Let Go of the Reins

dream-board-1
Actual Dream Board – 2013

I began once again to dream about the future at 10:02 pm on a Friday night eleven months and 26 days after Steve died. I only know this because at the exact moment I entered the dark barn on our North Carolina farm that evening, a full moon reached in and illuminated only the hands on an old kitchen clock and the rusty nail it hung on.

Restless and angry at God, my intention was to pack boxes in the loft and organize every square inch of life for my children because I was not willing to live through another night. I no longer had time for time, but I did have whiskey, sleeping pills and a spotless house. Our kids were grown, strong and smart. Our dogs and horses and barn cats would love them through this. My papers were in order, our bills were paid off, Steve’s life insurance was in the bank and the only way I was going to see Steve again was to find him where he was. I’d work out the whole mortal sin thing with God once we were face to face and I’d had my say.

There are no words large enough to describe the arrogance and insanity of a grieving heart.

But that damn clock. The precise time hovered over me like a necessary memory I could not quite reach. The woman once known as Lynn would have paused, noticed, waited patiently for the message, or the memory. But I could not find that woman. Frustrated and empty, I stood on the dirt floor of a dark barn until Pretty Girl, our paint mare, sauntered up behind me and rested her big head on my shoulder. I nudged her away. She nickered, nosed her halter off its hook, dropped it on the ground at my feet and stared at me with big eyes.

Two years earlier I was bucked off a Palomino and broke four ribs. In half. I had not climbed onto a horse’s back since. She knew and I knew it, but her energy both softened and emboldened me. I slipped on her halter, made a loose rein from the lead rope and used the barn wall to climb up onto her bare back and fold myself around her.

We walked all seventeen acres of the farm that night, around the ponds, through the trees, past the solid fencing I helped Steve build. I don’t know the exact time I let go of the rains, but it was then that my heart beat wildly with memories, my hands rested on my thighs, my body gave in to the movement and all the feelings and dreams of the woman known as Lynn returned to my mind and my soul.

I still do not know why God waits until we’re on the edge. I do know his timing is impeccable and it is not my imagination that this beautiful horse, who came to us the year before with the name of “Teacher”, would pause at precise moments, stand perfectly still to let me cry, catch my breath and begin again to dream.

I just had to let go of the reins.

 

Lynnette Bukowski ©2016 – All Rights Reserved

When my mother was a child she used to escape to her “rock in the sky” and dream. Usually about words. And if you’ve ever read her writing (www.gracebeyondgrace.com) you would understand how God poured His giant Yes all over that dream.

Fast forward a few decades and God is still pouring out His YES all over her dreams. These pics are part of her “Dream Board” she did maybe 3 or 4 years ago. Before we found this farm. Before we knew how things would go.
Almost every picture on this has come true. We pulled out this dream board and realized how precise some of the photos were – from statues serving as “signs” to the pool surrounded by trees. We knew horses would be involved but certainly didn’t know we’d have a horse farm. Even the veg garden looks like this – wild and full. Most incredibly, there’s a photo (not shown) of some interior guest rooms that weren’t designed by us but incidentally ended up looking EXACTLY like the magazine cut out.

All this to say. DREAM. Dream with God. Make it plain on tablets. Poster boards will do. 🙂

And one more thing, guys, there’s a picture of zebras on this poster. Don’t ask why but the way things are going I’m pretty sure there’s a Zebra in our future. Just sayin’. ~Sheri Bukowski

sheri-dream-board-photo

NAVY SEAL WIDOW REALIZES HUSBAND’S DREAM OF WARRIOR RETREAT

Steve and Lynnette

NAVY SEAL WIDOW REALIZES HUSBAND’S

DREAM OF WARRIOR RETREAT

LZ-Grace, a Facility for Special Operations Veterans, Home

Breaks Ground November 16th

Virginia Beach, VA — Master Chief Steve S. Bukowski passed away suddenly in 2010 after serving thirty-two years as a Navy SEAL, but his wife Lynnette is carrying on the vision they shared together of a healing sanctuary for Special Operations Forces, Veterans and their families.

