From Despair to Hope

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There
were many nights after Casey was killed, and we buried him, that
I had to restrain myself from swallowing my entire bottle of sleeping
pills. The pain and the deep pit of despair were almost too much
to cope with. I would think to myself: “It would be so easy to take
these pills and go to sleep and never wake up in this awful world
again.”

The
only thing that restrained me from committing the cowardly and selfish
act of killing myself was my other three children. How could I put
them through something so horrible after what they had already been
through? I knew that I had to live. However, I know why some people
kill themselves: it is the lack of hope. For me it was the black
pit of knowing that I had to wake up everyday for the rest of my
life with the same pain of knowing that I would never see Casey
again: that I had to exist in a world without him and just existing
is no way to live.

One
day, about three weeks after Casey was killed, my daughter Carly
hit me with the reason for living. It was in her poem: A Nation
Rocked to Sleep. One stanza reads:

Have you
ever heard the sounds of a mother screaming for her son?
The
torrential weeping of a mother will never be done,
They
call him a hero, you should be glad he’s one, but,
Have
you ever heard the sound of a mother weeping for her son?

The
first stanza reminded me that I was not the only one in the universe
who had such excruciating grief, but the verse that helped me claw
my way out of the pit of despair, was the last stanza:

Have you
ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to sleep?
The
leaders want to keep you numb so the pain won’t be so deep.
But
if we the people let them continue, another mother will weep.
Have
you ever heard the sounds of a nation being rocked to sleep?

I
knew when she recited those lines to me that I would have to spend
my time, my money, my energy to try to bring the troops home before
more mothers would have to weep. I was ashamed that I hadn't tried
to stop the war before Casey died. I had foolishly thought: “What
can one person do?”

Well,
I now felt that if I couldn’t make a difference, I would at least
try. If I failed, I vowed that I would go to my grave knowing that
I gave it my best shot.

I
started to gradually get my hope back. I had a marvelous time in
Florida during the campaign against George Bush. I founded Gold
Star Families for Peace. I was a main speaker at the Peace Rally
in Fayetteville, SC. Casey and I were on the cover of The Nation
magazine. I testified at Congressman John Conyer’s Downing Street
Memo hearings in June 2005. I felt that I was, one heart at a time,
eroding public support for the occupation of Iraq.

Then
in August 2005, I was sitting at home watching TV (a very rare occurrence)
and I saw that 14 Marines from Ohio had been killed in one incident.
If that weren’t heartbreaking and sickening enough, George Bush
came on the TV and said that the loved ones of fallen soldiers can
rest assured that their loved ones died for “a noble cause.” That
enraged me, and inflamed my sense of failure. I did not believe
before Casey was killed, after he was killed, nor on August 3, 2005,
that invading a country that was about as much threat to the USA
as Switzerland, killing tens of thousands of innocent people all
for greed for power and money is a noble cause. I decided to go
to Crawford to ask him what the “noble cause” is.

Then
George had the temerity to say something that has enraged me for
months. He said we had to: “complete the mission to honor the sacrifices
of the fallen.” I have been publicly calling for him to stop for
months. I don’t want one more mother to have her heart and soul
ripped out of her for no good reason. I wanted to go to Crawford
to demand that George stop using my son’s honorable and courageous
sacrifice to continue his dishonorable and cowardly killing.

The
rest is history. The more that people came to Camp Casey; the more
letters, cards, emails, phone calls, and packages of support we
received; the happier we were.

At
Camp Casey we remembered something after almost 5 years of virtual
dictatorship in America: the people still have the power. We the
people must exercise our rights and responsibilities as Americans
to dissent from an irresponsible, reckless, ignorant, and arrogant
government. We realized, a little late, but not too late, that when
George said: “If you’re not for us, you're against us,” we all should
have risen in angry, righteous, and patriotic unison and said: “You
are right, you lying, out of control madman. We are against you
and your insane rush to invade Iraq.”

We
didn’t rise up then, but Camp Casey taught us that it is okay to
raise your voices against the government. Not only is it “okay,”
but it is mandatory if your government is responsible for killing
innocents. It is mandatory if there are no other checks and balances.
The people will be the checks and balances on the media and government.

I
thought all my hope was KIA on the same day Casey was KIA. Carly’s
poem gave me a reason to live. Camp Casey, with its wonderful feelings
of love, acceptance, peace, community, joy, and yes, optimism for
our future, gave me back my desire to live. I can now smile and
laugh, and even mean it most of the time. These things I used to
take for granted, but I never will again.

I
live with the hope that we will one day exist in a nation of peace.
I love being alive now, and will devote my life to peace with justice,
so that the day may come when our children will never be misused
by the war machine again.

Thank
you, America.

Thank
you, Casey.

October
10, 2005

Cindy
Sheehan [send her mail]
is the mother of Spc.
Casey Austin Sheehan, KIA 04/04/04
She is co-founder of Gold
Star Families for Peace
. She is the author of Not
One More Mother’s Child
and Dear
President Bush
.

Cindy
Sheehan Archives

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