Written By Gold Star Wife Alexandra McClintock

“The shot heard round the world.”  It’s funny to think this was penned originally by Emerson referencing the Revolutionary war when it seems it could be used to describe what took place to me a little over one year ago today, January 5th 2016.  Two men walked inside our white picket fence, up on to our porch, and sent my dogs in a frenzy.  I came out of the kitchen to see two berets in the top window of our front door.  One was the deep red of an airborne soldier with a cross indicating a chaplain.  The other was green like the one my husband Matthew wore, the one I have in the dash of our car, the one my son Declan wears around our house. 


They rang the doorbell, they knocked on the wide old door, and they knew I saw them but somehow I couldn’t move.  The 100 year old hardwoods beneath my feet had been refinished by hand in the dream house Matt and I had just bought to raise our son in.  Our son, who was sleeping on the couch peacefully in his car-seat, after just being brought inside only feet from the front door, our son who I would do anything to protect from the shot heard round our world.  Those beautiful hardwood floors we had loved so much were no longer enough to hold me up while everything came crashing down around us and they swallowed me whole.  


I woke up on January 5th as though it was any other day in what I thought was an already difficult life.  The wife of a Green Beret, the mother to a two month old son, the woman diagnosed with severe postpartum depression, postpartum Anxiety, and postpartum OCD.  I wasn’t even aware those were real things until I sat across from an expert in the field with a tear streaked face after not eating or sleeping for days for fear of doing something wrong, something that would damage my boy, who was the most precious thing I’d ever seen.  He was the son my husband waited his whole life for.  The little boy I never knew I wanted would become my reason to stay alive.


There are days you think your life can’t possibly get worse, you’re at the bottom, and then?  Then those floors fall out from underneath you.  I started my day as normal.  I’d recently been told I could start being alone more with our son.  I woke up in the house alone after over a month of my father living with us. 


I had my morning cup of coffee and got Declan ready to go to the doctor because we had a therapy appointment that day.  We got in our bright red car and drove through the normal Seattle misting weather to our appointment.  We picked up my father on our way and went to therapy and had what we had decided was my “mini graduation” because I’d be leaving in two days to fly and spend the last few weeks of my husband’s deployment with his family. 


I left my appointment feeling like I’d accomplished so much.  My therapist described the amazing leaps she’d seen in my progress and said my ability to leave the house now was such a huge success.  We made arrangements to have phone check-ins and we parted ways.  On the way home I dropped my father off and with his parting, I felt the sinking in my stomach that indicated something was horribly wrong. 


I looked back and saw Declan looking at himself in the mirror and started asking Siri to call different friends of Matthew and I’s until someone answered.  My friend assured me everything was ok but asked if she should come over just so I wouldn’t be alone.  I told her I was sure I was just being paranoid and that it would be fine… one of the biggest lies I’ve ever told.  


I arrived home with our son fast asleep in his infant car seat (of course he’d wait until we got home) and I set him in his carrier on the couch.  Realizing I’d left my empty coffee cup on the couch I picked it up to take to the kitchen… then the shot came. 


Surrounded by love, like the warmest hug on the coldest day we somehow made it through the last year with each steady dedicated step forward, sometimes crawling, sometimes carried by the love of our family and friends, sometimes dancing in memories.  Somehow we made it this year, an entire year, without our sun and our stars, we survived a year without gravity and we’ve done it by clawing our way through and knowing the love we’re enveloped in is never ending. 


I’ve spent so much time curled up on those same hardwood floors sobbing, spent so much time cursing the sky, so much time chasing our son, so much time playing peekaboo, so much time laying on the floor while I get crawled over.  I watched Declan start crawling and eventually watched his first steps in our house, on our floor.  We’ve hosted family, we’ve held parties, we’ve had days where getting out of bed was our biggest accomplishment.  

I feel like I’m supposed to say that the anniversary was harder than the other days, that it was the hardest day.  The hardest day was just over a year ago today, but the anniversary?  The anniversary is a ricochet, a loud echo, a rerun.  We survived the shot, today is just one more of many horrific days we have survived (and will continue to survive) with the strength of those around us to lean on.


I’ll tell you what the anniversary was, more importantly, it was a day every single person stopped, took a moment, and said Matthew’s name.  They remembered him.  They kept him alive.


You die twice, the first time when your soul leaves this world, the second when your name is spoken for the last time.  Matthew will never be fully gone.  On the anniversary, our son and I, along with our closest family and friends, spent the day with Matthew at his grave in section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery.  As we pulled up, Eye of the Tiger came on.  I think Matt has so many ways of letting me know he’s still here with us and all of you are with us every day, that’s what makes the harder days survivable.  To everyone around the world that heard the shot and rushed to help, thank you, thank you so so deeply.