It was raining, a cold, soaking rain that froze when it struck the tombstones, leaving ice streaks on the stones. Christmas of 2013 had just passed, and here, the day after, I watched them lower a brother into the ground for his final rest.
We had been more like brothers than anything, thrown together to accomplish a certain task while we served together in the Corps, but that closeness and reliance on one another had built a bond. His family had left, hell, everyone had left, but I stayed to talk to the "vault guys" as closed up the grave. Years before, I had worked in the cemetery business and wanted it done right. My brother was owed that.
So, as the rain sloughed off my dress blue cap- a uniform I thought I would never wear again when I left the Corps in 2012- I had time alone to think. How did this happen?
In 2006, we had served together and a good mutual friend of ours was lost to drowning of all things, in Iraq. A flash flood had flipped a vehicle, filling it with water as it turned over and over... a slow, inescapable death. But us, we weren't there. We were on mission, elsewhere, unable to help- if that were even possible, I STILL don't know.
Fast forward a few years, and he had left the Corps, was building a family and working construction. Then the messages started to arrive via FaceBook. Our friend's widow was hurting- the SGLI had not gone far for her and the kids, and she was in trouble. A lot of us sent money and helped, as Marines do for each other, but her life had been forever changed by our friend's passing.
Now, my "brother" was not a perfect person. He had addiction problems, and was quite driven to "martyrdom" from his family and religious upbringing. He took her pain to heart, blamed himself, and started to drink heavily, and with the WRONG people. Soon, he was using a variety of drugs, and eventually, his wife had had it. He was booted out.
Later, in a chemically altered state, he tried to take his children from their mother. That was the last time I saw or spoke to him, when I prevented that, and faced down a former brother. He was "not there" in his body, for drugs and pain had usurped his spirit. On December 22, 2013, they found him in his car... dead of an overdose. A strong, capable, COMBAT HARDENED Marine... was gone forever.
So, when I left the funeral and came home, I had to think "... why was he gone and not I? Sure, he had his demons, but... hell... I have mine too..." Then, I saw my son and knew that I would NEVER follow his path. I had a light in the darkness, the love of my son. He didn't see his, for drugs had clouded that light.
Since that time, I have talked to, and talked down, people that were "on the brink." I have found that "the flickering light in their darkness..." whatever, or whomever it may be, is the one thing that brings us all back from the brink. I have resolved myself to find that light, or if need be, BE that light, for anyone that needs it.
So, when the world seems to crush you, look for that flickering light. Cling to it, and move towards it, away from the darkness of the abyss. And, truly, if you need help, I am sure there are people there to guide your way. You are not alone, and you are not weak to ask for help. Suffering in silence helps no one, reach out, share the pain, and find strength in the sharing.