This week my blog is being taken over by Jessica Charles.  This from Jessica: I am Corporal Joshua Alexander Harton’s Big Sister. I am his sister and I protected him his whole life. That is until September 18th, 2010 when a bullet from Taliban’s rifle went through his neck, cutting his carotid artery, moving through his torso and destroying organs and finally leaving his body at the left hip and shattering his Kevlar armor. I am Josh’s sister and I need you to know that my little brother is dead and my epic life will never be the same again.


I watch my daughter throw her body down on the floor. She lifts her head to scream and then pounds her hands and feet on the ground. It is a classic tantrum performance. And though she does this act with such precision that I can’t help but want to laugh, I do not. I do not laugh because my daughter is in pain and need and she has no other way of telling me.

I ask her if she is hungry-shakes head no, is she thirsty-shakes head no, does she need to be cuddled-YES.

It seems silly. A cliche event in the life of motherhood but there you have it; a child communicating that she needs help. She doesn’t do it with grace or dignity. She is unabashed at her discomfort with the world and will make sure we all know it. She knows no shame in being upset or sad or uncomfortable. She only knows that IF she shows you she feels bad you WILL help her to feel better.
What a remarkable idea. Telling one another that we feel pain, discomfort and even anguish with the expectation that telling someone will get us HELP.

My brother’s name is Joshua. There are many Hebrew translations of his name but my favorite is “A crying out to G-d”. It is also translated as “Salvation”. The reason for two seemingly dissimilar meanings is clear if you have studied Hebrew (which I have). In Hebrew, often a word means one thing AND its response, or its understood that if in context something is asked it is ALSO replied to. For example, the word SHEMA means “Listen, Hear and Obey” as in “If you were listening to me, you would have heard and then obeyed”. In this way, “A crying out to G-d means that G-d will answer and you will be given Salvation”. Remarkable huh?

My brother did not cry out. Not in his life or at the time of his death. He made his own salvation. He did not like to ask for help but was happy to offer it. When he did ask it was of a very few. Josh would not ask for help unless he thought it was something you could give. I admire that but at the same time, I wonder how much more we could have helped one another if we only knew where to begin.

Before he deployed, I told my brother some things about our childhood. Details he was not previously aware of and they seemed to bring him peace. I wish I had known sooner and been able to tell him. I wish I could have told him how much I relied on him to get through a day, just knowing with him in this world I was never really alone.

Now Josh is gone and I have learned a hard lesson in an uneasy way. I need help, I need it almost daily. I go to therapy and I take medications and I read the books assigned by my doctor but in the end and I mean up until MY very end: I will not get over my brother’s death. I can’t. And that will leave me with a difficult life filled with painful moments, moments which can only be eased if I tell you that I hurt and you give me your aid. I am in mourning which has no end date.

If when I am in pain, if it seems the world is caving in on all sides and I want to throw myself on the ground to scream and hit and kick, don’t laugh, don’t run, but instead, give a little help. Because I get by with a little help from my friends.


You can visit Jessica’s blog at “Always His Sister.”  And you can follow her on Twitter.

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