Our Keepsake Journal is Here! 🎉

Four years ago today, I got up ridiculously early in the morning to say goodbye to my husband as he was leaving for a six-week training exercise. 

“What are you doing up? You didn’t have to get up.”

“I just wanted to say goodbye.”

I gave him a hug and a kiss as he walked out the door.

“I love you. Have a good exercise. I’ll see you in six weeks.” 

I locked the door and as I turned, I tripped over an extra pair of combat boots he had discarded on the floor. Muttering under my breath, I picked them up and threw them in the closet on my way back to bed. Just as I had a thousand times before over the previous twenty-one years.

Later that morning, I followed the trail he’d left behind him.

An unfinished bowl of congealed oatmeal and blueberries on the dining room table beside his laptop that he forgot (or never bothered) to turn off. Half a cup of cold coffee on the counter by the dishwasher. Pajama pants in a heap at the top of the stairs by the living room (where one naturally would leave their PJs). A plastic army clipboard on the desk in the entryway. 

As I made my way around the house tidying up after him, I wondered if he would ever learn how to clean up after himself. He was a make-work project in so many ways. Never deliberately. He was just forgetful, and scattered, and was so clumsy. He was forever losing or spilling things.

I had absolutely no idea that was the last morning I would ever clean up after him. 

Or that he would never come home again.

When someone we love dies, they leave a vast void in their stead. Where a life once existed, now only memories. 

Those memories suddenly become our most precious possessions. We gather them close to our hearts and replay them over and over on a loop; like a movie reel of a life. We cling to them desperately, hoard them even, for they are all we have left of the person we lost.

We can’t help but think of all the memories that will never be made; all the should-have-beens and momentous occasions they will miss—graduations, weddings, grandchildren born. 

We think of all the unfulfilled hopes and dreams, the aspirations and plans for the future that are now all gone.

We think of the things they will never get to do, the trips they won’t get to take, things they won’t get to see. 

But gone isn’t just those big momentous events or the things they’ll never do.

Gone is so very much more than that.

Gone is a thousand tiny seemingly insignificant, ordinary things we took for granted every single day. Things we may have even once complained about. 

Gone is no more dirty dishes, no half-eaten bowl of oatmeal, no cold cup of coffee

Gone is no more pajamas abandoned in a pile in the most random spot.

Gone is no more PT gear or uniforms to wash.

Gone is no more blackberry constantly buzzing.

Gone is no combat boots in front of the door to trip over.

As I was leaving for my run this morning, I paused in the entryway by the door. I stopped and I listened to an echo of a memory,

“Seriously Daniel, can’t you just once put your damn boots in the closet?”

I looked down at the floor. 

There was nothing there.

Just an empty space.

Sometimes you don’t fully comprehend the significance of something so simple in your life until it is no longer there.

All too often we don’t appreciate how fortunate we are until what we have is gone. 

Not that we are purposely ungrateful. We just get so caught up in the chaos of life, so busy hurrying from one day to the next, we forget to stop and be grateful for all that we have. 

And sometimes in all of the stress, all of the rushing to and fro, we don’t even see how much we have to be grateful for. 

We don’t realize just how meaningful a pair of combat boots by the door really are.

We very rarely stop to think about what gone actually is because, well, we never really think it will happen to us. 

Gone isn’t just some throwaway term or trite cliché used to define the absence of someone. Gone is real, and it’s enduring. 

And gone, it does happen to us. Randomly; unexpectedly. On a sunny May afternoon.

Four years ago today I didn’t know the true meaning of gone. 

I didn’t know just how hard it would be to start over at 43.

I didn’t know about the challenges of only parenting three teenagers. 

I didn’t know about the long lonely years ahead of me. 

And I certainly didn’t know how profoundly sad an empty entryway can be. 

I locked the door behind me and as I turned, I caught one brief, final glance of the empty entryway through the window. I brushed away a tear. Just as I have a thousand times before over the last four years

What’s gone is gone, forever. 

As I ran down my street, I couldn’t help but wonder how many wives were muttering under their breath this morning as they tripped over a pair of combat boots. 

Or how many husbands were grumbling because their wife bought yet another pair of shoes.

It’s so easy to be annoyed by those things, to roll our eyes and shake our heads.

The inconvenience, the cost, the clutter. And why do your combat boots need to be there? Why can’t you put them away? And really who needs that many pairs of shoes? I don’t even want to know how much they cost.

It is only after they are gone that we realize their true value.

Gone.

In one heartbreaking instant.

This morning stop for a moment and look around you. Take it all in—the combat boots, the laundry, the dirty dishes, the blackberry that never stops buzzing, the shoe collection.

Stop and think about what it all represents. 

Appreciate it. 

Savor it. 

Now, while you still can, before it becomes but a memory. 

And as you do, know just how fortunate you are to have it. Every annoying, ordinary, lovely bit of it. 

Because someday you might just find yourself like I was this morning, standing in an empty entryway with nothing but your memories, longing for the musty smell of mud and boot polish on a pair of combat boots that will never be worn again.

Be grateful for those combat boots by your door. 

You truly will miss them when they are gone.

More than you could possibly ever imagine.

This article was originally published on A Goat Rodeo

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Monica Bobbitt

Monica was a military spouse for almost 21 years, until her husband was tragically killed in a LAV rollover during Ex Maple Resolve at CFB Wainwright on May 21, 2014. Monica writes about her experiences as a military wife and widow in her blog A Goat Rodeo, where she openly and honestly discusses what it's really liked to be widowed and shares the wisdom she has learned as she continues to move forward with her life. Monica has three children. Her son Connor is a student at the Royal Military College of Canada, her daughter Elizabeth is a second year German and International Relations major, and her daughter Katherine is in her final year of high school. Monica has a BAH in psychology from Acadia University and is currently enrolled in the University of Calgary's Certificate in Creative Writing program. Monica, her children and their crazy black lab Ginny (as in Gin & Tonic) currently call the picturesque Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia home.

