Give me the Strength to Overcome

We walked hand in hand at the airport. I was sending my husband, my love, my everything off on his flight back to Kansas before he headed overseas….Off to war. He carried himself differently in his uniform. He had faced his biggest fears already, knowing he was going over there. He was ready to fight for us. He knew his mission. He wanted to help the Afghan people to overcome their adversities. I supported him. He was suddenly my soldier…with his head held high, ready to take on the tasks and challenges he knew he would face there.

From Frankie’s Journal, he wrote this the day before he left:

----- So I am still a little perplexed on what to write in this book but I think I am starting to come around. Tomorrow I am headed to Afghanistan for an all expense paid vacation :). At this moment and especially after last night which I will probably also write about I have a peace and comfort feeling upon me. I think I can relate to Nephi at the moment concerning when his father asked him to go to Jerusalem and retrieve the records of the Jews and his families genealogy. Though this task for him to accomplish was dangerous and by no means easy he knew he could do it because though his father asked him to go he knew in his heart that it was a commandment from the Heavenly Father. He was at peace with this difficult assignment because he knew that “The Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the things which he commandeth them.” (1st Nephi 3:7).
Like Nephi, I feel at peace with my mission to Afghanistan because I know the Lord prepared the way for me to get to Afghanistan in only a manner that I know only He can do. And I know I can accomplish the things he has in store for me only through his Son Jesus Christ who gives me strength.

1 Nephi 3:7 – The Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through the Lord who strengthens me.

I no longer believe in coincidence. I know all things happen for a reason and if one keeps the commandments of the Lord these so called coincidences are in fact stepping stones on the path which the Lord has prepared to accomplish the purpose of their life – one little mission at a time.-----

The word overcome was something Frankie took to heart, along with his favorite verse, Philippians 4:13 – Frankie and I could overcome anything because we knew the Savior would help us through.

We stopped at a sandwich shop and ate some food, both of us just not really believing he was leaving for a whole year. Luckily, we got to see each other after his 3 months of training, for 10 days, but a total of 15 months…ugh! We both knew the void we would feel without being able to be near each other. We talked and laughed and ate. We stopped for an instant, looked each other in the eyes…tears forming, but fighting them back. He wasn’t gone yet.

Walking up to his gate was the most difficult. My stomach in knots, just like the night I found out that he was possibly going on an IA to Afghanistan. People couldn’t help but watch a loving wife sending her husband off to war. We held each other, kissed and tried holding back tears. He was the last to board the plane. One last embrace, like we have never before - The I love you’s, a continuous stream. He held me tight, he gently wiped my tears with his thumb and held my face…I said, “I’m not strong enough.”
I did not mean I wasn’t strong enough to handle being away from each other for this amount of time. We had done it before, when we were dating. He sailed around the world for his school, the United States Merchant Marine Academy for long periods of time.
This was different - I meant I was not strong enough to handle the thought of him….my soul mate, best-friend, eternal companion, my love…not coming back to me. Frankie called me once he got on the plane. His voice cracked, and I knew he was fighting back the tears. Did he feel the knot I felt? I did not think this way while he was gone… We both stayed positive, but something in that knot in my stomach kept at me.

I knew when Frankie was coming home on leave. We had a secret code for him telling me the exact date, since he wasn’t supposed to. We always had secret codes. April 1st. It was Friday-March 27th. For some reason I sensed something. I pushed it aside. Frankie hadn’t called me at his usual time. Around 9 or 10 in the morning. His night time. We talked twice a day every day. Usually more. I talked to him the night before, (In Afghanistan it was the morning of the day he was killed) and we talked about so much, and how excited we were for him to be coming home, and all the awesome things we had planned --- he said, “It feels like Christmas is coming.” We prayed together, like every night, but I remember saying please keep Frankie safe more than usual. We said I love you so many times. We never wanted to get off the phone, but this time seemed different.

At 4:15 p.m. I had just gotten out of the shower and was doing my spa thing, thinking Frankie could show up tomorrow! Maybe he hadn’t called me because he began his travels. Even though I knew April 1st was the estimated date, I hadn’t come to set anything in stone that the military told us. Maybe Frankie was going to surprise me.
I felt like he was coming home the next day. I learned later, Frankie was supposed to be convoying out the next day to start his journey home. We were planning on trying to start a family….

