I never know what to say, I never know how to express my gratitude, or my sense of empathy, or heartache.
A simple Thank you never seems to mean enough...or say what my heart really needs to say.
I wrote about it in one of my very first posts...
The tears come....and you try and stop them. All of the worry, gratefulness, sorrow, and love. You cry for him, and his lost brothers, and for the widows that must cry in the shower, so their children can't hear them.
And when I met A fellow blogger, who is now a widow...I was left speechless, amazed by her spirit and strength after loosing someone far too soon....
Friday night at the Milblogging Conference I was mingling about, with my vodka tonic in hand, trying to meet those who I have been reading for so long, and those I have met before, when I see a man standing by me with a dog tag around his neck.....
AWTM: "your Son is in the service?"
Man: "yes, my Son Mike Stokley was."
I stood there, realizing I was standing in front of Robert Stokley, a man I have read several times over at Andi's World. Including this piece which can be found at Andi's World. Along with several other pieces, where Robert has written fondly about his Son Mike.
It was very early on April 19, 1982 and the wife awoke in pain and hemorrhaging. It only got worse and a call to the doctor led to the husband taking her as quickly as possible to Dekalb General Hospital some 8 miles away. Once the doctor got there and an ultrasound was done, the exigency of the situation intensified - the placenta had separated and the wife was bleeding to death and the seven month term baby was in distress and could die. As the doctor told the husband and dad to be this news, saying, no more time, we have to do a C-section and fast, for that is the only way to save the baby and her, the doctor scampered into the operating room.
He was a first time dad, no experience at this, and alone at the hospital, for there had been no time to call family, friends, or even work to tell them he wouldn't be in. This husband and now a dad premature to be, dared not leave the door to the operating room and stood frozen in time. He was scared and simply did not know what the next move should be. What seemed like an eternity was no more than 30 - 45 minutes when the sound of a cart knocking a door open sounded to his left and he whirled, startled to see a baby cart coming out with two nurses pushing it frantically. But they stopped momentarily and said "this is your boy". The dad nearly choked with tears of love and joy - and fear, for there on that cart lay a very frail child, small and struggling for life. The nurses said we can't stay here, we have to rush him to Neo-natal intensive care, as the dad reached down, and with his right index finger, gently placed it in the palm of that premature son's hand, even though the tip of his finger was bigger than the hand itself. It was 10:32 a.m.
He jogged a short ways with them and asked if his son was going to be all right, to which they said it doesn't look good - his left lung is collapsed and his organs may not be fully developed enough for him to live, and if the right lung goes down, there is nothing we can do. We'll do all we can as they went through doors to a waiting Neo-natal intensive care staff and the dad had to let go of his boy. The dad stopped and bowed his head and prayed "God, please don't let my boy die, please let me have him, if only for a little while" as he sobbed tears of love and anguish, and for the first time ever, feeling the pain of a father hurting for his child. Several hours later, the wife was out of danger and now in recovery. His son, still no word.
August 16, 2005, the phone rings at 7:00 a.m. and the dad answers it: "Mr. Stokely, this is Major Hulsey and I am here with Chaplin Dicoppo and we need to speak with you urgently but your dog will not let us to the door". The dad runs to the driveway to meet them and before they can speak, he says "is my boy dead". The Major and Chaplin were pained as the words came out "we regret to inform you that your son, SPC MICHAEL JAMES STOKELY died from wounds while on foot patrol near Yusufiyah at approximately 2:20 a.m. local time Baghdad".
In the days, weeks and 20 plus months since, the dad has often thought about his boy and the life they shared. Close trusted friends they were to each other, even though a divorce had taken place while he was yet a toddler. While time and space might separate them periodically, nothing could break the bond of love they had.
Some ask the dad, even this day, how do you cope, how can you not feel anger or bitterness? How do you still have faith in God, or even trust God at this point? The dad's reply is simple and fact based as he tells the story about the son's birth and his prayer of April 19, 1982, and that maybe God's idea of answering that prayer and letting the dad have his boy a "little while" was 23 years 3 months and 27 days. The dad also shares that if Mike Stokely had died when he was born premature and in distress, who, but for a few people, would have known, much less cared; but, look at what God allowed Mike accomplish and the impact he made in his 23 years. God has blessed Mike Stokely and his dad - the entire family as well - in a great and abundant manner.
This day, the day of Mike Stokely's 25th birthday, is not a day to be sad, but a day to remember and rejoice, for the fact he lived at all. If those who took his life had in mind to hurt us, they succeeded. If they had in mind to break us, they failed. We are a family - Mike's family, and we will do what he would have us do. We will go on and live life as fully and happily as possible. But we also will remember him and we will do so in a way he lived his life - helping others. Tonight, from 5 - 8 p.m., we are going to host a "birthday party" to raise money for scholarships given through the Mike Stokely Foundation. In weeks to come, the Foundation will give over $2500 in scholarships to graduating high school seniors. As well, the Foundation will give money to libraries and underprivileged kids to buy books. Mike was passionate about reading and the Foundation will further that passion through others, and do what can be done to make their lives better.
Thank you God for answering my prayer 25 years ago and letting me have my boy, even if only for a little while.
proud dad SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 16 Aug 05 near Yusufiyah south of Baghdad
US Army E Troop 108 CAV 48th Brigade GAARNG
I stood there for a moment, and recollected all of the words I have read, written Robert Stokley. and how on many occassion I have just been unable to read them, and have cried onto my keyboard, unable to see the screen.
So I hugged Mr. Stokely...
and felt inadequate again. There was nothing I could say...
AWTM: "I am so sorry for the loss of your Son."
And I stood in front of Mr. Stokley with tears in my eyes. And much to my amazement, he grabs my hand.
Robert Stokely: "I need to thank all of you bloggers for giving me my life back, I have to be strong for my family, I need to be the rock, and you folks have given me a place where I can talk about Mike, and I do not have to be that rock...."
And I stood there in tears in front of Mr. Stokely absolutely at a loss, and feeling ashamed of them.
AWTM: "I need to thank you, because Mike gave all, and your family has really sacrificed more than most of us will ever feel."
Robert Stokely, then wrapped his arms around me and gave me a huge hug.
Mr. Stokely, you are a rock, and you are amazing.
Thank You from my family, to yours.....
You can watch Mr. Robert Stokely speaking about his Son Sgt. Mike Stokely HERE.