On November 16th, Lynnette will celebrate the groundbreaking and dedication of LZ-Grace Warriors Retreat in Tidewater Virginia.  The facility will specialize in recreational programs and alternative healing therapies for the purpose of decompression and healing through community rather than isolation.

“Four months ago it was an abandoned horse farm with peeling paint and overgrown

"Mema" Sherry Van Campen (89) trimming trees at LZ-Grace
“Mema” Sherry Van Campen (89) trimming trees at LZ-Grace

grass,” Lynnette says of the property, “but with the help of many good-soul volunteers and donors, it’s really shaping up.”  Even Lynnette’s eighty-nine year-old mother is pitching in – the five-foot tall octogenarian has painted walls and trimmed branches to the limit of her short reach.

“We want it to feel like home away from home for our warriors,” says Lynnette, “Steve and I frequently hosted gatherings of his SEAL brothers at our house, and we saw the healing that occurs when these men rest and reconnect outside of a war environment.”

Once complete, LZ-Grace will offer traditional and non-traditional services including:

  • Equine therapy
  • Service canines
  • Chiropractic
  • Yoga
  • Meditation gardens
  • Climbing
  • Kayaking and more…

 

The groundbreaking ceremony is by invitation only and will be attended by many in the Special Operations Forces community, Virginia dignitaries, community supporters, volunteers, donors and selected media teams from local newspapers and national television news affiliates.

“The outpouring of support has been humbling and wonderful,” says Lynnette, “Steve

Eagle Scout Project - Warrior Fire-Pit. Materials donated by Lancaster Farms, Belgard and Luck Stone!
Eagle Scout Project – Warrior Fire-Pit. Materials donated by Lancaster Farms, Belgard and Luck Stone!

would be thrilled.”

LZ-Grace Warrior Retreat Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose operations have relied solely upon the help and generosity of donors, volunteers and family members.

To donate, please visit www.lz-grace.com

ABOUT LYNNETTE BUKOWSKI

Highly versed in military family issues, Lynnette Bukowski spent over 15 years as a Navy Family Ombudsman and mentor at numerous Naval Special Warfare Commands.  She advised Navy families through the difficulties of disruptive deployments and loss of life and experienced those turbulent waters herself as the widow of a thirty-two year veteran Navy SEAL.  Lynnette was also a Court Appointed Special Advocate member and guardian ad litem, serving as a therapeutic foster mother to over a dozen special needs children.  She is now an author, speaker, mentor, mother of three grown kids and founder of LZ-Grace Warriors Retreat. https://gracebeyondgrace.com/about/

ABOUT MASTER CHIEF STEVE S. BUKOWSKI

Steve S. Bukowski was a graduate of BUD/S Class 91 and served over thirty-two years as a U.S. Navy SEAL and silent professional.  He was an operator, instructor and mentor with SEAL Teams ONE, THREE, FOUR, EIGHT, SDVT-1, JSOSE, and served globally at numerous other Naval Special Warfare commands. https://gracebeyondgrace.com/2013/06/21/heres-to-not-crying-by-sheri-bukowski/

 

one red maple
Flag flying at LZ-Grace in Honor of our fallen Warriors and all who serve.
Spike & Selah Meditation
Morning mediation with Spike and Selah
Willow Tree Limbs - Going Down
Volunteer Arborist Greg Walker clearing dead trees on the grounds.
morning ferns
LZ-Grace Front Porch
Lynn picking up Mema's tree-trimming debris
Lynn picking up Mema’s tree-trimming debris
St Francis
St. Francis with a hole in his heart and needing a hand.

