I've been in North Carolina and since I don't have plans to be back for a while I called the Special Agent who worked Tom's case and was finally told I could come pick up his belongings (16 months after his death)! I wasn't sure how I'd do and didn't want to go alone, but I also didn't want Avery to go with me. I wasn't sure what to expect, so I asked Jena to stay at the house with her, which she did.
As I drove on base my anxiety increased and I could feel my chest getting tighter. I took deep breaths to try and keep me calm. As I drove towards the fire station (where Tom died) the song "Here Without You" by 3doors Down came on the radio. This is one of the few songs that can bring me to my knees. I broke down 3 weeks after he died at the bar when this song played, it's the song that cause my widow breakdown at work. It was one of the songs Tom put on the deployment CD he made for me. Hearing it as I drove past the fire station was another one of those moments that made me lose it. I composed myself after I pulled into the parking lot of NCIS.
As I got out of my car and walked up to the NCIS building it was as if something else took over. It wasn't me moving my body along the sidewalk. My body felt numb, as if I had no control over it. Though I had called earlier and was to be expected, I had to wait in the lobby. My chest was tense and kept getting tighter. Where was the special agent? I just wanted this to be over. I tried to keep my mind occupied with other thoughts with little to no avail. I heard a siren and it made me think of Tom that day and how they had to call an ambulance for him, though it wouldn't have made a difference. Several people in a few of the first cars on the scene were docs, and when I ran into one at NCIS months ago by random chance he explained how it was a fatal wound and nothing could have been done. It was over in just a few short minutes. I thought about that day and how much has changed since then... The door opened and interrupted my thoughts. It was the Special Agent. He called me into an office for a minute, sat me down and remind me of what I was getting back and made sure I really wanted certain items.
We had to wait a few minutes for his things to be brought from the other building, and chatted about things. He said since the case is closed he could talk a bit about it and mentioned the text messages between Tom and I from the previous days leading up to his death. Somehow his take on it gave me comfort. It also makes me want to go back and ready the messages, but emotionally I'm not ready for that.
The lady who handles the evidence came with two plastic tubs that contained Tom's belongings. For some reason I expected them to be in clear plastic bags, though they were not. She took the labels off the bags and when she came to the bag with his wallet, she handed it to me. They both knew how much I had been wanting his wallet and I opened that bag right away. The rest would be saved for when I got home and put Avery to bed....
I had a bit to drink to relax me and began to open the brown paper bags sealed with red tape that read EVIDENCE in larger black letters with NCIS underneath it. I decided that I'd start small and work my way up with the bags. There was one box, which cased the gun and near 20 individual bags of "evidence" in various sizes. I chose to start small seeing as part of me felt I was a little too relaxed for this. I figured I'd wait to open the larger bags for another night knowing his clothes were sitting in there. All of a sudden it seemed like a bad idea to have 3 glasses of wine before embarking on this "mission." I wanted a clear head. It wasn't going to happen tonight, okay... but I wanted to open something. I chose a bag. It almost felt empty. When I opened it, I pulled the plastic bag out-- it was a pen, no cap. Somehow it gave me the confidence to go on. Bag #2...
It was larger, but light, so I just went for it. I knew the heaviest bags had become home to his boots, blouse, and pants, for the last year, but I didn't think about what anything else could be. I reached in without looking. My natural reflex was to yank my arm back without hesitation as I felt cloth. My hand barely touched it, but automatically registered the different textures. Part was soft, while the other part was rough. I looked. It was his green shirt. It took me a moment and I just left my arm in the bag with it closed, though my hand not extended far enough to touch the shirt.
Once I got the courage (and the pep talk from myself that the shirt could have been taken from the back seat of the truck), I reached further in and pulled it out. This was the moment of truth and it WAS the shirt he wore that day. (Now, I will leave it at that, though I have my feelings written down for myself, this is a little too personal for me to share on here). I held it up and tried to recall what Tom looked like in it, how he filled it out, how much bigger he was than me. I decided to be more careful with the rest of the bags I'd open for that night. I chose the ones that were like the first-- small. Those were safe. And this one made me laugh. It was an empty strip of Zantac for his heartburn. The last I opened for the night just had some random papers. I was going to quit while I was ahead.
.... Ok, so it's been a few days since I wrote that (it was sitting in the draft box). I opened the rest of the evidence bags, and it was much easier than I expected. The way it was described to me had me prepared for the worst and it wasn't THAT bad. I mean, it wasn't pleasant, but it wasn't the way I pictured. In some strange way it really did give me this new sense of peace. I think it's the closure I've been waiting for, not that there is ever true closure with a suicide, but I feel like I can start looking forward. It was holding me back on some subconscious level that isn't there now. I love my husband and miss him more than I could ever explain in words. Only my tears hold the true extent of my grief for Tom. Those tears are rarely shared with the public, but in the quiet of my home where no one else can see, I let out my pain, my sorrow, my anguish for my love.