Greg was enlisted from 2001-2008. During this time, he had many deployments. Unfortunately, his last was the longest and the worst. It was at the very end of this deployment that he lost one of his closest friends, Josh.
It's been interesting how much Josh has been incorporated into our lives, even though I have never met him. On our first anniversary (of dating) - September 15th - we realized it also happened to be Josh's birthday. We joke that he gently gave Greg the nudge (or maybe the kick in the balls) that he needed, to finally make a move.
At this point, I was living alone in Seattle and Greg was finishing up OCS at Fort Benning. I was about 6 weeks pregnant when I began spotting - not something you want to see when you're pregnant. My mind jumped to the worst-case scenario. Now, being pregnant and living away from your husband and family is scary in itself. Having a scare like this brings it to a whole new level. I've never been a super religious, go-to-church every Sunday type of person, but I AM a believer and do my best to be a good person. It was that night that I started praying, for the first time in a long time. At first, I wasn't even sure who to pray to, so I just started talking. Almost automatically, I began praying to Josh. To this day, I can't explain it, but I felt an overwhelming calm come over me. The next day, I went to the doctor and learned that everything was fine, that the spotting was normal, and I should try to relax (lol have you met me?).
Later down the road, we were living at Fort Benning, Georgia. I was about seven months pregnant, and we did not know the gender of the baby. I still had this nightly ritual of praying to Josh, though I told nobody. I don't know, I guess people might have thought it was strange, saying a prayer to someone I had never met. But I persisted - it brought me peace and made me feel like someone was looking over whoever was about to make an entrance in a few short months.
It was a Sunday morning when I woke up to a message, from Josh's mom, Dianne. This wasn't out of the ordinary since we stayed in touch pretty regularly, but what she told me gave me chills.
"I know this sounds like I'm crazy, but Josh said the baby was a girl."
Sure enough, Riley Rose was born on April 3rd.
As a reminder of this, Josh's picture has been hanging over Riley's crib, since she was born.
Riley's first word was DaDa, when she was about 8 or 9 months old. To this day, that's been all she says. Now, it makes sense - every morning we say "good morning" to the picture of DaDa on her wall. We also say "good morning" to the picture of Josh, still hanging above her crib.
And EVERY. SINGLE. DAY., multiple times per day, I say MaMaMaMaMaMA to her. No cigar.
About a month ago, I got her out of her crib. Being in a rush, I forgot to go through our usual morning routine. That's when she said it.
At first, I couldn't be sure I heard her correctly. But then she pointed. She pointed to Josh's picture on the wall, and repeated it, "Sosh". As if my heart wasn't melting enough, she started waving and smiling as if they were old pals.
I may have gotten a bit emotional. It's still one of the three words she only says.
No, the third word is not MaMa. It's Dutch. That would be the dog's name. Not the name of the person who birthed her. Anyway...
Whereas I used to be blissfuly ignorant about Memorial Day weekend, it is now a somber reality for my family and those that I love. Still, I try to do what I know they would want us to do, what Josh would want us to do: Live every day to the fullest, tell someone "I love you" as though it's the last time you might say it, laugh like you just heard the funniest joke in the world, enjoy the freedom that we are blessed with, and keep the memory of those that gave their life for it, alive.