To the Miscarriage Mom with a Broken Heart on Mother’s Day

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Woman holding single pink daisy

Dear Mama, I want you to know—you aren’t alone. Not even by a little bit. Not ever, but especially not today. There are hearts like yours breaking all over the world today. Whether you are grieving one loss or multiple. Whether you already have a healthy family or this would have been your firstborn. Whether you were family planning the natural way or needed a little help from science. Planned, unplanned. Chemical pregnancy, missed miscarriage, late-term loss. Those details don’t matter today. Today, all our hearts hurt the same. We are all part of the same club we never asked...

Keep Reading

Call Your Mom for Those of Us Who Can’t

In: Grief, Loss
Sunset over water, color photo

I never pictured myself without my mama at only 26 years old. I never saw a life when I couldn’t just pick up my phone to call you after the worst day at work. I never thought I would be crying over one of your recipes at Christmas time because I just can’t make it taste like you did. I never thought I would be jealous when I heard my friends talk about meeting up with their mom for a girl’s day. Here’s the thing, yes I knew it would eventually happen, but I pictured the both of us a...

Keep Reading

Dear Cancer, I Thought We Paid Our Dues

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Mother and grown daughter, smiling, color pboto

This is not how it was supposed to be. I am most certainly not made for this. God, why are you forcing me to travel this road again? When my father died after a long, grueling battle with Stage 4 base of the tongue cancer, I very naively thought, bye cancer. Our family paid our dues, and cancer was never to be seen again. I put on a brave face and began to write about my dad’s cancer journey. I believed the more I poured my heart onto a piece of paper the more cancer would stay away for good....

Keep Reading

A Grandmother’s Legacy Never Dies

In: Grief, Loss
A group of kids, old color photo

My grandmother was a Christian puppeteer. She would play the parts of brother and sister, Wilbur and Willette, race their dog King back and forth, and yell in their mother’s scratchy voice from “off stage,” all from behind her big blue curtain while my aunt talked to the puppets and sang from center stage. Sometimes I’d sit on a folding chair behind the curtain with her. Sometimes I’d watch from the audience. From churches to the Iowa State Fair to summer camps, I witnessed hundreds of children give their lives to Jesus. She wasn’t just my grandmother, she was a...

Keep Reading

Losing a Brother, Understanding My Mother

In: Grief, Loss
Sad woman looking out rainy window

At the end of his life, I didn’t like my brother. That feels awful to say. It probably is awful. My brother died at 35 years old of liver failure. It was a long, ugly death full of prolonged hospital stays and frustration. Even before he was relegated to life support and dialysis, the disease changed him. Maybe he knew what was coming, I don’t know. When he did talk, he was rude or short or full of insults. He had withered into a mean, isolated version of himself. Mostly, I was angry at him for refusing to change. I was...

Keep Reading

A Funeral, a Baby, and Whispers of Love

In: Grief, Loss
Newborn baby next to a purple onesie about a grandma in heaven

I woke up and saw a missed call from the hospital. I called her room, no answer. I  called the front desk and was immediately transferred to the doctor on rotation. My mother had crashed and was in the ICU. He asked if I wanted CPR if she coded. I needed to make a decision and come into the hospital as soon as possible. It was the wee hours of the morning, and I made it to the hospital fairly quickly. I grabbed my mother’s hand—it was ice cold. The nurses were talking to me, but I had tuned out,...

Keep Reading

The Last Text I Sent Said “I Love You”

In: Friendship, Grief, Living
Soldier in dress uniform, color photo

I’ve been saying “I love you” a lot recently. Not because I have been swept off my feet. Rather, out of a deep appreciation for the people in my life. My children, their significant others, and friends near and far. I have been blessed to keep many faithful friendships, despite the transitions we all experience throughout our lives.  Those from childhood, reunited high school classmates, children of my parent’s friends (who became like family), and those I met at college, through work and shared activities. While physical distance has challenged many of these relationships, cell phones, and Facebook have made...

Keep Reading

I Obsessed over Her Heartbeat Because She’s My Rainbow Baby

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Mother and teen daughter with ice cream cones, color photo

I delivered a stillborn sleeping baby boy five years before my rainbow baby. I carried this sweet baby boy for seven whole months with no indication that he wouldn’t live. Listening to his heartbeat at each prenatal visit until one day there was no heartbeat to hear. It crushed me. ”I’m sorry but your baby is dead,” are words I’ll never be able to unhear. And because of these words, I had no words. For what felt like weeks, I spoke only in tears as they streamed down my cheeks. But I know it couldn’t have been that long. Because...

Keep Reading

We’re Walking the Road of Twin Loss Together

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Mother and son walk along beach holding hands

He climbed into our bed last week, holding the teddy bear that came home in his twin brother’s hospital grief box almost 10 years earlier. “Mom, I really miss my brother. And do you see that picture of me over there with you, me and his picture in your belly? It makes me really, really sad when I look at it.” A week later, he was having a bad day and said, “I wish I could trade places with my brother.” No, he’s not disturbed or mentally ill. He’s a happy-go-lucky little boy who is grieving the brother who grew...

Keep Reading

Until I See You in Heaven, I’ll Cherish Precious Memories of You

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Toddler girl with bald head, color photo

Your memory floats through my mind so often that I’m often seeing two moments at once. I see the one that happened in the past, and I see the one I now live each day. These two often compete in my mind for importance. I can see you in the play of all young children. Listening to their fun, I hear your laughter clearly though others around me do not. A smile might cross my face at the funny thing you said once upon a time that is just a memory now prompted by someone else’s young child. The world...

Keep Reading