I’m usually able to put my emotions on hold. Sometimes it comes across as heartless, but actually it’s quite helpful. When the world is falling apart around me, I can go on autopilot to function for a while, or when faced with challenges I can hold it together until a more “convenient” moment to lose it approaches.
And during #OperationGratefulNation, I was able to put most of my emotions away. I could be tired, hungry, dealing with drama or even talking with veterans who were opening up their hearts to me. I could smile and hug and work and just keep going. I was actually pretty impressed with myself.
It was August 6th. I had been going like gangbusters for about 10 days straight and the final 24 hours of our extreme makeover were now in sight. But August 6th is so much more than just a date to me.
This particular Saturday marked the 5th anniversary of Aaron Vaughn’s death. It’s the day that one of my dearest friends received the worst news. It’s a day that marks the greatest single loss of naval special forces in history. The tragedy of Extortion 17 and the dozens of families that lost loved ones– sons, fathers, brothers, uncles, and friends to hundreds of Americans– were all on this date reliving the worst day of their lives.
Amid the loud buzzing of the tile saws while Nate and his crew worked to get the bathroom done, as the chainsaw buzzed overhead in the front yard, while dozens of volunteers and dozens more skilled tradesmen who donated time, materials, and money to the project scaled every inch of the Schumann home, I quietly sat under a big oak tree in the back yard and LOST IT.
I thought of women like Kimberly Vaughn, who on that day in 2011, answered the door with a two year old and a newborn and heard the unthinkable as two uniformed soldiers told her that her husband was no more.
I thought of Karen and Billy, Aaron’s mother and father, who were thousands of miles apart on that day and had to wait to be able to hold one another through the unthinkable.
I thought of Tara and Anna, Aaron’s sisters…who had lost their best friend, their big brother.
And then I thought of the dozens of other families like them and I was blown away by the goodness of God that I could play some small part of blessing a Gold Star family and that I was able to be doing it on a day that so many Gold Star families are hurting.
Once the tears started, I couldn’t stop.
And I could hear people hollering for me all over the yard.
“Boss lady, where are you!” (I had to laugh at that nickname…)
“Mrs. REBACK!!!! I got a question!”
Hiding behind a tree I heard someone walk by asking if anyone had seen me.
Man I better get back to work.
But David was on his 900th trip back to Home Depot and I just needed a hug.
I walked as fast as I could avoiding eye contact with anyone as I made my way to the front door where Billy Jones, the painter-turned-foreman was busy making the front door red.
I grabbed that burly bear and sobbed. Billy’s been around our family for more than 20 years and has painted every one of our homes, our children’s nurseries, our renovation projects, commercial jobs, and over plenty of mistakes. He’s been more than just our painter, he’s been a good friend. A good man. When he walks in the door, my blood pressure drops. It was a hug from Billy that stopped the tears.
And the tears were a mixed bag of sorrow for the losses that the families of Extortion 17 faced that day and every day since, as well as joy to be able to be a part of bringing hope and help to a Gold Star family on such an important date. I was happy about our project and still overwhelmed with what needed to get done in the next 36 hours. But what I needed most was a loving hug from a great friend and the Lord provided that through Billy Jones.
Even though I was able to put my emotions on hold for most of the project, I realized that it’s ok to cry. God is faithful to provide good friends who can help us soldier on when we have to keep marching and get the job done, and I’m thankful for friends like Billy who were there for us this past week of such hard work.
**Judson and Billy working on painting the front of the house. Billy has always been so patient working with my kiddos. One of the many reasons we love him!