Each year since 1927, Time Magazine has named a Person of the Year. For better or worse, from Adolf Hitler, to Barak Obama to Pope Francis, the magazine picks the person who has most influenced our world that year.
This year, the third runner-up for the title was Edith Windsor. Edith was just a woman, who made a loving life with her partner, Thea Spyer, that spanned five decades. The couple was legally married in Canada however, when Spyer died in 2009 Windsor discovered that she would have to pay estate taxes on her inheritance because the Internal Revenue Service did not recognize their marriage. Windsor could have just paid it.
Instead she took on the United States Government (United States vs. Windsor) and won, striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and helping to win equality for couples and families all over the United States! Pretty darn impressive! She is one of my “People of the Year!”
Who is your Person of the Year?
We all have the thing that inspires us, our calling, our passion, the reason we are on this planet, the thing we are meant to do. For most of us, what we do will never make international headlines, will never be known by a large number of people, but is nonetheless, just as important, and just as powerful. Many of the battles we fight are buried deep inside us, but they require just as much courage to overcome.
I have been inspired by so many folks this year, on such a deep personal level. I have been uplifted by the courage of people all around me. I have many personal heroes. My children always top that list. They are incredible and not just because they are my children but because they are good and decent human beings, who work hard, and accomplish great things. More important than that though, they look out for each other, and they look out for other people. They are kind and compassionate and they each spend a great deal of time trying to make the world a better place in so many ways.
Topping the list would also have to be friends old and new in the LGBTQ community, who show me, often daily, what true courage it sometimes takes to just live your life as well being an inspiration to others! You are all among my heroes!
However, if I am to narrow it down to one person, or one group of people, my person of the year is Linda Braun, and all the parents who have lost a child and somehow continue to carry on, continue to get up every day, continue to live their lives with this deep, unending pain.
If you haven’t read my Veteran’s Day blog, Linda’s son served with my son in Iraq. Both of our children came home from that experience with struggles that neither of us had ever imagined we’d be facing. Linda’s son lost his battle with PTSD last spring and this will be her first Christmas without him. I can’t even type those words without sobbing and though I feel I understand some of her struggle, I know I can only touch the surface of that pain, I cannot, and hopefully will never, understand its real depth. Only a parent who has actually lost a child can feel that.
I have known other parents who have lost children and while it has always affected me, always broken my heart; I share a bond with Linda that I share with few other people. Our sons patrolled the streets of Baghdad together. We spent the same year waking up every day checking for news from Iraq and waiting on word from our sons. Just the quickest of emails would set out minds at ease and let us continue on with our day. We spent the same Christmas, December 2008, missing a child who wasn’t there and praying, praying that we would not get that knock at the door, not now, not ever. And we experienced the same sense of relief when they came home safely, thinking we would never have to worry in the same way again.
But war changes people. War changes families. It also turns out that war, once fought, never really ends. I wish folks in charge would remember this before they sign us up for the next one . . .
We all have our own personal wars, our own personal callings and struggles that no one may ever see. Our battle may be identity, prejudice, or equal rights. Our battle may be depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. Our battle may be homelessness, loneliness or heartbreak. You may just be a person, finding the courage to love another person. Whatever your battle is, this is often the most difficult time of the year to fight it. Don’t give up, okay, keep at it! Whether your calling is to face your struggle alone, to simply survive and keep going day-to-day, or whether your calling is to take that experience and to educate, to fight, and to effect change, you are my hero.
And Linda, so are you. My heart is with you this holiday season. We’ll keep fighting this fight together.
If you just need someone to talk to this holiday season and you are not in crisis, you may contact Warmline services.
If you are struggling this holiday season and are in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7.
If you are a veteran in crisis, or the family member of a veteran in crisis, please call the Veteran’s Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255.