The Day Before I Died: JF Whitaker
We are all born as individuals and create our own mark in this world Living a life programmed by the ideals, wishes and demands of others can hamper your growth, stall reaching your own goals and ambitions and take away the life you were destined to live. The author shares a story that is so powerful, so difficult for many to understand and yet this is what he endured until he realizes that he does not need the stamp of approval of anyone to be who he wanted to be and should have been all his life. Thinking he was a failure in the eyes of his parents, notably his father who critiqued his choices in life, school, friends and even the extracurricular activities he wanted to participate in. Never feel good enough, smart enough or finding his own path in life and the strength to move upward instead of sinking deeper inside of himself. The author shares his experiences going to Flight School, going into the army and leading his men in battle. Should you be defined by the moments, seconds, sadness of hurt and loneliness? The author shares the first chapter of the story with readers when he is arriving in Vietnam in January 1969. His first experience on Night Duty and dealing with an emergency firsthand and then understanding the dangers to come when a rocket exploded, and the pattern became clear. What follows and transpires envelopes readers in what so many endured fighting in Vietnam and the horrors that were inflicted on so many and the sadness and horrors they bared years later when home. This is a story of despair, hopelessness, fear, emotional abuse and finding himself at the end. A family that was never close and a father who treated his children and this author as a prison warden ready to lock him away in any infraction or diverse thinking outside of his own.
Taking the journey with the author in Vietnam and understanding the dangerous, stress and anxieties he went through and then flashing back to his childhood, the demands of his father to confirm to his outline of who he should be, took a huge toll on the author even as a youth.
Sharing his time in Michigan State and getting his Bachelor of Science in psychology and having a huge debt and a commission in the US Navy. He describes his time, the battles and the near-fatal encounter with MIG 21 only to catch fire are nine thousand feet. Some of what he shared was heart stopping. But the controversy he endured with his family when deciding to go to serve encompasses chapter 2. Meeting Doris is soon to become his wife provided many other challenges as she was from a well to do family and was totally spoiled and her wants were more than he could fill at times. Their difficulties are shared and his three children each had their own difficulties growing up with a father that wanted to be there for them and yet finding his way outside of his family hoping to survive. He needed and wanted his father’s approval with each decision he made and did not realize that as a young adult going into service or getting married that he had his own merits and did not need to wait to have his decisions stamped with his father’s approval. He even compared him to his brother Billy and then shared when he wanted to try out for a school play and demanded he try for different sports teams or not be allowed his chance at the starring role.
He continues to talk about how he lost his personal defenses on the battlefield and tried to combat the demons with himself gut failed. He tried to compartmentalize and put the bad thoughts and feelings in the back of his mind. Not being able to separate the good from the bad that failed. Finally, he realized somehow he had to start over but could he and will he learn to find his own way? After his tour in Vietnam, he feels unloved with the tide of the times and the emotions in the United States, he felt when he came home he would get less loved. Courage his what he needed but never looking deep within himself never finding his own way and turning to alcohol to bury it all away. Things turned in different direction when he realized that he met a man and wanted a true relationship with him and that would be one of the turning points of his life. But first he and Doris had to decide on their life together and that of his children. How did his actions impact on them? Chapters 15 and 16 are a true awakening to him and the changes within him hopefully will keep him centered and realize that death is not the answer but finding a meaning in life is.
You can feel the silence and the discord when he told his father about what he decided in life and coming out. He invited his parents to a workshop hoping that they would understand his needs and values. The final chapters are heartbreaking and yet heart felt when things changed, viewpoints were understood and the finality of what happened to his daughter strikes a sad note, yet he understood her pain. They do celebrate happy times and the fact that they went on Family Feud and won was enlightening and showed some hope in his family’s dynamics for the future. “When I accept others as they are, I share the love, the power and the strength created within each of them. That strength replenishes some of the attributes that have been depleted by the daily grind and in , some cases tragedy and trauma. I can use these gifts when the road gets a little tough.” A powerful story of hardship, hope, survival, acceptance, family loyalties and disloyalties, abuse, despair and finally understanding who you are and that you are the person you deserve to be and not let anyone take away your identity and your dreams. “I have a life worth living because I chose to live.
This is a story that is so powerful that I sat down and read it today. The tears that flowed from my eyes and the courage that this author must share his story lets me know and everyone else that reads it you wisely chose LIFE, and you have much more to share.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews