Disclaimer: You may want to grab some Kleenex prior to this one...it took a few to write it. You've been warned...
As I've sat here for hours and hours doing online classes reviewing every facet of the military's Plan B (i.e. what to do in the WORST case scenario when in theater), I've realized that the Navy also seems to believe in one of the biggest lessons you've instilled in me...if you have a Plan B then you probably won't ever have to use it...but failing to plan is planning to fail.
Prior to this deployment I've been getting all the boxes checked on the "Must Do" list...update my will, make a family care plan, designate powers of attorney, update beneficiaries for all insurance policies, etc. But all this planning leaves out the most important aspects of my personal Plan B. What would I want you all to do if I were to not come home? How would I want my life remembered? What legacy would I want for my children?
So here it is...my Plan B...may you have it so you never need it...
I've written my just in case letters...so you should start by reading those...you know where they are. Read them to the kids...and then tuck them away. Don't dwell upon them. They are simply words, they are not me...and you won't find me there. Move on from them and begin to honor my life.
I don't want a funeral, you know this. I do, however, want the whole military bit...I want a flag for you to place upon the mantel...I want guns saluting me (because really, military members in full dress uniform shooting rifles is an honor). I want bag pipes playing, complete with the men in kilts (what they wear or don't wear under their kilts is completely up to you...get down with your bad self mama). But I want to be cremated...and donate what you can of my organs, I don't need them anymore.
I want a celebration...preferably on the beach. A full blown party! Invite everyone...and have it during the middle of the week so they all have an excuse to have a day off. Make it in the afternoon so no one has to get up early either. Also, no black...in fact everyone should wear purple (it is my favorite color and I'll love watching all the men rocking some purple). No flowers...I've never really liked them anyway...they die and no one needs reminders of death. Instead plaster pictures everywhere. All my favorites from the best moments of my life. Light candles everywhere...I love them. Have a book out that people can write down their favorite (appropriate) memories of me for my children to read someday. There must be music...country of course, even though you don't like it much (it's my party, suck it up buttercup). And of course there has to be plenty of food. Make sure there are all the gluten laden options that I always wish I could eat but never can...cause trust me I'll be eating them all in Heaven!
As for my ashes...I don't want them spread in one place. Because I've never been a girl to stay in one place for very long now have I? Instead I want you and Mike to take a trip with the kids...to places that I've loved...to places that will help solidify their memories of me.
Start at home...in the Bay Area. Tell them the stories of me as a little girl...you should probably also make a stop at Monterey with dad and let them see the squirrels that made such a lasting memory for me (I think I was younger then Addy at the time and still remember that trip). Take them back to Bodega Bay...buy salt water taffy...let them eat it till their tummies hurt. Take them into the city...take the ferry there...walk along Fisherman's Wharf...feed the Sealions...let them eat junk. Bring everyone...Dad, Kasso, Grandpa and gang, Danny, Devin...everyone...wrap those kids in love (and probably warm jackets too since the city is never warm).
From there the stops are in no particular order or precedence...but these are the places I want you to take me on my final journey...
Florida...show them Miami and South Beach...I grew up there in so many ways and I'll always have fond...though slightly blurry...memories of it. You can tell them the stories of my time there...I'll forgive you (though Mike can leave some of those stories until they are older!). Take them to Key West...the place where I started my journey as their mom. You and Mike can take them again to the beach where we got married...bring the wedding photos along. Bring them down Duval street and to the Southernmost Point...I know they've been there before but I want them to see it with my eyes this time. The eyes of a young girl just beginning her life...with all the hopes and dreams of the two of them to keep me going. Watch a sunset with them from the pier...and leave a memory of me there. That place will always have a piece of my soul.
Rhode Island...the place where I became a Naval officer. Though none of you were with me...this place shaped me in so many ways. Take them in the summer though so they can enjoy the beauty that I couldn't see through the snow. Remind them of the pride I felt as I realized what donning that uniform meant. Take them to eat seafood in downtown Newport...walk the streets that I walked. Roam the base if you can...I'll never forget that place. Have them stand at attention in the morning while the flag is raised and the national anthem played...may they never forget the country and the ideals their mother died to protect.
Washington D.C....I have so many fond memories of this place. Take them to every monument and museum you took me. Bring them on the 4th of July...sit them on the steps of the capital to watch the fireworks...tell them the story of our night there. I'll never forget that night...I hope they don't either.
The Grand Canyon...take them on a cruise down the Hoover Dam and tour the Grand Canyon with them (avoid the airplane ride this time!). Hike with them there as that is still something I've yet to do and want to. Maybe even camp...or hole up in a little B&B for a night or two. Soak in the views, take lots of pictures...leave a memory for me.
Hawaii...take them back to the big island. Walk down All'i drive with them again...tell stories from our trip. Buy them a shell necklace...spread plumeria flowers into the ocean for me. Teach them to surf (or get lessons)...ride those waves for me. Stay somewhere different this time...on the water. Listen to the waves at night and know that I'm there. A piece of me will always be there...tell them that anytime they want to be close to me they can find solace in that island and find me.
Cruise...set sail with them on the same cruise we took...walk up Dunns River Falls with them in Jamaica (since I couldn't go)...walk the beaches of Mexico...swim with the stingrays in Grand Cayman...eat up at the buffets. Tell them all our stories...but don't forget to sit on the balcony with them every, single morning and drink coffee/hot chocolate and eat breakfast with them. Look out upon the ocean and know that I am there...watching...smiling...loving them from above.
San Diego...there will always be memories of me here. Here is where I became a nurse...a mommy to Addy...an officer...an adult. I grew up here in many senses of the word. Take them to La Jolla cove...swim with them out into the center...tell them not to be afraid of what's under the water...never be afraid of what you can't see...have faith. I'll be there.
Ask them where they want to go...what adventures shall we have? Take them...walk with them...listen to them...be a kid with them (don't let this force them out of childhood). Allow them to cry...to remember...to grieve.
And then help them move on (and help yourself move on too). Though I never, ever want them to forget me...I don't want my death to be a stopping point in all your lives. Know that I died doing something I believed in. You instilled in me a huge sense of patriotism and pride in this country...I'm heading over there knowing the risks and ready to embrace the challenge anyway.
My love for them will go far beyond my life...no matter when it ends. They are the two single best accomplishments in my world. May they grow up knowing how wanted they were and how loved they always will be...from this earth or the other side of Heaven.
I guess that about covers it. The little details you know. These are the things I felt important enough to put into writing. I hope you all find a way to move on someday...life goes on...it's too short to dwell on this. Live your lives for me now...do things I wanted to do...go places I wanted to go (please, please take them to Paris and Rome for me!). Live each moment, each day fully...with eyes and arms wide open...
I love you all so much.
P.S. Now that you have this, may you never need it...that's what my Plan B is for...if you have it, you won't need it.