Protestant Version of Sitting Shiva

A few years ago, I interviewed a war widow from Iraq. Well, in fact, I have interviewed more than a few war widows from the current Global War on Terrorism. As you might imagine, it can be a pretty emotional thing to do, especially for someone like me – a Gold Star family member myself. Whenever I hear the first-hand account from war widows or widowers, I feel as though I am hearing my mother’s story as told by another.

This particular widow shared with me how badly she treated the man assigned to be her Casualty Assistance Officer. She was so upset by the news of her husband’s death, she actually hauled off and slapped the officer delivering that news. A Marine. That widow was so full of grief and rage, she slapped that Marine with all of her might.

And you know that that Marine did?

He just stood there quietly and allowed that widow to whack away.

He did not grab her arm.

He did not scold her.

He did not turn tail and run.

He just stood there, jaw jutting forward in that way of Marines everywhere, and let that grieving mother grieve in the only way she knew how in those moments. He did not call her out. He did not condemn her response. He did not try to console her in a manner that sought to diminish her pain. He just stood there accepting the brunt of her grief.

This past week, I have felt the need to strike out at someone like that. Problem is there isn’t a Marine anywhere in sight willing to let me whoop up on them.  So instead, I have retreated, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

I deactivated my Facebook account.

I turned off the radio.

Some might suggest that I am doing a Protestant version of Sitting Shiva.

My entire body is grief weary. I can’t tell if I am suffering PTSD or causing it. Either way, it’s all I can do to get through a 24-hour news cycle in which a Draftdodger in Chief slaps down a Gold Star widow over and over and over again.

It’s hard, he says, calling these families. Hardest thing I have to do.

I suppose that’s meant to evoke some sort of sympathy. Poor baby president, having to call on those grieving families. Such a sucky job sometimes. Is it any wonder he relives all that tension with a golf game at his own course every, oh, other day?

I’m not sure the Draftdodger in Chief is aware of it or not, but there is policy on how to do this thing, this hard thing. Perhaps somebody could hire a FoxNews Host to read the handbook to him? Maybe Tillerson could host a read-around. Instead of praising Trump with ridiculously contrived flattery, they could take turns reading parts of the Casualty Assistance Officer’s manual aloud. Everybody gets a turn: Mattis, Kelly, Pruitt, Sessions, DeVos (assuming she reads), Sanders, Miller, Tillerson.

Here, I’ll start it for you all:

The Secretary of the Army has made the Army Casualty Program one of his top
priorities. Your duties and responsibilities as a CAO must be performed with paramount
dignity and honor. Your demeanor of caring, commitment, concern, and compassion
will set the tone of your duties and will not be forgotten by the Families whose lives you
will certainly shape.

CAO Assignment:
You should show dignity and honor to the Survivors and your demeanor should be that
of caring, commitment, concern and compassion.


Karen Spears Zacharias is a Gold Star daughter who finds it difficult to breath lately.

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

1 Comment


about 6 years ago

Holding you in prayer. Anyone with a sense of decency could be in grief these days, especially Gold Star families. Peace to you!


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