Pfc Shane M. Reifert

Pfc Shane M. Reifert
Shane during a sweep of the Shuryak Valley, approximately 3 weeks before he was killed. Photo Credit: PFC Sean Stromback

Friday, December 17, 2010

Puzzle Pieces

I went to the mall today to do a small amount of Christmas shopping that couldn't be done online. I'm not doing much shopping to begin with this year. My brother has been dead for 41 days. The lives of my family members and myself have been forever changed because of his death, and it's just a little difficult to get into the Christmas spirit. 

But I went to the mall. It was a mall that Shane and I had gone to when he was home on leave. We had to leave after about 10 minutes because the mall is very open and he didn't feel safe. It was something that I will probably never understand because I have never been in a war zone. I've never had anyone shoot a gun at me. I've never had to look for cover. I've never had to think about the possibility of a hidden sniper. But Shane had, and even though we were in America, we had to leave the mall. I thought about that the entire time I was in the mall. I thought about how dangerous a place it would be if something bad were happening. Too much glass, nothing to hide behind, too many people, not enough exits, too many variables. 

I did my shopping. I eavesdropped on conversations. I stood in long lines. I was surrounded by normal people with normal lives and I was jealous of them. Yes, everyone has their own story. Everyone has tragic events in their lives. Fortunately, we aren't made to walk around wearing t-shirts that read "My Brother was Killed" or "I'm an Alcoholic Single Mother" or "When I was 10 I was Molested." So it's quite possible that everyone I was with while at the mall was also suffering through some sort of tragedy. Maybe they all were. But listening to such mundane conversations makes me feel as if they were all leading normal lives while I was being miserable. Maybe that's because today I chose to allow myself to feel miserable. Maybe that's what I needed. But going to the mall made me feel depressed and alone and gave me a sense of dread for the upcoming holidays. 

One thing I'm not dreading is that one of the men with whom Shane went to Basic is coming to visit my family and myself over Christmas. I'm glad he's brave enough to come stay with us during a time when many might not want to be around us. I'm excited to meet him and hear stories about Shane; for him to bring with him another piece of Shane.

I find pieces of Shane in so many different people and places. It's as if I'm building a puzzle that I cannot see. I have no idea how big the puzzle is or how many pieces it contains and I probably never will. But people keep bringing me pieces and the puzzle is gradually becoming more complete. When it's done, I will know Shane better than if he had lived to be 100, because I will know parts of him that he never would have shared with me in life. Of course, I'd rather have him alive. But since I cannot, I will continue to accept the pieces of Shane that everyone so generously gives to me. And it will be enough.

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