May 14th, 1975 – September 16th, 2018
Loss, unfathomable loss. Why do some of us seem overburdened with too much loss, a too-large allotment of suffering, mounting griefs wildly disproportionate to the quality of the soul who is suffering? When I think of my friend Blythe, whom I’ve known for as long as I have walked this planet - four and a half decades of friendship - I find myself asking this question.
Blythe lost her beloved husband Mike Smith to cancer complications earlier this week. I was privileged to attend their snowy Christmas wedding in Denver just nineteen months ago, and if ever there were a modern fairy-tale romance, it was theirs. A second marriage for both, Blythe and Mike epitomized what it means to keep one’s heart open to love, no matter how battle-scarred we might be.
In Mike’s case, this was literal and not just figurative. Mike was a recently retired Gunnery Sergeant in the US Marine Corps, and was a highly-decorated combat veteran with multiple tours of duty served. He was an authentic American hero who later struggled with PTSD and related symptoms. Love is a great antidote to trauma, and my friend Blythe knows this, as did Mike, due to earlier catastrophic losses. Mike’s parents and sister were all tragically killed in a plane crash when he was a teenager. Blythe’s parents, whom I was privileged to know throughout my childhood, were early victims of the AIDS epidemic. And yes, Blythe also lost a sibling when her older brother Tim was hit by a car while riding his bike in our New Jersey neighborhood. The Pulsipher family, Blythe’s people, are an extraordinary family who have suffered enough. The Smith family, Mike’s people, are an extraordinary family who have suffered enough. Enough already.
Mike’s cancer diagnosis was a surprise, and he fought with the same kind of valor he brought to his military service. Blythe was with him in the hospital on Sunday night, when a sudden infection proved too strong for his chemo-ravaged body to fight off.
What can we make of such loss? We can remember that love is the flip-side of suffering. Blythe and Mike’s blended family was an example of transformative love-in-action. Blythe has four grown children – Scarlett, Abigail, Duncan and Finn – from her first marriage, while Mike has three younger children from his – Isaac (14), Soren (12) and Sariah (11). All seven kids are grieving. How can we help?
The family would very much appreciate any assistance with covering funeral costs and while there are some military and social security benefits that will continue, finances will be very tight. Blythe has also particularly expressed a desire to try to continue to keep the kids from both sides of the family as connected as possible. When it comes to being an awesome step-mom, they don’t get any better than this good and loving woman.
If you’re reading and I hope sharing this within your own networks, I’d like to ask you to give something in memory of a man who gave everything he had to his beloved wife, to his children and to our great country. Every small amount adds up, and I would be deeply grateful if you can help offset expenses at this difficult time for a military family who needs our collective help.
Love in the face of loss. Blythe and Mike made this choice over and over again, by choosing to carry on in dark times, by choosing to serve others and by choosing boldly to love again. Each would readily describe the other as the “love of my life.” Let’s honor that spirit by helping to take care of their family’s needs at this sad time.
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