From the darkness to the light

  • Published
  • By Gary Ash
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Safety Office

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – September 9, 2017, was a day my close friends and family remember as a day of sorrow for me. My beloved wife of 12 years was taken from me by cancer.

With that said, I want to comment on the wellness pillar associated with spiritual resilience. Although our spiritual wellness is emphasized by leadership, chaplains and many Airmen, I continue to see Airmen give more priority and attention to other areas of Comprehensive Airman Fitness; physical, social and mental.

So before I lose you on the subject, I ask you to give me a chance to explain, in a way to reach the warrior inside you, why being spiritually fit could save your life when you never knew it could.

You have to be physically fit and mentally ready for the reality of combat. In the “social” pillar, we come to an understanding of respect for the diverse group we all make up to become Airmen. So as one can imagine, the darkness which engulfs you after losing a loved one so dear, has its effects on you. Imagine losing a fellow Airman, a battle buddy or, something many do not consider, a part of your body. How is being spiritually strong going to help you in that unexpected realm? As you consider that question, spiritual fitness for me along with encouragement by family, friends and colleagues, carried me through a dark period during the winter months of 2017 and 2018.

I sought refuge in physical fitness, resulting in a successful path to increased health. Friends checked on me and one even came to visit from another state. Co-workers invited me to dinner to talk. They were the finest examples of wingmen—my social pillar was active. My peers at work kept me mentally engaged as I took on the challenges assigned to me by the wing commander and chief of safety to manage the occupational safety office. With all those examples of the CAF being fulfilled, I knew my spiritual rock was important in the journey of sustaining hope.

Let us be honest with ourselves, when we experience a serious loss, sadness can’t be avoided. Turning to your spiritual rock may be your one chance when you aren’t able to work out due to physical limitations. Withdrawal due to sadness and depression causes many to not desire a social life and the mental pillar suffers as well. Seeking spiritual strength now will prepare you for an unexpected loss. Finding hope in life and striving forward is what makes us unique beings and inspires ourselves and others to press forward when things get bad.

So when my late wife left this world, I prayed on what I should do when I finally realized I had to continue in this life. The answer I received was “Live forward.”  I haven’t looked back since. Instead, I say, “Thank you for the kindness shared in this life and waiting for me on the other side.” Now, I have much to live for and give back. We should not face the barriers of life alone; rather, allow the love of others as well as the spiritual support to foster and help carry us through the darkness and back into the light.