Gathering …

“Close both eyes see with the other one. Then we are no longer saddled by the burden of our persistent judgments our ceaseless withholding our constant exclusion. Our sphere has widened and we find ourselves quite unexpectedly in a new expansive location in a place of endless acceptance and infinite love.” ~Boyle

I’m sitting on the edge of the tub in my Mom’s perfect bathroom fighting the impulse to find a tube of red lipstick and write “Two and a half Thanksgivings” across the mirror like an “SOS” signal. I think if I use bold block letters you’ll see the reflection from Heaven and save me.

I hear my name echo through the house, “Lynn! Lynn-ey! Lynnette!”   Luxury elegant country classic bathroom design

“I’ll be out in a moment,” I say. My voice is gentle. No indication that I can hardly breathe through this ambush of emotion.

Mom is 87 this year. A still beautiful German woman who on the inside is full of love and vulnerabilities, but the persona she presents to the world is one of kind sternness. I still get a kick out of this. There are rules we follow and those rules cannot be broken: Stay on schedule, work hard, put your lipstick on and keep a happy face, do not talk about troubles and when something awful happens, get over it and move on.

The truth is I’ve moved on beautifully, with the exception of family gatherings and holidays, when I am reminded that I engage in conversations about everything with everyone. Worse yet, I write about it. I barely remember makeup, never mind lipstick, make up my own schedule as I go and maintain my position as the baby of the family by challenging every single family rule.

It matters not that I am a grown woman, the mother of grown children, blessed with the wisdom of years and the imagination of a child. In this house, I am separated by a generation – the “happy accident” – and the rebel girl who was lucky enough to marry the Navy SEAL who kept me somewhat tame.

Since you’ve been gone, all bets are off.

I feel your presence next to me, your arm folding around my waist, your lips on my forehead. You whisper, “You’ve got this, babe. I’m right here.”

I glance at the clean mirror and feel slightly relieved that I did not make a mess I’ll have to clean up because, clearly, you can hear my thoughts.

On the other side of the door – out there – amid dueling older sisters, quirky nieces and nephews, a proper Beverly Hills Auntie and diverse guests, I am about listening and love, and I am truly grateful for the characters in my life.

Elegant ladyIn here I am looking for a rabbit hole to go down into and compose myself. I do not want to break the rules and disappoint my sweet Mom by announcing aloud that I cannot bear one more whispered conversation about my moving on, or the nonchalant way a neighbor tells me about the single man who lives next to so-and-so who would be happy to take me on. I laugh at this. Am I a project now? They say it with true love, backtrack into compliments and segue into stories of Thanksgivings past and your perfect turkey.

I smiled when my niece told the story of our Thanksgiving on Sunset Beach in Oahu, about the tables we set up in the driveway so that twenty of your Team brothers could come and share a meal. We did bonfires on the beach and breakfast the next morning. It’s a great story and a great memory until she adds, “Mom was always jealous of you and Steve’s perfect Thanksgivings. Not so much anymore, though.”

The entire room took a collective breath and became perfectly quiet as though something sacred had fallen off a shelf and shattered. All eyes were on me. I imagined they were waiting for me to break too.

This was your holiday. They know it, I know it, and it will never be the same now that you’re gone.

My aunt adjusted her cashmere sweater, clutched her pearls and broke the uncomfortable silence with, “You know darling Lynn, perhaps you should go on a singles cruise to the Italian Riviera. You are still lovely and I’m sure someone will have you.”

I may have said, “Perhaps…” aloud just before I excused myself to powder my nose.

I have a distinct memory of being in Gaeta and hearing my Italian friends talk about their newly widowed friend like she was past tense. “She’ll get fat now and walk around with sad eyes. It’s such a shame.”

“Why would you say such a thing?” I asked.
“Because this is truth,” they answered, “a widow carries her sorrow and we cannot be with her anymore and risk that death infects our men and we lose them too.”

In Italy, I thought this was a ridiculous and damaging superstition and I told you so.

Here, on the edge of the tub, I imagine my “sorrow” as though it’s mercury. I want it to slide off of me down into the tub and down the drain so I can leave this room and reenter the crowd of characters with a grateful heart.

