What happens when there is a knock at the Door?
I met Luc in the summer when his brother invited us to travel with them to Norway. His brother was planning an amazing kayaking trip and we decided to take up the offer to see the world in a way we would likely never again see it. It was an amazing trip and possible through all the hard work Luc had done.
Seven months later he was gone. An F-16 lost off the coast of Italy wasn’t a random pilot. It was Luc. And with so much life to live he was gone. I still remember my friend knocking on my door to hug me as we cried over the loss. Someone I knew, some she had never met.
And a few months later when the holiday of Memorial Day rolled around it had a new meaning. Because remembering the fallen wasn’t a vague unknown story.
The reality was the friend I had met. His wife was a widow, his daughter no longer had a father, and his brother who had invited us to Norway now had to live life without his brother. And though my life overall changed very little, it also had changed everything.
What I love about the book, The Knock at the Door is that it brings you into the story of three women’s lives on how the news that their loved one was gone affected them. From the moment they hear the news to how they kept moving forward without the person they loved.
It gives you the personal account of what it is like to deal with the loss of a loved one. It isn’t pretty, it is honest. It will bring you to tears and will allow you to feel a small piece of the emotion of what so many gold star spouses, brothers, sisters, and parents have felt.
The book starts with a reflection by Ryan Manion remembering back to where she was on September 11th and how that day changed so many lives. She wrote a reflection that day and ended with “I just hope nothing happens to my dad or Tavis.” But unfortunately, six years later Tavis died in Iraq and her family was notified with a knock on the door.
This is a book that shares the process of grief. The low moments, along with the moments of growth. The truth of the pain and joy that tomorrow brings.
Ryan then goes to share the story of losing her brother. Sometimes we forget how many people are affected by the loss of each service member. If we don’t know more than their name, we can’t see all the lives touched by one person.
While I was deployed to Afghanistan the number of people who were praying for my safety continued to grow each day, I was overseas. People I had never met sent me care packages and emails to show their support. And that was just me. There were over 100 people in my unit and had one of us not come home their loss would have been carried on through those of us who survived.
And hearing the story of sister, a sometimes-forgotten piece of those affected by the loss of service members, was a reminder of how deep the pain of loss goes when one person is gone. I loved that Ryan shared the brotherly sister bond of friendship and love they had for each other through various stories pulled from their childhood.
She allows you to get to know Tavis and it brings you into the story and when you learn of Tavis’ death that you already knew was coming, it brings up such emotion and finality. A life cut short too soon.
Then we get to go through Ryan’s grief process and the crazy family plan to run the Marine Corps Marathon the year he died. Ryan ends her section with “Eventually, despite the inevitable failures, we come to learn that our next success is never too far off in the distance.” While the pain of losing her brother will never go away, she has been able to move forward and use his loss to push her forward to help others.
Next, we meet Amy. Her husband Brendan was friends with Tavis when they both attended the Naval Academy. He died in 2010 in Afghanistan a few weeks before he was supposed to be home from his deployment.
This story hit me hard. I also deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and each day we were briefed on the numbers of troops who died. No names or stories just a number. This story is a representation of one of those stories.
When Brendan died Amy wanted Tavis and Brendan to be buried together. Tavis had been buried in Pennsylvania and at first, Amy expected him to be buried there too. But when it was suggested to Tavis’ mom she said they should be buried together at Arlington. And although there were challenges, they were able to make it happen.
Amy shares her grief and how she was able to move forward with her life. She ends her story with “How can you be present in your current situation, and what are you meant to learn from the experience? …No matter how small the obstacle is, it can teach you something about yourself.
Lastly, Heather shares her story of her husband Rob dying weeks into his third deployment, this time to Afghanistan. Her knock at the door came at 3 am when her in-laws on the East Coast were notified before her father-in-law headed into work as a Marine as a commander and would see the casualty list from the night before.
At the time of Rob’s death, Heather didn’t know the stories of Travis or Brendan, but as fate would have it her husband was buried a few rows from where they were laid. They ended up meeting and as Heather says it completely changed her life. Throughout the story, Heather shares lessons learned that helped drive her forward.
All three stories show you the similarities and differences each person goes through when they face loss. The Knock at the Door isn’t an easy book to read, but it is important for everyone to hear the stories of loss and remember the sacrifices so many men and women have made for this country.
As we come to another Memorial Day, take time to pause and remember those we have lost and those they left behind. Memorial Day is a somber holiday. A day to remember.