So, it has now been eleven years since Thomas was killed in Mosul, Iraq. On the 11th anniversary, 11/11, the weather was perfect, as it had been here that day. This is what we did:
Anna and I aimed to run 11 kilometers in honor of 11 years. In the last year, a local meet-up of Wear Blue: Run to Remember has gotten very active in Columbia, Maryland. They usually meet at Centennial Lake, a man-made lake in Centennial Park (go figure), because it is about 2 and a half miles around the lake on a paved path that is well-maintained. These meet-ups usually happen on Saturday mornings but the leader, Chris, proposed a Veterans Day meetup in addition. Much conversation ensued and we all settled on 7 a.m., with Grandpa Richard designated as child-minder and dog-walker, while Anna and worked our way around the lake three times. Leah's other grandpa, Bob (an ultra-marathoner and a veteran) came to run too, and Jessica, one of the chairs of the Montgomery County Veterans Collaborative brought her baby in a stroller, and a number of the Wear Blue regulars came as well. We held our Circle of Remembrance, and we all remembered Thomas (Army Specialist Thomas Doerflinger echoed around the circle) and then we ran in the gorgeous, breezy morning, realizing we had all done a very Thomas thing. No one thought to set their various GPS devices or pedometers to metric measurements as opposed to miles. So, in the end, we kind of guessed our way to the 11 kilometers and probably overshot a little. It was wonderful. Matthew is the best runner of us all, but he's been climbing rocks in Kentucky for the last few months so had to do his purposeful miles on his own.
Anna had to leave for work so we headed directly home from the run. Maria arrived mid-morning and we set off for Columbia again to have lunch together! (Food featured heavily in this day.)
Maria had to head back to southern Maryland late in the afternoon, but we did stop at the cemetery for a few minutes before she left. Peaceful.
We had pizza and beer (and wine) and toasted Thomas with friends in the evening. It was a nice evening, surrounded by friends and family as we observed this anniversary.
Beginning again though: Today I realized that it has been 11 years since the day after the funeral. This is really the day when we paused and began to think about how the future would look. There was nothing left to plan, just the aftermath of a death. Over the next few months we would have to replace the refrigerator and redo the bathroom (both taxed past their limits by intensive use during November), figure out how to claim Thomas's bank account, sort through some of his belongings and just close the door on others for a while, try to connect with his friends and continue to watch the accomplishments and trials of Deuce Four. We had to figure out how to live with knowing we weren't going to see him again. Still working on that.
So here we are. The weather today has been beautiful, a little breezy again, a little cooler than it's been for a while. Despite the autumnal feel to the air, it also feels hopeful. Yesterday was grim and grey with rain and fog but overnight it cleared out, making way for blue sky and sunlight. Kind of a metaphor really . . .