Three Words, Eight Letters

Grief is a solitary journey. No one but you knows how great the hurt is. No one but you can know the gaping hole left in your life when someone you know has died. And no one but you can mourn the silence that was once filled with laughter and song. It is the nature of love and death to touch every person in a totally unique way  -Unknown

Nicole's hand and mine

The last time I ever held & felt the warmth of your hands.

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We talk. Marsha, mom, grandma, Camiel, Hannah and I, we all talk. We talk about you. We cry. We laugh. But most of the time it is our own private journey with grief. With grief? Yes…with grief. It, grief is its own being. It comes when you least expect it. It comes completely uninvited. At first, it dragged me everywhere. I had lost all control to it. It was completely unrelenting. With a tight grasp it began to suck away the energy, the will, the love, the trust and the ability to live in each new day. Its pain was sharp and ever-present.

Even after all that, grief, did not kill me. It always left just enough light, enough life and strength to live each day. Grief has always left enough for me to find balance and open my eyes. Then one day, something strange happened. I was okay. I felt strong. I felt clear, alive, open, and at peace. I discovered grief was not trying to kill me, it is resilience. Grief has made me realize how resilient I can be. On this two-year anniversary of your death I am astounded by my resilence. I’ve learned I can live, love, give, trust and be vulnerable again.

There is not a day that goes by that I do not honor you. You are in my thoughts. You are in my smiles. You are in my laughter. You are in the warm touch of my hands. You are in the softness of my lips on a tender cheek. You are in the deep, tight embrace of each hug. You are in every whisper that contains those profoundly tender three words, eight letters…I Love You.

– Always Your Auntie

 

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Full of smiles, love, peace, & joy – April 23, 2014

 

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Going for a run – April 14, 2014 (Three races in seven days)

Writing and healing…

Love…hope…love….hope

Peace…joy…peace…joy…

Grief…pain…grief…pain

Dark…light…dark…light

Life…Death…Life…Death

New Beginnings…

Shiawéé in Seattle a few days before she was shot & killed.

Shiawéé (my baby) in Seattle a few days before she was shot & killed. -RIP- Nicole Westbrook

Forever shiawéé

Forever shiawéé -RIP- Nicole Westbrook

Have you ever watched someone you love slowly slip away from your life?

I walked into your room, walked right next to your side, grabbed your hand, leaned over and whispered “Aunty is here, Baby Girl. Aunty is here,” and I gently kissed your forehead. Your hands were so soft and so warm. My lips lingered on your forehead because in that moment you gave me peace and hope. Yes, you…you gave me peace and hope. Seeing you, seeing you fighting for your life gave me hope that you were going to recover and be okay. All I wanted, all we wanted was for you to be okay. I kissed you and I looked at you and your eyes were open fluttering as if trying to tell me something. There was so much rapid eye movement and then there were tears. The nurse told me all the eye movement was due to your brain injury but to this day I know you knew I was there. Shiawéé you knew I was there and you knew mom was coming. I called your mom as I stood next to you. I put the phone to your ear and your heart rate shot up. Your eyes moved even faster as if you were searching, fighting your way back and then the tears streamed out.

Witnessing life slowly slip away from this world is really hard to explain to someone who has not lived it. The phone call at 4am on April 22, 2012 plays over and over in my head as loud and ever present as the life support machine in the hospital room. One is a sound of despair and crying in bitter grief. The other is a meditative pulse, slow and predictable, a humming of breath that resonates in the body through a comforting yet disquieting sound scape.

When someone slips away from your life, slips away with death you are jolted onto a road that will take so many twist and turns, ups and downs, that you feel like your are on the worst roller coaster of your life and the ride never ends. There is nothing you can do to make sense of the moment someone you love slips farther and farther into a world not meant for you at that time.

Wednesday morning when I arrived at the hospital I immediately went to your room and when I walked into your room and saw the doctor, mom and everybody there was no question that your time with us was coming to an end. There was no struggle. Your eyes no longer flickered. They kept you completely covered to keep you warm. The machines did all the breathing. The doctor checked your eyes one last time and made the call. We were all there and we sat with you until the end. None of us had ever witnessed death firsthand (except Aunty Charlene). We all tried to will you back to life, but it was over. Once the struggle ended, you looked so peaceful. Being there when you died was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It was also one of the most profound experiences of my life. No matter how sad, I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to be with you, shiawéé and loving you as you left this world.  You died in peace to meet dy’ in’…the creator. The Diné way is not to hang on after you are gone. They say if we hang on your spirit may attach to a place, something or someone so we are not to bind you to this earth with our grief.  We must wash up, take táádidíín (corn pollen) and go on with life.  I love you so much, Baby Girl.

Writing and healing with the knowledge that new stories are waiting to be written. Recovering, rebuilding, loving and living with peace and a grateful heart.

Náá’ahideeltsééh, – Aunty

Thoughts About Changes and New Beginnings

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My sister on October 12, 2005

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Alan (Marshal) Westbrook from Shiprock, New Mexico KIA 10-01-2005

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In memory of my niece, Nicole Westbrook

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Me and the little man of my life, Chad Westbrook (my nephew)

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My little man, C. Westbrook

Marshall Westbrook, a 43-year-old sergeant in the New Mexico National Guard, was killed when a roadside bomb exploded under his Humvee in Iraq on October 1, 2005.

His 41-year-old brother, Kenneth, died in 2009 of injuries he suffered in a firefight in Afghanistan.

On April 22, 2012 a bullet had struck Nicole’s left cheek and shattered her spine. Her heart stopped, depriving her brain of oxygen. Nicole Westbrook’s heartbeat was restored, but she never regained consciousness. On Wednesday morning  April 25, 2012, we watched her die.

My sister Joleen Westbrook has lost her husband Alan, attended his brother Kenneth’s funeral, and braided her daughter Nicole’s hair for the last time as  she lay on her hospital bed declared brain dead.

My sister has been through all this and today I received an amazingly heartfelt message from her titled: I know you’re wondering what will happen in…The next chapter of your life.

She told me to just do my best and to stay strong enough to move ahead, because there are some wonderful rewards waiting for me. She said it won’t make sense right away, but over the course of time answers will come and decisions will be proved to have been the right ones. She said don’t give up on hope. Don’t give up on love.   She said “continue to put things in perspective like you always do.” “You are strong, sister” she said *crying*.

Hands down, watching my sister scream with grief and lose herself has been the most difficult thing that has come with the loss of Alan and Nicole. Alan and Nicole’s death continues to be one of the first things she reminds herself of when she wakes up, and it continues to be one of the last things she thinks about before she falls asleep; it  continues to consume her. But somehow she is able to reach out to me in a way only a sister can and offer me what is left of her heart and love me, dearly.

My sister is one of the strongest people I know and she gives me the strength to keep moving forward, to not settle and accept that I deserve goodness, honesty and true love. She is not perfect and is struggling yet she opens her eyes to each new day and today she touched me.

Thank you sister for loving me…

– J.