I was on the phone with my friend Britnee, when my dad knocked on my bedroom door. I was still in my towel…and he said, “There are two Navy men here to talk to you.” His face was white. I said, “What for?” I had a mini melt down on the phone. I said…”I can’t go down there Britnee…They just don’t come to talk or visit.” Every possible scenario went through my mind. Is he hurt? Are they here to talk about the survey I filled out? I was not too happy with the IA scenario. Maybe they wanted to talk about that? We had reached the halfway point; maybe they were here just to check up with me? Think positive – he’s ok. Maybe he went on a convoy, and something happened to one of his limbs. This could not be real. I hurried and put on some sweats and a t-shirt.

I composed myself, went downstairs and the dress blues seemed to smack me in the face. I said, “Sorry for making you wait, I just got out of the shower.” I smiled, shook their hands, and introduced myself. They asked if there was anywhere we could sit. I looked at them, dead in the eyes, (I will never forget those eyes) and asked…”Is Frankie okay? Please tell me he is okay?” They did not answer. I backed away; leading them to the kitchen table…We did not sit. I had to know!! “Is Frankie okay?” Pleading now.

“Ma’am, the Secretary of Defense regrets to inform you”…"NO, NO!”…. “That Lieutenant Junior Grade”, “NO, NO, NO, NO" ...."Francis L. Toner IV"…"NO!!”… “Was killed today…” I heard nothing else “NO, NO, NO!! OH, my GOD! NO, NO…. But, you don’t understand…he can’t be….he’s superman. Not him! Not him! Oh God! Daddy!!! NO!"

My dad, sobbing himself, tries to hold me up…as I fall to the floor.

I compose myself after some time --- I apologize; I tell them “Thank you so much --- you have the worst job in the world right now." I hug them, and thank them again. They start crying.

My feelings were right; Frankie’s body came home the very next day –

I am dreading the day –
The worst day of our lives
A family knocked off its feet
A true love facing unbearable agony
A hero running and risking his life for others
A knock on my door
My worst nightmare coming true
Falling to the floor
My uncontrollable tears
Not him
Not him
Not him
Oh my God – not him

Please Lord; continue to give us the strength and peace to overcome.

Like Frankie, I turn to the Lord for peace with my life mission for whatever purpose the Lord has in store for me - I feel so blessed to be Frankie's wife.

What a beautiful purpose I have had so far.

Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart, Searching my soul? …

He answers privately, Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind, Love without end.

“Where Can I Turn for Peace?” Hymns, no. 129


Deni & Bo said...

Brooke, I never had the chance to meet your hubby, but man he sounds awesome. Your are an amazing women. Love ya girl.

Beau & Lenette said...

that was difficult to get through...but thank-you. Please know that my arms are wrapped around you my dear friend. You are strong enough to get through this. I love you!

Talia said...

I think about you often... Thank You for sharing something so personal. Frankie is so amazing!!! I have always felt like whoever "Gets" Brooke in the end will be an Amazing Man and he is. I LOVE YOU and I hope that you know that my thoughts and prayers are with you as you reach this year mark. I truly wish there was someway to show you how much I care...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking me through that day...I felt I was a bystander watching you both...witnessing something much deeper then is viewable with the eye, and something you still emanate...your eternal love.

Allison said...

Brooke, we don't know each other, but I just wanted to let you know how brave you are for being able to write about that day. It has been 5 months for me and I still don't know if I can even talk about it. Thank you for sharing that. It gives me the strength to one day write about that day.

Stacey said...

Brooke, you and your husband's strength come through so strongly in this post. What an amazing man to have such honorable and powerful thoughts before he left. Wishing you continued strength

Jodi said...

Hi Brooke,

I found your blog on the American Widow Project Web site, and I am wondering if you would be interested in the latest book released by Andy Andrews, The Heart Mender. It is about a World War II widow and how she comes to terms with her new life, finds forgiveness, and learns to love again. It’s a really touching story that you may find beneficial and want to share with your readers. Please send me your mailing address if you would like to receive a complimentary copy.

Thank you.


Megan said...

Brooke...I too think about you and Frankie often. How special the two of you are! Heavenly Father sure has great faith in you and KNOWS of your strength. Life is so hard and confusing at times....it can really be unbearable. BUT look at how graceful you are. Look at the hero Frankie is. Look at your beautiful story. It would be ideal to have Frankie her with you now, but how comforting is it to know you WILL be with him again. Thank you for being the wonderful example you have been and NEVER giving up! Love you much!