Beautifully Broken

Thinking about the different twists and turns my life has taken, I sometimes wonder, “How I am still standing?” My life has had so many unbelievable chapters, I am hesitant to talk about them in great detail, or all at once. It seems too hard to believe that so much has happened to just one person.

Yet, it’s just me. All the twists and turns have made me who I am. And I like who I’ve become. I try to be a person of integrity, humor, and a bit of sass. Sure, when I look in the mirror I don’t always like what I see, but I’m a work in progress, as we all are. The cover doesn’t always match the book. There is a song I like by Gov’t Mule called Beautifully Broken, there is a verse that goes something like, “She’s so beautifully broken, shaped by the wind, dangerously twisted…” That’s how I feel sometimes.

Mosaic heart by charmin foth

I have often described Andy’s passing as the event that shattered me. I felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to the full-length mirror that was my life. The force of the blow exploded my world into a million sparkling pieces and left them at my feet to figure out what was next.

Amazingly though, this isn’t the first time I’ve been shattered, I’ve been broken so many times that some of the fragments have turned to dust and there is no picking up those pieces. The dust gets swept under the rug. I don’t think a person ever loses the trauma they survived, it comes back from time to time as the dust blows around and you have to sweep it up again.

Each time my life shattered, I bent over and started picking up the pieces and gluing me back together, one piece at a time. I didn’t know what else to do. I have never been a negative person, I truly believe every experience teaches us something. There is a Nelson Mandela quote that says something along the lines of “I never lose, I either win, or I learn.” So, I am learning as I go. Living is about learning.

For the last two years, I have picked up one piece after another and put it back where I felt it fit best. Remembering parts of me that I lost, finding new colorful pieces to add. The thing about shattered mirrors is you see yourself from every possible angle. If I’m honest, I know the parts that need work, the parts that don’t show me in the best light, the parts that are rough and jagged, the parts that are smooth and shiny, there are so many different pieces, but they are all me. All the pieces still fit together, just not in the same way.

I shocked myself. One day I looked up and almost all the broken pieces were put back together. The mosaic of shattered pieces had created a beautiful heart that was ready to beat again and a spirit of resilience I want to share with others. The mirror of my life will never be a mirror again, but by being broken, by God helping me piece it back together I have become something new. My life doesn’t look the same as it did before, truly, I’m not the same person I was before. Each time I have been shattered, and I get it together again, I am different. Life shapes us, the mosaic changes. It is still the same pieces creating a new piece of art. It is hard to understand, but I am the same, yet different.

I like who I am now, I’m not perfect and never will be, but who wants perfect? Perfect is boring. I would much rather be real than perfect, and I think I’m finally comfortable with that concept. I recently told someone, we are all broken, and it doesn’t matter how broken we are, it matters what we do with the pieces. If the pieces of my brokenness can somehow help mend the pieces of your brokenness, I think that’s God at work in His truest form.

A Veterans Day Letter

Ready the Troops

A letter to Sgt. Andrew Foth,

It is hard to grasp that it has been two years since you left your service on this earth for God’s service in heaven.

As I write this it is Veterans Day, 2022. November 11, people around the country are showing gratitude and celebrating with parades and ceremonies, giving honor to those who have served our country. But today, I am honoring your service, not only to our country, for which I am grateful but as a friend, a lover, a husband and so much more that words can’t even describe.

I have so many memories of Veteran’s Days of the past, days during your service, and the days after your 15 years in the Army. I believe that like so many soldiers before, you exited the Army, but the Army never left you. I believe it carried on with you. 

I remember that while you didn’t always agree, you always served with honor. You always cared for those who served under you and served with respect to your superiors, even the difficult ones in ranks above you. 

I remember the countless times TAPS brought tears to your eyes. 

I remember you would talk to and listen to another soldier just because they needed that time, even when you felt you needed to be somewhere else. 

I remember Thanksgiving for soldiers who had no family. 

