fact of the date takes me down. If I use a fighter’s analogy, I am quick on my feet and able to dodge the hits, normally. And then today’s date comes around and I am laid flat–it is the one swift blow. Back to the drawing board of training, but first I must make it out of my bed.

Today I struggled to eat. The struggle is result of knowledge battling feeling. I know my body needs nourishment. I know if I don’t eat a migraine will be triggered. I know these things. And yet I feel only sorrow and somehow it tricks my body into believing it’s nourished. I feel the headache and yet the flowing tears beg more attention than the aching in the cranial region. I avowed all day long to get my self out of bed and take a shower, brush my teeth, get something done. In bed I remain, even as I type.

Flashbacks don’t always give fair warning; they sometimes hit out of nowhere and command the fierce attention of reverting back to the scene of the pain. So many moments to revert to. Too painful to even write them down, even just the slightest. It is the dodge of the hit that compels me forward. I cannot handle the pain (quasi nod to Carly Simon here), I cannot live in its presence. This just might be me; others might have a different method or capability. But mine is the inability to dwell in the place of remembrances—can’t do it and live. Hence my stay in bed today, my swollen eyes and my bad breath (courtesy the omission of tooth brushing in bed). *my apologies to those who sat with me in my bedchamber today, the odoriferous scene was not a pleasant one.

At least this date gives a fair warning of its coming, much like the signs I read as a kid in my Aunt’s Sacramento neighborhood, “Warning, Undulations Ahead” – the word undulation has since intrigued me, what a beautiful word. Did you ever consider the letter “u” could be so fancy? I just love it! That there, folks, is my best attempt at getting up. Dodge the hit and counter attack with a distracting nonsensical statement. You see the sun is setting and I am looking into the eyes of tomorrow, when I will again get up and resume the fight. So though at present it seems the referee will make the count to “three” alongside my repose, I am actually still in the game and so I must shakily forge ahead—undulations and all.

I hate today. I hate this story that is mine. But tomorrow I will love, and joy again I will find.

Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12:12-13

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Veterans, The Least of These?

9 Nov

A scripture exerpt: Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ “Then He will answer them, Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ ~Matthew 25


 

*Personal Disclaimer: My mind is full of so many details and directions. I will attempt to briefly lay out the gist and hope for a cohesive presence.

It is inconceivable to me that our veteran’s suffer at the hands of a medical system inadequately established to care for the men and women who offer their body, mind and often times spirit in sacrifice for the rest of us. Why are the powers-that-be not reorganizing this health care system to better accommodate the needs at hand? I exhale loudly as I contemplate the complexity of the question. The profound respire of frustration.

You see I sat with my son for each and every appointment he had at the VA. There were many and at various locations–Los Angeles, Long Beach, Laguna Niguel. Hoped for Palo Alto, but denied. Looked into La Jolla, denied. We would bring our own lunch cooler, games and the best patience we could muster. Neurology, for example: After the 3 to 4 hour wait, we would meet with a resident doctor from the local University California system. The resident would take notes. Another hour and then the specialist would enter the room. Despite the notes from the resident, the same questions would fly. And result? Nothing. “Sorry but I don’t think the VA will approve that treatment. I’ll submit the request but it is doubtful. I’ll see you back here in another month.” And commonly the appointment is re-scheduled because the speciliast has to travel to teach.  What in the world is the VA doing using military veterans as tools for the educational system? The UC system is impacted in and of itself, let alone sharing it’s depletion with the VA. …it boils my blood.

I am getting closer to sharing Cole’s story, or at least pulling back the veil in snipets. His story is complex and well layered. He was on the front lines in Afghanistan with a malignant brain tumor, but was told he had mental illness. Three Army hospitals failed to extend the proper diagnostics to catch the tumor early on. In fact it was Cole who sensed the issue, but only after grappling for months with what the Marine Corps was telling him–that he was subpar. And of course they would think that, the Army hospitals were confirming as much. His tumor was discovered here in our home hospital, only after Cole insisted in the ER that he would not leave without a CT scan. End scene.

This morning my husband asked the most unusual question, “Would you want to hike up to the flag pole with me today?” Now if you know me, you know that I LOVE to hike. You would also know that Brian (my other half) does not. So when he asked me, and being I had the day off from work, I jumped at the chance and gave an emphatic, positive reply. Being that Veteran’s Day is heading toward us this week, my heart is a bit sensitive. Veteran’s Day also falls the day before our daughter’s birthday. These two dates are bitter sweet for our family. Without Cole by our side, celebrations of any kind are. And the flag pole hike is one that I have traversed with Cole alone, prior to his tumor discovery. So this morning as I was retracing steps long ago taken with my son by my side, and being the very trail is named “Patriot Trail,” additionally the flag waving atop the ridgeline was secured as an Eagle Scout project (Cole earned his Eagle Scout in January of 2009) my mind was busy in pondering. I thought of our own story, layered and well suited for a lawsuit or two. But as I think of the legal road, I can’t escape the question, “for what and to whom would that benefit?” I can sue the Army, Marine Corps and VA but that won’t bring Cole back to our family. Sure a little financial gain is a temptation, I won’t lie. Especially as expenses from the experience mount. But the gain of financial security seems pointless when Cole’s story is the unfortunate story of many of our veteran’s. No, I must hang on and invest the energy needed to “tell the tale” for the greater good–the men and women still living.

