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

Saturday, January 1, 2011

"Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant." Joan Didion

Shane and I stayed at the Sheraton in Nashville last February and ate lunch in the restaurant. I had a Caesar salad and he had a bowl of beef barley soup. We both had Pepsis. Shane complained about the butter being cold as he buttered his bread. I took pictures of the light fixtures because I thought they were beautiful. 

This evening, I ate dinner at the same restaurant alone. I had a Caesar salad and a Pepsi and one of the best steaks I've ever eaten. The bread was different and the butter was room temperature. The light fixtures that I thought were so beautiful have been changed. And I sat in a chair that would have been right behind the one Shane sat in last February, purely by coincidence. As I ate my meal, I imagined that Shane was sitting right behind me the entire time. I could almost hear the conversation that we had in February with one another. At one point I even reached behind me to touch the chair in which he would have sat. 

Before finding myself unexpectedly in Nashville, I was in Fort Campbell the past few days and drove by Shane's old barracks. I remembered his building number. I had happened upon them accidentally. They are under construction right now, but my memories of being there with Shane flooded back to me and I needed to pull over to compose myself as I became overwhelmed with thoughts of Shane. I kept driving by the barracks, as if I expected Shane to come walking out at any second. Of course, he didn't, but the possibility seemed quite real in my mind. 

I've been doing a lot of magical thinking lately. I keep telling myself that if I perform certain actions, go to certain places, that I will see Shane. That I will somehow be able to make him come back. Part of me knows this to be impossible. I am generally a logical person. I apply logic to all scenarios and I do so without thinking. 

But there is another part of me that has developed. And that part defies logic in its entirety and thinks that Shane is still very much alive. Or that he can become alive again. I make up versions of my life in which Shane is still in Afghanistan, but that something has happened to the internet and phones and he cannot contact me. Other times, I imagine that a part of him is living on in a time loop in the past and that if I just recreate an event, I will see some former version of Shane. 

As I ate my dinner tonight, I reflected on my magical thinking, wondering if it's healthy or unhealthy. I allow myself to think in such a way because Joan Didion did and even wrote a book about it. (Note: if you have not read The Year of Magical Thinking, I highly suggest it). I allow myself to think in such a way because it's comforting. Because it makes me feel like I'm not quite so alone. But there is a fear in the back of my head that allowing myself to engage in magical thinking means that I'm slowly losing my mind. That I am becoming delusional and am losing my grip on reality. But I suppose that it is this fear that keeps me clinging to sanity. 


  1. You are neither alone, nor delusional. Shane is, and will always be with you. He will help you along your road of life.
    He will also be with others whom he loved. He will be with his Brothers that are still fighting.
    You won't find him where you expect to. It will be when you don't think there is any hope that he will show himself. When you need him the most.
    That's when Angels show themselves.

  2. i feel so privileged to have read that book and know what you are talking about. thank you.

  3. Not sure how to contact you through this blog site... but I was an integral part in his funeral, but have only recently posted a video about it (I know slacker :) ). It turned out I think, rather good. I didn't know him, but many of my friends did. But I still felt a passion to protect you/your family on this day. Please let me know if this OK to keep public, if not I'll delete it as it is on facebook and youtube. See:

    Thanks. My name is Rick

  4. Rick,
    Thank you for creating and posting the video. It is a beautiful tribute to my son, Shane.

  5. Beth,
    I can not stop praising your eloquent words! Your writing moves me everytime I read another entry. Your words are absolutely beautiful and touching. Thank you for opening up your mind and releasing your private thoughts for all of us to experience. I hope and pray it is helping you in some form or another. He would be so very proud to know you keep his memory alive through telling your story and his.