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Sugar Cookies and a Nightmare

How My Daughter's Death Taught Me
The Meaning of Life


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The plane ride from San Francisco was anguishing. I couldn't believe I was seeing my son off to war. Many times on the flight, I broke down in tears. I wanted to be strong for Michel and his new bride, Jenny, but doubted I could. Bob was worried about me. "Carol, you're going to have to find a way to deal with this, or you won't make it." I knew it was true but couldn't pull myself together. I just couldn't believe I had another child in harm's way. I couldn't believe any of this was happening.

Michel had been a naval flight surgeon for less than a year before receiving orders to board a plane at the Cherry Point Marine Base in North Carolina and fly to Kuwait. He would meet up with a convoy that would take him to an American military facility near Fallujah. The year was 2004. Fallujah had been getting a lot of attention as a very dangerous place to be. My son's tour would last for seven months.

When people ask me how long he was there, I always say seven years, because those were the longest months of my life.

I looked out the window and remembered all the way back to 2002 and the phone call I had received from Michel when he'd returned from a humanitarian mission to Bolivia with other military doctors. His first words were, "Mom, I think I've totally complicated my life." During his time there, he had met a woman he wanted to continue seeing, but returned home with no idea if his relationship could continue. Bolivia seemed worlds away, and his obligations with the U.S. Navy were demanding. Through phone calls, e-mails, and a couple more visits to Bolivia, Michel and Jenny fell in love. They knew that this was it and began the process to bring her to the U.S.

Jenny arrived at Michel's base in North Carolina just before Christmas of 2003. Bob and I couldn't wait to meet her and flew out to spend the holidays with them. I was very excited to finally meet the woman who had stolen my son's heart from so far away.

Jenny's visa stated that they had 90 days to get married. In two weeks, the invitations were designed and mailed, and a joyous weekend was planned. For the rehearsal dinner on Friday, guests would enjoy a "Bolivian Night" at a popular Bolivian restaurant in San Francisco. On Saturday, a close friend of ours would officiate at the wedding, and that night we'd all have dinner and dance the night away at a local club where Bob and I were members. What could be more perfect? Let the celebration begin!

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