I remember field exercises where you came home bruised and battered, not because of the training, but because of the wrestling matches or volleyball games that bonded your platoon together. You had everyone’s six. 

I remember your twisted sarcastic sense of humor that lightened the hard times and shed light on things that needed attention. 

I remember the angry, stubborn upset times. Times when it had to be your way, but there were also the soft times when holding my hand made everything better. 

I remember that after exiting the service, you put on a uniform and went to war memorials on Veterans Day to talk with the old-timers in wars before yours.

I remember that whenever you saw someone else who served, you thanked them for their service. I find myself doing this now because of you. 

I remember not so very long ago, visiting the cemetery where your ashes now reside, checking on the graves of those you knew and those you didn’t. And you standing at the flag at half mast and saluting as TAPS played. 

I remember your quiet times when your visions of the past took you to seek peace in a Savior who understood.

I remember. 

I will always remember.

Today, this November 11th, I sit in a cabin overlooking a lake watching it rain. No internet, no cell phone, no TV. Just God and me, talking, listening, writing. Honoring you. Honoring God. Leaning into the still small voice. 

I celebrate your new service because I have no doubt you are serving in God’s Army, readying the troops for what is to come. My vision of Veterans Day forever changed, while I still honor those who serve, I now honor your service with God. 

As I write this I cry cleansing tears. I feel like God is crying along with me as the rain falls on the cabin by the lake. I cry not because I would remove you from your post in heaven, but because I miss you more than words can say. There is no one like you. Your memory and our life together is a part of who I am. The struggles we overcame together made me stronger. Our times apart made me more independent, but also made me appreciate you all the more. The deployments, the permanent changes of station, the packing, the unpacking, the life changes, the friends, the hopes, the dreams, the farewell, they all shaped me. You shaped me. I pray that I can share the memory of you with your daughter and granddaughters and that the memory of you might shape them too. 

God may have another in my future or my time here may require a different focus, I’m not sure. I am ok with that. I am secure in who God created me to be. God’s got me. I am not living in your shadow but remembering the wisdom gained from our lives together. Many won’t understand that. One of the first lessons of our life together, you told me, ”If you had not been through everything in your life, the good, the bad, the heartbreak, the struggles, each decision, each step led you to me.” Now it is time to see where the next step leads. 

God cries with me because He knows my sorrow, He understands my missing you. He understands my anxious heart. He gives me peace, comfort, and amazing joy. He leads my way forward. He sees my future, and even though I am anxious about what may come, He soothes my worries and I am forever thankful for this. 

There is a verse that has been rattling around in my soul and it gives me peace. “Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” John 16:22

So as you ready heavenly troops for what is to come, I know you are where God wants you to be. I know God still has work for me here and I do my best to honor that service. We are working on opposite sides of the line for the same cause, moving forward a step at a time.

Until forever,

Me

Happy Anniversary, Baby

Hello again, my life has been upended since my last post. My world shattered into a million sparkling pieces, each piece a memory, some are smooth and reflective and some are jagged and cut deep. I’ve been encouraged to write about the memories, to share the wisdom, the pain, the joy, and the humor that God has given me on this journey.

On November 11th, Veteran’s Day, my husband died. It was his favorite holiday, where he saluted and shared veteran stories, and spent time with the older guard to hear their stories. It was a reverent day for him and now it will always be for me.

It wasn’t COVID, we didn’t know it was coming. He went to work on November 10th, like it was any other day, and he had a massive stroke on a job site. He was life-flighted to UT hospital where they removed several clots, and they were hopeful he would recover somewhat, but he stroked again in the middle of the night.

How I wish I had that morning to do over again. I would have held him a little longer, kissed him a little deeper, but I sent him on his way with a quick “I love you. See you tonight, and keep me posted on your day.” I know he knew I loved him, but I needed more time.

Best Anniversary Gift EVER! Surprise Vow Renewal.

