Each night, when Ian finishes his prayers, he says “Thank you for my guardian angels, Rusty, Lauren and Aunt Rita.” Each of them occupied a place in my heart and when they were taken from this world, so was a piece of my heart, and a small void remained. Over time I learned how to fill that void by honoring their lives, their personalities; “talking” to them when I need a special kind of guidance; and when I am lucky, visiting with them in my dreams.
I think of Rusty especially at this time of year, not only because his birthday is tomorrow, but because of the role that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 had in his life.
Rusty did not perish on that tragic day in 2001. As Special Forces in the US Army, he was deployed and did several tours in Iraq in the years following. We did not lose him in active combat either. We lost him to something much more sinister. We lost him to the darkness that follows so many of our military; a darkness that settles within their souls. They see things we would never want to see; sometimes they are forced or commanded to do things we do not want to know. Their sacrifices are glorified in country western songs; but seldom acknowledged beyond designated dates on a calendar.
I miss Rusty. It’s not like he was here all of the time; but I always knew he was somewhere. The world changed when he left it.
I miss Lauren and Aunt Rita too – Lauren who could always call me out with a wink and a smile; Aunt Rita with her relaxed nature and comfortable use of the term “babe.”
Ian is so lucky to have these guardians watching over him. They were warriors; each in their own right; yet they were compassionate. They each had a sense of humor and sense of adventure. They would always tell him he could do anything he set out to, and would never let him be discouraged by circumstance, age, geography or odds. I believe they will tell him these things in some way.