Tuesday, June 3, 2008


So I know last week I said I was going to write about planning an S4I event and sharing my journey with you. That is still my grand plan – but something happened to me yesterday that I feel compelled to share – and really…what better place than an entire planet of strangers via the internet? Oprah would call what happened to me an “ah-ha” moment, I would call it a “God slapping me upside the head telling me to get a grip” moment - which is probably one of the many reasons why she has a tv show and I…uh…don’t.

We have a project at IRW that is behind schedule. It is coming along, and it will get done – but it has caused a lot of frustration and angst – and has really stressed us (Amie and I) out over the last few weeks. I am technically on vacation this week, but the stress of this project has caused me to be grouchy towards my family (who we are visiting) and I’ve been sneaking off to do work instead of spending precious and rare free time with my husband. If you’d asked me on Sunday to name some things I was grateful for – I would have been hard pressed to give you a list. Then came Monday.

This is a picture of our friend Colby Umbrell a few summers ago. We were making fun of my husband Don because Don had invited Colby over to "help" move the entertainment center in the background, and Colby had essentially strapped it on his back and carried it up the stairs by himself.

On May 3, 2007 - 1LT Colby Umbrell was killed by an EFP in Mussayib, Iraq while he and Don (and thousands of other brave men and women) were on a 14-month deployment. Yesterday – Monday - I took Don to Arlington National Cemetery to visit Colby’s grave. For those of you who have never been to Arlington…it is a humbling, overwhelming, inspiring, heart-wrenching journey. Once you have lost someone dear to you it also becomes personal - a place of sadness and pride, of questions and of healing. But I am ashamed to say that even while we were driving there I was thinking about work. I was not thinking of my husband or how he was feeling, I was not thinking of Colby, I was not thinking of the stories of sacrifice and braveness all around us. I was thinking about that project and was completely wrapped up in my own head. I was missing the moment.

As we drove through Arlington to Colby’s gravesite Don got quiet, and when we arrived he asked me if he could be alone for a few minutes. So I stepped a few feet away…and as I stood there watching my husband mourn his friend, listening to the wind rustle through the trees and the birds singing and the tinkling of a red, white and blue windchime that someone had hung from a tree – I was suddenly overwhelmed with…I don’t know if you’d call it a new perspective or an epiphany or God slapping you upside the head – but the best word I can think of...is gratitude.

Now – my friends will tell you that I am not the most introspective person in the world. I speak my mind more often than I should, I am quick to react (positively and negatively) and I believe in actions more than words or ideas. But at that moment – in that place – I was reminded that if you do not come at the world with a sense of gratitude…you will spend your whole life worrying about the little things and miss what really matters. I have to admit that even though I’ve heard that for years from talk shows (yes – Oprah again) and self-help books and well-meaning motivational speakers – it never really “took” until we were standing there – Don and I – saying goodbye to a friend and finding our own sense of peace.

With that said…I am going to sign off with my list of gratitudes from yesterday – and then my husband and I are on our way to the beach for a few days of rest and relaxation. That work project? It is almost done – and when it is done it will be fabulous – and you can bet Amie and I will be filled with gratitude.

I am grateful that:

I remember every day that I am blessed beyond measure that my husband came home, when so many did not.

We had the chance to know Colby and call him a friend – even if it was just for a short moment in time.

Out of the pain of Colby’s loss I have made a friend in his sister Casey and met an incredible set of role models in his parents – Mark and Nancy.

This job that sometimes makes me crazy is the same job that – when Colby died – rescheduled an entire management team retreat and gave me a week off so I could attend both his memorial service and funeral.

Even when we are sad, there are reasons to celebrate – the same afternoon Don and I were at Arlington, on the other side of the country Amie’s best friend Tania gave birth to Audrey Jean Rose…happy, healthy, and loved. Welcome to the world little one!


Kristie Lippert said...

Amie, what a heartfelt story and a great ah-ha moment. You are definitely blessed that your husband came home and that you had the opportunity to know Colby. And as for that project - forget about it and enjoy your time off - you deserve it!!! We'll still be here when you get back from vacation. Now I have to wipe the tears from reading your story.....

Theresa said...

Beth, right? I met Colby when he was about 8 or 9. His dad, Mark, is my bestfriend's cousin. So I didn't get a chance to personally know him...but he has touched our lives deeply. My daughter had a history project in May and she chose Arlington...and Colby.
Tell Don thank you from us. I live freely because of Jesus and because of your husband.
(And I simple call it a 'He's talking to me' moment.)
Love Theresa

Laurie said...

All I can say Beth is


You can call the moment whatever you want. I tend to agree it's a God is slapping me upside the head. I have had those moments often in these last two years. Just this past week as a matter of fact and reading your blog really made me put it all back into perspective.

Thanks for your heart and honesty and even though I'm in Canada I thank all the men and women from all countries that are fighting for our freedom.

ddinak said...

Beth! I'll never forget that day! I think it is the day that I felt more emotion than any other in my adult life. I have put the photo of Don and Colby on my screen saver and shared the story of Colby with Delanie. She said she would like to go there and visit Don's Friend.

I will share it with Aidan when I can get him in a quiet moment (heck, I think Colby would have love sword fighting with A!) I wish I could have known him. He obviously has touched my life and is continuing to touch yours.
Love and miss you guys!


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