"No, no, no, Eli" I warn and begin to laugh as his little body shakes the way it always does as he crawls away faster than any other baby could possibly move - HUGE smile on his face. His giggle trails behind him as he moves onto his next adventure. I follow behind and place him in his walker. He is so very precious and so very different from his big brother. Their personalities are so distinctly different but they work so very well as a unit. I look around the corner hearing both of their laughter and I smile back. Logan is standing on the back of the walker and my little super baby is moving him across the tile as if there isn't a giant of a two-year-old attached. Funny brothers. Funny moments. Once-in-a-lifetime kind of moments.
And then it comes. The heavy weight that I am usually so very good at shifting to a place where I can hold it better. My shoulders fight to not slump beneath the much added pressure that has just appeared there. Precious moments. Once-in-a-lifetimes moments. The giggles that will be different next week, next month, next summer. The beautiful, oh-so-blessed moments that move on to a new one as quickly as they come. My shoulders give just a bit more as the weight becomes greater.
How wonderful to know these tiny laughs, these innocent playtimes. How very blessed is a mother. How very awe-filling to be a father. How very horrible to miss it.
My shoulders straighten and my stance tightens as the weight shifts downward. The pressure leaves my shoulders and settles into my chest. My heart is now too heavy.
How difficult our burden. How great our hardship. How very heavy a load we carry.
I will never deny how incredibly challenging and painstaking this life is. We carry it every moment - some more knowing of it than others - but the most difficult aspects of this journey can never go ignored. And Goodness knows it is so easy to get lost in that. My mind had become trapped there. The weight was becoming too heavy - the incredible sadness physically affected my body. To know the absolute beauty of watching your children as children - to get to see all of the little moments that tell the beginning of their story. To witness the innocence, the absolute bliss of no worry or fear or hardship. To know those moments is life-altering. And the sadness of knowing that he does not know them is crushing - physically incapacitating at times. But still, I get to know them.
He knows he is missing moments that he will never know - that he won't get back. How horrible to carry that. How much strength must that take to knowingly give up something that you can't get back. How much absolute courage must a soldier have, how much love for something greater than any of us, how much sense of right, how much sense of duty, how much goodness must be in them - to carry that.
No matter how heavy my load - no matter how dreaded this burden - his is greater. No matter how back-breaking mine can feel, his is heavier. No matter how heart-crushing my anguish, his is deeper.
His is like no other.
His is one that only a soldier can carry.
"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown
"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.