I lean into your energy, let it fill me with courage, and reach for your hand. “Come with me,” I say.

I feel your lips against my neck. You say, “You are whole again, full of light, wisdom, sincere discernment and divine love. Let them be who they are because you know who you are.”

I believe you.

But when my sister’s voice reaches under the door, “Lynn, Lynn-ey, Lynnette…Wait until you see the perfect turkey. It might be better than Steve’s!”  Little Girl Serious Headache

I get up, put on my lipstick and write on my heart… I miss you. Come back. Find me. 

Lynnette Bukowski © 2013

Neptune’s Child ~ Thoughts on Life

In honor of the Month of the Military Child, I present an essay written for a Reader’s Digest Contest in 1991 by our daughter, Sheri Lynn. Children were asked to address their feelings about family values, thoughts on life, what their mom and dad did at work and what they wanted to be when they were grown. Sheri did not win the contest, but she certainly melted our hearts. Steve carried a copy of this with him wherever he went. I found it yellowed and creased in his wallet when his personal items were returned to me the day after he died.  Love Dad

About my Bukowski Family 

By Sheri Lynn Bukowski – Age 7

My mommy can do almost everything except throw a mouse away when it’s on a sticky thing and except when daddy’s home, because then she pretends she can’t do everything so he can.  My daddy knows this secret.

My mommy and daddy probably know as much as God does, but mommy says they don’t because they’re just a mom and dad and we all, even mommies, learn something new every day. Also, we’re not supposed to put people on pedestals because we are all equal.  I don’t know about that because I don’t think anybody is equal to my daddy.  Mommy says pedestals are “thinking” things, and we should all try to be nice and say we’re sorry when we’re not nice. I suppose it’s like when she goes crazy and yells at everybody, even the dogs, and then says, “I don’t know what I was thinking.”

I think a pedestal is a wooden box.  I think it must hurt really bad to fall off so I will never put myself on a pedestal.  My brother says mommy and daddy don’t know anything about nothing.  He’s 10.  I think he should fall off a pedestal.

My mommy tells us we should talk to and listen to people every day if we can because every person and every day is important.  Mommy says this includes my three year old foster brother, even if he is a pain.

My daddy always says, “Never give up!”  And my mommy always says, “How do you know if you don’t try?”  Sometimes I really, really hate my parents because they make me do stupid things like wash my face and wear dresses.  Daddy says it’s okay because he will always love me anyway.  Mommy says it’s not nice to hate but I can not like her if I want.  I hate Philip, the boy who sits next to me at school, but I’m trying not to like him.

My daddy works in the Navy SEAL Team and does things that only special daddies like him can do.  He knows how to jump out of airplanes and shoot loud guns and dive under ships and crab-crawl through jungles and climb rock walls.  When he’s home we crab-crawl through the back yard and climb rocks and jump on the trampoline and he lets me wear green makeup on my cheeks, but mostly he’s gone and he writes us letters.

I think you have to know how to be lonely for your family and to write letters to be a Navy SEAL.  I love my daddy more because I think he needs it.

My mommy used to work at a place writing things for attorneys because attorneys don’t know how to write like she does. We had a nanny from Denmark named Hella, like hello except with an A.  Now mommy stays at home and gets her story money from the mailbox.  She works as a mommy for free because she loves us and because she takes care of us and sick babies and helps mommies and daddies of foster children to know how to love when they have sad hearts or angry feelings.  Mommy says she has enough love and I believe her, so it’s okay that I love daddy a little more since he’s alone a lot.

When I grow up I will probably be a Navy SEAL and a dancer.  I will try to be a nice person and watch out for pedestals.  I will also probably be a gymnastics girl in the Olympics because I’m pretty good so far.

If I win, will you please send this to my daddy.  Mommy knows the address.

Our Family

Sheri Lynn Bukowski © 1991