• 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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