We had been together for 26 years. Married for 24 years, this year on May 30th, it would have been 25 years. The running joke between us was that he would never be able to top our 15th wedding anniversary. Listen up husbands, because Andrew set the bar really high, he knew how to bring out the big guns and make things special. He paid attention and he GOT me, he knew WHO I was and what MATTERED to me. I didn’t need lots of pomp and circumstance, or extravagant gifts, I needed laughter, honesty, loyalty, and love and he gave me all of those in abundance.

Our wedding was on May 30th close to Memorial Day, a military 4-day weekend. We both had to work that day but agreed to meet at the Montgomery County clerk’s office during our lunch hour. We paid $15 to get married and I still say it was the best $15 we ever spent! I remember we both cried because the county commissioner, Joe Creek, who married us, did the most beautiful ceremony. I wished we had videos or photos of it, but we were so poor at the time we didn’t even own a camera. Andy was in fatigues and I was in office attire, we had sliver bands, not gold. Andy loved to tell folks he took me to McDonald’s for our reception and he let me supersize. He went back to the flight line at Ft. Campbell and I went back to the office, where my boss got me a funeral arrangement of flowers and laughed that we really knew how to throw a wedding! The party of life began after we got home that evening.

Now fast forward 15 years, 2011. The few months before our wedding, he was making plans, he had every person in the church in on it and kept it close to the vest. I didn’t know a thing. On the morning of our anniversary, he told me to wear a dress I liked and meet him in the car. It was Memorial Day weekend and he usually did something to honor fallen veterans, so I didn’t think anything about it. He had invited some of our family, friends, and coworkers to church and to lunch afterward.

Still, it didn’t set off any warning bells that he was up to something. After the service, Andy went to the front and I thought, “ok, he’s going to read a poem or something about fallen soldiers and how freedom isn’t free.” He then asked me to the front of the church, got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him again! I was not prepared, I had bubble gum in my mouth and no place to put it. I chewed gum through the whole thing, like a cow chewing cud. I was so taken aback I didn’t even know what was coming next. He asked our pastor at the time Clarence if he would marry us again. Here I am in black, 25 lbs heavier than I should be and I am getting married, AGAIN. Did it matter that I was fluffy, dressed in black, and chewing gum? No! Not in the least bit.

The fact that he wanted to give me a wedding with family and friends around me, a community of people who loved us, spoke more to me than any diamond ever could. If I had waited on a perfect dress, perfect venue or a perfect body, I would have missed the greatest moment. A moment I now treasure even more because I won’t have another anniversary with him this side of heaven.

I couldn’t believe how the folks in the church came together for me. He told them we had never had a real reception or a fancy cake, so Jackie Ervin made me the most beautiful cake with purple butterflies on it, they decorated the fellowship hall in purple, everyone brought food, we ate and hugged and laughed and friends made a mess of my car, but it was a glorious day, a day I never expected, but God knew I would need it one day in the future to look back on and know that Andy loved me that much, that God loved me that much.

Some memories are beautiful, but they can still be painful in the midst of grief. I believe we have to feel all the feelings that come and deal with it as it happens. I found the video going through photos and it brought the day flooding back, making me laugh and cry all at the same time. In grief, you feel every emotion in moments’ time.

This is not the life I wanted, I am not happy about it, I am angry, frustrated and alone, but I have a sense of peace. Andy wouldn’t have wanted to be here if he was unable to be himself. His advanced directive stated as much. Even when he had a cold, he was not a good patient, so I know that’s true.

It is hard to see the next step right now. When you are in the valley you can’t see the beauty of what God is doing until you climb to the mountain top and see where you’ve been and how God has brought you through. God works everything for His good. Even from the terrible heartbreak, I feel now, I know God will use it somehow. If we tramp down the feelings, ignore them or run away from them, we don’t heal. I believe God uses our tears to cleanse our souls and heal our hearts, but we have to share our tears with Him.

I”m closing for now, thanks for reading. I will share more once I’ve stocked up on Kleenex.

Blessings and peace,

Charmin