|Grief (M.A. Reilly 2016)|
I had to look away from my laptop.
I had to.
Watching the attention Mr. Trump placed on the widow of the dead Navy Seal felt like a car wreck I came upon suddenly, without notice, and as much as I wanted to look away, I also feel drawn to witness. Yes, to bear witness to Carryn Owens' pain.
Widow to widow.
But I failed and I couldn't look as it raised for me the pain of my own husband's death that happened nearly a year ago. I turned my head and said a quick prayer that Ms. Owens' shock and pain might be lessened somehow--but I doubted it. I wondered if the loneliness she is just beginning to name wasn't more pronounced in that hall with hundreds standing and cheering. After those present, those who had been standing and cheering sat down, their lives would continue on unabated. They will not carry this loss beyond that moment. Carryn Owen's life has been altered tragically. After the applause she remains the widow and now a single parent.
Those who have not lost a husband--who have not lost in the flash of a moment their imagined and desired future, cannot possibly understand that even the most well intentioned and politically-free talk will not cure what hurts beyond expression. Words will not heal. Someone who should not have died is dead and nothing said in that room will alter that reality. Carryn Owens' surrounded by so many others is painfully alone.
Today, I had more courage and watched the exchange. I saw her lips moving as she look skyward and remembered in the moment how I had gazed skyward as I communed with Rob. At those moments I needed his support especially when the kindness of others undid me. I wondered what story Mr. Trump wanted the presence of the widow to suggest. Her grief is so new, so raw, so personal, so lonely. What were we to make of that? And why? What's the narrative here? What did Trump mean when he directly addressed Ms. Owens' and said,
“And Ryan is looking down, right now, you know that? And he’s very happy, because I think he just broke a record."
When I heard him utter this, I could not imagine he was talking about the applause--as if something so fleeting, so banal might be a source of the serviceman's happiness. There is nothing happy here for this family.
Why put her on display? And before those of you say she had free will and accepted the invitation--I would say that much of the weeks following a shocking loss are weeks where decision making is impossible. Yes, impossible.
A few days after Rob's death, after everyone went home and Devon went to high school, I sat in the dining room of our home for more than two hours staring out the window unable to make decisions about the most routine of things. Pay the electric bill? Call EZ-Pass to begin to have the account shifted from Rob's name to mine? Contact our insurance company to stop coverage for Rob?Send a death certificate and copy of the will to the car company so that Rob's beloved car could be transferred to me? Make dinner? Do the laundry?
Every action reinforced my husband's absence. In the quiet of the house I did not want to hear he was gone as I kept expecting him to come through the front door. In short, I was a mess and as I imagine is true for most widows I was also so very lost, so very vulnerable and frankly unable to be responsible for most anything, save my son.
Why didn't Trump simply acknowledge the immense sacrifice of the Owens'? Why display the widow?
As I wondered about Ms. Owens, I recalled the Republican convention last summer and the moment when 4 parents, one after another, spoke about their dead children and blamed either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama for their children's deaths. It was politicized speech stuck onto the backs of the grieving and as I wrote then, it made me ill. Call me cynical, but this speech by Trump also felt manipulative. There has been speculation about the readiness and support for the Seal team in Yemen. But also significant, there is the complete absence by our commander in chief, Mr. Trump, to accept responsibility for a mission that went wrong. A mission that resulted in the deaths of Chief Petty Officer William Owens and 20 civilians, including women and children. Mr. Trump, only a few days ago, publicly stated that it was "the generals" who lost Owens. He seems to have washed his hands.
Yet it was Trump, and only Trump, who sat that evening over dinner with his son-in-law, political advisor Bannon, Mattis, Dunford, Pence and Flynn and green-lighted the mission. The president gave the go ahead and should be responsible as presidents are for the outcome. Instead of bearing responsibility we are left with Trump blaming the generals and displaying the widow.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
This is not presidential.
This is cowardly.