One of Cole’s best friends from the Corps is one such person. In Texas he is currently experiencing the same “run around” for a condition that should (and could) easily be remidied. When I think of my calling as a servant of The Most High, I cannot forget the living. And as such I remember the words of Jesus as written in the book of Matthew. Of course with teaching from Jesus there are multiple lessons imparted, though I am honing in on “the least of these.” Essentially Jesus is saying to those he is teaching that when considering people of lesser circumstances, you are simultaneously considering the Heavenly Father. And should you disregard those facing unfortunate pathways, you also disregard God. Thus to garner favor for the Bent family only feels wrong, when so many are presently living Cole’s story. Which brings me to my next question, “how did our military veteran’s get relegated to the category of ‘least of these’?” The idea of it sickens my soul.

This Veteran’s Day I will visit the grave of my son. I will hate every minute of it. But amidst my sorrow and longing for his return I will also seek strength. Strength to find the path of action which will lead to reform. Our military service people deserve it.

Patriot Trail San Juan Capistrano

Rivka at the Flag Pole on Patriot Trail

 

Today I Laughed

7 Dec

I am not typically a girl who likes to use certain four-letter words.  But you know what?  I have found that under certain terms and conditions, the F-word is of best service.  For instance, this morning I awoke with the heaviness of the “ache” of sorrow upon my soul.  And to help myself from crumbling under its weight, I proactively began attacking chores such as cleaning in and around the house (a nice distraction to getting my bills paid).  The unsuspecting cabinet that fell under my need to clean was the swimming pool “stuff” and beach bag cupboard.  Now that’s a pretty benign cleaning adventure…or so I thought.  Expired sunscreen, trashed.  Old sun hat whose elastic band has expanded, trashed.  Frida Kahlo and Deery Lou beach bags, saved!  I do believe you are getting the picture, or are you?  Waterproof, adjustable sunhat worn by my son during his Boy Scout adventures…saved.  The ache upon my soul moves to the gut–stay ye down oh breakfast of mine–clean Rivka, clean.  Sifting out the swimmers ear drops–the half used bottles, and organizing the ear plugs and wax, I came upon a prescription bottle.  My first thought, “oh this must be an old prescription belonging to Buddy the dog.”  I picked it up and read the name, Cole Bent.  What?  What is a prescription of Cole doing hiding in the swimming pool auxiliary pile?  Then I read the prescription, Gabapentin, and the memories flooded in hard–the adverse effects this “hopeful drug” set upon the soul of my suffering son.  The brain is such a complex entity and because his was so intruded upon with not only the tumor, but the hemorrhage and then surgery, he suffered unknown pain in severity.  The team of specialists had hoped Gabapentin would be the cure-all medication that would quell the rogue messages of the brain.  Nope, on the contrary my dear Watson…it sent him into a downward spiral, falling fast into despair.  Well I will spare you the details of the dramatic trauma of that week as our family, doctors and close friends rallied to keep Cole from succumbing to the medicinally induced disdain of life.  But I will share that this morning as I held that bottle in hand, and instantly was transported back to that time (coincidentally also in December), the only word that could honestly assist me in the moment contained four letters, none of which resemble anything close to eloquence but fitting to the occasion just the same.  …I must have put that bottle up in the cabinet so that it could not be found, at least that’s my best guess.

Our family has several of these “little moments” frequently.  We miss our Cole so very much.  How do you cut off an integral member of the unit and not lament the absence?  Their void is felt at every turn.  In fact, at this time of Christmas we are faced with the dilemma of the Christmas Tree.  The tradition in our family which not even the Marine Corp and their intrusive orders prevented from happening.  In fact, it is only the transfer of Cole to Heaven that has impeded upon the Bent family Christmas tree tradition.  For 22 years, Cole was a part of picking out the tree with Brian (and sometimes me) and then we would put on Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas and decorate the tannenbaum together.  When Esther entered the picture, it became the tradition of the 3 with mom (me) waiting at home (mostly because the truck sits three people).  Well last year, our first Christmas without our beloved son and brother, we ran away to Disney World in Florida.  It turned out to be a good choice for us.  But this year, with Esther being in college and the need to be fiscally conservative, we are having to stay home.  So yesterday as I was, again suppressing the guttural pain of loss as I passed by many a Christmas tree lot, I announced to Brian, “We can decorate for Christmas but we cannot have a tree!”  He looked at me quizzically until his eyes met mine, at which time he understood perfectly–No Cole, no tree!

Now not every day is full of inescapable pain, though the loss of our Cole is a constant upon us.  In fact, during the Thanksgiving holiday we had quite a few opportunities to deviate to other emotions.  For instance, when the oven caught on fire and the flames continued to grow as the chefs du cuisine were standing around watching the inferno rise, I’m pretty sure I tapped into the irritation and almost-panicked set of emotional responses.  And then next day, post the firestorm, when sitting around the kitchen table playing a board game with family, my brother-in-law and I were tripped off by some nonsense, sending both of us into a 10 minute state of hysteria.  The first time I have laughed, truly laughed, since before Cole’s passing.

It hit me in the moment, while I was listening to the joyous sound of my own laughter, that I was laughing.  It is really tough to explain on paper, which is why the previous sentence seems ill constructed.  But truly I had forgotten the sound of my own elation, and for a 10 minute window on Black Friday, I was given the gift of remembering…

In the remembrance, buried under the surface of the expressed emotion, is hope found.  Perhaps just a glimmer, but enough to be considered of value.  And because of that moment of joyful intervention, when I announced to Brian the “no Christmas tree” policy, the little voice of hope was simultaneously reminding me that one day, perhaps if we are blessed with a grandchild (or children) who need the policy overruled and a new tradition instated, a Christmas tree will return to the Bent house for a new round of memory making and joy.

Hope.

rivka bent

“smile though your heart is aching…”

 

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